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May 8 17 5:14 AM
May 9 17 12:13 AM
So Donald Trump is going to meet Pope Francis later this month at the Vatican, after all. And it will be an official visit, not merely a private one.The U.S. president broke the news last Thursday (May 4) at the White House. He did so while signing a controversial religious liberty law in a Rose Garden ceremony that CNN’s religion editor Daniel Burke rightly called, “Donald Trump’s big, bizarre religious day.”“My first foreign trip as President of the United States will be to Saudi Arabia, and then Israel, and then to a place that my cardinals love very much—Rome,” boomed the brash billionaire.My cardinals?Trump, a Presbyterian, was referring to Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington and Houston’s Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. The latter, head of the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), privately met the president earlier that morning.The two Catholic prelates were among numerous faith leaders who were on hand for the law’s signing ceremony. Also present were two members of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the religious order the USCCB cynically used as the poster-child for its fight against the contraception mandate that was part the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act.Now I’m not sure that The (other) Donald and his junior confrere in red were pleased to be pegged as Trump’s cardinals. But that’s another story…The real news of the day was that the American president is going to the Vatican to meet the pope.Up until just a couple of weeks ago U.S. government sources had been making all sorts of excuses to explain why such an encounter would be almost impossible. It would be a logistical nightmare, they said, to try to combine it with Trump’s May 25 trip to Brussels for a NATO meeting and then his May 26-27 jaunt down to Sicily for the latest G7 Summit.Some analysts said the absence of a U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See would only add to those difficulties. One of them predicted confidently that, because of this, a meeting with Pope Francis was “unlikely to happen.”“There’s also a problem of staffing on the White House side, as right now the perception is there’s no one who could brief Trump adequately for an encounter with the pope,” said John Allen, editor of Crux,It’s baffling how anyone could draw such a conclusion. And it’s an insult to the diplomats at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, who are in close daily contact with Vatican officials. That includes Louis Bono, the Chargé d’Affaires and de-facto head of the U.S. mission, a seasoned Foreign Service officer and a former assistant attorney general in New York.It’s hard to make predictions when it comes to two unpredictable people like Trump and FrancisLet’s be honest. A meeting between Trump and Francis was never really impossible. It was always and only up to the U.S. president to decide whether or he wanted it to happen or not. The Holy See made it explicitly clear that if a head of state were to ask for such a meeting, it would find a way to accommodate the request.But Trump and his aides took their time, carefully assessing whether the benefits of his meeting the world’s leading moral figure out-weighed the possible pitfalls. There is hardly a single moral, social or economic issue on which Trump and Francis are even close to being on the same page. Of course, that has not stopped the president from meeting other world leaders with whom he’s been at odds and has even derided. In fact, he’s emerged from such encounters professing great admiration for them and blubbering on about how a sort of chemistry was created among them.How will it work out with the pope? It’s hard to make predictions when it comes to two unpredictable people like Trump and Francis. But I will venture to say that neither is going to emerge victorious over the other. And neither of them will end up with egg on his face. At least, preparations are being made to avoid any such scenario.White House officials and security officers quietly slipped into Rome over the weekend of April 29-30 and spent several hours meeting with key staffers at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and its protocol office. It is understood that both sides agreed to take all precautions to make sure Trump’s visit goes smoothly and without embarrassment to anyone.They also agreed that if the visit were to occur, the announcement would come from Washington, not from Rome. And, eventually, that is what happened. Then the Holy See Press Office simply confirmed it in an email “alert” to journalists. However, it did not publish the confirmation in its daily bulletin, evidently not wanting to overly magnify its significance.Shortly after the White House delegation returned from Rome, it submitted an official request for Trump’s audience with Francis and a proposed date. The Vatican accepted it, but did so by making an exception to its normal practice of not granting heads of state an official visit on Wednesdays (the day of the pope’s general audience) or Sundays.“His Holiness Pope Francis will receive the Hon. Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, on Wednesday, 24 May 2017, at 8:30 a.m. in the Apostolic Palace. President Trump will then meet with His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States,” said the Vatican’s alert to journalists. This is an unusually early hour for an official state visit at the Vatican. Usually, these encounters take place at mid-morning. But Francis obviously made it clear that he was not going to cancel or delay his 10 a.m. appointment with the tens of thousands of people who fill St. Peter’s Square each Wednesday for the general audience.The pope usually gives no more than twenty-five to thirty minutes to a visiting heads of state or government. And analysts will take particular note of how much time he allows for Trump, trying to see if there is a message in that alone.Francis spent nearly an hour with Barack Obama in March 2014 when they held their first and only Vatican meeting. In contrast, Benedict XVI’s audience with the former U.S. leader lasted just less than 30 minutes.Some argued that this was yet more proof that the current pope was much more favourable to Obama than was his retired predecessor. But others pointed out that Francis needed more time with the former president because the pope does not speak English and Obama speaks neither Italian nor the pope’s native Spanish. And, so, the use of translators necessarily lengthened their time together.However, when former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to the Vatican in June 2015, the papal audience lasted a mere ten minutes—and that meeting also included use of interpreters. Some believe Secretariat of State officials purposely kept the encounter brief because Harper had shown no real interest in meeting Francis, having waited more than two years after the election of the “new pope” before he even requested an appointment with him. Harper was the last major Western leader to do so.Trump will fly to Rome on May 23 directly from his visit to Israel. He and his entourage are likely to stay at the fifteenth-century Villa Taverna, the empty and sprawling residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Italy (another key diplomatic post that is vacant at present). A large security detail, using some thirty or more vehicles, will transport the president across town to the Vatican. It will be the first appointment of a still unveiled schedule before he heads to Brussels later in the evening.When they finally meet, Francis and Trump will be alone in the papal library except for the presence of two translators. Msgr. Mark Mile—a Vatican official from Gibraltar who is fluent in English, Spanish, and Italian—will likely assist the pope. And an aide who is also proficient in these three languages will probably accompany the president.If Francis wants to keep on schedule (he does most of the time, but not always) he won’t be able to spend much more than a half-hour with Trump. But no one would be surprised if the meeting ends up lasting even longer. It all depends on how the two men get on and how their conversation takes shape.Francis is keen on encounter and dialogue. He has staked his pontificate on building bridges of friendship and understanding, even with those seemingly and totally at odds with him. Trump, on the other hand, is more interested in making deals (and threats), especially those of the financial type that directly benefit him and/or his interests. These obviously include presidential interests. But he tends reduces almost everything to the bottom line: the almighty dollar.It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall, to borrow the hackneyed phrase many of my colleagues have already used, to see how the pope engages with all this.The life story of Donald Trump suggests that the tycoon-turned-president is interested only in himself, the accumulation of money and possessions, and a type of fame/notoriety that he obviously craves with a voracious appetite. He appears to see God—if God is even a category for him—reflected in all this power and wealth; a God found in the world’s winners, not in its “losers.”This is not meant to be a judgment, but only a description of how Trump has portrayed himself to the world.The story of Pope Francis, of course, is a very different one. He is interested precisely in the world’s losers, its poor, and its marginalized. God, for him, is found in the paradoxes, tensions and ambiguities that make up the real lives of real human people. Some, including those least suspect, are also trapped in misery without even being aware of it. And even they are the type of people Francis loves to engage.I may be proved wrong, but—because of this—he should have no problem engaging with Trump.
May 10 17 4:49 AM
May 12 17 5:57 AM
Francis, Trump to meet -- with fireworks or no drama?Under normal circumstances, it would be possible to predict the series of events that would surround the meeting of a president of the United States and the pope of the Catholic Church.First, there will be all of the pre-meeting discussions in the media. Predictions will be made about conflicts between the two leaders because of the disagreements that they have. This has been true of almost every meeting between a president and a pope because there are always areas of disagreement.With Democratic presidents, the disagreements are over birth control, abortion and gay marriage. With Republican presidents, the disagreements are over issues of war and peace and of the responsibility of the government to help the poor and marginalized.Thus, before the Pope John Paul II met with President Bill Clinton, the prediction was of a public takedown of the president by the pope over abortion. It did not happen. Likewise, when Pope Benedict XVI met with President Barack Obama, some expected the pope lecture the president on abortion and the religious freedom agenda of the U.S. bishops. Did not happen.Note the predictions of lectures always go in one direction. It is always the pope lecturing the president. No American president has ever dared to lecture the pope. At least, not yet. (And Trump had better not be brazen enough to even try.) It is not surprising that predictions are flying around of a major confrontation when President Donald Trump meets with Pope Francis. The two men hold such diametrically opposed views on the environment, refugees, migrants, diplomacy and the use of military force that it is easy to foresee a blowup. On economics, they both agree that globalization has had negative effects, but Trump is only focused on the U.S., while Francis is focused on developing nations.The personalities are also known to be unpredictable. Francis has constantly surprised observers, and Trump is so volatile that it is hard to predict what he might do. (The Pope, however, usually springs pleasant surprises - Trump, on the other hand, usually wreaks havoc.)When the meeting between a pope and a president finally takes place, there are also other meetings going on between the president's staff and the Vatican Secretariat of State.There are rarely fireworks accompanying these meetings. The Vatican does not want to embarrass an important leader like the president of the United States. There is no desire to burn bridges. The Vatican has had centuries of experience dealing with political leaders — good and bad, rational and crazy, friend and foe. It wants an ongoing relationship with the world's superpower. It will not risk that for a one-day news cycle.The actual meetings between presidents and popes are private with only a translator present. Few details ever leak out about what was actually said between the two leaders. But often the tone of the meeting is revealed. For example, after the meeting between Obama and Benedict, the pope shared with others how impressed he was by the president, much to the disappointment of American conservatives.The lack of information leads Vatican reporters to grasp at straws, for example, watching to see if the meeting goes over the time allotted, which could indicate that the two leaders are getting along or having a serious conversation.Americans tend to believe the conversations between the popes and presidents and between the presidents' staff and the Vatican Secretariat of State focus on American domestic issues like birth control, abortion and religious freedom, whereas participants report that 90 percent of the discussions are on foreign policy issues, especially the Middle East.The Vatican is interested in knowing what the American plans are for bringing about peace in the Middle East, what it is saying privately to Israel, and how the Vatican and the United States can work together for peace and development. The issue of refugees would also be on the table.American diplomats are interested in the Vatican's assessment of other world leaders, and they want to know what the Vatican might say about foreign policy issues like the Middle East, climate change and even genetically modified organisms. Sometimes the Americans want the Vatican's help with a particular leader or country. The staff meetings are professional on both sides.After the meetings are done, the Vatican issues a brief (a couple of paragraphs) statement listing the topics covered. This is not all that helpful since the statement does not indicate how much time was spent on each topic, let alone what was said. Since both sides already have publicly stated positions on the issues, it is not hard to guess. Some Vatican officials, even those who did not participate, will try to anonymously spin the story for their own purposes, which can lead to different interpretations of the meetings.The vagueness of the Vatican press releases can lead to misinterpretations of the meetings. For example, after a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Vatican officials in January 2015, there was one line about health care in the press release. This became the headline in most media stories, since the conflict between the American bishops and the Obama administration over the contraceptive mandate was well-known. In reality, participants said that the Vatican brought up the topic at the request of the American bishops and only spent about five minutes on it. The overwhelming time was devoted to foreign policy.U.S. officials also play up the positive when talking to the press after the meetings. No administration has seen any advantage to being portrayed as in conflict with the pope. (One can only hope that Trump is wise enough to remember this.) Sometimes, they are tempted to go overboard on stressing agreement where there was none, which may lead to a polite clarification from the Vatican press office.Thus, normally a meeting between a pope and a U.S. president has little fireworks. Both sides play down conflict and emphasize the professional quality of the discussions.But this president is not "no-drama Obama." Nor is the pope the academic Benedict.With Trump, we don't know what we will get, although his meetings with foreign leaders have gone pretty well so far. But he could come out of the meeting with the pope and immediately tweet, "Pope Great Guy! He and I AGREE on EVERYTHING! GOOD! We will save the world!"Or worse yet: "Cryin' Pope Francis ... not a fan of walls. Low-energy. 7/10 as far as popes go. Asked me to pray for him. I'm very busy. SAD."...Nor are we sure what Francis will say. He has yet to misstep in any of his encounters with foreign leaders. He respects the advice he gets from the Vatican diplomats. He is not directly confrontational.On the other hand, this is a man comfortable with going off-script. He is also known to have the typical Latin American suspicion of the United States government and business. His disagreements with Trump are clear.The odds are that there will be more drama leading up to the meeting than at the meeting, but with Trump and Francis, you never know.
May 13 17 3:12 AM
Reuters - Pope Francis gave the Catholic Church two of its youngest saints on Saturday, canonizing shepherd siblings believed to have seen the Madonna 100 years ago in a Portuguese town that is now a major pilgrimage site.Hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom slept outdoors to hold their places, broke into applause as the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics proclaimed the siblings - Francisco and Jacinta Marto - the newest of the Church's saints.The two died at the ages of 10 and 9 years old, within three years of the 1917 apparitions, making them the youngest saints of the Church who were not martyrs.The Virgin of Fatima is venerated by Catholics around the world, a following underscored by the many national flags fluttering in the huge crowd, estimated at more than half a million.Marie Chantal, 57, a life-long devotee, traveled more than 9,000 km (5,600 miles) from the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean to attend the ceremony."I am very emotional because this pope is truly merciful and close to the people and I think he will bring us many good things," she said.In the homily of a huge outdoor Mass, Francis prayed that the Madonna would protect the most vulnerable members of society, "especially the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned".Two huge tapestries made from century-old photographs of the children dressed in the traditional peasant garb of the times hung from the church that is now the focal point of the sanctuary visited by about seven million people each year.The story of Fatima's shepherd children has captivated Catholics since their first reported vision on May 13, 1917.The Church believes the Madonna gave three children - Francisco and Jacinta Marto and their older cousin Lucia Dos Santos - three messages, the so-called secrets of Fatima. Dos Santos became a nun and died in 2005 at the age of 97, and efforts are underway to make her a saint as well.The first two secrets were revealed soon and concerned a vision of hell, seen by believers as a prediction of the outbreak of World War Two, a warning that Russia would "spread her errors" in the world, and a need for general conversion to God and prayer.The "third secret" intrigued the world for more than three-quarters of a century, inspiring books and cults convinced that it predicted the end of the world.In 2000, the Vatican said it was a prediction of the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul on May 13, the same day of the first reported apparition in 1917.John Paul believed the Madonna had diverted one of the bullets that hit him from his vital organs. He donated it to the sanctuary, where it is now embedded in the crown of the statue of the Madonna.Gracinda Vieira, 57, slept outside during the chill night in Fatima to hold her place near the front of the crowd."It was not a great sacrifice ... it is very important for me and for the Church," said Vieira, who had traveled from her home 250 km north of Fatima in central Portugal."This pope is different in everything, I like him a lot. He is closer to us, the people," she said.
May 13 17 6:13 AM
What the Jesuit pope told the Jesuit generalFather Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, the former Superior General of the Jesuits, has written down his reminiscences of his conversations with Pope Francis after his election to the papacy. But he warns that given his advanced age, if something seems unlikely or odd, “it would be prudent first to verify and then to forgive.”The Spaniard who was until earlier this year Superior General of the Jesuits has written a series of reminiscences about his conversations with Pope Francis, published in two parts in the Spanish Jesuit publication Mensajero.Father Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, wrote them while spending some weeks in his native country before heading for the Philippines capital, Manila, where he now lives.Beyond whatever value for observers of the papacy his recollections contain, they have real historic importance, particularly for the Society of Jesus. They are, of course, the first ever conversations between a Jesuit Superior General and a Jesuit pope.Nicolás and Francis developed a close bond right from the start, as the new pope sought to re-establish a close working relationship with his order following decades of suspicion and coldness.In an anecdote that quickly shot round Rome in those first days of the new papacy, Francis directly called Nicolás the day after his election, sending the receptionist at the Jesuit curia into a tailspin of confusion. (“If you’re the pope, I’m Napoleon,” Nicolás says the receptionist thought, but did not say).After they spoke, Francis promised to call back to arrange a meeting. In an interesting anecdote for historians of the papacy, when he did so, the Sunday after his election, Francis told Nicolás: “Come to the Santa Marta because tomorrow I’m moving to the Apostolic Palace and I’ve got more freedom here.” In other words, says Nicolás, “the decision to stay in the Santa Marta was taken at the last moment.”This confirms the stories that it was only when he went to the Apostolic Palace and saw it - an endless chain of rooms, each leading into the next - that Francis opted to stay in the more friendly and open guesthouse.Nicolás was amazed in his conversations by how aware the pope was of how he was viewed, and the criticisms against him. Francis told him on one occasion: “They criticize me, first, because I don’t speak like a pope, and second, because I don’t act like a king.”In the context of his Jesuit spirituality, says Nicolás, “for me it was obvious that the criticisms did not remotely bother him.”Jesuits famously vow to spurn high office and ecclesiastical preferment. A key part of the second week of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises involves imagining the way Satan tempts Christ’s followers through “riches, honor and pride.”The former general intriguingly observes that in Francis’s view what the world at this time needs is “more Wisdom, less dogma, and more meaning, in general, to live and hope.”This stems, he says, from the pope’s reading of the similarity of these times of lack of faith to the disappearance of faith during Israel’s exile, when the Wisdom tradition took over from the prophetic.On the reform of the Curia, Nicolás observes that Francis wants to carry it out “in the most Gospel way of which he is capable,” and that the reform “has to do with the credibility of the Church” which “has touched a missionary nerve that for him is extremely important.”In other words, the purpose of curial reform is to remove obstacles to the task of mission and evangelization, rather than being an end in itself.His Christmas speeches to the Curia “are a call to everyone to live more in line with the Gospel,” says Nicolás, without the “evasions and excuses” that most of us deploy. (Alas, there are quite a few Curial prelates who will simply remain deaf to the Pope's call - primarily because they have their own agendas and they have no qualms about the depths to which they will stoop to fulfill their agendas. For men such as these, the Pope's words will fall on deaf ears - it is high time they were replaced because they themselves are "obstacles to the task of mission and evangelization".)The general and the pope spent a lot of time discussing the priesthood, confirming that for Francis the pastoral conversion of the clergy is a major priority.Nicolás lists what Francis insists that the priesthood is not: A privileged caste, a source of economic benefit, a career, a means of gaining power over others, etc., while stressing what it should be: A priest is someone whose “central preoccupation” is the suffering of others, and how to relieve it; he is someone in contact with human life, which should be reflected in his thinking and way of life, and so on.In response to criticisms of Francis heard often from clergy that the pope doesn’t value them because he doesn’t praise them, Nicolás says they should instead be grateful that Francis so clearly identifies the temptations facing priests that produce only distance and misery.On the question of how long Francis will remain pope, Nicolás says he has no answer, and nor does he.“The thinking of the pope is fluid” on the matter, he says, “according to his discernment of the state of the Church.”When Nicolás - who is the same age as Francis - spoke to him of his resignation as Superior General, Francis told him: “I myself am thinking of taking seriously Benedict’s challenge.”But then, some months later - faced, presumably, with some resistance to his reforms - Francis told him: “I ask the good Lord to take me once the changes are irreversible.”In other words, says Nicolás, “we are in God’s hands.”Nicolás has one charming - if perplexing - anecdote. He relates how the then cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires heard that at a liturgical celebration held in freezing temperatures in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, “someone passed around little glasses of brandy” which allowed the liturgy to proceed with warmth and joy.When he was elected pope, Francis “didn’t long delay in naming this person Almoner of the Holy See”, says Nicolás, “and encouraged him to live in Rome to be closer to the poor”.The former Superior General must be referring to Francis’s official arms-giver, the papal almoner, Polish archbishop Konrad Krajewski, whom the pope named in August 2013. But “Don Corrado”, as he is popularly known, was already in Rome, having served as Master of Ceremonies since 1999.But then Nicolás warns at the start of his second lot of reminiscences that his are the memories of an octogenarian, and that readers should expect “the confusions normal at his age.”If something seems unlikely or odd, he says, “it would be prudent first to verify and then to forgive.”
May 13 17 11:14 AM
“I prefer Our Mother Lady to the one leading a telegraphic office that sends a message every day.” Pope Francis, returning from Fatima, smears the interpretation regarding the prayer on the “bishop dressed in white” (”I did not write it myself”) and answers a question about the apparitions of Medjugorje revealing the content of the Ruini report, positive on the first apparitions yet dubious about the current ones. What is left to the Church and the whole world from the apparitions of Fatima? And what can we hope from the meeting with Trump on May 24? “Fatima is a message of peace brought to humanity by three great communicators who were less than 13 years old. The canonization of the shepherd children was something that was not planned at first, because the process on the miracle proceeded slowly, then came the expertise and for me it was a great happiness. The world can hope for peace. And with everyone I will speak of peace. Before embarking on the flight from Rome, I received scientists from various religions attending a convention at the Vatican observatory. An atheist, without telling me which country he came from, greeted me like this: “I’m an atheist! I ask you a favor: tell Christians to love Muslims more “. This is a message of peace! “ Yesterday you asked to “tear down all walls”, but in a few days you will meet Head of State, President Trump, who wants to build walls and who doesn’t agree with you on, for example, climate and migrants issues. On the eve of this hearing, what do you think about the policies of the American President and what do you expect from the meeting with him? “I never judge a person without listening to them. Things will emerge from our conversation, he will say what he thinks and I will say what I think. On migrants, you already my opinion. There are always doors that are not completely closed, one must look for the doors that at least are a bit open, you have to go in and talk about what is common and go forward, step by step. Peace is handmade and is made each and every day. Friendship among people, mutual knowledge, mutual esteem is artisanal, and done daily. Respect the other, to say what you think in a very honest way.” Do you hope that after meeting President Trump he will soften his policies? “This is a political calculation I do not allow myself to do ... And you know that I do not proselytize on the religious level.” In Fatima you presented yourself as the “bishop dressed in white,” the same words used by Sister Lucia in the Third Secret. So far, they applied to John Paul II and the attack he had suffered, and to the martyrs of the twentieth century. What does it mean now? “I did not write the prayer to Our Lady that included that expression; it was done by Fatima’s sanctuary. There is a link between the bishop in white, Our Lady dressed in white, the white (garment) worn by innocent children for baptism. I believe that though white, they have tried to literally express the will of peace, of innocence, of not making war to the other. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger explained everything about the third secret clearly.” May 13 is a special day for you because in 1992 Nuncio Calabresi announced your appointment as a Buenos Aires auxiliary bishop. Have you ever linked this fact to Fatima? Have you thought about this these days? “I’ve not thought about the coincidence. Only yesterday, while I was praying in front of Our Lady I remembered that, 25 years ago, on May 13, I received the call of the nuncio announcing me the appointment as a bishop. I asked forgiveness to Our Lady for my mistakes and also for my bad taste in choosing people...” The Fraternity San Pius X has a great devotion to Fatima. There is talk about an imminent agreement; some had foreseen an announcement today. Will this agreement be made and what is the sense of this reconciliation for you? Will they come back with triumphalism? “I would avoid every form of triumphalism. A few days ago, Feria IV, congress of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, studied a document, which I have not received yet. The current relationships are fraternal, last year I gave the permit to confess as well as a form of jurisdiction for marriages to all their priests. Regarding their problems however, for a long time, cases that need to be solved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - for example, cases of abuse, - have been carried on with the Vatican dicasteries. With Bishop Fellay I have a good relationship; I’ve talked to him several times. I do not like to rush things, but walking and walking, we will then see. For me it is not a matter of winners or losers, but of brothers who are moving forward.” Can Evangelicals and Catholics walk a stretch of road together? Can they attend to the same Eucharistic? “Great steps have been taken forward. Let’s think about the statement on Justifications; the path has not stopped since then. The trip to Sweden was very significant. Also for the ecumenism of the journey, of walking together, with prayer, with martyrdom, with works of charity and mercy. And there Catholics and Lutheran Caritas have made an agreement to work together. God is the God of surprises, we must never stop, we must pray together, witness together, do the works of mercy together, affirm that Jesus is the only savior and that grace only comes from Him. Theologians will continue to study; we move on and walk forward.” In Fatima we have seen a great testimony of popular faith, the same one that is also found in Medjugorje. What do you think of those apparitions and religious fervour that have sparked, as you have decided to appoint a bishop delegated for pastoral aspects? “All apparitions or alleged apparitions belong to the private sphere; they are not part of the ordinary public magisterium. For Medjugorje, Benedict XVI set up a commission presided over by Cardinal Ruini. I received the results; it was composed of good theologians, bishops and cardinals. The committee report is very, very good. There were some doubts in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Doctrine thought appropriate to send each of the members of the Feria IV - the monthly meeting of the Congregation - all the documentation, including the opinions contrary to the Ruini report. I received the notification on a late Saturday night. It did not seem right to me; it was like putting the Ruini report, which is very well done, at auction. On Sunday morning, the Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith received a letter in which I asked that instead of sending those opposing views to Feria IV, they should be sent to me personally. These opinions have all been studied - I would like to stress, on all. The Ruini report states that the first apparitions must be distinguished between the time when the visionaries were young and says that investigation should be done on those. The report presents its doubts on the current alleged presentations. I personally feel worse, I prefer the Lady Mother, to the boss of telegraphic office, who sends a message every day. And these supposed apparitions do not have much value: I say this as a personal opinion. There are those who think that Our Lady is saying: Come, on that day I will give a message to that seer. Thirdly, there is the spiritual and pastoral fact, the core of the relationship: people who convert, who meet God, who change life. And this is not thanks to a magic wand. This fact cannot be denied. Now to see this, I have appointed a good bishop (Monsignor Hoser, ndr) who has experience in dealing with the pastoral side. In the end, you will hear some words.” NGOs that rescue migrants at sea have been accused of colluding with the traffickers. What do you think? “I read on the newspaper that there was this problem, but I still do not know the details, reason why I cannot express opinions. I know there is a problem and the investigations are ongoing. I hope investigations continue and that the whole truth comes out. “
May 13 17 11:31 AM
Pope Francis on Saturday said a former member of his reform commission on sex abuse who quit citing Vatican resistance “was right on some issues,” and that when he meets President Donald Trump on May 24, he’ll be looking to find doors that “aren’t closed” to cooperation between the Vatican and the White House.The pontiff also appeared to suggest at least some credibility to the early revelations associated with Medjugorje, a controversial site of alleged Marian apparitions since 1981, but was dismissive of the flood of later claims, saying Mary is not “the head of the post office that every day sends a message at a given hour.”Francis also said he’s determined to continue pursuing reconciliation talks with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, which broke with Rome after the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s, but that the process can’t be rushed.Pope Francis was speaking Saturday on his way back from a May 12-13 trip to Fatima, Portugal, where he marked the 100th anniversary of the famed Marian apparitions and officially declared two of the seers as saints.There were also a couple of one-off lines from Francis during the airborne news conference that weren’t part of any larger discussion, such as a statement that clericalism is a “plague in the Church” and a confession that the pontiff had asked Mary for forgiveness for his mistakes, including “poor taste in choosing people.”Trump“I don’t make a judgement of a person without listening [to them first],” the pope said, refusing to give an opinion of Trump in advance of their May 24 encounter, the first between the two leaders.“I will say what I think, he will say what he thinks,” he said. “I’ve never, never wanted to make a judgement of a person without listening to them.”The pope also said that there are always doors that “aren’t closed,” and that he’ll work on finding things the two have in common, as a way to move forward.“Step by step,” he said. “Peace is artiginal, it’s done day by day.”Asked about any hopes of Trump softening his policies after their meeting, the pope said that was a political calculus he wouldn’t get into: “Even from the religious point of view, I am not a proselytizer,” he said.Journalists from the Portuguese-speaking group also asked the pontiff about Trump, specifically about what he hopes the outcome of the meeting will be. He answered by saying that from now on, everyone he speaks with should expect him to talk about peace.It’s worth noting that the meeting with Trump will begin at 8:30 in the morning. Seeing that it’s a Wednesday, the pontiff will be pressed for time, since thousands will be waiting for him in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly audience, which always begins between 9 and 9:30, with Francis doing a swing through St. Peter’s Square in the popemobile.Clerical sexual abuse and the Collins resignationEnglish-speaking journalists also asked Pope Francis about the recent decision by Irish lay woman Marie Collins, a survivor of clerical sexual abuse herself, to resign from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors which he instituted at the beginning of his papacy.When she announced her resignation, Collins said in various interviews that resistance within the Roman Curia, meaning the Vatican’s governing body, drove her decision.“Marie Collins explained the situation to me, I spoke with her. She’s a great woman,” the pope said, adding that she’ll continue to work with the Vatican in the formation of priests in the fight against the clerical sexual abuse.“She’s right on some things,” he acknowledged, saying “there are too many delayed cases … backed up here,” referring to the Vatican.He added, however, that several steps have been taken to advance the Church’s promise of fighting clerical sexual abuse.Among the things the pope said still need attention is the shortage of personnel capable of dealing with these cases, so both the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the chief of the doctrinal office, which handles abuse cases, German Cardinal Gerhard Muller, are looking for more people.He said the fact that by now most dioceses around the world have protocols on how to act when accusations of abuse arise is a “great step forward,” because bishops know how to produce the dossier that is studied by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.Francis then described the way the process is handled in the Vatican, once the dossier against a priest is presented, including the newly-erected tribunal that hears the priest’s appeals when they are found guilty. This tribunal is headed by Malta’s Archbishop Charles Scicluna, whom the pontiff described as “among the strongest against abuse.”Scicluna was the chief prosecutor on sex abuse cases at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, and was known for having an aggressive approach to the issue.“If the sentence is approved, the case is over,” Francis said. “The last resource is to send a letter to the pope asking for a grace [forgiveness]. I have never signed a grace.”This last response puts an end to a series of rumors about Francis forgiving an Italian priest, something which was reported by several news outlets.Headed by American Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, who was in Fatima during the pope’s visit, the pontifical commission is an advisory body set up to guide the Church’s long-term response to the crisis, including best practices, provide formation and assist the world’s bishops conferences on the setting up of their guidelines on how to deal with abuse cases.The Society of St. Pius XThe pontiff was also asked about the traditionalist Society of Pius X, a group with which the Vatican has had on-again, off-again talks about reconciliation for years.Francis said that he has good relationships with Archbishop Bernard Fellay, head of the society, but that he doesn’t like to rush things.“Walk, walk, walk,” the pope said, in reference to an idea he uses regularly, often when talking about ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue.The pontiff defined the current relations as “fraternal” and highlighted the fact that despite the theological differences the group has with the Vatican, they’ve continued to be in contact, for instance by sending to Rome cases of clerical sexual abuse within their ranks.Founded by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the group has been at odds with Rome since the 1980s, when Lefebvre ordained four bishops in defiance of Pope John Paul II. This act of rebellion lead to the excommunication of the five prelates.Since then, Rome has been trying to bring them back into the fold. Among other things, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of the bishops, and Pope Francis extended a major olive branch by giving the priests of the society faculty to hear Confessions and also offered a solution for them to be able to celebrate marriages.To this day, they have no legal standing within the Church. However, the possibility of them becoming a personal prelature has been floated several times, and many believe that this will be the ultimate solution, if it is ever reached. At the moment, Opus Dei is the only prelature.Ironically, the Lefebvrists, as they are often called, broke away protesting the Second Vatican Council, that among many things, gave birth to the personal prelature in the code of Church law.Despite Francis’s good intentions, however, unless Archbishop Bernard Fellay signs a professio fidei, a document considered as a necessary step to resolve the legal process by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Faith and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which leads the talks with the society, the situation is likely to remain at an impasse.Put in very simple terms, it’s a doctrinal statement originally presented to Fellay during Benedict’s papacy, and which has since then been reworded and simplified, outlining the points to which the society needs to agree for full communion to be restored.MedjugorjeAnother question posed to the pope, this time by Italian-speaking journalists, touched on the alleged Marian apparitions of Medjugorje, that some report have been ongoing since 1981 in this otherwise unknown town of Bosnia-Herzegovina.Much of Pope Francis answer turned around what is known as the “Ruini report,” presented by a commission of theologians and experts set up by Pope Benedict XVI and headed by Italian Cardinal Camilo Ruini.The report was presented to the Vatican’s doctrinal office in 2014.“Three things must be distinguished,” Francis said, beginning with the credibility of the messages attributed to Our Lady of Peace, as described by a group of seers.“The first apparitions, [when the seers] were children, the report more or less says that they must still be investigated,” he said.“[On] the alleged current apparitions, the report has its doubts. Personally, I’m meaner. I prefer the Virgin Mother, not the Virgin who is head of the post office that every day sends a message at a given hour. This is not the mother of Jesus. These alleged apparitions don’t have so much value. I say this as a personal opinion.”Despite the fact that the Church hasn’t officially recognized the apparitions, some 2.5 million pilgrims visit the site each year.Earlier in the year Francis appointed Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser to review the pastoral situation for the residents and the pilgrims. It’s not the scope of his mission to determine the veracity of the alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje.The Vatican’s doctrinal office set up a commission in 2011 for that purpose, which allegedly finalized its work in 2014, but to this point, nothing has been announced.The local bishop, Ratko Peri of Mostar-Duvno has repeatedly said that there’s no truth to them. In fact, he did so again last February, two weeks after Francis tapped Hoser to determine the pastoral situation of the pilgrims.The alleged supernatural events in Medjugorje reportedly began in 1981, when six children claimed they had seen the Virgin Mary in the form of Our Lady Queen of Peace. The visionaries claim that the apparitions continue to this day, with three of them receiving daily visits.One-Off CommentsSpeaking of his press for peace in the world and Fatima as a sign of hope, the pope said that shortly before he left Rome he met a group of scientists taking part in a meeting sponsored by the Vatican observatory.“An atheist, without telling me what country he came from, greeted me this way: ‘I’m an atheist! I’m asking you a favor: Tell Christians to love Muslims more.’ That’s a message of peace!” the pope said.Later, discussing the fact that Saturday marked the 25th anniversary of his nomination as an auxiliary bishop in Buenos Aires, Francis said that had only occurred to him the day before while he was praying to Mary.“I asked the Madonna to forgive my mistakes, and also for my poor taste in choosing people,” he said, without explaining which people he had in mind.Finally, the pope was asked about the recent adoption of gay marriage and the decriminalization of abortion in once-Catholic Portugal.“There are zones, in Italy and Latin America, for example, in which many people are Catholic and at the same time anti-clerical and priest-eaters,” he said, using a colloquial Italian term, mangiapreti.“It worries me, but I say to priests that it’s clericalism that drives people away,” he said. “Clericalism is a plague in the Church.”
May 14 17 4:53 AM
May 15 17 6:56 AM
Francis and the new sultan: Trump, the Vatican and US CatholicsTwo centers of power, Rome, and the United States will be in play at the May 24th audience. The pope who is trying to bring to an end a “Rome first” mentality within Catholicism will be meeting with the president who inaugurated his term in office with a fiery “America first” speech.Pope Francis will receive US President Donald Trump on May 24th at the Vatican in an audience that could be like no other in the previous history of US-Holy See relations.In the weeks leading up to the encounter, there have been visible efforts to portray it as a “normal” meeting between two very different world leaders who have never met before. After a year and half of pointed exchanges – beginning with the pope’s in-flight press conference from Mexico to the United States and then the president’s harsh response – both sides have sought to clear the transatlantic map of unnecessary turbulence.First, the White House on May 4th emphasized the importance of the papal audience in the context of President Trump’s first trip abroad, which the administration is casting as a link between Islam (Saudi Arabia), Judaism (Israel) and Christianity (the Vatican).Then on his flight back from Fatima on May 13, Francis said the upcoming conference with Mr. Trump would be a chance for the two men to listen to one another.“I never make a judgment about a person without listening to them,” the pope said. “I will say what I think; he will say what he thinks.”This means we should expect a more normal meeting according to standard protocol, one much different from their exchanges during these last fifteen months. Yet the divisive issues remain, even if they are not personal. There are clearly two different worldviews at play.Three kinds of actors – the military, business CEOs and white and/or evangelical Christians – influence Trump’s view of the world and geopolitics. A Catholic like Steve Bannon, whose role of chief strategist to the president appears to be diminished compared to the first weeks of the presidency, embodies all three of these cultures. But they are cultures that do not speak the same language of the Vatican or that of the global Catholic Church.Paradoxically, the military could have a moderating effect on Trump. But the ethno-national theology of Trumpian Christianity is vastly different from that embraced by other US presidents before him. And it is here that two important distinctions should be made.First, the new “white evangelicalism” that is electorally and ideologically behind Trump does not fully represent all American evangelicals. For example, an evangelical historian like Mark Noll is quite different from the usual evangelical stereotype. If it is true that there is sometimes the tendency to mischaracterize evangelicalism as the contemptible “other”, it is also true that the evangelicals who support Trump are not necessarily those of the younger generation or those who supported George W. Bush. For instance, Trump represents nothing of the “compassionate conservatism” espoused by the previous Republican president. In fact, Trump is neither compassionate nor conservative.Second, if there is a Catholic influence on Mr. Trump, it is certainly not one that is theologically aligned with Pope Francis. Among American Catholics closest to the current US administration, there are certainly the Knight of Columbus. They were among the most enthusiastic supporters of the executive order on religious liberty the president signed on May 4.In contrast to all this, there is Pope Francis’ worldview, which can be synthesized – in the pope’s own words – as “Magellan’s gaze”.“In the measure in which we go out from the center and distance ourselves from it, we discover more things and, when we look at the center of these new things that we have discovered, new places, from these peripheries, we see that reality is different,” Francis said in a 2015 interview with the Argentine shantytown newspaper, La Carcova News.“One thing is to observe reality from the center and another to see it from the last place where you arrived,” he said.“An example: Europe seen from Madrid in the 16th century was one thing; however, when Magellan arrives at the end of the American continent, he sees Europe from a new point reached and understands another thing,” the pope concluded.In this geopolitical view, the center is redefined by the peripheries. This is true for the two centers of power, Rome, and the United States, which will be in play at the May 24th audience. The pope who is trying to bring an end to a “Rome first” mentality within Catholicism will be meeting with the president who inaugurated his term in office with a fiery “America first” speech.Their encounter will be important not only for US-Holy See relations but also for the domestic politics of both Trump and Francis. For there is not only a gap between the two men’s geopolitics but also between the current pope and many US Catholics, as well as between the various types of US Catholics. The polarization of the American Catholic Church is a theological and pastoral problem, but also a geopolitical one.The “evangelicalization” of US Catholicism, advocated by such prominent neo-conservative intellectuals like George Weigel, would make the Church of Rome in the USA look more like the white evangelicalism that backs Trump rather than a colorless or color-blind (politically and ethnically) evangelicalism. This has geopolitical consequences in terms of how American Catholics (especially its clergy, theologians, politicians and deep-pocket donors) see the world; where and how they want to intervene; what they seek to achieve and with whom. This is true also in terms of their relationship with Rome. A more nationalist Catholicism means putting further distance between the USA and Europe.At this point, it is almost as if neo-conservative and neo-traditionalist Catholics are extending to the Vatican and Rome their resentment towards secularized and post-Christian Europe.They no longer see the Vatican as an exception to Europe, but part of it. They put all of this on Pope Francis’ tab, of course, even if the secularization of Rome goes back to at least the nineteenth century. But this more nationalist approach to America’s role in the world also entails putting more distance between the USA and the rest of the global Catholic Church.This is unknown territory for the Vatican and its foreign policy, but also for its relationship with American Catholics. The history of the growth of Catholics in the United States (demographically and culturally) has coincided with the history of American democracy. But if the crisis of American democracy deepens, this could have an impact on the future of Christianity and Catholicism in the country. In this sense, the recent American debate on the risks of secularization that are ushering in a “post-Christian nation” overshadows the risks of seeking refuge from secularization with the help of new sultan-like figures like Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.In this context, it is interesting to note that Pope Francis will honor one of the most important Italian priests of the 20th century when he makes a June 20th visit to the tomb of Fr. Lorenzo Milani (1923-1967). Years ago the much-marginalized priest criticized Cardinal Ernesto Ruffini of Palermo (Sicily) for supporting the dictatorship of Francisco Franco in Spain.“Blood-thirsty dictators and helpless rulers” – warned Fr Milani – “hurt the Church more when they try to protect her than when they try to fight against her.”American Catholics who are tempted to see Mr. Trump as their ally should carefully ponder these prophetic words.
May 17 17 5:55 AM
Ambassadors advise Trump, Francis to mend fences in upcoming meetingAlthough Pope Francis said Saturday he will not be seeking to soften U.S. President Donald Trump's policies during their meeting next week, the encounter is doubtless a rare opportunity for a global moral voice to influence a leader who keeps an unusually tight circle of advisors.The range of possible issues up for discussion during the May 24 tête-à-tête is vast. Francis could compare Trump's withdrawing of federal environmental regulations with his 2015 ecological encyclical Laudato Si'. Or the pontiff could sharpen his earlier public critique of the planned U.S.-Mexico border wall."The significance of this meeting can't be understated," said Douglas Kmiec, a Republican who served as former President Obama's first ambassador to Malta. "Francis could change the course of the times that we live in."While it is unknown just what the pope might choose to tell the president, Kmiec and three former U.S. ambassadors to the Holy See told NCR in interviews they expect the pontiff to take advantage of the opportunity before him in what is expected to be a half-hour encounter. They also said they hope Trump does the same.Francis Rooney, who served as Holy See ambassador under George W. Bush from 2005-08, said he would advise Trump to recognize he can "take advantage [of] Vatican diplomacy, particularly the soft power influence it wields in the world.""I would urge the president to focus on areas where the United States' interest and the Holy See's interest align to promote common foreign policy objectives," said Rooney, now a Congressman from Florida.Ken Hackett, Obama's last Holy See ambassador, said he would advise Trump to use the opportunity not to speak but to listen. (Alas, Trump seems to be far more inclined to listen to only one voice - his own.) "I would suggest to him that the pope listens well and he should listen to the pope well," said Hackett, who served in Rome from 2013-17."That boastfulness that we see all the time with President Trump, I don't think is going to fly well with the Holy Father," he continued. "I would suggest a little more humility."Trump isn't exactly known for his humility, or for his ability to take advice. Those tendencies were in part a cause of a few days of high tension between him and Francis in 2016.First, the president called the pope "a political person" for celebrating a Mass near the U.S.-Mexico border. Then, Francis questioned Trump's Christianity over his support for a wall on that border. Later, Trump called the pope's remark about him "disgraceful."Kmiec, who served in Malta from 2009-11 and is now a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, said Francis "made his point plain that the Christian view that doesn't welcome the stranger is not particularly Christian.""I think if the two men are going to be going right to the heart of the matter, they might want to start their conversation right where it left off," he suggested.James Nicholson, who served as George W. Bush's first Holy See ambassador from 2001-05, said he thinks Trump and Francis have to do some "fence-mending" after their 2016 exchange."That's kind of a false start together," said Nicholson, who also said he had been contacted by the Trump administration for advice about whether to seek a meeting with the pope around the time of the president's trip to Sicily for a G7 summit May 26-27."They need to get that behind them and I think they certainly should talk about immigration," said the former ambassador. "That's one of those issues about which they probably have some disagreement as well as things like capital punishment and climate change. But there's so many things they will have to talk about that they carry in common."Hackett said that before Obama's meeting with Francis in March 2014 the White House turned to Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl to ask about what issues the president might most profitably raise with the pope."Hopefully, the Trump White House will do the same ... figuring out what topics would resonate," said Hackett.Trump will meet Francis as part of the first foreign trip of his presidency. He is first visiting Saudi Arabia and Israel, and then heading to a NATO meeting in Brussels before the G7 summit.During the press conference on the papal flight from Portugal May 13, Francis said he would focus in his meeting with Trump on finding even little openings where the two might have common interests and can work together.The pope said he will be "searching for the doors that are at least a bit open, entering and speaking of things in common and going ahead, step by step."Each of the ambassadors said that beyond discussions of any specific set of policies, the real opportunity for the encounter lies in letting the pope and the president get to know each other personally.Kmiec said developing a personal relationship is "important in a tangible, pragmatic way so that in the event that the world faces a crisis on any given morning ... a phone call can have a positive effect.""I think it's even more important with this president than with past presidents," he added.Nicholson, who helped organize three visits by Bush to meet John Paul II, agreed."It's recognized that we're not going to bring peace and freedom and order to this world purely with material and military means," he said. "It has to be done through a moral transformation. That's where the pope is so important. That's why the two need to know each other and work together."Hackett also agreed, but added: "You don't make a relationship in a one-off and there's already been some water over the bridge."Presidential visits to the Vatican are normally very structured. In the past, the White House has sent several preparatory teams over a period of months in advance of presidential visits to pin down every last detail.Hackett recalled that before Obama's meeting the administration's security officials even rode up and down the elevators the president would be using in the Vatican's apostolic palace.But it's unclear just what preparation Trump's team has been able to do. The president has yet to appoint a new Holy See ambassador and he only announced his visit with Francis May 4, giving the Vatican and White House staffs just 20 days to finalize preparations.To make matters worse, Hackett said that when he left his post January 20 the U.S. embassy was short-staffed, with two primary staffers attending to a lot of the work.One specific thing the administration has to do in the coming days is pick a gift Trump will present to Francis during the traditional exchange of gifts the pope has in meetings with heads of state. Obama gave Francis a wooden chest containing fruit and vegetable seeds that had been used in the White House Garden.Hackett suggested the Trump administration stay away from offering anything too fancy. (Or gaudy, ostentatious, flamboyant, vulgar ...)"That's delicate," he said. "I know that other ambassadors have really suffered when they are not consulted and the head of state brings in some big, giant thing that's totally inappropriate, made of gold or silver."In the end, Kmiec said he thought Francis might actually be able to influence Trump."Whatever length of meeting they've allowed for is going to be insufficient to cover the topic areas," he said. "But what will be sufficient is the power of the Holy Father to just put the president at ease and to speak to his heart."The former ambassador said the pope has a wealth of kindness that he exhibits "at all times.""I think that will have a transformative effect on the hardest heart in the room," said Kmiec. "I also think it will have a transformative effect on the president even more than he realizes and more than we can put into words."Measuring that transformative effect, however, might be difficult. The Vatican normally releases only brief descriptions about the pope's meetings with world leaders, leaving unknown what was actually spoken about.Some heads of state have been known to exaggerate what the pope told them. "What you should watch is what the White House puts out [afterwards]," Hackett advised. "The question is how much is real and how much is imagined." (Or, how much is simply "fake news".)
May 17 17 11:13 PM
May 17 17 11:17 PM
As Donald Trump prepares to visit the Vatican on May 24, it’s probably a good time to look back on the history of relations between the United States and the Holy See over the centuries.George Washington began the relationship between the United States and the Vatican by answering a question for a pope: Do you mind if we appoint a bishop for your new country, and in particular, would you mind if that bishop was the Jesuit priest John Carroll?It was 1788, there were fewer than 50,000 Catholics in the nation, and very few priests.Washington’s reply - sent through Benjamin Franklin, then U.S. Ambassador to France - planted the seed of U.S.-Vatican cooperation in the 20th century: Appoint who you want.The first president could have simply said “yes”: Carroll was a friend, and had managed Washington’s relations with the country’s small Catholic population.By refusing to say yes or no, Washington put the United States on a truly revolutionary path of promoting religious freedom. It also gave the first glimpse to the Vatican of the benefits that can come from disentangling itself from the “throne and altar” model it had used for Church-State relations for centuries.Washington had been fighting anti-Catholic sentiment in the country since the Revolutionary War. He banned the celebration of Guy Fawkes Day, which featured burning the pope in effigy (still celebrated in England, it is probably best known to Americans as the source of the eponymous mask and the rhyme “Remember, remember, the fifth of November, Gunpowder Treason and Plot” featured in the movie V for Vendetta.)Washington, as president, also wrote a letter to the Catholics of the country, praising them for the part they played in the Revolution, and established consular relations with the Papal States, the large section of central Italy the popes ruled as a king.However, after Washington left office, relations soured for reasons both in America and Europe.Anti-Catholic sentiment ran high in the United States, and things were not helped by the large number of poor Catholic immigrants entering the country.In Europe, the old order was being upended by revolutions, which were often anti-clerical in nature. Democracy, republicanism, and even written constitutions were frowned on by the Vatican, which made the relationship with the United States one of mutual suspicion.The United States withdrew its consul in 1868 and passed a law forbidding the funding of a mission to the Vatican. The end of the Papal States two years later meant diplomatic ties would not be re-established for over a century.The United States and the Vatican slowly began rebuilding their relationship in the 20th century, and Woodrow Wilson even met with Pope Benedict XV in Rome in 1919.Beginning with Franklin Roosevelt, presidents began sending a “personal envoy” to the Vatican.The Holy See and America worked together in distributing humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of World War II, and anti-Communism brought them closer soon thereafter.Two events in the 1960’s paved the way to official relations: The election of John F. Kennedy as the first Catholic president, and the Second Vatican Council, in which the Church embraced the idea of religious liberty planted by Washington in 1788, and disowned the throne and altar model for good.Official diplomatic relations were not officially established until 1984, under Ronald Reagan.Reagan and Pope John Paul II built a strong relationship, and worked together to bring an end to Communism in Eastern Europe.However, relations with subsequent administrations were more strained.George H. W. Bush engaged less with the Vatican, and faced opposition from John Paul to the first Gulf War, which began with the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The Vatican was also offended because it was not invited to participate in the 1991 multilateral Madrid Conference to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.John Paul’s relationship with Bill Clinton could also be tense, because of the Democratic president’s strong pro-abortion stance. When they first met in 1993, John Paul strongly defended the right to life, and the Vatican and the U.S. administration clashed the next year at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, and Clinton even refused a call from the pope to discuss the conference.President George W. Bush also clashed with John Paul, and like his father, it was over a war in Iraq. Although the pope had opposed the first Gulf War, his opposition to the 2003 Iraq War was even more vehement.However, Bush worked with the Vatican on religious liberty issues, and Vatican officials appreciated the attention he gave to Africa.The relationship improved under Benedict XVI, and Bush hosted a successful papal visit in 2008.Barack Obama, like Clinton, had conflicts with the Vatican over abortion and religious freedom, and when Pope Francis visited the United States in 2015, he made a point to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order in the middle of a lawsuit over the contraception mandate in Obama’s health care law.Francis also led international opposition to proposed air strikes against Syria in 2013. In the end, Obama backed down.Francis and Obama did find broad agreement over issues such as migration and the environment, and they offered mutual support at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. Francis’s softer approach to social issues was also appreciated by the Obama administration.Over the past few decades, there has been an understanding between both sides.No president in the past century has seen any benefit in picking a fight with the pope. Even when they disagree, presidents will only speak positively of the head of the Catholic Church.The Vatican, despite misgivings about the power the United States wields, recognizes very little can get done in the multilateral sphere without its contribution. Even in the world of “soft power,” the American government provides indispensable assistance, such as its annual reports on religious persecution.Which brings us to Francis and Trump.They are the two most unpredictable personalities ever to hold their respective offices.Perhaps the pope thought Trump would never win the election when he implied he was “not a Christian” when asked about his campaign promise to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. (The Vatican later said he wasn’t speaking personally about Trump, although the question mentioned him specifically.)And Trump was not yet even officially a candidate in 2013 when he tweeted Francis was not being “pope-like” when paying his hotel bill after the conclave.Although it is fairly well-known on what issues the two men agree and disagree, the short meeting on May 24 could still make an interesting chapter in the history of the relations between the two states.
May 17 17 11:21 PM
By rejecting rigid interpretive mechanisms and by showing a commitment for the common good, Pope Francis has put mercy at the center of his diplomacy. The five traits of “open thought”.“Our political and diplomatic language would do well to be inspired by Mercy, which never gives up anything for lost.” This is what Pope Francis wrote in his Message for the 50th World Communications Day. But what does Mercy mean as a political classification? In extreme synthesis, we can say that it means to never consider anything or anyone as definitively “lost” in relationships between nations, peoples and states. This is the core of its political meaning.This openness is precisely the reason that helps us understand why Pope Francis never espouses rigid interpretive mechanisms to confront situations and international crises. The dynamics of Mercy compel — even conceptually —what Pope Francis recommended in his audience with the Jesuits of La Civiltà Cattolica on February 9th, 2017. “Only a truly open thought can confront the crisis and the understanding of where the world is going, of how the more complex and urgent crises, geopolitics, the challenges of the economy and the grave humanitarian crisis tied to the drama of migrations that is the true knot of global politics of our days, are confronted.”What are the consequences of this “open thought”? To understand this crucial point, one can briefly describe five traits.First Trait: A 360-Degree Dialogue With World LeadersThe action of the Holy See in the world in the years of Francis’ Pontificate has been marked by a 360-degree dialogue with the protagonists of the international scene, from U.S. President Barack Obama to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, from Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, from Fidel Castro to the Columbian leaders, and so on. It is quite apparent how the pope wants to establish direct, fluid relationships with the superpowers, without, however, entering into networks of alliances and preconceived influences. For Francis, Mercy is delineated in the fluid freedom of movement, in non-acceptance of coalitions, in the agility to build bridges between lands and positions that are far apart. All this puts into motion an unpredictable logic, precisely that of a polyhedral and multipolar vision.Second Trait: Dismantling the Ideology of Holy WarAnother strong trait is that of an approach that dismantles the ideology of “holy war”. Imagining a human coexistence and political action that speaks the language of reconciliation with the enemy, without excluding him. The “geopolitics” of Pope Bergoglio intends to unravel knots, dissolving them with the anointing of gospel balm, namely Mercy, or at least he tries. It is precisely this strategy of Mercy that is most opposed by Jihadists and “neo-crusaders”. But it is also opposed by “enlightened” positions that place the blame directly on God and on religion in general and not on the real culprits who have a first and a last name and make use of the name of God. Instead, many are finding in their faith not the fuel of hatred, but the energy and courage of forgiveness.Third Trait: Intervening in Open WoundsBergoglian geopolitics is well expressed in his apostolic trips, which have allowed the pope to touch open wounds with his hands, carrying out gestures of “therapeutic” value. Francis has touched barriers as if they were the heads of sick people. This is why he touched the wound of the “gateway to Europe” that Lampedusa has now become, of Yad Vashem and the wall of Bethlehem, on which he rested his head in prayer. This is why he touched the divisions in Korea, in Sri Lanka, in Bangui and in Armenia with his hands, as well historic wounds as in Auschwitz. He spoke of this to the United States Congress, saying, “Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises.” The pope is incapable of not touching these wounds, where Mercy must be interpreted in a political terms.Fourth Trait: Peace Does Not Exist in Nature, But Needs to Be ConqueredFrancis knows well that “pure” peace does not exist and that humankind must always confront conflicts, which cannot be eliminated within the dynamics of human relationships and therefore also in international ones. Peace itself instead “involves a real struggle” of conquest (Angelus, January 1st, 2016). According to Pope Francis, peace means acting in the most delicate areas of international politics in the name of the weakest, of the “discarded”. There is a very profound thought contained in the words on the discourse on the Last Judgment in Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew, one of the passages that is always at the heart of his teachings. In a world that experiences a dramatic “Third World War in pieces”—over 30 pieces across the globe— “peace” initiatives must always be linked to the two great social themes that most concern the pope; social peace and the social inclusion of the poor. To quote Populorum Progressio by the Blessed Paul VI, he expresses the conviction that, “a peace which is not the result of an integral development will be doomed; it will always spawn new conflicts and various forms of violence.” (EG 219).Fifth Trait: Not Shoring Up Theologies of PowerFinally, another trait of Bergoglian politics consists in not shoring up theologies of power that can be used to impose or to find an enemy to fight. And this is why, at the moment, Francis has become the only credible moral leader. He is not only a religious leader, but a world political leader, capable of a soft power with spiritual roots. And so, he proposes a vision of the world capable of having a future. As a religious leader, Francis strips religious power of its political and even partisan breastplate, of its oxidized and rusty armour.He definitively dismantles the idea that religion can be the dominant classes’ political guarantee. His white and unadorned cassock reminds Christianity of Christ. And he restores its true power, which is that of integration. This is the only true power of God. Francis radically rejects the idea of the implementation of the Kingdom of God on earth, which was at the basis of the Holy Roman Empire and of all similar political and institutional forms, also including the dimensions of the “political party”. If a Christian becomes “part of” one, then an “enemy” belonging to the other side is immediately created. Instead, it must always be clear that the Christian is at the service of the world; he or she does not defend one side against another.Conclusion: Mercy as “Responsibility for The Common Good”In conclusion, here is what emerges as a possible “political” name for Mercy: solidarity, understood as a commitment and as responsibility for the common good in our world, which has become increasingly fragmented, just like a puzzle.
May 18 17 8:06 AM
One by one, pope hugs over 100 patients suffering from rare disease: Huntington's SyndromePope Francis literally embraced all of these sick people who filled the Paul VI Audience Hall in Vatican City. They have Huntington's Syndrome, a degenerative disease that usually begins to show its symptoms between 30 and 50 years of age.Those who suffer from it are often marginalized, or even abandoned by their relatives who are unable to take care of them. Pope Francis greeted both the sick and their relatives, who sacrifice 24 hours a day to care of them.Some asked him to bless photos of other loved ones, while others tearfully embraced him, unleashing the applause of the people.There were selfies, blessings, and greetings of all kinds. This was the message that Pope Francis gave. Sweetness, closeness; more than words, but gestures. He encouraged the sick and their families not to be discouraged, and and to never become overcome by loneliness and suffering.POPE FRANCIS"Fragility is not an ill. May none of you ever feel you are alone; may none of you feel you are a burden; do not to give in to the temptation of the sense of shame or guilt.”He also called for more research in order to find solutions to diseases like this, and criticized the destruction of human embryos. POPE FRANCIS"We know that no ends, even noble in themselves, such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society, can justify the destruction of human embryos.”At the moment, 7,000 rare diseases have been discovered, which affects 7% of the world's population.
"Fragility is not an ill. May none of you ever feel you are alone; may none of you feel you are a burden; do not to give in to the temptation of the sense of shame or guilt.”
"We know that no ends, even noble in themselves, such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society, can justify the destruction of human embryos.”
On Thursday Pope Francis received the credentials of six new ambassadors to the Holy See, telling them to work for the common good and support peace efforts that lessen tensions given the complexity of the global climate.“The international scene is at present marked by great complexity, nor is it free of dark clouds,” the pope said May 18. This situation, he added, requires “a greater awareness of the approaches and actions needed to pursue the path of peace and to lessen tensions.”Francis spoke to ambassadors Ms. Zhanar Aitzhan of Kazakhstan; Ms. Aichetou Mint M’Haiham of Mauritania; Mr. Ramesh Prasad Khanal of Nepal; Mr. Boubacar Boureima of Niger; Mr. Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman of Sudan and Mr. Colin Michael Connelly of Trinidad and Tobago.He asked them to convey his respect to their respective heads of State, and offered a special greeting to M’Haiham, who is Mauritania’s first ambassador to the Holy See.In his brief speech, the pope said there are several factors that aggravate the problems that exist on the global stage, the first of which is “an economic and financial system that, rather than being at the service of people, is set up principally to serve itself and to evade oversight by public authorities.”These authorities are responsible for the common good, “yet they lack the means necessary to moderate the disproportionate appetites of the few,” he said, noting that there seems to be an increasing impulse toward violence.In many ways, there is “a greater readiness to have recourse to force,” he said, “not as a last resort but practically as one means among many, ready to be used without a full consideration of its consequences.”Another factor exacerbating current conflicts is “fundamentalism,” the pope said, pointing specifically to “the abuse of religion to justify a thirst for power” and the “manipulation of God’s holy name to advance by any means possible one’s own plans to gain power.”Turning to the task the ambassadors themselves will face, Francis said the response to these “distortions” and the risks they pose to promoting peace must be the creation of “a responsible economic and financial system” that is responsive to the needs of both individuals and their communities.“Men and women, not money, must once more become the goal of the economy!” he said, urging the diplomats to face differences with “the courageous patience of dialogue and diplomacy, with initiatives of encounter and peace, and not with shows of force and its hasty and ill-advised use.”Likewise, Francis also stressed the importance of isolating those “who seek to turn a religious affiliation or identity into a motive of hate for all others.“Those who befoul the image of God in this way need to be confronted by a concerted commitment to demonstrating that those who honor God’s name save lives, not take them,” he said.If we move more decisively in the direction of peace, mercy and compassion rather than division, war and indifference, then “the cause of peace and justice - the conditions of a balanced development for all - will make tangible progress,” he said.Francis then offered his personal greetings to the Catholic population in each of the six countries represented by the ambassadors, and assured the diplomats of the constant support of the Roman Curia in fulfilling their duties.
Trump faces a higher authority: Pope FrancisWhen the president visits the Vatican next week, he'll meet with a pontiff who hasn't been shy about criticizing him.Historically, the relationship between American presidents and pontiffs is a complicated one. But seldom has a first meeting been as awkward as the upcoming one between Donald Trump and Pope Francis.When Trump sits down with the spiritual leader of America’s 50-plus million Catholics next Wednesday, he’ll be face-to-face with perhaps the only person with a bigger global megaphone than his own. There will be little common ground between them — Trump sparred with Pope Francis on the campaign trail, and the pontiff has been critical of the president on issues ranging from climate change to immigration to refugee resettlement.“There is a tradition and a real purpose: you have the leader of the big temporal superpower meeting with the leader of the spiritual superpower, if you will. It’s really an imperative that the two people with that much responsibility for not just their respective domains, but for the world writ large, that they get acquainted and develop a relationship,” said Jim Nicholson, the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Republican National Committee chairman who served Ambassador to the Holy See under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005.“They will not probably agree on things like immigration, they won’t agree on capital punishment,” he said. “But it’s very important that, going forward in this president’s young presidency, he gets to know the Pope, that he can know he can call on the Pope for discussion and advice, as President Bush did.” (But will Trump even want to ask for the Pope's advice, and will he even care to discuss issues with the Pope? Alas, Trump is far too well-known for ultimately listening to only one person: himself.)Both sides are feeling pressure to put a happy face on their private meeting. Nicholson said the trip came about after he reminded White House senior staffers — who’d been debating whether to visit the Vatican — that a papal meeting has a been the practice for every president since World War II who’s visited Italy.But in this case, the politics are especially tricky. Trump will be meeting with a Catholic leader who enjoys far higher approval ratings in the United States than his own. The pope must keep in mind that while Trump maintains support from a majority of white Catholics, he faces deep disapproval ratings among Hispanic Catholics, the fastest-growing group in the American church.The two have not engaged directly since Trump’s inauguration, but tensions have not cooled much since their initial hostile exchange in February 2016, when Francis told reporters, “A person who only thinks about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian,” in an apparent reference to the president’s proposed Mexican border wall.At the time, Trump shot back: “No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” he said at a rally in South Carolina. “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’ ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president.”The exchange reverberated in Rome, said longtime Vatican analyst Iacopo Scaramuzzi, because it made clear that Francis was willing to step out of papal tradition to rally his own backers against an American political candidate — setting the stage for an uneasy relationship with the eventual president.“When he criticized Trump [over the wall], even Vatican diplomats were surprised by an attack like that [against] a possible U.S. president,” he said. “But that was an intentional attack. An explicit conflict can be useful: to take the other one as an example of what’s wrong can be very useful to send a message to your supporters.”While the two leaders have not spoken since Trump moved into the White House, the discord has subtly intensified. The Pope made waves in Europe just days after Trump took office, for example, by bringing up Adolf Hitler unprompted in an interview with a Spanish paper when asked about the rise of xenophobia and the new American president. The next month, he appeared to jab at Trump’s repeated claim that he would build a border wall and force Mexico to pay for it by urging Catholics “to not raise walls but bridges” and adding “A Christian can never say: I’ll make you pay for that."People close to the Vatican also interpreted Francis’ designation of Indianapolis’ Joseph Tobin as a cardinal in October — and his subsequent move to the higher-profile Newark archdiocese the day before Election Day — as a message to Trump. Tobin had recently publicly clashed with Vice President Mike Pence, then Trump’s running mate and the governor of Indiana, when he helped a Syrian refugee family settle in the city despite Pence’s announcement that he wouldn’t support such relocation efforts.“The risk for Trump here is that the contrasts between him and Francis are so stark on so many of the political and moral questions of our time,” said John Gehring, the Catholic Program director at Faith in Public Life, a liberal advocacy group. (That's an understatement if there ever was one!)But the message-sending has gone both ways: Francis' critics noted with interest April reports that Trump had given Argentine president Mauricio Macri a collection of recently declassified documents relating to his country’s “dirty war” in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Pope has often faced questions in Argentina about his role in his home country's affair, when he was still known as Jorge Maria Bergoglio, and his relationship with Macri has long been tense.Nonetheless, early signals suggest Pope Francis — who has said he accepts any foreign leader who asks for an audience — has already gone out of his way to pave a diplomatic path forward with Trump, say Vatican experts.“Trump and Bergoglio will try to display a constructive attitude, although what they have in common is to be unpredictable,” added Scaramuzzi. “The two diplomacies have worked in order to provide a smooth meeting. So that nobody will leave the room with his bones broken.”With no ambassador to the Holy See in place while his administration reportedly prepares to nominate Callista Gingrich — the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — much of the coordinating work has been done by that office’s new Charge d’Affaires, Louis Bono, said a Vatican official.Florida Rep. Francis Rooney, who succeeded Nicholson as ambassador and served until 2008, said he expected few of the controversial points of disagreement to come up in the brief conversation, instead pointing to human trafficking as a likely topic of discussion due to its importance to both American diplomats in the Holy See and Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.“They’ll put the past behind them,” he said. “It’s an inflection point in the relationship between the United States and the Holy See.”Close observers in Italy note that Francis will have most of the power in his home-court meeting. Courtesies like agreeing to hold the meeting on Wednesday morning — shortly before his regularly scheduled general audience in Saint Peter’s Square — suggest he may not be looking to pin Trump into a politically difficult corner, and that he will have an easy out if the meeting takes an uncomfortable turn.Trump’s aides were considering scheduling the meeting after the G7 conference, but determined that the president needed to return to Washington for Memorial Day, Nicholson said, hence the unorthodox timing.By 9:00 or 9:15 most Wednesdays, Francis is out greeting the crowds in his Jeep, explained Robert Mickens of the European Catholic publication La Croix. So if he perceives that the meeting is not going well, he can simply leave.“This allows the Pope to say, ‘I’m sorry, I have to go. He has not cleared his calendar for the entire morning to meet Trump," said Mickens. "It does mean that he cannot spend more than a certain amount of time with Trump, just because of the sheer fact that he has another important weekly meeting."The first in-person meeting of the unorthodox president and the unpredictable pontiff — populist outsiders whose unexpected ascents to power were accompanied by an eagerness to shake up the status quo — is a part of first foreign trip for Trump that has an explicit focus on religious symbolism. The president’s itinerary also includes Israel and Saudi Arabia.“They’ll have a good chance to look each other in the eyes and see how much they have in common,” said Nicholson. (Which is not much, and that is putting it mildly.) “They recognize what transcendent figures they are on the world stage, and how important what they say and do and believe and message is to people. Because so many people are watching them.”After speculation during the 2016 campaign that voters of faith would abandon Trump, his ultimate support among American Catholics closely mirrored that of other Republican presidential candidates: 6 in 10 white Catholics backed him in November, according to a Pew analysis of exit polls, and his approval rating among that group had fallen only slightly by April, to 53 percent.A number of Catholic and evangelical leaders have since rallied even closer to his side after the president bolstered the Mexico City Policy axing American funding to non-governmental organizations that perform abortions, cut funding for Planned Parenthood, installed the conservative Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and signed a new executive order focused on religious liberty.Yet that support belies his serious weakness among another slice of the Catholic community: just around one-quarter of Hispanic Catholics voted for him, according to Pew’s analysis, and his approval rating with that group had dropped to 15 percent by last month. And on this issue of Trump’s proposed ban on travel to the United States from a collection of Muslim-majority countries, six in ten Catholics — including roughly half of white Catholics — said they disapproved.Veteran Vatican watchers believe any kind of public clash over those flashpoints remains unlikely, despite the popular Pope's prior willingness to confront the president in a manner uncharacteristic of previous Vatican-Washington relations.“I don’t expect to hear it,” said Rooney. “I think the president values the role the Holy See plays in the world of international diplomacy." (Ah, but does he really? I'm afraid the jury's still out on that issue.)
Pope Francis Documentary Directed by Wim Wenders Acquired by Focus FeaturesWim Wenders has directed a documentary about Pope Francis titled “Pope Francis – A Man of His Word,” for which Focus Features has acquired world rights.Described in a statement as a “historic nonfiction film,” the Wenders work is not a biography of Jorge Mario Bergoglio rather “a film with him.”It marks the second co-production that the Vatican has made with outside filmmakers “and the first in which a Pope addresses the audience directly, discussing topics such as ecology, immigration, consumerism, and social justice,” the statement said.The German auteur of “Wings of Desire” and many docs, including “Buena Vista Social Club,” and “Pina” has been working closely with the Vatican for at least two years.In 2015 Wenders collaborated with the Vatican TV center during the Jubilee in Rome. More recently Wenders was spotted shooting in Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, known to be an inspirational figure for Bergoglio and the reason the pontiff chose to call himself Pope Francis.In “Pope Francis – A Man of His Word,” Pope Francis “responds to questions submitted from around the globe,” the statement said. The documentary will comprise exclusive footage from the Vatican TV archive showing the pope on his world travels, “sharing his ideas and ideals in different parts of the world,” it noted.“Whenever I think of Wenders’ poetics I see before me the angels that feature in ‘Wings of Desire’ and ‘Faraway, So Close!’.,” said Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, Prefect of the Secretariat for Communication of the Holy See, in the statement.“They are angels that, though perfectly pertinent to both the biblical and literary worlds, have very little in common with the devotional stereotype,” Viganò, who is know to be a big film buff and the originator of this project, added.That’s why the German auteur was invited to take part in the opening ceremony of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, called by Pope Francis himself, according to Viganò.A meeting that led to the Vatican Television Centre suggesting a film could be made.“Pope Francis is a living example of a man who stands for what he says,” said Wenders.“In our film, he speaks directly to the viewer, very candidly and spontaneously. We wanted “Pope Francis – A Man of His Word,” to be for all audiences, as the Pope’s message is universal,” he added.“Through the full cooperation of the Vatican, we were privileged to have several long audiences with Pope Francis, and Focus now joins us in bringing his radical compassion and deep humanism to an audience around the globe,” Wenders went on to note.“The belief that movies can impact individuals and the world at large is at the very core of Focus Features,” said Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski.“We are humbled at the responsibility of planting this film into the global culture so that the thoughts and words of a spiritual leader as inspiring and compassionate as Pope Francis can take root,” he added.“Pope Francis – A Man of His Word,” is produced by Wenders with Samanta Gandolfi Branca, Alessandro Lo Monaco (“The World’s Smallest Army”), Andrea Gambetta and David Rosier (“The Salt of the Earth“). The film is a production of Célestes Images, Centro Televisivo Vaticano, Solares Fondazione delle Arti, PTS Art’s Factory, Neue Road Movies, Fondazione Solares Suisse, and Decia Films.Cinetic Media and Sloss Eckhouse LawCo negotiated the deal on behalf of the producers.
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