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Apr 1 17 2:50 AM
Serious research on Martin Luther can help heal relations between Catholics and Protestants, highlight what was legitimate about the Reformation and pinpoint the errors and sins that led to the division of the church, Pope Francis said.“Today, as Christians, all of us are called to put behind us all prejudice toward the faith that others profess with a different emphasis or language, to offer one another forgiveness for the sins committed by those who have gone before us, and together to implore from God the gift of reconciliation and unity,” he said.The pope spoke March 31 to about 150 people taking part in an international congress organized by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. The congress, held March 29-31, discussed the theme, “Luther: 500 Years Later. A Rereading of the Lutheran Reformation in the Historical, Ecclesial Context.”The pope told the participants that his first reaction to hearing about “this praiseworthy initiative” was one of gratitude to God and “a certain surprise, since not long ago a meeting like this would have been unthinkable.”“Catholics and Lutherans together, discussing Luther, at a meeting organized by an office of the Holy See — truly we are experiencing the results of the working of the Holy Spirit, who overcomes every obstacle and turns conflicts into occasions for growth in communion,” he said.Pope Francis said he was pleased the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation offered this occasion to jointly study such past events.Pope Francis leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 29. (CNS/Paul Haring)“Serious research into the figure of Luther and his critique of the church of his time and the papacy certainly contributes to overcoming the atmosphere of mutual distrust and rivalry that for all too long marked relations between Catholics and Protestants,” he said.“An attentive and rigorous study, free of prejudice and polemics, enables the churches, now in dialogue, to discern and receive all that was positive and legitimate in the Reformation, while distancing themselves from errors, extremes and failures, and acknowledging the sins that led to the division,” the pope said.While the past cannot be changed, he said, 50 years of dialogue means there can be “a purification of memory,” which is “to tell that history differently,” in a way that is “free of any lingering trace of the resentment over past injuries that has distorted our view of one another.”
Apr 2 17 6:27 AM
New Evangelization to care for shrines(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter motu proprio on Saturday, in which he transfers general responsibility for the creation, discipline and administration of Catholic shrines and sanctuaries throughout the world, to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.The new arrangement leaves in place the special laws granting other authorities specific competence over certain shrines and sanctuaries – and the pilgrims and pilgrimages associated with them.The Council for New Evangelization will now be directly responsible [for] the establishment of international Sanctuaries and the approval of their respective statutes, as well as for the study and implementation of measures to promote the evangelizing role of the sacred places in the life of the Church and of the faithful, to promote an organic pastoral care plan for shrines and to promote both national and international gatherings aimed at fostering renewal of pilgrimages to places of worship and works of popular piety more generally.In addition, the Council for New Evangelization will be responsible for promoting training for shrine operators and support for pilgrims, as well as cultural and artistic enhancement of sanctuaries, “according to the via pulchritudinis as one of the Church’s particular modes of evangelization.
Full text of the Motu Proprio "Sanctuarium in Ecclesia":“Sanctuarium in Ecclesia”Apostolic Letter of the Holy Father Francis in the form of a Motu Propriotransferring competence for Shrinesto the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization 1. The Shrine has a “great symbolic value” in the Church, and making a pilgrimage is a genuine profession of faith. Through the contemplation of sacred images, in fact, one affirms the hope of feeling more strongly the closeness of God that opens the heart to the confidence of being heard and answered in one’s deepest desires. Popular piety, which is a “true expression of the spontaneous missionary activity of the people of God”, finds in the Shrine a privileged place where you can express the fine tradition of prayer, of devotion and trust in God's mercy inculturated in the life of every people.Since the first centuries, in fact, there existed the first pilgrimage to the places where Jesus Christ lived, announced the mystery of the Father and, above all, where there was a tangible sign of his Resurrection: the empty tomb. Pilgrims then made their way to the places where, according to different traditions, the tombs of the Apostles were found. Over the centuries, finally, pilgrimages were also extended to those places, now the majority, where popular piety has witnessed first hand the mysterious presence of the Mother of God, the saints and the blessed.2. The shrines remain to this day in every part of the world as a distinctive sign of the simple and humble faith of believers who find in these holy places the basic dimension of their existence as believers. Here they experience deeply God's closeness, the tenderness of the Virgin Mary and the company of the Saints: an experience of true spirituality that can not be underestimated, at risk of mortifying the Holy Spirit and the life of grace. Many Shrines have been perceived as part of the life of people families and communities to the point of shaping the identity of generations, and even affecting the history of some nations.The great influx of pilgrims, the humble and simple prayer of God's people alternating with liturgical celebrations, the fulfilment of so many graces that many believers affirm they have received and the natural beauty of these places enable us to see how the Shrines, in their various forms, express an indispensable opportunity for evangelization in our time.3. These places, despite the crisis of faith that engulfs the contemporary world, are still perceived as sacred spaces to which pilgrims go to find a moment of rest, silence and contemplation in today’s often hectic life. A hidden desire gives rise to a nostalgia for God in many of them; and shrines can be a true refuge for rediscovering oneself and regaining the necessary strength for conversion. In the Shrine, finally, the faithful can receive support for their ordinary path in the parish and in the Christian community. This osmosis between the pilgrimage to the Shrine and everyday life is a great help to pastoral ministry, because it permits the rekindling of commitment to evangelization through a more convinced testimony. Therefore, walking towards the Shrine and participating in the spirituality that these places express is in itself an act of evangelization which deserves to be valued for its intense pastoral value.4. By its very nature, then, the Shrine is a sacred place where the proclamation of the Word of God, the celebration of the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and the witness of charity express the Church’s great commitment to evangelization; and it is therefore characterized as a genuine place of evangelization, where from the first proclamation up to the celebration of the sacred mysteries, the powerful action with which God’s mercy works in people’s lives is made manifest.Through the spirituality proper to each shrine, the pilgrims are conducted with the “pedagogy of evangelization” to a more responsible involvement both in their Christian formation and in the necessary witness of charity that flows from it. The Shrine also makes a significant contribution to the catechetical efforts of the Christian community; indeed, transmitting in a way consistent with the times the message that initiated its foundation, it enriches the lives of believers, offering them the reasons for a more mature and aware commitment to faith (cf. 1 Thess. 1:3). Finally, in the Shrine, the doors are wide open to the sick, the disabled, and above all, the poor, the marginalized, refugees and migrants.5. In light of these considerations it is clear that the Shrines are called to play a role in the new evangelization of society today and that the Church is called to evaluate in pastoral terms the motions of the heart that are expressed through pilgrimages to Shrines and places of devotion.Therefore, to encourage the development of pastoral work being performed in the Shrines of the Church, I have decided to transfer to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization the competences that, pursuant to art. 97.1 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, were hitherto assigned to the Congregation for the Clergy and also those provided in the art. 151 of the Constitution concerning the same trips for reasons of piety, without prejudice, however, the tasks of the legitimate ecclesiastical authorities and those who, by virtue of special laws, belong to other bodies with regard to certain Shrines.Therefore, I establish that in the future the following will be the responsibility of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization:a) the establishment of international Shrines and the approval of their respective statutes, in accordance with canons 1232-1233 of the Code of Canon Law;b) the study and implementation of measures to promote the evangelizing role of the Shrines and the cultivation of popular piety therein;c) the promotion of an organic pastoral ministry of Shrines as powerhouses of the new evangelization;d) the promotion of national and international meetings to promote the joint task of renewal of the pastoral ministry of popular piety and pilgrimages to places of worship;e) the promotion of specific training for workers in Shrines and places of piety and devotion;f) the supervision so that pilgrims may be offered, in the places they stay, a coherent and sustained spiritual and ecclesial service that enables a greater personal outcome of these experiences;g) the cultural and artistic enhancement of the Shrines following the via pulchritudinis as a particular mode of evangelization of the Church.I decree that what has been set out in this Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio be observed in all its parts, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, even if worthy of special mention, and that it be promulgated by publication in L’Osservatore Romano, coming into effect fifteen days after promulgation, and thereafter published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.Given in Vatican City on 11 February 2017, liturgical memory of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Fourth year of my Pontificate.FRANCIS
Apr 3 17 2:53 AM
Greeted by tens of thousands of faithful, Pope Francis on Sunday visited a region of Italy that has largely been rebuilt after a pair of deadly earthquakes five years ago, an example meant to give hope to another part of the country still reeling from more devastating earthquakes last year.Francis’s first stop in Emilia Romagna was the earthquake-damaged Duomo cathedral of Carpi, where he laid a bouquet of white flowers at the foot of a statue of the Madonna. After years of restoration, the cathedral reopened just last weekend.“There are those who remain buried in the rubble of life,” the Pope said in his homily before an estimated 20,000 gathered in the piazza outside the cathedral for an open-air Mass and another 50,000 who watched on large screens throughout the city. “And there are those, like you, who with the help of God rise from the rubble to rebuild.”He later visited the town of Mirandola, where the crowd including family members of people killed in a pair of 2012 earthquakes. Francis laid a bouquet of flowers at the altar of the cathedral, which is still under scaffolding five years after the earthquake and not functioning as a house of worship.He thanked the people of Mirandola “for the example you gave to all humanity, the example of courage to go ahead.”The Emilia Romagna model of rebuilding from the magnitude-6.1 and magnitude-5.8 earthquakes that killed 28 people has often been cited as exemplary. It included bringing together politicians, entrepreneurs and bishops to decide common priorities.The papal visit was meant to show gratitude for the region’s renewal, the bishop of Carpi, Mgr Francesco Cavina, told the Italian Bishops’ Conference television TV2000. But Mgr Cavina said it also aimed to be “a sign of hope that rebuilding is possible for the people of central Italy, who unfortunately suffered what we did much more dramatically.”A magnitude-6.1 earthquake on August 24 in Italy’s central regions of Umbria, Abruzzo and Marche killed nearly 300 people, toppled churches, historic buildings and museums, and rendered many town centres uninhabitable.It was followed by a series of earthquakes in October, including the strongest in Italy in nearly four decades at magnitude 6.6, that damaged a higher number of structures, but didn’t provoke further deaths since the most vulnerable areas had already been evacuated.Authorities have estimated the damage from the 2016 central Italian earthquakes at more than €23.5 billion ($25 billion), compared with €13.5 billion from the 2012 Emilia Romagna earthquakes
Apr 3 17 9:32 AM
Letter from Rome: Why Francis Needs to Expand the College of CardinalsPope Francis has spent his four years as Bishop of Rome steadily and tenaciously waging a campaign to change the mentality of individual Catholics and the ethos of the entire church, which he dreams of being an outward-looking, accident-prone and getting-its-hands-dirty community that is “on the move”.In fact, the pope’s “attitude adjustment program” is gradually reshaping the very identity of global Catholicism, even though it’s not to everyone’s liking.Just as he hinted he would do when he addressed fellow cardinals just four days before they elected him, Francis has been trying to liberate Jesus Christ from a church that, increasingly in the past three or so decades, had become a sick, self-referential, and theologically narcissistic institution living only for itself.“In (the Book of) Revelation, Jesus says that he is standing at the threshold and calling,” the future pope said in a pre-Conclave meeting on March 9, 2013.“Evidently the text refers to the fact that he stands outside the door and knocks to come in… But at times I think Jesus may be knocking from the inside—so that we can let him out. The self-referential church presumes to keep Jesus Christ within itself and not let him out,” he said.In that short address, the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires said:“The church is called to come out from itself and go to the peripheries, not only those that are geographical, but also the existential ones: those of the mystery of sin, suffering, and injustice; those of ignorance and the absence of faith, thought, and every form of misery.”Pope Francis has been bringing forth just such a church. And there is ample evidence that this renewed way of being a Christian community has been embraced, by and large, at the grassroots. The vast majority of lay people, as well as folks who are not even Catholic, have been energized by this change of tone, emphasis, and way of mercifully walking with all humanity.But it seems just as evident that the reception has been much more tepid among a significant number of bishops (mostly appointed by Francis’s two most recent predecessors), younger priests and many of the men aspiring to be ontologically changed by priestly ordination.These types within the clerical caste are gritting their teeth and consoling themselves with the assurance that this pontificate will not last forever. They believe they just have to “wait out” the old Jesuit and then hope that the cardinals will come to their senses at the next Conclave and choose a more prudent and less disruptive man of unquestionable orthodoxy to be Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church. Once that happens, they believe, their lives will finally get back to normal.It is not a far-fetched thought. (But it is a thoroughly disgusting one - imagine actually waiting either for Pope Francis to "kick the bucket", or to become so ill that he resigns from the Petrine throne! I never imagined that anyone who calls himself a Catholic - much less a man of the cloth! - could actually have such a mindset!)So what can Pope Francis do to change attitudes at the top of the church? It is something he must ponder if wants to make sure the renewal and reform he has begun actually continue beyond his pontificate.Back in November 2013, shortly after he announced his first consistory (some four months in advance) it already seemed clear that he would have to modify the number of electors if he wanted to significantly re-shape the College of Cardinals with men on board with his vision for the church.“He likely will want to make a body that is now top-heavy with Europeans and North Americans more reflective of the ‘peripheries’ of the Universal Church,” I wrote in the November 9 issue of The Tablet.“If Francis wishes to alter this geographical configuration, he may have to formally change the rules to increase the number of cardinal-electors beyond one-hundred-and-twenty,” the article continued.Since the College of Cardinals is a human invention its existence and number of members are completely arbitrary. Pope Paul VI fixed the current limit on the number of electors, but there is nothing stopping Pope Francis from changing it. It is his prerogative and his alone. In fact, John Paul II derogated from Paul’s legislation several times and after consistories in 2001 and 2003, for example, there were as many as 135 electors.It seems that the Argentine pope has been entertaining the idea of formally boosting the ceiling for some time.And, in fact, just several days ago an article by a writer close to the retired Benedict XVI suggested the current pope is likely to name a large group of new cardinals next June by doing that very thing: issuing a motu proprio to formally increase the papal electors to 150.“If he really increases the number of cardinal electors,” said the article, “Pope Francis would have 30ish ‘cardinal slots,’ and with these new red hats he would profoundly reshape the geography and orientation of the College of Cardinals.”Now, the author of this piece of speculation is known to be a useful scribe for the information Benedict’s trusted aide Archbishop Georg Gänswein wants to put in the public domain. So perhaps the article should be taken with a grain of salt. (Indeed. Gänswein is one prelate who clearly has quite a few media connections, which is surely very advantageous for him if he wants to put out a narrative that he believes will benefit him. Those connections, it seems to me, were made on the strength of his "association" with the retired Pope, and I do not doubt that these "useful scribes" would not give Gänswein the time of day if he were simply another monsignor among the dozens of clerics who populate the Curia.)But Francis has been encouraged in the past to expand the number of electors, even by some of the most unsuspecting men in the hierarchy.One of them was Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, the Spaniard who served as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship from 2008-2014 before Francis sent him back home to lead the Archdiocese of Valencia. Evidently, the man known as the “little Ratzinger” urged Francis back in late 2014 to raise the number of cardinal electors to 140 in order to create a greater geographical representation in the body that elects the Bishop of Rome.But, as we know, the pope has so far maintained the 120-limit set by Paul VI.A more forceful argument to increase the number of voters was made in this column exactly one year ago when it was speculated that the pope would create new cardinals in June 2016.“If he adheres to the 120 ceiling, that gives him only eight slots to fill. If he waits until November—say, the Feast of Christ the King on the 20th of that month—he could add another five for a total of 13 new cardinals,” the column said.In fact, the consistory was held in November, as the Letter from Rome had surmised.“It is important to note that the thirteen new electors will not significantly tip the balance—either geographically or ecclesiologically/pastorally—in the College of Cardinals,” it was pointed out once the names of the new electors were announced.“More significantly Pope Francis will have named only 44 of the electors, compared to the 55 created by Benedict XVI and the other 21 by John Paul II,” the article noted.In a few weeks when Cardinal Lluís Martínez Sistach of Spain turns eighty there will be 116 papal electors, giving the pope only four slots to fill if he maintains the current limit. No other cardinals turn eighty until next year, when seven others age out by the end of 2018.This earlier observation continues to hold:“All things remaining equal, Francis will still have appointed only 55 electors over this period. If he wants to continue to make the College of Cardinals more reflective of the universal complexion of the Church and—more importantly—ensure that this illustrious body is fully on board with his vision for Catholicism’s future, he should seriously consider raising the ceiling to a larger number.”At the risk of sounding like a broken record, one must repeat that it is vital for the pope to carefully consider which and how many men he puts into the red-hatted college. That’s because this body elects his successor. And it will be up to that man to decide whether and how to proceed with the renewal and reforms that Francis has painstakingly begun.Also, cardinals cut a high profile and wield considerable influence on the rest of the church. They often set the tone and agenda for other members in the hierarchy, as well as the rest of the clergy and baptized faithful.But unless he lives and remains Bishop of Rome for several more years perhaps the best thing Francis can do to make sure (though without any guarantees) that a man is elected to continue his vision for the church is to significantly expand the number of cardinal electors. The figure has varied widely over the centuries, but in 1587 Pope Sixtus V set it at 70, apparently to reflect the number of elders Moses chose to help him govern the Israelites.That held until 1958 when Pope John XXIII increased the electors to 75, then 88 (1960) and 90 (1962).It’s not clear if Paul VI had any biblical imagery in mind when he fixed the number of electors at 120, but the Acts of the Apostles (1:14-26) recounts that after Jesus’ ascension into heaven there were some 120 disciples who chose the successor to Judas Iscariot as one of the twelve.No matter which number Pope Francis chooses, it must be significantly greater than the current limit.If he is looking for a clue from scripture he might consider the scene from the last chapter of the Gospel of John. The resurrected Jesus is standing on the shore of the Sea of Tiberius. The apostles are out on the water, fishing from a boat.Jesus called out, ‘Haven’t you caught anything, friends?’And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’So they threw the net out and could not haul it in because of the quantity of fish.The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words, ‘It is the Lord,’ Simon Peter tied his outer garment round him (for he had nothing on) and jumped into the water.The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net with the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it.Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ And here’s the punch line:Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net ashore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken.In the church’s hierarchy, at least, the cardinals are the “big fish.”May Pope Francis increase their number so they and the next man who wears the Shoes of the Fisherman might keep alive the evangelical momentum the current Successor of Peter has begun.
“The church is called to come out from itself and go to the peripheries, not only those that are geographical, but also the existential ones: those of the mystery of sin, suffering, and injustice; those of ignorance and the absence of faith, thought, and every form of misery.”
“All things remaining equal, Francis will still have appointed only 55 electors over this period. If he wants to continue to make the College of Cardinals more reflective of the universal complexion of the Church and—more importantly—ensure that this illustrious body is fully on board with his vision for Catholicism’s future, he should seriously consider raising the ceiling to a larger number.”
Jesus called out, ‘Haven’t you caught anything, friends?’And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’So they threw the net out and could not haul it in because of the quantity of fish.The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words, ‘It is the Lord,’ Simon Peter tied his outer garment round him (for he had nothing on) and jumped into the water.The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net with the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it.Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’
Apr 3 17 3:18 PM
It has now been a year since Pope Francis published his post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (8 April 2016). And the Catholic Church is still in the process of receiving it.The pope’s interpretation of and contribution to the long synodal debate on love in marriage and the family has certainly changed the Catholic conversation on some of the typical issues of the Church in modern times. But it is still too early to draw conclusions about the document’s reception. That’s because the people most touched by its teaching – the lay faithful – are largely invisible to the Catholic media. But it is not too early to see a phenomenon that could give us a distorted picture of the relationship between Francis and the different circles and individuals that oppose his pontificate if one links this opposition to the teaching of Amoris Laetitia. It is true that during the past year the debate over the document has radicalized some voices in the Catholic Church. Most notable is Cardinal Raymond Burke, who threatened the pope with a “formal correction” of his teaching. This especially concerns passages in the exhortation that discuss access to the Eucharist for divorced and remarried Catholics.But Burke’s opposition to Francis does not stem principally from anything that was produced by the Synod of Bishop or the post-synodal exhortation. Those events merely allowed him to take it a step further.In fact, there are two problems with certain Catholic media focusing on the radical opposition to Amoris Laetitia. The first is that the intentions of the other three prelates that signed the “dubia” in November 2016 are not moved by the same e animus of their fourth co-signer, Cardinal Burke.The fact that they signed the same “dubia” says nothing about whom they represent in the Church or about the coherence of this little group. During his visit to Carpi in Northern Italy this past Sunday, Pope Francis publicly embraced and concelebrated Mass with one of the signatories of the “dubia” – Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop-emeritus of Bologna.The fact is that there never was an organized opposition of cardinals against Francis through the “dubia”. The tendency to paint the debate around Amoris Laetitia with Cardinal Burke’s brush, therefore, misrepresents the reception of the current pontificate in the Church, including among cardinals and bishops. There is no doubt that many in the ecclesiastical hierarchy are still in a “wait and see” mode, but very few would follow Cardinal Burke all the way.There is a second, even bigger problem in analyzing the opposition to Francis from the point of view of critiques against post-synodal exhortation. And that has to do with the history of this pontificate.Sometimes it looks as if the radical opposition to the pope started with the reactions to Amoris Laetitia or, even earlier, with Francis’ way of interpretation or dealing with the unfolding of the Synod between October 2014 and October 2015.But now more than four years after his election, many have forgotten that the opposition to Pope Francis started very early in his pontificate - at two or three years before Amoris Laetitia was published. Those opposing the pope saw in the very first days and weeks of his ministry as Bishop of Rome something difficult to square with their own interpretation of Catholicism.In October 2013, just seven months after his election, Francis announced that he was convening the Synod of Bishop to an extraordinary session in 2014. By then it was already clear that in some quarters of European and North American Catholicism there were deep concerns over how this Jesuit bishop from Buenos Aires was interpreting the papacy.It is enough to mention here a few examples of statements made in public. Just a week after Francis’ election, the Lord Acton Institute – one of the most important think tanks in North America embodying the recent Catholic embrace of a libertarian, free-market economic and political ideology – expressed concerns about the social-economic views of the new pope.At the end of July 2013, the Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said in an interview that members of the conservative wing of the Catholic Church “generally have not been really happy” with some aspects of Francis’ early months. He said the pope would have to find a way “to care for them, too”.We should note that Chaput was not the only American bishop to express disappointment in Pope Francis during that summer of 2013.In September 2013 R.R. Reno, editor of First Things, reacted to the interview the pope had just given to Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica.Reno commented that “such comments by Francis do not challenge but instead reinforce America’s dominant ideological frame” and made a larger point about Francis’ reframing of Catholic social message focused not exclusively on sexual morality.“This is not helpful, at least not in the field hospital of the American Church,” Reno said. “We face a secular culture that has a doctrine of Unconditional Surrender. "It will not accept ‘talking less’ about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. The only acceptable outcome is agreement - or silence,” the conservative editor added.All these comments and many others of a similar kind were made public weeks and months before the Synod assembly was even announced, and more than one year before it actually took place with its robust debates, final votes, and - finally - the publication of Amoris Laetitia.By the end of the summer of 2013 Francis’ pontificate had already put a new emphasis on the poor and on mercy (already during the first week of the pontificate). He published the decree to declare John XXIII and John Paul II saints in a single ceremony (5 July 2013). He visited the Sicilian island of Lampedusa and took a much stronger stance, compared to Benedict XVI, on immigration and refugees (8 July 2013). He then traveled to Brazil for the World Youth Day and gave speeches to the CELAM (Latin American Bishops) and the bishops of Brazil (26-28 July 2013). And after his return to Rome, he met with the theologian of liberation Gustavo Gutierrez in the Vatican (12 September 2013).That was all before he had announced the extraordinary Synod assembly or given the groundbreaking interview to Fr Spadaro.In fact, the opposition to Pope Francis is made up of different streams. There is a theological opposition nostalgic of the John Paul II-Benedict XVI paradigm. Then there is an institutional opposition that is trying to defend the ecclesiastical status quo. And, finally, there is a social-political opposition, which is concerned with the political-economic sustainability of the pontificate that is radically on the side of the poor.Future historians will have to analyze the interplay between these different kinds of opposition. But let there be no doubts. The opposition to Pope Francis did not begin with the Synod gathering of 2014-2015 or the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia. It began with the very first days of his pontificate.
Apr 4 17 3:03 AM
Do not settle for a worry-free, comfortable life with an unhealthy attachment to money and an ambitious heart yearning for honors, Pope Francis told seminarians studying in Rome.“I’m telling you this as a brother, father and friend. Please, shun ecclesial careerism. It is a plague. Avoid it,” he said on April 1 during an audience at the Vatican with students, faculty, staff and alumni of the Pontifical Spanish College of St Joseph in Rome. The college was celebrating the 125th anniversary of its founding.Everything hinges on loving the Lord with all of one’s heart, soul, mind and strength, he said, citing the Gospel of Mark (12:30).That is what determines whether a person will be able to say “yes” to Jesus or turn one’s back on him like the rich young man did in the Gospels, he said.“You cannot settle for leading an orderly and comfortable life that lets you live without worry unless you feel the need to cultivate a spirit of poverty rooted in the heart of Christ,” the Pope said.Priests must have “an appropriate relationship with the world and earthly goods” if they are to gain authentic freedom as children of God, he said.“Do not forget this — the devil always comes in through the pocket, always.”Give thanks for what one possesses, he said, and “generously and willingly renounce the superfluous in order to be near the poor and weak.”While Pope Francis said he wasn’t asking them to “sell their shirt” like Blessed Manuel Domingo y Sol, the college founder, asked people to be willing to do, the pope said he was asking them to be witnesses to Jesus through a lifestyle based on “simplicity and austerity” so as to be “credible proponents of a true social justice.”Priestly formation cannot depend solely on academic formation, which breeds “all the ideologies that infect the Church with every type of clerical academicism.”Studies must intertwine academic, spiritual, community and apostolic formation all together, and when one of these four legs is missing
Apr 4 17 12:05 PM
Zenit - Pope Francis addressed today, April 4, 2017, in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall, the participants in the Congress promoted by the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, being held in the Vatican on April 3-4, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Encyclical Populorum ProgressioHere is a Zenit working translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the meeting.Dear Brothers and Sisters,Thank you for the invitation and your welcome. I thank you for your presence and for your activity in human promotion and the common good. I thank Cardinal Turkson for his words of greeting and for having started, not without effort, the new Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development. It has been a model to follow, in peace, creativity, consultations, truly a model of ecclesial construction: thank you, Eminence.You are gathered in this International Congress because the birth of the new Dicastery coincides significantly with the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s Encyclical Populorum Progressio. In that encyclical, he specified in detail the meaning of “integral development (cf. n. 21), and he proposed that synthetic and fortunate formula: “development of every man and of the whole man” (n. 14).What does integral development mean today and in the near future, namely, the development of every man and of the whole man? In the wake of Paul VI, perhaps in fact in the verb integrate – so dear to me – we can identify a fundamental orientation for the new Dicastery. Let us see together some aspects.It is about integrating different peoples of the earth. The duty of solidarity obliges us to seek just ways of sharing, so that there is not that dramatic inequality between those that have too much and those that have nothing, between those that discard and those that are discarded. Only the way of integration between peoples enables humanity to have a future of peace and hope.It is about offering practical models of social integration. Everyone has a contribution to make to the whole of society, all have a peculiarity that might help to live together, no one is excluded from contributing something to the good of all. This is at the same time a right and a duty. It is the principle of subsidiarity that guarantees the necessity of everyone’s contribution, be it as individuals or as groups, if we wish to create a human coexistence open to all.Moreover, it is about integrating in development all those elements that truly render it so.The different systems: economy, finance, work, culture, family life, religion, each one is in its specificity an indispensable moment of this growth. None of them can be absolutized and none of them can be excluded from a conception of integral human development that takes account that human life is like an orchestra that sounds well if the different instruments are in accord and follow a score shared by all.It is also about integrating the individual and communal dimension. It is undeniable that we are children of a culture, at least in the West, that has exalted the individual to the point of making him an island, almost as if one can be happy on one’s own. On the other hand, ideological visions and political powers are not lacking that have squeezed the person out, they have standarized him and deprived him of that freedom without which man no longer feels himself man. Interested also in such standarization are economic powers that wish to exploit globalization, instead of fostering greater sharing among men, simply to impose a global market of which they themselves dictate the rules and draw the profits. The I and the community are not concurrent between them, but the I can only mature in the presence of genuine inter-personal relations and the community is generator when they are all and individually its components. This is even truer for the family, which is the first cell of society and in which one learns to live together.Finally, it is about integrating body and soul. Already Paul VI wrote that development is not reduced to simple economic growth (cf. n. 14); development does not consist in having ever more goods available, for material wellbeing alone. To integrate body and soul also means that no endeavor of development can truly achieve its purpose if it does not respect the place in which God is present in us and speaks to our heart.God made himself known fully in Jesus Christ: in Him, God and man are not divided and separated between them. God became man to make of human life, be it personal or social, a concrete way of salvation. Thus God’s manifestation in Christ – including His gestures of healing, liberation, reconciliation that we are called to propose again today to the many wounded on the side of the road – indicates the path and the way of the service that the Church intends to offer the world: in its light one can understand what “integral” development means, which does no wrong to God or to man, because it assumes all the consistency of both.In this connection, in fact, the concept of person, born and matured in Christianity, helps to pursue a fully human development. Because the word ‘person’ always means relation,not individualism; it affirms inclusion and not exclusion, the unique and inviolable identity and not exploitation, freedom and not constriction.The Church does not tire of offering this wisdom and her work to the world, in the awareness that integral development is the way of the good that the human family is called to follow. I invite you to carry this action forward with patience and constancy, in the confidence that the Lord accompanies you. May He bless you and our Lady protect you.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]Pope’s Address to Vatican Conference on 50th Anniversary of “Populorum Progressio”
Apr 4 17 12:08 PM
Prince of Wales was urged to be a “man of peace” by Pope Francis during their first meeting at the Vatican today, while the prince handed the pontiff a hamper of food to be distributed among the poor. During a 27 minute meeting with Francis today in the Vatican the Prince, and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, presented the Pope with a straw basket hamper of produce from his estate in Highgrove, Gloucestershire. In a statement the British Embassy to the Holy See said the intention of the gift was for it to be shared among the “poor and homeless”, the people who Francis has given top priority to during his papacy. “Its difficult to know what to give your Holiness. It may come in handy. Somebody else might like it. It’s all home made things I produce,” the prince said, to which the Duchess of Cornwall added: “it’s very good.” In return, Francis gave Charles a copy of his environmental encyclical, Laudato si’ and apostolic letters, Amoris Laetitia and Evangelii Gaudium. He presented these texts along with a bronze olive branch symbolising peace. “Wherever you go may you be a man of peace,” the Pope told the Prince, who replied: “I’ll do my best.” The Prince then added: “you are very generous” and said that reading the papal documents would be “a great treat.” Both the Prince and the Pope share a passion for protecting the natural world with Francis’ landmark document, “Laudato si’ ” echoing many of the issues the 68-year-old prince has campaigned for over the last 40 years. The British Embassy to the Holy See said that the environment was a theme of the visit with Prince Charles having a roundtable discussion on the topic with Vatican officials. And following his meeting with Francis he saw the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin. Along with climate change it is also likely that interfaith dialogue was on the agenda this afternoon with the Prince, like Francis, seeking to build bridges with the Islamic world. Recently, the British heir to the throne has spoken out for persecuted Christians in the Middle East and has made a sizeable donation to Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need. Today’s papal audience came as part of the Prince’s European tour aimed at building bridges with the continent following Britain’s triggering of Article 50 and starting its formal departure from the European Union. And during the audience today the prince was accompanied by a 15 person delegation which included Sir Alan Duncan, the Minister for Europe and the commonwealth. Brexit has recently sparked a row between Spain and the United Kingdom over Gibraltar after the EU gave the Spanish a veto over the future of the British territory. And during Charles’ audience with the Pope, translation was provided by Mgr Mark Miles, a Gibraltarian priest who works at the Holy See’s Secretariat of State. Prince Charles' meeting with Francis comes six years after he was granted a private audience with Benedict XVI while his first papal audience came in 1985 when he saw John Paul II with Princess Diana in 1985. And while in the 2009 audience with Benedict XVI the Duchess of Cornwall wore the customary mantilla covering her head, today she chose not to wear one. The royal visit today follows three hers after the Queen met Francis in 2014: he was the sixth Pope she has met in the Vatican. Like Charles, she also brought Francis the gift of a hamper of produce although hers came from the royal estate of Sandringham in Norfolk. Over the years the Prince has had what might be described as a “cordial but minimal” relationship with the papacy: Charles did not lend his name to inviting Benedict XVI to visit Britain in 2010 nor did he see the then Pope during his UK trip. But he did delay his wedding to Camilla in 2005 in order to attend the funeral of John Paul II, where he ended up in with him exchanging the sign of peace with Zimbabwean dictator, Robert Mugabe. The meeting with Francis was a chance for the Prince to bolster his relationship with the papacy. It took place in a formal and friendly atmosphere where, at the end, long serving British royal photographer for The Sun newspaper, Arthur Edwards, was introduced to the Pope. Edwards is also a Catholic. “This is an important man, he’s been following me for 40 years,” Charles told the Pope.
Apr 5 17 3:08 AM
Pope Francis met four British imams at the Vatican today, two weeks after the Westminster terrorist attack. The meeting was part of the Pope’s effort to encourage Muslim leaders who renounce using religion to justify violence.The audience was scheduled long before the March 22 attack, in which a man mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing three, before fatally stabbing a policeman on the grounds of Parliament.Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, accompanied Moulana Muhammad Shahid Raza, Moulana Ali Raza Rizvi, Moulana Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi and Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra to the Vatican. As well as the papal audience, the delegation also met Cardinal Tauran at the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.Pope Francis told the imams that listening to each other was essential for the common future of humanity as we walk together in our shared lives.“This is a historic moment when the two biggest religions in the world, Christians and Muslims, must come together in unity and solidarity for peace,” Moulana Muhammad Shahid Raza said.Moulana Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi added: “I was deeply moved by the audience with Pope Francis. I could see the sincerity and love in his eyes as he offered words of encouragement to all of us as we came together in unity.“This is an important meeting offering hope for everyone, regardless of religion. There is a common humanity to all of us. Some seek to divide people, religions, east versus west, but there is no east or west; there is just our common humanity as we seek a peaceful future for all based on justice and compassion.”Cardinal Nichols said he and the imams “draw great inspiration from the Pope’s leadership and his encouragement to walk together on the road of profound spiritual dialogue.”The cardinal said: “I also hope that this moment will help the voice of authentic Islam to be heard clearly. We look forward to our continuing promotion of collaboration at a local level at the service of all in society.”Following the Papal Audience and the meetings in the Pontifical Council, the delegation visited the UK Embassy to the Holy See.
Apr 6 17 3:09 AM
Though casual observers may have been surprised by Pope Francis’s decision this week to offer a path to recognizing marriages conducted by priests of the breakaway Society of St. Pius X as valid, it’s no secret to anyone close to the pope that he’s long worked to bring the traditionalist group back into communion with Rome.Letters penned in 2011 by then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, today Pope Francis, confirm what has long been rumored - that Bergoglio made several efforts to help the group when he was in Argentina. Those letters were discovered by a Swedish television news program airing tonight.The letters, short and to the point, are addressed to Guillermo Olivieri, at the time Argentina’s Foreign Ministry Secretary for Religious Affairs. In one, Bergoglio asks the politician to register the Argentinian branch of the society in the national Register of Institutes of Consecrated Life.In it, dated May 17, 2011, the future pope describes the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) as a “congregation of Catholics in the process of achieving full communion.”The society was founded in 1970 by French-born Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and is popularly known as the “Lefebvrists”.It was suspended in 1976, when Lefebvre ordained new priests against the wishes of Pope Paul VI. Lefebvre, together with four other men, were excommunicated under Pope John Paul II when Lefebvre ordained the four men as bishops in 1988. Lefebvre died in 1991, without the breach being healed.Since then, the Vatican has tried multiple times to bring the society fully back into the fold. Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI made it a priority, launching formal talks with the society’s leadership.The 2011 letters are further proof that Bergoglio was on board with those efforts.In the second letter, dated July 7, Bergoglio confirms that the society has “religious authorization” to establish itself in Buenos Aires, a permit that he was required to grant. Today, the group runs a seminary on the outskirts of the city, formally called the Seminary of Our Lady Co-Redemptrix, informally known as La Reja.A third letter, from November of the same year, is signed by Italian Archbishop Adriano Bernardini, at the time the papal ambassador in Argentina. In it, the prelate states that, upon a request by Olivieri, he’d consulted Rome and received confirmation that the society “up to this point is not an entity that belongs to the Catholic Apostolic Church.”The letters, recovered by Uppdrag Granskning, became accessible as of September 2016, when Argentina passed a bill on the right to access public information allowing the public to request, and obtain, materials from governmental offices.Despite Bergoglio’s intervention, it wasn’t until 2015 that Cardinal Mario Poli, handpicked by Francis as his successor in Buenos Aires, helped the society earn recognition as a juridical person, which meant it was added to the “Register of the Institutes of Consecrated Life” in which Catholic orders and religious congregations in Argentina are listed.In Argentina, Catholic religious congregations have to be listed on the register to be able to work within a government-recognized juridical framework.Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 lifted the excommunications of the four bishops he ordained, hoping it would foster closer ties.One of those prelates was British Bishop Richard Williamson, who only days before the emeritus pope’s decision was made public gave an interview to Sveriges Television in which he denied the use of gas chambers to kill millions of Jews in the Holocaust.Williamson would go on to challenge Swiss Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the SSPX, over Fellay’s support for talks about full reconciliation with Rome. As a result, Williamson was expelled from the SSPX in 2012, and was once again automatically excommunicated in 2015, after he ordained two new bishops without the approval from Rome. He has announced plans to ordain another new bishop on May 11, 2017.His splinter group is often referred to as the Resistance, though on their website they introduce themselves as The St. Marcel Initiative. They’re not part of the ongoing talks with Rome.On the Vatican’s side, the outreach is led by the commission Ecclesia Dei, instituted in 1988, soon after the episcopal ordinations, at the request of Pope John Paul II. The commission, which has been folded into the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is in theory headed by German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, but the day-to-day work is overseen by Italian Archbishop Guido Pozzo.After several attempts to bring the group into full communion, which included a proposal during the pontificate of Benedict XVI to categorize them as a personal prelature that was rejected in 2012, the situation today is very different from what it was in 1988.In the Ecclesia Dei document, John Paul II clearly calls on all those linked to the movement to remain “united to the Vicar of Christ,” and cease their links to the society, because adherence to the schism “carries the penalty of excommunication.”Since his election in March 2013, Pope Francis has offered a couple of olive branches to the traditionalist group, including a decree during the Jubilee of Mercy declaring that confessions heard and absolution given by the SSPX are considered valid by the Catholic Church.That gesture, in tandem with this week’s move to recognize marriages, is characteristic of the Argentine pope, focusing on pastoral outreach to the more than 600,000 faithful who, as of 2013, are affiliated with the group.After the Holy Year ended in late November 2016, the pope extended the provision allowing the more than 500 SSPX priests to grant absolution, “lest anyone ever be deprived of the sacramental sign of reconciliation through the church’s pardon.”The decision to create a path for the Church to recognize SSPX marriages was announced on Tuesday in a letter signed by Müller, saying that despite “objective persistence of canonical irregularity,” due to which, “for the time being,” the group is not in full communion, the new provisions should alleviate “any uneasiness of conscience on the part of the faithful regarding the validity of the sacrament of marriage.”In a statement released by Fellay on Tuesday, the group thanked Pope Francis for his “pastoral solicitude.”Speaking to i-Media, a French news agency that specializes in the Vatican, Pozzo said he believes there are no longer difficulties impeding reconciliation and regularization of the SSPX’s situation.In an April 2016 interview with French newspaper La Croix, Pozzo had listed several issues that need to be discussed and clarified before reinstatement is possible. Among them were the fact that many members of the society reject the documents of Vatican II, as well as inter-Christian dialogue [ecumenism], and dialogue with non-Christian religions.“But they are not an obstacle for the canonical and legal recognition of the SSPX,” said Pozzo at the time.Also talking to La Croix, Pope Francis praised both the society, calling them “Catholics on the path to full communion,” and describing Fellay as a “man with whom one can dialogue.”Yet despite expressing gratitude to Francis on several occasions, Fellay has also accused the pope of encouraging “errors” that have “made their way” into the Church. He’s also said that the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council remains a roadblock.The bishop has said that the SSPX “will not yield” on questions such as “the way in which ecumenism is practiced, including statements very dangerous for the faith, that make you think all have the same faith; the liturgical question or the relationship between the Church and the State.”Despite those challenges, there’s something all parties seem to agree on: If and when the time comes for the society to return to the fold, it’ll be done through a “personal prelature.”Ironically enough, that’s a canonical structure conceived during Vatican II. In a nutshell, it can be defined as a Church jurisdiction without geographical boundaries, designed to carry out particular pastoral initiatives.At present, the only personal prelature in the Church is Opus Dei, so should they take the offer, the SSPX would become just the second entity to carry that designation.Rome is currently abuzz with rumors of an imminent announcement in this regard, with some observers even talking about May as a possible date. The Vatican so far has played its cards close to the vest, though it’s making no secret of the fact that it wants reconciliation.It remains to be seen, however, if Fellay can overcome the internal opposition he faces from many members of the traditionalist movement, who still see Francis as too much of a “modernist.
Apr 6 17 3:42 PM
It takes just 5 minutes to see the “beauty of God’s hope.” Just by sitting down “with no radio, no TV. Sit down and reflect on your own story: the blessings and the troubles, everything. The graces and the sins, I’m certain that in the midst of all of the perhaps ugly things – because we all have them, so many ugly things in this life – if we do this today, we will discover the beauty of the love of God, the beauty of His mercy, the beauty of hope. And I am sure that we will all be full of joy.” This was Pope Francis’ invitation during this morning’s homily, April 6, 2017, in the Chapel of Casa Santa Marta. The Pope - Vatican Radio reports - emphasizes that the Lord is always faithfulto His covenant and to the promise He made to Abraham, He remained faithful to the salvation He promised to His Son, Jesus. Pope Francis’ homily revolved around the figure of Abraham: the First Reading tells the story of the covenant that God made with him, whom Jesus and the Pharisees call “father” in today’s Gospel, because Abraham is the father of “this people that today is the Church.” The “founder” trusted and obeyed when called to go to another land that he would receive as an inheritance. Abraham, a man of faith, knew by experience that God had not deceived him. He has faith and hope, Abraham believed when he was told that he would have a child although he was 100 years old “ despite “his sterile wife”: “He believed against every hope.” Francis points out: “ If anyone wanted to give a description of the life of Abraham, he could say, ‘This guy is a dreamer,’” the Pope said. He has a special dream, “that dream of hope”, he is no lunatic. And his challenges aren’t over: “ after having had a child, a boy, a young child, he was asked to offer him in sacrifice: he obeyed, and went forward against all hope. And this - the Bishop of Rome highlights - is our father Abraham, who goes forward, forward, forward; and when Jesus says Abraham saw his day, saw Jesus, he was full of joy. He saw Him in promise; he saw that joy of seeing the fullness of the promise of the covenant, the joy of seeing that God had not deceived him, that God is always faithful to His covenant” For the Pope, this is like thinking of our father who has passed away, and yet we remember “the good things about Dad,” and we think: “What a great father.” The Pope continues telling of the covenant of Abraham, which consists in having always obeyed. “Always”. On the other side, the Lord promises to make him “father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall you be called Abram, but Abraham” the Lord says. And Abram believed Him. Always. In Genesis, God tells him that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the heavens and as the sand on the seashore. And today we are able to say, “I am one of those stars. I am a grain of sand. “ The Pope goes on to explain that between Abraham and men of every age there is another story: that of the Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus and for this reason Jesus told the Pharisees that Abraham exulted in the hope of seeing “my day”. He saw it and was filled with joy. “This is the Christian message par excellence. Therefore, the Church today urges us to pause and to “look” to “our roots, our father” who “made us a people, a sky full of stars, a beach full of sand grains.” The Papal advice is to “Look to history: I am not alone, I am a people. We go together. The Church is a people. But a people dreamed of by God, a people He has given a father on Earth who obeyed; and we have a Brother who has given His life for us, to make us a people. And so we are able to look upon the Father, to give thanks; to look upon Jesus, to give thanks; to look upon Abraham and ourselves, who are part of the journey.” The Pope invited us to make today a “day of memory”, highlighting that: “in this great Story, in the framework of God and Jesus, there is the little story of each one of us” Here is the appeal: “I invite you today to take five minutes, ten minutes, to sit down – without the radio, without the television – to sit down and reflect on your own story: the blessings and the troubles, everything. The graces and the sins, everything. And to see there the faithfulness of that God who remained faithful to His Covenant, remained faithful to the promise He made to Abraham, remained faithful to the salvation He promised in His Son, Jesus. I am certain that in the midst of all of the perhaps ugly things – because we all have them, so many ugly things in this life – if we do this today, we will discover the beauty of the love of God, the beauty of His mercy, the beauty of hope. And I am sure that we will all be full of joy.”
Apr 6 17 3:44 PM
Apr 7 17 6:18 AM
Pope Francis’ new interview on the struggles of migrants and refugeesThis interview with Pope Francis was published today in the Italian journal Libertàcivili. The conversation, which took place on March 28, focuses on the plight of refugees and the creation of a new Vatican department to guide the church’s response to this humanitarian crisis.Your Holiness, on July 8, 2013, you made this statement while visiting Lampedusa: “I had to come here to pray,” you said, “to make a gesture of closeness but also to reawaken our consciences.” On April 16, 2016, you repeated this statement in Lesbos, adding your prayers to those of Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. How can ecumenical and interreligious dialogue—not only among the three religions of the children of Abraham but also with all the others—contribute to a correct understanding of the problem of migration, with its burden of human suffering, as we look for possible solutions to welcoming those who arrive in Europe?The visit to Lesbos and the prayers with Archbishop Ieronymos and Patriarch Bartholomew are a sharing of brotherhood, of closeness to the cries of the many innocents who ask only for a chance to save their own lives. Sharing in brotherhood with other religions appeals to our consciences not to turn our backs on the hopes and calls for help of our brothers and sisters in need.Migration, if handled with humanity, is an opportunity for everyone to meet and grow. We cannot lose our sense of fraternal responsibility. The defense of human beings knows no barriers: We are all united in wanting to ensure a dignified life for every man, woman and child who is forced to abandon his or her own land. There is no difference of creed that can outweigh this wish—in fact, quite the contrary.It is precisely in these contexts that we can be brothers working toward good—the same good—every day. If the same unity were embraced by those who govern different countries, as well, then maybe we could take some more concrete, global steps in support of migrants and refugees.The island of Lesbos, like Lampedusa, shows the world the faces of innocent people who flee from wars, violence and persecution. Men, women and children traveling alone arrive tired, exhausted, hoping to save their own lives with dramatic journeys via land and, unfortunately, also via sea.In Europe and around the world we are living through a critical moment in the management of migration policies. Those in power must be both far-sighted and coherent in watchful respect for fundamental human rights, as well as trying to end to the causes of forced migration which oblige civilians to flee.The directives of your Motu Proprio (Aug. 17, 2016) for the creation of a new social Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development within the Catholic Church came into effect on January 1. For the social teaching of the church, the dicastery—which takes over the remit of various pastoral councils—is the new organizational destination of a long historical journey. What mission have you entrusted to the new dicastery, with regard to migrants and refugees?Yes, I set up the Migrants & Refugees Section of the new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development with a start date of Jan 1. 2017.The multitude of migrants, refugees, displaced people and victims of human trafficking requires particular care. This is why I decided to take care of them personally, at least for a while, and why the section reports to me directly.The section’s main mission is supporting the church and its leaders—at the local, regional and international levels—to accompany people through each step of the migration process, with particular attention to those who are forced in different ways to move or flee, or who experience disadvantage and suffering in countries of origin, transit or destination.I am thinking of all those who flee from conflicts, persecutions or humanitarian emergencies, whether natural or caused by human intervention. I am thinking about victims of human trafficking, about undocumented migrants, about migrant workers in exploitative situations and about women, young people and children migrating in situations of vulnerability.By their very nature, migrations are phenomena that cut across the borders of individual nations and even continents. In this sense, considering demographic projections for the coming decades, there is talk of a Eurafrican continent—momentous transitions, which call into question cultural identities, values and historical baggage. Different national policies must be tied together with international cooperation: This is a necessity you often mention. Having received much, Europe must learn to give. How do we make the move from awareness to action?Undoubtedly international cooperation is needed in the management of migration policies, which must be respectful both toward those who welcome and toward those who are welcomed.Like many other countries that have experienced both immigration and emigration, I think European nations must learn from their past. How difficult things were, in the post-war era, for millions of Europeans who took off, often with their entire families, and crossed the ocean to arrive in South America or the United States!It was not an easy experience for them, either. They suffered the weight of being seen as foreigners, arriving from afar with no knowledge of the local language. It was not an easy process of integration, but it always ended in success!Therefore, it is important to be aware of the contributions migrants make to their countries of arrival. Europeans contributed greatly to the growth of transatlantic societies. It is the same story. Any exchange of culture and knowledge is a source of wealth and should be valued as such. As I said on November 1, on the way back from my trip to Sweden, we must not be scared, because Europe was formed from a continuous integration of cultures—of many cultures.If we can view migrants as an added value to our society, then we will be able to practice real welcome and to give what we have received in the past. We have a lot to learn from the past. It is important to act with awareness, without feeding the fear of foreigners.On Feb. 21, I explained to participants at the Forum on Migration & Peace that we must promote welcome and hospitality toward refugees and displaced people, supporting their integration and bearing in mind the mutual rights and responsibilities of those who welcome and those who are welcomed. Integration—which is neither assimilation nor incorporation—is a two-way process, essentially based on mutual recognition of another person’s cultural wealth. It is not the flattening of one culture against another, and neither is it mutual isolation, which carries the dangerous, or even deadly, risk of ghettoization.As for those who arrive—who are responsible for not shutting themselves off from the culture and traditions of their host country and for respecting its laws first and foremost—we absolutely must not neglect the familial aspects of integration. Hence why I feel I have to keep reiterating the need for policies which favor and prioritize family reunification.As far as indigenous people are concerned, they must be helped: They need to be appropriately sensitized and supported to be positively predisposed towards the process of integration, which is not always simple or immediate but is always essential and indispensable for the future. This is why we also need specific programs favoring meaningful encounters with new arrivals.As for the Christian community, the peaceful integration of people from different cultures is, in some way, a reflection of its Catholicism: a unity which does not override ethnic or cultural diversity constitutes a dimension of church life, which in the Pentecostal spirit is open to all— open to embracing everyone.On Sept. 22, 2016, during an audience with a delegation of Italian journalists, you called for the development of a true culture of encounter. There is no difficulty, you said, which men of good will cannot overcome. In 1991 the Caritas director in Rome, Msgr. Luigi di Liegro, inaugurated an annual dossier of immigration statistics because, he said, real information on dynamics of migration is the only thing that can defeat all the existing prejudice, clichés and closure. For the sake of truth, how do we keep this debate alive in the context of modern-day communications, so extraordinarily amplified by new media?Mass media should feel obligated to explain the different aspects of migration, schooling public opinion on the causes of this phenomenon. Human rights violations, violent conflicts of social disorder, lack of essential goods, natural catastrophes and catastrophes caused by humans: All these things should be clearly explained in order to support a real understanding of the migration phenomenon and, consequently, a correct approach.Often, mass media themselves use negative stereotypes when talking about migrants and refugees. Just think of the unfair use that is often made of terms to describe migrants and refugees. How often do we hear people talk of “illegals” as a synonym for migrants? This is unfair: It is information based on the wrong premise, which pushes public opinion to develop negative judgments.Not to mention, of course, the sensationalism favored by most modern-day media. A bad news story has more impact than a good news story, and so it is more profitable to talk about a few crime cases involving migrants than to tell the many stories of integration promoted by migrants themselves.Better information could break down the barriers of fear and indifference. The other, the different, is scary when it is unknown. But if we talk about it, and introduce it to people’s homes via images and stories, presented in its most positive, human aspects, then knowledge goes beyond stereotypes and the encounter becomes authentic. And when we get past fear, doors are opened, and welcome is spontaneous.As I said to E.U. heads of state and government on the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, openness towards the world requires a capacity for dialogue as the basis of encounters on all levels—from dialogue between member states, and between institutions and citizens, to dialogue with the many migrants who arrive on E.U. shores. We cannot simply manage the major migration crisis of our times as if it were just a problem of numbers, economy or security. The issue of migration poses a deeper question, which is cultural first and foremost.
Apr 9 17 2:35 AM
Pope Francis has blessed palm fronds and olive branches in St Peter’s Square before celebrating Mass at the start of Holy Week.In his Palm Sunday homily, the Pontiff decried suffering in the world today, citing those who “suffer from slave labour, from family tragedies, from diseases … They suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike.”The celebrations began with a solemn procession, with the Pope and cardinals walking through the crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square clutching elaborately braided palm fronds.The processions, that also sees the faithful hold palm fronds and olive branches, commemorates Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem.
Apr 10 17 5:45 AM
Who decides what's 'popelike'?When a pope's reign passes the four-year mark, enough time has passed to assess the meaning of the papacy. Our nation's founders recognized this crucial span when they afforded presidents exactly that amount of time before giving the electorate the opportunity to weigh in with their votes.Pope Francis has made quite a mark in four short years, so much so that many of my Catholic friends say they have the contradictory sense that his papacy has just begun while it seems he has been pope for a lifetime. It's hard to imagine the Church without him in charge.The early images were startling. From the balcony at the Vatican, where the world first laid eyes on him, he asked us to pray for him. He took the name Francis, so novel that none of us place a Roman numeral after it. He is just Francis. No one since Peter has gotten away with that. Even Pope Gregory the Great went by Gregory I.Those first impressions were strong ones. When a camera caught him paying his own hotel bill in Vatican City, much of the world smiled and asked, "What sort of guy is this?" Donald Trump tweeted that paying one's way was "unpopelike." (What would Trump even know about the papacy?)The thing is, only the pope gets to decide what's popelike. After the stick thin, ultra-severe, don't rock the boat Pope Pius XII, along came John XXIII, chubby, smiley, revolutionary, and now a saint. John Paul II, also a saint, was tall, Polish, and polished, movie star handsome, both warm and tough as nails. Took a bullet, you know.Francis broke a mold that never existed. Still, more than any recent pope, he has raised the issue of what it means to be "popelike." Trump may have been on to something. Should a pope be photographed at a hotel reception desk swiping a Visa card? Should he rush on the spur of the moment to a port city where refugees drowned attempting to make it to shore?Should he pontificate (of course, everything he says is pontificating) on topics as far afield as climate change and a military tactic in Mosul? Should he even consider admitting remarried divorcees to the communion table? Is it seemly to tell a single mom he'd baptize her baby if her parish priest would not? Is he anti-abortion enough?While his manner and tone have a radical feel, his doctrinal pronouncements are quite moderate, quite in keeping with the sermons and writings of recent popes and councils. Benedict XVI's resignation, which resulted in the presence of two living popes, was far more precedent shattering than anything Francis has said or done.So what sets him apart?I think it's where Francis places his center, the core from which he speaks and writes and makes his presence felt. His sermons, his writings, never fail to mention the poor, the oppressed, the refugee.And he has moved his papacy closer to the poorer among us. He did this literally when he paid his own hotel bill, and when he chose to take up residence in a spare suite at St. Martha's House rather than the papal apartments.All recent popes have lived simply in private, but Pope Francis has made the gesture much more visible and impossible to evade. He has declined even to wear luxurious vestments or ride in a limousine.Ironically, the second hallmark of his reign is the joyfulness with which he conducts it. He scolds and fulminates when necessary, sure, but soon breaks into an infectious smile to tell the world that his Christianity is one of song and dance amid Earth's sorrows. His Jesus knows how to laugh.Finally, above all, is Jesus himself. Francis really sees himself as the vicar of Christ, the "Vice Jesus." Being popelike, to him, means being Christlike. Obviously, he thinks Jesus would have identified with desperate refugees seeking a safe harbor, with single moms seeking salvation for their babies. This Jesus would have started every sermon with "Blessed are you poor," every prayer with, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."He thinks Jesus would have stepped up to the hotel desk and paid his own bill.
Apr 11 17 5:12 AM
How Pope Francis is leading the Catholic Church against anti-migrant populismVATICAN CITY — As politicians around the world including President Trump take an increasingly hard line on immigration, a powerful force is rallying to the side of migrants: the Roman Catholic Church led by Pope Francis.Catholic cardinals, bishops and priests are emerging as some of the most influential opponents of immigration crackdowns backed by right-wing populists in the United States and Europe. The moves come as Francis, who has put migrants at the top of his agenda, appears to be leading by example, emphasizing his support for their rights in sermons, speeches and deeds. The pro-migrant drive risks dividing Catholics — many of whom in the United States voted for Trump. Some observers say it is also inserting the church into politics in a manner recalling the heady days of Pope John Paul II, who stared down communism and declared his opposition to the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The Vatican is standing in open opposition to politicians like Trump not just on immigration but also on other issues, including climate-change policy.But the focal point is clearly migrant rights. In the United States, individual bishops, especially those appointed by Francis, have sharply criticized Trump’s migrant policies since his election. They include Newark Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, who last month co-led a rally in support of a Mexican man fighting deportation. Tobin has decried Trump’s executive orders on immigration, calling them the “opposite of what it means to be an American.”In Los Angeles, Archbishop José H. Gomez, the first Mexican American vice president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, which leads the U.S. church, described migrant rights as the bishops’ most important issue. He has delivered blistering critiques of Trump’s policies, and instructed his clerics to distribute cards in English, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese informing migrants of their rights in 300 parishes.Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, one of Francis’s closest allies in the U.S. church, has issued orders that if federal immigration authorities should attempt to enter churches without a warrant in search of migrants, priests should turn them away and call the archdiocese’s lawyers. Catholic school principals were given the same instructions by the archdiocese, which Cupich said was an attempt to respond in a way that was firm “but not extreme.”He said Francis has helped bishops shape their response.“The pope makes it a lot easier for me to be a bishop because he’s very clear in his teaching, and [on] this one in particular, he’s trying to awaken the conscience of the citizens of the world,” Cupich said. Francis has long been an advocate of migrants — kicking off his papacy in 2013 with a trip to an Italian island used as a waypoint for migrants desperate to enter Europe. In a highly public spat early last year, Francis and Trump exchanged barbs — with Francis declaring that anyone who wants to build walls “is not Christian.” Speculation is building that Trump and Francis may meet during the U.S. president’s trip to Italy for a Group of Seven meeting in May. Since the November election, Francis has sidestepped direct criticism of Trump and other populist leaders like French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen — while at the same time forcefully condemning the dangers of populism. “I appeal not to create walls but to build bridges,” Francis said in February on an international day of prayer against human trafficking. “To not respond to evil with evil. To defeat evil with good. . . . A Christian would never say, ‘You will pay for that.’ Never.”Cardinal Peter Turkson, one of the Vatican’s most senior voices, said last month that it was wrong to portray the Holy See as “against” Trump. But a day earlier, he said that the Vatican was counting on the U.S. Catholic Church — as well as checks and balances — to stop Trump’s policies. “Luckily there are dissenting voices, contrary voices, in the U.S., in explicit disagreement with Trump’s positions,” Turkson said at a Vatican news conference, according to Italy’s ANSA news service. “His immigration ban was blocked by a lawyer in Hawaii. That is a sign that there can be another voice, and hopefully, via political means, gradually Trump himself will start rethinking some of his decisions.” Those who have the pope’s ear say Francis is seeking to counter anti-migrant policies by appealing directly to voters. “I don’t think the pope is challenging [the politicians]. I think he is challenging their supporters, both those who actively support them and those who passively allow their policies to happen,” said the Rev. Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the Vatican’s new Section for Refugees and Migrants, which opened in January, just before Trump took office. Czerny reports directly to the pope — a sign of the importance of the new office.“Mr. Trump or Ms. Le Pen are not the root of the problem,” Czerny continued. “The root of the problem is the fear, selfishness and shortsightedness that motivate people to support them.”The issue is hardly limited to Trump’s America. In Germany, for instance, the powerful conference of bishops last month raised eyebrows by strongly condemning the policies of an anti-migrant party in a statement that seemed to urge Germans not to vote for it. Heiner Merz, a German lawmaker from the right-wing Alternative for Germany party, said he recently tangled with a pro-migrant priest at an official event in Stuttgart. The priest, Merz said, publicly called him a “right-wing extremist.”“I think it’s outrageous that priests preach party politics down from the pulpit,” Merz said.Not all Catholic leaders have echoed the pope’s concerns. In some countries, such as Poland, prominent Catholic clerics have taken a different approach, generally supporting right-wing populists and their policies.Conservative elements in the church, already chafing at some of Francis’s other statements, also say that the pope is in danger of overpoliticizing his office.A small number of prominent clerics led by Cardinal Raymond Burke — a longtime Vatican insider who met in Rome with Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, in 2014 when he headed Breitbart News — have issued surprisingly public critiques of the pope’s more open stance on divorced Catholics and gays and lesbians. The pope’s pro-migrant stance may be feeding the concerns of those who see him as overly liberal. Roberto de Mattei, a critic of Francis and president of the conservative Lepanto Foundation in Rome, said that the church should play a “balancing role” in the migrant issue. “But if under Pope [Francis] the church sides with unchecked immigration, what then? [Right-wing] movements will accuse the church of colluding with Islam and pro-immigration movements.” Overall, U.S. Catholics tend to be generally supportive of migrants rights. But the November election revealed a strong political divide along racial and ethnic lines: Sixty percent of white Catholics supported Trump, while 67 percent of Hispanic Catholics backed Clinton, according to exit polls. Surveys also show a clear difference on immigration. Nearly 90 percent of Hispanic Catholics say that undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements should be able to stay in the United States, while 65 percent of white Catholics say the same thing, according to a 2015 Pew survey. Yet senior U.S. clerics have largely united behind the pope on the migrant issue. In the politically red state of Kansas, for instance, Catholic bishops issued a statement urging Trump to develop “generous and prudent immigration laws.” Even Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, seen as conservative, held a prayer service for immigrants and stated in a column that “how we treat [immigrants] will prove or disprove whether we take our Christian discipleship seriously.”Senior U.S. clerics also opposed the Obama administration on a number of policies, including a health-care mandate to cover contraception. Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, described the church’s religious freedom as the “raging issue” under Obama, while immigration is now the “raging issue” under Trump.Baltimore’s archbishop, William E. Lori, said U.S. bishops agree with the Trump administration on some issues, including abortion and school choice. He added that previous popes have taken similar positions as Francis on immigration. But, Lori added, Francis is “perhaps more dramatic.” His trips, such as his 2016 visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, also connected his stance on migrants to politics.“The poor is the hallmark of his papacy,” Lori said. “It will affect our priorities and it should.”
Apr 11 17 5:23 AM
Letter from Rome: Who Francis Is Listening ToThe streets in the historic center of Rome are overflowing with visitors right now as tourists and religious pilgrims descend on the Eternal City for the Western Church’s celebration of Holy Week and the Easter Triduum.Many of those who attended the Palm Sunday outdoor Mass in St. Peter’s Square were young people from all over the world. The biggest single contingent was once again the several thousand university students who are here for a weeklong conference organized by the personal prelature of Opus Dei.You can’t miss them. They’re the nicely groomed kids with the “preppy” look—young men mostly in beige khakis and navy blue blazers, while most of the young women are in knee-length skirts and white blouses.Their conference is called the Univ Forum and the theme of this year’s gathering— the fiftieth since 1968—is titled, “A World in Movement: The drama of migration and melting identity in a digital world.”The forum does not get underway officially until Tuesday, but most of the participants were already in town for Sunday’s papal Mass.That’s because since 1986 the Church has designated Palm Sunday as the local celebration of World Youth Day (WYD). Catholic dioceses around the globe are encouraged to mark the event as a way to prepare their young people for the big international WYD celebrations that are held only once every few years in a designated location.Pope Francis helped the youth of Rome and the surrounding area prepare for this year’s celebration with a prayer vigil on Saturday evening at the Basilica of St Mary Major.The last World Youth Day at the international level was held in August 2016 in Krakow. The next one will be in late January 2019 in Panama.Interestingly, these two major WYD gatherings will stand as bookends to the October 2018 ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will focus on young people, faith, and vocational discernment.The pope has made it clear that he wants the youngsters to play a key role in preparing the bishops’ agenda.And that means “all young people in the world, not just Catholics or Christians, but also those of other faiths or religions, and even those who are non-believers.” That’s according to Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the Synod’s secretary general.“We’ll lose a precious opportunity if we limit ourselves to only those young people who are actively involved in the life of the church or its initiatives,” the cardinal said last Thursday at a Rome conference.(Francis said that even more forcefully at the Saturday vigil, stressing that young people must tell the bishops “what they feel, what they want, what things they criticize, and what they regret.” And he said that even includes young atheists.)“The idea is to reach all young people, or at least the greatest number possible, in the concrete situations of their life,” explained Cardinal Baldisseri.The cardinal’s deputy, Bishop Fabio Fabene, stressed that the Synod gathering of 2018 was intended to be in tune with the “journey” towards World Youth Day in Panama in 2019.He told the conference the Synod secretariat would hold an international seminar next September here in Rome as part of that. It will look at the situation of young people throughout the world by giving a number of them a prominent role at that meeting.“This is a way to carry out the authentic synodality the pope wants. The Synod is not reduced to something just for the bishops, but in different ways involves the entire People of God,” said the bishop.As mentioned before, the discussions and debates that will go on during this session of the Synod are not likely to be any less lively than those we saw when Pope Francis convened the Synod in 2014 and 2015 to look at issues surrounding marriage and family life.Pope Francis has again told the Synod secretariat to involve the entire church in its preparations by, among other things, demanding that bishops’ conference survey their young people. The idea, as in the questionnaires on family and marriage, is to take the pulse of those whose lives and futures the bishops will be discussing.Episcopal conferences have the freedom to conduct this survey any way they choose. In the past, some appeared to carry out little consultation. But others, like the Bishops of England and Wales, canvassed their people directly. And there are doing so again by posting an on-line questionnaire that young people are encouraged to answer.Actually, any group or individual can send suggestions, concerns and queries directly to their bishops and even to the Synod secretariat in Rome ([email protected]Evidently, that is what an organization called International Young Catholic Students (JESI-IYCS) is planning to do. It has also posted a questionnaire on its website.But this time the Synod secretariat has decided to issue its own questionnaire for the youngsters. Cardinal Baldisseri and Bishop Fabene announced back in January that it would be placed on a new website that was supposed to be active on March 1.But it is still nowhere to be found. The address to the new site it still a dead link.It is not clear what why there’s a hold-up, but it is understood that clerics in the Vatican and elsewhere who are not exactly enamored of the current pope have protested the initiative.They believe it will open a can of worms (as they believe the questionnaires for the 2014 and 2015 synod gatherings did). And they are not at all happy that non-Catholics and even atheists can fill out the survey. (Why? Are they afraid of what the non-Catholics and atheists are going to say?)But knowing the determination of Francis, those few dissenting voices will not block what the pope has made a top priority.Sad to say, something that has not been a pressing issue for Pope Francis up to now—no matter how many times his spokespersons or others say differently — is dealing with the clergy sex abuse crisis.But this is not because he lacks sensitivity to the health and welfare of those who are abused, almost always young people.No, it is about his apparently ambivalent attitude towards holding bishops accountable for mishandling cases, protecting abusive priests, or showing more concern for the reputation of the institution than for victims.However, there was a small sign last week that the pope’s attitude may be changing (and, note well, Francis has shown an amazing capacity to listen, learn, and change). It came with the forced resignation of a bishop in Southern France.The resignation of the prelate in question — Bishop Hervé Gaschignard of the Diocese of Dax and Aire—was accepted on April 6. It occurred just a few months after people in his diocese went to the French bishops’ conference and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with complaints over the bishop’s inappropriate “words and attitude with respect to several young people.”Make no mistake. Bishop Gashignard was sacked. But no one with authority in the church has given clear reasons why. Their vague explanations imply that the bishop had acted improperly with minors, but they amount to nothing more than mere insinuation.This, too, is lack of transparency. And Pope Francis has been complicit in its perpetuation each time he has asked a bishop to step down without stating the reasons for the sacking. The pope has done this on numerous occasions.The removal of the French bishop — if it was, in fact, connected to sexual abuse — would be the most important of a string of otherwise underwhelming actions the pope has taken since the dramatic resignation of Marie Collins from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM).Cardinals Sean O’Malley of Boston and Reinhard Marx of Munich, members of the C9 council of papal advisors, had convinced Pope Francis in December 2013 to establish the PCPM.And Collins, an Irish abuse survivor, was its most credible member. But she stepped down effective Ash Wednesday because of the obstacles the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) — and particularly its prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Müller — has thrown in the path of the commission’s work.The day of Collins’s resignation Francis appointed Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, another PCPM member and head of the Gregorian University’s Child Protection Center, as a consultant at the Congregation for the Clergy. Three days later the pope named Msgr. John Kennedy of Ireland to head the CDF’s disciplinary section, which deals with abuse cases.Some said these were important moves in response to the resignation. But they were actually insignificant.Fr. Zollner is merely a consultant of a congregation whose members are bishops and cardinals. He has no authority over its deliberations and will get a chance to give advice only when he’s explicitly asked for it.Msgr. Kennedy’s appointment is even less impressive. Ordained for the Archdiocese of Dublin in 1993, he has been working at the CDF the past nearly fifteen years, dating back to when Joseph Ratzinger headed the office.One can be very much mistaken, but promoting a priest from within the very office that has been accused of stonewalling the PCPM does not seem to auger well for a change of policy or practice.Even more baffling than these latest appointments, though, which amount to not much more than window-dressing, is the fact that Pope Francis has never once attended a meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors or even addressed the commission.And why did a pope who has become famous for calling people out of the blue, for desiring dialogue and encounter even with those who disagree with him, not pick up the phone and ask Marie Collins to tell him more about her frustrations with the PCPM? It is confounding, in the least. Pope Francis is still on a very steep learning curve when it comes to figuring out how to deal with the sexual abuse crisis and the bishops who have tried to cover it up.His teachers should not principally be men in Roman collars or those with miters on their heads. But unfortunately, as one lay expert on the abuse issue told me, it seems the last word of advice the pope gets is from a cleric.The abuse crisis is far from over and Francis has to do a lot more listening and learning from the non-clerics. He should started using his phone or the sitting room at his Santa Marta Residence to speak with them.First on the list should be Marie Collins.
Apr 12 17 7:21 AM
A convert looks at Pope Francis and Church unityChristopher White is a convert to the Catholic faith who was drawn by the unity in the Church, with the pope being an important part of that unity. Now he wonders why Catholics who said “the cafeteria is closed” when John Paul II and Benedict XVI were popes, are under Pope Francis not only supporting an open cafeteria, but trying to start a food fight.Easter of 2010 brought me into full communion with the Catholic Church - a long pilgrimage from my Pentecostal childhood, flirtatious teenage years with Calvinism, and a brief stint in Canterbury before finally setting up camp in Rome.When asked about the reasons for this conversion, I often note that the fractured nature of Protestantism left me unsettled, and I was attracted to the unity and teaching authority of the Catholic Church.Growing up, I witnessed church congregations splinter for a number of reasons-some pastoral and others political.While observing such division around me, I couldn’t help but to be haunted by Christ’s prayer in the Gospel of John that “they may be one just as We are One.” Looking back, I’m certain it was this understanding of Christianity that led me on a winding path towards Catholicism.Many friends accompanied me along the road to conversion. Some would keep me company through late night theological conversations and spirited debates fueled by alcohol and cigarettes.Others were priests who would patiently hear out my concerns and gently help me discern just where this adventure might be leading. And then there were friends - both dead and alive - and although distant, I knew they were providing support too.These friends included folks like Dorothy Day, John Henry Newman, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI among many others. Their lives and their writings not only helped me to realize the transformative power of the Gospel; they also displayed the wide range of notes that are all a part of the beautiful symphony of the Catholic tradition.Day’s radical conversion helped me realize the force of Catholic social teaching and how it can transform both individual lives and the world around us. Newman awakened me to the depth with which the Church has long wrestled with doctrine, and the ability of the Holy Spirit to guide and move it from age to age.I was inspired by John Paul II’s challenge that we all become saints, and by Benedict, to begin to explore the life of Jesus, something that will take a lifetime to unpack fully.Each of these individuals were imperfect, but their commitment to lives marked by holiness and pursuit of truth was an invitation I couldn’t resist.What these individuals also shared - and what I wanted to be a part of - was a Church bound together by the faith of the apostles and a belief in the continuity of that tradition in the world today.Central to this, of course, is the office of the pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth. Protestants have towering figures - luminaries like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, and Jim Wallis - but the primacy of Peter is a key distinctive for Catholics.Beyond that, it’s the authority of the pope, along with the bishops, that serves as both a guardian of the deposit of the ancient faith and a herald of it to a modern world. And while the Church is in need of reform and renewal at all levels, it’s the pope that is critical in setting that direction.So as a convert - one drawn into the Church convinced by that authority - it’s been a disappointment at best, and a scandal at worst, to see this legitimacy come under such attack during Pope Francis’s pontificate.In a way that would have been entirely unacceptable in the previous two pontificates - pontificates that first drew me and so many into communion with the Church - it now seems that questioning Peter is fair game.Here I’m not merely talking about recent debates over communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. Hostility to this pope has been mounting from the earliest days of his papacy, when his pro-life credentials were called into question, when his economic views were mocked, and when an entire encyclical was practically ignored by certain constituencies within the Church.As someone who continues to be inspired by the life and legacies of Popes John Paul II and Benedict, it’s been all the more disheartening that such behavior has arisen from the very writers, thinkers, and publications that paved the way for my early exploration of Catholicism.They were once the first to proclaim that the cafeteria was closed. Today, not only does the cafeteria seem to be open, but some of those figures are encouraging a food fight.In recent years it seems that many of Francis’s sharpest critics have been fellow converts who perhaps now find themselves uncomfortable with what they perceive to be a change of both style and substance that has rattled the certainty they once had. Yet it’s one thing to seek certainty, and it’s another to seek unity.The first is an individual project more focused on one’s own judgments and feelings while the latter is an act of faith and humble trust in Christ and his Church.Pope Francis continually repeats that Jesus’ most important message is mercy. It’s a central theme of his papacy. This renewed emphasis on mercy is not a departure from his predecessors, but an amplification of the truths they proclaimed, presented to the world anew.Both Dorothy Day and John Paul II’s lives illustrated the prophetic witness that the Church is called to play in this world. Newman and Benedict XVI’s work provide the scholarly depth to buttress that lived expression of the faith. What these individuals present are diverse ways of living out shared truths of the same faith in different and new ways.In that same manner, Francis provides a refreshingly new and necessary approach to those same truths for our particular time and place. He has reoriented our Church to a focus on the peripheries rather than the center.By introducing a new vocabulary of the “throwaway culture,” he has offered the world a stinging critique of societies that fail to connect the dots between the need to protect both life at its earliest stages and our ecosystem at large. And by giving new voice to the concerns of the forgotten and marginalized, Francis is making sure that the world knows that everyone has a home in the Catholic Church.I take great solace in the affirmation of “one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” that we profess at each Mass. That was true when I was first confirmed and it remains just as true today.This doesn’t mean we’re a homogenous institution without different ideas and opinions. As Pope Francis has reminded us, the only place you won’t find disagreement is in a cemetery.But it should mean that Catholics of all stripes should welcome this time of mercy that we are blessed to live in and seek to promote it rather than be polarized. For if we sincerely hope to heal a broken world, a unified Church is a necessary starting place.
Apr 12 17 7:26 AM
In unusual omission, no Trump-pope meeting planned during Italy G-7VATICAN CITY (Reuters) In what would be a highly unusual omission, President Trump has not asked to meet Pope Francis during the president’s visit to Italy next month for the Group of Seven summit, sources said.Trump, who Francis suggested was “not Christian” if he wanted a wall on the Mexican border, is due in Sicily on May 26-27 for a meeting of the heads of the world’s richest nations.The two men have diametrically opposing positions on immigration, refugees, climate change and unbridled capitalism. Trump called the pope’s criticism of his plan to build the Mexico wall “disgraceful.”U.S. presidents have in the past made a beeline for the Vatican while they were in Italy or Europe in order to meet with the head of the world’s largest Christian church. Only one of them, John Kennedy, was a Roman Catholic.President George W. Bush met with a pope six times, three times each with Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.“The situation can change but are only six weeks left so it looks unlikely at this point,” a diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Tuesday (April 11).A senior Vatican diplomatic source confirmed that the White House had so far made no approaches to the Holy See about a possible meeting, which would be the first between the two men.“The ball is on their side,” said another Vatican source. “We have received no request.”A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican had no comment.Open doorAs a matter of policy, popes meet with any head of state who requests an audience, regardless of any differences they have.Besides being leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, the pope is a head of state. Such meetings allow for an exchange of views on world affairs and a chance for the pope to encourage ethical solutions to world problems.About 21 percent of Americans, or 70 million people, are Catholic. Washington has had full diplomatic relations with the Vatican since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan saw the Vatican under Pope John Paul II, a Pole, as a crucial ally against communism.Vatican officials have indicated that if the White House wants to squeeze in a meeting with the pope on Trump’s schedule in Europe, they will try to oblige. Trump is due to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 before going to Sicily for the G-7.Francis visited the United States in 2015 and there are no plans for a return in the foreseeable future, so it is not clear when a meeting between the two men could take place.Last year, in response to an answer about then-candidate Trump’s views on immigration and his intention to build a wall on the border with Mexico, Francis said a man with those views is “not Christian.”Trump, who grew up in a Presbyterian family, shot back saying it was “disgraceful” for the pope to question his faith.In March, Cardinal Peter Turkson, a close aide of the pope, urged Trump to listen to “dissenting voices” and reconsider his position on climate change, after Trump signed an executive order dismantling Obama-era environmental legislation.Francis has made defense of the environment a key plank of his papacy, strongly backing scientific opinion that global warming is caused mostly by human activity.
Apr 13 17 12:43 AM
On Holy Thursday, Pope Francis will kneel down and wash and kiss the feet of prisoners in the Paliano, a maximum-facility prison located south of Rome used to house mafia turncoats.The event marks the latest stand against organized crime in a pontificate that has condemned the mafia, with much-needed hard words, both in Italy and globally. But it also highlights the complex relationship that exists between the Vatican and the mafia, two essentially sovereign states nestled in the complex realities of one boot-shaped peninsula.When speaking of “Mafia” in Italy, one is referring to an extremely multifaceted reality that seeps into every aspect of everyday life. There are three main branches of organized crime: the Camorra crime syndicate in Naples, the ‘Ndrangheta in the Calabria region, and Italy’s most successful export after pizza, the Sicilian Mafia.Of course, defining the mafia as a “sovereign state” is not entirely correct. It exercises power over well-defined territories and has influence over less-than clear areas. Its operations have a widespread effect on the economy, society and culture, assuming more of a parasitical relationship with the hosting country.If you add in the common use of violence to infuse terror against those who oppose them, one could say that mafias are as much of a state as ISIS, for example. You can’t see’em, but you definitely feel them, and it’s darn hard to fight’em.Pope Francis has decided to engage in the battle against the mafia, following and building upon the efforts made by previous popes. But defining the relations between these two institutions can often be misleading, as the mafia adopts Catholic rites and traditions to enforce its influence.Even Saints Kneel To The “Boss”In June 2016, in the Sicilian town of Corleone, a procession carrying a statue of St. John the Evangelist took a detour to the house of Salvatore Riina, a former mafia lord also know as u capu di ‘i capi (the boss of bosses) and la bestia (the beast), due to his murderous rampage in the 1990s.Even though Riiva was not home, since he has been serving a life sentence in prison since 1993, the procession stopped and made the saint “kneel” before his home in a dramatic show of respect.Outcry followed, with Father Domenico Mancuso, who led the procession, saying “we have all decided that the procession of St. John will never again walk by via Scorsone,” the street where Riina used to live.This is not the fist time Christian rituals have been used by mafias to promote their culture and “values.” Giovanni Falcone, an Italian judge who was killed while trying to fight criminal organizations, defined the mafia as a religion, an inverted religion that inserts people in a diabolical circle and makes them slaves.“Mafias have dedicated a particular attention to the symbols and practices of the Catholic religion, without any concerns regarding the obvious contrast between these symbols and the everyday lives of the mafiosi,” said Michele Pennisi, archbishop of the Sicilian town of Monreale, in a recent interview with Vatican Radio.“This way, the holiest symbols such as participating in a procession or being a godfather, are bent and made into a means to obtaining social approval and ecclesiastical status,” Pennisi said. “These pseudo-religious manifestations cannot be interpreted as the expression of a distorted religion, but as a brutal and devastating form of refusing God and misinterpreting the real religion.”Pope Francis’s Crusade Against MafiasPope Francis took on the mafia head-on early in his pontificate. In 2013, when Bergoglio had been pope for only two months, he declared Don Pino Puglisi, recognized by Benedict XVI, the first martyr who died at the hands of the Mafia.Puglisi was a pastor in the rough-and-tumble Brancaccio neighborhood of Palermo in Sicily, where he was renowned for his efforts to keep young people out of the mob. One of the mafia assassins who later confessed to the murder said Puglisi’s last words were, “I’ve been expecting you.”Puglisi’s story was told in a 2005 film called Alla Luce del Sole, released in English as “Come Into the Light.”In 2014, Pope Francis launched an invectio against organized crime, a reality he understood well from his days in Argentina. “When one doesn’t adore God he becomes a worshipper of evil,” the pope told 250 people gathered in the valley of Sibari, in Calabria the bastion of ‘Ndrangheta.“Evil must be fought, you have to say no,” the pope said. “The Church must always work so that good might prevail. Mafiosi are excommunicated, they are not in communion with God.”The speech, said during his homily, was given in the smallest diocese in Calabria, which in the previous months had witnessed several brutal murders. One in particular, the killing and burning of three-year-old Cocò Campolongo by the ‘Ndrangheta, shook the conscience of the entire country.The pope’s words resonated far and wide, and gave those who fight the Mafia every day hope for the future. But the new zeal with which the Catholic Church has declared war on organized crime builds upon the work of previous popes.In 1993, following some of the bloodiest years in mafia-related crimes, Pope John Paul II spoke in the Sicilian town of Agrigento against the “social sin” of organized crime and calling mob bosses to convert.“God said ‘do not kill’: no human association, mafia, can overrun this holy law from God,” the pope said. “This Sicilian people that is so attached to life, that loves life and gives life, cannot live oppressed under the dominion of a contrary society, the society of death.”Benedict XVI took the torch in 2010, reiterating the importance of standing up against the evil of Mafias. “The Mafia is a road of death, incompatible with the Gospel,” the German pope told youth gathered in Palermo, Sicily. “I am among you to give you a strong encouragement to not be afraid to clearly testify the human and Christian values, so deeply rooted in the faith and history of this land and its people.”Pope Francis pushed forward the agenda using the same language of John Paul II, if not with stronger nuances, to express the horrors of the mafia. “Convert!” the pope said in 2014 in the church of Gregorio VII in Rome. “There is still time to not end up in hell: that is what awaits you if you continue down that road.”And again when visiting Calabria Francis said: “The mafia is radically opposed to the faith and the Gospels,” this time echoing Benedict XVI. “The mafia phenomenon, an expression of a culture of death, must be opposed and fought.”New rites to fight old ritualsIn an recent interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Monsignor Francesco Oliva, the bishop in the land of ‘Ndrangheta, said that the organization “wishes to have its power felt in the field of religion” and that the Mafia mentality “influenced the exercise of the holy ministry very much.“Everything is clogged by old, anachronistic traditions that foment criminality,” Oliva added.The Church is trying to take those rites back and separate its long-standing traditions from the Mafia influence: starting with Godfathers.The Riina family was once again in the eye of the hurricane last December, when the mobster son of the “beast” was given permission to serve as the godfather at his nephew’s baptism in the northern Italian diocese of Padua after receiving the sacrament of confirmation himself only one week before.In response, the diocese of Monreale recently issued a decree barring mob bosses from serving either as godfathers for baptisms or sponsors for confirmations.“We have to be clear,” said the Archbishop Michele Pennisi. “A Christian godfather should be a guarantee of raising a child in the faith. How can he be that, if he lives in opposition to the Gospel, in violence and total obedience to the god of money?”Pope Francis’s decision to visit the prison where inmates are willing to testify against the mafia is yet another demonstration of the Church’s determination to fight the evil that plagues Italy and the world.As the pope performs the ritual of washing the feet of inmates on Holy Thursday, in remembrance of Christ washing the feet of the apostles, he will also vindicate the sanctity of Christian rites against their farcical and deviant use by the Mafia.
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