Vatican’s Ex-auditor Ready to Return, Says It’s ‘not too late’ for Reform
Crux By || Claire Giangravè || 28 July 2018
Around nine p.m. on June 19, 2017, the man who once held one of the most promising new positions in Vatican history says he left its walls feeling “dazed.” He says he had been presented with charges of espionage and embezzlement, and that he was compelled to sign a resignation letter on the spot.
“It was such a surprise to me, such a shock… I couldn’t believe they were telling me what they were telling me,” said Libero Milone, the first - and, so far, only - auditor general of the Vatican’s finances, one year later sitting in the chilled room of his lawyer’s office in Rome for an interview with Crux.
“I simply did my job properly,” he added with a smile.
He spoke not long after Vatican prosecutors informed Milone’s lawyers that a criminal investigation against him has been closed and no charges will be filed, despite highly public claims last year from senior Vatican officials that Milone had deployed illicit wiretaps during his brief period on the job, as well as hints that he may have been guilty of financial irregularities himself.
Milone was named to the post in 2015, at the peak of Pope Francis’s early financial reform efforts. His experience at the international auditing and tax services firm Deloitte seemed to make him the perfect man for the job, but even more, he says, the Vatican was looking for someone with tact, capable of reconciling modern financial techniques within a millennia-old and relationship-based institution.
Barely two years in, Milone - whose mandate gave him the power to summon financial statements from all Vatican departments - left his position in disgrace, although a face-saving Vatican press release claimed they were parting on “amicable terms.”
After a three-month silence, Milone spoke to the press later in 2017. He claimed he had been intimidated by the gendarmerie, the Vatican’s police force, and forced to accept resignation under the threat of being sent to jail.
At the time, Milone claimed an “old guard” was attempting to stop the avalanche of reforms promoted by Francis and his predecessor.
The then-Vatican deputy secretary of state, Italian Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, dismissed those charges as “false and unjustified.” The lay Italian head of the gendarmerie, Gian Domenico Giani, boasted of “overwhelming evidence” against Milone in an interview with Reuters.
Even Francis later appeared to take a shot, saying in a Christmas speech to the Roman Curia that carefully selected reformers who were “delicately sent away” had been corrupted by “ambition and conceit” and “erroneously declare themselves to be martyrs of the system, of the ‘uninformed pope,’ of the ‘old guard,’ instead of reciting the ‘mea culpa’.”
Yet just as Milone’s story appeared over, something within the Vatican began to shift this summer. In his own all-encompassing interview with Reuters, Francis lamented that “there is no transparency” in APSA, the Vatican’s general accounting office that also manages the Vatican’s real estate holdings.
He also said there was a need to change the “mentality” of the office, and later accepted the resignation of its head Italian Cardinal Domenico Calcagno. In his place he installed Bishop Nunzio Galantino, former head of the Italian bishops’ conference, who shares Francis’s easy-going approach and concern for the poor, tempered by his experience in bringing financial transparency to the Italian Church.
As part of this picture, Milone’s lawyers were summoned to the Vatican tribunal in May and presented with a letter stating that there are no criminal procedures against him. It was signed by the Vatican’s top magistrate, the same man who had signed a document listing charges against Milone a year ago along with the President of the Vatican tribunal.
“It’s very odd,” Milone said, thoughtfully stroking his hands together. “I am very relieved for how the situation evolved.”
With Becciu next being made a cardinal and moved to the Vatican’s Congregation for the causes of Saints, it seems nothing now stands in the way of the auditor returning to his post, who says he’s still willing, if asked, to jump back on board.
“I don’t like starting something and leaving it incomplete,” he said, adding that his concern lies also in creating a new institution for the Church.
“In view of these recent events, I believe that a reinstatement should be considered. The Holy Father needs to have support,” Milone said.
A compilation of lies
For an accountant, there’s an unusually casual flair to Milone’s appearance.
His dark blue suit is fit for comfort, and the knot of his tie rests loosely under the collar of his white shirt. Everything is half a size too big, and even his watch droops askew down his forearm. His brown leather monk shoes, while finely made, look capable of going a distance.
All that may suggest a personality capable of rolling with the punches. Nonetheless, Milone now says the “compilation of lies” presented against him at the Vatican a little over a year ago proved to be a “disaster” for his career.
“Since my ousting, I have not received any new offers of any kind,” Milone said. “You can imagine why!”
Ironically, in April 2017 the accountant actually declined a position as head of RaiWay, the publicly listed Italian TV company, in order to pursue the opportunity at the Vatican. Now, he said, companies prefer to opt for less controversial candidates as the word “spy” still appears prominently in Milone’s Google search.
Milone says he’s walked in and out of complicated situations before - the Delta failure, troubles at Fiat Chrysler and the bankruptcy of United Airlines - and was accustomed to CEOs and employees alike resisting his oversight. In the Vatican, he said, he was met with the same opposition.
“It is true to say that we discovered a series of anomalies and errors for which we had asked for corrections to be made,” Milone said. “Certain individuals might have been concerned about some of our findings, but it was something I expected.”
He described his approach in the Vatican as “thorough” and “methodical,” saying he created his own department and hand-selected his associates. He produced an audit manual and procedures, as well as an internal ethical code, for the Vatican auditors.
Milone also set out to facilitate the Vatican moving from cash-based accounting to accrual-basis accounting, in line with International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). To offer a sense of scale, it took the team of accounting experts at the UN’s Food and Health Organization three years to adhere to IPSAS. No doubt the feat was especially daunting for the often-untrained priests, nuns and laymen typically charged with the Vatican’s bookkeeping.
Milone designed the approach to unfold in three stages: an understanding phase, a high-risk analysis phase and finally a detail phase. He claims he only got to 20 percent of the work, barely into the second phase, before he was sent away.
The former auditor likened his job to a photographer, but acknowledged some in the Vatican may have viewed him more as a judge and were worried about his verdict.
“We were examining documentation managed by cardinals, bishops, archbishops, priests, lay people and nuns,” Milone said. “Maybe in there, somebody was hiding something we didn’t see.”
Old sins cast long shadows
A standard bit of wisdom from the famed fictional detective Hercule Poirot is that “old sins cast long shadows,” an expression that can be easily adapted to the tormented history of the Vatican’s finances.
Some have speculated that Milone’s ouster was because he stumbled onto a few of those shadows, something the former auditor sees as a real possibility. Whether he was ultimately ensnared by those shadows, or getting close to revealing them, is the $64,000 question.
“Milone, you are still independent, right?” Francis would ask at every meeting, according to the former auditor.
“It underlined how, having analyzed my experience, he was concerned for pressures that maybe would have been raised,” he added.
Eventually Milone was no longer allowed to meet with the pope and was told by Becciu that their relationship had “cracked.”
The auditor suspects he was being spied upon. Just one month after taking the job his computer was hacked, and the paranoia of being bugged followed him until the end. He hired a private investigation company to check his office, and he eventually moved into different quarters.
Milone said that at the time, he and Australian Cardinal George Pell, who heads the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy and who is now back home fighting off criminal charges of “historical sexual abuse,” were trying to access information on APSA, traditionally among the most obscure of the Vatican’s various financial players.
Milone asked investigators to retrieve information on certain property holdings and public registers, which, according to him, was fully in line with his mandate.
Shortly afterwards, in June, Milone said he found himself sitting before Giani facing accusations of lying, spying and embezzlement. He claims his signature had been falsified to suggest he had used funds improperly. Three days later, Pell was summoned to Australia to answer historic charges of abuse against minors.
Just like that, he said, two spearheads of the pope’s financial reform were out of the picture.
The Bull and the Bee
“He died…” said Milone’s lawyer, interrupting the interview, while looking at his cellphone.
News had just broken of the death of Sergio Marchionne, former CEO of Fiat Chrysler, with whom Milone had worked with first when he was in Deloitte in 2004 and then as chairman of the Internal Control Committee of Fiat Industrial starting in 2011.
“He had become a friend of mine,” Milone said.
His otherwise jovial face suddenly turned serious, and for a moment he stopped stroking his hands. His hazel eyes - now gray - stared blindly at the table, obviously lost in another place, another time.
The former auditor recalled their working together and revealed there had also been disagreements with Marchionne. He explains that it is part of his work ethic to voice differences of opinion, something he admits would also happen with Pell.
A former rugby player, Pell could be likened to the pit bull of Vatican financial reform, bursting through obstacles with force and often leaving enemies in his wake. Milone, on the other hand, could be compared more readily to a bee - carefully, precisely setting things in order.
Bulls and bees don’t always see eye-to-eye, and Milone said that while he has “a lot of respect” for Pell, they were not allies. Instead, he said, with very different approaches they were “the front-runners of the financial reform,” acknowledging that reform today “is a little stalled.”
“In all the entities of the Vatican, there was a small core of people who didn’t want the reforms. By getting rid of me and Pell, maybe they solved their issue,” Milone said.
“But maybe those people are no longer there…” he added.
The former auditor has interpreted recent developments as a sign that Francis is willing to reboot the reform, which he’s confident “can still resume its course.”
Milone recalls a conversation with Pell before his departure to Australia, asking why he had not taken advantage of the immunity granted by the Vatican.
“Libero, you should know that my honor comes before everything else,” he said the cardinal answered.
Today, the former auditor feels the moment of his own vindication might be near.
“I must defend my reputation,” Milone said, “I am absolutely convinced, and I know I haven’t done anything.”
He states that his ethical code, his desire to serve the pope and the faithful, and his two-year experience within the Vatican would allow him to “do the job as it should be done.”
“I think it’s a good opportunity to serve my Church,” he said, joking that “I don’t want to become a martyr.”
World Needs Leaders Who are Just, Compassionate, Merciful, Pope Says
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Cindy Wooden || 27 July 2018
The world needs leaders who can "put into practice a more just way for all of us to live in this world as sharers in a common destiny," Pope Francis said.
"There is no need, on the other hand, for hurling slogans that often remain empty, or for antagonism between parties jockeying for the front position," the pope said in a letter to the international conference of "Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church."
The group is a network of Catholic theologians and ethicists. According to the National Catholic Reporter, some 500 members from 80 countries were in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, for a meeting July 26-29 on the theme, "A Critical Time for Bridge-Building: Catholic Theological Ethics Today."
In his letter to participants, Pope Francis said Sarajevo, a city of bridges and symbol of the devastation of the Balkan war in the 1990s, was an appropriate place to discuss how in situations of tension and division, there is a need to forge "new paths of closeness between peoples, cultures, religions, visions of life and political orientations."
The pope said he keeps repeating "the need to build bridges, not walls" in the hopes that people will take action even if they are tempted "by fear and forms of regression."
"Without renouncing prudence," he said, "we are called to recognize every sign and mobilize all our energy in order to remove the walls of division and to build bridges of fraternity everywhere in the world."
The role of Catholic theologians and ethicists, he said, is to reflect on current problems -- including political and social ones such as climate change and migration -- and, hopefully, inspire "suitable pastoral attitudes and responsible and carefully planned political policies."
Pope Francis praised the group of theologians and ethicists for forming a network that is global and includes people of differing visions.
Reflection, dialogue and joint analysis of problems, he said, should lead to a harnessing of the energy needed to inspire actions that are "compassionate and attentive to tragic human situations, and concerned with accompanying them with merciful care."
Building the necessary bridges among the theologians, the pope said, "does not mean striving for uniformity of viewpoints, but rather seeking with sincerity and goodwill a convergence of purposes, in dialogical openness and the discussion of differing perspectives."
"Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary openness," which should characterize their work and the work of Catholic colleges and universities, is "so vital" and can result in analysis which is "all the more insightful and attentive to the complexity of human reality," Pope Francis said.
But also with dialogue, he said, "you yourselves will learn ever better how to be faithful to the word of God, which challenges us in history, and to show solidarity with the world, which you are not called to judge but rather to offer new paths, accompany journeys, bind hurts and shore up weakness."
Is Church Teaching Changing on the Death Penalty?
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Ed Condon || 20 July 2018
The Church has consistently taught that the state has the authority to use the death penalty. But, in recent years, popes and bishops have become more vocal in calling for an end to its use. Many Catholics instinctively favor life over death, even after the worst crimes, and some are left wondering if the Church’s mind is changing.
Two recent cases highlighted an apparent tension between traditional teaching and modern circumstances.
On July 13, the bishops of Tennessee wrote to Governor Bill Haslam asking him to halt a slate of planned executions. In their letter, Bishops Mark Spalding of Nashville, Richard Stika of Knoxville, and Martin Holley of Memphis emphasized the value and dignity of every human life, even those who have committed the worst possible crimes.
One day earlier, on July 12, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, expressed his “support” for the Sri Lankan government’s decision to introduce the death penalty for drug traffickers and organized crimes bosses.
“We will support [Sri Lankan] President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to subject those who organize crime while being in the prison to [the] death sentence,” he told local media. The cardinal went on to add that more needed to be done to prevent drug traffickers and crime bosses from operating with impunity while in jail.
The state’s authority to execute criminals is explicitly sanctioned in the Bible, including by St. Paul. Historically, the Church has recognized the use of the death penalty in a practical way: executions were carried out in the Papal States well into the nineteenth century, with the last official executioner retiring in 1865.
For much the twentieth century, attempted assassination of the pope was a capital crime in Vatican City; Pope Paul VI only removed the death penalty from the law in 1969.
Today, the Church still officially teaches that the death penalty is a legitimate option for states to employ.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches this: “Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.”
This formulation contains a heavy qualification. When exactly is the death penalty the only effective means of defending human life? That’s a thorny question.
St. John Paul II was outspoken in his opposition to the use of capital punishment. In an address in the United States, in 1999, he called for Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life” and said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.” He also spoke of his desire for a consensus to end the death penalty, which he called “cruel and unnecessary.”
That address, given in St. Louis, was credited with helping persuade to Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan to commute the death sentence of inmate Darrell Mease to life in prison.
More recently, Pope Francis has denounced capital punishment in even stronger terms. Speaking in October 2017, he called it “contrary to the Gospel” because “it is freely decided to suppress a human life that is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator, and of which, in the final analysis, God alone is the true judge and guarantor.” He has, however, stopped short of revising the official teaching contained in the Catechism.
There is a broad sentiment among American Catholics against the death penalty. It is a point of unusually strong consensus, even among those who normally disagree. In 2015, four Catholic publications with often-divergent viewpoints issued a joint editorial calling for an end to capital punishment.
But Catholic thinkers do not unanimously agree that a total renunciation of the death penalty is appropriate, or even possible.
Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, in his famous “Consistent Ethic of Life” speech delivered at Fordham University in 1983, explicitly recognized the legitimate authority of the state to resort to capital punishment. Cardinal Avery Dulles, writing in 2001, observed that “the Catholic magisterium does not, and never has, advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty.”
While there is real scope for debate about when and how sparingly capital punishment should be used, Dulles concluded that “the death penalty is not in itself a violation of the right to life.”
His conclusion was informed by the constant teaching of the Church that judicial executions are licit, even if regrettable and to be avoided whenever possible.
In the City of God, St. Augustine wrote that the state administers justice under divine concession. “Since the agent of authority is but a sword in the hand, and is not responsible for the killing, it is in no way contrary to the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”… for the representatives of the State’s authority to put criminals to death, according to law or the rule of rational justice.”
While the trend of recent papal statements has been towards a relegation of the death penalty to, at most, a theoretical possibility, scholars have urged caution about going too far.
Dr. Chad Pecknold, associate professor of systematic theology at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that it was important distinguish between changing circumstances and a change in what the Church has always taught.
“The Church has always held that the death penalty is a just option available to the state, even if we do not welcome its use. St. Augustine says that the death penalty is just, but the Church should plead for mercy.”
Pecknold stressed that relationship between mercy and justice is a live concern. In seeking mercy, he said, we must implicitly recognize the validity of justice.
“Mercy isn’t calling something that is just ‘unjust.’ Mercy relieves the punishment properly due to the guilty. As the Catechism recognizes, there can be circumstances in which the death penalty is a legitimate service to justice. This is qualified by a preferential option for other means, whenever they can serve the same ends.”
These alternative means have not been always and everywhere available. “The common and constant teaching of the Church can be applied to different circumstances. Alternatives available to us in modern western countries simply have not been present at other times, or may not be now in other places.”
There is a crucial difference between applying a consistent teaching to changed circumstances and appearing to suggest humanity has evolved beyond a previously valid doctrine, Pecknold said.
“The death penalty is not, and has never been a positive end in itself. It is a means towards serving justice. If we find we can now serve the same ends and express a preferential option for life, this is doubly good.”
“But we should not fall into a false understanding that what was once ‘good' is now ‘bad.’ The Church doesn’t evolve out of a true teaching, nor does humanity progress beyond natural law.”
“We should prize our increasing opportunities to serve mercy and justice together, but be wary of giving ourselves too much credit, we have not progressed to a new, higher level of justice."
Cardinal Dulles agreed. He considered the argument that Church sanctioning of capital punishment was an “outmoded” concession to past ages of “violence” and “barbarity,” one which could yield to “the signs of the times” and “a new recognition of the dignity and inalienable rights of the human person.” He dismissed this as “a tempting simplicity” which found “no echo” among Catholic theologians of the past.
The consensus against capital punishment in modern western nations, it must be observed, has grown in line with increased prosperity, political stability, and states’ ability to deploy credibly effective alternatives to execution.
In the recent Sri Lankan case, the government acted in response to the ineffectiveness of prison sentences, with drug traffickers and crime bosses seeming to continue operating with impunity, even behind bars. Following local complaints at his expression of support, Cardinal Ranjith issued a clarification, making clear his support for the government announcement was not a “carte blanche” advocacy for the death penalty, but noting that he could not “close my eyes and do nothing before this terrible phenomenon our country is faced with.”
“[The drug trade] causes death and violence in the streets and the destruction of the cream of our youth, who become drug addicts at an age as early as their adolescence, being exposed to drugs even in their schools. This is being done by drug cartels operated at times from the prisons,” he said.
For Ranjith, such a context seems to find a place within the Catechism’s criteria that capital punishment be reserved for the final defense of innocent life when other options fail.
In the West, conditions seem to be narrowing the scope for the death penalty’s use, and bishops are responding, which has led to a sense, especially after Pope Francis’ comments last year, that the Church might declare the death penalty absolutely unjust. Yet, as was recently seen in Sri Lanka and Tennessee, things are not yet the same everywhere.
That serves as a good reminder about the importance of understanding the Church’s global perspective, and the importance of distinguishing between teachings which supply criteria through which Catholics must make moral judgments, and teachings which declare that certain actions are, in fact, immoral everywhere and always.
The Church’s teaching on the death penalty expresses, essentially, a criteria by which state authorities should make judgments about the just use of the death penalty. While in the developed West, use of the death penalty may, in fact, be almost completely unnecessary, not all parts of the world are as developed.
The divergence of views from bishops around the world on this issue reflects the role that the circumstances of time and place can play in moral reasoning. That is instructive, and a reminder about the complex richness, and importance, of Catholic moral teaching.
Source: Catholic News Agency…
19th-century Italian Teen to be Canonized During Youth Synod
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Hannah Brockhaus || 19 July 2018
Bl. Nunzio Sulprizio, who died at the age of 19 from bone cancer, will be declared a saint Oct. 14 during the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith, and vocational discernment, Pope Francis announced Thursday.
The pope announced the date of the young Italian’s canonization during an ordinary public consistory at the Vatican July 19. The canonization will take place alongside six others, including that of Bl. Oscar Romero and Bl. Pope Paul VI, who presided over Sulprizio’s beatification.
At the beatification Dec. 1, 1963, Paul VI said that Bl. Nunzio Sulprizio teaches us that “the period of youth should not be considered the age of free passions, of inevitable falls, of invincible crises, of decadent pessimism, of harmful selfishness. Rather, he will tell you how being young is a grace…”
“He will tell you that no other age than yours, young people, is as suitable for great ideals, for generous heroism, for the coherent demands of thought and action,” the pope continued. “He will teach you how you, young people, can regenerate the world in which Providence has called you to live, and how it is up to you first to consecrate yourselves for the salvation of a society that needs strong and fearless souls.”
Sulprizio said it was “God’s Providence” that cared for him during his short life, and would say, “Jesus endured so much for us and by his merits eternal life awaits us. If we suffer a little bit, we will taste the joy of paradise” and “Jesus suffered a lot for me. Why should I not suffer for him?”
Born in the Italian region of Abruzzo in 1817, Sulprizio learned the faith from a priest at the local school he attended and from his maternal grandmother.
He was orphaned before the age of six, and after the death of his grandmother three years later, went to live with an uncle, who took him on as an apprentice blacksmith, not permitting him to attend school anymore.
His uncle also mistreated him, sending him on long errands, beating him, and withholding meals if he thought things were not done correctly or the boy needed discipline. The young Sulprizio would take consolation in Eucharistic adoration and in praying the rosary.
While still very young, he contracted an infection in one of his legs, causing intense and constant pain, with a puss-oozing sore. Due to a lack of proper medical care, the boy developed gangrene, and was sent to a hospital in Naples. There he would unite his pain with Christ’s suffering on the cross, also helping his fellow patients.
During this time, Sulprizio was introduced to a colonel who treated him like a son and helped pay for his medical treatments. While in the hospital, the young man was visited by a priest who prepared him for his first confession and Holy Communion.
He also met St. Gaetano Errico, an Italian priest and founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who promised him he could enter the religious order when he was old enough.
Though he experienced periods of increasing health, Sulprizio contracted bone cancer. His leg was amputated, but it did not help, and he died from the illness shortly after his 19th birthday in 1836. One of the last things he told his friend, the colonel, was, “be cheerful. From heaven I will always be helping you.”
Besides Bl. Pope Paul VI and Bl. Oscar Romero, the other canonizations to take place Oct. 14 are Bl. Francesco Spinelli, a diocesan priest and founder of the Institute of the Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament; Bl. Vincenzo Romano, a diocesan priest from Torre de Greco in Italy; Bl. Maria Caterina Kasper, a German nun and founder of the Institute of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ; and Nazaria Ignazia of Saint Teresa of Jesus, founder of the Congregation of the Misioneras Cruzadas de la Iglesia Sisters.
The 2018 Synod of Bishops, a gathering of bishops from around the world, will take place Oct. 3-28 in Rome on the topic of young people, the faith and vocational discernment.
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Pope Nominates Presidents-delegate for Upcoming Synod of Bishops
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Junno Arocho Esteves || 16 July 2018
As his delegates to preside over sessions of the Synod of Bishops in October, Pope Francis has chosen four cardinals from countries where young people are facing special challenges.
The Vatican announced July 14 the pope's appointment of the presidents-delegate: Cardinals Louis Sako of Baghdad, the Chaldean patriarch; Desire Tsarahazana of Toamasina, Madagascar; Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar; and John Ribat of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
The synod will meet at the Vatican Oct. 3-28 to discuss "young people, faith and vocational discernment." As presidents-delegate, the cardinals will alternate presiding over the synod sessions.
The four cardinals come from areas in the world that reflect several major issues outlined in the synod's "instrumentum laboris" ("working document").
The working document emphasized the struggles of young Catholic men and women "who continue to live in situations of war or political instability" as well as those who suffer "discrimination and persecution to the point of martyrdom."
Cardinal Sako, who was ordained a bishop eight months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, witnessed the persecution of native Christians and their subsequent exodus from the country.
After his installation as head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in 2013, the Iraqi prelate said the church must be a sign of hope, witness and communion, despite the difficulties, and work with all Iraqis to defend human dignity and peaceful coexistence based on equal rights.
The synod also will discuss the increasing number of young people living in precarious situations due to poverty, unemployment and marginalization, an issue that is familiar to Cardinal Tsarahazana, who hails from one of the world's poorest countries, with more than 90 percent of its population living below the $2-a-day poverty line.
Cardinals Sako and Tsarahazana were elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis June 28.
The synod's working document also underlines the requests by many young people for a church that works with "greater operational pragmatism" on key issues, including the protection of the environment.
Climate change is a key issue not only for the pope, but also for Cardinal Ribat, who has been outspoken about the effects that rising ocean levels have had on his people. Scientists attribute higher seas to melting polar ice as greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels accumulate in the earth's atmosphere, causing the planet to warm.
The synod also will address the marginalization of young people who migrate with their families to other countries and are often victims of "different forms of racial or caste discrimination."
As Myanmar's first cardinal, Cardinal Bo joined with other religious leaders to promote peace and call for an end to persecution of ethnic minorities in the country, including the Rohingya, a minority Muslim group named the world's most persecuted people by the United Nations.
Pope Taps Lay Italian Journalist as Chief Vatican Communications Officer
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Elise Harris || 05 July 2018
After the Vatican's former communications head stepped down in the fallout of a major fake-news scandal, Pope Francis has tapped layman Paolo Ruffini for the job, pulling him from a post with the Italian bishops’ conference.
Ruffini, born in Palermo in 1956, has until now worked as the director of TV2000, the official television channel for the Italian bishops, and will be responsible for continuing the pope's overhaul of Vatican communications. He is the first layperson to head a Vatican department.
He graduated with a law degree from Rome's Sapienza University, and has been a professional journalist since 1979. He has been married for roughly 32 years and has worked for various publications, including “Il Mattino” of Naples; “Il Messaggero” in Rome; the radio and television sections for Italian broadcaster “Rai,” among others.
In addition to his hefty background in radio, print and television communications, Ruffini has also received several prizes for journalism and has participated in study conferences about the role Christians play in information, communications ethics and new media.
The July 5 announcement of Ruffini's appointment comes after the recent decision by Pope Francis to change the Vatican's communications office from a “secretariat” to a “dicastery,” the general word used for the Vatican's various offices and departments, which was seen by some as a downgrade.
Ruffini will take over for Msgr. Lucio Ruiz, who has served as an interim leader for the communications office since March, when the former prefect, Msgr. Dario Vigano, stepped down following what has been dubbed the “Lettergate” scandal.
The fiasco took place after the March launch of the 11-book series “The Theology of Pope Francis,” published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana, the Vatican publishing house overseen by the Vatican's communications department.
A letter from Benedict XVI praising Francis' theological and philosophical formation was read aloud at the event, however, the secretariat later admitted to tampering with an image of the letter that was sent to media, blurring out lines in which Benedict said that he had not read the full series, and did not plan to do so, and therefore was not able to offer an in-depth analysis of the text.
Days later, it was revealed that further paragraphs had been left out in which Benedict questioned the inclusion in the series of a theologian known for his “anti-papal initiatives.”
After receiving pressure from the media, the secretariat published the full letter March 17, which they said was confidential and never intended to be published in its entirety.
Following Vigano’s resignation, Pope Francis named Ruiz, former secretary of the department, as an interim prefect, but asked Vigano to stay on in an advisory role, which he is expected to keep when Ruffini steps in.
In a recent interview with Reuters news agency, Pope Francis said he had initially offered the job as his communications chief to a woman, but she had declined due to previous commitments.
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Pope Says No to Women Priests, Yes to Women in Curial Leadership
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Elise Harris || 20 June 2018
In an interview with Reuters, Pope Francis said more space has to be created for women to take on leading roles in the Roman Curia, but that priestly ordination is not an option.
Responding to a question about women's ordination to the priesthood, the pope said “there is the temptation to 'functionalize' the reflection on women in the Church, what they should do, what they should become.”
“We cannot functionalize women,” he said, explaining that while the Church is referred to as a woman, the Sacrament of Holy Orders is out of the question “because dogmatically it doesn't work.”
“John Paul II was clear and closed the door, and I will not go back on this. It was something serious, not something capricious,” he said, adding, “it cannot be done.”
However, Francis stressed that while the priesthood is out, women do need to be given more opportunities for leadership in the Roman Curia – a view he said has at times been met with resistance.
“I had to fight to put a woman as the vice-director of the press office,” he said, referring to his decision in 2016 to name Spanish journalist Paloma Garica Ovejero as the Vatican's deputy spokesperson.
He said he at one point offered a woman the job of heading the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications, but she turned it down because “she already had other commitments.”
Women in the Curia “are few, we need to put more,” he said, adding that it can be either a religious sister or a laywoman, “it doesn't matter,” but there is a need to move forward with an eye for quality and competency in the job.
“I don't have any problem naming a woman as the head of a dicastery, if the dicastery doesn't have jurisdiction,” he said, referring to the fact that some Vatican departments have specific functions in Church governance that require a bishop to do the job. Lay men are also ineligible to oversee offices that require the jurisdictional authority of a priest or bishop.
For example, the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy has jurisdiction, so it has to be led by a bishop, but for others, such as the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy, “I would not have a problem naming a competent woman,” Francis said.
Women must continue to be promoted, but without falling into “a feminist attitude,” the pope said, adding that “in the end it would be machismo with a skirt. We don't want to fall into this.”
Pope Francis spoke during an interview with American journalist Phil Pullella of Reuters, which took place Sunday at the pope’s Vatican residence, and was published June 20.
In the interview, the pope touched on a variety of topics, including a possible deal with China on the appointment of bishops, clerical abuse and the ongoing scandal in Chile, the reform of the Roman Curia, and criticism he's faced.
On the topic of women, Francis said that in his experience, things are usually done better when there is a mixed group working on a task, rather than just men.
“Women have an ability to understand things, it’s another vision,” he said, noting that whenever he has visited prisons run by women, they “seemed to do better,” because women know how to be “mothers” and care for inmates and their needs in a unique way.
“Women know how to manage conflicts better. In these things, women are braver,” he said, adding, “I think it would be so also in the Curia if there were more women.”
Francis noted that some have said inviting more women into the mix might mean there is more gossip, however, he said he does not believe that would be the case, “because we men are also gossipers.”
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Dictatorships Begin with Taking Over Media to Spread Lies, Pope Says
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Carol Glatz || 18 June 2018
All dictatorships begin the same way: media outlets are put in the hands of "unscrupulous" people who spread lies and weaken democracy, Pope Francis said.
Typical standards, norms and laws in regard to communications are first eliminated, the pope said in his homily June 18 during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.
Then an entire media or communication outlet is handed over "to a firm, a business that slanders, tells lies, weakens democracy, and then the judges come to judge these weakened institutions, these destroyed, condemned people and a dictatorship makes progress this way," he said.
"All dictatorships, all of them, began like this, by adulterating communication, by putting communications in the hands of people without scruples, of governments without scruples," he added.
The pope's homily focused on the day's first reading in which Jezebel succeeds in her a plot to help her husband, King Ahab, take possession of their neighbor's land; the neighbor, Naboth, refused to sell what had belonged to his family for generations. Jezebel arranged for two men to accuse Naboth of cursing God and the king, for which Naboth was stoned to death.
Pope Francis said what happened to Naboth is similar to what happened to Jesus, St. Stephen and all martyrs who were condemned as a result of lies and falsehoods.
Today, many people, "many heads of state or government," forge the same scenario: start with a lie and "after you destroy both a person and a situation with that falsehood," there is a judgment and a conviction, he said.
Many countries, today, he added, "they use this method: destroy free communication."
But individuals, too, are also tempted to destroy others by talking behind their back, telling lies or spreading scandalous news, the pope said.
Talking about scandals is enormously seductive, he said, and "one is seduced by scandals. Good news isn't a seductress."
"The seduction of scandal in communication backs one into a corner," in that it destroys people like Naboth or St. Stephen, who was stoned to death by people who didn't want to hear the truth.
There have been "so many people, so many countries destroyed by evil and calumnious dictatorships," he said, including the ones that persecuted the Jews with "calumnious communication" so they ended up in Auschwitz.
"Oh, it was a horror, but it's a horror that happens today -- in small communities, to people, in many countries. The first step is to seize communications, and later destroy, judgment and death," he said.
Official Explains Vatican Media Strategy: Let the Pope Be Himself
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Cindy Wooden || 14 June 2018
To be "successful" on social media, Pope Francis only has to be himself; gimmicks aren't necessary, a Vatican official told Catholic communicators.
"People want the pope just to be the pope," said Natasa Govekar, director of the theological-pastoral department of the Secretariat for Communication. For instance, she said, photos of the pope "with circus performers or wearing a silly hat do not do as well as photos of the pope praying."
People congregate on social media sites, so the Catholic Church must be there with the Gospel message of salvation, love and tenderness, Govekar said June 12 at the Catholic Media Conference in Green Bay.
Asked about the process for determining what tweets go out to the 47 million people who follow the nine-language @Pontifex accounts, Govekar said a team makes suggestions, but Pope Francis has the final say.
Still, she said, in the end "it's not about us. It's not even about the pope. It's about Jesus."
Addressing the first plenary session of the conference June 12-15, Govekar spoke about the Vatican's massive reorganization of its communications efforts and about the importance of moving its media into the digital realm, a process many diocesan newspapers and communications offices are experiencing as well.
The communication secretariat's main task with a communicator like Pope Francis, she said, "is to try not to be an obstacle to what this great communicator already is doing."
Looking at data from March through May 2018, she said, the pope's English-language account showed some preference for tweets contrasting the power of love to violence, while the Spanish-language account showed a preference for tweets related to Lent, Holy Week and Easter.
Across all nine languages, Govekar said, the pope's tweets garnering the highest "engagement" rates -- the rate of tweets soliciting comments or "likes" -- were those that could be described as inspirational or inviting reflection.
On the other hand, she said, tweets related to a political situation in a specific country rarely attract much attention and have low rates of being shared.
With Twitter's maximum 280 characters, the @Pontifex account offers "pills of wisdom" and "capsules of love" in the style Pope Francis himself recommended for effective evangelization in his exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Govekar said.
As Pope Francis wrote, "When we adopt a pastoral goal and a missionary style which would actually reach everyone without exception or exclusion, the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary. The message is simplified, while losing none of its depth and truth, and thus becomes all the more forceful and convincing."
Govekar also watches the newer @Franciscus Instagram account, which has more than 5.6 million followers. The largest group of followers is from Brazil, followed by the United States, she said. And the largest age group for followers is 25-34 years old.
The communications secretariat staff monitor the comments on the social media accounts "because that is the way to know the questions people are asking," she said. It makes no sense to respond to questions or concerns people don't have.
Many people comment appreciatively on how "normal" the pope seems and acts, how tender and human and kind he appears, Govekar said. And if one thinks about it, "normality must be strongly desired to be obtained by a person in the pope's position."
The gestures, particularly the embraces, that have garnered Pope Francis the most positive attention, she said, are "not the result of a communication strategy; it is simply the language of love."
Govekar also said she is struck by how many of the comments describe the pope as "beautiful," but then when love shines through a person or thing, "the result is beauty."
Pope Accepts Resignations of Three Chilean Bishops in Wake of Scandal
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Carol Glatz || 11 June 2018
After an in-depth Vatican-led investigation into clerical sexual abuse and cover-ups, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of 61-year-old Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, Chile, and two other Chilean bishops June 11.
The two other bishops, who had reached the customary retirement age of 75, were Archbishop Cristian Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt and Bishop Gonzalo Duarte Garcia de Cortazar of Valparaiso.
The pope named apostolic administrators to run each diocese in the meantime: Mercedarian Father Ricardo Basilio Morales Galindo, Chilean provincial, for the Archdiocese of Puerto Montt; Auxiliary Bishop Pedro Ossandon Buljevic of Santiago for the Diocese of Valparaiso; and Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Concha Cayuqueo of Santiago for the Diocese of Osorno.
The announcement came as Pope Francis was sending his Vatican team back to Chile to promote healing from the abuse crisis.
Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Father Jordi Bertomeu Farnos were set to visit the Diocese of Osorno "with the aim of advancing the process of reparation and healing of abuse victims," the Vatican said in a statement May 31.
Abuse survivors have alleged that when Bishop Barros was still a priest he witnessed their abuse by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. In 2011, Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.
Archbishop Scicluna, who is president of a board of review handling abuse cases within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Father Bertomeu, an official of the doctrinal congregation, were scheduled to be in Santiago June 12-13 before going to Osorno June 14-17.
The resignation of Bishop Barros comes after years of accusations and questions concerning his knowledge of abuse by his mentor and protests when Pope Francis appointed the then-head of the military ordinariate to head the Diocese of Osorno in 2015.
The pope continued to defend his appointment, telling reporters: "The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny."
A short time later, the Vatican announced Pope Francis was sending Archbishop Scicluna and Father Bertomeu to Chile to listen to people with information about Bishop Barros.
After receiving their 2,300-page report detailing the extent of clergy sexual abuse in Chile, the pope apologized.
In a letter released April 11, Pope Francis said he had been mistaken in his assessment of the situation in Chile, and he begged for forgiveness from survivors and others he offended. He met survivors at the Vatican and has been strong in his criticism of how the Chilean bishops handled the situation. All the Chilean bishops offered their resignations to the pope in response to their handling of the crisis.
Gossip Destroys Holy Spirit's Gift of Peace, Pope Says
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Junno Arocho Esteves || 06 June 2018
Peace is a gift that can easily be destroyed through petty gossip and speaking ill of others, Pope Francis said.
People who receive and give the sign of peace "should be men and women of peace" and not ruin "the peace made by the Holy Spirit with your tongue," the pope said June 6 during his weekly general audience.
"Gossip is not a work of the Holy Spirit, it is not a work of the unity of the church. Gossip destroys the work of God. Please stop gossiping," the pope said.
Continuing his series of audience talks on confirmation, Pope Francis spoke about the gift of the Holy Spirit that Christians receive in the sacrament.
When a person is anointed with oil, that gift "enters us and bears fruit so that we can then give it to others," the pope explained. The gift is not meant to be tucked away and stored "as if the soul was a warehouse."
While it usually is the bishop, who is a successor of the apostles and guarantor of the unity of the church, that confers the sacrament of confirmation upon person, his role does not exclude the bishop from the Christian duty of charity and love.
"Some may think that in the church there are masters -- the pope, the bishops, the priests -- and then the workers who are something else," he said. "No, the church is everyone. And we all have the responsibility of sanctifying one another, of caring for others. The church is 'us.' Everyone has their job in the church, but we are all the church."
During the sacrament of confirmation, he continued, the bishop tells the candidate, "Peace be with you," which is "a gesture that expresses the ecclesial communion with the bishop and with all the faithful."
However, that gift can be lost if Christians start saying mean things about each other once they leave Mass.
"Gossip is war," the pope said. "Poor Holy Spirit! (Imagine) the work he has with us with our habit of gossiping!"
Pope Francis urged the faithful to preach the Gospel with deeds and words "that edify and not with words of gossip that destroy."
Like the parable of the talents, he added, the Holy Spirit's gift is a seed that bears fruit when it is shared with others and not "when it is buried because of selfish fears."
"When we have the seed in hand, it isn't meant to be stored in a closet, it is meant to be sown. All life must be sown so that it bears fruit and multiply. We must give the gift of the Spirit back to the community," the pope said.
Pope to Journalists: Be Responsible, Avoid Ideological Warfare
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Carol Glatz || 04 June 2018
Journalists must meticulously uphold their craft of responsible reporting and not be tempted into partisan or ideological warfare, Pope Francis said.
"Today, in a world where everything is fast, it is ever more urgent to call upon the tough and strenuous rule of exhaustive research, exchange and, if necessary, also keep quiet rather than harm a person or group of people or delegitimize an event," he said.
"I know it's hard, but a life story is understood at the end, and this should help us become courageous and prophetic," the pope told a delegation promoting integrity in journalism June 4.
The delegation, led by Simona Agnes, represented the foundation and jury that award the Biagio Agnes Prize. The prize is named after the late Italian journalist and former general director of Italy's state broadcasting network, RAI. Biagio Agnes' brother, Mario, was a journalist for the Catholic press and headed the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, from 1984 to 2007.
Biago Agnes served the public by seeking to guarantee information that was "correct, credible, authentic and timely," the pope said.
He praised the delegation for its efforts in promoting a form of communication that "knows how to put the truth before personal interests or the interests of corporations."
"In fact, being a journalist has to do with the formation of people, of their vision of the world and their attitude toward events," he said.
This "demanding work" is undergoing profound changes, he said, not only with digital platforms, but also in the way media is produced, presented and communicated.
"It is hard to enter into that process of transformation, but it is increasingly necessary if we want to continue to be educators of the new generations" and offer depth, wisdom and love without getting drowned out in the din of so much information, he said.
When it comes to the truth, he said, "we all know that journalists are called to write what they think, what corresponds to their informed and responsible understanding of an event."
"It's necessary to be very demanding of oneself so as not to fall into the trap of the logic of conflict because of special interests or ideologies," he said.
Pope Francis called on journalists always to offer a sense of hope and meaning to their reporting, even when needing to denounce "situations of degradation and desperation," and to not ignore "the peripheries," where there are stories of suffering and great solidarity.
Pope will Create 14 New Cardinals in June
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Cindy Wooden || 20 May 2018
Pope Francis announced he would make 14 new cardinals June 29, giving the red cardinal's hat to the papal almoner, the Iraq-based patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the archbishop of Karachi, Pakistan, among others.
Announcing his choices May 20, the pope said that coming from 11 nations, the new cardinals "express the universality of the church, which continues to proclaim the merciful love of God to all people of the earth."
Pope Francis' list included three men over the age of 80 "who have distinguished themselves for their service to the church."
When the pope made the announcement, the College of Cardinals had 213 members, 115 of whom were under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope. Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, was to celebrate his 80th birthday June 8.
Under Pope Francis, the idea that some church posts and large archdioceses always are led by a cardinal is fading, but is not altogether gone. His latest choices included the papal vicar of Rome, Cardinal-designate Angelo De Donatis, and the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal-designate Luis F. Ladaria. But other traditional cardinal sees like Venice and Milan in Italy or Baltimore and Philadelphia in the United States were not included in the pope's latest picks.
With the new nominations, the number of cardinal-electors -- those under 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave -- will exceed by five the limit of 120 set by Pope Paul VI. But previous popes also set the limit aside without formally changing the limit.
After the consistory June 29, Pope Francis will have created almost half of the voting cardinals. Nineteen of those under 80 in late June will be cardinals given red hats by St. John Paul II; 47 will have been created by retired Pope Benedict XVI; and 59 will have been welcomed into the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis.
The new cardinals hail from: Iraq, Spain, Italy, Poland, Pakistan, Portugal, Peru, Madagascar, Japan, Mexico and Bolivia.
The new cardinals, listed in the order Pope Francis announced them, are:
-- Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, 69, Iraq.
-- Spanish Archbishop Luis F. Ladaria, 74, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
-- Italian Archbishop Angelo De Donatis, 64, papal vicar for the Diocese of Rome.
-- Italian Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, 69, substitute secretary of state.
-- Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, 54, papal almoner.
-- Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan, 72.
-- Bishop Antonio dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima, Portugal, 71.
-- Archbishop Pedro Barreto of Huancayo, Peru, 74.
-- Archbishop Desire Tsarahazana of Toamasina, Madagascar, 63.
-- Archbishop Giuseppe Petrocchi of L'Aquila, Italy, 69.
-- Archbishop Thomas Aquinas Manyo Maeda of Osaka, Japan, 69.
-- Archbishop Sergio Obeso Rivera, retired archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico, 86.
-- Bishop Toribio Ticona Porco, retired prelate of Corocoro, Bolivia, 81.
-- Spanish Claretian Father Aquilino Bocos Merino, 80.
In 'historic' Move, Pope Names Three Laywomen to Doctrinal Congregation
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Carol Glatz || 23 April 2018
Pope Francis appointed three women as consultors to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It marks the first time women and laypersons were named as active contributors -- not support staff.
The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, called decision to appointment the women "historic." The Vatican announced the appointments April 21.
The new female consultors are:
-- Linda Ghisoni, born in Italy in 1965, is one of two women Pope Francis named to be undersecretaries of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life in 2017. Leading the dicastery's section on the laity, Ghisoni is a seasoned canon lawyer and jurist, having served as both a lawyer and a judge on the Diocese of Rome's tribunal, the Roman Rota and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
After completing her studies in philosophy and theology in Tubingen, Germany, she obtained her doctorate in canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. She did further specialized studies and earned diplomas from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments in 1994 and, in 2002, from the Roman Rota, a Vatican court that deals mainly with marriage cases. She also has authored several scientific publications relating to canon law.
-- Michelina Tenace, born in Italy in 1954, is a professor and head of the department of fundamental theology at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University.
An expert on Christianity in the East, she is also part of Rome's Aletti Center. The center, which is connected to the Jesuit-run Pontifical Oriental Institute, encourages studies of European Christianity and bringing together the cultures and spirituality of the continent's Eastern and Western traditions.
She was one of the six men and six women the pope appointed in 2016 to a commission to study the issue of women deacons, particularly their ministry in the early church.
-- Laetitia Calmeyn, born in Belgium in 1975, is a consecrated virgin and teaches theology at the College des Bernardins in Paris. She is a nurse specializing in palliative care and received her doctorate from the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute.
The pope also named two priests as consultors for the doctrinal congregation: Italian Father Sergio Paolo Bonanni, who teaches theology at the Gregorian University; and Spanish Claretian Father Manuel Arroba Conde, a judge serving the Diocese of Rome, professor at Rome's Pontifical Lateran University and head of the university's Institutum Utriusque Iuris, which specializes in the relationship between canon law and civil law.
Organizer of Bishops’ Summit Says “mind the gap” on Church and Youth
Crux || By Claire Giangravè || 19 April 2018
As the next gathering of Catholic bishops from around the world approaches in October, in an event called a “synod” and devoted this time to the theme of youth, one major question is how to ensure that a document drafted by hundreds of young people detailing their needs and concerns in the run-up to the event doesn’t end up in the dusty cellar of the Vatican’s good intentions.
“Mind the gap, bridge the gap, overcome the gap,” is the formula proposed by one of the main organizers of the bishops’ gathering in October, formally devoted to the theme of “Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment.”
“Mind the gap, like at metro station, means watching where you put your feet,” said Italian Father Rossano Sala, the special secretary nominated by Pope Francis to overlook the October synod. “Bridge the gap means to build relationships, and overcome the gap means to take the first step. Don’t wait for others to come to you.”
“This is no longer a Church waiting to offer hospitality. It’s a Church that asks to be welcomed,” Sala added.
The priest made his remarks during a meeting with the Italian bishops’ conference and religion teachers and educators, titled Don’t be afraid of dreaming big things. The Church for the school, looking at the 2018 Synod, which took place at the Hotel Midas in Rome April 16-18.
According to the priest, the last few synods - on the family, and now on youth - underline the weaknesses of the Church in catering to the future.
“It puts the finger in the wounds in order to think seriously, to think about the face of the Church in the third millennium,” Sala said.
The speech explained the conclusions drawn from the final document created in March by the 20-year-olds from all over the globe and with different religious backgrounds that will serve as working material for the bishops in October.
It was addressed to the religious teachers in Rome, whom Sala described as “being in the trenches,” outside of the ecclesial world and close to young people.
He urged a crowd of 200 or so Catholic educators to acknowledge the doubts and challenges that young people face today, and to begin to incorporate in their work what is already emerging from the preparatory document and the episcopal conferences.
“The synod is not the solution, and will not be a solution,” Sala said. “But it will be a great opportunity.”
Mind the Gap
Many youth, especially in the West, are abandoning the Church and viewing faith as something increasingly personal and not necessarily mediated by a priest or the Catholic hierarchy. This issue was expressed time and time again in a final document drafted during a summit of young people from around the world held in Rome March 19-24. In addition to the physical gathering of roughly 300 young delegates selected by bishops’ conferences, the document was also shaped by the contributions of roughly 15,000 young people participating online.
Minding the gap, Sala explained, means acknowledging the distance that has grown between youth and the Church.
A Roman deacon at the conference took the microphone to say that as an educator spending his life with youth, he did not feel like such a gap is the reality, suggesting that the final document of that pre-synod session didn’t really portray efforts already in place.
“Put yourselves in the shoes of young people,” Sala answered. “When they said that young people have drawn away, you felt a little hurt, as I am every day.” Sala has 20 years experience working day in and day out in schools in close contact with young people and said that he himself struggled with the concept.
But for the priest, the issue is the mentality educators use to attract young people to the Church, which is no longer effective. He said, if the goal is to bring them “back to the pen,” meaning the Church, it’s not going to cut it.
“The theme of distance is the theme of places. I advocate a pastoral approach of focusing on places: schools, the university, the playground,” he said. “If the objective is to lead youth into the Church, we will fail, because it’s impossible.”
Bridge the gap
Having acknowledged that the gap between many young people and the Church exists, it becomes a question of bridging that distance. Sala said that religion teachers in schools are the first in line to meet young people in the places where they actually are.
“Most kids who meet you, don’t then meet the Church,” Sala said. “Sometimes experience in school is the only experience young people will have of the Church.”
Quoting from a document written by an episcopal conference, he added that the sensus fidelium, or ‘sense of the faith,’ “can’t not pass through youth,” and that perhaps a better way of thinking about kids who are asking for more participation in the Church is not in terms of youth “and” the Church, but youth “in” the Church.
The final document highlighted that Millennials, young people between 16 and 25, are not “simply spoiled little kids,” but a force in the Church that provokes thought and discernment. Lending an open ear to their concerns and not preaching at them from a soapbox, he said, is an essential step in bridging the gap.
“If faith doesn’t touch our conscience it’s doing too little,” he said. “How many times has the Church entrenched itself on liturgical processes, which draw away from the Church?”
Young people today are looking to the concrete, he continued, saying “we need to take our faithful seriously.”
In line with Pope Francis’s rhetoric about building bridges, not walls, Sala pointed to one wall that is an obstacle to implementing the objectives of this synod.
“The real wall is between the curial offices,” he said, referring to the bureaucratic departments of the Vatican. “To have an integral outlook we need to be integrated and recognize and respect that there are other points of view that are different from our own.”
“The separation and relational incapacity among the Church’s departments are killing our pastoral approach,” he added. “This fragmentation, this specialization… it no longer works.”
Overcome the gap
Vocation is the key to overcoming the separation between youth and the Church, Sala explained. Bishops’ conferences from all over the world emphasized the theme of vocation related to mission and journey, he said, and especially in schools it becomes a powerful instrument, coupled with discernment, to enter “the dynamic of searching for truth.”
The real question, he continued, is not to find out “who are you, but for whom are you?” following the pope’s call to leadership and service to others. “Vocation is finding out what you are good at,” Sala said, adding that adults must be an example because “kids will figure out in five minutes when you enter a classroom if you have a vocation.”
The youth’s final document called for Church leaders, consecrated, lay and religious, to serve as an example of “authenticity” and “holiness,” because “knowing that models of faith are both authentic and vulnerable allows one to feel that young people can be so too.”
Given these characteristic one might be tempted to change jobs, Sala joked, but all kidding aside, he said, “No, we will work hard to get better.”
Pope Tells Grieving Child: Your Atheist Father is in Heaven
Catholic Herald || By Staff Reporter || 16 April 2018
'God has the heart of a father, your father was a good man, he is in heaven with Him,' the Pope said
Pope Francis comforted a grieving child by telling him that his atheist father is in heaven.
During a visit to Rome’s deprived Corviale district on Sunday, the Pope answered questions from a group of children. One of them, a boy called Emanuele, burst into tears when he met the Pope.
After giving the child a long hug, Pope Francis asked him what was troubling him. Emanuele whispered in the Pope’s ear that his father, who was an atheist, had recently died and he was worried he could be in hell.
Pope Francis asked Emanuele for permission to tell the crowd what he had said, and then announced (according to La Stampa): “If only we could cry like Emanuele when we have pain in our hearts.”
The Pope said that although Emanuele’s father was an atheist, “he had his four children baptised, he was a good man. It’s nice that a son says that about his father, that he ‘was good’. If that man was able to raise his children like that, then he was a good man. God is proud of your father.”
The Pope continued: “God has the heart of a father, your father was a good man, he is in heaven with Him, be sure. God has a father’s heart and would God ever abandon a non-believing father who baptised his children? God was certainly proud of your father, because it is easier to be a believer and have your children baptised than to be a non-believer and have your children baptised. Pray for your father, talk to your father. That is the answer.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire’. The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.
“The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion.”
Source: Catholic Herald…
Pope Francis Says He Made ‘serious mistakes’ Over Chile Abuse Crisis
Catholic Herald || By Junno Arocho Esteves || 11 April 2018
'I ask forgiveness of all those I have offended,' Pope says in letter to Chilean bishops
Pope Francis has apologised for underestimating the seriousness of the sexual abuse crisis in Chile following a recent investigation into allegations concerning Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno.
The Pope said he made “serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information”.
“I ask forgiveness of all those I have offended and I hope to be able to do it personally in the coming weeks,” the Pope said in the letter, which was released by the Vatican. Several survivors apparently have been invited to the Vatican to meet the Pope.
Abuse victims alleged that Bishop Barros – then a priest – had witnessed their abuse by his mentor, Fr Fernando Karadima. In 2011, Fr Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys. Fr Karadima denied the charges. He was not prosecuted civilly because the statute of limitations had run out.
Protesters and victims said Bishop Barros is guilty of protecting Fr Karadima and was physically present while some of the abuse was going on.
During his visit to Chile in January, Pope Francis asked forgiveness for the sexual abuse committed by some priests in Chile.
“I feel bound to express my pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some of the ministers of the Church,” he said.
However, speaking to reporters, he pledged his support for Bishop Barros and said: “The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny.”
He later apologised to the victims and admitted that his choice of words wounded many.
A short time later, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis was sending a trusted investigator to Chile to listen to people with information about Bishop Barros.
The investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, is president of a board of review within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The board handles appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse or other serious crimes. The archbishop also had 10 years of experience as the Vatican’s chief prosecutor of clerical sex abuse cases at the doctrinal congregation.
Pope Francis said Archbishop Scicluna and his aide, Fr Jordi Bertomeu Farnos, heard the testimony of 64 people and presented him with more than 2,300 pages of documentation. Not all of the witnesses spoke about Fr Karadima and Bishop Barros; several of them gave testimony about abuse alleged to have occurred at a Marist Brothers’ school.
After a “careful reading” of the testimonies, the Pope said, “I believe I can affirm that all the testimonies collected speak in a brutal way, without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives and, I confess, it has caused me pain and shame.”
The Pope said he was convening a meeting in Rome with the 34 Chilean bishops to discuss the findings of the investigations and his own conclusions “without prejudices nor preconceived ideas, with the single objective of making the truth shine in our lives”.
Pope Francis said he wanted to meet the bishops to discern immediate and long-term steps to “re-establish ecclesial communion in Chile in order to repair the scandal as much as possible and re-establish justice”.
Archbishop Scicluna and Fr Bertomeu, the Pope said, had been overwhelmed by the “maturity, respect and kindness” of the victims who testified.
“As pastors,” the Pope told the bishops, “we must express the same feeling and cordial gratitude to those who, with honesty [and] courage” requested to meet with the envoys and “showed them the wounds of their soul”.
Following the release of Pope Francis’s letter, Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales, president of the bishops’ conference and head of the military ordinariate, said the bishops of Chile would travel to the Vatican in the third week of May.
The bishops, he said, shared in the Pope’s pain.
“We have not done enough,” he said in a statement. “Our commitment is that this does not happen again.”
Source: Catholic Herald…
Pope Francis Issues Exhortation Praising the ‘middle class’ of Holiness
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Hannah Brockhaus || 09 April 2018
Pope Francis released an apostolic exhortation in which he aims to “repropose” the universal call to holiness – which he says is the mission of life for every person.
Published April 9, Gaudete et exsultate, or “Rejoice and be glad,” is Francis’ third apostolic exhortation. It is subtitled “On the call to holiness in the contemporary world.”
The 44-page exhortation explains that holiness is the mission of every Christian, and gives practical advice for living out the call to holiness in ordinary, daily life, encouraging the practice of the Beatitudes and performing works of mercy.
Francis mentioned the holiness “in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them ‘the middle class of holiness.’”
Francis said that all Catholics that, like the saints, “need to see the entirety of your life as a mission,” and explained that this is accomplished by listening to God in prayer and asking the Holy Spirit for guidance in each moment and decision.
“A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness,” he stated, explaining that this path has its “fullest meaning in Christ, and can only be understood through him.”
Using the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Francis wrote that “holiness is nothing other than charity lived to the full.” As a result, the measure of our holiness stems not from our own achievement, but “from the stature that Christ achieves in us.”
Therefore, Pope Francis said, to walk the path of holiness requires prayer and contemplation alongside action; the two cannot be separated.
The pope also touched on what he calls the “two enemies of holiness” – modern versions of the heresies of Pelagianism and Gnosticism, saying that these lead to “false forms of holiness.”
In the modern form of Gnosticism, Francis said, one believes that faith is purely subjective, and that the intellect is the supreme form of perfection, not charity.
This can lead Catholics to think that “because we know something, or are able to explain it in certain terms, we are already saints,” he said, when really, “what we think we know should always motivate us to respond more fully to God’s love.”
In contemporary Pelagianism, he said the common error is to believe that it is by our own effort that we achieve sanctity, forgetting that everything in fact “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy (Rom. 9:16).”
The pope explained that “the Church has repeatedly taught that we are justified not by our own works or efforts, but by the grace of the Lord, who always takes the initiative,” and that even our cooperation with the gift of divine grace is itself “a prior gift of that same grace.”
Some may be asked, through God’s grace, for grand gestures of holiness – as can be seen in the lives of many of the saints, Francis said – but many people are called to live the mission of holiness in a more ordinary way, and in the context of their vocation.
However large or small one’s call seems, Francis said that acts of charity are always undertaken “by God’s grace,” not as people “sufficient unto ourselves, but rather ‘as good stewards of the manifold grace of God’ (1 Peter 4:10),” he said.
The pope offered several practical recommendations for living out these “small gestures.” In addition to the frequent reception of the sacraments and attendance at Mass, he said that in the Beatitudes Jesus explains “with great simplicity what it means to be holy.”
He also said that a way to practice holiness is through the works of mercy, though he warned that to think good works can be separated from a personal relationship with God and openness to grace is to make Christianity into “a sort of NGO.”
The saints, on the other hand, show us that “mental prayer, the love of God and the reading of the Gospel” in no way detract from “passionate and effective commitment to their neighbors.”
The pope highlighted several qualities he finds especially important for living holiness in today’s culture, including: perseverance, patience, humility, joy, a sense of humor, boldness, and passion.
Boldness and passion, he said, are important in order to avoid despondency or mediocrity, which he said can weaken us in the ongoing spiritual battle against evil.
In the journey toward holiness, “the cultivation of all that is good, progress in the spiritual life and growth in love are the best counterbalance to evil,” he said, emphasizing that the existence of the devil is not a myth or an abstract idea, but a “personal being that assails us.”
“Those who choose to remain neutral, who are satisfied with little, who renounce the ideal of giving themselves generously to the Lord, will never hold out” against temptation, he stated.
“For this spiritual combat, we can count on the powerful weapons that the Lord has given us: faith-filled prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of Mass, Eucharistic adoration, sacramental Reconciliation, works of charity, community life, missionary outreach,” he listed.
About the importance of prayer on the path to holiness, the pope said that though “the Lord speaks to us in a variety of ways, at work, through others and at every moment… we simply cannot do without the silence of prolonged prayer.”
“Naturally, this attitude of listening entails obedience to the Gospel as the ultimate standard, but also to the Magisterium that guards it,” he stated, “as we seek to find in the treasury of the Church whatever is most fruitful for the ‘today’ of salvation.”
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States bishops' conference, praised the exhortation in a statement released Monday, saying: “In this exhortation, Pope Francis is very clear – he is doing his duty as the Vicar of Christ, by strongly urging each and every Christian to freely, and without any qualifications, acknowledge and be open to what God wants them to be – that is ‘to be holy, as He is holy’ (1 Pet 1:15). The mission entrusted to each of us in the waters of baptism was simple – by God’s grace and power, we are called to become saints.”
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Pope Francis to Issue Apostolic Exhortation on Holiness
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Hannah Brockhaus || 05 April 2018
Pope Francis will next week publish an apostolic exhortation on holiness titled Gaudete et exsultate, or “Rejoice and be glad”, the Vatican announced Thursday.
Subtitled “on the call to holiness in the contemporary world”, the exhortation will be presented April 9 by Archbishop Angelo De Donatis, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome and archpriest of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.
Italian journalist Gianni Valente and Paola Bignardi, former president of Catholic Action Italy, will also speak at the presentation.
Gaudete et exsultate will be the third apostolic exhortation issued by Pope Francis. In 2016 he issued Amoris laetitia, on love in the family, and in 2013 Evangelii gaudium, on the proclamation of the Gospel in today's world.
An apostolic exhortation is one form of the ordinary teaching authority of the Pope. Through an exhortation, the Pope conveys a message to faithful about a particular area relevant to living out the Catholic faith.
An apostolic exhortation is often written as a follow-up document to a Synod of Bishops, as was the case for Amoris laetitia.
Gaudete et exsultate follows just a little more than a month behind the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s March 1 letter to bishops on certain aspects of Christian salvation, Placuit Deo, which refers to the errors of Pelagianism and Gnosticism in helping to explain the threat of the errors Pope Francis has called “new Pelagianism” and “new Gnosticism.”
According to Placuit Deo, the new Pelagianism is an “individualism centered on the autonomous subject [which] tends to see the human person as a being whose sole fulfilment depends only on his or her own strength.”
The document cites a 2013 address of Pope Francis to explain that the new Gnosticism “presumes to liberate the human person from the body and from the material universe, in which traces of the provident hand of the Creator are no longer found, but only a reality deprived of meaning, foreign to the fundamental identity of the person, and easily manipulated by the interests of man.”
In his latest exhortation, Pope Francis will likely expound on these modern errors giving guidance on how to avoid them and how to achieve holiness in the modern age.
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Pope Accepts Resignation of Vatican Communications Prefect
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Cindy Wooden || 21 March 2018
After a very public controversy involving the use of a letter by retired Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Msgr. Dario Vigano as prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Communication.
Announcing the move March 21, the Vatican published Msgr. Vigano's letter to Pope Francis asking to resign and Pope Francis' reply accepting it.
However, Pope Francis asked Msgr. Vigano, 55, to remain at the secretariat as "assessor" to "make your human and professional contribution" in assisting whoever is named the new prefect as the Vatican continues its long and complicated work of unifying its communications efforts and various media outlets.
The controversy began March 12 at the presentation of a 11-volume series of books, "The Theology of Pope Francis." Msgr. Vigano had asked the retired pope for a theological reflection on the series.
At the book presentation, Msgr. Vigano read selected sentences from Pope Benedict's letter declining to write the reflection. The Secretariat for Communications also published a photograph showing the first page of the letter, with several lines purposefully blurred, and the second page, except for the signature, covered by a book.
An uproar ensued over the intentional blurring of the photograph and questions were raised in the media about what exactly the letter said. In the end, the Vatican released the full text March 17. It showed that not only had Pope Benedict said he was unable to read the full series, but that he objected to one of the authors chosen to write one of the volumes.
In his letter of resignation, Msgr. Vigano told Pope Francis that although it was not intentional, his actions had "destabilized the complex and great work of reform" with which the pope had entrusted him.
"I think that for me stepping aside would be a fruitful occasion for renewal," the monsignor wrote.
Pope Francis had named Msgr. Vigano prefect of the secretariat when it was created in June 2015. The monsignor had been director of the Vatican Television Center. The new secretariat was charged with unifying into one the offices and tasks previously handled by nine entities: the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; the Vatican press office; the Vatican internet office; Vatican Radio; the Vatican television production studio, CTV; the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano; the Vatican printing press; the Vatican photograph service; and the Vatican publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Vatican Releases Full Text of Contested Letter from Pope Benedict
Catholic News Service || By Cindy Wooden || 17 March 2018
Five days after releasing only a portion of a letter from retired Pope Benedict XVI regarding a collection of books about the theology of Pope Francis, the Vatican Secretariat for Communication released the complete text of the letter.
In a portion of the letter never read at the presentation of the books nor shown in a blurred photograph of it distributed by the secretariat, Pope Benedict expressed his surprise at the choice of one of the theologians tapped to author a volume, Father Peter Hunermann, a retired professor of dogmatic theology at Tubingen University in Germany.
In the letter, released March 17, Pope Benedict said that "during my pontificate" Father Hunermann "led anti-papal initiatives" and that, after St. John Paul II published "Veritatis Splendor" in 1993, Father Hunermann was a major participant in a declaration by theologians attacking "in a virulent way the magisterial authority of the pope, especially on questions of moral theology."
Pope Benedict's letter was addressed to Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communication, who had read selected paragraphs from the letter March 12 at the presentation of the volumes, "The Theology of Pope Francis."
The books contradict "the foolish prejudice of those who see Pope Francis as someone who lacks a particular theological and philosophical formation, while I would have been considered solely a theorist of theology with little understanding of the concrete lives of today's Christian," the retired pontiff wrote in the section read by Msgr. Vigano and shown clearly in the photograph.
The communications prefect also read the lines that were blurred in the photograph explaining that 91-year-old Pope Benedict could not write a theological commentary on the volumes since he had not read them and would be unable to do so.
In a statement released with the full text of the letter March 17, the Secretariat for Communication said the earlier excerpting of the letter and the blurring of lines on the photograph of the letter's first page was not intended to deceive.
"From the private letter, that which seemed opportune and relative to the initiative was read, particularly what the emeritus pope affirmed about the philosophical and theological formation of the current pontiff and about the interior union between the two pontificates, omitting some notes relative to the contributors of the series," the statement said.
"The choice was motivated by privacy and not by any intent of censure," the statement continued. "To dispel every doubt it was then decided to make the letter known in its entirety."
Retired Pope Says Criticism against Pope Francis is 'foolish prejudice'
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Junno Arocho Esteves || 14 March 2018
On the eve of the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis' election, retired Pope Benedict XVI defended the continuity of the church's teaching under his successor and dismissed those who criticize the pope's theological foundations.
In a letter sent to Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Communication, Pope Benedict applauded the publication of a new book series titled, "The Theology of Pope Francis."
"It contradicts the foolish prejudice of those who see Pope Francis as someone who lacks a particular theological and philosophical formation, while I would have been considered solely a theorist of theology with little understanding of the concrete lives of today's Christian," the retired pontiff wrote.
The Secretariat for Communication released a photograph of the letter in which the final lines of the first page were blurred. While Pope Benedict said early in the letter that he hoped the 11 volumes would put an end to the "foolish prejudice" against Pope Francis, in the blurred lines the retired pope said he could not write a complete theological reflection on the 11 volumes because he had not read them and would be physically unable to do so in time for the presentation of the volumes to the public.
Msgr. Vigano read from the letter, including the blurred lines, during a presentation of the 11-volume series March 12.
The Vatican press office did not say why the lines were blurred, but said the Vatican never intended to publish the complete text. In fact, the second page of the letter -- except for Pope Benedict's signature, is covered by books.
Before reading the letter, Msgr. Vigano said he sent a message to Pope Francis and Pope Benedict regarding the publication of the book series.
He also asked if Pope Benedict would be "willing to write a page or a page and a half of dense theology in his clear and punctual style that (we) would have liked to read this evening."
Instead, the retired pontiff "wrote a beautiful, personal letter that I will read to you," Msgr. Vigano said.
Pope Benedict thanked Msgr. Vigano for having given him a copy of "The Theology of Pope Francis" book series, which was authored by several notable theologians.
"These small volumes reasonably demonstrate that Pope Francis is a man with profound philosophical and theological formation and are helpful to see the interior continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences in style and temperament," he wrote.
Pope Benedict has made no secret of his affection for and admiration of Pope Francis.
During a Vatican celebration for the 65th anniversary of Pope Benedict's priestly ordination June 28, 2016, the retired pope expressed his sincere gratefulness to Pope Francis, saying that his goodness "from the first moment of your election, in every moment of my life here, touches me deeply."
"More than the beauty found in the Vatican Gardens, your goodness is the place where I live; I feel protected," Pope Benedict said.
Five Years of Pope Francis: A Paradigm Shift in Mercy, Migrants and Marriage
The Globe and Mail || By Nicole Winfield || 12 March 2018
Whenever Pope Francis visits prisons, during his whirlwind trips to the world’s peripheries or at a nearby jailhouse in Rome, he always tells inmates that he, too, could have ended up behind bars: “Why you and not me?” he asks.
That humble empathy and the ease with which he walks in others’ shoes has won Francis admirers around the globe and confirmed his place as a consummate champion of the poor and disenfranchised.
But as he marks the fifth anniversary of his election Tuesday and looks ahead to an already troubled 2018, Francis faces criticism for both the merciful causes he has embraced and the ones he has neglected. With women and sex abuse topping the latter list, a consensus view is forming that history’s first Latin American pope is perhaps a victim of unrealistic expectations and his own culture.
Nevertheless, Francis’ first five years have been a dizzying introduction to a new kind of pope, one who prizes straight talk over theology and mercy over morals — all for the sake of making the Church a more welcoming place for those who have felt excluded.
“I think he’s fantastic, very human, very simple,” Marina Borges Martinez, a 77-year-old retiree, said as she headed into evening Mass at a church in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “I think he’s managed to bring more people into the church with the way he is.”
Many point to his now famous “Who am I to judge?” comment about a gay priest as the turning point that disaffected Catholics had longed for and were unsure they would ever see.
Others hold out Francis’ cautious opening to allowing Catholics who remarry outside the church to receive Communion as his single most revolutionary step. It was contained in a footnote to his 2016 document “The Joy of Love.”
“I have met people who told me they returned to the Catholic faith because of this pope,” Ugandan Archbishop John Baptist Odama, who heads the local conference of Catholic bishops, said.
“Simple as he may be, he has passed a very powerful message about our God who loves everybody and who wants the salvation of everyone.”
Another area in which Francis has sought change extends into global politics, with his demand for governments and individuals to treat migrants as brothers and sisters in need, not as threats to society’s wellbeing and security.
After a visit to a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece, Francis brought a dozen Syrian Muslim refugees home with him on the papal plane. The Vatican has turned over three apartments to refugee families. Two African migrants recently joined the Vatican athletics team.
His call has gone largely unanswered in much of Europe and the United States, though, where opposing immigration has become a tool in political campaigns. Italians in the pope’s backyard voted overwhelmingly this month for parties that have promised to crack down on migration, including with forced expulsions.
The Pew Research Center found that while Francis still enjoys a consistently high 84 per centfavourability ratings among U.S. Catholics, an increasing number on the political right believe him to be “too liberal” and naive. Despite all the talk of “the Francis effect” bringing Catholics back to church, Pew found no evidence of a rise in self-proclaimed Catholics or Mass-goers.
Whether he ultimately will be remembered as a unifying or divisive figure, the world has gotten to know the man formerly known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina who emerged on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica as pope on March 13, 2013, and quipped that his brother cardinals had to search to the “end of the Earth” to find a new leader.
There have been magical moments: When Francis wept hearing the life story of an Albanian priest who was tortured during communist rule, and later made the clergyman a cardinal. When his whispery voice weakened as he met with Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees and told them, “The presence of God today is also called Rohingya.”
But not all are pleased.
When Francis created room for remarried Catholics to receive Communion, a few dozen traditionalist academics and clergy accused him of heresy. Four of his cardinals formally asked for clarification. Conservatives in the U.S. and Europe wrung their hands trying to square how Christ’s vicar on Earth could seemingly condone adultery under the guise of mercy.
“At the end of the day, ‘The Joy of Love’ is the result of a new paradigm that Pope Francis is bringing forward,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, said. “Probably the difficulty that exists in the church is due to this change of attitude that the pope is asking for.”
One cause Francis is accused of neglecting reared its head last week. A coalition of Catholic women gathered at Francis’ own Jesuit headquarters in Rome to demand he provide women with a voice and a place at the decision-making table in the Catholic Church.
“Women’s right to equality arises organically from divine justice. It does not and should not depend on ad hoc papal benevolence or magnaminity,” former Irish President Mary McAleese said.
To be fair, Francis appointed a study commission on ordaining women deacons. He has named a woman to head the Vatican City’s biggest cash cow, the Vatican Museums. He empowered ordinary priests, not just bishops, to absolve women who have had abortions and put Mary Magdalene on par with the male apostles by declaring a feast day in her honour.
But no woman heads a Holy See office, no woman sits on his kitchen cabinet. The Vatican’s women’s magazine ran a scathing expose this month of how nuns are treated like indentured servants by the bishops and cardinals they serve.
The other major unmet expectation is on the clerical sex abuse front. Francis set the bar high when he vowed “zero tolerance” for abuse, created an ad-hoc commission of experts to advise him and publicly pledged that bishops would be held accountable when they botched cases.
But he scrapped a planned tribunal to judge those bishops, allowed his advisory commission to lapse and most recently, shocked even his closest advisers by callously dismissing accusations of coverup lodged by victims of Chile’s most notorious predator priest.
The episode further cemented the impression that the 81-year-old Jesuit simply hasn’t grasped how important the scandal is in many parts of the world, and how his papacy will be judged by it.
Source: Globe and Mail…
Vatican Conference Hopes to 'hack' into Social Issues
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Junno Arocho Esteves || 08 March 2018
The Vatican will host a fast-paced gathering of students, developers and entrepreneurs from around the world that aims to find high-tech solutions for complex global issues.
While issues addressed at the March 8-11 "VHacks: A hackathon at the Vatican" conference include the migrant and refugee crisis, the focus will be on viewing the problem from a different perspective, said Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
"When we talk about migrants and refugees, we tend to talk about it in vast terms as if it were a huge problem or a so-called global problem. But in fact, it's a collection of very individual problems, particular problems of persons and of families," Father Czerny told Catholic News Service March 8.
Several tech giants, including Google and Microsoft, are sponsoring the 36-hour hackathon, which "is a sprint-like event in which multi-disciplinary teams (including computer programmers, graphic designers, project managers, etc.) collaborate to create solutions under a time constraint," a statement from VHacks said.
The 120 students attending the conference, including five students from Georgetown University, will seek to use technology to address other issues such as social inclusion and interfaith dialogue.
Speaking at a press briefing about the event, Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz, secretary of the Vatican Secretariat for Communications, told journalists the idea of hosting a hackathon "was very important" for the Vatican and especially for Pope Francis.
"When I spoke to him about this idea, he was so happy and he said, 'We must do it!'" Msgr. Ruiz said. "We discussed it with him and he wanted this idea, this project, to be a reality."
Father Czerny told CNS that although the conference may not solve the migrant and refugee crisis on a global scale, he hoped it would use technology to come up with solutions for individuals such as apps that can help migrants find lost documents or a place to stay.
"Now you may say putting up somebody for a night or getting a document is not going to solve the global migration crisis," Father Czerny said. "But then I say that's partly because we are thinking wrongly. We're not understanding it from the viewpoint of the people who really need help and who can be helped if we identify the problems."
Aside from developing possible technological solutions to social issues, Father Czerny said the Vatican-sponsored hackathon helps young people become "more informed and especially more concerned about the migrant and refugee issue."
"These young people are future -- you might say -- activists and even leaders in the high-tech sector," Father Czerny told CNS. "And I am counting on them to bring this sensitivity, this awareness to their future work and their future leadership and this will be an improvement and a contribution."
Vatican Court Charges Former IOR President with Embezzlement
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Hannah Brockhaus || 05 March 2018
A former president of the Institute of Religious Works, the so-called “Vatican Bank,” and his lawyer, have been ordered to stand trial at the Vatican on charges of embezzlement and money laundering.
According to a press release from the institute, Angelo Caloia, 78, president of the IOR from 1989 to 2009, and his lawyer, Gabriele Liuzzo, 94, are accused of participating in “unlawful conduct” from 2001-2008, during “the disposal of a considerable part of the institute’s real estate assets.”
The institute is seeking compensation for damages estimated at more than 50 million euro (62 million dollars). Caloia is the highest-ranking Holy See financial official to be indicted.
Former IOR director general Lelio Scaletti, who died Oct. 15, 2015, was part of the original investigation, launched in 2014 after complaints were lodged by the IOR. The trial is set to begin March 15.
According to the press release published by the IOR Feb. 26, the trial is an important step that “shows once again the significant commitment that IOR’s management has undertaken in the last four years in order to implement strong and transparent governance, which complies with the most rigorous international standards.”
It also stated that the institute “intends to pursue by civil and criminal judicial proceedings any illicit activity carried out to its detriment, no matter where it occurred and who performed it.”
The institute announced that it has also joined a civil suit, in addition to the criminal proceedings.
In February, a Vatican Court found former IOR general director, Paolo Cipriani and former deputy general director, Massimo Tulli, liable for mismanagement, and ordered them to compensate the IOR for resulting damages.
The news of the sentence against the IOR’s former senior managers was delivered Feb. 6 in a short release that provided no names, nor the amount of money to be compensated.
The Institute for Religious Works was founded in 1942 under Ven. Pius XII but has origins dating back to 1887. It aims to hold and administer finances designated for “religious works or charity,” its website says. It accepts deposits from legal entities or persons of the Holy See and of the Vatican City State. The main function of the bank is to manage bank accounts for religious orders and Catholic associations.
According to 2016 figures, the bank has about $7 billion in assets from almost 15,000 customers. It has about 100 employees and turned a profit of about $44 million.
The Board of Superintendence governs the bank under a six-member Commission of Cardinals. The commission is supervised by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló.
Since his election as Bishop of Rome in 2013, Pope Francis has sought to reform the Vatican’s bank and other financial aspects of the Holy See. The process has not been easy. There have been various debates about jurisdiction, oversight, and auditing; establishment of new laws and guidelines; and changes in key personnel and leadership.
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Pope, Cardinal Advisers Studying Regional Tribunals for Abuse Cases
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By By Junno Arocho Esteves || 28 February 2018
Pope Francis and his international Council of Cardinals discussed the possibility of establishing regional tribunals around the world that would judge cases of sexual abuse allegedly committed by clergy, the Vatican spokesman said.
Greg Burke, the spokesman, confirmed a report published Feb. 27 on the website Vatican Insider that said the pope and his cardinal advisers were considering decentralizing the role of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in handling cases, but would not diminish the congregation's authority.
"I can say that this is one of the options. The pope himself spoke about this in one of his press conferences," Burke told journalists Feb. 28.
The Council of Cardinals, often referred to as the C9, held its first meeting of the year Feb. 26-28 with Pope Francis. The pope appointed the council members five years ago to advise him on the reform of the Roman Curia and on church governance.
During his flight to Rome from Fatima last May, Pope Francis spoke to reporters about the possibility of establishing regional tribunals. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the pope told journalists, was overwhelmed with "many delayed cases because they have been piling up." He added that discussions on the regional tribunals were "in the planning stage."
"For this, we are thinking of providing continent-wide assistance, one or two per continent. For example -- in Latin America -- one in Colombia, another in Brazil. They would be continental pre-tribunals or tribunals," he said.
According to Vatican Insider, the establishment of regional tribunals also would resolve the complication of dealing with cases in various countries with different laws and customs, thus allowing for a faster process in examining those cases.
Burke emphasized that if established, regional tribunals "would always be under" the authority of the doctrinal congregation.
The Vatican spokesman said the council also discussed the role of bishops' conferences and ways the conferences could contribute to discussions on theological issues in a more collegial spirit.
Pope Francis, in his 2013 exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel," had written about the need for a greater role for bishops' conferences, asserting that "excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the church's life and her missionary outreach."
Among other documents, Burke said, the Council of Cardinals looked at St. John Paul II's 1998 apostolic letter on the theological and juridical nature of bishops' conferences.
"It is a question of re-reading the motu proprio, 'Apostolos Suos,' in a spirit of healthy decentralization that the pope often speaks of (while) reaffirming that it is always he who guards unity in the church," Burke said.
The Council of Cardinals will meet again April 23-25. Its members are: Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Sean P. O'Malley of Boston; Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; George Pell, head of the Secretariat of the Economy; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.
Cardinal Pell, who is on a leave of absence while facing charges of sexual abuse filed against him in Australia, was not in attendance. Cardinal Monsengwo was unable to attend the first day of the meeting because of a flight cancellation due to a rare snowstorm that struck Rome Feb. 26, Burke said.
Cardinal Sarah: Communion in the Hand Part of ‘diabolical attack’ on Eucharist
Catholic Herald || By Staff Reporter || 23 February 2018
The cardinal called for greater respect for the Blessed Sacrament
The widespread practice of Catholics receiving communion in the hand while standing up is part of Satan’s attack on the Church, the head of the Vatican department dealing with liturgy has said.
In the preface to a book on the subject, Cardinal Robert Sarah lamented the lack of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, saying this leads to belief in “errors” on the matter.
“The most insidious diabolical attack consists in trying to extinguish faith in the Eucharist, sowing errors and favouring an unsuitable manner of receiving it,” the cardinal wrote.
“Truly the war between Michael and his Angels on one side, and Lucifer on the other, continues in the heart of the faithful: Satan’s target is the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated host.
“Why do we insist on communicating standing in the hand? Why this attitude of lack of submission to the signs of God?
“[Receiving kneeling and on the tongue] is much more suited to the sacrament itself. I hope there can be a rediscovery and promotion of the beauty and pastoral value of this manner. In my opinion and judgment, this is an important question on which the church today must reflect. This is a further act of adoration and love that each of us can offer to Jesus Christ.”
The cardinal’s preface appears in the new book ‘The distribution of Communion on the hand: a historical, juridical and pastoral survey’ by Don Federico Bortoli. It was reproduced on the Italian website La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana.
Communion in the hand, he points out, “involves a great dispersion of fragments” of the Host, which, although small, are still the body of the Lord. Failure to respect this can cause people to lose their belief in the Real Presence, leading Catholics to think: “If even the parish priest does not pay attention to the fragments, if he administers the Communion so that the fragments can be dispersed, then it means that Jesus is not in them, or only ‘up to a certain point'”.
Cardinal Sarah also criticises “outrages” against the Blessed Sacrament. These include not only satanic ‘Black Masses’, but also sacrilegious communions (received while in a state of mortal sin) and ‘intercommunion’ (received by non-Catholics).
We should not receive Communion like any other food, he adds, saying Catholics must retain a sense of the sacred.
“Why are we so proud and insensitive to the signs that God himself offers us for our spiritual growth and our intimate relationship with Him?” the cardinal asks. “Why do we not kneel down to receive Holy Communion on the example of the saints? Is it really too humiliating to bow down and kneel before the Lord Jesus Christ?”
Source: Catholic Herald…
Pope to Young People: Take the World Youth Day Challenge
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Carol Glatz || 22 February 2018
It's time to break free from fear, fake online personas and looking at the world through a digital screen display, Pope Francis told young people.
"Do not allow the spark of youth to be extinguished in the darkness of a closed room in which the only window to the outside world is a computer and smartphone," the pope told youths in his annual message for local celebrations of World Youth Day.
"Open wide the doors of your life! May your time and space be filled with meaningful relationships, real people with whom to share your authentic and concrete experiences of daily life," he said in the message, published Feb. 22 at the Vatican.
In preparation for the next international celebration of World Youth Day -- which will be held in Panama Jan. 22-27, 2019 -- many dioceses will have their own celebrations Palm Sunday, March 25.
The Panama gathering will focus on Mary's response to the angel Gabriel's announcement that God had chosen her to bear the child Jesus: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." The 2018 theme chosen by Pope Francis is the angel's reassurance, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God."
Many young people today are afraid -- afraid of never being accepted, of finding a good job and even of their real selves, the pope said in his message.
"Today, there are many young people who feel the need to be different from who they really are, in an attempt to adapt to an often artificial and unattainable standard," he wrote. "They continuously 'photo-shop' their images, hiding behind masks and false identities, almost becoming fake selves."
This sense of inadequacy is the root of many uncertainties and even obsessions, such as "receiving as many 'likes' as possible" on social media, he added.
No one is exempt from doubt or fear, which even can be seen in the Bible in the lives of Mary, Moses, Abraham, the apostles and many others, he said. In fact, he added, the biggest obstacle to faith in God is often fear, not skepticism.
The only way forward is to face one's fears head on, identify them clearly and come to terms with them, he said, "so as not to find yourself wasting time and energy by being gripped by empty and faceless ghosts."
People have to act, which requires faith in God and his grace, otherwise fear and doubt will make people "become inward-looking and closed off to defend ourselves from everything and everyone, and we will remain paralyzed," he said.
The pope told young people to look for God in prayerful silence and the sacraments so they could draw on the needed courage, wisdom and grace, and to turn to members of the church for encouragement and support.
God is always there to help everybody, he said. He does not ask people to present a stellar resume of their lives, "full of merits and successes."
Receiving God's grace will not mean life's problems will disappear, he said, "but it does have the power to transform our life deeply."
"The unknown that tomorrow holds for us is not a dark threat we need to overcome, but a favorable time given to us for living out the uniqueness of our personal vocation, and for sharing it with our brothers and sisters in the church and in the world," he said.
Being with others on life's journey is always key, he said, because it helps unlock one's own gifts, inspires dreams and opens new horizons.
"Never lose the enthusiasm of enjoying others' company and friendship, as well as the pleasure of dreaming together, of walking together," he said.
That is why it is so important young people break out of the "darkness of closed room" and the virtual world so as to experience meaningful relationships with real people, he said.
Pope Francis called on adults in the Catholic Church to have courage, too, and give young people "important responsibilities."
"Young people need to know that someone truly believes in you," he said. "Please know that the pope has confidence in you, that the church has confidence in you! For your part, have confidence in the church!"
"In the sacred Scriptures the expression 'do not be afraid' is repeated 365 times with different variations, as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year," he said.
The Catholic Church's annual gathering of World Youth Day "is for the courageous! Not for young people who are searching only for comfort and who withdraw whenever difficulties arise," the pope said. "Do you accept the challenge?"
Pope Urges Youth To Go Online and Give the Church an Earful
Crux || By John L. Allen Jr. || 18 February 2018
In his noontime Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis essentially invited youth of the world to go online and give the Catholic Church an earful, as part of an upcoming March gathering of young Catholics ahead of a Synod of Bishops on youth in October.
“A month from now, March 19 to the 24, around 300 youth from the entire world will come to Rome for a preparatory meeting for the synod in October,” the pope said.
“However, I strongly want all young people to be able to be protagonists of this preparation,” he said, emphasizing the word “strongly” as he spoke.
“Therefore, they’ll be able to take part online through linguistic groups moderated by other youth. The contribution of these ‘groups of the web’ will be joined to that of the Rome meeting,” he said.
“Dear young people,” Francis said, “you can find information on the web site of the Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. I thank you for your contribution to walking together!”
The pope’s invitation is part of a campaign by synod officials to boost youth participation ahead of the October meeting, after what was considered a disappointing response to an initial online questionnaire posted in June 2017.
In the end, roughly 221,000 people took a look at that questionnaire, of whom around 100,000 actually filled it out. Given a global Catholic population of roughly 1.2 billion, a strong share of that total made of youth, especially in the developing world, the results were lower than many anticipated.
The March 19-24 meeting in Rome is intended to shine a spotlight on the upcoming synod, blending input from youth representatives designated by bishops’ conferences around the world meeting in person with suggestions from young people taking part in groups on Facebook organized by language.
“It’s an event where young people will be actors and protagonists,” said Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, during a Vatican press conference for the pre-Synod last Friday.
“We won’t just talk ‘about’ them, but they will be talking themselves: with their own words, their enthusiasm and their sensitivity,” he added.
On Friday, the pre-synod inaugurated its Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages in multiple languages, where youth wanting to be a part of the conversation have a chance to be heard by using the official #Synod2018.
To date, the Synod’s Twitter page has about 2,500 followers, more than 4,000 likes and follows on Facebook and a little over 1,200 followers on Instagram.
In the body of his Angelus address on Sunday, Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel themes of temptation, conversion and Good News, which he situated in the context of the Lenten season.
“For us, Lent is a time of spiritual ‘competition,’” the pope said.
“We’re called to face the Evil One through prayer, in order to be able, with the help of God, to defeat him in our daily life,” Francis said.
“Evil, unfortunately, is at work in our existence and all around us, where it’s manifested in violence, rejection of the other, closure, wars and injustices,” he said.
“In our life, we always need conversion, and the Church asks us to pray for it,” the pope said.
Today, Francis takes part in the opening of the annual Lenten retreat for members of the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s governing bureaucracy. The retreat will take place in Ariccia, a small town about 16 miles southeast of Rome.
Pope Francis Modifies Norms for the Resignation of Bishops
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Hannah Brockhaus || 15 February 2018
On Thursday Pope Francis tweaked the Church’s policies on bishops and Curial officials reaching the age of retirement, indicating that they should accept what God wants, whether accepting retirement or accepting continued service.
The changes were made through a motu proprio entitled Imparare a congedarsi, meaning “Learning to take your leave,” published Feb. 15.
Previous norms stated that the appointment of most bishops serving as curial officials and papal diplomats lapsed after the officials had reached the Vatican’s usual age of retirement of 75. Now, like diocesan bishops, they are requested to resign at 75, and will continue in their positions unless the Pope accepts their resignation. He may also request them to stay on, at his discretion.
In the motu proprio, signed Feb. 12, Pope Francis cited the generous commitment and experience of many bishops in dioceses or working in the Curia, as a reason for the update in norms.
He noted that the period of transition, whether a resignation is accepted or not, can require an interior attitude of acceptance, and that even the conclusion of an ecclesial office itself is a service and requires “a new form of availability.”
“This interior attitude is necessary both when, for reasons of age, one must prepare oneself to leave office, and when asked to continue that service for a longer period, even though the age of seventy-five has been reached,” he said.
The Pope also provided some examples of reasons he might choose to extend a Curial bishop’s service in an ecclesial office past the age of 75.
The reasons could include, he said, the importance of continuity and the adequate completion of important projects, the difficulties associated with changing leadership of a dicastery already in a period of transition, and the contribution of the person in the application of new directives or new magisterial guidelines from the Holy See.
Francis explained that the transition from active service to retirement requires adequate internal preparation, which includes stripping oneself of the desire for power and or the need to be indispensable to others.
Such preparation will help to make the transition full of peace and confidence, rather than pain and conflict, he said.
As much as possible, this new “project of life,” should include austerity, humility, intercessory prayer, and time dedicated to reading and providing simple pastoral services, he said, noting that prayer is also a powerful tool for discerning how to live out this time.
On the other hand, if a bishop’s resignation is not accepted, and he is asked to continue his service for a longer period, this requires that he abandon his personal desires and projects “with generosity,” the Pope said.
He also emphasized that such a request of the Pope should not be considered a “privilege, or a personal triumph,” a favor between friends, or even an act of gratitude for the service he has provided.
“Any possible extension can be understood only for certain reasons always linked to the ecclesial common good,” he said, and is not an “automatic act, but an act of government.”
The Pope said that the virtue of prudence is applied, along with adequate discernment, in order to make the appropriate decision in these cases.
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Vatican Conference Unites Police and Church in Fight against Human Trafficking
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Hannah Brockhaus || 09 February 2018
A conference on human trafficking and modern-day slavery was held at the Vatican Feb. 8-9, bringing together church leaders and senior police officers from more than 30 different countries to discuss progress and setbacks in initiatives.
It was the fifth meeting of the Santa Marta Group, a Pope Francis-endorsed international alliance of police and bishops, since its formation in 2014. The group was developed by the Catholic Bishops' Conference for England and Wales (CBCEW) and is named after the building where Francis lives in the Vatican.
The two-day meeting included reports from delegates of 18 countries, and several international agencies, as well as presentations by Greg Burke of the Holy See Press Office and Alexander DesForges, spokesperson of the England and Wales bishops’ conference.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, told journalists Feb. 9 that he was “humbled” by what he heard from delegates. “What was important in this meeting was that members were willing to share their sense of failure as well as their sense of success,” he said.
Often in these kinds of meetings “it's all about saying how good we are, what we are going to do, our promises...” he noted. But this time, people felt comfortable enough with each other “to say, ‘Well, actually, we’re just beginning,’ or ‘Actually, this didn’t work,’” he said.
Nichols explained that estimates say there are 42 million people around the world currently enslaved in some form. “The drama of human trafficking,” he said, “has never been greater ever… than it is at this moment.”
Archbishop Augustine Akubeze of Benin City, Nigeria, was also present at the conference. He told journalists that the Nigerian bishops’ conference joined the Santa Marta Group because their country is one of the major countries of origin for trafficked people.
He said that because of the Santa Marta Group, the Nigerian government has become more aware of the issue and started to do more to tackle the problem, which he said stems in particular from a lack of education and a lack of jobs.
When people are in poverty, they are more easily tempted into trafficking, whether as a perpetrator or as a victim, he said. They also run awareness programs and teach in schools to help young people not be taken in by perpetrators.
They bring people to the Santa Marta Group meetings in order to “seek out more good ideas,” Akubeze said, “and then we go back home and try to do something.”
Cardinal Charles Bo, archbishop of Yangon in Bangladesh said that listening to the experiences of delegates from four different continents was interesting and the greatest advantage he personally gained during these meetings.
“After listening to the positive side as well as the weakness and the realities of human trafficking I think many of us who are working in this group have a new determination really to eradicate this curse of human trafficking,” he said.
Pope Francis met with participants of the conference at its conclusion Feb. 9. Speaking to Church and police leaders from around the world, he said that “experience shows that such modern forms of slavery are far more widespread than previously imagined, even – to our scandal and shame – within the most prosperous of our societies.”
“God’s cry to Cain, found in the first pages of the Bible – ‘Where is your brother?’ – challenges us to examine seriously the various forms of complicity by which society tolerates, and encourages, particularly with regard to the sex trade, the exploitation of vulnerable men, women and children,” he continued.
Francis said that initiatives to combat human trafficking must look not only at dismantling criminal structures, but also responsible use of technology and media. He added that we should also explore the ethical implications of economic models which put profit before people.
“I trust that your discussions in these days will also help to raise awareness of the growing need to support victims of these crimes by accompanying them on a path of reintegration into society and the recovery of their human dignity,” he said.
“The Church is grateful for every effort made to bring the balm of God’s mercy to the suffering, for this also represents an essential step in the healing and renewal of society as a whole.”
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Pope Tells Priests to Keep Homilies Brief: 'no more than 10 minutes!'
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Elise Harris || 07 February 2018
On Wednesday Pope Francis touched on a topic close to home for both parish priests and people in the pews, offering his recipe for what makes a good homily, saying they should be short and well-prepared.
However, he also pointed to the amount of complaining that happens when people are unenthusiastic about homilies, and told faithful that even when bored, they also have to make an effort by actively listening, and being patient with the limits of their pastor.
“Those listening have to do their part too,” the Pope said Feb. 7, saying Mass-goers must give “the appropriate attention, thus assuming the proper interior dispositions, without subjective demands, knowing that every preacher has both his merits and his limits.”
“If sometimes there’s reason to get annoyed about an overly long homily, one that lacks focus or that’s incomprehensible, other times it’s actually the prejudice [of the listener] which creates obstacles,” he said.
However, he also urged those giving the homily, whether it's a priest, deacon or bishop, to remember that they are “offering a real service to all those who participate in Mass.”
The homily has been a source of pastoral concern and interest for the Pope since the beginning. He devoted a large portion of his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium – often seen as a blueprint for his papacy – to the homily.
Quoting the document, Francis said the homily “is not a casual discourse, nor a conference or a lesson,” but is rather a way of resuming “that dialogue which has already been opened between the Lord and his people, so that it finds fulfillment in life.”
“Whoever gives the homily must be conscious that they are not doing their own thing, they are preaching, giving voice to Jesus, preaching the World of Jesus,” he said. Because of this, homilies “should be well prepared, and they must be brief!”
To drive the point home, Francis told a story, recounting how a priest had once told him that when visiting another town where the priests' parents lived, the father had said “I’m happy, because me and my friends found a church where they do the Mass without a homily.”
“How many times have we seen people sleeping during a homily, or chatting among themselves, or outside smoking a cigarette?” he said. When people laughed at the notion, Francis responded, saying “it’s true, you all know it...it’s true!”
“Please,” he said, “be brief...no more than 10 minutes, please!”
Pope Francis spoke during his weekly general audience in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, continuing his catechesis on the liturgy. After reflecting on the Liturgy of the Word last week, today he focused on the Gospel and the homily.
Just as with the liturgical celebration, in scripture “Christ is the center and the fullness,” Francis said. “Jesus Christ is always there at the center, always.”
On the readings, he noted that while all the readings are significant, the Gospel is especially important, which is seen by the fact that the priest kisses the text and incenses it before reading the daily passage, and the congregation stands to listen to the reading on their feet.
“From these signs the assembly recognizes the presence of Christ who brings them the good news which converts and transforms,” he said, explaining that we don't stand to hear the Gospel itself, but Christ, who speaks to us through the reading.
“It's for this reason that we are attentive, because it's a direct conversation,” he said.
Because of this, the Gospel isn't read during Mass simply to “know how things went,” but to increase our awareness that these are the things Jesus himself said and did.
“The Word of Jesus which is in the Gospel is living and arrives to my heart,” he said. And because Jesus still communicates with us through the Gospel readings, every Mass we must give him a response, Francis said, adding that “we listen to the Gospel and we must give a response in our lives.”
According to the Vatican Gendarmerie, roughly 8,000 people attended the Pope's audience. After his address, they were all treated to a performance with juggling, balancing acts and other tricks by members of the Rony Rollers Circus. The spectacle has become a regular appearance in general audiences, with different circus troupes performing every few weeks.
Francis also noted how tomorrow marks the World Day of Prayer against Human Trafficking and voiced support for the event, which takes place annually on the Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita.
He also gave a shout-out to the Winter Olympics, which opens on Friday in Pyeongchang in South Korea, and which will be attended by Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca, Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who is representing the Holy See at the opening ceremony Friday, Feb. 9.
This year's games will hold a special importance, he said, noting how the delegations from both North and South Korea will march in together under one flag depicting the entire Korean peninsula, and will compete as one team.
“This fact gives hope for a world in which conflicts are resolved peacefully with dialogue and mutual respect, as sports teaches (us) to do,” he said, and prayed that the Olympics would be “a great celebration of friendship and sport.”
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Despite Denial, Pope Received Abuse Victim’s Letter from Chile
Catholic Herald || By Associated Press || 05 February 2018
Pope Francis received an 8-page letter in 2015 detailing abuse at the hands of Fr Karadima, AP reports
Pope Francis received a victim’s letter in 2015 that graphically detailed sexual abuse at the hands of a priest and a cover-up by Chilean church authorities, contradicting the Pope’s recent insistence that no victims had come forward, the letter’s author and members of Pope Francis’ own sex- abuse commission have told The Associated Press.
The fact that Pope Francis received the eight-page letter, obtained by the AP, challenges his insistence that he has “zero tolerance” for sex abuse and cover-ups. It also calls into question his stated empathy with abuse survivors, compounding the most serious crisis of his five-year papacy.
The scandal exploded last month when Pope Francis’ trip to South America was marred by protests over his vigorous defence of Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused by victims of covering up the abuse by Fr Fernando Karadima. During the trip, Francis callously dismissed accusations against Barros as “slander,” seemingly unaware that victims had placed him at the scene of Karadima’s crimes.
On the plane home, confronted by reporters, the Pope said: “You, in all good will, tell me that there are victims, but I haven’t seen any, because they haven’t come forward.”
But members of the Pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors say that in April 2015, they sent a delegation to Rome specifically to hand-deliver a letter to the Pope about Bishop Barros. The letter from Juan Carlos Cruz detailed the abuse, kissing and fondling he says he suffered at Fr Karadima’s hands, which he said Barros and others witnessed and ignored.
Four members of the commission met with Pope Francis’ top abuse adviser, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, explained their objections to Pope Francis’s recent appointment of Barros as a bishop in southern Chile, and gave him the letter to deliver to Francis.
“When we gave him (O’Malley) the letter for the Pope, he assured us he would give it to the pope and speak of the concerns,” then-commission member Marie Collins told the AP. “And at a later date, he assured us that that had been done.”
Cruz, who now lives and works in Philadelphia, heard the same later that year.
“Cardinal O’Malley called me after the Pope’s visit here in Philadelphia and he told me, among other things, that he had given the letter to the Pope — in his hands,” he said in an interview at his home Sunday.
Neither the Vatican nor O’Malley responded to multiple requests for comment.
While the 2015 summit of Pope Francis’ commission was known and publicized at the time, the contents of Cruz’s letter — and a photograph of Collins handing it to O’Malley — were not disclosed by members. Cruz provided the letter, and Collins provided the photo, after reading an AP story that reported Pope Francis had claimed to have never heard from any Karadima victims about Barros’ behaviour.
The Barros affair first caused shockwaves in January 2015 when Francis appointed him bishop of Osorno, Chile, over the objections of the leadership of Chile’s bishops’ conference and many local priests and laity. They accepted as credible the testimony against Fr Karadima, a prominent Chilean cleric who was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2011 for abusing minors. Bishop Barros was a Karadima protege, and according to Cruz and other victims, he witnessed the abuse and did nothing.
“Holy Father, I write you this letter because I’m tired of fighting, of crying and suffering,” Cruz wrote in Pope Francis’s native Spanish. “Our story is well known and there’s no need to repeat it, except to tell you of the horror of having lived this abuse and how I wanted to kill myself.”
Cruz and other survivors had for years denounced the cover-up of Fr Karadima’s crimes, but were dismissed as liars by the Chilean church hierarchy and the Vatican’s own ambassador in Santiago, who refused their repeated requests to meet before and after Bishop Barros was appointed.
After Pope Francis’s comments backing the Chilean hierarchy caused such an outcry in Chile, he was forced last week to do an about-face: The Vatican announced it was sending in its most respected sex-crimes investigator to take testimony from Cruz and others about Bishop Barros.
In the letter to the Pope, Cruz begs for Pope Francis to listen to him and make good on his pledge of “zero tolerance.”
“Holy Father, it’s bad enough that we suffered such tremendous pain and anguish from the sexual and psychological abuse, but the terrible mistreatment we received from our pastors is almost worse,” he wrote.
Cruz goes on to detail in explicit terms the homo-eroticised nature of the circle of priests and young boys around Fr Karadima, the charismatic preacher whose El Bosque community in the well-to-do Santiago neighbourhood of Providencia produced dozens of priestly vocations and five bishops, including Barros.
He described how Fr Karadima would kiss Barros and fondle his genitals, and do the same with younger priests and teens, and how young priests and seminarians would fight to sit next to Fr Karadima at the table to receive his affections.
“More difficult and tough was when we were in Karadima’s room and Juan Barros — if he wasn’t kissing Karadima — would watch when Karadima would touch us — the minors — and make us kiss him, saying: ‘Put your mouth near mine and stick out your tongue.’ He would stick his out and kiss us with his tongue,” Cruz told the Pope. “Juan Barros was a witness to all this innumerable times, not just with me but with others as well.”
“Juan Barros covered up everything that I have told you,” he added.
Bishop Barros has repeatedly denied witnessing any abuse or covering it up. “I never knew anything about, nor ever imagined, the serious abuses which that priest committed against the victims,” he told the AP recently. “I have never approved of nor participated in such serious, dishonest acts, and I have never been convicted by any tribunal of such things.”
For the Osorno faithful who have opposed Barros as their bishop, the issue isn’t so much a legal matter requiring proof or evidence, as Barros was a young priest at the time and not in a position of authority over Fr Karadima. It’s more that if Bishop Barros didn’t “see” what was happening around him and doesn’t find it problematic for a priest to kiss and fondle young boys, he shouldn’t be in charge of a diocese where he is responsible for detecting inappropriate sexual behavior, reporting it to police and protecting children from pedophiles like his mentor.
Cruz had arrived at Fr Karadima’s community in 1980 as a vulnerable teenager, distraught after the recent death of his father. He has said Fr Karadima told him he would be like a spiritual father to him, but instead sexually abused him.
Based on testimony from Cruz and other former members of the parish, the Vatican in 2011 removed Fr Karadima from ministry and sentenced him to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for his crimes. Now 87, he lives in a home for elderly priests in Santiago; he hasn’t commented on the scandal and the home has declined to accept calls or visits from the news media.
The victims also testified to Chilean prosecutors, who opened an investigation into Karadima after they went public with their accusations in 2010. Chilean prosecutors had to drop charges because too much time had passed, but the judge running the case stressed that it wasn’t for lack of proof.
While the victims’ testimony was deemed credible by both Vatican and Chilean prosecutors, the local Church hierarchy clearly didn’t believe them, which might have influenced Pope Francis’s view. Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz has acknowledged he didn’t believe the victims initially and shelved an investigation. He was forced to reopen it after the victims went public.
He is now one of the Argentine Pope’s key cardinal advisers.
By the time he finally got his letter into the Pope’s hands in 2015, Cruz had already sent versions to numerous other people, and had tried for months to get an appointment with the Vatican ambassador. The embassy’s December 15, 2014, email to Cruz — a month before Barros was appointed — was short and to the point:
“The apostolic nunciature has received the message you emailed December 7 to the apostolic nuncio,” it read, “and at the same time communicates that your request has been met with an unfavourable response.”
One could argue that Pope Francis didn’t pay attention to Cruz’s letter, since he receives thousands of letters every day from faithful around the world. He can’t possibly read them all, much less remember the contents years later. He might have been tired and confused after a weeklong trip to South America when he told an airborne press conference that victims never came forward to accuse Bishop Barros of cover-up.
But this was not an ordinary letter, nor were the circumstances under which it arrived in the Vatican.
Francis had named Cardinal O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, to head his Commission for the Protection of Minors based on his credibility in having helped clean up the mess in Boston after the U.S. sex abuse scandal exploded there in 2002. The commission gathered outside experts to advise the church on protecting children from paedophiles and educating church personnel about preventing abuse and cover-ups.
The four commission members who were on a special subcommittee dedicated to survivors had flown to Rome at their own expense specifically to speak with O’Malley about the Barros appointment and to deliver Cruz’s letter. A press release issued after the April 12, 2015, meeting read: “Cardinal O’Malley agreed to present the concerns of the subcommittee to the Holy Father.”
Commission member Catherine Bonnet, a French child psychiatrist who took the photo of Collins handing the letter to Cardinal O’Malley, said the commission members had decided to descend on Rome specifically when Cardinal O’Malley and other members of the Pope’s group of nine cardinal advisers were meeting, so that Cardinal O’Malley could put it directly into the Pope’s hands.
“Cardinal O’Malley promised us when Marie gave to him the letter of Juan Carlos that he will give to Pope Francis,” she said.
Cardinal O’Malley’s spokesman in Boston referred requests for comment to the Vatican. Neither the Vatican press office, nor officials at the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, responded to calls and emails seeking comment.
But Cardinal O’Malley’s remarkable response to Francis’ defence of Barros and to his dismissal of the victims while he was in Chile, is perhaps now better understood.
In a rare rebuke of a Pope by a cardinal, O’Malley issued a statement on January 20 in which he said the Pope’s words were “a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse,” and that such expressions had the effect of abandoning victims and relegating them to “discredited exile.”
A day later, Pope Francis apologised for having demanded “proof” of wrongdoing by Bishop Barros, saying he meant merely that he wanted to see “evidence”. But he continued to describe the accusations against Bishop Barros as “calumny” and insisted he had never heard from any victims.
Even when told in his airborne press conference on January 21 that Fr Karadima’s victims had indeed placed Bishop Barros at the scene of Fr Karadima’s abuse, Pope Francis said: “No one has come forward. They haven’t provided any evidence for a judgment. This is all a bit vague. It’s something that can’t be accepted.”
He stood by Bishop Barros, saying: “I’m certain he’s innocent,” even while saying that he considered the testimony of victims to be “evidence” in a cover-up investigation.
“If anyone can give me evidence, I’ll be the first to listen,” he said.
Cruz said he felt like he had been slapped when he heard those words.
“I was upset,” he said, “and at the same time I couldn’t believe that someone so high up like the Pope himself could lie about this.”
Source: Catholic Herald…
Don’t Substitute the Lessons at Mass for Non-Biblical Texts, Pope Francis Says
Catholic Herald || By Carol Glatz || 31 January 2018
The Pope also said churches should not use lectors who garble their words so 'no one can understand a thing'
Listening to the Scripture readings at Mass is hearing God speak directly to his people, offering spiritual sustenance and needed guidance for life’s difficult journey, Pope Francis said.
For that reason, the prescribed texts should never be skipped or substituted during the Mass, lectors should read clearly and people should always listen with an open heart so that the words may eventually bear fruit in good deeds, the Pope said at his weekly general audience.
Continuing his series of audience talks on the Mass, Pope Francis spoke about the Liturgy of the Word and the importance of listening to the Bible readings at Mass.
“In the Liturgy of the Word, in fact, the pages of the Bible stop being something written and become the living word, delivered by God himself,” the Pope said.
As the readings are proclaimed, people in the pews should be silent and receptive, opening their hearts and minds to what is being said, not looking around or making small talk and criticising what other people are wearing, he said.
“We have to listen, open our hearts, because it is God himself who is speaking to us. So don’t think about other things or talk about something else. Understood?” he asked the thousands of people gathered in St Peter’s Square.
“We need to listen! It is a question of life,” he said, because as Jesus told the devil in the desert, “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
People can receive spiritual nourishment from the “table” of God’s word, which is abundant and “rich” in so many biblical offerings, he said.
It is obvious then why “some subjective choices” are forbidden – such as omitting the prescribed readings or substituting them with nonbiblical texts, for example, like the newspaper for bringing up a current event, he said.
“No. The word of God is the word of God. You can read the newspaper later. However, right there, the word of God gets read,” not something else, he said.
Substituting God’s word with something else “impoverishes and compromises the dialogue between God and his people in prayer,” the Pope said, while sticking with the prescribed readings expresses and fosters ecclesial communion, helping everyone on their journey together.
The Pope also insisted on choosing lectors who are well-prepared and speak clearly, not people who garble their words “and no one can understand a thing.”
“The Lord’s word is an indispensable aid for not getting lost,” he said. It is, as the psalmist says, “a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.”
“How can we tackle our earthly pilgrimage, with its trials and tribulations, without being regularly nourished and enlightened by the Word of God that rings out in the liturgy,” the Pope asked.
Also, he said, listening to God’s word requires much more than one’s ears. It must go from the ears, to the heart and then to the hands, resulting in good works in the world, he said.
“It’s necessary to have an open heart to receive the word,” Pope Francis said. “God speaks and we turn to him to listen so as to then put into practice what we have heard.”
Source: Catholic Herald…
Pope Revamps Ecclesiastical Universities in New Apostolic Constitution
Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Elise Harris || 29 January 2018
On Monday Pope Francis released a new apostolic constitution calling for a “radical” reform to the nature and curriculum of ecclesiastical universities and institutions.
“The primary need today is for the whole People of God to be ready to embark upon a new stage of Spirit-filled evangelization,” the Pope said in the document, “Vertatis Gaudium.”
This new stage of evangelization, he said, “calls for a resolute process of discernment, purification and reform. In this process, a fitting renewal of the system of ecclesiastical studies plays a strategic role.”
Signed Dec. 8, 2017, and published Jan. 29, 2018, the 87-page document is Francis' is titled “Veritatis Gaudium,” meaning “the joy of truth.”
The document deals specifically with ecclesiastical universities and faculties, which, differing from regular Catholic universities, offer Vatican-approved degrees required to teach in seminaries or at pontifical universities.
It consists of two parts dedicated to general norms and specific norms, and also contains an appendix and norms of application. The document is meant to “update” previous norms, and abrogates any prior rules which contradict the new ones laid out by Pope Francis in Veritatis Gaudium.
The document abrogates any contrary norms established by John Paul II's 1979 Apostolic Constitution “Sapientia Christiana,” issued after a careful study of the Second Vatican Council's decree “Optatam Totius” on ecclesiastical studies. However, John Paul II's 1990 Apostolic Constitution “Ex corde Ecclesiae” is not impacted, as it deals specifically with Catholic colleges and universities, rather than ecclesiastical academic entities.
In the foreword for his new constitution, Pope Francis, who has often spoken of the importance of education, said that while offering a great contribution to the Church's life and mission, Sapientia Christiana “urgently needs to be brought up to date.”
“While remaining fully valid in its prophetic vision and its clarity of expression, the constitution ought to include the norms and dispositions issued since its promulgation, and to take into account developments in the area of academic studies in these past decades,” he said.
“There is also a need to acknowledge the changed social-cultural context worldwide and to implement initiatives on the international level to which the Holy See has adhered.”
Francis noted that the world is currently living not only a time of change, but it is also experiencing “a true epochal shift, marked by a wide-ranging anthropological and environmental crisis,” such as natural, social and financial disasters which are swiftly reaching “a breaking point.”
This reality, he said, requires “changing the models of global development and redefining our notion of progress.” However, a great problem in doing this is the fact that “we still lack the culture necessary to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths.”
Because of this, he said that on the cultural level as well as that of academic training and scientific study, “a radical paradigm shift” and “a bold cultural revolution” are needed which involve a worldwide network of ecclesiastical universities and faculties which are capable of promoting the Gospel and Church Tradition, but which are also “ever open to new situations and ideas.”
“Philosophy and theology permit one to acquire the convictions that structure and strengthen the intelligence and illuminate the will,” he said, but cautioned that this “is fruitful only if it is done with an open mind and on one’s knees.”
“The theologian who is satisfied with his complete and conclusive thought is mediocre,” Francis said. However, “the good theologian and philosopher has an open, that is, an incomplete, thought, always open to the maius of God and of the truth, always in development.”
Pope Francis then listed four criteria for ecclesiastical studies which he said are rooted in the Second Vatican Council's teaching and and inspired by the changes that have taken place in the decades since.
The first of the criteria, he said, is the “contemplation and the presentation of a spiritual, intellectual and existential introduction to the heart of the kerygma, namely the ever fresh and attractive good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Secondly, he said there is need for a “wide-ranging dialogue” which is not merely a “tactical approach,” but which is “an intrinsic requirement for experiencing in community the joy of the truth and appreciating more fully its meaning and practical implications.”
He then pointed to the need for an “inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary” approach which is carried out “with wisdom and creativity in the light of revelation.”
“What distinguishes the academic, formative and research approach of the system of ecclesiastical studies, on the level of both content and method,” he said, “is the vital intellectual principle of the unity in difference of knowledge and respect for its multiple, correlated and convergent expressions.”
The fourth and final criteria the Pope gave was “the urgent need for networking” between worldwide institutions that “cultivate and promote ecclesiastical studies, in order to set up suitable channels of cooperation also with academic institutions in the different countries and with those inspired by different cultural and religious traditions.”
In this regard, he said there is a need to establish more specialized centers of research dedicated to studying “the epochal issues affecting humanity today and to offer appropriate and realistic paths for their resolution.”
He urged the competent authorities to give a “new impulse” to scientific research conducted in ecclesiastical universities and faculties, saying the need for new and qualified research centers is “indispensable.”
These centers, the Pope said, ought to include scholars from different religious universities and from different scientific fields who can interact with “responsible freedom and mutual transparency.”
He said plans are already under way for the establishment of “outstanding interdisciplinary centers and initiatives aimed at accompanying the development of advanced technologies, the best use of human resources and programs of integration.”
In the new norms, Francis outlined the role, nature and purpose of ecclesiastical universities and faculties, saying they are to evangelize and, through scientific research, better enunciate the truths of the faith and present them in “a manner adapted to various cultures.”
Bishops' conferences will be charged with overseeing the life and progress of the universities, and are to be headed by a chancellor who will serve as the entity's go-between with the Holy See. All ecclesial universities and institutions will be overseen by the Congregation for Catholic Education, headed by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi.
Regarding the role of teachers, the Pope said there must be several teachers of various ranks in each faculty, including permanent ones.
Criteria necessary to be considered for appointment to such faculties include the need to be “distinguished by wealth of knowledge, witness of Christian and ecclesial life, and a sense of responsibility.”
Teachers, Francis said, must also have a doctorate or similar equivalent title or scientific accomplishment; they must show “documentary proof” of their suitability for doing scientific research, preferably a published dissertation, and they must demonstrate adequate teaching ability.
He also stressed that all teachers, no matter their rank, “must be marked by an upright life, integrity of doctrine, and devotion to duty, so that they can effectively contribute to the proper goals of an ecclesiastical academic institution.”
This goes for both Catholics and non-Catholics, as the document allows for non-Catholic professors to teach specialized courses at ecclesiastical universities and institutions in their areas of expertise.
Francis said that should any of the required criteria cease, “the teachers must be removed from their post, observing the established procedures.”
Teachers who instruct on faith and morals, he said, “are to be conscious of their duty to carry out their work in full communion with the authentic Magisterium of the Church, above all, with that of the Roman Pontiff.”
On the role of students who attend the ecclesiastical universities and institutions, the Pope said these entities must be open “to all who can legally give testimony to leading a moral life and to having completed the previous studies appropriate to enrolling in the faculty.”
As far as the study plan for ecclesiastical entities, the Pope said they must place a focus on ecclesial texts, with special emphasis on those from the Second Vatican Council, while also taking into account scientific advances that contribute to answering questions on modern concerns.
“Up-to-date didactic and teaching methods should be applied in an appropriate way, in order to bring about the personal involvement of the students and their active participation in their studies,” he said.
The Pope also said there must be freedom and flexibility in terms of research, but stressed that it must be “based upon firm adherence to God’s Word and deference to the Church’s Magisterium, whose duty it is to interpret authentically the Word of God.”
“Therefore, in such a weighty matter one must proceed with trust, and without suspicion, but the same time with prudence and without rashness, especially in teaching; moreover, one must carefully harmonize the necessities of science with the pastoral needs of the People of God.”
He said faculties of theology have the specific task of “profoundly studying and systematically explaining, according to the scientific method proper to it, Catholic doctrine, derived with the greatest care from divine revelation” and of carefully seeking solutions to human problems in light of this revelation.
Revealed truth, the Pope said, must be considered alongside valid scientific accomplishments, in order to see “how faith and reason give harmonious witness to the unity of all truth.”
“Also, its exposition is to be such that, without any change of the truth, there is adaptation to the nature and character of every culture, taking special account of the philosophy and the wisdom of various peoples,” Pope Francis said, but stressed that “all syncretism and every kind of false particularism are to be excluded.”
While the positive aspects of the various cultures and philosophies studied are to be sought and taken up after careful examination, he said “systems and methods incompatible with Christian faith must not be accepted.”
Ecumenical questions must be “carefully treated,” as well as questions regarding relationships with non-Christian religions. In addition, Francis said problems that arise from atheism and other currents of contemporary culture must also be “scrupulously studied.”
“In studying and teaching the Catholic doctrine, fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church is always to be emphasized. In the carrying out of teaching duties, especially in the basic cycle, those things are, above all, to be imparted which belong to the received patrimony of the Church,” he said. “Hypothetical or personal opinions which come from new research are to be modestly presented as such.”
Faculties of canon law, whether in the Latin rite or in Eastern rites, must cultivate and promote the judicial disciplines in light of the Gospel, he said.
These faculties, Francis said, should include a first, two-year cycle for those who have no prior education in philosophy and theology, as well as those who have a degree in civil law. During this first cycle, students ought to study the basic concepts of canon law, philosophy and theology in order to advance.
In the second cycle, which he said should last three years, students must become familiar with canon law “in all its expressions,” including the normative, jurisprudential, doctrinal, praxis, and the codes for both the Latin and Eastern Churches should be studied “in depth” with magisterial and disciplinary sources.
As with theology, the third cycle ought to consist of a suitable time-frame in which students finish their training with scholarly research aimed at preparing a doctoral dissertation.
Faculties of philosophy, he said, have the aim of “investigating philosophical problems according to scientific methodology, basing itself on a heritage of perennially valid philosophy.”
Philosophical study, Francis said, must look for solutions in the light of “natural reason” and must also demonstrate “consistency with the Christian view of the world, of man, and of God, placing in a proper light the relationship between philosophy and theology.”
The first cycle of study, he said, should last for three years and consist of an “organic exposition” of the various aspects of philosophy – including the world, man and God – as well as a look at the history of philosophy and an introduction to the method of scientific research.
In the second cycle, which should last for two years, Francis said specializations ought to begin through special disciplines and seminars. The third cycle, which he said should last for three years, must promote “philosophical maturity” through writing a dissertation.
The document also included new norms on other types of faculties, degrees, financial management, strategic planning and cooperation, and leadership ad government for ecclesiastical universities and institutions.
These new norms will go into effect on the first day of the 2018-2019 academic year or of the 2019 academic year, depending on the calendar year of the various academic entities. Each faculty or university must present their revised statutes and plan of studies before Dec. 8, 2019.
After being presented, the new statutes and plans of study will be approved “ad experimentum” for a three-year period. However, faculties with a juridical connection with civil authorities can be given a longer period of time with permission from the Congregation for Catholic Education.
Source: Catholic News Agency…
Sharing ‘fake news’ Makes You an Accomplice in Evil, Pope Says
Catholic Herald || By Cindy Wooden || 24 January 2018
The first to use fake news was the serpent in the Garden of Eden, Pope Francis said
People have a responsibility to check the source of what they share on social media to ensure it is not “fake news” designed to further prejudices or increase fear, Pope Francis said.
Fake news grabs people’s attention “by appealing to stereotypes and common social prejudices, and exploiting instantaneous emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration,” Pope Francis wrote in his message for World Communications Day 2018.
The message is a reflection on the theme, “‘The truth will set you free.’ Fake news and journalism for peace.” World Communications Day will be celebrated May 13 at the Vatican and in most dioceses. The papal message was released at the Vatican on January 24, the feast of St Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists.
Fake news is so effective, he said, because it mimics real news but uses “non-existent or distorted data” to deceive and manipulate.
The first to employ the fake-news tactic was the serpent in the Garden of Eden who convinced Eve she would not die by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, he said. The Bible story shows that “there is no such thing as harmless disinformation; on the contrary, trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences.”
Pope Francis praised educators who teach young people how to read and question the news and the information they see presented on social media. He encouraged efforts to develop regulations to counter fake news and he praised tech and media companies for trying to improve ways to verify “the personal identities concealed behind millions of digital profiles.”
But, he insisted, individuals always will have the final responsibility for discerning what is real news and what is helpful to share on social media.
“We need to unmask what could be called the ‘snake-tactics’ used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place” like the serpent in the Garden of Eden did.
The snake’s power grows as people limit their sources of information to one outlet, especially if that outlet is a social media platform whose algorithms are based on providing users with more information like they have just read, the Pope said.
“Disinformation thus thrives on the absence of healthy confrontation with other sources of information that could effectively challenge prejudices and generate constructive dialogue,” he wrote.
People who re-post or re-Tweet such false information, the pope said, become “unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas.”
One way to know if something should be checked and not be shared, he said, is if it “discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonizing them and fomenting conflict.”
In the modern world, with the rapid and viral spread of news and information – both real and fake – lives and souls are at stake, he said, because the “father of lies” is the devil.
True discernment, the Pope said, means examining information and keeping what promotes communion and goodness, while rejecting whatever “tends to isolate, divide, and oppose.”
“We can recognize the truth of statements from their fruits: whether they provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or, on the other hand, they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results,” Pope Francis wrote.
Journalists, he said, have a special responsibility in the modern world amid the media “feeding frenzies and the mad rush for a scoop.”
Pope Francis asked media professions to promote “a journalism of peace,” which does not mean ignoring problems or being saccharine. It means “a journalism that is truthful and opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans and sensational headlines.”
A journalism of peace is at the service of all people, “especially those – and they are the majority in our world – who have no voice,” he said. It is “a journalism committed to pointing out alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence.”
Pope Francis ended his message with his own adaptation of the “Prayer of St Francis” for both those who report the news and those who read or watch it.
“Where there is shouting, let us practice listening,” the prayer said. “Where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity.”
“Where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust,” it continued. “Where there is hostility, let us bring respect; where there is falsehood, let us bring truth.”
Source: Catholic Herald…
Pope Apologizes to Sex Abuse Victims, Defends Accused Chilean Bishop
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Junno Arocho Esteves || 22 January 2018
Pope Francis apologized to victims of clergy sex abuse, saying he unknowingly wounded them by the way he defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse by his mentor.
Speaking with journalists on his flight to Rome from Lima, Peru, Jan. 21, the pope said he only realized later that his words erroneously implied that victims' accusations are credible only with concrete proof.
"To hear that the pope says to their face, 'Bring me a letter with proof,' is a slap in the face," the pope said.
Pope Francis was referring to a response he gave in Iquique, Chile, Jan. 18 when local reporters asked about his support for Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, given accusations that the bishop may have been aware of abuse perpetrated by his former mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. The priest was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.
"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?" the pope had told the reporters in Iquique.
His response provoked further outrage, especially from Father Karadima's victims who said the pope's response made his earlier apologies for the church's failure to protect sex abuse victims seem hollow.
Asked about the incident during the flight back to Rome, Pope Francis said he meant to use the word "evidence," not "proof." The way he phrased his response, he said, caused confusion and was "not the best word to use to approach a wounded heart."
"Of course, I know that there are many abused people who cannot bring proof (or) they don't have it," he said. "Or at times they have it but they are ashamed and cover it up and suffer in silence. The tragedy of the abused is tremendous."
However, the pope told reporters on the papal flight he still stood firmly behind his defense of Bishop Barros, because he was "personally convinced" of the bishop's innocence after the case was investigated twice with no evidence emerging.
Pope Francis said that while "covering up abuse is an abuse in itself," if he punished Bishop Barros without moral certainty, "I would be committing the crime of a bad judge."
During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis answered eight questions over the course of an hour, although the conference was interrupted by turbulence, which forced the pope to sit for about five minutes.
As he did in November on his return from Bangladesh, he said he only wanted to respond to questions related to the trip.
Pope Francis told reporters he appreciated the statement made Jan. 20 by Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, acknowledging the pain survivors of abuse felt because of the pope's statement about Bishop Barros.
"Words that convey the message 'If you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed' abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile," the cardinal wrote.
He also said, "Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones."
The pope said he was grateful for Cardinal O'Malley's statement because it struck the right balance between listing what he has done to show his support for sex abuse victims and the pain experienced by victims because of the pope's remarks.
Pope Francis also spoke about the scandal-plagued Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic movement based in Peru.
The movement's founder, Luis Fernando Figari, has been accused of the sexual and psychological abuse of members; he has been ordered by the Vatican to remain in Rome and not have any contact with the movement.
"He declared himself innocent of the charges against him," Pope Francis told reporters, and he has appealed his cause to the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's supreme court. According to the information the pope has received, he said, "the verdict will be released in less than a month."
Pope Francis also was asked about the status of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he set up in 2014. The three-year terms of its members expired in December and some have questioned whether child protection really is a priority when the commission's membership was allowed to lapse.
Before the terms ended, he said, the members decided to recommend who should serve a second term and offering the names of possible new members.
The final list, he said, arrived on his desk a week before the trip began "and now it is going through the normal channels in the Curia.
Pope Meets with Clergy Sex Abuse Victims in Chile
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Junno Arocho Esteves || 18 January 2018
Pope Francis met in private Jan. 16 with survivors of sexual abuse by Chilean clergy, a Vatican spokesman said.
Greg Burke, the spokesman, said the pope met with "a small group of victims of sexual abuse by priests" at the apostolic nunciature in Santiago, Chile.
"The meeting took place in a strictly private way, and no one else was present: only the pope and the victims," Burke told journalists that evening.
The private setting, he added, allowed the group to speak freely with the pope "and recount their sufferings.
Pope Francis "listened, prayed and cried with them," Burke said.
Also present at the press conference was Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, secretary-general of the Chilean bishops' conference.
Bishop Ramos addressed criticism regarding the presence of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno at several papal events, including the pope's meetings with the country's clergy as well as the bishops of Chile.
Bishop Barros' appointment as bishop by the pope in 2015 drew outrage and protests due to his connection to Father Fernando Karadima, his former mentor. Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.
"Bishop Barros is bishop of Osorno and was named by the pope. All bishops have the right and responsibility to participate at the events. That was the only reason why" he was present, Bishop Ramos said.
Arriving in Iquique Jan. 18 at the site of his final Mass in Chile, Pope Francis was asked by local journalists about his support for Bishop Barros.
The pope reiterated that he has yet to see any evidence that Bishop Barros knew or witnessed the abuses committed by his former mentor.
"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?" the pope told the journalists.
Earlier Jan. 16, the pope asked forgiveness from the victims of sexual abuse during an address to government authorities and members of Chile's diplomatic corps, expressing his "pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the church."
Burke said it was significant the pope addressed the issue of clergy sex abuse during his meeting with government authorities "because normally he speaks about it when meeting with bishops or priests."
"The fact that he spoke there means that it is an evil not only for the church but for society," Burke said.
Fear Becomes Sin When it Leads to Hostility Toward Migrants, Pope Says
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Cindy Wooden || 14 January 2018
Being afraid and concerned about the impact of migration is not a sin, Pope Francis said, but it is a sin to let those fears lead to a refusal to help people in need.
"The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection," the pope said Jan. 14, celebrating Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
While fear is a natural human reaction, he said, "the sin is to refuse to encounter the other, the different, the neighbor, when this is in fact a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord."
Thousands of migrants and refugees now living in Rome, but coming from more than 60 countries, joined Pope Francis and an international group of cardinals, bishops and priests for the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.
Sixty of the migrants and refugees carried their homeland's national flags into the basilica before the Mass and hundreds wore the national dress of their countries, including many of the people who read the prayers of the faithful and brought up the gifts at the offertory during the multilingual Mass.
While care for migrants and refugees has been a priority for Pope Francis, the World Day for Migrants and Refugees has been an annual celebration of the Catholic Church for more than 100 years. St. Pius X began the observance in 1914.
After reciting the Angelus in St. Peter's Square after the Mass, Pope Francis announced that "for pastoral reasons" the date of the annual celebration was being moved to the second Sunday of September. The next World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he said, would be marked Sept. 8, 2019.
According to the United Nations, an estimated 258 million people are living outside the country of their birth. The number includes 26 million refugees and asylum seekers, who were forced to flee their homelands because of war or persecution.
In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus' response to the disciples who asked him where he lived. "Come and you will see," Jesus tells them, inviting them into a relationship where they would welcome and get to know each other.
"His invitation 'Come and see!' is addressed today to all of us, to local communities and to new arrivals," the pope said. "It is an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her."
For the migrants and refugees, he said, that includes learning about and respecting the laws and customs of their host countries. "It even includes understanding their fears and apprehensions for the future," he added.
For people in the host countries, he said, it means welcoming newcomers, opening oneself "without prejudices to their rich diversity," understanding their hopes, fears and vulnerabilities and recognizing their potential.
'In the true encounter with the neighbor, are we capable of recognizing Jesus Christ who is asking to be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated?" Pope Francis asked.
"It is not easy to enter into another culture, to put oneself in the shoes of people so different from us, to understand their thoughts and their experiences," the pope said. That is one reason why "we often refuse to encounter the other and raise barriers to defend ourselves."
People in host countries may be afraid that newcomers "will disturb the established order (or) will 'steal' something they have long labored to build up," he said. And the newcomers have their own fears "of confrontation, judgment, discrimination, failure."
Both set of fears, the pope said, "are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view."
Sin, he said, enters the equation only when people refuse to try to understand, to welcome and to see Jesus present in the other, especially "the poor, the rejected, the refugee, the asylum seeker."
As Pope Turns 81, Kids Entertain with Song, Dance and 13-foot Pizza
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Junno Arocho Esteves || 18 December 2017
Celebrating his 81st birthday, Pope Francis blew out the candles on a 13-foot long pizza after being serenaded with song and dance by children and employees from a Vatican pediatric clinic.
A group of children receiving assistance from the Vatican's St. Martha Dispensary, a maternal and pediatric clinic, had given the pope a birthday party Dec. 17 marked with singing, dancing and a cake adorned with gold and white fondant decorations.
They also rolled out a large pizza with a single lit candle on it. The pope was joined with several children from the clinic and counted down before blowing out the candle.
"Eat the 4-meter pizza: Eat well, it will do you good and make you grow," the pope told the children.
The pope said their joy was a gift and is like "good earth that makes life grow with good fruits."
"Do not make children sad. When children see that there are problems at home, that their parents are fighting, they suffer," he said. "They must always grow with joy."
After meeting the children, Pope Francis greeted an estimated 25,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday Angelus address.
After reciting the Angelus prayer, the pope was about to greet several individual groups present in the square before the crowd burst into song, singing "Happy Birthday."
Touched by the gesture, the pope said: "Thank you. Thank you very much."
Celebrating the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, Pope Francis invited Christians to prepare for Christ's coming through "constant joy, persevering prayer and continual thanksgiving."
"Joy, prayer and gratitude are the three attitudes that prepare us to live Christmas in an authentic way," the pope said before inviting the crowd to repeat the words: "Joy, prayer and gratitude."
Pope Francis also blessed the statues of baby Jesus that will be at the center of Nativity scenes in Rome schools, churches and homes.
Addressing the children who brought their figurines to the square, the pope said, "When you pray at home, in front of the creche with your family, let yourselves be drawn toward the tenderness of the child Jesus, who was born poor and fragile in our midst to give us his love. This is the true Christmas."
With Christmas also around the corner, the pope also met with members of the Italian branch of Catholic Action's children's section, parish-based groups of young people, ages 4-14, for his traditional pre-Christmas audience with them.
The pope said the Christmas season is a reminder of helping those in need who are the "image of the child Jesus who was turned away and who did not find a place to stay in the city of Bethlehem."
He called on them to ask themselves how they can better serve the suffering Christ in those who are cast aside by society.
"Here are your 'peripheries;' try to fix your goal on companions and people that no one sees, and dare to make the first step to meet them, to give them a bit of your time, a smile, a gesture of tenderness," the pope said.
"In this upcoming feast of holy Christmas, you are called to always make him known more and more among your friends, in the cities, in the parishes and in your families," he said.
Vatican to Launch Revamped News Site
Catholic Herald || By Cindy Wooden || 14 December 2017
Vaticannews.va will bring together audio, text and video, and will launch in six languages
Before Christmas, the Vatican plans to launch its new multimedia communications website, although the Vatican Radio and Vatican Television Center sites will stay accessible as archives.
Mgr Dario Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communication, announced on December 13 that the new site — vaticannews.va — would be launched in beta form “in the coming days.”
The public announcement came the day after Mgr Vigano presented the site to Pope Francis and his international Council of Cardinals and explained to the council the progress made in unifying the various Vatican media.
“The cornerstone of the system, fruit of a process of consolidation on an economic and technical level, is represented by the Editorial Multimedia Center,” which will be a single structure responsible for producing audio, text, video and graphics in several languages and for use on a variety of platforms, including the new website and social media.
The Secretariat for Communication’s editorial board will determine how various events and issues are presented and covered.
According to a statement from Mgr Vigano, eventually the multimedia centre will include about 350 employees drawn from the 40 language programs of the former Vatican Radio and from the nine institutions — the radio, Vatican newspaper, Vatican television production centre, Vatican printing press, etc. — that now form part of the secretariat.
The multimedia centre will begin its work with 70 people working in six languages: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese. They will focus on four areas: the Pope, the Vatican, the Church and the world.
Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, briefed reporters on the meeting of the Council of Cardinals on December 11-13, including on Mgr Vigano’s report that the new website and production centre simply the “first visible and concrete expression” of the unified approach to communications requested by the Pope and cardinals.
More generally, the Pope and cardinals discussed “the Curia as an instrument of evangelization and of service to the Pope and the local churches,” Burke said. The idea of the “reform of the Roman Curia” is not simply to change structures, “but mentalities.
Source: Catholic Herald…
God Does Not Lead Us into Temptation, Satan Does, Pope Says
Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Cindy Wooden || 11 December 2017
The Italian and English translations of the "Our Father" can give believers the wrong impression that God can and does lead people into temptation, Pope Francis said.
The Italian bishops' television channel, TV2000, has been broadcasting a series of conversations between the pope and a Catholic prison chaplain looking at the Lord's Prayer line by line.
The episode broadcast Dec. 6 focused on the line, "Lead us not into temptation."
Father Marco Pozza told the pope that friends have asked him, "Can God really lead us into temptation?"
"This is not a good translation," the pope said.
The standard versions of the prayer are translated from the Latin, which was translated from the New Testament in Greek.
While he said nothing about ordering a new translation, Pope Francis noted how the French bishops had decided that beginning Dec. 3, the first Sunday of Advent, French Catholics would change the line to the equivalent of "do not let us enter into temptation."
French-speaking Catholics in Benin and Belgium began using the new translation at Pentecost last June. The common Spanish translation already is "no nos dejes caer en la tentacion" or "do not let us fall into temptation."
The Italian bishops' conference in 2008 adopted a new translation of the Bible; for the Lord's Prayer both in Matthew 6 and Luke 11, they chose "do not abandon us in temptation," although they did not order the change in liturgical use. The New American Bible, revised edition, is the basis for the Lectionary used at English-language Masses in the United States; the petition from the Lord's Prayer in Matthew and Luke is translated as: "do not subject us to the final test."
Pope Francis told Father Pozza, "I'm the one who falls. But it's not (God) who pushes me into temptation to see how I fall. No, a father does not do this. A father helps us up immediately."
"The one who leads us into temptation is Satan," the pope said. "That's Satan's job."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in its discussion of the Lord's Prayer, says, "our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to 'lead' us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both 'do not allow us to enter into temptation' and 'do not let us yield to temptation.'"
Referring to James 1:13, the catechism says, "'God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one'; on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil. We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin."