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Pope on first Sunday of Lent: Now is the time for conversion

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 22:10

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2018 / 09:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Lent is a time to face our temptations and be converted by the Gospel, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address on the first Sunday of Lent.

His reflections were based on the passage in the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus is tempted by Satan in the desert for 40 days.

Jesus goes into the desert to prepare for his mission on earth, the Pope said.

While Jesus has no need of conversion himself, he must go to the desert out of obedience to God the Father and "for us, to give us the grace to overcome temptation."

“For us, too, Lent is a time of spiritual ‘training’, of spiritual combat: we are called to face the Evil one through prayer, to be able, with God’s help, to overcome him in our daily life,” he continued.

Immediately after he is tempted, Jesus goes out of the desert to preach the Gospel, which demands conversion from all who hear it, the Holy Father said.

“(Jesus) proclaims, ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel!’ — believe, that is, in this Good News that the kingdom of God is at hand. In our life we always have need of conversion — every day! — and the Church has us pray for this. In fact, we are never sufficiently oriented toward God, and we must continually direct our mind and our heart to Him."

Lent is the time to have the courage to reject anything that leads us away from God and repent, Francis noted, “but it is not a sad time!”

“It is a joyful and serious duty to strip ourselves of our selfishness, of our ‘old man,’ and to renew ourselves according to the grace of our Baptism,” he said.

During Lent, we must listen to the call of Christ and be converted, recognizing that true happiness lies in God alone, Francis said.

He concluded his address with an appeal to Mary:

“May Mary Most Holy help us to live this Lent with fidelity to the Word of God and with incessant prayer, as Jesus did in the desert. It is not impossible! It means living the days with the desire to welcome the love that comes from God, and that desires to transform our life, and the whole world.”

 

Pope Francis says Paul VI will be canonized this year

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 21:53

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2018 / 08:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his annual Lenten meeting with the priests of Rome last week, Pope Francis confirmed that Blessed Pope Paul VI will be made a saint sometime this year.

"Paul VI will be a saint this year," the Pope said Feb. 15, at the end of a long question and answer session with priests of Rome. The text of the private meeting was published by the Vatican Feb. 17.

During the meeting, Francis gave lengthy answers to four questions from priests. Afterward, texts containing meditations by Pope Paul VI, a gift from the Pope, were handed out to each of the priests. “I saw it and I loved it,” Francis said about the book.

“There are two [recent] Bishops of Rome already saints,” he continued, referring to St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II, who were canonized together in April 2014.

Besides Blessed Pope Paul VI, he noted that John Paul I's cause for beatification is also ongoing. "And Benedict and I," he added, are "on the waiting list: pray for us!"

According to Vatican Insider, Feb. 6 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved the second miracle needed for the canonization of Bl. Pope Paul VI by a unanimous vote.

The next step is for Pope Francis to also give his approval, with an official decree from the Vatican. Then the date for the canonization can be set. The canonization could take place in October of this year, during the Synod of Bishops on the youth, Vatican Insider reported.

The miracle attributed to the cause of Paul VI is the healing of an unborn child in the fifth month of pregnancy. The case was brought forward in 2014 for study.

The mother, originally from the province of Verona, Italy, had an illness that risked her own life and the life of her unborn child, and was advised to have an abortion.

A few days after the beatification of Paul VI on Oct. 19, 2014, she went to pray to him at the Shrine of Holy Mary of Grace in the town of Brescia. The baby girl was later born in good health, and remains in good health today.

The healing was first ruled as medically inexplicable by the medical council of the congregation last year, while the congregation's consulting theologians agreed that the healing occurred through the late pope's intercession.
 

Pope reappoints O’Malley to head further work of safeguarding commission

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 18:10

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2018 / 05:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has reconfirmed Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston as head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also reconfirming seven members and appointing nine new.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), is an advisory body to the Pope on the issue of safeguarding minors and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse. Its first 3-year mandate concluded in December 2017 and was awaiting the Pope’s confirmation of new and old members.

The new members are Benyam Dawit Mezmur from Ethiopia; Sr. Arina Gonsalves, RJM from India; Neville Owen from Australia; Sinalelea Fe’ao from Tonga; Myriam Wijlens from the Netherlands; Ernesto Caffo from Italy; Sr. Jane Bertelsen, FMDM from the U.K.; Teresa Kettelkamp from the U.S.; and Nelson Giovanelli Rosendo Dos Santos from Brazil.

The returning commission members are Dr. Gabriel Dy-Liacco from the Philippines; Bishop Luis Manuel Alí Herrera from Colombia; Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ from Germany; Hannah Suchocka from Poland; Sr. Kayula Lesa, RSC from Zambia; Sr. Hermenegild Makoro, CPS from South Africa; and Mons. Robert Oliver from the U.S.

In a statement released Feb. 17, O’Malley said that Pope Francis “has given much prayerful consideration in nominating these members. The newly appointed members will add to the commission’s global perspective in the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.”

In his reconfirmation of previous members, the Pope has also “ensured continuity in the work of our Commission, which is to assist local churches throughout the world in their efforts to safeguard all children, young people, and vulnerable adults from harm,” O’Malley said.

According to a press release, the 16 members are made up of eight women and eight men spanning multiple disciples of international expertise in the field of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults from the crime of sexual abuse.

“Representatives from several new countries will now offer their insights and experience to the Commission, reflecting the global reach of the Church and the challenge of creating safeguarding structures in diverse cultural contexts,” the release stated.

The members of the commission include both victims of clerical sexual abuse and parents of victims. The commission has stated that it will continue to uphold its practice of defending each person’s right to choose whether or not to disclose their experiences of abuse publicly.

“The members appointed today have chosen to not do so publicly, but solely within the Commission. The PCPM firmly believes that their privacy in this matter is to be respected,” they stated.

It was announced that the commission’s new term, as decided at their last plenary meeting in September 2017, would begin with listening to and learning from people who have experienced abuse, their family members and others who support them.

They also affirmed that the “victim/survivor first” approach will continue “to be central” to their policies and educational programs.

“The PCPM wishes to hear the voices of victims/survivors directly, in order that the advice offered to the Holy Father be truly imbued with their insights and experiences,” the release stated.

The first plenary meeting of the new Commission will be held in April and will begin with a private meeting with people who have experienced abuse. They will discuss proposals of ways to continue to foster an on-going dialogue with victims and survivors around the world.

They announced that discussions have also already been underway to create an “International Survivor Advisory Panel” (ISAP), building off the experience of the Survivor Advisory Panel of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission in England and Wales.

The working group to research and develop a proposal for the ISAP has been led by Baroness Hollins, a founding member of the commission, who will lead a presentation at the April plenary session.

Goals for the panel include studying prevention from a survivor’s perspective and being proactive in raising awareness for the need for healing and care for everyone who has suffered abuse.

According to their statement, over the last four years the commission has worked with almost 200 dioceses and religious communities around the world “to raise awareness and educate people on the need for safeguarding in our homes, parishes, schools, hospitals, and other institutions.”

“The members would like to thank all those who have embraced this call and to thank the Holy See for supporting and encouraging these efforts,” it concluded.

Commentary: The Vatican gap between theory and practice

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 05:00

Rome, Italy, Feb 16, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Yesterday Pope Francis issued a new letter motu proprio entitled Imparare a congedarsi, or “Learning to take your leave.”

Pope Francis made only some minor adjustments to canon law concerning the retirement of bishops, specifically those serving as papal representatives in diplomatic posts and in Curial offices.

Legally speaking, not much changed. Imparare is a tidying up exercise. All bishops are now asked to submit their resignations at the age of 75, which become effective when they are formally accepted by the pope. Previously, those in certain positions saw their positions lapse de iure upon their reaching a certain age.

While the document is ostensibly about retirement, and going gracefully, in fact it clears the way for Vatican officials to carry on in their posts past the age of 75.

In itself, there is nothing novel about bishops in important or sensitive roles carrying on past the age of retirement. It is common practice that diocesan bishops in major sees have their resignations accepted nunc pro tunc, or “now for later,” effectively keeping them in post indefinitely. Similarly, few Curial cardinals are expected to depart from service promptly on their 75th birthdays. Harmonizing the law, so that it effectively applies to everyone in the same way, is not exactly revolutionary.

What is odd about the motu proprio is that, for a document supposedly about retiring with grace, it spends rather more time talking about those who are staying on. Indeed, under Pope Francis, this exception is becoming the norm.

Despite the Pope’s stated preference for single five-year terms in the Curia, an ever-growing number of key Vatican officials are carrying on well past their terms. Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, who heads the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, has served 11 years in that office, and turns 80 next month. Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, is 77, and Cardinal Ravasi at the Pontifical Council for Culture turned 77 last year - though both are still in their first five-year terms.

The progressive Archbishop Piero Marini has been head of the International Eucharistic Congresses for 10 years and turned 76 a few weeks ago. Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, the erratic Dean of the Roman Rota, is nearly 77. Those who are expected to retire with grace at the end of their terms, like Cardinal Müller, are so exceptional as to be newsworthy.

Given that this is the opposite of what the Pope has called for, the situation is something of a mystery. Imparare a congedarsi is clear that carrying on past an age limit is supposed to be “exceptional.” The Pope wrote that anyone being kept on is not being done a “favor” or being thanked for services rendered. Instead, such individuals are being asked to see important projects to their finish, or bridge a difficult period of transition. In theory, this makes excellent sense, and is the reason many officials of different ranks have previously been kept on past 75.

Yet it’s hard to see this rationale at work in all cases. Msgr. Pinto, for example, has been the subject of considerable criticism for his public outbursts against the four so-called “dubia cardinals” (technically his superiors), and his recent attempts to abolish the right of appellants before the court of the Roman Rota to chose their own lawyer (he wanted to assign lawyers personally from his own list of preferred advocates) ended in a humiliating climb-down after it was pointed out he was violating basic legal freedoms and endangering the Holy See’s concordat with the Italian Republic. Pinto has even had a “pro-dean” installed under him, essentially a successor in waiting, yet he remains in office now in his sixth year.

As with several of the Franciscan reforms of the Curia, the distance between theory and practice is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore, or explain. Despite the clear and praiseworthy possibilities offered in yesterday’s motu proprio, there seems little “exceptional” about some of those being kept in office long past retirement age.

Ed Condon is a canon lawyer working for tribunals in a number of dioceses. On Twitter he is @canonlawyered. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Catholic News Agency.

Mary Ann Glendon resigns from Vatican Bank oversight board

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 04:40

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2018 / 03:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Prominent American professor Mary Ann Glendon has resigned from the Board of Superintendence which oversees the Institute of Religious Works, the so-called Vatican Bank.

“Professor Glendon has expressed a desire to devote more time to other Catholic causes, and the IOR wishes her all of the best for the future, both personally and professionally,” the institute said Feb. 16.

The statement thanked the 79-year-old Glendon for her contributions, especially in the process of defining its legal framework.

The Massachusetts-born Glendon served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush from 2008-2009. She is a professor at Harvard Law School with an expertise in international human rights, comparative law, and constitutional law.

Under Pope Francis, Glendon was a member of a papal commission set up to ensure transparency at the Vatican Bank and make recommendations for its future from June 2013 to May 2014. She then served as a member of the IOR’s Board of Superintendence beginning July 9, 2014.

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.

St. John Paul II named Glendon to the newly created Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in 1994. She led a 22-member delegation of the Holy See to the Fourth U.N. Women’s Conference in Beijing in 1995, and served on the Holy See’s Central Committee for the Great Jubilee 2000.

In 2004 she was named head of the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, where she served through 2014.

She chairs the Holy See’s Select Committee on Legal Matters in the United States and is a past president of the International Association of Legal Science.

Palestine asks Vatican to defend Jerusalem’s status quo

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 04:00

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Palestinian Foreign Affairs minister, Ryadh al Maliki, met officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State Feb. 16, asking the Holy See to amplify its voice defending the status quo in Jerusalem.
 
“It is important to understand that the situation of Jerusalem also deals with Christians,” the minister told CNA after the meeting, during a short briefing with journalists in the State of Palestine’s recently opened embassy to the Holy See.

“We would like the Holy See lead a conference of Christians in the Middle East, in order to make their voice stronger.”
 
Minister al Maliki met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and then with Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican “minister for foreign affairs.
 
Al Maliki reported that the meetings “shed light on the implication of President Trump’s decision to ‘award’ Jerusalem as capital of Israel, with the decision to transfer the US Embassy to Israel to the city.”
 
Trump’s decision, al Maliki said, “had the effect of connecting the city with only the Jewish world, setting aside the city’s connections with Christian and Muslims.”
 
This “also jeopardizes the negotiations,” concerning peace between Israel and Palestine, “because the issue of the status of Jerusalem was put off the table,” he said.
 
Al Maliki maintained that Palestine “wants to keep the conflict a a political level,” while Trump’s decision brings the issue to “a religious level.” He said  the status of the city is relevant to all religions which “recognize themselves in the city of Jerusalem.”
 
According to al Maliki, the Holy See expressed concern during the talks, and both parties agreed that the status quo of Jerusalem should be respected, and that the future of Jerusalem “must be negotiated and not imposed.”
 
The Holy See has made several recent statements regarding Jerusalem: Pope Francis made his latest appeal to respect the status quo in Jerusalem at the end of his Dec. 6, 2017 general audience.
 
On Dec. 10, the Holy See Press Office issued a communiqué reiterating that the Holy See maintained its position on the peculiar character of the Holy City, and stressed the importance of maintaining a compromise on the city’s status.

“Only a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians can bring a stable and lasting peace,” and “guarantee the peaceful co-existence of two states within internationally recognized borders,” the statement said.
 
Minister Al Maliki stressed that the State of Palestine “recognized the Holy See’s efforts,” but asked the Holy See to further raise its voice.
 
Al Maliki said he asked the Holy See to take the lead of a conference of Christians in order to shed light on the fact that Christian denominations have an interest in Jerusalem.
 
“It is also important,” al Maliki said “to give a signal to the Christians in the Holy Land, who feel abandoned and under pressure.”
 
He said that, after President Trump’s decision, the Israeli government has started to increase pressure on Palestinian Christians, “making their life harder,” by “imposing taxes, freezing the bank accounts and confiscating properties.”
 
According to al Maliki, this pressure aims at “changing the sacred character of the city, and to turn the city into a Jewish one.”
 
In particular, al Maliki is referring to a recent decision of Nir Barkat, Jerusalem’s mayor, to begin assessing municipal taxes on some church properties.  

In a joint statement, the Churches of Jerusalem stressed that this decision “goes agaist the historic position throughouth the centuries of the Churches and the Holy City of Jerusalem,” and that the measure “undermines the sacred character of Jerusalem, and jeopardises the Church’s ability to conduct its ministry in this land on behalf of its communities and the world-wide church.”
 
According to al Maliki, neither Cardinal Parolin or Archbishop Gallagher objected to the idea of a conference under the Holy See’s lead. However, no decision has yet been made.

Youth look forward to sharing hopes, concerns in pre-synod meeting

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 00:24

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2018 / 11:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of the pre-synod meeting set to take place next month, several young participants voiced excitement to meet with peers from all over the world to exchange ideas and talk about life's major questions.

“This is a step the Church is making to listen to all youth,” said Stella Marilene Nishimwe, a participant in the pre-synod gathering. “It will give us an opportunity to say everything that we think. This is an opportunity that we must really take.”

A young Burundi woman living in Italy, Nishimwe told journalists that she believes the March gathering is “something that God wants from the Church, to do something new for all the youth of the world.”

“Because youth from all over the world, whether they are Catholics or from other religions, we have the same questions,” she said, adding that she thinks it is important that the Church wants to walk with youth “in this world with so much pain, with so many questions that don't have answers.”

She said that what she mainly wants to share is the experience of “the life that we live.” Namely, “we want to find happiness, like everyone in the world, we want to live in unity, we want to feel at home in all parts of the world. We want to really find a path together...in this synod, I really want this.”

Nishimwe was one of four panelists at a Feb. 16 news conference on the upcoming pre-synod meeting, which will be held March 19-24 in Rome with some 300 youth from various backgrounds and countries throughout the world.

The event is a precursor to the October Synod of Bishops on “Faith, Young People and the Discernment of Vocation,” and will include youth in different states of life and from different vocations. Priests, seminarians and consecrated persons will also participate, as well as non-Catholics.

Special attention will also be given to youth from both global and existential “peripheries,” including people with disabilities, and some who have struggled with drug use or who have been in prison.

At the end of the gathering, notes of the various discussions will be gathered into one comprehensive concluding document, which will be presented to Pope Francis and used as part of the “Instrumentum Laboris,” or “working document,” of the October synod.

Alongside Nishimwe at the news conference were Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops; Bishop Fabio Fabene, the synod dicastery’s undersecretary; and Italian youth Filippo Passantino.

In comments to journalists, Passantino said participants are expecting to hear “an echo of their requests, of their needs, of their proposals” in the meeting, not only in the synod hall, “but also on social media, so that social media can become [a] great and luminous reflection to shine on their problems.”

Social media will also play a key role in the pre-synod gathering, which is being promoted on various platforms such as Facebook and Twitter with 15 special hashtags.

Passantino, who has helped to promote the event on social media, said many young people have shared their experiences, and that so far, most of the testimonies and questions posted have been related to problems such as finding work and building meaningful relationships in an increasingly superficial world.

He stressed the importance of youth being able to listen to one another and share their experiences, saying that “we will be listened to, but we must and we want to listen to all those situations of difficulty.”

The pre-synod meeting will kick off Monday, March 19, with an audience with Pope Francis, marking the 5th anniversary of the start of his papal ministry. True to form, Francis during the audience will take questions from young people from all five continents.

In the afternoon, participants will be divided into language groups, which throughout the week will discuss different themes outlined in the preparatory document for the synod, which was released Jan. 13, 2017.

Each session will include five questions to help guide discussion. The questions will focus on various topics, such as the search for meaning, technology, vocational discernment, politics and volunteer work.

Entertainment and moments of prayer will also be included. On Friday, April 23, participants will pray the Way of the Cross while walking to the Roman catacombs of San Callisto. On Saturday, they will spend the morning at the Pontifical Villa in Castel Gandolfo and in the evening will have a celebration with youth from the Diocese of Albano.

The event will conclude with Palm Sunday Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square, which also marks the diocesan celebration of World Youth Day, this year dedicated to the theme: “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Participants in the gathering were selected by local bishops conferences for both the Roman and Eastern rites, and for those involved in movements, associations and ecclesial movements. Students at Catholic schools and universities will also attend.

In comments to journalists, Cardinal Baldisseri said the pre-synod gathering is not “an isolated event,” but is rather “a phase on the journey of preparation for the Synod of Bishops in October.”

The first step was the questionnaire that was sent out to bishops’ conferences worldwide, and which was also posted online in order to make it more accessible to young people. It was released in June 2017 for people ages 16 to 29, of all faiths and backgrounds, asking about lives, attitudes and concerns about the world.

According to Baldisseri, some 221,000 youth participated, with the majority being in the younger age bracket. Europe was the continent most highly represented, with Central and South America coming in second, and Africa in third.

The answers to the questionnaire will be one of four key ingredients in the October synod, he said, with the other three being the website for the questionnaire and social media accounts where youth can leave testimonies and answer questions; a September 2017 seminar on youth that took place in Rome; and the final document of the pre-synod meeting.

The pre-synod gathering will be “very, very important for the synod,” Baldisseri said. It aims to ensure that young people are heard and understood, so that the synod is not just an event “about” youth, but “with” them.

The meeting will seek to define specific pastoral projects and outreach plans. Parents, educators and priests will also be present to listen to what the youth are saying and be better equipped to address the problems and situations they encounter.

An exchange of cultural experiences and different religious backgrounds will also be encouraged.

In order to help young people unable to participate in the Rome gathering to have a voice in the discussion, special Facebook groups have been created based on language, which Bishop Baldisseri said will allow those not present to follow the discussion and interact with their peers from around the world.

Links to all social media pages, as well as the hashtags that will be used, can be found on the synod website: www.synod2018.va

Priesthood isn't an assignment – it's a mission, Pope tells seminarians

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 20:38

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2018 / 07:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis met with the community of the Pontifical Maronite College, explaining how their seminary formation isn’t about them or even for them, but for the people they will eventually serve in their parishes and dioceses.

“The human, intellectual and spiritual enrichment you receive in these years is not a reward for you, much less a good to be earned for your career, but a treasure for the faithful who await you in your Eparchies and to whom your life looks forward to being donated,” the Pope said Feb. 16.

“You will not be called to exercise, even well, an assignment – it is not enough! – but to live a mission, without savings, without many calculations, without limits of availability.”

Pope Francis held an audience at the Vatican with around 45 seminarians and priests of the Pontifical Maronite College in Rome, which was founded in 1584 by Pope Gregory XIII as a place of study for Catholic seminarians of the Maronite rite.

The Maronite Catholic Church traces its roots to the early Christians of Antioch, the first believers to be called Christian. In its liturgy, the rite still uses the Syriac language, which is a dialect of Aramaic, the same language Jesus spoke.

The rite takes its name from the fourth century hermit St. Maron, whose way of life inspired many monks and laity to follow him, eventually resulting in the distinctive Maronite rite.

During the encounter, Pope Francis told the priests and seminarians that as pastors, they will need to listen to people a lot, and that God will “confirm you through their lives, through many encounters, through its unpredictable surprises.”

“And you, as pastors in close contact with the flock, will savor the most genuine joy when you bend over them, making yours their joys and their sufferings, and when, at the end of the day, you can tell the Lord the love you have received and given,” he said.

Pointing to the Maronite Church’s recent Feb. 9 celebration of St. Maron, the Pope praised the monastic life of the saint, saying it shows a proper discontent with living only a moderate or mediocre faith, but wants “to love with all its heart.”

“It is by drawing on these pure sources that your ministry will be good water for today's thirsty people,” he explained.

Our heart is like a compass: It orients and directs itself toward what it loves, Francis said, quoting the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be.”

He explained that these years of study, spiritual formation, and community life in Rome are a good time to “arrange the heart well.”

“All this you are called to live in a time not without suffering and dangers, but also pregnant with hope,” he said, pointing out how the people they will be called to serve will be unsettled by the instability which continues to plague the Middle East.

They “will search for, in you, pastors that console them: pastors with the word of Jesus on their lips, with their hands ready to wipe away their tears and caress suffering faces,” he continued.

“Pastors forgetful of themselves and their own interests; pastors who are never discouraged, because they draw every day, from the Eucharistic Bread, the sweet power of love that satisfies; pastors who are not afraid to ‘be eaten’ by the people, as good bread offered to brothers.”

Vatican denies rumors that Benedict XVI has degenerative nerve disorder

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 02:33

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 01:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After rumors spread in German media that Benedict XVI has a paralyzing nerve disease, the Vatican debunked the story, saying the retired Pope is experiencing nothing more than the normal aches and pains of aging.

“The recent news of a paralyzing or degenerative illness are false,” the Vatican said Feb. 15.

The statement was in response to a story published in German tabloid Neue Post Feb. 14, which quoted Benedict’s older brother Georg Ratzinger as saying that the Pope Emeritus had a degenerative nerve disease which left him increasingly in need of a wheelchair.

Benedict XVI recently sent a letter to Italian daily Corriere della Sera saying he is in the last phase of his life, and that while his physical strength might be waning, he is surrounded by love and consolation.

“I can only say that at the end of a slow decline in physical strength, inwardly I am on pilgrimage home,” he said in the letter, published Feb. 7 on the front page of Corriere della Sera.

He said that “it's a great grace for me to be to be surrounded in this last piece of the road, which is at times a bit tiring, by a love and goodness that I could never have imagined.”

Benedict addressed the letter to Italian journalist Massimo Franco of Corriere della Sera, who was charged with the task of presenting the retired pontiff with letters expressing concern and asking about his well-being five years after resigning from the papacy.

Despite the recent report on Benedict's health in Neue Post, the Vatican in their statement said that “in two months Benedict will turn 91 years old and, as he himself recently said, he feels the weight of these years, as is normal at this age.”

 

Pope says he prays for those who call him a heretic

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 01:50

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 12:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis told Jesuits in Chile last month that he’s willing to have discussions with people who disagree with him, but that when people just shout ‘heretic’, he prays for them instead.

“When I perceive resistance, I try to dialogue, when dialogue is possible; but some resistance comes from people who believe they have the true doctrine and they accuse you of being a heretic.”

“When in these people, for what they say or write, I do not find spiritual goodness, I simply pray for them. I feel sorry, but I do not dwell on this feeling…” the Pope said in a conversation with Jesuits in Chile, published in the Jesuit journal La Civilta’ Cattolica Feb. 15.

Francis’ comment was part of a Jan. 16 conversation with around 90 Jesuits in Chile. The private encounter took place on the first full day of his apostolic visit to Chile and Peru Jan. 15-21.

In the meeting Francis answered a question about what resistance he’s encountered during his pontificate and how he’s responded to it.

“Faced with difficulty I never say that it is a ‘resistance,’ because it would mean giving up [the process of] discernment,” he said, pointing out that to do so is to dismiss the “shred of truth” that is often at the heart of conflict.

To help with this in discussions, he said he often asks a person, “What do you think?” This helps him to put into context things that at first seem “like resistance, but in reality, are a reaction that arises from a misunderstanding, from the fact that some things must be repeated, explained better...” he said.

The Pope also noted that misunderstandings or conflict are sometimes his own fault, as when he considers something to be obvious, or makes a logical leap without explaining the process well, thinking the other person has understood his reasoning.

“I realize that, if I go back and explain it better, then at that point the other says, ‘Ah, yes, all right…’ In short, it is very helpful to examine well the sense of the conflict,” he stated.

Francis acknowledged that when there is real resistance, he feels sorry, noting that the temptation to resist change is something we’ve all experienced at one point or another.

Nothing new, resistance to the Second Vatican Council is real, he said, trying to “relativize” or “water down the Council.”

He said he’s aware of the “campaigns” against Vatican II, but he does not read the websites “of this so-called ‘resistance.’”

“I know who I am, I know the groups, but I do not read them, simply for my mental health. If there's something very serious, they inform me so that I know it,” he said. “It’s a disappointment but we have to move on.”

Francis modifies norms for the resignation of bishops

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 23:22

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 10:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- 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.

Pope Francis regularly meets with abuse victims on Fridays

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 18:45

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 05:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a conversation with Jesuits during his recent visit to Peru, Pope Francis said he regularly meets with victims of sexual abuse on Fridays, and that while the percentage of priests who abuse is relatively low, even one is too many.

When it comes to sexual abuse, if you look at the statistics, roughly “70 percent of pedophiles are in the family environment, acquaintances. Then in gyms, at the pool,” the Pope said in a conversation with Peruvian Jesuits, published Feb. 15.

The meeting took place Jan. 19 after a courtesy visit to Peruvian President Pedro Kuczynski during a three-day visit to the country, which was part of a wider, Jan. 15-21 visit to South America.  

“The percentage of pedophiles that are Catholic priests doesn't reach 2 percent, it's around 1.6 percent. So it's not a lot,” he said. However, Francis stressed that “it's terrible even if it were just one of our brothers!”

“God anointed them for the sanctification of children and adults, and he, instead of sanctifying them, has destroyed them. It's horrible!” he said, and underlined the importance of listening to victims and hearing directly about the suffering they've undergone.

To this end, he said he regularly meets with victims of abuse on Fridays, and “their process is so difficult, they are annihilated. They are annihilated!”

For the Church, abuse is “a great humiliation,” he said. “It shows not only our fragility, but also, let's say it clearly, our level of hypocrisy.”

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke confirmed the news about the Friday meetings, saying in a Feb. 15 statement that “several times a month” Pope Francis meets with victims of sexual abuse either individually or in groups.

Pope Francis, he said, “listens to the victims and tries to help them heal the serious wounds caused by the abuses they've undergone. The meetings are held with the utmost privacy, in respect of the victims and their suffering.”

The Pope's comments were made to Peruvian Jesuits during his recent Jan. 15-21 visit to Chile and Peru. He met privately with Jesuits in both countries, taking questions from attendees and listening to their concerns.

The conversations, published in Jesuit journal La Civilta' Cattolica, touched on a variety of issues, and included his discussion with both the Chilean and Peruvian Jesuits. Both Chile and Peru are currently at the center of two major, high-profile cases of sexual abuse, carried out by a Chilean priest and a Peruvian layman.

Francis met privately with abuse victims in Chile, and spoke openly about the tragedy in his Jan. 18 meeting with priest and religious in the country. His comments on abuse were made in response to a question posed by a Peruvian Jesuit about how to handle sex abuse, and whether he had any encouragement to give.

Speaking to the some 100 Jesuits present for the Jan. 19 encounter, Francis responded to the question saying sex abuse is “the greatest desolation that the Church is undergoing.”

He recalled a time when was returning home after hearing the confessions of Carmelite nuns on Argentina's March 24 “Plaza de Mayo” celebration, which commemorates all those who were “disappeared” during the country's military dictatorship.

After getting off the metro, Francis said he saw a couple with a young toddler walking down the street. When the child started to run in his direction, the father immediately yelled for the child to come back, and to “watch out for the pedophiles.”

“What shame I underwent! What shame!” Pope Francis said. “They didn't realize that I was the archbishop, I was a priest, and what shame!”

He noted that often times abuse, particularly in new and flourishing communities, is linked to corruption, citing three types of abuse which often go together.

“Abuse in these congregations is always the result of a mentality linked to power, which must be healed at its evil roots,” he said, explaining that the various communities undergoing scandals generally all suffer from a deadly trio of “abuse of authority – with which it means to mix the internal and external forum – sexual abuse, and economic messes.”

Noting how both he and Benedict XVI have had to “suppress” various communities, such as the Legionaries of Christ, Francis said there are “many painful cases,” and that this phenomenon has also affected new and prosperous congregations, most notably the Peruvian-born Sodalitium Christianae Vitae.

In cases like this, “money is always in the middle,” he said, adding that “the devil enters through the wallet.”

According to St. Ignatius, one of the first steps of temptation is for wealth, he said. “Then come vanity and pride, but first there is wealth. In the new congregations that have fallen into this problem of abuse these three levels are also found together.”

However, citing the Ignatian spiritual exercises, the Pope said the shame experienced can also be a grace, and urged his fellow Jesuits to accept these experiences “as a grace and be deeply ashamed,” because “we must love the Church with her wounds.”

Though spoken beforehand, the Pope's comments have been made public at a time when he's currently under fire for his reaction to accusations of abuse cover-up on the part of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, Chile.

Appointed to head the Osorno diocese by Pope Francis in 2015, Barros is accused of both witnessing and covering the abuse of his longtime friend Fr. Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty of abuse in 2011. Barros has repeatedly denied these claims.

Opposition to Barros and his appointment has been relentless since his installment in 2015. Pope Francis faced major blow-back during his visit to Chile for saying the accusations were unfounded, and amounted to “calumny.”

On his flight back to Rome Francis apologized for the comment, saying he had intended to say that there was not enough evidence to convict Barros of cover-up, and that no victims had come forward with information that could prove the Chilean prelate's guilt.

Shortly after the visit, Francis tapped Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the Vatican's top man in clerical abuse appeals cases, to go to Santiago hear victims' testimonies. The trip also includes a stop in New York to speak with one of Karadima's most high-profile victims, Juan Carlos Cruz, who has been among the most vocal opponents of Barros.

After Scicluna's appointment, reports came out indicating that before Barros' appointment in 2015 Cruz had sent an 8-page letter detailing Karadima's abuse to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, alleging that Barros had not only witnessed his abuse and the abuse of others, but had at times participated and covered it up.

According to reports, members of the commission had given the letter to the commission's president, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, who is said to have presented it to the Pope, raising questions as to whether Francis had read it and was aware of Cruz's testimony before naming Barros to Osorno.

Pope Francis voices sorrow for 'devastating' Florida school attack

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 18:01

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 05:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis assured of his spiritual closeness to all those affected by a deadly shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 dead, offering prayer for the victims and voicing hope that such acts of violence would end.

In a Feb. 15 letter addressed to Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, the Pope said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the tragic shooting” that took place yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl.

Signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the letter assured all those affected by the “devastating attack” of the Pope's spiritual closeness, saying he prays “that Almighty God may grant eternal rest to the dead and healing and consolation to the wounded and those who grieve.”

“With the hope that such senseless acts of violence may cease, Pope Francis invokes upon all of you the divine blessings of peace and strength.”

The Pope's telegram comes the day after a former student stormed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, killing at least 17 students and teachers and injuring dozens more.

According to reports, the 19-year-old shooter had been expelled from the school for “disciplinary reasons.” He is said to have a history of violence and has been treated for mental illness.

Students at the school posted videos and photos of the shooting – the third largest school shooting in American history – and its aftermath as it unfolded. The shooter was arrested by police about an hour after the attack and remains in custody.

In a statement published on the diocesan website, Wenski said he offered his prayers as well as those of the Catholic community for everyone affected by this “senseless tragedy.”

“We pray for the deceased and wounded, for their families and loved ones, for our first responders and our entire South Florida community,” said Wenski.

Wenski urged Floridians to rise above their “understandable outrage,” and “come together as a community to support one another” in the aftermath of the shooting. With the Lord’s help, Wenski said, “we can remain strong and resolute to resist evil in all its manifestations.”

“May God heal the broken hearted and comfort the sorrowing as we once again face as a nation another act of senseless violence and horrifying evil.”

Curial reform as a matter of pastoral concern

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 13:00

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Reform of the Vatican Curia aims to emphasize pastoral care, and should not be seen as a reform that will overturn the whole Curia, a bishop involved in Rome’s Curia reform process has explained.
 
Bishop Marcello Semeraro is the secretary of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, appointed to assist the Pope in the government of the Church and to tailor a Curia reform. In a recent article for the Italian Catholic magazine Il Regno, Bishop Semeraro explained how the reform is being carried forward, and the rationale behind it.
 
Bishop Semeraro stressed that the reforms are intended to emphasize pastoral concern, and are not intended as a revolution. He said that recent reforms to Vatican communications offices might be considered a model for the reform project.
 
According to Bishop Semeraro, the establishment of a third section within the Vatican’s Secretariat of State is a sign of the major emphasis given to the pastoral work.
 
The third section of the Secretariat of State, announced in November, is intended to show the Pope’s attention and closeness to the Vatican’s diplomatic staff. For this reason, the head of the third section is tasked with visiting the Holy See’s nunciatures around the world.
 
Bishop Semeraro said that care for Vatican diplomats has been a main topic of discussion during meetings of the Council of Cardinals, and that the meaning of the secretariat’s reform lies in the way that the job of papal nuncios, similar to ambassadors, developed after the Second Vatican Council.
 
Bishop Semeraro noted that nuncios were once considered exclusively diplomatic figures, but the revised 1983 Code of Canon Law “met the Second Vatican Council’s hope that the office of the Pontifical legate – that is, the Apostolic nuncio – was to be described with reference to the pastoral ministry of a bishop.”
 
The 1983 Code “made explicit the distinction between ecclesial and diplomatic mission,” and underscored that “pontifical representatives, although having a diplomatic side, are mostly ecclesial figures,” and their main tasks “are religious and ecclesiastical duties” undertaken on behalf of the Pope, Bishop Semeraro said.
 
For this reason, Pope Francis wanted to show a pastoral concern toward the Vatican diplomatic staff, since “the focus on human resources is a non-secondary aspect of the Curia reform process,” Semeraro said.
 
To explain the ‘big picture’ of curial reform, Bishop Semeraro recalled Pope Francis’ 2017 Christmas greeting to the Roman Curia, and in particular, the way the Pope explained the Curia’s “ad extra” functions.
 
According to Bishop Semeraro, the Pope asked the Curia to be “extroverted,” that is, oriented beyond the Vatican, with a capacity to read the signs of times.
 
Bishop Semeraro said that the need to look outside, toward the local Churches, is also demonstrated by the motu proprio Magnum Principium, which liberalized the process of translating the Roman Missal from Latin into vernacular languages.
 
The secretary of the Council of Cardinals said that the Council itself was called to give its opinion on the issue, “with a context and competence other than the opinion of the Commission of Bishops and experts established.”
 
He also emphasized the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in assisting the local Churches as another example of a Curia that sets its gaze to the outside.
 
He also said that the Pope wants the reform to be gradual, and this is happening with the new Dicasteries for the Promotion of Integral Human Development and for Laity, Family and Life.
 
Bishop Semeraro said that the Council of Cardinal relies on three principles in Curia reform: tradition, innovation, and focus on what is really necessary.
 
For what concerns tradition, Bishop Semeraro said that “it is misleading thinking of a reform overturning the overall Curial framework,” as the Curia includes “dicasteries regarding some fundamental ecclesial actions, like the announcement of the Gospel,  the safeguarding of faith, the liturgical life, the service of charity.”
 
The key principle of innovation is epitomized by the reform in the area of communication, that was intended to respond to new media realities.
 
The principle of “focus” might also be called “simplification”, as has happened with the merging of some dicasteries.
 
The Pope intends the reform as a “process” – Bishop Semeraro concluded – that needs time to be completed, according to Pope Francis’ sentence in Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that states the need to “start processes, rather than possessing spaces.”
 
In this sense, the Curia’s Lenten spiritual exercises, which Pope Francis requested be set outside of Rome, are part of this reform, Bishop Semeraro stressed.

 

Pope on Ash Wednesday: Lent is the perfect time to 'come home'

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 22:33

Vatican City, Feb 14, 2018 / 09:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At Mass for Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis invited everyone to live the 40 days of Lent as a time to “pause” from things which keep us from virtue and to return home to the loving and merciful embrace of God the Father.

“Return without fear to those outstretched, eager arms of your Father, who is rich in mercy, who awaits you. Return without fear, for this is the favorable time to come home,” the Pope said Feb. 14.

“[Lent] is the time for allowing one’s heart to be touched...” he continued, explaining how “persisting on the path of evil only gives rise to disappointment and sadness. True life is something quite distinct and our heart indeed knows this. God does not tire, nor will he tire, of holding out his hand.”

Marking the start of the Lenten season Feb. 14, Pope Francis prayed the Stations of the Cross at St. Anselm Church in Rome before processing the short way to the Basilica of Santa Sabina for the celebration of Mass, benediction, and the imposition of ashes.

The traditional procession is composed of cardinals, bishops, priests, the Benedictine monks of St. Anselm, the Dominican friars of Santa Sabina, and lay people. As they make their way between the two churches, they sing the Litany of the Saints.

The practice of beginning the Lenten season of prayer and penance this way was started by Pope John XXIII when he came for the opening of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute in 1961.

In his homily at Mass, Pope Francis criticized distrust, apathy and resignation, stressing that Lent is the ideal time to uproot these and other temptations from our hearts. He listed out different ways we can do this through the actions of pausing, seeing, and returning to the Father.

He offered several suggestions of how to pause, including refraining from showing off, or from an attitude which gives rise to unproductive thoughts and self-pity, and which lead us to forget our call to encounter others and share in their burdens.

He also urged an end to the desire “to control everything, know everything, destroy everything,” which he said stems from a lack of gratitude for our life and what we've already been given.

Lent is also a good time for the “creative power of silence” in order to “leave behind the unrest and commotion that fill the soul with bitter feelings which never get us anywhere,” he advised.

“Pause from this compulsion to a fast-paced life that scatters, divides and ultimately destroys time with family, with friends, with children, with grandparents, and time as a gift... time with God,” he stated.

The Pope also called out “haughty looks” and “fleeting and pejorative comments,” and urged a break from words stemming from a lack of “tenderness, compassion and reverence for the encounter with others, particularly those who are vulnerable, hurt and even immersed in sin and error.”
Francis urged people instead to look upon and contemplate those actions which promote faith, hope and charity, and to look upon the faces of the vulnerable and in need, like families who, despite hardship, still strive to make their homes “a school of love.”

He also advised people to see the faces of children and youth, yearning for a future, to see the faces of the elderly reflecting “God's wisdom at work,” and to see the faces of sick people and their caretakers, whose vulnerability reminds us of the value of every person.

“See the remorseful faces of so many who try to repair their errors and mistakes,” he continued, “and who from their misfortune and suffering fight to transform their situations and move forward.”

Finally, the Pope encouraged everyone to take time during Lent to “see and contemplate the face of Crucified Love.”

“See and contemplate the real face of Christ crucified out of love for everyone, without exception,” he said. “For everyone? Yes, for everyone. To see his face is an invitation filled with hope for this Lenten time, in order to defeat the demons of distrust, apathy and resignation.”

 

 

Mass-goers have a right to a well-prepared homily, Pope says

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 18:32

Vatican City, Feb 14, 2018 / 05:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis again offered some reflections and tips for the Liturgy of the Word, saying faithful who attend Mass lack a fundamental “right” if they do not receive a well-prepared and well-preached homily.

In the Liturgy of the Word, the Lord speaks for both pastors and faithful, and he “knocks on the door of those who participate in Mass, each one in their condition of life, age and situation,” the Pope said Feb. 14.

Because of this, after the readings are done, people in the pews are entitled to a “well-written, well-preached” homily, he said, explaining that “when the Word of God is not well-read or preached by the priest, deacon or bishop, the faithful lack a right. We have the right to hear the word of God.”

Pope Francis spoke to some 10,000 pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square during his weekly general audience address on Ash Wednesday, continuing his catechesis on the Mass.

Though the weather was dreary, Francis told attendees that “if the spirit has joy, it's always a good day.”

He focused his reflections for the day on the Creed and the Prayers of the Faithful, saying that after the brief moment of silence after the homily is finished, “our personal response of faith is included into the profession of faith.”

“There is a vital link between listening and faith, they are united,” he said, adding that faith isn't the result of a “fantasy of human minds,” but rather comes from “listening, and listening involves the Word of Christ.”

When we recite the Creed, then, it allows the entire congregation to both meditate on and profess “the great mysteries of faith, before their celebration of the Eucharist.”

Francis said that our response to the Word of God is also seen during the Universal Prayer and the Prayers of the Faithful, during which we pray for the needs of both the Church and the world.

He noted how during the Second Vatican Council, the prelates who participated wanted these prayers to take place after the Gospel and the homily, especially on Sunday and feasts, “so that with the participation of the people, they prayed for the Holy Church, for those who govern us, for those who are found in various necessities, for all men and for the salvation of the world.”

Turning to Scripture, he noted how in the Gospels Jesus said that “if you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask what you want and it will be done.”

Many times “we don't believe this, because we have little faith,” he said. But if we have faith “the size of a mustard seed,” as Jesus said, “we will receive everything.”

When the congregation unites in offering their prayers to God, this is also a time for the faithful to express their own personal desires to God, he said, adding that “it is the strongest time in the liturgy to ask the Lord for what we want, what we desire.”

“It will be done, in one way or another, but it will be done,” he said. And if someone is struggling with faith, he urged them to pray the same prayer as the man in the Gospel who had asked Jesus to heal his child, saying “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.”

Francis also encouraged priests not to be afraid to be spontaneous with the prayers of the faithful, since they focus on the concrete needs of their community and of the world, and to avoid the use “of conventional and short-sighted formulas.”

Pope offers Mass alongside patriarch of Melkite Greek Church

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 19:55

Vatican City, Feb 13, 2018 / 06:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At Mass at Santa Marta Tuesday, Pope Francis concelebrated Mass with the patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Youssef Absi, saying that offering the liturgy together is like an embrace between the two Churches.

“This is what the ceremony of today means: the embrace of the father of a Church with Peter. A rich Church, with its own theology within the Catholic theology, with its own wonderful liturgy, and with a people,” the Pope said Feb. 13.

Speaking in place of a homily, Francis noted how a great number of the people of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church are being “crucified, like Jesus.”

He also said that the Mass was being offered “for the people that suffer, for persecuted Christians in the Middle East, who give their lives, give their goods, their properties, because they are driven away. And we also offer Mass for the ministry of our brother Youssef.”

At the end of the Mass, Patriarch Youssef, who concelebrated, offered his own words to the Pope, saying that he was moved by “his fraternal charity, by the gestures of fraternity, of solidarity that he has shown to our Church during this Mass.”

“We promise to keep it always in our hearts, in the heart of all of us, clergy and faithful, and we will always remember this event, these historical moments, this moment that I cannot describe for how beautiful it is: this fraternity, this communion that binds all disciples of Christ.”

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church of the Byzantine rite in full communion with Rome. It consists of some 1.5 million members and is based in Syria and Lebanon, with most of its eparchies in the Arab world. It also has structures to serve the Melkite diaspora in Australia, Turkey, Canada, Mexico, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela.

On Feb. 12, Pope Francis met with bishops of the Greek-Melkite synod, assuring the patriarch and bishops of his closeness in prayer.

In his speech, the Pope remarked on the presence of their Church in the Middle East, in particular Syria, where their Church “is deeply rooted and performs a precious service for the good of the People of God.”

He also extended his prayer for all the people and priests of the Church throughout the world. “In this difficult historical period, many Christian communities in the Middle East are called to live their faith in the Lord Jesus in the midst of many trials,” he said.

“I sincerely hope that with their testimony of life, the Greek-Melkite bishops and priests can encourage the faithful to remain in the land where Divine Providence has wanted them to be born.”

Francis said that on Feb. 23 he has called for a special day of prayer and fasting for peace, and that on that occasion he would not fail to make special mention of Syria, which has been hit in recent years “by unspeakable suffering.”

Referencing the most recent assembly of the synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which took place in Lebanon earlier this month, he said that those meetings are both an important moment of communion and when important decisions are made for the faithful.

Among these decisions is the election of new bishops, which Francis said are called to be shepherds, accompanying their people and helping them to seek the things of Christ, not of the world.

“We need so many Pastors to embrace life with the breadth of God's heart, without settling on earthly satisfactions, without being content to carry forward what is already there, but always aiming high,” he said.

He also asked the bishops and the patriarch, when they return to their offices, to remind the faithful, and the men and women religious, that they are “in the heart and in the prayer of the Pope,” and gave his apostolic blessing.

Pope Francis: To fight human trafficking, listening to survivors is key

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 04:21

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2018 / 03:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday, Pope Francis urged all people, and youth in particular, to meet with victims of human trafficking in order to learn more about how to fight the scourge of modern-day slavery.

Youth are in “a privileged place to encounter the survivors of human trafficking,” the Pope said Feb. 12. “Go to you parishes, to an association close to home, meet them, listen to them.”

Change starts with encounter, he said, so “don’t be afraid to encounter them. Open your hearts, let them enter, be ready to change.”

He urged youth who have been victims to speak out to others in order to help protect them and make them aware of the risks.

“Everyone who has been a victim of trafficking is an inexhaustible source of support for new victims and it's important [to listen to them],” the Pope said, adding that “youth who have encountered organized crime can play a key role in describing the dangers.”

He also encouraged young people to overcome fear and learn the warning signs of trafficking.

Pope Francis spoke off-the-cuff Monday at a question-and-answer session falling a few days after the World Day of Reflection Against Human Trafficking.

During the encounter, Francis received questions from five youth – four women and one man – both migrants and non-migrants, who asked about how young people in the Church can fight the conditions in which trafficking thrives and how they can help other young people from falling into the illusions presented by traffickers.

Pope Francis stressed the importance of encounter. He thanked all the parishes, schools and institutions that listened to his 2015 appeal for every parish, shrine, religious community and monastery in Europe to welcome a family of refugees.

“I ask you present here today to work in favor of opening to the other, above all when they are wounded in their own dignity,” he said.

Social networks and media can also play a key role in helping to create these spaces, the Pope said, explaining that “the internet can offer great possibilities for encounter and solidarity among everyone, and this is a good thing, it's a gift from God.”

However, these networks can also be misused, he said, noting that “for every instrument that is offered to us, the choice that man decides to make is fundamental.”

Underlying the scourge of human trafficking, the Pope said, is not only a significant amount of ignorance, but also “little will to understand the extent of the problem.”

This, he said, is because it touches our consciences: “A country that does or allows trafficking doesn't like that this comes to light, because it would embarrass them a lot, so they cover it.”

Hypocrisy from those who condemn human trafficking while at the same time taking advantage of trafficked laborers or sex slaves presents a major obstacle to the abolition of trafficking, he said.

Speaking out against this can be an easier task for youth, the Pope said, because “they are less structured in their thought, less obscured by prejudices, more free to reason with their own mind. Youth don't have anything to lose.”

He called trafficking a “crime against humanity” and a form of slavery which is “unfortunately increasingly widespread, which involves every country, even the most developed, and touches the most vulnerable people in society: women and young girls, children, the disabled, the most poor, whoever comes from situations of familial or social disintegration.”

“We need a common responsibility and a stronger political will to succeed on this front,” he said.

Pope Francis also highlighted education as a concrete means of helping other young people avoid the snares and illusions of traffickers. He pointed to the example of St. John Bosco, who established schools and a center for prayer and education to welcome boys living on the street.

“Education is the name of peace. Education is also the name of development...never children without an education. This is the first step,” the Pope said.

He also discussed the conditions that can pave the way for trafficking, such as extreme poverty and unemployment, violence, and corruption in government.

For those who have been victims of trafficking, the Church can offer guidance in the healing and rebuilding process, Pope Francis said, explaining that the Church “has always wanted to be at the side of people who suffer, in particular children and youth, protecting them and promoting their integral human development.”

This is especially true for minors “who are often 'invisible', subject to danger and threats, alone and manipulable,” he said. “We want, also in the most precarious realities, to be your grain of hope and support, because God is always with you.”

Pope Francis also voiced hope that those who have witnessed the dangers of trafficking would find at the upcoming Synod of Bishops “a place to express themselves, from which to call the Church into action.”

The Synod, which will be held this October in Rome, will discuss young people, the faith, and vocational discernment. The Synod is primarily a gathering of bishops, but about a dozen young people will also participate.

However, some 350 young people will participate in a pre-synod meeting at the Vatican next month. Pope Francis encouraged those present at the trafficking Q-and-A to contact organizers and ask to participate in that event.

Analysis: Two former IOR senior managers found guilty of mismanagement

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 04:00

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A Vatican Court has found two former IOR senior managers liable for mismanagement, and ordered them to compensate the IOR for resulting damages.
 
IOR is the Institute for Religious Works, better known as “the Vatican bank,” although it is not actually a bank and it does not operate as a bank.
 
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.
 
However, it was clear that the managers found liable were Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli, respectively IOR general director and deputy general director until July 2013, when they stepped down following the outbreak of the so-called “Scarano case.”
 
Msgr. Nunzio Scarano was an official in the Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, APSA, which does work as a sort of Vatican Central Bank. Scarano was charged with corruption and calumny by a court in Rome and with money laundering by a court in Salerno, and the charges involved the way Msgr. Scarano used his IOR account.
 
For the record, as a member of the clergy and a Vatican official, Msgr. Scarano was perfectly eligible to hold a IOR account.
 
In September 2014, after Cipriani and Tulli resigned, the IOR began a civil liability action against them, supported by a comprehensive review of financial investments made by the IOR before mid-2013, the recent IOR release read.
 
According to the release, the Vatican court ruling “is an important step, illustrating the significant work of IOR senior management over the last 4 years to transform the Institute”, and demonstrates “IOR’s continuing commitment to strong governance, transparency in its operations, and its determination to meet best international standards.”
 
This court’s ruling was anticipated Feb. 3, during the ceremonial of opening of the Vatican judicial year.
 
The judicial year is by custom opened by a report by the Vatican Promoter of Justice, who functions as a public prosecutor.  The report reviews the court’s work over the prior year.
 
In his report, Promoter of Justice Giampiero Milani complained about the most recent Council of Europe’s MONEYVAL progress report on the Holy See / Vatican City State. The report urged the Vatican Court to prosecute alleged cases brought to their attention by the Financial Intelligence Authority.
 
The Promoter of Justice noted that certain slowness is due to the Vatican system of justice, that is intended to protect from allegations until these are proven beyond any reasonable doubt.
 
Milani then stressed that “two sentenced for self-money laundering” will be delivered in the near future, and mentioned “a judicial civil litigation started toward IOR’s senior managers, charged with mismanagement that caused highly onerous financial loss to the institute.”
 
Milano underscored that the senior managers “contested the merits of the charges,” and the issue “was complex and widely debated,” and the promoter finally “made an intervention to defend the public interest.”
 
Within one month, the full sentence will be available, and will clarify why Cipriani and Tulli were found liable for mismanagement.
 
It is noteworthy that the first IOR Annual report, published October 2013, recorded a 2012 profit of 86.6 million euro, while the 2013 report – issued July 2014 – recorded a 2.9 million euro profit.
 
The decrease was described as the result of “extraordinary expenses” and “corrections on investment funds managed by third parties” for 28.5 million euros in 2012 and 2013.
 
Is this the loss Cipriani and Tulli are considered liable for? And how much mismanagement in investments is due to their management and how much is due to those who took the helm of the Institute’s financial operations?
 
These questions will be filled once the full sentence will be published.
 
In 2017, Cipriani and Tulli were also found guilty in a Roman court of failing to provide information to another bank on three money transfers.
 
The sentence had to be read in its entirety: Cipriani and Tulli were found guilty of 3 out of 9 charges, and they were minor charges, compared to those that began the trial.
 
That story began in 2010, with a decision by an Italian prosecutor to preventively seize money transferred by the IOR.
 
According to the prosecutor, the IOR did not fulfill its obligation of “reinforced due diligence”  when it transferred 20 million euro to JP Morgan and 3 million euro to Banca del Fucino from a bank account the Vatican financial institute held in the bank Credito Artigiano. At the time, the IOR was considered an entity in a non-European jurisdiction, that is “not equivalent” to the Italian jurisdiction.
 
The Vatican then adopted law n. 127, that is the first Vatican anti-money laundering law. Because of this, the Italian prosecutor revoked the seizure, as “there is no possibility of application, even because of new occurring facts.” That is, the seizure revocation was motivated by the adoption of a general law. Was it really sufficient to fulfill the requirements?
 
In the meantime, the Holy See carried forward its anti-money laundering reform: “law 127” was replaced by a new law, following recommendations expressed by Council of Europe’s committee MONEYVAL, which the Holy See joined  in 2011.
 
The new anti-money laundering law eventually led to the design of a brand new financial oversight system, and to the strengthening  of the Financial Intelligence Authority.
 
The change of pace given by the developments on new anti-money laundering law indicates the passage from a first phase focused on designing the anti-money laundering system to a second phase with a more stably designed system.
 
This second phase was marked by the issuance of Law n. 18 Oct. 2013, a comprehensive law governing the Vatican’s financial system, and by the strengthening of the Financial Intelligence Authority via new statutes approved Nov. 2013. The same year, the Financial Intelligence Authority and its Italian counterpart signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
 
The funds were repatriated to the Vatican Nov. 2014. In a release, the IOR underscored that “the repatriation" of the funds was possible thanks to "the introduction of a fully fledged anti-money laundering and supervisory system in the Holy See in 2013.”
 
Despite the fact that the funds had been repatriated, the trial against Cipriani and Tulli went on. The investigation started over an alleged lack of information on 155 transfers. In the end, the Italian prosecutor focused just on a few transfers lacking sufficient information.
 
So, beyond the 23 million transfer, the IOR was investigated for a 220,000 euro transfer operated by a certain Giacomo Ottonello; for a 100,000 euro transfer operated by a certain Giuseppina Mantese; for a 120,000 euros transfer operated by the Little Apostoles of Charity; for a 66,133 euros money transfer operated by Antonio D’Ortenzio; for a 70,000 euros transfer operated by Lelio Scaletti, who served as IOR general director; for a 100,000 euros transfer operated by Lucia Fatello; and 250,000 money transfer operated by “La Civiltà Cattolica”.
 
While the Vatican’s legal framework had changed, the trial went on. However, the court could only focus on minor issues, while finding Cipriani and Tulli not guilty of money laundering.
 
As the civil trial in Italy had a generally positive outcome, it is unclear why the Vatican prosecutor found the two former managers liable for mismanagements, especially considering that no investment could be undertaken without the approval of the IOR’s Council of Superintendency.
 
The IOR’s internal procedures will continue change. The Council of Superintendency met this week, and approved some reforms to the 1990 modification of the IOR’s statutes. According to sources, the reform will eliminate the college of auditors and will establish a new overseeing body within the Institute’s ranks.
 
This reform must be approved by the Cardinal’s Commission, chaired by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello.

 

Pope, Bangladesh Prime Minister discuss Rohingya crisis at Vatican

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 21:05

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2018 / 08:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Just two months after his recent visit to Bangladesh, Pope Francis Monday welcomed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to the Vatican, where they discussed positive inter-faith relations in the country and the need to find a lasting solution to the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis.

According to a Feb. 12 Vatican communique, the conversation was cordial and highlighted the positive bilateral relations between the two and the success of Francis' recent, Nov. 30-Dec. 2 visit to Bangladesh.

In particular, the “keen participation” of many non-Catholics was emphasized, as Bangladesh is a majority Muslim nation. Catholics are a small minority in Bangladesh, numbering only 375,000 – 0.2 percent – out of a total population of almost 156 million people.

The two spoke in English with the help of the Pope's official interpreter, Monsignor Mark Miles. As Hasina walked in, she told the Pope that she was “very glad you were able to visit Bangladesh,” and Francis expressed his own gratitude, saying “thank you.”

In the conversation, which lasted for 20-minutes, Francis and Hasina also discussed the Catholic Church's contribution to education in the country, as well as the State's efforts in promoting peaceful relations among different religious communities.

They also focused on the need to defend minorities and refugees. To this end, appreciation was voiced to the Bangladeshi government for welcoming Rohingya Muslim refugees, whose plight was a major underlying theme of the Pope's visit to both Burma – also called Myanmar – an Bangladesh last fall.

A largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State, the Rohingya have faced a sharp increase in state-sponsored violence in their homeland, recently reaching staggering levels that have led the United Nations to declare the crisis “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

With an increase in persecution in their home country of Burma, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh, and are living in refugee camps.

Pope Francis personally greeted 18 members of the Rohingya community who were present at a Dec. 1 interreligious encounter in Dhaka, Bangladesh, asking forgiveness on behalf of all who persecute the Burmese minority.

In the Pope's meeting with Hasina, the two voiced hope that a “just and lasting solution to their ordeal” might be reached soon.

After the meeting the Pope met the Prime Minister's nine-person delegation and the two exchanged gifts. For her part, Hasina gave Francis an image of a boat, believed to be filled with migrants.

Pope Francis in turn gifted Hasina the medal of peace, which he often gives to the heads of state he receives, as well as a copy of his 2018 Message for Peace and his environmental encyclical Laudato Si.

Hasina then met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, under-Secretary for Relations with States.

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