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Updated: 51 min 53 sec ago

Pope voices sorrow at death of 'beloved' Cardinal Tettamanzi

Sat, 08/05/2017 - 21:06

Vatican City, Aug 5, 2017 / 09:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday, Pope Francis sent a message mourning the death earlier that day of 83-year-old Italian Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop Emeritus of Milan.

“In learning of the news of the passing of the dear Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, I wish to express my condolences to his family and members of that diocesan community, which lists him among her most illustrious sons and most lovable and beloved pastors,” the Pope said in an Aug. 5 telegram.

Addressed to Cardinal Angelo Scola, the recently retired Archbishop of Milan, and Archbishop Mario Delpini, the archdiocese's current leader, the telegram conveyed the affection and gratitude with which Francis said he would remember “the intense cultural and pastoral work lavished by this blessed brother.”

Francis praised Cardinal Tettamanzi, who “in his fruitful existence has borne witness to the joy of the Gospel and served the Church docilely.”

Tettamanzi, he said, was “always distinct as a caring pastor, totally dedicated to the needs and the good of the priests and of all the faithful, with special attention to the themes of the family, marriage and bioethics, of which he was a particular expert.”

Archbishop of Milan from 2002-2011, Tettamanzi was a moral theologian and a leading voice in the Italian Church, and at one point was even considered a likely candidate for the papacy.

Viewed as spanning the gap between liberal and conservative, the cardinal oversaw several dioceses and held various positions in the Italian Bishops' Conference. He also collaborated in the writing of several Vatican documents in moral theology, including St. John Paul II's 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae.”

Born March 14, 1934 in Renate, Italy, Tettamanzi was just 11 years old when he entered the seminary of Seveso San Pietro, where he began his initial studies.

He then attended the Seminary of the Lower Venegono until 1957, when he received a licentiate in theology. That same year he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Milan, and later obtained his doctorate in moral theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

For over 20 years, the cardinal taught fundamental moral theology at the Lower Venegono seminary and pastoral theology at the Priestly Institute of Mary Immaculate and the Lombard Regional Institute of Pastoral Ministry in Milan.

Throughout his career, the prelate authored several written works, contributing to the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano and the Italian bishops' daily paper, Avvenire.

From 1979-1989 he was active in the Italian Confederation of Family Counseling Centers of Christian inspiration as well as in “Oari,” a pastoral movement dedicated offering hope to those who suffer. He was also involved in the Milan branch of the Association of Italian Catholic Medical Doctors for nearly 20 years.

Tettamanzi was given the title “Monsignor” in 1985, and just two years later, in September 1987, he was tapped to serve the Pontifical Lombard Seminary.

While in that role, he continued to serve the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) in various roles, and collaborated with the Holy See and various theological institutes.

On July 1, 1989, he was named Archbishop of Ancona-Osma, and received his episcopal ordination Sept. 23, 1989. While there, he also served as head of the CEI's Marche region. Then in June of 1990, he was elected president of the CEI Bishops Commission for the Family.

He was named Secretary General of the CEI in March 1991, and in April resigned from his position leading the diocese of Ancona-Osimo. Four years later, on April 20, 1995, he was named Archbishop of Genoa, and served as president of the regional bishops’ conference.

Just a month later, in May 1995, he was named Vice President of the CEI, a position he held until 2000.

In addition to the various responsibilities he carried out, Tettamanzi participated as an expert in the 1980 Synod of Bishops on the Family and the 1987 Synod on the Laity convoked by John Paul II. He was also a synod father at the two Special Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops for Europe in 1991 and 1999, as well as the 1994 Synod on Consecrated Life.

Tettamanzi was named Archbishop of Milan in July 2002, taking over for Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, whose legacy, for many, was carried forward by Tettamanzi.

He was named a cardinal by John Paul II in the consistory of February 1998, and was tapped by Pope Francis to participate in the XIV Ordinary General Assembly on The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World in October 2015.

Having been under the age limit of 80 during the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Tettamanzi voted in both that and the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

In his telegram for the cardinal's passing, Francis prayed that God would “welcome this faithful servant, whom he loved so greatly, in joy and eternal peace,” and offered his blessing to all those mourning, and to those who “lovingly assisted” the cardinal during his last few years of illness.  
 

Artists take center stage in Pope's latest prayer video

Sat, 08/05/2017 - 16:24

Vatican City, Aug 5, 2017 / 04:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has dedicated the month of August to praying for artists, praising them in his latest prayer video as heralds of God's beauty, and asking that through their work, they would help humanity discover the wonder of creation.

The video opens with the Pope telling viewers in his native Spanish that “the arts give expression to the beauty of the faith and proclaim the Gospel message of the grandeur of God's creation,” as musicians sit outside holding their instruments with nothing but the sound of nature in the background.

As the musicians begin playing their different instruments, such as the violin, saxophone and various unique, cultural instruments from around the world, Francis says that “when we admire a work of art or a marvel of nature, we discover how everything speaks to us of him and of his love.”

Images of other artists, such as painters and dancers, flash across the scene as the Pope closes by praying “that the artists of our time, through their creativity, may help us discover the beauty of creation.”

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First launched during the Jubilee of Mercy, the videos are part of an initiative of the Jesuit-run global prayer network Apostleship of Prayer and are filmed in collaboration with the Vatican Television Center and the Argentinian marketing association La Machi.

The Apostleship of Prayer, which produces the monthly videos on the Pope’s intentions, was founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884 to encourage Christians to serve God and others through prayer, particularly for the needs of the Church.

Since the late 1800s, the organization has received a monthly, “universal” intention from the Pope. In 1929, an additional missionary intention was added by the Holy Father, aimed at the faithful in particular.

Starting in January, rather than including a missionary intention, Pope Francis has elected to have only one prepared prayer intention – the universal intention featured in the prayer video – and will add a second intention focused on an urgent or immediate need if one arises.

The prayer intentions typically highlight issues of importance not only for Pope Francis, but for the world, such as families, the environment, the poor and homeless, Christians who are persecuted and youth.

Pope Francis has often praised artists – usually circus performers who put on a show during a general audience – for their contribution to beauty, and has made special efforts to make the Vatican's treasures available to those who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to see them.

In October 2013, just a few months after his election, the Pope held an audience with the Patrons of the Arts, established some 30 years ago to fund restoration projects in the Vatican museums.

“In every age the Church has called upon the arts to give expression to the beauty of her faith and to proclaim the Gospel message of the grandeur of God’s creation, the dignity of human beings made in his image and likeness, and the power of Christ’s death and resurrection to bring redemption and rebirth to a world touched by the tragedy of sin and death,” he told the patrons.

Rome’s “countless” pilgrims and visitors encounter the Gospel message through the art that is found in the Vatican Museums, he said, adding that the pieces featured “bear witness to the spiritual aspirations of humanity, the sublime mysteries of the Christian faith, and the quest of that supreme beauty which has its source and fulfillment in God.”

In March 2015, the Pope invited a group of 150 homeless for dinner and a private tour of the Vatican museums and the Vatican City State on the premise that beauty is for everyone.

A year later, in June 2016, the Pope received some 6,000 traveling performers in the Vatican for the Jubilee of Circus Performers, telling them that while their work is demanding and at times unstable, it enables them to bring light to an often dark world.

“You are artisans of celebration, of wonder, of the beautiful: with these qualities you enrich the society of the entire world,” he told the group, which performed various acts for the pontiff.

He told them that through their work, they help to nourish hope and confidence via performances “that have the ability to elevate the soul.”

Similarly, in December of the same year, Pope Francis sent a message to the annual meeting of the Pontifical Academies naming the winners of that year's Pontifical Academies Award, whom he had chosen.

In the letter, the Pope said “architects and painters, sculptors and musicians, filmmakers and writers, photographers and poets, artists of every discipline, are called to shine beauty especially where darkness or gray dominates everyday life.”

These people, he said, “are the custodians of beauty, heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity.”

Vatican urges Venezuela to suspend constitutional revision

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 17:26

Vatican City, Aug 4, 2017 / 05:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As tensions and deaths continue to rise in Venezuela over the government's push to re-write their constitution, the Holy See has urged the country's leaders to hold off on the constitutional assembly, focusing instead on alleviating the nation's crippling humanitarian crisis.  

“The Holy See expresses again her profound concern for the radicalization and aggravation of the crisis in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, with the increase in the number of deaths, wounded and those who have been detained,” read an Aug. 4 Vatican communique.

Pope Francis, both directly and through Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, “closely follows that situation and it's humanitarian, social, political, economic and even spiritual implications, and assures of his constant prayer for the country and for all Venezuelans,” while inviting faithful around the world “to pray intensely for this situation.”

At the same time, the Holy See asked all political actors, and governments in particular, to ensure that “full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms” are respected, “as well as the existing Constitution.”

The Holy See asked specifically that political and governmental agents “avoid or suspend ongoing initiatives such as the new constitutional assembly which, instead of fostering peace and reconciliation, foments a climate of tension and conflict and mortgages the future.”

It also asked them to create the conditions “for a negotiated solution” in line with the requirements Cardinal Parolin spelled out in his Dec. 1, 2016, letter to the Venezuelan government, asking that: provisions be made to alleviate the crisis in the supply of food and medicine; that parties agree on a timetable for elections allowing Venezuelans themselves to decide their future; that the country's National Assembly be reinstated as soon as possible and its role provided for in the Constitution; and that legal procedures accelerating the release of detainees be implemented.

In addition, the Holy See also asked the government to bear in mind “the serious suffering of the people due to the difficulty of obtaining food and medicine, and a lack of security.”

The statement closed by making a “firm appeal” to society as a whole “to overcome all forms of violence, inviting, in particular, security forces to abstain from the excessive and disproportionate use of force.”

The statement comes days after July 30 nation-wide elections, which approved a constitutional assembly to reform the country’s 1999 constitution. However, some reports and members of Venezuela’s opposition have disputed the fairness of the elections, which were boycotted by the opposition.

Although the government claims that more than 8 million voters attended, the Democratic Unity Table, an organization monitoring the election, reported that only 2.4 million votes, or 12 percent of eligible voters, were cast, of which a quarter would have voted “no”.

Furthermore, in the days leading up to and following the election, uprisings and protests swept throughout the country. Conflicts between protesters and the country’s Bolivarian National Guard have resulted in the death of at least 15 people, including two minors.

Reports also indicate that at least 300 people were arrested for protesting the government in the days surrounding the vote.

The constitutional revisions have been rejected by the Venezuelan bishops for being not only “unconstitutional, but also unnecessary, inconvenient and harmful for the Venezuelan people.”

In a July 27 message, the bishops said Maduro's initiative “has not been convened by the people, has unacceptable commissions, and only the partisans of the ruling party will be represented there.”

“It will be a biased and biased instrument that will not solve, but will aggravate the acute problems of high cost of living, the shortage of food and medicines that suffer the people, and deepen and worsen the deep political crisis we currently face.”

Two opposition leaders, Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma, have been re-arrested following the vote.

Frustration in Venezuela has been building for years due to poor economic policies, including strict price controls coupled with high inflation rates, which have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers, and medicines.

Venezuela's socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis. Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates.

On Aug. 1 Cardinal Parolin addressed the situation with local Italian media, saying he and Pope Francis are “very committed” to seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela. The Vatican has been “seeking to help all, indiscriminately, and calling each person to fulfill their own responsibility.”

“The criteria should be only the good of the people,” he said. “The dead are too many and I do not think there are other criteria to follow that is not in the common good of the people,” he insisted.

With that in mind, the cardinal said that “it is necessary to find a peaceful and democratic way to get out of this situation, and the only way is always the same: we must find, talk, but seriously, to find a way to solution.”

Why Cardinal Parolin's trip to Russia matters

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 18:01

Vatican City, Aug 3, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican Secretary of State's visit to Russia later this month comes at a crucial juncture for the country, and is packed with both political and religious significance.  

He is expected to meet with President Vladimir Putin and leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church during the trip.

On a political level, the visit of Cardinal Pietro Parolin – the dates of which have yet to be announced – comes as Russia faces rising tensions with the West over Syria and Ukraine, and possible meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Just this week the U.S. slapped Russia with more economic sanctions due to Russia's involvement in the election. The decision prompted Putin to expell 755 people from its U.S. embassy and consulates.

On a religious level, Cardinal Parolin's visit also comes at a key time, falling just a year and a half after the historic February 2016, meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The meeting marked the first time leaders from each Church sat down together since the Russian Orthodox Church was founded some 400 years ago.

While there might be fear and criticism regarding their engagement with Russia, “the Vatican is nevertheless willing to take this risk,” seasoned Vatican analyst Robert Moynihan told CNA.

“On the world scene there is no more important and more significant relationship right now than that between Russia and the West,” he said. So for the Vatican “to bring the highest diplomatic figure to the center of Russia and to have him speak with the highest authorities is a dramatic and significant gesture on the part of Pope Francis.”

“The benefit of direct contact and of sitting and talking is so great, and the threat of wider conflict in Ukraine and of deeper division between the West and Russia is viewed in Rome as so dangerous, that the Vatican … is willing to publicly make this trip and underline the fact that they have hope that these types of talks can lessen tensions,” he said.

“So this is the delicacy of the moment. I think it's a courageous act on the part of the Vatican.”

Moynihan is an American journalist and is the editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican magazine. Holding a Ph.D in Medieval Studies from Yale University, he is also founder of the Urbi et Orbi Foundation, which is dedicated to building relations between Catholics and other Christians throughout the world.

Throughout his career he has taken a special interest in Russia, having traveled there some 30 times since 1999.

Moynihan said the significance of Cardinal Parolin's visit and the meetings he will hold have deep historical roots, making the trip a pivotal moment not only for the present, but also in terms of what the future could look like.

Political Relevance

Quoting an Oct. 1, 1939, BBC broadcast with Winston Churchill, Moynihan said Russia “is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” As such, it's something “difficult to penetrate, to understand, [and] is a fascinating and important country.”

Russia is “a country that we should not put into a corner and condemn, but a country we should engage with and a country which can teach us many things,” he said.

In many ways still grappling with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia is in a sense trying to find its place, he said, adding that the complexity of the current situation has been triggered at least in part by the events that followed the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Among these events are the re-unification of Germany, the integration of Eastern bloc countries into Europe, and current questions on Russia's own integration into Europe and what role border countries – namely the Baltic states and others such as Belarus and Ukraine – will play.

Looking specifically to Ukraine, Moynihan pointed the severity of the situation, and noted that most Ukrainians would sadly recognize that the democratic process in their country is going though “an extremely difficult transition period.”

This is due largely to the conflict in the eastern region of the country, which has killed more than 10,000 people since April 2014, and crippled their economy.

With Cardinal Parolin's visit, the Holy See will have the opportunity to play a similar role to the one it had in helping to broker restored ties between the U.S. and Cuba during the Obama administration, leading to the thaw of a 50 year freeze in relations.

Part of this mediation could come through the Catholic Church's close ties with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is 4-5 million people strong in a country of 40 million, and with the Latin and Orthodox communities in Ukraine.

“I've always thought there could be a religious off-ramp that could cut through the geopolitical and political haggling and distrust to say we are all human beings, we all have the faith in God and in Jesus Christ,” and even with differences, are able to go beyond “this geopolitical conflict,” Moynihan said.

In looking at the situation between Russia and Ukraine from both the religious and geopolitical sides, the Vatican recognizes “that it's always good to have channels of communication open,” he said.

“The idea that the Vatican and that Cardinal Parolin himself continually emphasize that it's better to communicate and to talk than to be in a cold, non-communicative standoff.”

Religious Relevance

Cardinal Parolin's expected meeting with Patriarch Kirill comes as part of what Moynihan termed “a longing” to restore at least partial, if not full, unity among the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Since the 1964 meeting of Bl. Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople, the two traditions have reached a point “where the profound suspicion and distrust of some past centuries has diminished by the hard work of thoughtful men of both Churches as they've come to respect and appreciate the faith and learning of their counterparts.”

There are still those in the Orthodox community who view Rome with suspicion, believing them to be a controlling entity that would limit their freedom and strip them of their traditions. On the other hand, many in the Latin rite hesitate to draw closer to the Orthodox for fear that they are often closely linked with their governing states.

According to Moynihan, many fear that the meeting between Cardinal Parolin and Putin would be used “as a piece in a chess game for geopolitical purposes,” to make Russia seem less aggressive.

“The Vatican is nevertheless willing to take this risk,” he said, because they have hope the meeting might help “prepare the way for a just peace in situations of conflict and for closer union between these thousand year-divided Churches.”

Turning to the days of St. John Paul II, Moynihan noted that the Polish Pope, who was very familiar with Russia and the Soviet regime, had said that “the Church needs to breathe with two lungs, that we need to have closer relations with the Orthodox.”

Russian Orthodox themselves were “brutally and cruelly suppressed” under the Soviet Union, he said, noting that thousands of churches were burned, many thousands of Orthodox Christians were arrested, and hundreds of priests executed.

“The atheist, communist regime was a brutal regime for our Christian brothers in the Soviet Union and in Russia, so I think this is a cause for us to feel compassion toward them,” Moynihan said.

When faced with accusations that the Russian Orthodox Church is nationalistic and is being used as a puppet of the government, the journalist said he insists that, in his opinion, the Russian government “is attempting to become more of a normal country's government.”

“It's in reaction to the ideological rigor of the communist system that they are still torn by the mixture of nostalgia for the Soviet time and the attraction of this Western, liberal democratic culture.”

“They're right in the middle of this transition process,” he said, noting that in recent years they have been rebuilding their churches and re-studying  Christian tradition.

In his opinion, Moynihan said efforts are those of a people trying to return to the “wellspring of faith” that was cut off for 70 years by “a very pitiless, tyrannical, atheist regime.”

“For this reason I feel up and down the line we ought to engage with the Russians and with all Eastern Europeans, and that we should gain from them a sense of how Christians can survive under cultural and political pressure as we ourselves face our own challenges in our increasingly post-Christian Western societies.”

In this sense, Cardinal Parolin's visit marks “one more step in a multi-decade, multi-century process in which the Church tries to keep communications with the Eastern Churches.”

One point Cardinal Parolin and Patriarch Kirill are likely to touch on in their upcoming meeting is the joint declaration signed by the Patriarch and Pope Francis during their meeting in Havana last year, which highlighted the need to work together to protect the environment, the poor, and the persecuted.

But odds are, when he meets with Putin, Cardinal Parolin will try to move the political pen on touchy issues, reinforcing the idea that the Holy See “can serve as a type of honest broker in between colossal powers, which are as we all know positioning themselves in very significant ways that will effect the future of Ukraine, the future of Eastern Europe, the future of Europe as a whole and the future of the world.”

So it is against this political and religious backdrop that Cardinal Parolin will enter “right at the hinge-point of this decision, of whether we will keep Russia excluded from polite society, whether we will actually confront Russia and have a conflict or a war,” Moynihan said.

“This is a dramatic moment, and I wish Cardinal Parolin all the best. I think he's a balanced, competent, thoughtful man,” he said, but noted that there are still those who are concerned, wishing to keep Russia isolated on the global playing field.

“I take a different view,” he said. “I think it's a trip that's filled with hope and is something that must be done in order to allow us to evade, if we may evade, a great tragedy of wider conflict that could harm the entire region and the world.”

Haitian children, Andrea Bocelli sing for Pope Francis

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 21:56

Vatican City, Aug 2, 2017 / 09:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Wednesday there was a special surprise at the end of Pope Francis' general audience – a performance by acclaimed Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and a choir of 60 children from the poorest areas of Haiti.

The choir, called “Voices of Haiti,” sang three songs with Bocelli, including 'Amazing Grace' and 'Ave Maria,' following the general audience in the Vatican's Pope Paul VI hall Aug. 2. After the performance the children and world-renowned singer were greeted by Pope Francis.

.@AndreaBocelli sung "Ave Maria" w choir of children from #Haiti during today's gen audience, brought to #Rome w his foundation @AlanHoldren pic.twitter.com/QAVsGE63ii

— Elise Harris (@eharris_it) August 2, 2017 The performance was part of a nearly two-week-long European tour of the children’s choir, made up of youth ages 9-15, coming from some of the poorest areas of Port-au-Prince Haiti. Besides Rome, the tour included stops in Pisa, Florence and Lajatico, Italy, Bocelli’s birthplace.

In Lajatico they will perform with Bocelli in front of 15,000 people for the 12thh edition of his annual concert at the famous Teatro del Silenzio. In Florence they sang for the inauguration of a foundation dedicated to the Italian director Franco Zeffirelli.  

According to a press release, the project, “offers the opportunity to children and young Haitians coming from extremely disadvantaged situations to enhance their talent thanks to a highly specialized training, benefitting also of a wealth of opportunities, precious for their future.”

“Grown up in a context of extreme poverty, thirsty for beauty, eager to learn, through a highly professional educational path, the young singers have reached a great understanding, have become aware of discipline, passion, love for music and of the joy of sharing. Therefore, what they can convey through their singing is pure joy.”

The children of the choir and related projects come from the Citè Soleil slums where over 300,000 people live in tin shack houses, without access to water and sanitation.

The project has been ongoing since January 2016. The children participate in weekly rehearsals on Saturdays, which include breakfast, lunch and game time in addition to vocal exercises, music therapy and song rehearsal. Buses pick them up and bring them home after.

They learn both folk Haitian and international music and perform throughout the year in local celebrations in their community, such as Easter and the end of the school year. In September 2016 they traveled internationally for the first time, performing in New York City.

“Voices of Haiti” is a project of the Andrea Bocelli Foundation. In addition to the choir, the foundation also introduces music into the 30 schools supported by the local St. Luc Foundation in Haiti.

They also help to provide education, food, and health assistance to thousands of children, water and electricity to remote and poor communities, solar panels and libraries.

According to their website, “because all the students come from poor economic and social backgrounds, through music they have been able to find a way to consolidate discipline, cooperation, and have moved away from the misery brought on by the grip of poverty.”

“Music becomes an additional means for social and intellectual development, not only personal, but for entire communities.”

“Voices of Haiti” is directed by Malcolm J. Merriweather, a professor at Brooklyn College Conservatory in New York, and is run by a team of Haitian collaborators made up of musicians, teachers, and administrators.

Why a choir? Because “music is the soul’s voice, its strength and beauty open minds, and develop thoughts…” the website continues.

“From the secret melodies of celestial bodies to the beat of the fruit fly wings, creation is a sound metaphor of its Creator, and every element contributes, imperceptibly, but effectively to universal harmony, that with immeasurable perfection rules life and expresses a poetic, amazing synonym of God.”

Vatican justice branch sets anti-corruption goals for 2018

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 21:32

Vatican City, Aug 2, 2017 / 09:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After hosting a discussion earlier this summer, the Vatican office for justice has outlined several goals and action points in their plan to fight corruption, which will be a central focus for the upcoming year.

On June 15 the International Consultation Group for justice, corruption, organized crime and mafias, part of the Vatican dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, organized an “International Debate on Corruption.”

The event, hosted in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, drew some 50 participants from all over the world, including anti-mafia and anti-corruption magistrates, bishops, Vatican officials, representatives from the U.N. and various States, heads of movements, victims and ambassadors.

As a result of that meeting, the consultation group has issued a joint text July 31 highlighting their priorities and providing 21 goals and actions points they hope to accomplish in the coming year.

In the text, the group noted that among Pope Francis' monthly prayer intentions for 2018 is the petition “that those who have material, political or spiritual power may resist any lure of corruption,” to which the month of February will be dedicated.

“Corruption, prior to being an act, is a condition,” they said. “Hence the need for culture, education, training, institutional action, citizen participation.”

To encourage this, the group said that from September of this year on, they will place a special focus on anti-corruption efforts, and plan to formulate different definitions of “corruption,” which was mentioned in a book-length interview with Cardinal Peter Turkson titiled “Corrosione,” or “Corrosion.”

Published the same day as the June 15 debate on corruption, the book was presented during the event and features a forward by Pope Francis, who called corruption a “form of blasphemy” and a “cancer that weighs our lives.”

According to the text, the group “will not just come up with virtuous exhortations, because concrete gestures are needed.” To educate means having credible teachers, they said, “even in the Church.”

As an international network, the group and the Church itself will work “with courage, resolution, transparency, spirit of collaboration and creativity.”

The group insisted that “anyone seeking alliances to obtain privileges, exemptions, preferential or even illegal pathways, is not credible.”

“If we decide to follow this behavior, we can all run the risk of becoming unsuitable, harmful and dangerous,” they said, adding that those “taking advantage of their position to recommend people who are often not recommendable – both in terms of value and honesty – are not credible.”

“Thus, the action of the Consultation Group will be educational and informative, and will address public opinion and many institutions to create a mentality of freedom and justice, in view of the common good.”

Consequences arising as a result of corruption are not often recognized, they said, noting that “one is unaware that an act of corruption is often at the base of a crime.”

Because of this, the group aims to intervene and “fill this gap, especially wherever, in the world, corruption is the dominant social system.”

With the help of bishops' conferences and local churches, members will also dedicate themselves to investigating a global response to the “excommunication of the mafia” and other similar criminal groups, as well as “the prospect of excommunication for corruption.”

Pope Francis himself said in a June 2014 visit to Calabria, a region plagued by mafia activity, called the local criminal branch, known as the 'Ndrangheta, “adorers of evil” and said that those who have chosen this path “not in communion with God. They are 'excommunicated,'” as an invitation to conversion.

Another objective the group will pursue is to “develop the almost-lost relationship between justice and beauty,” since “our extraordinary historical, artistic and architectural heritage will be a formidable element supporting educational and social actions against all forms of corruption and organized crime.”

They will also seek to promote a political mindset which, in their words, is capable of “enlightening actions towards civil institutions, to ensure that international treaties are effectively enforced and laws are standardized to best pursue the tentacles of crime, which go well beyond state borders.”

To this end, the principals of both the Palermo and Merida Conventions against transnational organized crime and corruption will be studied.

Peace and the relationship between peace processes and various forms of corruption will be another area of study, since corruption “also causes a lack of peace.”

“A movement, an awakening of consciences, is necessary,” the group said. “This is our primary motivation, which we perceive as a moral obligation. Laws are necessary but not sufficient.”

Key areas of focus, then, will be education, culture and citizenship, they said, stressing that “we need to act with courage to stir and provoke consciences, shifting from widespread indifference to the perception of the severity of these phenomena, in order to fight them.”

To be a Christian means to have hope even in darkness, Pope Francis says

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 16:58

Vatican City, Aug 2, 2017 / 04:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that to be a Christian means to have hope in the light of Christ, which we are filled with at our Baptism, even in the midst of difficulties or darkness.

“What does it mean to be Christian? It means to look to the light, to continue to practice the profession of faith in the light, even when the world is wrapped in night and darkness,” Pope Francis said Aug. 2.

The Pope resumed his general audiences Wednesday, following a break for the month of July. Addressing pilgrims gathered in the Pope Paul VI hall of the Vatican, he spoke about the hope found in Christianity, especially in our Baptism, which orients us toward the light of Christ.   

“Christians are not exempt from darkness, external and even internal. They do not live out of the world, however, because of the grace of Christ received in Baptism, they are men and women ‘oriented,’” the Pope said.

“They do not believe in the darkness, but in the light of day; they do not succumb to the night, but hope in the dawn; they are not defeated by death, but they want to resurrect; they are not bent over by evil, because they always confide in the infinite possibilities of good,” he said.

“And this is our Christian hope. The light of Jesus, the salvation that brings us Jesus with his light that saves us from the darkness.”

Francis began his address by explaining how there was a time when churches faced toward the east, so that when a person entered the doors in the west, he or she walked eastward toward the altar. Though this has fallen out of custom, it’s still an important symbol, he said.

“We men of modern times, much less accustomed to grasping the great signs of the cosmos, we almost never notice such a thing,” he said, noting that the west is the direction of the sunset, “where the light dies.” In the east, on the other hand, is where we see the first light of the dawn, casting away the darkness.

The Pope explained that in the ancient Church, during the rite of Baptism, the catechumens would make the first part of their profession of faith facing the west. When questioned, “do you renounce Satan, his favors, and all his works?” facing the west, they would respond “I renounce!”

They would then turn to face the east, the direction of the Orient, for the question: “do you believe in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?” this time responding, “I believe!”

In our own Baptisms today there is the beautiful sign of the lit baptismal candle, showing the importance of light, he continued. Using a word he called “a bit strong,” the Pope said: “the life of the Church is contamination of light.”

“I would like to ask you: how many of you remember the date of your Baptism?” he asked. “Think, and if you do not remember it, today you have homework: go to your mom, your dad, your aunt, your uncle, your grandmother, grandpa and ask them, ‘What is my Baptism date?’”

He then instructed them not to forget it, adding that today’s commitment is to learn and remember your date of baptism, “which is the date of rebirth, is the date of light, it is the date in which,” he emphasized, “we have been contaminated by the light of Christ.”

It is a great grace when a Christian really becomes a bearer of Christ in the world, he said, especially for those who are in mourning, despair or darkness. And this can be understood in many small details, such as a light in the eyes, staying at peace, even during complicated times, and the desire “to restart well, even when many disappointments have been experienced.”

“We are the ones who believe that God is the Father: this is the light!” he said. “We believe that the Holy Spirit works without rest for the sake of humanity and the world, and even the greatest pains of history will be overcome: this is the hope that resounds  every morning!”

“We believe that every affection, every friendship, every good wish, every love, even the most minute and neglected ones, will one day find their fulfillment in God: this is the force that drives us to embrace our everyday life with enthusiasm!”

“And,” he concluded, “this is our hope: living in hope and living in light, in the light of God the Father, in the light of Jesus the Savior, in the light of the Holy Spirit that drives us to move on in life.”

Vatican insists on peaceful, democratic resolution in Venezuela

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 05:02

Vatican City, Aug 1, 2017 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After violence followed a controversial vote in Venezuela this weekend, the Vatican Secretary of State has encouraged the country's citizens to find a "peaceful and democratic" way out of the crisis.

The violence comes on the heels of a vote for an assembly charged by the country's socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, with writing a new constitution.

According to ANSA news agency, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that he and Pope Francis are "very committed" to seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela. The Vatican has been "seeking to help all, indiscriminately, and calling each person to fulfill their own responsibility."

"The criteria should be only the good of the people,” he said. "The dead are too many and I do not think there are other criteria to follow that is not in the common good of the people," he insisted.

With that in mind, Cardinal Parolin said that “it is necessary to find a peaceful and democratic way to get out of this situation, and the only way is always the same: we must find, talk, but seriously, to find a way to solution."

His statements come only days after July 30 nation-wide elections, which approved a constitutional assembly to reform the country’s 1999 constitution. However, some reports and members of Venezuela’s opposition have disputed the fairness of the elections, which were boycotted by the opposition.

Although the government claims that more than 8 million voters attended, the Democratic Unity Table, an organization monitoring the election, reported that only 2.4 million votes, or 12 percent of eligible voters, were cast, of which a quarter would have voted “no”.

Furthermore, in the days leading up to and following the election, uprisings and protests swept throughout the country. Conflicts between protestors and the country’s Bolivarian National Guard have resulted in the death of at least 15 people, including two minors.

According to critic of the Maduro regime and Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Díaz, "10 people lost their lives surrounding Sunday's vicious election, totaling 121 deaths since the protests began in April.”

The constitutional revisions have been rejected by the Venezuelan bishops for being not only "unconstitutional, but also unnecessary, inconvenient and harmful for the Venezuelan people."

In their message of July 27, the bishops said that Maduro's initiative "has not been convened by the people, has unacceptable commissions, and only the partisans of the ruling party will be represented there."

"It will be a biased and biased instrument that will not solve, but will aggravate the acute problems of high cost of living, the shortage of food and medicines that suffer the people, and deepen and worsen the deep political crisis we currently face," .

Two opposition leaders, Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma, have been re-arrested following the vote.

Vatican urges vacation-goers to be responsible tourists

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 22:25

Vatican City, Aug 1, 2017 / 10:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Rome and other parts of the world gear up for their August holidays, the Vatican has urged tourists to remember the human person and the environment in their travels, treating people and things with respect.

“Holiday time cannot be a pretext either for irresponsibility or for exploitation: in fact, it is a noble time in which everyone can add value to one’s own life and that of others,” Cardinal Peter Turkson wrote Aug. 1.

The Catholic Church supports the idea of “sustainable tourism” promoted by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

“This means that it must be responsible, and not destructive or detrimental to the environment nor to the socio-cultural context of the locality.”

“Moreover, it must be particularly respectful of the population and their heritage, with a view to safeguarding personal dignity and labor rights, especially those of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people,” he continued.

Cardinal Turkson, head of the dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, sent the message for the occasion of World Tourism Day, which will be celebrated Sept. 27, 2017.

The message, which takes its title from this year’s theme of “Sustainable Tourism – a tool for development,” notes that “every genuinely human activity” – including tourism – “must find its place in the hearts of Christ's disciples.”

According to the World Tourism Organization, in 2016, the number of international tourist arrivals was around 1.2 billion. Worldwide, the sector accounts for 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and seven percent of total exports. One out of every 11 jobs are in tourism.

Therefore sustainable tourism “is also a development tool for economies in difficulty if it becomes a vehicle of new opportunities and not a source of problems,” Turkson said.

Particularly because of its economic, social and cultural contributions, it “can be an important tool for growth and the fight against poverty” as well.

But this is true only as long as it promotes integral human development, embracing “all aspects of life: social, economic, political, cultural, and spiritual, making them elements in a single synthesis, the human person.”

Sustainability is promoted under three dimensions, he said: “the ecological, aiming for the maintenance of ecosystems; the social, which develops in harmony with the host community; and the economic, which stimulates inclusive growth.”

We must ask ourselves, he continued, how these principles can be practically applied to the development of tourism. “What are the consequences for tourists, entrepreneurs, workers, governors, and local communities? It is an open reflection.”

“We invite all those involved in the sector to engage in serious discernment and to promote practices towards attaining this, accompanying behaviors and lifestyle changes towards a new way of relating to each other.”

The Church is also making her contribution, he noted, including with initiatives that place tourism at the service of the development of the human person.

“This is why we talk about tourism with a human touch, which is based on projects of community tourism, cooperation, solidarity, and an appreciation of the great artistic heritage which is an authentic way of beauty,” he said.

Conscious of the Church’s call to promote the integral development of the human person, the cardinal said that Christians must offer their own contribution to tourism, especially for the development of those most disadvantaged.

“We therefore propose our reflection. We recognize God as the creator of the universe and father of all human beings, and He who makes us brothers.”

“We must put the human person as the focus of our attention,” he continued. “We recognize the dignity of each person and the relationships among persons; we must share the principle of the common destiny of the human family and the universal destination of earthly goods.”

Concluding, he quoted from Pope Francis’ speech to the United Nations in September 2015, when he said: “The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman [...].”

“May we live out our commitment in the light of these words and these intentions!” Turkson stated.

Why the drafting of 'Humanae Vitae' matters, 50 years later

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 15:02

Vatican City, Aug 1, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As its 50th anniversary approaches, the story of how Blessed Pope Paul VI arrived at the final text of “Humanae Vitae” will be a main focus of discussion.

Paul VI issued his encyclical in 1968, after a commission of theologians and experts spent four years meeting to study in-depth whether the Church could be open to the contraceptive pill or other artificial forms of birth control.
 
In his encyclical, Pope Paul VI reaffirmed that sexual relations cannot be detached from fecundity. The event was a watershed moment in the Church.

A study group from the Rome-based John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family aims to produce a paper on the development of the encyclical. The group is led by cultural anthropology professor Monsignor Gilfredo Marengo, who teaches at the institute.

Professor Marengo told Vatican Radio July 25 that the commission in the end “was not able to give Bl. Paul VI what he needed to draft the encyclical,” and so the Pope “had almost had to start again.”

He underscored that Bl. Paul VI's work was made even more difficult by the fact that “public opinion in the Church was very much polarized, not only between in favor and in opposition to the contraceptive pill, but also among theologians, who presented the same polarized counter-position.”

While the discussion was still ongoing, a document favorable to Catholic approval of the birth control pill was published simultaneously in April 1967 in the French newspaper Le Monde, the English magazine The Tablet, and the American newspaper the National Catholic Reporter.
 
The report emphasized that 70 members of the Pontifical Commission were favorable to the pill, but in fact the document was “just one of the 12 reports presented to the Holy Father.” Those are the words of Bernardo Colombo, a professor of demographics and a member of the commission, writing in the March 2003 issue of “Teologia,” the journal of the theological faculty of Milan and Northern Italy.
 
When Paul VI published Humanae Vitae, public opinion was thus already oriented against the Church’s principles which the pontiff reaffirmed, and the Church’s teaching was strongly targeted.
 
Prof. Marengo told Vatican Radio that “Humanae Vitae” deserved an in-depth study.

The professor's first impression is that when the study group's research is complete “it will be possible to set aside many partisan readings of the text” and will be easier to “grasp the intentions and worries that moved Paul VI to solve the issue the way he did.”
 
The story of the encyclical dates back to 1963, when St. John XXIII established the commission to study the topics of marriage, family, and regulation of birth.
 
Pope Paul VI later enlarged the commission's membership from six to twelve people. Then he further increased its numbers to 75 members, plus a president, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and two deputies, Cardinals Julius Doepfner and John Heenan.
 
After the end of the works of the commission, Paul VI asked a restricted group of theologians to give further examination to the topic.
 
Pope Francis has shown great appreciation for Bl. Paul VI and for “Humanae Vitae” several times, such as in an interview March 5, 2014 with the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, ahead of two synods on the family.
 
Asked if the Church was going to take up again the theme of birth control, the Pope responded: that “all of this depends on how 'Humanae Vitae' is interpreted. Paul VI himself, at the end, recommended to confessors much mercy, and attention to concrete situations.”
 
The Pope added that Bl. Paul VI's “genius” was “prophetic,” because the Pope “had the courage to place himself against the majority, defending the moral discipline, exercising a culture brake, opposing present and future neo-Malthusianism.”
 
“The question,” Pope Francis concluded, “is not that of changing the doctrine but of going deeper and making pastoral (ministry) take into account the situations and that which it is possible for people to do. Also of this we will speak in the path of the synod.”
 
Prof. Marengo told Vatican Radio that it would also be “very useful to piece together the path to the drafting of the encyclical, which developed in different phases from June 1966 to its publication on July, 25th 1968.”

He said the encyclical must be placed in the context of “everything important and fruitful the Church has said on marriage and family during these last 50 years.”
 
Prof. Marengo's study group includes John Paul II Institute president Prof. Pierpaolo Sequeri; Prof. Philippe Chenaux of the Pontifical Lateran University, an authority regarding the Second Vatican Council and the history of the contemporary Church; and Professor Angelo Maffeis, president of the Paul VI Institute based in Brescia.

As in the lead-up to “Humanae Vitae,” there is misleading news coverage of the study group.

When the news of the study group first broke, it was described as a “pontifical commission” aimed at changing the teachings of “Humanae Vitae.”

Professor Marengo dismissed this as an “imaginative report” in a June interview with CNA. For his part, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, chancellor of the John Paul II Institute, confirmed that no pontifical commission had been appointed. He maintained that “we should look positively on all those initiatives, such as that of Professor Marengo of the John Paul II Institute, which aim at studying and deepening this document in view of the 50th anniversary of its publication.”

Russia, West must put peace before partisan interests – Cardinal Parolin

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 12:08

Vatican City, Aug 1, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- If problems between Russia and Western countries are going to be resolved, the two must overcome differences and concern for personal interests in order to achieve peace, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said Thursday.

“The question of peace and search for a solution to the various crises underway should be placed above any national or in any case partisan interest,” the Vatican Secretary of State said ahead of a planned trip to Moscow in August.

“I am convinced that it is part of the Holy See’s mission to insist on this aspect.”

Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican’s top diplomat, spoke about the Holy See’s mission in Russia in an interview with the Italian newspaper “Il Sole 24 ore,” published July 27.

Earlier Parolin told Italian media that he will be visiting Moscow sometime in late August, though the trip and exact dates have not yet been announced by the Vatican. It is believed the visit will include meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Vatican diplomat told journalists in June.
 
Speaking about Russia’s influence in the world, Cardinal Parolin noted that though there has been a period of uncertainty around Russia’s position on various issues, the country has always been part of the international scene.

Often, he said, we emphasize the differences between Russia and various Western countries as if “they were different worlds,” but in this context “the challenge is to contribute to a better reciprocal understanding between those who risk presenting themselves as opposite poles.”

“Here there can be no victors or defeated. Indulging your own specific interests, which is one of the characteristics in this age of return to nationalisms, distracts you from seeing how the possibility of a catastrophe is not averted on its own.”

This effort doesn’t mean the kind of compromise that leads to one side yielding its position to the position of the other, he underlined, but rather “a patient, constructive, frank, and at the same time, respectful dialogue.”

This kind of dialogue, he emphasized, is even more important for those questions at the origin of current conflicts and those that risk inflaming further tension.

The cardinal gave a few examples to show that the Holy See has always been invested in Russia and in Eastern Europe generally, such as the visit to Rome by Tsar Nicholas I in 1845, where he had two meetings with Gregory XVI.

Two years later he drew up an agreement with Bl. Pius IX. “The local Churches stood alongside their people, also in the dramatic moments of the persecutions,” he said.

“It is not just its being at the borders of Europe that makes Eastern Europe important, but also its historic role in terms of civilization, culture and Christian faith.”

The Holy See’s consideration of Eastern Europe is “long-running,” he emphasized, even in the most difficult times, the Church’s approach to diplomacy being always one of peace.

“The Holy See does not seek anything for itself. It is not present here and then there to not lose on any side. Its attempt is one that is humanly difficult but evangelically unavoidable, so that nearby worlds return to dialogue and stop being torn apart, by hate even before the bombs.”

Asked about the new administration in the United States, in particular President Donald Trump, and the international responsibility of the U.S., Cardinal Parolin said we cannot rush, but that “time is needed to judge.”

“We hope,” he noted, “that the United States – and the other actors of the international scene – will not divert from their international responsibility on various themes which up to now has been historically exerted” – particularly those surrounding new climate challenges, poverty and ongoing conflicts.

As regards conflict and the new challenges found also in places like Venezuela and China, Cardinal Parolin said that they “call for unprecedented and creative responses, but in the end the aim of the Church has always been the same, and it is by nature pastoral: bring God to man and man to God.”

“Specifically, the Catholic Church asks that it is guaranteed the right to freely profess one’s faith for the benefit of everyone and for harmony in society,” he continued. “Catholics wish to live their faith serenely in their respective countries like good citizens, working toward the positive development of the national community.”

When we seek Christ, we gain much more than we lose, Francis says

Sun, 07/30/2017 - 17:26

Vatican City, Jul 30, 2017 / 05:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, Pope Francis said that when we seek out Christ, sacrificing everything in the process, in the end we find a joy that is worth far more than anything we may have lost.  

“The disciple of Christ is not one who is deprived of something essential; He is one who has found much more: he has found the fullness of joy that only the Lord can give,” the Pope said July 30.

“It is the evangelical joy of healed people; of forgiven sinners; of the thief to whom is opened the door of paradise.”

Speaking about the day’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew, which tells the parables of the “hidden treasure” and the “pearl of great price,” Pope Francis emphasized that “the attitude of searching is the essential condition for finding.”

The treasure is the Kingdom of God, found through the person of Jesus Christ, he said. And to obtain it, our hearts must burn with the desire to seek it and find it out.

“He is the hidden treasure, he is the pearl of great value. He is the fundamental discovery, which can make a decisive turning point in our lives, filling it with meaning,” Francis said to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his address before the Angelus.

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus uses three different parables, or analogies, for finding the Kingdom of God, but the Pope said he wanted to “linger” over the first two examples, which “underline the decision of the protagonists to sell everything to obtain what they have discovered.”

The first case is a farmer who happens upon a hidden treasure in the field where he is working, but since he does not own the field, he first must buy it in order to possess the treasure. “So he decides to risk all his belongings in order not to miss that extraordinary opportunity,” Francis said.

In the second example a merchant finds a precious and valuable pearl. He too decides to sell everything in order to have the pearl.

“These similarities highlight two characteristics concerning the possession of the Kingdom of God,” the Pope continued, “searching and sacrifice.”

Highlighting the action, rather than passivity, involved in reaching heaven, he said it is true, “the Kingdom of God is offered to all – it is a gift, a favor, a grace – but it is not made available on a silver plate, it requires dynamism: it is to seek, to walk, to do.”

When they discover the treasure and the precious pearl, both the farmer and the merchant sell everything they own, he pointed out. “Evaluating the invaluable treasure value leads to a decision that also involves sacrifice, detachment and renunciation.”

The decision of the disciple to sacrifice everything for their relationship with Christ is not a matter of “despising” everything, but of putting things in the proper order, he said, placing Jesus before everything.

And doing so, leads to the joy of the Gospel, which fills the hearts and lives of those who have found Jesus. “Those who are saved by Him are freed from sin, sadness, inner void, and isolation,” he said. “With Jesus Christ, the joy is always born and reborn.”

Today’s Gospel urges us to contemplate the joy of the farmer and the merchant in the parable, a joy that is for each of us to discover in the “consoling presence of Jesus in our lives.”

And this presence, Pope Francis said, is one that transforms our hearts, opening us up to the needs of our brothers and sisters, in particular those that are weaker than us.

“Let us pray, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for each of us to witness, with daily words and gestures, the joy of having found the treasure of the Kingdom of God, that is, the love the Father has given us through Jesus,” he concluded.

After praying the Angelus, Francis noted that today we remember the World Day against human trafficking, leading those present in a ‘Hail Mary’ for the victims of trafficking and for the conversion of the hearts of traffickers, calling the modern form of slavery “an aberrant plague.”

“Each year, thousands of men, women and children are innocent victims of sexual and organ trafficking, and it seems that we are so accustomed to seeing it as a normal thing,” he said. “This is ugly, it's cruel, it's criminal!”

Cardinal Pell will plead not guilty to abuse charges in Australia

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 15:57

Vatican City, Jul 26, 2017 / 03:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a brief hearing in a court in Melbourne Wednesday morning, Cardinal George Pell said he will be pleading not guilty to charges of multiple counts of sexual abuse.

Cardinal Pell did not address the court, but his lawyer, Robert Richter, QC, told the Melbourne Magistrates Court July 26 that "for the avoidance of doubt..Cardinal Pell will plead not guilty to all charges, and will maintain the presumed innocence that he has."

In the less than 10-minute-long hearing, the judge, Magistrate Duncan Reynolds, read a prepared statement outlining the reason for the hearing and noted that it was purely administrative.

The senior prosecutor of the case, Andrew Tinney, SC, addressed a packed courtroom with a statement emphasizing the need for "fair and accurate reporting" by media.

Prosecutors have a deadline of Sept. 8 to prepare their brief of evidence, but Tinney indicated that it would likely be ready as early as late next week. The next step in the trial will be a preliminary hearing – called the committal mention – which is set for Oct. 6.

Wednesday’s hearing follows the announcement at the end of June that the police of Victoria, Australia were charging Cardinal Pell on multiple counts of historical sexual abuse.

As the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy since 2013 and a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis, Cardinal Pell is the most senior Vatican official to ever be charged with abuse.

With the permission of Pope Francis, Cardinal Pell has taken leave from his responsibilities in the Vatican in order to return to Australia for the court proceedings.

Both walking in and out the hearing Wednesday, Pell was surrounded by a dozen policemen as media and victims of abuse and their supporters crowded around him. Cardinal Pell did not respond to questions from media.

Supporters of Cardinal Pell were also present outside of the courthouse.

Following the announcement of the charges, Pell held a news briefing with journalists June 29, maintaining his innocence and saying he takes leave from his position as the Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy in order "to clear my name."

"I am looking forward, finally, to having my day in court. I'm innocent of these charges, they are false," he said, adding that "the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me."

"News of these charges strengthens my resolve, and court proceedings now offer me the opportunity to clear my name and then return here, back to Rome, to work," he continued.

Pell was ordained in the diocese of Ballarat in 1966, where he served as a priest and later as a consulter to Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who oversaw the diocese from 1971-1997. He was appointed auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese of Melbourne in 1987, and was named archbishop in 1996.

In February 2016, the cardinal testified for the third time before Australia's Royal Commission regarding claims that surfaced in 2015 accusing him of moving “known pedophile” Gerald Ridsdale, of bribing a victim of the later-defrocked priest, and of ignoring a victim’s complaint.

Established in 2013, the Royal Commission is dedicated to investigating institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

Despite having testified before the commission twice before on the same charges, Pell again offered to give his testimony, which he did via video conference from Rome.

Shortly before the hearing, abuse allegations surfaced accusing the cardinal of multiple counts of child sexual abuse dating as far back as 1961, which he has continued to fervently deny.

Cardinal Pell has also been supported by the Vatican, which issued a June 29 communique from Holy See spokesman Greg Buke echoing Pell’s statement and affirming that Pope Francis had granted the cardinal an absence from his duties "so he can defend himself."

On behalf of the Holy See, Burke also voiced respect for the Australian justice system, which "will have to decide the merits of the questions raised."

However, at the same time, he said "it is important to recall that Card. Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors" and has cooperated with Australian authorities in the past, specifically with his depositions before the Royal Commission.

Moreover, the cardinal has been supportive of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and as a diocesan bishop in Australia, introduced systems and procedures "both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse."

Burke closed by noting that Cardinal Pell will no longer be attending public events while facing the charges.

Vatican conference aims to build momentum for nuclear disarmament

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 08:53

Vatican City, Jul 25, 2017 / 08:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nuclear disarmament will be the focus of a Vatican conference this Nov. 10-11, following recent progress toward international bans on nuclear weapons.

Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi told CNA that “the Holy See is working to create a public opinion convinced that the world is safer without nuclear weapons, rather than with them.”

The archbishop is delegate secretary to the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which is working to organize the disarmament conference.

The Holy See has invited Antonio Gutierres, Secretary General of the United Nations, to address the conference. It is not reported whether he has accepted the invitation.

Archbishop Tomasi said that the conference is conceived as a follow-up to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, passed July 7 at the United Nations.

Until the treaty, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction not explicitly banned by any international document.

The treaty passed with 122 votes in favor and one abstention, Singapore. However, 69 countries, namely all nuclear weapons states and all NATO members excepting the Netherlands, did not take part in the vote.

The U.N. decided to start negotiations for the treaty after a series of three conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. The first conference took place in Oslo, Norway in March 2013. The second was held in Nayarit, Mexico in February 2014.

The third conference, held in Vienna, Austria, Dec. 8-9, 2014, was the first meeting on nuclear weapons attended by some nuclear weapons states.

At the end of the Vienna conference, 127 states formally endorsed a humanitarian pledge, with 23 more voting to approve a resolution in its favor. The endorsing states said they were aware that the risk of nuclear weapons use and their “unacceptable consequences” are avoidable only “when all nuclear weapons have been eliminated.”

The pledge called on all nuclear powers to take concrete measures to reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons and remove them from deployment. It called on nuclear powers to diminish nuclear weapons’ role in their military doctrines and to make “rapid reductions of all types of nuclear weapons.”

Archbishop Tomasi, who attended the Vienna conference in his former position of Holy See Permanent Observer to the U.N. in Geneva, told CNA that the Vienna conference is “particularly important, because it underscores that just being in possession of nuclear weapons is already not ethical.”

The November 2017 conference at the Vatican aims to be another step on the path towards nuclear disarmament.

It would build on the conference to negotiate the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, which took place in New York in March 2017.

Pope Francis sent a message to that conference saying that the doctrine of nuclear deterrence has become ineffective against 21st century threats like terrorism, asymmetrical conflicts, environmental problems and poverty.

These threats, the Pope stressed, are “even greater when we consider the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences that would follow from any use of nuclear weapons, with devastating, indiscriminate and uncontainable effects, over time and space.”

To Pope Francis, the elimination of nuclear weapons is both “a challenge and a humanitarian imperative.” The Pope also asked attendees to promote “reflection on an ethics of peace and multilateral and cooperative security that goes beyond the fear and isolationism that prevail in many debates today.”

As a permanent observer to the United Nations, the Holy See took part in the negotiations. It was granted the possibility to participate at procedural votes during the negotiations, a right that the Holy See usually does not use.

The Holy See is a founder and member state of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and has always praised the developments in nuclear technology while strongly opposing the development of such technology for military purposes.

This was evident in the May 3 remarks of Monsignor Janusz Urbanczyk, the Holy See’s representative to the IAEA.

Addressing the first meeting for the 2020 review conference of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, he stressed that “the Holy See cannot but lament the fact that the potential devastation caused by the use of nuclear weapons so clearly identified over 40 years ago has not been relegated to history.”

 

Vatican turns off fountains to conserve water for drought-hit Rome

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 19:43

Vatican City, Jul 25, 2017 / 07:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the city of Rome and much of Italy experiences a severe drought, the Vatican has turned off its fountains in an effort to preserve water and show solidarity with the city, which may be forced to ration water to about 1 million of the city’s residents.

As far as is known, this is the first time the Vatican has been forced to turn off its some 100 fountains, “so this is an exception,” Greg Burke, Director of the Holy See Press Office, told Reuters TV.

The water that comes into the Vatican is from the same sources as the water to the city of Rome, he said. “This is the Vatican's way of living solidarity with Rome, trying to help Rome get through this crisis.”

A prolonged heatwave in southern Europe and two years of well-below-average rainfall have caused a severe drought in Rome and the surrounding areas.

The two large fountains in St. Peter’s Square – Baroque masterpieces by 17th-century sculptors Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini – were turned off Monday. All 100 fountains will be turned off gradually over the next few days, including those in the Vatican Gardens.

“This decision is very much in line with the Pope’s thinking on ecology: you can’t waste and sometimes you have to be willing to make a sacrifice,” Burke said.

“We have very beautiful gardens in the Vatican. They might not be as green this year, but we'll survive.”

The decision to turn off the fountains is in-line with Pope Francis’ commitment to the environment and concern for the protection of “our common home” that he laid out in his 2015 encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si.”

To preserve water, the city of Rome has turned off its drinking fountains and has also begun to turn off or lower the flow of many of its historic fountains. A ban on drawing water from the drought-hit Lake Bracciano, which lies about 25 miles from the city and supplies at least part of its water, will go into effect July 28.

Following this ban, the city may be forced to ration the water supply in up to 8 hour intervals to around half of its 3 million residents.

In southern Italy and Greece, temperatures well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit combined with strong winds have caused forest fires leading to the closure of popular tourist sites, such as Mount Vesuvius near Naples, which had 23 wildfires on its slopes earlier this month.

Wildfires near the Calampiso seaside resort west of Palermo, the capital of Sicily, caused more than 700 tourists to be evacuated by boat July 12.

A Vatican seminar on water in February highlighted the complex challenges faced around the world in making the basic human right to water a reality for all people, including under environmental factors such as drought.

Pope Francis addressed participants in the seminar Feb. 24, reaffirming that water is indeed a basic human right.

“Our right to water is also a duty to water,” he said. “Our right to water gives rise to an inseparable duty. We are obliged to proclaim this essential human right and to defend it – as we have done – but we also need to work concretely to bring about political and juridical commitments in this regard.”

“God the Creator does not abandon us in our efforts to provide access to clean drinking water to each and to all,” he continued.

“With the ‘little’ we have, we will be helping to make our common home a more livable and fraternal place, where none are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in dignity.”

Francis prays for Charlie Gard, as his parents end legal battle

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 04:20

Vatican City, Jul 24, 2017 / 04:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a US neurologist determined that an experimental therapy could no longer potentially be of aid to a British baby born with a disabling medical condition, his parents have given up a legal challenge to take him to the US for the treatment.

British and European courts had sided with English hospital officials who sought to bar Charlie Gard's parents from seeking treatment overseas.

Greg Burke, the Holy See press officer, said July 24 that “Pope Francis is praying for Charlie and his parents and feels especially close to them at this time of immense suffering. The Holy Father asks that we join in prayer that they may find God’s consolation and love.”

Charlie Gard, aged 11 months, is believed to suffer from a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness. The disorder is believed to affect fewer than 20 children worldwide. Charlie has been in intensive care since October 2016. He has suffered significant brain damage due to the disease and is currently fed through a tube. He breathes with an artificial ventilator and is unable to move.

His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, had wanted to keep him on life support and transport him to the United States in order to try an experimental treatment. They raised more than $1.6 million to help seek his treatment in the US.

However, their decision was challenged in court by hospitals and an attorney appointed to represent Charlie. The parents appealed a High Court decision, and their appeal to the U.K.’s Supreme Court was rejected.

The efforts to keep Charlie's parents from seeking overseas treatment were based on deep ethical errors, a Catholic expert in medical ethics told CNA earlier this year. Dr. Melissa Moschella said the hospital's effort represented a “quality of life” ethic that says human life is valuable only if it meets certain capacities, and that it is moreover a violation of parental rights.

A neurologist in the US, Dr. Michio Hirano, had been willing to offer Gard nucleoside bypass therapy, while acknowledging it would not necessarily heal him. But after seeing a new MRI scan this week, Hirano declined to offer the therapy.

According to the Guardian, Connie said, “All our efforts are for [Charlie], we only want to give him a chance at life. There’s one simple reason for Charlie’s muscular deterioration [and] that was time,” noting the lengthy decisions from the courts of London which restricted Charlie from the U.S. treatment.

The representative for Charlie’s parents, Grant Armstrong said, “For Charlie, it’s too late, time has run out, irreversible muscular damage has been done and the treatment can no longer be a success.”

The child's life support is expected to be pulled in the next few days.

His parents now wish to establish a charity to research and combat mitochondrial depletion syndrome.

Pope: the choice between good, evil is one we all have to make

Sun, 07/23/2017 - 17:07

Vatican City, Jul 23, 2017 / 05:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis said good and evil are often entwined, and that as sinners, we can't label any one group or institution as bad, since we all face temptation and have the ability to choose which path to follow.

“The Lord, who is wisdom incarnate, today helps us to understand that good and evil cannot identify with definite territories or determined groups of people,” the Pope said July 23.

Jesus tells us that “the line between good and evil passes through the heart of every person. We are all sinners,” he said, and asked for anyone who is not a sinner to raise their hand – which no one did.
 
“We are all sinners!” he said, explaining that with his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ “has freed us from the slavery of sin and gives us the grace of walking in a new life.”

Pope Francis spoke to the crowd of pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday Angelus address, which this week focused on the day's Gospel passage from Matthew, in which an enemy secretly plants weeds alongside the wheat in a master's field.

The image, he said, shows us the good seed that is planted in the world by God, but also the bad seed planted by the devil in order to corrupt the good.

It not only speaks of the problem of evil, but also it also refers to God's patience in the master, who allows the weeds to grow alongside the wheat, so that the harvest is not lost.

“With this image, Jesus tells us that in this world good and evil are totally entwined, that it's impossible to separate them and weed out all the evil,” Pope Francis said, adding that “only God can do this, and he will do it in the final judgment.”

Instead, the parable represents “the field of the freedom of Christians,” who must make the difficult discernment between good and evil, choosing which one to follow.

This, the Pope said, involves trusting God and joining two seemingly contradictory attitudes: “decision and patience.”

Francis explained that “decision” in this case means “wanting to be good grain, with all of it's strengths, and so to distance yourself from evil and it's seductions.”

On the other hand, patience means “preferring a Church that is the leaven of the dough, which is not afraid to dirty her hands washing the feet of her children, rather than a Church of the 'pure,' which pretends to judge before it's time who is in the Kingdom of God and who is not,” he said.

Both of these attitudes are necessary, he said, stressing that no one is perfect, but we are all sinners who have been redeemed by Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross.

Thanks to our baptism, Jesus has also given us the Sacrament of Confession, “ because we always need to be forgiven for our sins,” Francis said, adding that “to always look at the evil that is outside of us means not wanting to recognize the sin that is also within us.”

Jesus also teaches us a different way of looking at the world and observing reality, he said. In reflecting on the parable, we are invited to learn God's timing and to see with his eyes, rather than focusing on our own, narrow vision.

“Thanks to the beneficial influence of an anxious waiting, what were weeds or seemed like weeds, can become a product of good,” he said, adding that this is “the prospect of hope!”

Pope Francis closed his address praying that Mary would intercede in helping us to observe in the world around us “not only dirtiness and evil, but also the good and beautiful; to expose the work of Satan, but above all to trust in the action of God who renders history fruitful.”

After leading pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer, he voiced his sadness over “serious tensions and violence” in Jerusalem over the weekend, which have left seven people dead.

The deaths were the result of protests that were prompted by the placement of metal detectors at the entrance to the compound housing al-Aqsa mosque in the city, and have prompted world leaders to call for restraint on either side before the situation boils over.

Pope Francis invited pilgrims to join him in praying for a deescalation of the violence, and that “the Lord inspires in all proposals of reconciliation and peace.”

In latest appointments, Pope names new members of Roman Rota

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 18:15

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2017 / 06:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Pierangelo Pietracatella and Fr. Hans-Peter Fischer are the newest members of the Roman Rota, and mark the latest in a string of appointments Pope Francis has made this summer as part of his ongoing effort to restructure the Roman Curia.

Hailing from the northern Italian diocese of Toronta, Fr. Pietracatella, a member of the Rota, has been named as it's new Chief of Office.

Fr. Fischer, a priest of the archdiocese of Freiburg, located in Germany's black forest region, has been named an auditor of the Rota. He is the current rector of the Pontifical Teutonic College of Santa Maria in Campo Santo, located in the Vatican.

Composed of various auditors, the Roman Rota is one of the three courts of the Holy See, the other two being the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Apostolic Signatura.

The Apostolic Penitentiary is the tribunal in charge of cases involving excommunication and serious sins, including those whose absolution is reserved to the Holy See, while the Signatura functions as a sort of Supreme Court. The Rota, for its part, is akin to a court of appeals or court of “last instance,” and is also where marriage nullity cases are judged.

The Roman Rota is the Vatican's court of higher instance, usually at the appellate stage, with the purpose of safeguarding rights within the Church.

Among it's responsibilities is the trying of appeals in marriage annulment cases. The annulment process streamlined by Pope Francis in December 2015, giving the possibility of a stronger role to local bishops, and cutting the automatic appeal of initial judgments, among other things.

Announced in a July 20 communique from the Holy See, the appointments to the Rota are the latest carried out by Pope Francis in his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia.

Earlier this month the pontiff made waves by choosing to not renew the 5-year term of Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In his stead, the Pope Francis on July 1 named Jesuit Archbishop Luis Ladaria, former secretary of the congregation, to take the helm.

Just over two weeks later, on July 18, he tapped the congregation's undersecretary, Father Giacomo Morandi, to take Ladaria's place as secretary. The priest was also appointed titular Archbishop of Caere, however, the date of his episcopal consecration has not yet been set.

These latest appointments by Pope Francis are significant, since they many of curia officials had been named by Benedict before his resignation.

While Francis has made several of his own appointments since his election, the terms of the officials named by Benedict are now coming to an end, giving way for a curia that is shaped more by the mind of Francis as he moves forward in his process of Church reform.

Florida's abortion waiting period law awaits further testimony in courts

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 04:43

Tallahassee, Fla., Jul 19, 2017 / 04:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The attorney general of Florida has been given 60 days to gather evidence and testimonies in defense of a 2015 state law mandating 24-hour waiting periods for abortions.

The law's constitutionality is being challenged in the courts, and it has been on hold since its passage.

The decision was passed down by Florida Circuit Judge Terry Lewis after a July 19 hearing that had been meant to re-evaluate the law. In February, the Florida Supreme Court had upheld a lower court’s decision to stay the law after its passage in June 2015.

Among the plaintiffs challenging the law are the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Gainesville Woman Care, an abortion clinic which started the lawsuit.

When the matter came before the state Supreme Court, they issued a stay on the law while they considered the law. The temporary injunction was issued in February.

In a brief filed last month, lawyers defending the statute on the state’s behalf said the state “must be afforded a full and fair opportunity to canvas applicable relevant literature, to consult with and retain experts as needed and appropriate, to seek discovery from plaintiffs and their experts as well as from third parties, and to marshal and present relevant facts in the context of relevant law.”

Opponents of the law argue it is an unconstitutional violation of the state’s right to privacy, and singles out abortion from other riskier medical procedures that don’t require a waiting period.

“No mandatory abortion delay in this country has ever survived strict scrutiny,” the plaintiff’s lawyers wrote in a June 1 statement asking for a summary judgement on the case.

The Florida bishops' conference issued a statement supporting the law after its 2015 passage. They called it “good legislation” that “gives women one day to reflect upon the risks of abortion, one day to view the image of her unborn child’s ultrasound, and one day to consult with friends, family and faith.”

They also noted that 26 other states have such waiting period laws, and that Florida “already requires waiting periods before marriage, divorce, and the purchase of a handgun.”

Father Giacomo Morandi promoted to CDF secretary

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 00:19

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2017 / 12:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed Father Giacomo Morandi secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Italian priest had been a subsecretary in the dicastery since 2015.

Fr. Morandi was also appointed titular Archbishop of Caere July 18; the date of his episcopal consecration has yet to be determined.

He was born in Modena in 1965, and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Modena-Nonantola in 1990, at the age of 24.

Fr. Morandi obtained a licentiate in biblical sciences from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in 1992, and a licentiate and doctorate in the theology of evangelization from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 2008. He has taught scripture at several institutions.

In the Modena-Nonantola archdiocese he has served as a pastor, episcopal vicar for catechesis, evangelization, and culture, archpriest of the cathedral chapter, and vicar general.

Since October 2015 Fr. Morandi has served as subsecretary at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Fr. Morandi's promotion from within the congregation fills the vacancy left by the July 1 appointment of Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., as the office's prefect.

Archbishop Ladaria had in turn taken the place of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, whose five-year term in the post had expired, and which was not renewed.

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