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Vatican clarifies: Gay couple received standard form letter from Pope, not endorsement

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 23:59

Vatican City, Aug 8, 2017 / 11:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A congratulatory letter sent from Pope Francis to a same-sex couple regarding the baptism of their children was a standard form letter sent to all who write to the Pope, a Vatican source has confirmed.

The letter was not an endorsement of gay unions, the source told CNA, and the Pope may not have known that the letter was going to a gay couple, since it was addressed to a single individual.

Tony Reis, an LGBT activist, and his partner David Harrad published on Facebook in April that they sent a letter to the Pope, telling him about the baptism of their three adopted children in a church in Curitiba, Brazil.

The couple told AFP that they had received a congratulatory letter in return, signed by the Vatican Secretariat of State, Monsignor Paolo Borgi.

The letter, translated from Portuguese, said that the Holy Father “looks with appreciation” at the letter on the baptism of the children, and “expressed his feelings of esteem...and his wishes for the good spiritual fruits of his ministry as Pastor of the Universal Church.”

“Pope Francis wishes him well, invoking for his family the abundance of divine graces, so that they may live constantly and faithfully the condition of Christians, as good children of God and of the Church, and sends them a propitious Apostolic Blessing, asking them not to stop praying for him,” the letter concludes.

Along with the letter in Portuguese, the couple received a photograph of the Pontiff.

“(T)hat letter is the standard model of courtesy response that the Vatican sends to all the people who write to the Pope, and therefore was not a letter (that was) expressly thinking about them,” the Vatican source told CNA.

The same source said the letter is addressed to one person, “further evidence that the Secretary of State was unaware that it was a homosexual couple” who had written the first letter. The couple has not published the text of the letter they sent to Pope Francis, so it is unknown whether they presented themselves as a same-sex couple.

In 2015, the Vatican clarified a similar incident, when Fr. Ciro Benedittini, the deputy director of the Vatican Press Office, confirmed that a standard form letter sent to a lesbian couple who had written the Pope was not an endorsement of same-sex marriage.

On numerous occasions throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has reaffirmed Church teaching on marriage, voicing concern about what he sees as attacks on marriage and the family.

“(T)he family – as God wants it, composed of a man and a woman for the good of the spouses and also the generation and education of children – is deformed by powerful contrary projects supported by ideological colonization,” the Pope told a group in Rome in September 2015.

That same year, he voiced support for “efforts in defense of the family” in a greeting to pilgrims from Slovakia, on the day before a country-wide vote on whether to legalize same-sex unions.

Speaking during a trip to the Philippines, Pope Francis warned bluntly, “The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage.”

And in an October 2014 audience, he warned that “the family is being bastardized,” cautioning against a common view in society that “you can call everything family, right?”

“What is being proposed is not marriage, it's an association. But it's not marriage! It's necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!” he stressed, lamenting that there are so many “new forms” of unions which are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”




Ukranian archeparchy in Philadelphia gets a new auxiliary bishop

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 17:45

Vatican City, Aug 8, 2017 / 05:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday it was announced that Pope Francis has named Fr. Andriy Rabiy, who has a background in child protection, as an auxiliary bishop for the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

Announced in an Aug. 8 communique from the Vatican, Rabiy's appointment means he will join fellow auxiliary Bishop John Bura in serving the Archepharchy's Metropolitan Archbishop, Stefan Soroka.

Until now he has served as “protosyncellus,” defined on the archeparchy's website as someone – typically an auxiliary bishop or “a priest of distinguished standing” -- who is given special authority to help the archbishop govern the eparchy.

Born in Lviv, Ukraine, in 1975, Rabiy eventually moved to the United States, where he adapted well to his new culture.

After completing his basic education, the bishop-elect entered the Ukrainian Seminary of St. Jehoshaphat in Washington. In 1999 he received a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy from the Catholic University of America.

He was ordained a deacon in 1998, and was ordained a priest three years later Dec. 19, 2001.

Rabiy's duties in the archeparchy have included his role as protosyncellus, being a member of the Archeparchial Council of Consultors, the Administrative Council of Pennsylvania's Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Presbyterous Archepichal District Council, as well as Director of their Center for Prevention and Infant and Youth Protection.

The date of his episcopal ordination has not yet been set, but is expected to be announced soon.

Currently the Archeparchy of Philadephia is made up of roughly 67,250 faithful and 74 parishes under it's canonical jurisdiction.

According to the archeparchy's website, the community was initially established as the result of an influx of Catholic immigrants in the 1870s from the Austro-Hungarian empire who practiced the Byzantine tradition, and were known as Ruthenians.

In 1884 a priest from the tradition came and blessed what would become their first church building in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania the same year.

The community was placed under the jurisdiction of the Latin ordinaries in their places of residence by Pope Leo XIII in 1895, and in 1907 Bishop  Soter Stephen Ortynsky was named their first ecclesial superior. However, he was required to obtain actual jurisdiction from each Latin ordinary in every community where his faithful had settled.

Six years later, in 1913, Bishop Ortynsky was given full jurisdiction and “sui iuri” status, meaning independent status, from Latin ordinaries by Pope St. Pius X.

In 1924 the ordinary was elevated to an exarchate, referred to as the Apostolic Exharchate of the United States of America, Faithful of the Oriental rite.

Pope Pius XII in 1956 established the Apostolic Exarchy of Stamford, Conn., assigning to it parishes located in the State of New York and the whole of New England. Then two years later, in 1958, he created the the Ecclesiastical Province of Philadelphia which included the  Archeparchy of Philadelphia of the Ukrainians, and the Eparchy of Stamford.

The sitting archbishop in the Philadelphia Archeparchy oversees all Ukrainian eparchies in the United States, located in Stamford, Chicago and Parma.

Each bishop of the Philadelphia province holds jurisdiction over all faithful living in the territory of their Eparchies, meaning bishops in the Latin rite hold no authority over them. Although located in the U.S., the archeharchy answers to the See of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Kyiv, Ukraine, which is headed by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk.

Why the Feast of St. Dominic is not actually the Dominicans' biggest feast day

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 12:38

Vatican City, Aug 8, 2017 / 12:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Tuesday marks the Feast Day of St. Dominic, the 13th century priest known for founding the Order of Preachers, commonly called the Dominicans, and for spreading devotion to the Rosary.

Surprisingly, though, the Dominicans don’t usually do much to celebrate the saint’s Aug. 8 feast day.

While the August feast “is for us certainly always a feast,” Dominican Fr. Angelo Giuseppe Urru told CNA, it’s not the primary one.

Instead, the order celebrates “more solemnly” May 24, which is the Solemnity of the Translation of St. Dominic.

This unusual feast day commemorates the day St. Dominic’s remains were moved, or “translated,” from their original burial spot behind an altar of the church of San Nicolo della Vigne in Bologna, Italy to a more prominent place in the church in 1233.

For many Dominican provinces, this day is the big celebration, Fr. Urru said.

The move of St. Dominic’s body was carried at the request of Pope Gregory IX, about one year before the saint’s canonization on July 13, 1234, only 13 years after his death.

As recorded in a letter by Bl. Jordan of Saxony, one of the first leaders of the Dominicans, the brothers were very anxious before the move of the body, because they were worried that when the wooden coffin was uninterred from the stone sepulcher, the body would give off a foul odor, since it had been buried in a poorly constructed tomb, exposed to water and heat.

Instead they received a great surprise, because when the tomb was opened, a wonderful and sweet perfume emanated from the coffin instead.

“Its sweetness astonished those present, and they were filled with wonder at this strange occurrence. Everyone shed tears of joy, and fear and hope rose in all hearts,” Bl. Jordan wrote.

He reported that the odor remained and if anyone touched a hand or some object to the body, the odor immediately attached itself and lingered for a long time.

“The body was carried to the marble sepulcher where it would rest – it and the perfume that it poured forth. This marvelous aroma which the holy body emitted was evidence to all how much the saint had truly been the good odor of Christ,” he wrote.

By 1240, the church containing St. Dominic’s remains had been expanded into a basilica, and renamed for the saint.

Now, every year Dominican friars, sisters, and laity all over the world celebrate St. Dominic on May 24.

Mass is celebrated at the Basilica of Santa Sabina, the mother church of the Dominicans in Rome, for this feast.

The tradition is for a priest of the Order of Friars Minor, commonly called the Franciscans, to say the Mass and preach. After Mass, the procession of friars stops at the first side chapel, where the Blessed Sacrament is kept, to sing the O Lumen, the Dominican antiphon to St. Dominic.

Besides the tomb with the saint’s body, which is in the basilica in Bologna, there are few relics of St. Dominic in existence.

One relic, a piece of his skull, can be found in Rome. It is at the church of Santa Maria del Rosario, part of a Dominican monastery located on Monte Mario, the tallest hill of Rome.

Fr. Urru said he was not sure how it came to be kept in the monastery, but that it originated when some students in Bologna stole it to have in their chapel.

“There is also the breviary of St. Dominic, a small breviary,” he said.

In 2016, the Dominicans celebrated the 800th anniversary of their founding with a Jubilee Year, culminating in an International Congress for the Mission of the Order, which took place Jan. 17-21 in Rome.

Fr. Urru voiced gratitude for the blessing of vocations, which allow the order’s work to continue.

Thankfully, though there are some provinces which are very small, many are growing and are very strong, he noted, such as those in Vietnam and Africa. The United States as well has seen a good number of new vocations, he said.

Around the world, “there are many initiatives of the order,” and they are working hard still, just as they have the last 800 years.

Ultimately, though, he said, the future of the order is “in the hands of God.”




Pope urges Peruvians to focus on hope, unity ahead of trip

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 00:32

Vatican City, Aug 7, 2017 / 12:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has sent a special message to Peruvians ahead of his visit to their country next year, telling them to look to the great saints of the nation as they prepare, and pointing to hope and unity as key areas of reflection.

Standing beside a statue of St. Martin de Porres, the Pope told Peruvians in his native Spanish that he will be with them in just a short time, and that “I have a great desire to go.”

“You are a people with a large legacy, (and) the most beautiful legacy that a people can have is the legacy of the saints,” he said, noting that Peru has “many saints, and great saints that mark Latin America.”

Among the best-known of these are St. Martin de Porres, St. Rose of Lima, St. Francis Solano, and St. Turibius of Mogrovejo, in addition to the widespread devotion to the image of Our Lord of the Miracles.

In his message, Pope Francis said it is the saints who built the Church in Peru, “from scattering to unity,” referring to the divisions present in the Viceroyalty of Peru, the Spanish colony during the existence of which many of Peru's canonized saints lived.

“A saint always works along this line: from what is scattered to unity, which is what Jesus did. A Christian has to follow this path,” Pope Francis said in his message, adding that “whoever works for unity looks forward.”

While some look ahead with scepticism or bitterness, “a Christian cannot,” he said. “A Christian looks ahead with hope, because he hopes to achieve that which the Lord has promised him.”

Pope Francis closed the video telling Peruvians that he would see them soon, and that in the meantime, they have homework: “unity and hope, work on this. I'll pray for you, you pray for me.”

The video message was published Aug. 5 by Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima.

Francis' greeting comes just five months before his Jan. 15-21, 2018, visit to Chile and Peru. In Peru, he is slated to visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado, and Trujillo.

If his message is any indication, the saints and their role in evangelizing Peru will likely be a focus in his speeches, with a special emphasis on hope and unity – themes he is already known to speak about frequently.

As far as Peruvian saints, Rose of Lima is likely the most well-known. She was born in Lima to Spanish parents in 1586. At a very young age, she chose to consecrate her life to God.

As part of her commitment, she practiced very intense prayer and penance each day, at times depriving herself of food and sleep. She eventually joined the Third Order of St. Dominic, continuing her tough penances. After three years of illness, she died at the age of 31 in 1617.

Her feast day is celebrated Aug. 23 in many parts of the world, while in Peru and several other places it is observed Aug. 30.

Also among the more widely known saints is Martin de Porres, who was the son of a Spanish nobleman and a black slave woman.

Born in Lima in 1579, he was a talented medical apprentice and sought to enter the Dominican Order, but was initially prevented from becoming a brother due to a Peruvian law at the time that prevented people of mixed race from joining religious orders.

Instead, he lived with the community and did manual work, earning the nickname “the saint of the broom” for his diligence and care in cleaning the Dominicans’ quarters. Eventually, he was permitted to join the order despite the Peruvian law, and he worked with the sick in the infirmary.

Pope Francis visits Blessed Paul VI's tomb on anniversary of his death

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 23:51

Vatican City, Aug 7, 2017 / 11:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday morning Pope Francis descended to the grotto beneath St Peter's Basilica, where many past Popes are buried, to pray at the tomb of Bl. Paul VI.

According to a Vatican communique, the Pope spent about half an hour in “a moment of recollection” and prayer before the tomb Aug. 6, the 39th anniversary of the late Roman Pontiff's 1978 death.

Best known for his encyclical Humanae vitae, on the regulation of birth, and his role in the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI was beatified by Pope Francis in 2014.

Not only has Francis acknowledged the important contribution of Bl. Paul VI to the universal Church, he has also followed closely in the late Roman Pontiff's steps, particularly in his travels abroad, going to several of the places where his predecessor had become the first Pope ever to step foot.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Bl. Paul VI's encyclicals Populorum Progressio, on the development of peoples, and Sacerdotalis caelibatus, on the celibacy of the priest. Populorum Progressio was a key point of reference in Pope Francis' establishment this year of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Bl. Paul VI was born Giovanni Montini in 1897 in the town of Concesio in the Lombardy region of Italy. Ordained a priest in 1920 and consecrated as a bishop in 1954, he was appointed to the college of cardinals in 1958.

At the age of 66 he was elected Bishop of Rome and chose the name Paul VI, in reference to the missionary spirit of the Apostle Paul.

He re-convoked the Second Vatican Council, which had automatically closed with the death of his predecessor, St. John XXIII, and improved ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In a historic move in December 1965, Bl. Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople mutually lifted the excommunications that had been leveled against the leaders of both Churches in 1054.

Montini's cause for canonization was opened in 1993. In December 2012, Benedict XVI recognized the heroic virtue of Paul VI, giving him the title Venerable. In 2014, the Vatican approved a miracle attributed to his intercession, allowing for his beatification.

In his Oct. 19, 2014 homily for the beatification, Francis hailed Paul VI as “the great helmsman of the [Second Vatican] Council.”

He cited Bl. Paul VI’s words at the closing of Vatican II's final session: “Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour.”

“In this humility,” Pope Francis continued, “the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.”

Pope Francis offers prayers after deadly Nigeria attack

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 19:26

Vatican City, Aug 7, 2017 / 07:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After a bloody attack at a Catholic Church in southern Nigeria left 11 dead and several more wounded, Pope Francis conveyed his sympathy to the victims and their families, assuring the community of his prayer.

In an Aug. 7 telegram addressed to Bishop Hilary Paul Odili Okeke of Nnewi, Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and injury following the violent attack in Saint Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu.”

The Pope extended his “heartfelt condolences to you and to all the faithful of the Diocese of Nnewi, in particular the families of the deceased and all those affected by this tragedy,” and offered blessings of “consolation and strength” upon the entire diocese.

The telegram, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, came after gunmen stormed St Philip's Catholic Church in the city of Ozubulu early Sunday morning, killing at least 11 people and wounding 18 more.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. According to BBC News, local terror group Boko Haram, which has burned hundreds of churches and killed thousands during it's more than decade-long insurgency in the country's north-eastern region, was not involved.

Rather, the attack is believed to have been the result of either a private feud or that it was linked to drug-trafficking.

Reports conflict as to whether there were one or two gunmen involved, however, police have begun a manhunt in the area in the hopes of finding those responsible.

Want peace and love? Remember to pray, Pope Francis says

Sun, 08/06/2017 - 18:08

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2017 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Through their prayers, people of various religions can work together for peace, Pope Francis has said to an interreligious prayer meeting in Japan.

Prayer “inspires and sustains our efforts for peace, because it helps to deepen our reciprocal respect for each other as persons, strengthens the bonds of love between us, and spurs us to make decisive efforts towards promoting just relations and fraternal solidarity,” the Pope said in a letter to the 30th Prayer Meeting on Mount Hiei in Kyoto.

The meeting was launched in 1987 by Etai Yamada, Supreme Head of the Tendai Buddhist denomination. The effort aimed to advance the Day of Prayer for Peace held under St. John Paul II in Assisi, Italy on Oct. 27, 1986.

Pope Francis praised the prayer meeting, saying it “contributes in a special way to the building up of that spirit of dialogue and friendship which allows the followers of the world’s religions to work together to open new paths for peace in our human family.”

The Roman Pontiff sent “cordial greetings” to Koei Morikawa, the 257th Supreme Priest of the Tendai Buddhist denomination, and representatives of other religious traditions at the meeting.

Pope Francis and Morikawa had met privately at the Vatican in September 2016. Tendai Buddhism was founded in Japan about 1,200 years ago.

Cardinal John Tong Hon, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, delivered the Pope’s letter and read it to participants.

The annual prayer meeting will close Aug. 6, the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Pope prays for openness, courage at close of Asian Youth Day

Sun, 08/06/2017 - 18:04

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As young people gathered in Indonesia for the 7th Asian Youth Day prepare to head home, Pope Francis sent a message encouraging them to be courageous, and to turn to Mary as a model of what it means to be a missionary.

In an Aug. 6 telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the prelate extended “warm greetings and prayerful best wishes” to all participating in the event on behalf of Pope Francis.

The Pope, he said, “prays that young people from across Asia will listen ever more attentively to God’s call and respond with faith and courage to their vocation.”

Looking ahead to the global World Youth Day gathering in Panama in 2019, Francis invited the youth to turn to Mart, the Mother of God as “ a model of missionary discipleship, to speak to her as they would to a mother, and to trust always in her loving intercession.”

“In this way, as they seek to follow Christ Jesus more closely, they too, like the young woman of Nazareth, can truly “improve the world and leave an imprint that makes a mark on history,” he said, giving his blessing and entrusting the youth and their families to Mary's intercession.

Pope Francis' message was sent on the final day of the Aug. 2-6 Asian Youth Day gathering in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, holding the theme: “Joyful Asian Youth: Living the Gospel in Multicultural Asia.”

More than two thousand young Catholics from all over Asia took part in the gathering, which came a year after the international WYD gathering in Krakow, Poland last summer, attended by Pope Francis.

The Pope was also present during the last Asian Youth Day, which coincided with Pope Francis' Aug. 13-18, 2014, visit to South Korea, and centered on the theme: “Asian Youth! Wake up! The glory of the martyrs shines upon you!”

This year's event in Indonesia featured talks and workshops on aimed at building mutual respect in Asia's diverse, multicultural population, caring for the environment and learning how to be missionaries in a digital world.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Closing Mass (1)<a href="">#Ayd7Indonesia</a> <a href="">#DaysInVenue</a> <a href="">#Day5</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; asianyouthday (@ayd2017) <a href="">August 6, 2017</a></blockquote>
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As part of the multicultural aspect and in an effort to address growing fundamentalism in the area, the event hosted several encounters between Christian, Islamic and other religious leaders.

Among the Asian Catholic leaders who attended the event were Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay and a member of the Pope's “C9” council of cardinal advisers, and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila and President of the Caritas Internationalis aid organization.

Indonesia's Vice President, Muhammad Jusuf Kalla, was present at the closing ceremony Aug. 6, when it was announced that India will be the location of the next Asian Youth Day.

The main celebrant at the closing Mass was Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, who at the end of his homily noted that attendees come from all over Asia.

“We do realize our differences: we are of different nationalities, different languages, different cultures, and so on,” he said.

“However, in this event, we do realize and experience that those differences cannot separate us, but the differences show the richness of the united humanity instead. It proves that the power of faith, hope and love unites us.”

Suharyo closed by voicing his hope that the event would help the youths to “diligently and faithfully live out Gospel so that we may be filled with the joy of the Gospel. Thus, our life could mirror the glory of the Lord, which changes our lives.”

Pope Francis: summer is an ideal time to re-focus our life on God

Sun, 08/06/2017 - 16:31

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2017 / 04:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis said the Feast of the Transfiguration is an invitation to put God and others first, adding that the lazy summer months are the perfect time to take a step back and refocus on the essentials.

“The event of the Transfiguration of the Lord offers us a message of hope: it invites us to encounter Jesus, in order to be at the service of our brothers,” the Pope said during his Aug. 6 Angelus address.

Looking to pilgrims gathered in a sweltering St. Peter's Square, he turned to the day's Gospel passage from St. Matthew, which recounted the event of the Transfiguration and the disciples descent down the mountain afterward.

The image of the disciples going down Mount Tabor serves as a reminder of the importance of detaching ourselves from worldly things, and walking toward Christ, he said.

And to do this, he added, involves dedicating ourselves to an “attentive and prayerful listening to Christ,” by looking for “intimate moments of prayer that allow the docile and joyful welcoming of the Word of God.”

Speaking in August, when most Romans are out on vacation, he said summer time is the perfect opportunity to delve into this prayer, and called summer a “providential moment to enhance our commitment to seek and encounter the Lord.”

“In this period, students are free from scholastic duties and many families are taking their vacation; it's important that in the time of rest and detachment from daily concerns, they can re-energize the forces of body and spirit, deepening their spiritual path.”

Returning to the image of the Transfiguration, Pope Francis noted that the disciples went back down the mountain with “eyes and hearts transfigured by their encounter with the Lord.”

This is also a path that we can take, he said, adding that the “ever more vivid” rediscovery of Jesus is not an end in itself, but rather something that leads us to go down the mountain ourselves, “recharged by the strength of the Divine Spirit.”

With this renewed strength, we'll be able to take “new steps of authentic conversion” and will be able to “constantly bear witness to charity, as a law of daily life.”

By allowing ourselves to be transformed by the presence of Christ and his Word, we will become concrete signs of love for our brothers and sisters, Francis said, especially those who suffer due to loneliness, abandonment, illness, injustice and violence.

He closed his address by turning to Mary, who is “always ready to welcome and guard in her heart every word of her Divine Son.”

Pope Francis prayed that Mary would help all to enter into harmony with the Word of God, enabling Christ to be “the light and guide” of our entire lives, and entrusted to her all those on vacation during the summer months.

“To her we entrust the vacation of everyone, so that they are serene and profitable,” he said, and offered a special prayer for those who are unable to take vacation due to age, health, work or financial trouble.

He prayed that for these people, summer would “still be a relaxing time, cheered by friends and happy moments,” and led pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer.

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

— 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.”