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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 2 hours 43 min ago

Muslim refugee hails Pope Francis as the example of religion

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 05:02

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nur Essa, a Muslim Syrian woman whose family was brought to Rome from Lesbos by Pope Francis last April, said that the openness he has shown to those of different faiths has deeply impressed her.

“For me, I was surprised,” she told CNA. “(He is) very open to all of the cultures, all of the religions, and he sets an example for all the religious people in the world, because he uses religion to serve the human being.”

Essa, 31, has met the Pope on several occasions, most recently during the Pope's visit Feb. 17th to Roma Tre University, a public research university in Rome where she currently studies.

She was one of four students of the university to ask the Pope a question, which he answered during his visit.

Essa's question was about the integration of immigrants in Italy: what they must do to integrate into their host country, but also what the rights of the immigrant are.

Before this, Essa and her husband and their little boy met Pope Francis when he brought them to Rome April 16th, 2016, along with two other Syrian refugee families who had been staying in a camp on the Island of Lesbos. She said that the Pope greeted them and blessed her son.

Essa also had an opportunity to speak with him at length when they were invited to be guests at a lunch Aug. 11th at the Vatican, which Essa said was an “honor.”

“He's very, very modest, a very simple man, a very real human being,” she said.
 
Essa has both an undergraduate degree and a master's in microbiology, and is studying biology at Roma Tre.

She said that she and her husband are both from the city of Damascus in Syria and chose to flee the country because her husband had been asked to join the military service there.

They went from Damascus to Turkey, and then from Turkey to Greece, where they stayed in a refugee camp for one month before they were fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the families the Pope brought back to Rome.

Pope Francis visited Roma Tre University at the request of the Dean of the university, who wanted to invite a public figure for the university's 25th anniversary.

According to Fr. John D'Orazio, who is a Catholic chaplain assigned to the university by the Diocese of Rome, the last pope to make a formal visit was St. John Paul II for the university’s 10th anniversary in 2002.

The chaplaincy just finished constructing its first Catholic chapel for students nearby to the university, something they've been wanting to do for a long time, Fr. D'Orazio said.

He said that although students don't live on campus, they still try “to create opportunities for students to meet together” and to reflect on their Catholic faith and “what it means for them in their own studies and in being citizens in today’s world and in society.”

It's a very diverse campus, he said, with students of no faith or of different religions, including Muslim students. “I think it's very interesting and beautiful to be a chaplain inside of a state university,” he said, “because it means creating dialogue, creating collaboration.”

“It's almost like mission work, because you're working in a place where there are all kinds of different people, different backgrounds, different points of view. So it's a good place to create bridges,” he said.

“Pope Francis talks a lot about creating bridges and not walls. And I think that also the chaplaincy in a state university is all about creating bridges of dialogue and collaboration.”

Integration key to quelling fear of migrants, Pope Francis says

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 21:20

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2017 / 08:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis paid a visit to Rome’s “Roma Tre” university, stressing to students the importance of dialogue, listening and integration in putting an end to the fear that can at times be generated in the face of welcoming new migrants.   

“Migrations are not a danger, they are a challenge to grow,” the Pope said Feb. 17, adding that “it’s important to think well about the problem of migrants today, because there’s a migratory phenomenon that’s so strong.”

“How must migrants be received? How must they be welcomed?” he asked, stressing that first, they must be viewed “as human brothers and sisters. They are men and women like us.”

Second, “every country must see how many they are able to welcome,” he said, noting that while it’s true that a country shouldn’t take on more than they have the capacity to handle, each one must play their part.

However, part of welcoming, he said, means “to integrate. That is, to receive these people and try to integrate them so they can learn the language, look for a job, a house, integration.”

Pope Francis spoke to students during a morning visit to Rome’s “Roma Tre” University, which has a school for Economics and Business Studies, with departments for architecture, economics, philosophy, communications, law, engineering, language and culture, math and physics, political science, business and humanities.

After arriving and greeting the rector of the university, Professor Mario Panizza, as well as the university’s General Director and Vice Rector, the Pope listened to questions posed by four students at studying in different fields, and responded with a lengthy, off-the-cuff speech.

One of the questions was posed by Nour Essa, a Syrian refugee who fled to Lesbos with her husband and young son. After spending a month in a refugee camp, they were selected to be among the 12 refugees who flew back to Rome with Pope Francis after his April 16, 2016, visit to the island.

Now, almost a year later, Essa has learned Italian and is completing her studies in Agriculture and Microbiology. She asked the Pope how to overcome the fear that welcoming so many migrants into Europe will destroy its cultural identity.

In his response to Essa’s question, the Pope stressed the importance of accompanying new migrants in a process of integration, and pointed to the fact that within three days of arriving in Italy, the children who came back with him from Lesbos were already in school.

When three months later he invited 21 Syrian children to join him for lunch at the Vatican, they all “spoke Italian,” Francis said. “The older ones a bit less, but they all spoke it. They went to school and learned it. This is integration.”

He noted that the majority of migrants who came back that day have both a job and a person to help them integrate into the culture by providing “open doors” to find work, school and housing, voicing his desire for more organizations dedicated to helping in the process of integration.

On the point of the fear of losing one’s cultural identity by welcoming so many migrants, the Pope said he often asks himself “how many invasions has Europe had since the beginning? Europe was made from invasions, migrants...it was made like this in an artisanal way.”

Migrants, he said, bring their own culture which is “a richness for us,” but must also receive part of the culture they come to so that a real “exchange of cultures” takes place.

“Yes, there is fear, but the fear is not only of migrants,” but of those who commit crimes, he said, and, pointing to the bombing of an airport and subway in Belgium last year, noted that the persons who carried out the attacks “were Belgians, born in Belgium.”

They were the children of migrants, but migrants that had been “ghettoized,” rather than integrated, he said, explaining that fostering respect for one another can “take away” this fear of different cultures.

In addition to responding to Essa’s question, Pope Francis also took questions from three other students studying in different fields at the university.

The students were Roman-born Niccolo Romano, who asked about how universities can work maintain their “communis patria,” or “common homeland” for all; Giulia Trifilio, who asked the Pope what “medicine” is needed in order to combat violent acts in the world; and Riccardo Zucchetti, who asked how students can work to constructively build society in an increasingly changing and globalized world.

In response to Trifilio’s question on how to put an end to the violent acts humanity at times seems prone to throughout the world, the Pope spoke about the importance of language and “the tone” that’s frequently used, even in casual conversations.

Whether at home or on the street, many people today “yell,” he said, explaining that unfortunately “there is also violence” in the way people express themselves.

He also pointed to the arbitrary greetings between even family members, who in a morning rush pass by with a quick, yet meaningless “hey” while on the way out the door. Even these seemingly small things, he said, “make violence” because they make the other person “anonymous,” taking away their name.

“There’s a person in front of us with a name, but I greet you like you are a thing,” he said, noting that this starts at the interpersonal level, but “grows and grows and grows and becomes global.”

“No one can deny that we are at war. This is a third world war in pieces,” Francis said, adding that “we need to lower the tone a bit; to speak less and listen more.”

As a remedy, the Pope suggested the ability to listen and receive what the other person is saying as the first “medicine” to take, with dialogue as a second.

“Dialogue draws near, not only to the person, but hearts. It makes friendship. It makes social friendship,” he said, adding that where there is no dialogue, “there is violence.”

“I spoke of war. It’s true, we are at war, but wars don’t start there, they start in your heart, in our hearts, when I am not able to open myself to others, to respect others, to speak with others, to dialogue with others, war starts there.”

This must also be practiced at the university level, he said, explaining that a university must be a place where discussion takes place among students, professors and groups. If this doesn’t happen, “it isn’t a university.”

Pope Francis cautioned against what he termed as “university of the elite,” or the so-called “ideological universities” where students go, are taught one line of thinking, and then prepared “to make an agenda of this ideology” in society.

“That is not a university,” he said. “I go to university to learn, yes, but to learn to live the truth, to seek the truth, to seek goodness, to live beauty and seek beauty. This is done together on a university path that never finishes.”

In response to the question about building up society amid rapid changes and increasing globalization, the Pope said an important lesson that has to be learned is to “take like as it comes.”

With so many changes mean there is a great need for flexibility, he said, using the example of being ready to catch a ball from whatever direction it comes in.

He also emphasized the importance of unity, which is “totally different than uniformity.” Unity, he said, means “to be one among differences. Unity in diversity.”

Since we are living in “an age of globalization,” Francis said it would be “a mistake” to think of globalization like a ball in which each point is equally far from the center.

If organized this way, “everything is uniform” and there is no differences, he said, but stressed that “this uniformity is the destruction of unity, because it takes away the possibility of being different.”

On the rapid pace of communications in modern society, Pope Francis recognized that “an acceleration” is taking place, and pointed to the rule of the Law of Gravity, that as an object falls faster as it nears its destination.

“Today communications are like this with the danger of not having the time to stop oneself, to think, to reflect, and this is important, to get used to communicating, but without the sensation of ‘rapidity,’” he said.

At times communication goes so fast that it “can become liquid, without consistency,” so the challenge is one of “transforming this liquidity into concreteness,” Francis said, explaining that same concept also goes for the economy.

Using “concreteness” as his keyword for the point, the Pope said the “drama of today’s economy” is that there is a liquid economy, which leads to “a liquid society” with a high rate of unemployment.

Francis pointed to several European countries as examples and, without naming them, noted that specifically youth unemployment rates in several vary from 40-60 percent.

“I ask you the question: our dear mother Europe, the identity of Europe, how can one think that developed countries have youth unemployment so strong?” he said, explaining that the numbers are evidence that “this liquidity of the economy takes the concreteness of work, and takes the culture of work because one can’t work.”

In the absence of work, youth “don’t know what to do” and in the end fall into addictions or suicide, he said, adding that according to what he’s heard, “the true statistics of youth suicide are not published. The publish something, but it’s not the true statistics.”

Some youth even fall into terrorist groups, telling themselves “at least I have something to do that gives meaning to my life,” the Pope observed, adding that “it’s terrible.”

In order to solve the problems created by this type of “liquid economy,” concreteness is needed, he said, “otherwise it can’t be done.”

Universities must be the place in which this happens, he said, telling the students that “in the dialogue among you, also look for solutions to propose. The real problems against this liquid culture.”

Why Pope Francis cheers for the Special Olympics

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 14:01

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2017 / 01:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis received a delegation from the Special Olympics on Thursday, reflecting on the power of the event to spread joy and hope.

The Pope suggested that joy is at the heart of all sports: “the joy of exercising, of being together, of being alive and rejoicing in the gifts the Creator gives us each day.”

“Seeing the smile on your faces and the great happiness in your eyes when you have done well in an event – for the sweetest victory is when we surpass ourselves – we realize what true and well-deserved joy feels like!” the Pope said. “We can learn from you to enjoy small and simple pleasures, and to enjoy them together.”

The Special Olympics World Winter Games will take place in the Austrian state of Styria in March.

Pope Francis received the delegation at Clementine Hall Feb. 16. The delegation included athletes, organizers, and other representatives, including Bishop Wilhelm Krautwaschl of Graz-Seckau, whose diocese covers the state of Styria.

Pope Francis told them sports help to spread “a culture of encounter and solidarity.”

“Together, athletes and helpers show us that there are no obstacles or barriers which cannot be overcome,” he said. “You are a sign of hope for all who commit themselves to a more inclusive society.”

“Every life is precious, every person is a gift and inclusion enriches every community and society,” the Pope continued. “This is your message for the world, for a world without borders, which excludes no one.”

“Sport is good for the body and the soul, and allows us to improve the quality of our lives,” he said. “The constant training, which also requires effort and sacrifice, helps you to grow in patience and perseverance, gives you strength and courage and lets you acquire and develop talents which would otherwise remain hidden.”

Pope Francis praised the athletes’ dedication and cited the Special Olympics athlete’s oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

“The Special Olympics World Winter Games will be a wonderful moment in your lives,” he told the delegation. “I wish you joyful days together, and time with friends from around the world. I entrust you to the protection of Mary Most Holy, and upon you, your families, and all participants, I invoke divine blessings. And, please, pray for me too.”

War begins in the heart and ends in the world, Pope Francis says

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 05:33

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2017 / 04:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis warned in his homily Thursday that envy, greed, and hate in the heart will breed war, violence, and murder in the world.  

“War begins in here and finishes out there. The news we see in the papers or on television… Today so many people die, and that seed of war, which breeds envy, jealousy, and greed in my heart, is the same – grown up, become a tree – as the bomb which falls on a hospital, on a school, and kills children,” said the Pope in a reflection of the damage of war during morning Mass at the chapel of Casa Santa Marta Feb. 16.

Drawing from the story in Genesis of the dove returning to Noah after the flood, the Pope said God gave the rainbow and the dove to demonstrate his promise and desire for peace to reign in the world among every people. But he said the signs also represent how fragile peace can be.

He said the dove is “a sign of what God desired after the flood: peace, that is, that all would live in peace…The dove and the rainbow are fragile. The rainbow is beautiful after a storm, but then a cloud comes and it disappears.”

God’s covenant is strong, but our commitment to it is weak, he said in reference to the example of Cain and Abel.

“The Covenant which God makes is strong, but we accept it in weakness. God makes peace with us but it is not easy to care for peace. It is a daily task, because within each of us is that seed of original sin, that is, the spirit of Cain which – for envy, jealousy, greed, and the desire to dominate – leads to war.”

Pope Francis maintained that the responsibility of peace falls on every person; that we “are our brothers’ keeper, and when there is blood spilt, there is sin, and God will demand an accounting… of the blood of our brothers and sisters who are suffering war.”

“In today’s world there is blood being spilt. Today the world is at war. Many brothers and sisters are dying, even innocent people, because the great and powerful want a larger slice of the earth; they want a little more power, or they want to make a little more money on arms trafficking,” he said, citing the current proxy wars and conflicts fueled by weapon dealers.

Every man is a delegate of peace and has an obligation to ensure less blood is spilled in the future, he said referring to how war first festers in homes with families and friends.

“How do I care for peace in my heart, in my interior, and in my family? Care for peace; not only care for it but make it with your hands every day. Just so will we succeed in spreading it throughout the whole world.”

Pope Francis gave a childhood story in which his mother and their neighbor rejoiced at the end of a war; how both woman cried tears of joy while sirens in their Argentine town declared peace.

He concluded the homily with a prayer for a grace of peace in our daily lives.

“May the Lord give us the grace to say: ‘War is finished...War is finished in my heart; war is finished in my family; war is finished in my neighborhood; war is finished in my workplace; war is finished in the world.’ In this way shall the dove, rainbow, and Covenant be strengthened.”

Cardinal Burke sent to Guam to oversee sex abuse trial

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 04:47

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2017 / 03:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).-  

The Vatican has sent Cardinal Raymond Burke to Guam to act as presiding judge at the trial of Archbishop Anthony Apuron, who was removed from office in June 2016 following allegations of child sex abuse.

 

Cardinal Burke is a canon lawyer and former prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Holy See's highest court. He currently serves as the chaplain of the Knights of Malta, where he has clashed with the Holy See over the removal of the Grand Chancellor of the Knights. He is also one of four cardinals who signed the controversial dubia, a letter asking Pope Francis to clarify parts of his apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”.

 

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who leads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), appointed Cardinal Burke to the Guam trial.

 

Archbishop Apuron has denied the allegations against him and has not been criminally charged. Most of the allegations involve sexual abuse of altar boys in the 1970s.

 

On Thursday, the AP reported that one of Archbishop Apuron’s accusers refused to appear before the Vatican court, despite a request from Cardinal Burke for testimony.

Attorney David Lujan, representing former altar boy Roland Sondia, told the AP that the proceedings were "worse" than he had expected because he wasn't allowed to be present to advise his client, who was to have been "questioned by the prosecutor, who is a priest, and Archbishop Apuron's lawyer, who is a priest, and a presider who is Cardinal Burke, and a notary who is also a priest."

 

"We felt it wasn't in my client's best interest to be in that position," he said. He said Sondia may submit a written declaration instead.

 

Many of the allegations against Archbishop Apuron became public last year, after full-page ads sponsored by Concerned Catholics of Guam encouraged anyone who had been abused by clergy to come forward, according to reports from Pacific Daily News.

 

Following the new allegations, the Archdiocese created a new Task Force for the Protection of Minors and a new Victims Support group to aid in the counseling and support of victims and their families.

 

“The Church on Guam has a duty and desire to render pastoral care to all of its faithful, most especially those who have been severely wounded by those holding trusted positions in our Archdiocese. We are strengthening our work in this area and pledge to provide a safe environment for all children and all people entrusted in our care,” the Archdiocese said in a November statement.

 

In November 2016, Pope Francis appointmented Detroit Bishop Michael Jude Byrnes as coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Agana. He replaced Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, who was sent to Guam by the Vatican in June to temporarily replace Apuron.

 

Archbishop Apuron is a member of the Neocatechumenal Way, a group within the Church that has also clashed with other Catholics on the island over the past few years.

 

Besides sexual allegations, Archbishop Apuron has also been accused of mishandling control over the island’s seminary, reportedly using it as a Neocatechumenal seminary rather than a diocesan seminary, which led to the withdrawal of all Samoan students. Guam’s Carmelite nuns also relocated to California last year over issues with Apuron.

 

Guam is a U.S. island territory in Micronesia, in the Western Pacific, with a population of 165,124. Approximately 85 percent of the island’s citizens identify as Catholic.

Did you know Mother Teresa experienced visions of Jesus?

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 05:42

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2017 / 04:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Even her friend of more than 30 years, Father Sebastian Vazhakala, did not know Mother Teresa had conversations with and visions of Jesus before forming the Missionaries of Charity.

It wasn't until after her death, for the vast majority of people, that this part of Mother Teresa's spiritual life was uncovered. “It was a big discovery,” Missionary of Charity priest, Fr. Vazhakala told CNA.  

When Mother Teresa's cause for canonization was opened, just two years after her death in 1997, documents were found in the archives of the Jesuits in Calcutta, with the spiritual director and another of Mother Teresa's close priest friends, and in the office of the bishop, containing her accounts of the communications.

Fr. Vazhakala, who co-founded the contemplative branch of the Missionaries of Charity alongside Mother Teresa, said he has a document handwritten by Mother Teresa where she discusses what Jesus spoke to her directly during the time of the locutions and visions.

During a period lasting from Sept. 10, 1946 to Dec. 3, 1947, Mother Teresa had ongoing communication with Jesus through words and visions, Fr. Vazhakala said. This all happened while she was a missionary sister in the Irish order of the Sisters of Loreto, teaching at St. Mary's school in Calcutta.

Mother Teresa wrote that one day at Holy Communion, she heard Jesus say, “I want Indian nuns, victims of my love, who would be Mary and Martha, who would be so united to me as to radiate my love on souls.”

It was through these communications of the Eucharistic Jesus that Mother Teresa received her directions for forming her congregation of the Missionaries of Charity.

“She was so united with Jesus,” Fr. Vazhakala explained, “that she was able to radiate not her love, but Jesus’ love through her, and with a human expression.”

Jesus told her what sort of nuns he wanted her order to be filled with: “'I want free nuns covered with the poverty of the Cross. I want obedient nuns covered with the obedience of the Cross. I want full-of-love nuns covered with the charity of the Cross,'” Fr. Vazhakala related.

According to the Missionary, Jesus asked her, “Would you refuse to do this for me?” “In fact, Jesus told her in 1947,” Fr. Vazhakala explained, “'I cannot go alone to the poor people, you carry me with you into them.'”

After this period of joy and consolation, around 1949, Mother Teresa started to experience a “terrible darkness and dryness” in her spiritual life, said Fr. Vazhakala. “And in the beginning she thought it was because of her own sinfulness, unworthiness, her own weakness.”

Mother Teresa's spiritual director at the time helped her to understand that this spiritual dryness was just another way that Jesus wanted her to share in the poverty of the poor of Calcutta.

This period lasted nearly 50 years, until her death, and she found it very painful. But, Fr. Vazhakala shared that she said, “If my darkness and dryness can be a light to some soul let me be the first one to do that. If my life, if my suffering, is going to help souls to be saved, then I will prefer from the creation of the world to the end of time to suffer and die.”

People around the world know about Mother Teresa's visible acts of charity toward the poor and sick in the slums of Calcutta, but “the interior life of Mother is not known to people,” said Fr. Vazhakala.

Mother Teresa's motto, and the motto of her congregation, was the words of Jesus, “I thirst.” And that they could quench the thirst of Jesus by bringing souls to him. “And in every breathing, each sigh, each act of mind, shall be an act of love divine. That was her daily prayer. That was what was motivating her and all the sacrifices, even until that age of 87, and without resting,” he said.

Mother Teresa never rested from her work during her life on earth, and she continues to “work” for souls from heaven. “When I die and go home to God, I can bring more souls to God,” she said at one point, Fr. Vazhakala noted.

She said, “I'm not going to sleep in heaven, but I'm going to work harder in another form.”

Mary Shovlain contributed to this report.

This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 27, 2016.

In latest round of meetings, papal advisors cover court, bishop selection

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 21:01

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2017 / 08:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals met for the 18th time this week to continue discussion on reforming the Roman Curia, focusing on how new bishops are chosen and the streamlining of several offices, including the Vatican tribunals.

According to a Feb. 15 Vatican communique, after opening their meetings with a declaration of support for Pope Francis and his reform efforts, the cardinals “have begun to examine the ‘Diaconia of Justice,’” and so dedicated a good chunk of this week’s meetings to the three Vatican tribunals.

The tribunals are the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

In a nutshell, the Apostolic Penitentiary is the court in charge of cases involving excommunication and serious sins, including those whose absolution is reserved to the Holy See, while the Signatura, as it’s called, 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 annulment cases are judged.

In addition to the tribunals, the cardinals also dedicated a portion of the discussion to “the process for selecting candidates for the episcopate,” a topic that’s been on the table for some time.

Each of the nine members of the council were present for the entirety of the Feb. 13-15 round of meetings, with the addition of Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, who gave an update on his dicastery’s work. In keeping with their custom, the cardinals concelebrated Mass with the Pope in the chapel of the Santa Marta guesthouse the first two days of the meeting.

As usual, Pope Francis was present for the majority of the sessions apart from Monday morning, when he met the Costa Rican bishops in Rome for their ad limina visit, and Wednesday morning, during which he participated in the weekly general audience.

The cardinals, in addition to speaking about the tribunals and bishop selection, continued to discuss points brought up during the last round of meetings, including the possible restructuring of the Congregations for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fides) and Oriental Churches and the Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Cardinal Pell gave a presentation on work of Secretariat for the Economy and the continuing reform of Vatican finances, giving special emphasis to “the formation of personnel and human resources.”

Msgr. Vigano offered his presentation on communications Monday afternoon, focusing at length on the consolidation of Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Center.

It was noted in the Vatican communique that on this point, several meetings have already taken place with the Secretariat of State, the Secretariat for the Economy, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA) and the Labor Office.

Mention was also made of the plan to “restructure radio frequencies” and of a new policy for social how to handle social media. A brief reflection was also given on a project for reforming the Vatican Publishing House.

Before discussion began, however, the cardinals kicked off the first day of meetings by issuing a statement reaffirming their support for Pope Francis and his work after the pontiff received some harsh blowback for his reform in the days preceding the gathering.

On Monday Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga greeted the Pope on behalf of the group at the start of their first session, thanking Francis for his Dec. 22 address to the Roman Curia and acknowledging “his encouragement and direction for the work of the council.”

“In relation to recent events, the Council of Cardinals expresses its full support of the work of the Pope, while ensuring full adhesion and support to his person and his Magisterium,” it added.

The statement came out just over a week after posters criticizing the Pope were plastered on walls of the city center of Rome Feb. 4. Days later, a spoof of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano was sent to cardinals and bishops in the Curia claiming the Pope had finally answered the five “dubia” submitted to him by four prelates in September, responding both “yes and no” to each.

In a Feb. 15 briefing with journalists on the winners of the International “Economy and Society” Prize of the Vatican’s Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice foundation, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference and a member of the Pope’s “Council of Nine,” spoke about the issue.

When asked about the reason for issuing the statement, Marx said the intention was not to create a “great drama,” but rather to voice their support.

“It was time to repeat that we are supporting the Pope” and walking beside him, Marx said, adding that the statement seems to have been “well-accepted.”

“We have discussion in the Church, normal discussions, tensions, it will always be like this,” he said, but explained that “at a time like this” when such vocal and public opposition has been voiced, “loyalty to the Pope is substantial” to the Catholic faith.

Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the council, also called “the Council of Nine,” serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor Bonus, the 1988 apostolic constitution of St. John Paul II that regulates the competencies and work of the Roman Curia.

Keywords that have come out of the cardinals’ meetings so far and which have emerged as guiding principles for the ongoing Curial reform are harmonization, simplification, synodality and the Church’s “missionary drive.”

The council of cardinals will conclude its last session Wednesday evening, and is set to meet again April 24-26 to continue discussion on moving forward in reforming curial structures.

This is the one thing Pope Francis says you can brag about

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 17:59

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2017 / 04:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As children we are taught that bragging is bad, especially when we do it to people who have less than us, however, for Pope Francis, there is one thing we should never hesitate to flaunt to whoever we meet: our hope in Christ.

Speaking of bragging, the Pope said Feb. 15 that contrary to the typical effect boasting has, “the hope that we have been given (in Christ) does not separate us from others,” and nor does it lead us “to discredit or marginalize them.”

“Instead, it is an extraordinary gift for which we are called to become ‘channels,’ with humility and simplicity, for all.”

Continuing his catechesis on the theme of hope, Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims during the general audience in the Pope Paul VI hall, reflecting on St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans in which the saint speaks of boasting “in hope of the glory of God.”

“So our greatest pride is to have as a Father a God who has no favorites, who does not exclude anyone, but who opens his home to all human beings, beginning with the last and the distant, because as his children we learn to console and support each other,” he said.

In the passage from Romans, St. Paul tells us to boast about the abundance of grace we receive from Christ Jesus, Francis observed. “Paul wants us to understand that if we learn to read everything by the light of the Holy Spirit, we realize that all is grace! Everything is a gift!”

If we learn to pay attention to everything, both in history and in our own lives, we begin to notice how God is “above everything,” and how we can see his hand in everything, he said.

The Pope said we are all called to recognize this point, to accept it with gratitude and to turn it back to God “in praise, blessing and great joy.” This, he said, is what will help us to experience true peace and freedom.

“And then this peace extends to all areas and to all the relationships in our lives: we are at peace with ourselves, we are at peace in the family, in our community, at work and with the people we meet every day on our way,” he said.

St. Paul also encourages us to boast of our sufferings, he said, noting that this can at times seem to be at odds with the peace found in recognizing our blessings and the grace present in our lives.

However, boasting of our sufferings is what makes our praise “the most authentic, the most true,” he said.

“In fact,” the Pope added, the peace the Lord offers us “should not be understood as the absence of worries, disappointments, failures and the causes of suffering.”

If this were true, then our peace would be very short-lived, he said, adding that “the peace that comes from faith is instead a gift...it is the grace to experience that God loves us” and there is always a guarantee that “he does not leave us alone even for a moment of our lives.”

It is the knowledge of the security of God’s love for us that helps us to bear suffering patiently, even in the most difficult moments, because “the mercy and goodness of the Lord are the greatest of all things and nothing will tear us from his hands.”

Our boast is that “God loves me,” Pope Francis said, and had pilgrims repeat with him the prayer “God loves me. God loves me.”

“That's why Christian hope is solid, why it does not disappoint,” he concluded. It isn’t based on what we do or on what we believe, but on “the love that God has for each of us.”

With this in mind, “now we understand why the Apostle Paul exhorts us to always boast about all this.”

The clock is ticking on repeal of DC assisted suicide bill

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 16:05

Washington D.C., Feb 15, 2017 / 03:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A repeal of Washington, D.C.'s physician-assisted suicide law moved through the U.S. House on Monday, but is in a race against time to pass through Congress and be signed by President Trump by Friday.

Members of Congress “have the Constitutional responsibility to do this,” Gloria Purvis, host of the show “Morning Glory” on EWTN Global Catholic Radio, told CNA of the move to repeal D.C.'s “Death With Dignity Act.”

The city council did not “even seek the voice of their own people” through putting the issue to a referendum even though community leaders, disability rights groups and many African-American senior citizens opposed it, Purvis, who has also served on the National Black Catholic Congress' Leadership Commission on Social Justice, noted.

The House Oversight Committee voted 22-14 on Monday to send a measure disapproving of Washington, D.C.'s assisted suicide law to the House floor for a vote, Jason Calvi of EWTN News Nightly reported.

Back in December, the D.C. city council had passed the Death With Dignity Act, joining five states that have statutes legalizing physician-assisted suicide and Montana, where it is currently legal due to a 2009 decision by the state’s supreme court.

Congress, however, has 30 legislative days to overturn laws passed by Washington, D.C. That time period will expire after Friday. A repeal measure must pass both houses of Congress and be signed into law by the President.

The act could be effectively nullified by the House refusing to fund the D.C. health department in its appropriations bill, Purvis said. Attorney General Jeff Sessions could also take action against the law, saying it conflicts with the Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act from 1997 which prohibits federal funding of the practice.

Nevertheless, the act “devalues life,” is “morally repugnant,” and is “not in the interest of the common good,” Purvis insisted. In the situations of terminal patients who are suffering, “the answer is to care for them,” she said, rather than serve “the radical 'I'” mentality of a culture of autonomy.

Disability rights advocates are also pushing Congress to repeal the law, calling it “dangerous and harmful public policy.” At the same time they are urging Congress to leave in place the Affordable Care Act, saying that “any degradation in health care will drive increased demand for assisted suicide.”

Physician-assisted suicide enables serious ethical abuses to occur when someone has a terminal illness, the disability rights argued. The coalition includes the American Association of People With Disabilities, the Disability Rights Center, the National Council on Independent Living, and the group “Not Dead Yet.”

“Assisted suicide is a prescription for abuse: an heir or abusive caregiver can steer someone towards assisted suicide, witness the request, pick up the lethal dose, and in the end, even administer the drug – no witnesses are required at the death, so who would know? Many other pressures exist that can cause people with compromised health to hasten their death,” they stated.

The language of the bill could enable abuses like this, Purvis insisted, as it allows patients to “ingest” a lethal dose of drugs. A dose that is administered by a third party to an unconscious patient could technically be “ingested” by the patient and thus legal, she explained.

Patients with a terminal diagnosis can also suffer from treatable depression, a mental disorder that can affect their judgment to request a lethal prescription and which can be manipulated by others, the coalition added.

“When assisted suicide is legal, it’s the cheapest treatment available – an attractive option in our profit-driven healthcare system,” they argued.

Civic efforts to fight teen suicide are also undermined by the message of this bill, Purvis said, as it implies that some lives are not worth living.

Such legislation purports to bring greater empowerment and freedom to sick patients, but it’s an ethical “slippery slope,” Professor Charles Camosy of Fordham University argued in a recent opinion piece in the New York Daily News.

Although supporters will argue that assisted suicide helps terminal patients avoid intense suffering and pain, patients will “far more likely” choose it out of “not wanting to be a burden on others,” he wrote.

“On other issues, liberals rightly focus on how laws affect vulnerable populations,” he said, explaining that “liberals in Massachusetts” defeated the issue at the ballot box because they were “worried that older people, already thought to be a drain or burden in a culture which worships youth and capital production, might be pressured to consider assisted suicide.”

“Those of us with progressive philosophies must instead unequivocally affirm the goodness of the existence of the old and sick. Especially when our consumerist culture tells them they have no net value,” he said.

Is a Vatican-China agreement close? What could happen.

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 13:01

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2017 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Hopes are on the rise for an agreement between the Vatican and China on the appointment of bishops, with Cardinal John Tong Hon, Archbishop of Hong Kong again making the case for a possible proposal.

He made his case in a Feb. 11 article for the Hong Kong's Sunday Examiner newspaper, and follows up on his previous article from August 2016. His latest article is filled with a certain optimism.
 
Cardinal Tong wrote that a Vatican-China agreement on appointing bishops will be “the crux of the problem and a milestone in the process of normalizing the relationship between the two parties,” but it is “by no means the end of the issue.” It would be “unrealistic, if not impossible” to expect disagreements to be cleared up overnight.

To summarize, Cardinal Tong maintained that Chinese government will finally recognize the Pope as the supreme authority of the Church, and the Pope will be given the power to veto any candidate to the episcopacy he does not deem fit for the post. The cardinal also explained that the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, that is the state-controlled church, will turn into a voluntary body with which bishops can freely affiliate. He voiced optimism for the eventual reconciliation of the seven illicit bishops appointed without the Pope's consent. The cardinal also hoped for the future recognition of the bishops of the “underground Church.”
 
Despite the general optimism seen in Cardinal Tong’s words, the final agreement is yet to come, a source with knowledge of the Vatican-China talks told CNA under condition of anonymity.
 
The source explained the agreement this way: “The Chinese government wants to keep control of the appointment of bishops, and Rome cannot diminish the supreme authority of the pontiff. So, we meet in the middle.”
 
One possible plan for agreement is that “the Holy See may accept the election of candidate for the episcopate, though it knows that these elections take place under state control and that bishops of China’s bishops’ conference all belong to the government-controlled patriotic association.”

On the other hand, the source added, the Chinese government would “accept that any 'election' needs to be approved by the Pope, even though no elections should take place to appoint a bishop.”
 
The source compared this situation of mutual agreement to a famous image of three monkeys: “I don’t see, I don’t hear, I don’t speak.” He added that “although the Holy See is conscious that elections are not free, they are fake,” Vatican negotiators prefer to “silently accept this, in order to have bishops faithful to Rome and in communion with the Pope since the beginning.”
 
Cardinal Tong, in his latest article, noted that Catholic doctrine places the Pope as “the last and highest authority in appointing bishops.” This means that “if the Pope has the final word about the worthiness and suitability of an episcopal candidate, the elections of local churches and the recommendations of the bishops’ conference of the Catholic Church in China will simply be a way to express recommendations.”
 
Cardinal Tong thus aimed to respond to the concerns of Cardinal Joseph Zen, his predecessor as Archbishop of Hong Kong. In speeches, letters and articles, Cardinal Zen took a strong position against the agreement, saying that it undermined the authority of the Holy See. Cardinal Zen asked the Holy See not to make any agreement before China guarantees full religious freedom.
 
According to Cardinal Tong, there are three issues at stake: how to tackle the issue of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association; how to deal with the seven illicitly ordained bishops, who are excommunicated latae sententiae for having violated canon law; and how to handle the issue of more than 30 bishops from the underground Church, whom the Chinese government does not recognize.
 
The cardinal said a relationship between the patriotic association’s concept of an “independent, autonomous and self-run Church” and the self-nominating and self-ordination of bishops is “a relationship between theory and practice.” Both practices “are in fact the product of a distinctive political environment and pressure.”

The Archbishop of Hong Kong said that under the possible agreement the Pope will “now play a role in the nomination and ordination of Chinese bishops” and that “Beijing will also recognize the Pope's right of veto and that the Pope is the highest and final authority in deciding on candidates for bishop in China.”
 
According to Cardinal Tong, this way the Vatican-China agreement would turn the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association into “a patriotic association in its strict, literal sense,” that is: “a voluntary, non-profit, patriotic and Church-loving organization composed of clergy and faithful from all around the country.”
 
The situation is far more complex than this, since de facto every “official” bishop recognized by Beijing is required to be a member of the patriotic association. Critics of the possible agreement noted the case of Shanghai auxiliary Bishop Taddeus Ma Daqin, who dared to resign from the association at his ordination Mass in 2012 and was immediately placed under house arrest. Though he appeared to renounce his stand against the Catholic Patriotic Association in mid-2016, he is still living in isolation in Shanghai’s Sheshan seminary, with no episcopal dignity.
 
In addition to this situation, UCA News has reported that China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs on Jan. 26 posted a decision to “enhance government legal powers over religious work” through an amended regulation in order to “maintain accountability via the strict management of Communist Party members.”

The Chinese administration also stressed that the Chinese administration said it would “steadily push forward” to the Catholic Church “to elect and ordain bishops on its own.” This is a positive sign for Sino-Vatican relations, observers said.
 
If the problem of the appointment of bishops would finally find a solution, a solution would still be needed for the seven bishops who were illicitly ordained and thus de facto excommunicated.
 
Beyond the illicit ordination, some of these bishops are also accused of moral misconduct that needs to be assessed.

The difficulty, as Cardinal Tong says, is that given the unstable relationship between China and the Holy See, the Holy See cannot investigate directly. Thus the Chinese official institutions would need to investigate, a process that would take time.

The Pope is the only one who can lift such an excommunication. Participants in the illicit consecration can secure a papal pardon but they “need to show repentance,” the cardinal said. He added that all of the bishops illicitly ordained are willing to pay their obedience to the Pope.
 
According to CNA’s Vatican source, the Holy See is looking for a “midway point” for the election of bishops and an agreement between “the practice of choosing candidates by a diocesan patriotic commission” and finding candidates that “can be also appreciated and accepted by the underground community.”
 
The source also added that “it is undeniable that the agreement does not fulfill all the requirements, we are not satisfied with that.”

“Anytime there is an agreement, it means that you lose some freedom. That is a problem for us. But we do understand that at the moment we cannot do anything better,” the source said.
 
The agreement could be a solution that would allow the appointment of bishops in still-vacant dioceses. The Chinese administration abolished some dioceses, and the Holy See could dissolve some dioceses too to address the current situation.

“Once, some dioceses were entrusted to missionary congregations, and nowadays these congregations are no more, and there are no more foreign missionaries in continental China,” the source said.
 
The possibility of a “Vietnam solution” for the appointment of bishops was even put on the table.
 
The agreement will likely be based on Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s model implemented in Vietnam back in 1996: the Holy See proposes a set of three bishops to the Hanoi government, and Hanoi makes its choice.
 
However, CNA's source maintained, “China always dismissed a Vietnam solution.” For him, the situation in Vietnam is “completely different.”
 
Despite the initial difficulties like Hanoi’s delayed responses that left dioceses vacant for a long period, the Vietnam situation has worked out decently and there is a relationship of significant trust between the parties.

The Holy See has appointed a non-resident envoy to Hanoi, a first step toward the possible establishment of diplomatic ties.
 
The Chinese situation is even more complex, and also implies the necessity that the Chinese administration will recognize the 30 underground bishops.
 
According to Cardinal Tong, this problem is “not deadlocked.” In his view, the underground Church results from a special political and historic period when “there was no mutual trust between the Holy See and Beijing, and this indirectly led to a lack of trust between the government and the unofficial community bishops.”
 
However, the cardinal notes, “should there be an agreement between the Holy See and China that will imply considerable mutual trust between the parties. The bishops of the unofficial community would no longer be regarded as the opposition for insisting on religious principles.”

This means the government’s view of them would improve.
 
Cardinal Tong also underscored several times that the underground bishops in China are in fact “examples of patriotic citizens.”

He said the government attitude towards these unofficial communities has “changed a lot in recent years.” As mutual trust develops between Rome and Beijing, so too will stability and strength.
 
The talks for an agreement do not include the establishment of diplomatic ties. That will come later, according to CNA's source knowledgeable of the Sino-Vatican dialogue.
 
At the moment, the Holy See’s nunciature to China is established in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. The country is seen by the People’s Republic of China as no more than a rebel province.
 
The Holy See relationship with Taiwan is one of the biggest hurdles to the establishment of any diplomatic tie with China.
 
In recent decades, the nunciature has no longer been headed by a nuncio, but by a lower ranked diplomat, a chargé d'affairs. Msgr. Paul Fitzpatrick Russell, the most recent chargé d'affairs, was appointed apostolic nuncio to Turkey in March 2016, thus leaving a vacancy in the post.
 
It was thought that the vacancy was intended to ease relations between the Holy See and mainland China. The post in fact did not stay vacant. The new chargé d'affairs is Msgr. Sladan Cosic. The nomination was not publicly announced, and this has also a meaning.
 
According to CNA’s Vatican source, the Holy See would be ready to drop its diplomatic presence in Taiwan, but this would not harm relations there. The Holy See could even strengthen its presence on the Taiwanese territory, with a more specific focus on pastoral concerns.

Vatican's top legal aide says divorced-and-remarried may receive Communion

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 06:20

Vatican City, Feb 14, 2017 / 05:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The head of the Vatican office charged with interpreting Church law has said that divorced-and-remarried persons who want to change their situation but cannot, may be admitted to Communion without living in continence.

“The Church could admit to Penance and to the Eucharist faithful who find themselves in an illegitimate union when two essential conditions occur: they want to change the situation, but they are unable to fulfill their desire,” Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, 78, wrote in his booklet Chapter Eight of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhoration Amoris laetitia, published last week.

Cardinal Coccopalmerio is president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. His booklet, published by the Vatican Publishing House and presented Feb. 14 at a Vatican press confence, offers his own interpretation of Amoris laetitia. He said it is aimed at “grasping the rich doctrinal and pastoral message” of Pope Francis' 2016 apostolic exhortation.

Part of the reason for writing it, he said, is because the exhortation's eighth chapter has “been judged with either negativity or with a certain reservation.”

In the text, Cardinal Coccopalmerio extensively quotes Amoris laetitia, saying Chapter 8 illustrates both the clear doctrine of the Church on marriage, as well as the conditions in which, due to “serious” repercussions, couples living in irregular unions might be able to receive Communion.

He reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, and stressed that the Church must in no way “renounce to proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its greatness.”

“Any form of relativism, or an excessive respect in the moment of proposing it, would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel and also a lack of love of the Church,” he said.

However, he noted that, as said in Amoris laetitia, there are many complex factors contributing to why marriages fail and irregular unions are so common, such as abandonment by a spouse, cultural stigmas, or other “mitigating factors.”

The cardinal pointed to paragraph 301 of Amoris laetitia, which reads: “it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.”

By referring to “any irregular situation,” the exhortation, in his opinion, “intends to refer to all those who are married only civilly or only living in a de facto union or are bound by a previous canonical marriage,” the cardinal said.

Further quoting that paragraph, the cardinal said, “a subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding ‘its inherent values,’ or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin … factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision.”

Offering an example of a situation in which a person might be fully aware of the irregularity of their situation yet faces great difficulty in changing it for fear of falling into greater sin, Cardinal Coccopalmerio pointed to couples in a new union who can’t separate due to “serious reasons” such as the education of their children.

He also used the example of a woman cohabiting with a man and his three children, after they had been abandoned by his first wife.

In the book, the cardinal said the woman had saved the man “from a state of deep despair, probably from the temptation of suicide.” The couple had been together for 10 years, adding another child to the mix, with the woman making considerable sacrifices to help raise the other three.

While the woman in the hypothetical situation “is fully aware of being in an irregular situation” and would “honestly like to change her life, but evidently, she can't,” the cardinal said, explaining that if she left, “the man would turn back to the previous situation and the children would be left without a mother.”

To leave, then, would mean the woman would fail to carry out her duties toward innocent people, namely, the children. Because of this, Cardinal Coccopalmerio said, “it's then evident that she couldn’t leave without new sin” occurring.

Speaking on the point of continence, the cardinal pointed to St. John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio.

In the document, St. John Paul II taught that the divorced-and-remarried who for serious reasons cannot satisfy the obligation to separate may receive absolution which would open the way to Communion only if they take on the duty to live in complete continence – to live as brother and sister.

However, for Cardinal Coccopalmerio, while the couples who are able to do this should, for others the temptation of infidelity increases the longer a couple refrains from sexual intimacy, potentially causing greater harm to the children.

He referred to footnote 329 of Amoris laetitia. The footnote is a reference to the quoting of St. John Paul II's words in Familiaris consortio acknowledging that some of the divorced-and-remarried cannot, for serious reasons, separate. The footnote applies the words of Gaudium et spes that “where the intimacy of married life is broken off, its faithfulness can sometimes be imperiled and its quality of fruitfulness ruined” – in its context, speaking about married couples – to “the divorced who have entered a new union.”

Cardinal Coccopalmerio stressed that while for him the desire to change one’s situation despite the inability to do so is enough to receive Communion, the conditions must be “carefully and authoritatively discerned” on the part of ecclesial authority, which would typically be the couple’s parish priest, who knows the couple “more directly” and can therefore offer adequate guidance.

For the cardinal, the only instance in which a couple in an irregular situation could be barred from Communion is when, “knowing they are in grave sin and being able to change, they have no sincere desire” to do so.

He also suggested that a diocesan office charged with advising on difficult marital situations could be “necessary, or at least useful.”

Cardinal Coccopalmerio was absent from his book presentation, and it was presented instead by Orazio La Rocca; Fr. Maurizio Gronchi; Fr. Giuseppe Costa, SDB; and Alfonso Cuateruccio.

Cardinal Coccopalmerio is the latest prelate to speak out on the question of Amoris laetitia and admission to Communion for the divorced-and-remarried. The exhortation has been met with a varied reception and intepretation within the Church.

Several bishops, including the bishops' conferences of Germany and of Malta, have said the divorced-and-remarried may receive Communion.

Yet many have maintained the Church's traditional discipline, including recently Bishop Vitus Huonder of Chur and Bishop Stephen Lopes of the Ordinariate of St. Peter.

And Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has on multiple occasions maintained that Amoris laetitia is in continuity with Church teaching.

In an interview with Il Timone earlier this month, he said that Amoris laetitia “must clearly be interpreted in the light of the whole doctrine of the Church.” He said that St. John Paul II's teaching in Familiaris consortio “is not dispensable, because it is not only a positive law of John Paul II, but he expressed an essential element of Christian moral theology and the theology of the sacraments.”

Confusion on this point, he said, stems from a failure to accept St. John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical Veritatis splendor.

Cardinal Müller suggested that in order to quell the confusion generated by the differing interpretations of Amoris laetitia, everyone ought to study the Church’s doctrine, beginning with Scripture, “which is very clear on marriage.”

“All of us must understand and accept the doctrine of Christ and of his Church, and at the same time be ready to help others to understand it and put it into practice even in difficult situations,” he stated.

Observing the difference between the statements of Cardinal Müller and Cardinal Coccopalmerio, Dr. Edward Peters, a professor of canon law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, wrote that “the Church’s arguably two highest-ranking cardinals in the areas of canonical interpretation and the protection of doctrine and morals are in public, plain, and diametric opposition with each other concerning a crucial canonico-sacramental practice. This division cannot stand.”

Pope Francis: Don't preach the Gospel like it's a 'recommendation'

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 00:16

Vatican City, Feb 14, 2017 / 11:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said Tuesday that the Word of God isn’t something that can be explained to people as a mere recommendation, or merely a good idea, but that it requires courage, prayer and humility to preach with honesty – and this is the only way it will have an impact.

“The Word of God cannot be given as a proposal – ‘well, if you like it…’ – or like a good philosophical or moral idea – ‘well, you can live this way…’” Pope Francis said Feb. 14.

“No! It’s something else. It needs to be proposed with this frankness, with this force, so that the Word penetrates, as Paul says, ‘to the bone.’”

In his homily at Casa Santa Marta, the Pope took inspiration from the Feb. 14 Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, two great European missionaries, also referencing Paul and Barnabas in the day’s first reading and the 72 disciples sent by the Lord in the Gospel of Luke.

Francis reflected on three traits which make for good and effective evangelization, without which, he said, we are “incapable…of forming the people of God.”

The first characteristic was that of the courage necessary to speak with “frankness.” First, we must be in love with Jesus, he said, and from this love we will gain the “spiritual courage, courage of heart” to speak God’s Word with honesty.

Without this courage, we may say “something interesting, something moral,” something that will do good, or “a good philanthropy,” he said. “But this is not the Word of God.”

“Only the Word of God proclaimed with this frankness, with this courage, is capable of forming the people of God.”

The second important quality is that evangelization is rooted in prayer “always,” Francis said. “Without prayer, you could have a good conference, good instruction: good, good! But it is not the Word of God. The Word of God can only come from a heart in prayer,” he warned.

Prayer is what helps the Gospel to take root and bear fruit in people’s hearts, the Pope explained.

If the Gospel is proclaimed with prayer, then the Lord will be in this “sowing of the Word, so that the Lord might water the seed so that the Word will sprout.”

And finally, Pope Francis warned against arrogance. “When the preacher believes he is too intelligent, or when the one who is responsible for carrying forward the Word of God tries to be clever – ‘Ah, I can get along with these people’ – just so, it will end badly,” he said.

Instead, we must go forward like a “lamb among wolves.” Referencing a homily written by St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel of St. Matthew, the Pope said he offers a “very profound reflection.”

Summarizing St. John’s words, Francis said: “But if you do not go like sheep, but you go like a wolf among wolves, the Lord will not defend you: you’ll have to fend for yourself.”

If we aim to win an argument, instead of presenting God’s truth, we will “negotiate” the meaning of the Word of God with the “powerful” and the “proud.”

“The true preacher is the one who knows he is weak, who knows that he cannot defend himself,” the Pope emphasized.

This is the missionary character of the Church and of her great missionaries, those who “have planted and have helped the Church to grow in the world,” Francis concluded.

Sts. Cyril and Methodius “were courageous, men of prayer, and humble,” may they help to “proclaim the Word of God” with these traits, he said.

 

Pope lauds 'courageous' witness of abuse victim who chose to forgive

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 15:17

Vatican City, Feb 14, 2017 / 02:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his preface for a book written by a survivor of clerical sex abuse, Pope Francis once again lamented the “monstrosity” of the act, calling the author, Daniel Pittet, courageous for his willingness to forgive his abuser and to share his story with the world.

“For those who have been victims of a pedophile it is difficult to talk about what they have been through and describe the trauma that still persist after many years,” the Pope said in the preface, published earlier this month.

Because of this, “Daniel Pittet’s testimony is necessary, treasured and courageous.”

In his 240-page book, titled “I forgive you, father: surviving a broken childhood,” Pittet shares the story of his difficult childhood, during which he and his siblings were shuffled around different foster homes after their parents’ separation before eventually meeting the friar who would abuse him.

At the age of nine, Pittet was lured by a Capuchin friar into the convent attached to his parish, where he would from that day be raped on a weekly basis for four years, with those around him in denial.

Pittet’s book details not only the tragic suffering he endured, but also the long path he has taken to forgiveness, culminating in the civil and ecclesial recognition of his abusers crimes, and his own ability to move forward in building a family and a professional career.

Not only is the book unique for the author of its preface, but another unprecedented quality is the fact that it ends with an interview conducted with the friar who abused Pittet, marking one of the rare occasions when a pedophile speak publicly.

In his preface, Pope Francis thanked Pitett for sharing his story, “because testimony like his break down the wall of silence that covered scandals and suffering, shedding light on a terrible dark area in the life of the Church.”

These type of testimonies, he said, “open the way to a just mending and to the grace of reconciliation, helping pedophiles to become aware of the terrible consequences of their actions.”

Francis said he had originally met Pittet at the Vatican during the Year for Consecrated Life in 2015, and that the author had wanted to give heavy promotion to a book called “To love is to give everything,” which was a collection of the testimonies of priests, religious and consecrated men and women.

At the time, “I could not have imagined that this enthusiastic and passionate Christian man had been the victim of abuse by a priest,” Francis said, adding that “yet this is what he told me, and his suffering struck me very much.”

In hearing Pittet’s story, the Pope said he saw once again both “the tremendous damage caused by sexual abuse” and the “long and painful journey that awaits the victims.”

“I am happy that others can read his testimony today and discover how far evil can enter the heart of a servant of the Church,” he said, asking how a priest committed to serving Christ and his Church “cause so much harm.”

“How can someone who devoted their life to lead children to God, end up instead to devour them in what I called ‘a diabolical sacrifice’ that destroys both the victim and the life of the Church?”

Francis noted that some victims of abuse have committed suicide. “These deaths weigh on my heart, on my conscience and that of the whole Church,” he said, and, addressing their families, said “I offer my feelings of love and pain and humbly, I ask forgiveness.”

Clerical sex abuse “is an absolute monstrosity, a horrible sin, radically against everything that Christ has taught us,” the Pope said, and pointed to his June 4, 2016, motu proprio “Like a loving mother.”

In the document, in which the Pope deemed that negligence on the part of a bishop in handling cases of abuse is enough to oust him from office, it was stressed that the Church “must take care and protect with special love the weak and the helpless” with the tenderness of a mother.
 
“We have stated that it is our duty to be extremely strict with the priests who betray their mission, and with their hierarchy, bishops or cardinals, who might protect them, as has happened in the past,” Francis saod.

However, the Pope noted that despite the various trials Pitted endured as a child, he also “met another face of the Church, and this allowed him to not lose hope in men and in God.”

“(Pittet) tells us of the power of prayer that he has never abandoned, and that has comforted him in the darkest hours,” he said, pointing to the fact that the author chose to meet his “tormentor” 44 years later, wanting “to look into the eyes of the man who has hurt him in the depths of his soul.”

Instead of condemning the friar, Pittet “lent him his hand,” Francis said, noting that “the wounded child is now a standing man, fragile but standing.”

Pointing to a line written by Pittet in the book, the Pope said he was impressed by the author’s declaration that “many people fail to understand the fact that I do not hate him. I have forgiven him and I built my life on that forgiveness.”

Francis closed his preface saying that he prays for Pittet and “for all those who, like him, were wounded in their innocence, may God lift them and heal them, and give us all his forgiveness and mercy.”

What Egypt's Catholic bishops said to Pope Francis

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 13:08

Vatican City, Feb 14, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A special invitation to visit Egypt was delivered to Pope Francis by Coptic Catholic bishops during their ad limina visit Feb. 6, during which they also gave a report on the state of the Church in their country.

“It was a formal invitation put in written form, that followed other invitations to Egypt,” Bishop Emmanuel Bishay of Luxor told CNA.

The Pope has also received an invitation to visit Egypt from the country’s president and from the Grand Imam of al Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, who occupies a prestigious place in the Sunni Muslim world.

It is widely speculated that the Pope might go to South Sudan in November. There is a possibility he could use the occasion for a longer trip, with a stop in Egypt.

Bishop Bishay was one of the bishops who took part in the meeting with the Pope. The bishop, who is a former official at the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, described the meeting as “marvelous.”

“Previously, ad limina visits included a papal speech that gave the highlights of the situation of the country and provided recommendations. But now there are no more speeches, and each of us was invited to freely speak about the situation in his diocese,” Bishop Bishay recounted.
 
He said the Pope welcomed Egypt’s Catholic bishops.

“It reminded me of that passage of the Gospel when Jesus sent the apostles to make disciples, and, when they are back, asks them to tell their experience,” the bishop said.
 
Bishop Bishay said that the bishops, beyond the particular issues of each diocese, talked about the fruits of the Catholic Church’s Year of Mercy and about the daily life of the Church in Egypt.

The Pope “encouraged us to carry on our mission in the Church and at the service of Egyptian society, with a particular reference to education and dialogue,” the bishop reported.
 
In the Coptic Eparchy of Luxor, education is a major concern.

“We established two catechetical institutes, one in Luxor and one in Aswan, and classes are attended by about 250 people. We launched a vocational year last Dec. 8, placing it under the Virgin Mary’s protection,” he said.
 
Already there are five boys discerning a vocation who could begin seminary next year.
 
Terrorism is another concern for the Church in Egypt.

“Egyptians are very attentive, as they know that terrorism aims at undermining the unity of our country as well as our shared life with Muslims brothers,” Bishop Bishay said.
 
Despite incidents in which many churches were burned by extremists, “no reaction against the Muslim community came from the Catholic Church,” the bishop reported.

The government of Egypt understands the issue and helps restore the destroyed churches. Christmas 2014 also marked a new outreach from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who visited a Coptic Orthodox cathedral.

“For the first time ever a president of the Republic of Egypt spent the Christmas night at Mass,” Bishop Bishay said.
 
Egyptian society was also profoundly shocked by the beheading in Libya of 20 Orthodox Coptic faithful and a companion by Islamic State militants in February 2015.
 
“On one hand, this wound does not only affect the Egyptian society, but the whole world. What has happened is part of a war that is fed by the instrumentalization of religions,” the bishop said, denouncing efforts to kill in the name of God.
 
On the other hand, he continued, “the example of the Coptic martyrs gave strength and courage to all of us. Instead of creating divisions within the country, the message of the martyrs bore more unity. So much that people do not speak about the shedding of Christian blood, but about the shedding of Egyptian blood.”
 
Despite apparent improvements, Christians still have some difficulties in getting permission to build new churches. Bishop Bishay is truly optimistic. He pointed to the passage of new legislation that regulates the construction and the restoration of churches as well as the right to have places of worship where none have been built.

“We look forward to having this bill be fully understood and applied,” the bishop said.
 
Coptic Christians are composed of Catholics and Oriental Orthodox. Ecumenical dialogue is going on at a good pace, the bishop reported.

“We are living at a time of a positive momentum, as Patriarch Tawadros pushes a lot for Christian unity,” he said. “Back in 2013, he spent one week in Rome, and met with Pope Francis May 10. Ever since, on May 10 there is a festival of Catholics and Orthodox together. There is still a long path to go, but we are walking the path for sure.”

Don't let small resentments turn into something worse, Pope Francis warns

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 23:40

Vatican City, Feb 13, 2017 / 10:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Monday spoke about what it means to kill your brother in your heart, which, may be something as small as envy or bitterness, and if left to grow, can lead to even worse things, such as war or actual murder.

Most people have never actually killed someone, the Pope said in his homily for Mass at the chapel of Casa Santa Marta Feb. 13, but “if you have a bad feeling toward your brother, you killed him; if you insult your brother, you killed him in your heart. Killing is a process that starts from little things.”

Reflecting on the story of Cain and Abel, the Pope said it is one “which begins with a little jealousy: Cain is irritated because his sacrifice does not please the Lord and he begins to cultivate a feeling of resentment, a feeling he could control but does not.”

“The speck of sawdust becomes a plank in our eye,” he continued, “our life revolves around it and it ends up destroying the bond of brotherhood; it destroys fraternity.”

When we let even these little things, like resentment or jealousy or annoyance, continue, Francis said, the sin can grow into something even worse. “This is what happened to Cain, who ended up killing his brother.”

This is why we must try to stop, at the very first sign of bitterness and resentment, he said. “Bitterness is not Christian. Pain is, but not bitterness. Resentment is not Christian.”

If we do not do this, “this enmity ends up destroying families, people, everything!” he said. Giving an example from war, where people may say that casualties of bombs or other violence, even children, are not their fault.

“It all begins with that feeling that makes you break away, saying to each other: ‘This is some guy, this is so and so, but it is not a brother…’” he said, or when we say “here are those who are bombarded” or “who are driven out” but “these are not brothers.”  

The Pope gave his homily to the members of the Council of Cardinals. The council, an advisory board to the Pope made up of nine cardinals, started their 18th session today, which runs through Feb. 15.

Pope Francis created the group at the start of his pontificate to act as an advisory body on Church governance and reform of the Roman Curia.

The Pope offered the Mass for Father Adolfo Nicolás, the Superior General of the Jesuits from 2008 to 2016, who will be leaving Rome Wednesday.

This lack of brotherhood infects even the priesthood, the Pope warned: “little things… rifts.”

Cain’s answer “is ironic,” because when the Lord asks him where his brother is, he says, “I don’t know: am I my brother’s keeper?” Francis said. “Yes, you are your brother’s keeper,” the Pope emphasized.

Let us ask the Lord, the Pope concluded, to remember this question: “Where is your brother?” and to help us think about “all those who in the world are treated as things and not as brothers, because a piece of land is more important than the bond of brotherhood.”

Amid controversy, council of cardinals backs Pope Francis

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 23:10

Vatican City, Feb 13, 2017 / 10:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of several contentious events surrounding the Vatican recently, Pope Francis' advisory board in his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia affirmed their support of the Pope and his work.

On behalf of the group, Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga greeted Pope Francis at the start of the councils of cardinal's Feb. 13 meeting.

He thanked the Pope for his Christmas address to the Roman Curia Dec. 22, and acknowledging “his encouragement and direction for the work of the council,” a Vatican communique stated.

“In relation to recent events, the Council of Cardinals expresses its full support of the work of the Pope, while ensuring full adhesion and support to his person and his Magisterium,” it added.

The statement comes just over one week after posters criticizing the Pope were plastered on walls of the city center of Rome Feb. 4.

Depicting a dour looking Pope Francis, they read: “Ah Francis, you've taken over congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored Cardinals…but where’s your mercy?”

After hearing about the posters, the Pope himself was reportedly unfazed. According to Italian news agency ANSA, Pope Francis received the news of the posters with “serenity and detachment.”

The brief phrase included on the posters was written in the Roman dialect, and indicates the culprit is someone who comes from more conservative sectors of the Church, many of whom have been in sharp disagreement with the Pope regarding his decisions and ongoing reform of the curia, which he is doing with the help of the Council of Cardinals.

Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the council, also called “the Council of Nine,” serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor Bonus, the 1988 apostolic constitution of St. John Paul II that regulates the competencies and work of the Roman Curia.

The anti-Francis posters clearly referenced several contentious issues from his pontificate, such as the letter written to him by four cardinals in September asking for clarification on five points – called “dubia” – in Amoris Laetitia. The letter was subsequently published in November, after the Pope did not respond.

Another recent one was the Pope’s request at the end of January for the Order of Malta’s former Grand Master, Matthew Festing, to resign while ousted Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager be reinstated.

The cardinals' council is currently holding their 18th session at the Vatican Feb. 13-15 for what is their usual three days of meetings with Pope Francis. A session is generally held every few months.

Their last session was held Dec. 12-14, and focused on synodality and the Church’s “missionary drive” forming the basis of the discussion on how reform of the curia’s various departments will move forward.

Discussion largely centered around the role of the Secretary of State and the Congregations for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fides), for Bishops, and for Oriental Churches.

In the past, the council has also emphasized the need for greater harmonization and simplification in the curia.

Pope: Christ came to help us fulfil the commandments' substance

Sun, 02/12/2017 - 22:30

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2017 / 09:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Christ's Sermon on the Mount shows that he wanted to fulfil the law of Moses, not abolish it, Pope Francis said Sunday during his Angelus address.

He “wants to help his listeners to achieve a reinterpretation of the Mosaic law. What was said in the Old Covenant was true, but it was not all: Jesus came to fulfill and to enact definitively the law of God, down to the last iota,” the Pope said Feb. 12 in St. Peter's Square.

“He manifests the Law’s original purposes and He fulfils its authentic aspects – and He does all this by His preaching and even more by offering Himself on the Cross.”

Christ “teaches how to do the will of God fully – and   He uses this expression: with a 'justice superior' to that of the scribes and Pharisees – a justice animated   by love, charity, mercy, and therefore capable of realizing the substance of the commandments, avoiding the risk of formalism,” he said, calling us to “more”.

The Gospel passage the Pope considered included Christ's words on homicide, adultery, and oath swearing.

Christ explained that the commandment against murder “is violated not only by actual homicide, but also by those behaviors which offend the dignity of the human person, including insulting words. Certainly, these injurious words do not have the same gravity and sinfulness of killing, but they are placed on the same line, because they are the premises of the more serious acts and they reveal the same malevolence.”

We are invited “not to establish a gradation of offenses, but to consider them all harmful, insofar as they are all moved by the intention to do harm to one’s neighbor,” he said, urging: “Please, do not insult! We earn nothing by doing so.”

“Another fulfilment is made to marriage law,” Pope Francis said. “Adultery had been considered a violation of a man’s property right to his wife. Jesus, however, goes to the root of the evil. Just as one comes to murder through injuries, offenses, and insults, so one comes to adultery through intentions of possession with respect to a woman other than one’s wife.”

“Adultery, like theft, corruption and all other sins, are first conceived in our hearts and, once the wrong choice is made in the heart, they are actuated in concrete behavior. And Jesus says: He who looks with a possessing spirit at a woman who is not his own is an adulterer in his heart, he has begun to go down the road to adultery. Let us think a little on this: on the bad thoughts that are in this line.”

The Pope then turned to Christ's words on swearing oaths, noting that Christ advised against it because “the oath is a sign of insecurity and duplicity with which human relations are conducted. Oath-swearing exploits the authority of God to give assurance to our human affairs. Rather we are called to establish among ourselves, in our families and in our communities, a climate of clarity and mutual trust, so that we can be considered honest without resorting to higher interventions in order to be believed. Mistrust and mutual suspicion always threaten serenity!”

Pope Francis concluded by turning to Mary, “a woman of docile listening and joyous obedience, might help us to approach the Gospel, to be Christians not in name, but in substance! And this is possible with the grace of the Holy Spirit, who permits us to do everything with love, and so to fulfil the will of God.”

Vatican appoints pastoral envoy to Medjugorje

Sat, 02/11/2017 - 22:21

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2017 / 09:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Saturday appointed Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warszawa-Praga as a delegate of the Holy See to look into the pastoral situation at Medjugore, the site of alleged Marian apparitions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The mission has the aim of acquiring a deeper knowledge of the pastoral situation there and above all, of the needs of the faithful who go there in pilgrimage, and on the basis of this, to suggest possible pastoral initiatives for the future,” stated a Feb. 11 communique from the Vatican Secretariat of State.

“The mission will therefore have an exclusively pastoral character,” it added.

Greg Burke, the Holy See press officer, strenuously reiterated the pastoral, and not doctrinal, nature of Archbishop Hoser's mission, while speaking at a press conference.

“The special envoy won’t enter into the substance of the Marian apparitions, which is a doctrinal question in the competency of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” he said.

The alleged apparitions originally began June 24, 1981, when six children in Medjugorje, a town in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, began to experience phenomena which they have claimed to be apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to these six “seers,” the apparitions contained a message of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting, as well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the future.

These apparitions are said to have continued almost daily since their first occurrence, with three of the original six children – who are now young adults – continuing to receive apparitions every afternoon because not all of the “secrets” intended for them have been revealed.

Since their beginning, the alleged apparitions have been a source of both controversy and conversion, with many flocking to the city for pilgrimage and prayer, and some claiming to have experienced miracles at the site, while many others claim the visions are non-credible.

In April 1991, the bishops of the former Yugoslavia determined that “on the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”

On the basis of those findings the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith directed in October 2013 that clerics and the faithful “are not permitted to participate in meetings, conferences or public celebrations during which the credibility of such 'apparitions' would be taken for granted.”

In January 2014, a Vatican commission completed an investigation into the supposed apparitions' doctrinal and disciplinary aspects, and was to have submitted its findings to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

When the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will have analyzed the commission's findings, it will finalize a document on Medjugorge, which will be submitted to the Pope, who will make a final decision.

Pope Francis visited Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2015, but declined to stop at Medjugorje during his trip.

During his return flight to Rome, he indicated that the process of investigation in the apparitions was nearly complete.

When journalists noted this point at Saturday's press conference, Burke responded that the doctrinal question of the alleged apparitions “are still being studied … this is neither a recognition nor a negative judgement. That is always a doctrinal question separate from this, which is pastoral. If you read [the communique], you can’t read any doctrinal judgement” in the pastoral appointment of Archbishop Hoser.

Rather than being involved in the doctrinal questions, Archbishop Hoser's mission is a matter of “people’s needs,” Burke emphasized: “pastoral life, liturgy, catechesis, sacraments and the experience of devotion they have there,” but not the management of local parishes.

“It’s important to note that it’s not an apostolic visitation,” Burke concluded. “Look at the words. This is more 'for' than 'against'. It’s for the life of the pilgrims who go there.”

Archbishop Hoser will remain Bishop of Warszawa-Praga, and is expected to complete his role at Medjugorje by the summer.

Vatican bars Sodalit founder from contact with members

Sat, 02/11/2017 - 07:50

Vatican City, Feb 10, 2017 / 06:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A newly released decree from the Vatican's congregation for religious life states that the founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, Luis Fernando Figari, may not have contact with members of the community.

A Jan. 30 decree of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life addressed to the superior general of the Sodalitium, Alessandro Moroni Llabres, directs him to order that Figari be “prohibited from contacting, in any way, persons belonging to the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, and no way have any direct personal contact with them.”

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae is a society of apostolic life which was founded in 1971 in Peru, and granted pontifical recognition in 1997. CNA's executive director, Alejandro Bermúdez, and its global director of operations, Ryan Thomas, are both members of the community.

The decree, obtained by CNA Feb. 10, is a fruit of an apostolic visitation made by Bishop Fortunato Pablo Urcey, Prelate of Chota, who was charged with investigating allegations of sexual and psychological abuse committed by Figari. The dicastery had first received accusations against Figari in 2011.

The visitation resulted “in the conviction that Mr. Figari, during his many years as Superior General of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, had adopted a style of government excessively or improperly authoritarian, directed to impose one's own will, not willing to accept any form of dialogue and fraternal and sincere confrontation, nor sensitive to the convictions and demands of others, and therefore not prone to understand, appreciate and accept, even partially, opinions different from his own.”

In addition, Figari, “in order to obtain the obedience of his brothers, used improper strategies and methods of persuasion, that is to say, underhanded, arrogant and nonetheless violent and disrespectful of the right to the inviolability of one's own interiority and discretion, and therefore to the freedom of the human person to independently discern the proposals or decisions.”

The congregation wrote that they consider it credible that Figari committed the crime of abuse of office, as outlined in canon 1389.

“Numerous witnesses have consistently asserted that, in order to manipulate, to make them dependent and therefore to control more than to direct consciences, especially of young people in formation, Mr. Figari has also asked, in an improper and in any case excessive, confidences in the sensitive field of sexuality, and in some cases has committed acts contrary to the VI Commandment.”

It added, however, that according to documentation that it had received through April 2016 the persons, with whom Figari had violated the commandment that “thou shalt not commit adultery”, all of whom belong in some way to the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, were all “much older than 16” when the events occurred.

Moreover, it added that Figari's abuse, while it could be “considered severely sinful”, cannot be affirmed with moral certainty as constituting child abuse or violence, as outlined in canon 1395.

Yet the decree also states that documentation it found in May 2016 clearly shows that “Figari, before 2001, committed some acts against the VI Commandment with some young people in formation in the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, of which, with certainty at least in one case occurred in 1974, with a person under 16 years of age.”

It stated that Figari and his lawyer have been notified of the charges made against him.

Figari's crime of abuse of office cannot be prosecuted because of a statute of limitations, however, and he cannot be prosecuted for his abuse of minors under canon 1395 because he is a layman, and not a cleric – the only persons covered by that canon.

However, his sexual abuse of minors means he is to be dismissed from his institute, unless “the superior decides that dismissal is not completely necessary and that correction of the member, restitution of justice, and reparation of scandal can be resolved sufficiently in another way.”

The congregation determined that Figari does not have to be expelled from the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, citing his abuse having taken place “in the very distant past”; his being the founder of the community “and therefore the mediator of a charisma of divine origin”; his age and poor health; his manifested willingness to collaborate; that Bishop Pablo “verified that there are no current members of the apostolic life Society who support Mr. Figari or who are particularly attached to him in government positions or in the formation”; and that the Sodalits' current government “are clearly aware of the mistakes made in the past by Mr. Figari and that there is firm determination of the General Government to free itself of the style of government and formation adopted by him in the course of the many years in which he has directed the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, as well as remedying, as much as possible and in any case what is just, to the harm caused to anyone.”

It directed that Moroni, in addition to keeping Figari from contacting any Sodalits, is to order that Figari not return to Peru, except for very serious reasons and with written permission; that he be placed in a residence where there are no Sodalits; that a member of the Sodalits be entrusted with the task of referring to Figari, for any eventuality and request; and that Figari be prohibited from granting any statement to the media or from participating in any public demonstrations or meetings of the Sodalitium Christiane Vitae.

The decree bears the signatures of the congregations' prefect, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, and its secretary, Archbishop José Rodriguez Carballo.

Last month, the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae announced that 66 persons can be considered victims of abuse of mistreatment by members of the community, and that it has set aside more than $2.8 million in reparations and assistance for victims.

In May 2016 Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark was appointed as the Vatican's delegate to oversee ongoing reform of the society.

The month prior, an ethics commission created to investigate and offer proposals surrounding accusations of abuse against Figari had released a report which detailed an internal culture of extreme “discipline and obedience to the founder” which was “forged on the basis of extreme physical demands, as well as physical punishments, constituting abuses which violated the fundamental rights of persons.”

The commission charged that Figari’s arbitrary use of authority led to “an organizational culture based on the cult of personality.” Those who discerned out of the community were hindered from doing so, and were treated as if they were “treasonous,” the report suggested: “In many cases, this has led to grave psychological effects and even the rejection of the Catholic faith, even after being incorporated into live outside the community, obliging them to suffer unmerited spiritual conflicts.”

In addition to Peru, the Sodalitium Christiane Vitae operates in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, the U.S. and Italy.

Vatican unveils updated healthcare charter as new ethical questions arise

Sat, 02/11/2017 - 05:53

Vatican City, Feb 10, 2017 / 04:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican has issued an updated version of their charter for healthcare workers, removing question marks from modern ethical concerns such as euthanasia and the creation of human-animal chimeras by offering a clear set of guidelines.

In the past 20 years “there have been two to situations, two events” that have made the production of a new healthcare charter necessary, Professor Antonio Gioacchino Spagnolo told CNA Feb. 6.

The first, he said, is “scientific progress. In these 20 years there has been a lot of scientific progress in the field of the beginning of life as well as in the phase of the end of life, in the context of living.”

But alongside advancements in science the Church’s Magisterium has also produced several texts dealing with new and current issues, offering an authoritative take on how they should be handled.

The charter, he said, “encompasses a sort of collection of the various positions there have been, the various pronouncements, keeping the progress of bio-medicine in mind.”

Spagnolo, director of the Institute of Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, spoke to journalists at the Feb. 6 presentation of the new charter, and played a key role in drafting the new text.

A first edition of the charter was published in 1994, but in the wake of broad scientific advancements and various updates in the Church’s Magisterium, the Holy See Monday rolled out the new version of the charter for healthcare workers.

Released to coincide with the annual World Day of the Sick celebrations taking place in Lourdes, the updated charter includes all magisterial documents published since 1994 and will be sent to bishops' conferences around the world.

At roughly 150 pages including the index, the charter is structured much like the old edition, and is divided into three parts: Procreation, Life, and Death.

The section on procreation covers everything from contraception, IVF, and the scientific use of embryos, including freezing them, as well as newer topics such as the mixing of human and animal gametes, the gestation of human embryos in animal or artificial wombs, cloning, asexual reproduction, and parthenogenesis.

In the “Life” section, topics covered are “all of the health events that are in some way connected to living,” Spagnolo said, including vaccinations, preventative care, drug testing, transplants, abortion, anencephalic fetuses, as well as gene therapy and regenerative medicine.

The social part of the charter also covers areas specifically linked to poverty, such as access to medicines and the availability of new technologies in developing countries or countries that are politically and economically unstable. Rare and “neglected” diseases are also covered in the new text.

In his comments to CNA, Spagnolo commented on recent cases the new, updated charter would cover, including the creation of human-pig “chimeras,” as well as the case of an elderly woman with dementia who was held down by her family during a euthanasia procedure.

The first case refers to the recent high-level scientific research project that culminated in the creation of chimeras, or organisms made from two different species.

While the project initially began by conducting the experiment on rats and mice, at the end of January it culminated with the human-pig mix, marking the first time a case had been reported in which human stem cells had begun to grow inside another species.

In the experiment, which appeared in the scientific journal “Cell,” researchers from various institutes, including Stanford and the Salk Institute in California, injected pig embryos with human stem cells when there were just a few days old and monitored their development for 28 days to see if more human cells would be generated.

Human cells inside a number of the embryos had begun to develop into specialized tissue precursors, however, the success rate of the human cells was overall low, with the majority failing to produce human cells.

Commenting on the case, Spagnolo said this type of “hybridization between human and animal cells” was primarily done to garner more scientific information. “It’s important” that this research is done, he said, but cautioned that we can’t be “indifferent” to how the information is used.

If a scientist decides to mingle human cells with those of another species in order to create some sort of hybrid being, “this is of course something that can’t be accepted because in some way it means using the generation of a life as an instrument to reach one’s own ends.”

However, if it’s done for a purpose other than generating alternate beings, such as growing human organs for transplant, Spagnolo said this would be acceptable.

One thing that’s already being proposed, he said, is the possibility of xenografts, i.e. tissue grafts or organ transplants from a donor that is a different species than the recipient.

The idea of doing this, Spagnolo said, is to “inoculate” pigs with human cells, allowing the organs of the pig to receive human antigens, “so when a transplant were done with a liver or heart from the pig inside a (human being), there wouldn’t be the rejection that there is normally doing it with other species.”

Spagnolo said that using the hybrid cells for organ or tissue transplant “is acceptable because to transfer a human cell to a pig doesn’t mean creating a life.”

Rather, it allows the pig “to have a genetic patrimony similar to that of a human being to then be able to use the organs to help people,” he said, emphasizing the fact that it’s not pig cells being injected into human beings, but vice versa.

So to make a good, informed decision involves first of all seeing “what type of experiments” are being done, deciding from that “whether it’s acceptable or not,” then looking at what “one intends to produce, what are the objectives one intends to reach.”

Pointing to another touchy scientific case that came up recently when an elderly woman in her 80s was held down by her relatives as her doctors euthanized her, Spagnolo said this is the type of murky water which “advanced statements” or living wills wade into in countries where euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal.

The woman, who lived in the Netherlands, had dementia and had reportedly expressed a desire for euthanasia when “the time was right” at an earlier date, but had not done so recently.

When the woman began exhibiting “fear and anger” and was sometimes found to be wandering the halls of her nursing home, the senior doctor at the home determined that the woman’s condition meant the time was right, and put a sleep-inducing drug into her coffee so he could administer the lethal injection.

The woman was not consulted, and woke up as the doctor was trying to give the injection. When she fought the procedure, her family members were asked to hold her down while the injection was completed.

“When medicine no longer does what it should” because in a living will someone expresses their desire for assisted suicide, “this statement completely alters the doctor-patient relationship,” Spagnolo said.

He pointed to a bill that is currently on the table in Italy that would effectively legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide, requiring doctors to act on the advanced statements of their patients in this regard, and prohibiting them from conscientious objection.

This bill, as well as the case of the woman in the Netherlands, illustrates “the difficulty of advance statements,” Spagnolo said, explaining that if someone makes an advance statement and later decides against it, “the fact of having said it before is used and is done (by) drugging the patient.”

While the doctor-patient relationship is always key element of the discussion, Spagnolo noted that various studies have been conducted showing a doctor’s behavior toward patients differs based on whether or not the patient has an advanced statement, specifically on euthanasia.

“This disparity should be avoided. The doctor should always act the same way when the person is concerned,” he said.

So with the new charter, all healthcare workers will now have a point of reference for some of these sticky scenarios, he said.

“They can know that some things must be done, they are obligatory. Others, however, are only possibilities.

In this sense, “the will of the patient is very important, not in the perspective of ‘anticipating’ death, but in the perspective of knowing whether or not to accept and support certain interventions the doctor can do, but which the patient might think unsuitable.”

 

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