Thu, 20 Jul 2017
LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- When Pope Francis visits Colombia in September, he will take his message of mercy and reconciliation to Cartagena, a city that still bears scars of its painful history as a slave port. And he will walk the streets where another Jesuit, St. Peter Claver, put that message into practice four centuries ago. Canonized in 1888, St. Peter Claver is now considered the patron saint of human rights in Colombia. But although the country abolished slavery in 1851 and passed a law prohibiting discrimination in 1993, racism persists. Many Afro-Colombians in Cartagena, the "children of children of children of slaves ... often remain marginalized, abandoned by the government," said Father Jorge Hernandez, who works with Afro-Colombian communities in and around the city. "In some neighborhoods, people don't have running water. Inhumanity has become natural." The same is true in other Latin American countries. Although about half the population of Brazil is of African descent, Afro-Brazilians make up a disproportionate share of the poor population, according to the 2010 census. Their salaries averaged one-half to one-third those of white Brazilians. On his last day in Colombia, Sept. 10, Pope Francis will pray the Angelus outside of the sanctuary of St. Peter Claver. The building where the missionary welcomed slaves, and which now houses the saint's relics, has also served as a school and a hospital. After private prayer time in the sanctuary, the pontiff will meet with fellow Jesuits. Some people wonder if Pope Francis will ask forgiveness for the church's long acceptance of the slave trade in the Americas. Father Hernandez said he hopes the pope will speak out against modern forms of slavery, including human trafficking and slavery to money and a consumer society. The pope's visit to Cartagena will quietly highlight the persistent inequality in Latin America, which has some of the highest income disparities in the world. Tourists flock to the Caribbean city's beach resorts, which contrast sharply with the poverty in which most of the city's large Afro-Colombian population still lives, said Father Carlos Eduardo Correa, provincial superior of the Jesuits in Colombia. "In Colombia, there are still many human rights violations, especially of Afro-Colombian, indigenous and poor communities, particularly in cultural, economic, social and environmental rights, and rights to education, health and work," Father Correa said. By the time the young Peter Claver arrived in Cartagena from Spain in 1610, the slave trade was already booming. More than 78,000 African slaves arrived between 1570 and 1640 -- some 10,000 a year. By some accounts, slaves made up half the population of Cartagena at the time. After five years of studies in Bogota, he returned to Cartagena, where he was ordained in 1616. Referring to himself as "the slave of slaves," he joined another Jesuit, Father Alonso de Sandoval, who was outspoken about the injustice of slavery, and continued that ministry after his companion was transferred to Peru in 1617. At a time when the Catholic Church did not speak out against enslavement of Africans in the Spanish colonies, and when even some Jesuit superiors criticized his ministry, Father Claver cajoled alms from wealthy residents of the city and used them to buy food and medicine. He met the traffickers' ships at the port, going first to aid children and the sick with the help of slaves he knew in Cartagena, who spoke the new arrivals' languages. His labor of humanitarian care and catechesis continued in the squalid houses where traders housed the slaves until they were sold or shipped to another port. Pope Francis' visit to the place where St. Peter Claver lived, worked and finally died in 1654, after suffering the same diseases that afflicted the people to whom he ministered, will be a reminder that human rights are crucial for the country's peace process after decades of civil war. Peace and reconciliation, Father Correa ...
Wed, 19 Jul 2017
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi cited Apple founder Steve Jobs, saying that technology must be welded to humanism, at a recent Rome conference on ethics and artificial intelligence (AI). He was responding to Daniele Mancini, the Italian ambassador to the Holy See, who had opened the discussion by comparing humans, faced by a tsunami of technology, to a surfer in precarious balance on a surfboard. Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and Mancini together organized the conference as a lecture in the Vatican’s Courtyard of the Gentiles series, which brings Catholic and non-Catholic leaders together to discuss issues affecting both the Church and the modern world. The Pontifical Council organizes discussions, and this time it was in the Borromeo Palace, which in the 16th century was built as an out-of-town residence for Pope Pius IV and since 1929 has been the Italian Embassy to the Holy See. The setting was historic, but the focus was on the future, which seems glorious to some but to others causes confusion and even fright. It is a future increasingly molded by AI, although the debates that AI will cause have already begun to creep into the present. The European Parliament is discussing laws about robots that would make them legally electronic persons who make autonomous decisions. The European bishops have objected to this since this would place robots on the same level as human persons. Brave new world The subject is vast because AI will increasingly affect almost all spheres of our society, from our daily life, work, privacy and national security to our concept of creation and what it is to be human. Our computers will be talking to us, smiling humanoids will be driving trucks and winning marathons, and online programs will be writing pop songs and even learning from experience. At least that is the promise — or the threat. The Rome conference did not aim to tackle all these issues but to spur discussions on AI between Catholics and others. One of the key speakers was Luciano Folidi, a professor of philosophy and information at Oxford University and an ethics adviser for large technology companies. However, this doesn’t stop him from being wary of the power of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, or criticizing politicians for allowing the internet, the web and social media to acquire huge influence without imposing appropriate rules. He warns that the current delegation of infosphere control to corporations could have disastrous socio-political and cultural results. Their control over internet data allows our knowledge and awareness to be transformed into quarterly marketing strategies and predictive analytics that inevitably prioritize the short-term profit over the long-term consequences. The second main speaker, Sebastiano Maffettone, a professor of political philosophy at LUISS, a university in Rome, likewise deplored politicians’ failure to understand and govern the complex issues raised by AI. He claimed that its “dematerialization” of reality encouraged fake news, post-truth understandings and emotional rather than rational discussions. Forced Retirement Advances in artificial intelligence may one day cause workers to be replaced with more efficient robots. Here is a timeline, based on a survey of AI researchers distributed by Katja Grace along with the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, of the predicted year when AI-controlled technology will be capable of performing the following tasks: ◗ 2020: Play poker well enough to win the World Series of Poker ◗ 2022: Fold laundry better than the average clothing store employee ◗ 2024: Translate spoken language ◗ 2026: Write a high school essay ◗ 2027: Drive cars/trucks ◗ 2027: Generate a Top 40 pop song ◗ 2028: Beat the fastest runner in the world in a 5-km race in a city (as a bipedal robot) ◗ 2031: Perform retail work ◗ 2049: Write a New York Times bestselling novel ◗ 2053: Perform surgery ◗ 2059: Perform math research ◗ 2061: Outperform humans in ...
Wed, 12 Jul 2017
Four-and-a-half years after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation in the hope that a younger and “more energetic” successor might be able to renew the culture of the Vatican, recent events indicate that reform of the Roman Curia may take longer than he had hoped. In addition to institutional inertia, the process has been hampered by divisions among high-ranking churchmen over the proper interpretation of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), the pope’s governing style and an internet culture in which no conspiracy theory goes unstated. CDF shake-up On June 30, rumors began to circulate that Pope Francis would break with tradition and decline to renew, or at least to extend, the five-year term of 69-year-old German Cardinal Gerhard Müller as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The official announcement came the following day, July 1, when the Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis had chosen Spanish Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, a Jesuit theologian who had served as secretary of that dicastery since his 2008 appointment by Pope Benedict, to replace Cardinal Müller. Cardinal Müller has confirmed that he will retire rather than take another position. Cardinal Müller, who was appointed by Pope Benedict in July 2012, was the first sitting Vatican official Pope Francis asked to remain in office after his election in March 2013. In 2014, he was among the first group of men elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis. The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also is responsible for investigating clergy accused of sexually abusing minors. As part of his response to this issue, Pope Francis created the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2014. In March of this year, Marie Collins, one of the commission’s founding members and the last remaining abuse survivor among its membership, cited resistance within the Roman Curia to implementing the commission’s recommendations. She singled out Cardinal Müller in her criticism. There were also reports of tensions directly between the pope and his inherited enforcer of doctrine, dating back to months after Pope Francis’ election, tensions which grew after the release of Amoris Laetitia in April 2016. Cardinal Müller publicly defended the document, such as in a January Italian TV interview in which he said there is no opposition between the Church’s teaching on marriage and the obligation of the Church to care for people in difficult situations, dismissing the idea that the pope had jeopardized Church teaching. But he had reportedly revealed at the Curia’s spiritual retreat in 2016 that the CDF had submitted 200 queries concerning the draft text of Amoris Laetitia , none of which were addressed before the final version of the apostolic exhortation was released. Some of those queries concerned passages in the eighth chapter of Amoris Laetitia that have become the subject of controversy, most publicly in the formal request for clarification on five questions (or dubia) made by Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra and Joachim Meisner on Sept. 19, 2016, to Pope Francis and Cardinal Müller. To date, no response to the request has been made by the CDF or the pope. In June, the four cardinals said publicly that they had requested an audience with Pope Francis in May but had not received a response. In early July, Cardinal Müller told the German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse that his dismissal as prefect had “particularly upset” the 83-year-old German Cardinal Meisner, with whom Cardinal Müller spoke at length on the evening of July 4. A few hours later, Cardinal Meisner died while praying his breviary, spawning speculation online that the shock of Cardinal Müller’s dismissal had played a role in his death. The dismissal “moved and hurt [Cardinal Meisner] personally. He thought it would harm the Church,” Cardinal Müller said. “That naturally speaks for me.” ...
Tue, 11 Jul 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has approved a fourth pathway to possible sainthood -- giving one's life in a heroic act of loving service to others. In a new apostolic letter, the pope approved new norms allowing for candidates to be considered for sainthood because of the heroic way they freely risked their lives and died prematurely because of "an extreme act of charity." The document, given "motu proprio" (on his own initiative) went into effect the same day of its publication July 11, with the title "Maiorem hac dilectionem," which comes from the Gospel according to St. John (15:13): "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, said the addition is meant "to promote heroic Christian testimony, (that has been) up to now without a specific process, precisely because it did not completely fit within the case of martyrdom or heroic virtues." For centuries, consideration for the sainthood process required that a Servant of God heroically lived a life of Christian virtues or had been martyred for the faith. The third, less common way, is called an equivalent or equipollent canonization: when there is evidence of strong devotion among the faithful to a holy man or woman, the pope can waive a lengthy formal canonical investigation and can authorize their veneration as saints. While these three roads to sainthood remain unchanged, they were not adequate "for interpreting all possible cases" of holiness, the archbishop wrote in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, July 11. According to the apostolic letter, any causes for beatification according to the new pathway of "offering of life" would have to meet the following criteria: -- Free and willing offer of one's life and a heroic acceptance, out of love, of a certain and early death; the heroic act of charity and the premature death are connected. -- Evidence of having lived out the Christian virtues -- at least in an ordinary, and not necessarily heroic, way -- before having offered one's life to others and until one's death. -- Evidence of a reputation for holiness, at least after death. -- A miracle attributed to the candidate's intercession is needed for beatification. Archbishop Bartolucci wrote that the new norms arise from the sainthood congregation wanting to look into the question of whether men and women who, "inspired by Christ's example, freely and willingly offered and sacrificed their life" for others "in a supreme act of charity, which was the direct cause of death," were worthy of beatification. For example, throughout history there have been Christians who willingly put themselves at risk and died of infection or disease because of aiding and serving others, he wrote. Pope Francis approved the congregation carrying out an in-depth study of the new proposal in early 2014, the archbishop wrote. After extensive input, discussion and the work of experts, the cardinal and bishop members of the Congregation for Saints' Causes approved in 2016 "a new pathway for beatification of those who offered their lives with explicit and recognized Christian" reasons. Archbishop Bartolucci wrote that the new provisions do nothing to alter church doctrine concerning Christian holiness leading to sainthood and the traditional procedure for beatification. Rather, the addition offers an enrichment, he wrote, with "new horizons and opportunities for the edification of the people of God, who, in their saints, see the face of Christ, the presence of God in history and the exemplary implementation of the Gospel."
Mon, 10 Jul 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bishops should look at ways to help verify and guarantee the validity and worthiness of the bread and wine used for the celebration of the Eucharist, the Vatican said in a recent document. Because bread and wine for the Eucharist are no longer supplied just by religious communities, but "are also sold in supermarkets and other stores and even over the internet," bishops should set up guidelines, an oversight body and/or even a form of certification to help "remove any doubt about the validity of the matter for the Eucharist," the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments said. The recommendations came in a circular letter, "On the bread and wine for the Eucharist," sent to diocesan bishops "at the request of the Holy Father, Pope Francis." Dated June 15 -- the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ -- the letter was made public by the Vatican July 8. The letter was signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, congregation prefect, and Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary. Because the church requires certainty regarding the conditions necessary for the validity of the sacraments, the congregation offered some suggestions so that bishops can continue to "watch over the quality of the bread and wine" as well as "those who prepare these materials." The congregation underlined that every bishop "is bound to remind priests, especially parish priests and rectors of churches, of their responsibility to verify those who provide the bread and wine for the celebration and the worthiness of the material." Bishops must also provide information to the producers of the bread and wine for the Eucharist and to remind them of the absolute respect that is due to the norms," it said. Producers "must be aware that their work is directed toward the eucharistic sacrifice and that this demands their honesty, responsibility and competence," it added. The congregation suggested ordinaries offer guidance, for example, by "guaranteeing the eucharistic matter through special certification." Bishops may want to agree on and establish "concrete regulations" on the national level through their bishops' conferences, it suggested. "Given the complexity of situations and circumstances, such as a decrease in respect for the sacred, it may be useful to mandate a competent authority to have oversight in actually guaranteeing the genuineness of the eucharistic matter by producers as well as those responsible for its distribution and sale," the Vatican congregation wrote. A competent authority, for example, could be "one or more religious congregations or another body capable of carrying out the necessary checks on production, conservation and sale of the eucharistic bread and wine in a given country and for other countries to which they are exported," it wrote. The letter also reiterated norms already in place regarding eucharistic matter: -- "The bread used in the celebration of the most holy eucharistic sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition." -- Bread made from another substance, even grain or mixed with another substance so different from wheat that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, "does not constitute valid matter." -- The introduction of any other substances, "such as fruit or sugar or honey, into the bread for confecting the Eucharist," it said, "is a grave abuse." -- Low-gluten hosts are valid matter for people who, "for varying and grave reasons, cannot consume bread made in the usual manner," provided the hosts "contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread." -- Completely gluten-free hosts continue to be "invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist." -- Wine used in the celebration of the eucharistic "must be natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt, not mixed with other ...
Mon, 10 Jul 2017
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Vatican press office, and Pope John Paul II were perfectly matched. Before his Vatican appointment, Navarro-Valls had the desk next to mine at the Rome Foreign Press Club. He was a courteous, handsome hidalgo. As president of the Foreign Press Club in 1984, he gave a welcoming speech to Pope St. John Paul II during an audience for the press. Later, he received an invitation to lunch with the pope, who asked what he would suggest to improve Vatican communications. As Navarro-Valls recalled it, he answered, “Nothing less than a revolution.” At that same meeting John Paul asked whether Navarro-Valls was prepared to take over the Vatican press office. Navarro-Valls responded that he would like time to think it over. He had in mind three months. “Of course” said John Paul. “Let me know tomorrow morning.” “You can’t say no to a pope.“ Navarro Valls commented later. Big wins The Foreign Press Club held a tennis tournament shortly before Navarro-Valls shifted to the Vatican. As a player, he was stylish as in other things, but he may have been a bit rusty. After a close match I beat him, on the final point passing him with a forehand as he came to the net. He paid me a nice compliment: “That forehand is worthy of John Newcombe.” I mentioned my victory in a newspaper article about his Vatican appointment. “How could you mention that?” he reproved me. I had found mentioning it easy and good for both of us. My only uncertainty was whether I would have mentioned it if I had lost. He had a succession of big wins at the Vatican. Rather than just director of the Vatican press office, he became John Paul II’s spokesman. Almost daily he met with the pope, who gave him a free hand in presenting the pope to the world. He had good material: John Paul was a monumental world figure who successfully fought the good fight against Soviet Communism. Navarro-Valls was by John Paul’s side during the majority of this fight, helping to heighten the beloved pope’s international appeal and spread his message. The Vatican press office The Vatican had never seen anything like this duo. An office to deal directly with journalists had been established within the Vatican daily, L’Osservaotre Romano, in 1939. The office was originally inside the walled Vatican, but the Second Vatican Council changed the location of the daily briefings due to the huge media interest it aroused. The briefings were subsequently held in a building on the street leading to St. Peter’s Square, and in 1966 this became the present press office. Born in Catagena, Spain, one of five children of a lawyer, Navarro-Valls qualified as a doctor in 1961 but won a scholarship which took him to Harvard university for further medical and then psychiatric studies. After his return to Spain, he received a degree in journalism and, after various overseas missions, arrived in Rome in the 1970s. The Roman curia tried to curb his initiatives after he took over the press office in 1984, but he had the pope’s backing. Not only did he become a frequent flyer for the faith with John Paul on his offical papal trips but accompanied him on his holidays in the Italian Alps. Navarro-Valls had a direct role in many big stories. John Paul’s 1998 trip to Cuba was probably the result of a continuous Church presence in the Communist state, but Navarro-Valls claimed to have had an all-night session talking (or was it listening?) to Fidel Castro about everything, including the possibility of life on other planets, that ultimately swayed the dicatator. He certainly had a key role in John Paul’s last months. He broke with the custom that popes-are-never-sick-until-they-are-dead by issuing precise reports on John Paul’s state of health, during which his medical knowledge came into play. ‘Grace under pressure’ Along with his role as spokesman, John Paul formed Navarro-Valls into a dimplomat of sorts: he was put in the Vatican delegation for international conferences in Cairo, ...
Fri, 07 Jul 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- World leaders attending the Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, must reflect on the repercussions their decisions may have on the entire global community and not just their own countries, Pope Francis said. While it is reasonable that the G-20 is limited to a "small number of countries that represent 90 percent of the production of wealth and services worldwide," a multilateral approach in solving economic problems must be made "for the benefit of all," the pope said. The pope's message to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, host of the July 7-8 leaders' summit, was dated June 29 and released July 7 at the Vatican. "Those states and individuals whose voice is weakest on the world political scene are precisely the ones who suffer most from the harmful effects of economic crises for which they bear little or no responsibility," the papal message said. "This great majority, which in economic terms counts for only 10 percent of the whole, is the portion of humanity that has the greatest potential to contribute to the progress of everyone," he said. The members of the G-20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union. Citing his apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"), Pope Francis proposed four principles "for the building of fraternal, just and peaceful societies." Reflecting on the principle that "time is greater than space," the pope said the migration crisis, which is "inseparable from the issue of poverty and exacerbated by armed conflict," requires an effective solution spread over time with a clear "final objective." "In the minds and hearts of government leaders, and at every phase of the enactment of political measures, there is a need to give absolute priority to the poor, refugees, the suffering, evacuees and the excluded, without distinction of nation, race, religion or culture, and to reject armed conflicts," he said. He also urged world leaders to promote economic policies where "unity prevails over conflict." Economic differences, he said, cannot be resolved if leaders are not committed to "substantially reducing levels of conflict, halting the present arms race and renouncing direct or indirect involvement in conflicts." "There is a tragic contradiction and inconsistency in the apparent unity expressed in common forums on economic or social issues, and the acceptance, active or passive, of armed conflicts," the pope said. G-20 leaders, he continued, must follow the example of past world leaders who were guided by "the primacy of the human being" and turn away from "new ideologies of absolute market autonomy and financial speculation." "In their tragic wake, these bring exclusion, waste and even death," the pope said. Pope Francis said to resolve today's economic problems and challenges, the G-20 leaders must first "consider the eventual repercussions on all countries and their citizens, while respecting the views and opinions of the latter." He also expressed his hope that the meeting would be led by "the spirit of responsible solidarity that guides all those taking part." "I ask God's blessings upon the Hamburg meeting and on every effort of the international community to shape a new era of development that is innovative, interconnected, sustainable, environmentally respectful and inclusive of all peoples and all individuals," the pope said.
Wed, 05 Jul 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who spent 22 years as director of the Vatican press office, died at home in Rome July 5 at age 80 following a battle with pancreatic cancer. The current director of the Vatican press office, Greg Burke, announced his death in a tweet. In a statement to Catholic News Service, Burke said he did not always agree with Navarro-Valls, but his predecessor "always behaved like a Christian gentleman — and those can be hard to find these days." "Joaquin Navarro embodied what Ernest Hemingway defined as courage: grace under pressure. I got to know Navarro when I was working for Time, and the magazine named John Paul II Man of the Year. I expected to find a man of faith, but I found a man of faith who was also a first-class professional." Burke said he remembered watching Navarro-Valls closely during the 1994 U.N. International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, which Burke described as "one of the best examples of what Pope Francis calls ideological colonization. It was fascinating to see someone who was defending the faith, but he wasn't on the defensive. He was leading the fight." Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who succeeded Navarro-Valls as Vatican press director beginning in 2006, remembered him as a "master in the way he carried out his service." "Navarro always remained a friend for me, an example of discreet spiritual life, true and profound, fully integrated in his work, a model of dedication at the service of the pope and the church, a master of communications, although for me -- as I have already said, but repeat -- inimitable," Father Lombardi said in an editorial published July 6 on Vatican Radio. Born in Cartagena, Spain, Nov. 16, 1936, Navarro-Valls joined Opus Dei after meeting St. Josemaria Escriva. He studied internal medicine and psychiatry before obtaining degrees in journalism and communications sciences. He moved to Rome in 1970, where he collaborated with the Opus Dei founder. He became a correspondent for the Spanish newspaper ABC and was elected twice as president of the Rome-based Foreign Press Association in Italy before becoming the first lay journalist to become director of the Vatican Press Office when he was appointed by St. John Paul II in 1984. After leaving his post at the Vatican, he served as president of the advisory board of the Opus Dei-affiliated Campus Biomedical University in Rome until his death. An author of books on the family and fluent in several languages, Navarro-Valls often provided colorful, picturesque details concerning St. John Paul's activities and daily life. He also acted many times as an adviser to the pope on the media impact of papal decisions. He traveled with St. John Paul on almost all his apostolic journeys and became a well-recognized figure, especially after the pope became ill in 2004. He regularly held press conferences to relay news to the world of the pope's deteriorating condition. In 1992, Navarro-Valls overhauled the press office with a $2 million technological face-lift along with much-needed, modernized facilities. He also revolutionized the distribution of material by making archives, documents and statistics concerning the pope's activity available online. According to the Opus Dei website, a wake was to be held at Rome's Basilica of St. Eugene July 6. His funeral was to be presided by Msgr. Mariano Fazio, vicar general of Opus Dei, July 7.
Wed, 05 Jul 2017
For 36 years visionaries have said the Blessed Virgin Mary has appeared to them at Medjugorje and has given them messages for the betterment of the whole world from their village in Bosnia-Herzegovina. For almost as long controversy has lingered over the alleged apparitions, with local bishops clashing with Franciscans associated with the visionaries. The current bishop as recently as February declared that the Madonna is not appearing as Our Lady of Peace in what was once a war-torn province of Yugoslavia. But millions of pilgrims from all over the world flock to Medjugorje every year, and numerous reports of miraculous healings, conversions and vocations have prompted Church leaders seriously to consider what has been occurring over the past four decades. Waiting for confirmation In recent years a Vatican commission has studied the reported apparitions. Pope Francis in February sent an envoy, led by Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga, Poland, to assess the pastoral needs of the villagers and pilgrims in Medjugorje. “Whether or not Pope Francis rules that some early apparitions are in fact authentic, or that none are, or that they will continue to delay a final judgment until the apparitions cease definitively, Pope Francis very likely will opt to establish something to attend to the pastoral needs of the many millions of pilgrims who have gone to this place of conversion and healing,” said Michael O’Neill, author and creator of The Miracle Hunter, a website that tracks Marian apparitions and miracles. O’Neill told Our Sunday Visitor that the pope could seek to establish a shrine under the Vatican’s purview in order to pay attention to local pastoral needs while addressing the ongoing conflict between the local bishop and the Franciscans who have overseen Medjugorje since the beginning. “No matter what the judgment is rendered by the pope, short of the unlikeliest of all scenarios where he approves all the events of over 35 years, believers will be arriving with questions and concerns that will need to be pastorally tended to, especially as the messages will likely still be continuing to be reported,” said O’Neill, who added that the Church’s position “will need to be reaffirmed and explained.” Steve Shawl, who runs The Medjugorje Web, an online portal on the reported apparitions, told OSV that it will be interesting to see what Pope Francis officially will say about Medjugorje when Archbishop Hoser finishes his work. “Medjugorje is a place of amazing graces. The fruits in vocations, healings, conversions and confessions are like no other place on earth. For now, Medjugorje is a place where Our Lady is, not was,” said Shawl, who believes that when the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje conclude, they will be on the same level as the Church-approved Marian apparitions at Fatima and Lourdes. Doubt and hesitation But lingering concerns over some of the content of the reported visions — including reports that the Blessed Virgin Mary laughs in a strange way and disappears when asked certain questions — in part prompted the Vatican in 2010 to assemble a commission of theologians, bishops, historians, psychologists, anthropologists and Mariologists to study Medjugorje. “This isn’t Jesus’ mother. And these alleged apparitions don’t have much value. I say this as a personal opinion, but it is clear.” — Pope Francis , during his May 13 flight from Fatima to Rome According to published reports, the commission’s findings — known as the “Ruini Report” for the commission’s chair, Cardinal Camillo Ruini — voted 13 to 1 to confirm the supernatural basis of the first seven apparitions that appeared in 1981. The commission did not rule on the thousands of alleged subsequent apparitions. O’Neill noted that there have been instances of approved Marian apparitions — such as Le Laus, France, in 1664; Kibeho, Rwanda, in 1981; and San Nicholas, Argentina, in 1983 — where hundreds or thousands of messages were claimed over the course of several ...
Thu, 29 Jun 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church's new cardinals and new archbishops must be willing to risk everything, patiently endure evil and bear crosses like Jesus did, Pope Francis said. "The Lord answers our prayers. He is faithful to the love we have professed for him, and he stands beside us at times of trial." Just as he accompanied the apostles, "he will do the same for you," the pope told five new cardinals and about 30 archbishops named during the past year. Pope Francis addressed the new cardinals and archbishops during his homily at a Mass in St. Peter's Square June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, who are the patron saints of the Vatican and the city of Rome. The Mass was celebrated the day after Pope Francis created new cardinals from El Salvador, Mali, Laos, Sweden and Spain. Thirty-six archbishops appointed over the course of the past year were also invited to come to Rome to concelebrate the feast day Mass with Pope Francis. They came from 26 countries. The concelebrants included Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey; and Archbishops Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska; and Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis. All three of the U.S. prelates have deep connections to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Archbishop Etienne was a priest of the archdiocese and Cardinal Tobin is the former archbishop. In what has become the standard practice, the pope did not place the pallium on new archbishops during the liturgy. Rather, after the Mass, the pope handed each archbishop a pallium folded up in a small, simple wooden box tied with a brown ribbon as a soloist sang "You Got to Walk that Lonesome Valley," a traditional American gospel song. The actual imposition of the woolen band was to take place in the archbishop's archdiocese in the presence of his faithful and bishops from neighboring dioceses. The pallium symbolizes an archbishop's unity with the pope and his authority and responsibility to care for the flock the pope entrusted to him. After the Mass, Cardinal Tobin told Catholic News Service that St. John XXIII had said "cardinals and bishops are the coat hangers on which the church hangs its tradition. Now I don't like being a coat hanger, but the thing I like to wear the most is the pallium." Being made of lamb's wool, the pallium is a reminder of "the need and really the obligation of the bishop to look for the one who is lost and then bring the lost one back on his shoulders," the cardinal said. "I hope to do that in Newark." Archbishop Etienne noted that the pallium also is "symbolic of the unity of the metropolitan archbishops with the Holy Father and, through him, with the universal church." It tells an archbishop that his role is to be a good shepherd to his flock, "to help the people entrusted to my pastoral care to learn to live in unity and peace, to manifest that truth and love of Jesus Christ and the Gospel," he said. "The role of every priest, and particularly every bishop, is to be more and more transformed into Christ and that's my prayer," Archbishop Etienne said. "And then whatever burdens come and challenges, I'll find my peace because I will be firmly convinced in experiencing his presence with me." Archbishop Thompson told CNS he received the pallium from Pope Francis as a gift for the sixth anniversary of his ordination as a bishop. Pope Francis "has been such a great model, example and witness, and to receive this from him," the archbishop said, is "a reminder to go forth. I think about Jesus at the Last Supper when he washed the feet of the disciples and said, 'Now, go and do as I have done.'" Archbishop Thompson said he kept watching Pope Francis during the Mass and looking at the pallium the pope wears as a symbol of the universality of his mission. "I watched him in his role of being the shepherd" and knew the pope was calling him "now to go forth and be that shepherd for the people entrusted to my care." In his homily at the Mass, the pope said the life of every apostle is ...
Thu, 29 Jun 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Proclaiming his innocence after being charged with sexual abuse, Australian Cardinal George Pell said, "I'm looking forward finally to having my day in court." "I'm innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me," he said June 29 during a brief news conference in the Vatican press office. Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said Pope Francis had granted Cardinal Pell a leave of absence from his position as prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy so that he can work on his defense. Cardinal Pell, Burke added, will not participate in any public liturgies while his case is being considered. "These matters have been under investigation now for two years," Cardinal Pell told the press. "There's been relentless character assassination, a relentless character assassination, and for more than a month claims that a decision on whether to lay charges was imminent." Without giving specifics about the number of charges or the incidents, police in Australia's Victoria state announced June 29 that charges had been filed against the cardinal and that he has been called to appear in court July 18. Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton told reporters June 29, "Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges in respect of historic sexual offenses and there are multiple complainants relating to those charges." Patton also told reporters, "It is important to note that none of the allegations that have been made against Cardinal Pell have obviously been tested in any court yet." "Cardinal Pell, like any other defendant, has a right to due process and so therefore it is important that the process is allowed to run its natural course," Patton added. In his statement, Cardinal Pell said he had kept Pope Francis informed "during these long months" when police and the Australian media were talking about the possibility of charges being made. "I have spoken to him on a number of occasions in the last week, I think most recently a day or so ago," Cardinal Pell said of Pope Francis. "And we talked about my need to take leave to clear my name, so I'm very grateful to the Holy Father for giving me this leave to return to Australia." Cardinal Pell said he had spoken to his lawyers about the timing of his return to Australia and also had consulted his doctors about the trip. In February 2016 Australia's Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse allowed Cardinal Pell to testify by video link from Rome because a heart condition prevented him from traveling to Australia. A year ago, in July, allegations surfaced in a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. featuring several people who accused Cardinal Pell of sexual assault; at least one of the accusations had been found to be unsubstantiated by an Australian court in 2002. Some accusations dated to the late 1970s, when Cardinal Pell was a priest in Ballarat, Australia. Speaking to reporters at the Vatican June 29, the cardinal said, "All along I have been completely consistent and clear in my total rejection of these allegations. News of these charges strengthens my resolve, strengthens my resolve. And court proceedings now offer me an opportunity to clear my name and then return here, back to Rome, to work." When the allegations surfaced last year, Cardinal Pell dismissed them as "nothing more than a scandalous smear campaign," and a statement issued by his office said that "claims that he has sexually abused anyone, in any place, at any time in his life are totally untrue and completely wrong." In October, Australian police questioned Cardinal Pell in Rome regarding the accusations. While Burke, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters that the Vatican respects the Australian justice system, he also said people should remember that Cardinal Pell "has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors" and, as a bishop, "introduced ...
Wed, 28 Jun 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinals are not called to be "princes" of the church, but to serve the people of God and tackle the sins of the world, Pope Francis told five new cardinals. Jesus "calls you to serve like him and with him, to serve the father and your brothers and sisters," the pope said as he created five new cardinals from five nations June 28. The new cardinals created during the prayer service in St. Peter's Basilica were: Cardinals Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, 73; Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, 71; Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, 67; Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, 73; and Gregorio Rosa Chavez, 74, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador. Related Reading College of Cardinals grows ever more global After reciting the Creed and taking an oath of fidelity to Pope Francis and his successors, each cardinal -- in his new red robes -- went up to Pope Francis and knelt before him. The pope gave them each a cardinal's ring, a red skullcap and a red three-cornered red hat. The crimson hue the cardinals wear is a reminder that they must be courageous and faithful to Christ, his church and the pope to the point of shedding blood, if necessary. They also received a scroll attesting to their appointment as cardinals and containing the name of their "titular church" in Rome. The assignment of a church is a sign they now are members of the clergy of the pope's diocese. After the consistory, Pope Francis and the new cardinals were scheduled to visit retired Pope Benedict XVI in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, his residence in the Vatican gardens. The Gospel reading at the consistory was St. Mark's account of James' and John's pride and ambition to have a position of power and be honored, and how the other disciples reacted with angry jealousy (Mk 10:32-45). Jesus corrects his disciples, explaining that pagan leaders are the ones who lord their authority over their people, and "it shall not be so among you." The pope said the cardinals, as leaders like Christ, are there to be slaves and serve others. The Gospel reading, he said, shows how Jesus asked his disciples to "look at reality, not let yourselves be distracted by other interests or prospects." The reality is always the cross, he said, and the sins the cardinals must face today include: "the innocent who suffer and die as victims of war and terrorism; the forms of enslavement that continue to violate human dignity even in the age of human rights; the refugee camps, which at times seem more like a hell than a purgatory; the systematic discarding of all that is no longer useful, people included." Jesus "has not called you to become 'princes' of the church, to 'sit at his right or at his left,'" the pope told the new cardinals. "He calls you to serve like him and with him." The evening before he was to enter the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Arborelius had just picked up his new red vestments, but had not had a chance to try them on. "I hope they will fit," he said. The Swedish cardinal told Catholic News Service that about 450 people from Sweden had planned to travel to Rome for the consistory, including the leaders of the Lutheran, Syrian Orthodox and Baptist churches in Sweden. The Catholic contingent included a large group of Chaldean Catholics who emigrated from Iraq to Sweden. But, he said, there also was a big group of Salvadorans living in Sweden who were traveling to Rome to celebrate the red hat of Cardinal Rosa Chavez. The Salvadoran auxiliary bishop was a friend of and mentored by Blessed Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980. The new cardinal's loyalty to the memory of the Blessed Romero and to the memory of his country's sufferings is reflected in his coat of arms, which features a sprig of rosemary because in Spanish "Romero" also means rosemary, a palm frond as a symbol of the Salvadoran church's persecution and martyrdom, and a hand grabbing another hand, a symbol of the church's option for the poor. When ...
Mon, 26 Jun 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bringing the Gospel to the world isn't a walk in the park; it will lead to ridicule and contempt, even persecution, Pope Francis said. But Christians must never be afraid and must keep on going since "Jesus never leaves us on our own because we are precious to him," the pope said before praying the Angelus June 25 with people gathered in St. Peter's Square. The pope's reflection centered on the day's readings (Jer 20:10-13 and Mt 10:26-33), which speak about God always being with his people no matter what. In fact, in the Gospel reading Jesus tells his disciples three times to not be afraid and to "proclaim on the housetops" what has been revealed to them in a whisper. The Lord still tells people today to never be afraid, the pope said. Christians must never forget that; especially "when we have some ordeal, persecution, something that makes us suffer, let us listen to Jesus' voice in our heart." Going on mission is not a form of "tourism" or a vacation where life will be carefree, he said; there may be failure and pain as people may refuse the Gospel message or persecute the messenger. "This is a bit frightening, but it's the truth," the pope said. The pope reminded everyone that persecution against Christians was still happening today. He asked people to pray for those who endure persecution and "continue to give witness to the faith with courage and fidelity." He asked that their example be an inspiration to those who live where hostility and adversity may not be so apparent, but the challenges are still great. "There are many who smile to our face, but behind our backs, fight the Gospel," he said. Also, instead of being a sheep among wolves, a disciple may have to be like a sentinel, trying to wake up people "who do not want to snapped out of a worldly stupor, who ignore the words of truth of the Gospel and fabricate their own ephemeral truths." "If we go to or live in these contexts and we proclaim the words of the Gospel, this will bother people and they will not look at us well," the pope said. Each disciple is called to conform his or her life to Christ and since Christ was refused, abandoned, persecuted and killed, disciples be prepared for the same, he said. "There is no such thing as Christian mission marked by tranquility," the pope said. "Difficulties and tribulation are part of the work of evangelization and we are called to find in these things an occasion to ensure the authenticity of our faith and our relationship with Jesus." Enduring trouble in Christ's name is an opportunity to grow in trusting in God, who "does not abandon his children" in the midst of the storm, he said.
Fri, 23 Jun 2017
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Days after rebels in Colombia announced turning in the last of their cache of weapons over to international observers, the Vatican announced June 23 details of Pope Francis' September trip to the war-torn South American country. The pope is scheduled to visit four cities, starting his trip in the Colombian capital of Bogota Sept. 6, followed by day trips to Villavicencio and Medellin Sept. 8 and 9, respectively, and heading back to Rome from Cartagena after Mass Sept. 10. Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos had said the pontiff had promised him he would visit Colombia if the government and the rebel group known as FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias) signed a peace agreement. Though Colombian voters last year rejected a referendum on the peace agreement between the government and FARC, Santos later negotiated a modified deal with Colombian opposition leader and former President Alvaro Uribe. The process came with help from the Vatican, including the pope, who met with the two men in late 2016. The rebels began turning in their weapons to United Nations observers in early June and all were expected to be turned in by June 20, bringing 52 years of war to an end. The pope is expected to take part Sept. 8 in several acts of reconciliation, including a Mass and prayer, in Villavicencio, according to a schedule released by the Vatican. Colombian Vice President Oscar Naranjo said in an interview published June 23 in El Tiempo newspaper that that pope's trip comes at a time in the country "when the discussion stops being about how to win the war, but how to achieve peace." The pope's trip cannot be "just another episode" in the national discourse about peace, said Naranjo. According to some estimates, more than 220,000 have died in the decades-long conflict, tens of thousands have been injured, and more than 7 million were displaced. Concerns about the end of the conflict were reawakened when a bomb exploded inside a mall bathroom in Bogota June 17, killing three and injuring nine people. Some blamed another rebel group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional). The group, however, denied involvement and said it doesn't target civilians. While in Colombia, the pope also is set to meet in Bogota Sept. 7 with the directive committee of the Latin American bishops' council, known as CELAM for its Spanish acronym.
Wed, 21 Jun 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Being a saint doesn't require spending long hours in prayer, but rather living life open to God in good times and in bad, Pope Francis said. Christians should live with the "hope of becoming saints" and with the desire that "work, even in sickness and suffering, even in difficulties, is open to God," the pope said June 21 during his weekly general audience. "We think that it is something difficult, that it is easier to be delinquents than saints. No! We can become saints because the Lord helps us. It is he who helps us," he told the estimated 12,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. Pope Francis rode around in his popemobile, stopping along the way to greet pilgrims and kiss babies. One child casually waved goodbye to the pope as he was handed back to his parents. In his talk, the pope reflected on the intercession of the saints, who are "older brothers and sisters who have gone along our same path, (gone through) our same struggles and live forever in God's embrace." "Their existence tells us above all that Christian life isn't an unattainable ideal. And together, they comfort us: We are not alone, the church is made up of innumerable brothers and sisters, often anonymous, who have preceded us and who, through the action of the Holy Spirit, are involved in the affairs of those who still live here," he said. Just as their intercession is invoked in Baptism, the pope continued, the church asks for their help in the sacrament of marriage so couples "can have the courage to say 'forever.'" "To live married life forever; not like some who say, 'as long as love lasts.' No, it is forever. On the contrary, it is better you don't get married. It's either forever or nothing. That is why their presence is invoked in the nuptial liturgy," he said. The lives of the saints, he continued, served as a reminder that "God never abandons us" and in times of trial and suffering, he "sends one of his angels to comfort us and fill us with consolation." There are "angels, sometimes with a face and a human heart because God's saints are always here, hidden among us," the pope said. Another sacrament in which the saints are invoked is Holy Orders, in which candidates for the priesthood lay prostrate on the ground while the bishop and the entire assembly pray the litany of the saints, he said. "A man would be crushed under the weight of the mission entrusted to him but, in feeling that all of paradise is behind him, that the grace of God will not fail because Jesus is always faithful, he can go forward serenely and refreshed. We are not alone," the pope said. Pope Francis told the pilgrims that Christians need saints who lived their lives "aspiring to charity and brotherhood" because without them, the world would not have hope." "May the Lord give us the grace to believe so profoundly in him that we become images of Christ for this world," he said. Before the general audience, Pope Francis met with members of the U.S. Pro Football Hall of Fame, including Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who will be inducted into the prestigious association Aug. 5. "As many of you know, I am an avid follower of 'football,' but where I come from, the game is played very differently!" the pope said, referring to the fact that "football" refers to the game of soccer in most parts of the world. The pope said the values of "teamwork, fair play and the pursuit of personal excellence" aren't just important on the field, but are "urgently needed off the field, on all levels of our life as a community." "Our world, and especially our young people, need models, people who show us how to bring out the best in ourselves, to use our God-given gifts and talents and, in doing so, to point the way to a better future for our communities," he said.
Tue, 20 Jun 2017
ROME (CNS) -- Instead of "pretending to be adolescents," parents must help young people see the blessing of growing into adulthood, Pope Francis told priests, religious, catechists and parish council members from the Diocese of Rome. The belief that youthfulness is a model of success "is one of the most dangerous 'unwitting' menaces in the education of our adolescents" that hinders their personal growth because "adults have taken their place," the pope said June 19, opening the Rome Diocese's annual convention. This "can increase a natural tendency young people have to isolate themselves or to curb their process of growth" because they have no role models, the pope said. In his nearly 45-minute talk, Pope Francis reflected on the convention's theme, "Do not leave them alone! Accompanying parents in educating adolescent children." The pope said the first step in reaching out to young people in Rome is to "speak in the Roman dialect, that is, concretely" rather than in general or abstract terms that do not speak to teens' problems. Families in big cities such as Rome face different problems than those in rural areas. For this reason, the pope said, parents must educate their adolescent children "within the context of a big city" and speak to them concretely with "healthy and stimulating realism." Families, the pope continued, also must confront the challenge of educating their children in an "uprooted society" where people are disconnecting from their roots and feel no sense of belonging. "An uprooted culture, an uprooted family is a family without a history and without memory," he said. Although social networking has allowed more people to connect and feel part of a group, its virtual nature can also create a certain alienation where people "feel that they do not have roots, that they belong to no one," the pope said. "If we want our children to be formed and prepared for tomorrow, it is not just by learning languages, for example, that they will succeed in doing so. They need to connect, to know their roots. Only then can they fly high," he said. Departing from his prepared speech, Pope Francis said parents "should make room for their children to speak with their grandparents," who have the gift of passing on "faith, history and belonging with wisdom." Often disregarded and cast aside, grandparents must be given the opportunity to "give young people the sense of belonging that they need." Pope Francis said parents, catechists and pastors must understand that adolescence is a challenging time in young people's lives where "they are neither children (and do not want to be treated as such) and are not adults (but want to be treated as such, especially on the level of privileges.)" He also said he was worried about the current trend in society to view adolescence as a "pathology that must be fought" and that leads some parents to "prematurely medicate our youths." "It seems that everything is solved by medicating or controlling everything with the slogan 'making the most of time' and in the end, the young people's schedules are worse than that of a high-level executive," he said. Instead, schools, parishes and youth movements can take a pivotal role in helping young men and women want to feel challenged so they can achieve their goals. In this way, "they can discover that all the potential they have is a bridge, a passage toward a vocation (in the broadest and most beautiful sense of the word)," he said. Young people, Pope Francis added, need educators that help grow within them "the life of the spirit of Jesus" and help them see that "to become Christians requires courage and it is a beautiful thing." "I think it is important to live the education of children starting from the perspective as a calling that the Lord has made to us as a family, to make this step a step of growth, to learn to enjoy the life that he has given us," Pope Francis said.
Mon, 19 Jun 2017
ROME (CNS) -- The Eucharist is a tangible reminder of God's love, and receiving Communion is a call to work to build the body of Christ by loving others and shunning all that sows division within a community, Pope Francis said. The Eucharist should "heal our ambition to lord it over others, to greedily hoard things for ourselves, to foment discord and criticism," he said June 18, celebrating the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. "May it awaken in us the joy of living in love, without rivalry, jealousy or mean-spirited gossip." Pope Francis celebrated the Mass outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. With an almost constant breeze cooling the warm Rome day, thousands of people -- including children who made their first Communion this spring -- gathered outside the basilica for the evening Mass and for the Corpus Christi procession later from St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, about a mile away. The 2017 feast day included two major changes from past practices. First, although Italian dioceses, like many around the world, moved the feast from a Thursday to a Sunday in the late 1970s, the Mass and procession with the pope at St. John Lateran remained on the Thursday until this year. Second, instead of transporting the Blessed Sacrament on a truck in the Corpus Christi procession this year, it was carried on a platform held aloft on the shoulders of four men. Eight other men carried tall poles holding a canopy over the platform, a task made more difficult by the breeze. The truck had made its first appearance in 1994 when St. John Paul II began having difficulty walking. He and now-retired Pope Benedict XVI would ride on the truck, kneeling or sitting before the monstrance. Elected at the age of 76, Pope Francis walked behind the truck for the 1-mile procession in 2013. But beginning in 2014, because of his difficulty walking long distances and in order to avoid drawing attention away from the Eucharist, he met the procession at St. Mary Major instead of participating in it. In his homily at the Mass, the pope said the Eucharist "is the sacrament of memory, reminding us, in a real and tangible way, of the story of God's love for us." Just as the Israelites were called to remember how God led them safely through the desert, he said, "remembering all that the Lord has done for us is the foundation of our own personal history of salvation." "Remembrance is essential for faith, as water is for a plant," Pope Francis said. Remembering, he said, keeps people "mindful, never forgetting who it is who loves us and whom we are called to love in return." Pope Francis said it seems that today people's ability to remember and be mindful is weakening. "Amid so much frantic activity, many people and events seem to pass in a whirl," he said. "We quickly turn the page, looking for novelty while unable to retain memories." But the focus on living for the moment, he said, often means living superficially and without a focus on "who we are and where we are going." The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, the pope said, reaches people even in their "fragmented lives," reminding them how Christ was broken for their salvation and continues to offer himself in the "loving fragility" of the Eucharist. "In the Bread of Life, the Lord comes to us, making himself a humble meal that lovingly heals our memory, wounded by life's frantic pace of life," he said. "The Eucharist is flavored with Jesus' words and deeds, the taste of his passion, the fragrance of his Spirit," he said. "When we receive it, our hearts are overcome with the certainty of Jesus' love." At the same time, the pope said, the Eucharist is a reminder that Christians are not isolated individuals but are called to receive Christ's body together and to build up the body of the church. "In experiencing this Eucharist," he told those at the Mass, "let us adore and thank the Lord for this greatest of gifts: the living memorial of his ...
Wed, 14 Jun 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To involve young people in preparations for the Synod of Bishops on youth in 2018, the Vatican has released an online questionnaire to better understand the lives, attitudes and concerns of 16- to 29-year-olds around the world. The questionnaire -- available in English, Spanish, French and Italian -- can be found on the synod's official site: youth.synod2018.va/content/synod2018/it.html and is open to any young person, regardless of faith or religious belief. The general secretariat of the synod launched the website June 14 to share information about the October 2018 synod on "Young people, faith and vocational discernment" and to link to an online, anonymous survey asking young people about their lives and expectations. The answers to the questionnaire, along with contributions from bishops, bishops' conferences and other church bodies, "will provide the basis for the drafting of the 'instrumentum laboris,'" or working document for the assembly, synod officials said in January. Young people from all backgrounds are encouraged to take part in the questionnaire because every young person has "the right to be accompanied without exclusion," synod officials had said. The list of 53 mostly multiple-choice questions is divided into seven sections: general personal information; attitudes and opinions about oneself and the world; influences and relationships; life choices; religion, faith and the church; internet use; and two final, open-ended questions. The write-in questions are an invitation to describe a positive example of how the Catholic Church can "accompany young people in their choices, which give value and fulfillment in life" and to say something about oneself that hasn't been asked in the questionnaire. Other questions ask about living arrangements; self-image; best age to leave home and have a family; opinions about education and work; measures of success; sources of positive influence; level of confidence in public and private institutions; and political or social activism. The section on faith looks at the importance of religion in one's life and asks, "Who Jesus is for you?" That question provides 16 choices to choose from, including "the savior," "an adversary to be fought," "an invention" and "someone who loves me." It also asks which topics -- promoting peace, defending human life, evangelization, defending truth, the environment -- are the most urgent for the church to address. The Vatican's preparation for a synod generally includes developing a questionnaire and soliciting input from bishops' conferences, dioceses and religious orders. This is the first time the Vatican's synod organizing body put a questionnaire online and sought direct input from the public. A synod's preparatory phase seeks to consult of "the entire people of God" to better understand young people's different situations as synod officials draft the working document. The synod on youth will be looking for ways the church can best and most effectively evangelize young people and help them make life choices corresponding to God's plan and the good of the person.
Wed, 14 Jun 2017
For the fourth time in as many years since his election, Pope Francis announced the creation of new members to the College of Cardinals on May 21. The five newest cardinals will receive their distinctive red hat at a June 28 consistory and the cardinal’s ring the following day in a Mass concelebrated with the pope. Two of the new cardinals come from Europe while one apiece hail from Latin America, Africa and Asia. Of the five new cardinals, four are from countries that previously never have had a cardinal. A smaller group This consistory is the smallest group of new cardinals to be named by Pope Francis. In fact, it is one of the smallest in modern history. It bears noting that the two most recent consistories of similar size over the last 50 years were called by Blessed Pope Paul VI (four new cardinals in 1977) and Pope Benedict XVI (six new cardinals in 2012) within the year before their respective death and resignation. The Office of Cardinal Cardinals serve the vital role of serving as the closest collaborators of the pope. As members of one of the most select groups in the world, the two primary roles of a cardinal are to assist the pope in governing the universal Church and, for those under 80 years of age, to vote for the election of a new pope. Appointed only by the pope, cardinals are inducted into the college in a centuries-old ritual called a consistory. Cardinals have worn scarlet since the 13th century, when they were first given the famous red hat. The color symbolizes their willingness to give their all to defend the Church, even to the point of spilling their blood. Popes still confer on newly created cardinals the red ecclesiastical hat, called a biretta. At that time, the new cardinals take an oath of fidelity and obedience to the pope and his successors. As has become custom in recent decades, the new cardinals concelebrate a Mass with the pope the day following their formal creation as cardinals. At that time, they receive a unique ring from the pope, symbolizing their distinct relationship to the pope and their new, special ministry in the Church. With the five new cardinals, membership of the College of Cardinals now is made up of 121 cardinal-electors eligible to vote for the next pope, 49 of whom (or 40 percent) have been named by Pope Francis, 53 (or 44 percent) by Pope Benedict XVI and 19 (16 percent) by Pope St. John Paul II. These will remain the eligible electors until next February, when the next cardinal to turn 80 will lose his voting ability. Four of the new cardinals are in their 70s. Last fall, Pope Francis named three cardinals from the United States — the only three Americans thus far designated in this pontificate — among a group of 17 new cardinals (13 electors and four over the age of 80). Currently there are 18 U.S. cardinals, 10 of whom are currently eligible to vote in a future conclave. With these new cardinals, the global composition of the 121 electors will be 53 from Europe (including 24 from Italy), 15 from Africa, 19 from Asia and Oceania, 21 from Latin America and 13 from the United States and Canada. To the peripheries The cardinals who have been named by Pope Francis, for the most part, widely have been considered unconventional candidates. Pope Francis has raised the global profile of the body that will one day elect his successor, often turning to what he calls “the peripheries” to find cardinals who will represent Catholicism’s universal character. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . Pope Francis often has eschewed choosing as new cardinals those bishops who serve in urban population centers throughout Europe or America that have traditionally been headed by a cardinal. Instead, many of the cardinals this pope has named generally have come from poor, forgotten or emerging locales. The latest group offers no deviation from the pope’s programmatic approach to redefining the Church’s seats of power; in a first-of-its-kind move, an auxiliary bishop ...
Tue, 13 Jun 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People cannot sit back and be indifferent or unresponsive to growing poverty in the world as a privileged minority accumulates "ostentatious wealth," Pope Francis said. "God created the heavens and the earth for all; yet sadly some have erected barriers, walls and fences, betraying the original gift meant for all humanity, with none excluded," the pope said in a message for the first World Day of the Poor. The newly established commemoration and the period of reflection and action preceding it are meant to help Christians develop and maintain a more consistent and sincere lifestyle built on sharing, simplicity and the essential truths of the Gospel, the pope said in the message released June 13, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua. CNS The World Day of the Poor -- to be marked each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time -- will be celebrated Nov. 19 this year and will focus on the Apostle John's call to love "not with words, but with deeds." There are so many forms of material and spiritual poverty that poison people's hearts and harm their dignity, the pope said in his message, and "we must respond with a new vision of life and society." Too often Christians have taken on "a worldly way of thinking" and forgotten to keep their gaze and goals focused on Christ, who is present in those who are broken and vulnerable. An admonition by St. John Chrysostom "remains ever timely," the pope said, quoting: "If you want to honor the body of Christ, do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honor the eucharistic Christ with silk vestments and then, leaving the church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness." "Poverty has the face of women, men and children exploited by base interests, crushed by the machinations of power and money," he said. "What a bitter and endless list we would have to compile were we to add the poverty born of social injustice, moral degeneration, the greed of a chosen few and generalized indifference." "Tragically, in our own time, even as ostentatious wealth accumulates in the hands of the privileged few, often in connection with illegal activities and the appalling exploitation of human dignity, there is a scandalous growth of poverty in broad sectors of society throughout our world," Pope Francis wrote. "Faced with this scenario, we cannot remain passive, much less resigned." Christians must reach out to the poor as Christ did and commanded, the pope said. The poor, in fact, "are not a problem, they are a resource" rich in dignity and God-given gifts that can help Christians better understand the essential truth of the Gospel. "Blessed, therefore, are the open hands that embrace the poor and help them: They are hands that bring hope," he said. "Blessed are the hands that reach beyond every barrier of culture, religion and nationality and pour the balm of consolation over the wounds of humanity. Blessed are the open hands that ask nothing in exchange, with no 'ifs' or 'buts' or 'maybes': They are hands that call down God's blessing upon their brothers and sisters." Pope Francis said a good role model was his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who kept his gaze fixed on Christ so as to be "able to see and serve him in the poor." The pope took the name of this saint during the conclave that elected him in 2013 after another cardinal told him, "Don't forget the poor." "If we want to help change history and promote real development, we need to hear the cry of the poor and commit ourselves to ending their marginalization," the pope wrote in his message. Just a few days before the end of the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis spoke of his desire to have a special day dedicated to the poor. As the doors of mercy were set to be closed around the world, "let us ask for the grace not to close our eyes to God, who sees us and to our neighbor who asks something of us," the pope said in that homily in November 2016. However, straying from his prepared text that day, the ...