VATICAN CITY — For the first time in the Church’s history, Catholics worldwide will be simultaneously participating in an hour of Eucharistic adoration on Sunday, led by Pope Francis.
The Holy Hour, to be broadcast from St. Peter’s Basilica on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, will take place on June 2 from 5-6pm local time. Its theme, “One Lord, One Faith,” was chosen to testify to the deep unity that characterizes it, the Vatican says.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, told reporters May 28 that there had been an “incredible response” to the initiative, “going beyond the cathedrals and involving episcopal conferences, parishes, lay associations and religious congregations, especially cloistered ones.”
He was unable to give exact numbers of those who will participate, but he said “certainly thousands and thousands” are expected. Countries with a large number of parishes or dioceses participating include the United States (243), India (163), Brazil (56) and Italy (50).
From the Cook Islands, Chile and Burkina Faso to Taiwan, Iraq and Bangladesh, hundreds of dioceses will be “synchronized with St. Peter’s and will pray for the intentions proposed by the Pope,” Archbishop Fisichella said.
The first papal intention is: “For the Church spread throughout the world and united today in the adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sign of unity. May the Lord make her ever more obedient to hearing his word in order to stand before the world ‘ever more beautiful, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.’ That through her faithful announcement, the Word that saves may still resonate as the bearer of mercy and may increase love to give full meaning to pain and suffering, giving back joy and serenity.”
Pope Francis’ second intention is: “For those around the world who still suffer slavery and who are victims of war, human trafficking, drug running and slave labor. For the children and women who are suffering from every type of violence. May their silent scream for help be heard by a vigilant Church, so that, gazing upon the crucified Christ, she may not forget the many brothers and sisters who are left at the mercy of violence. Also, for all those who find themselves in economically precarious situations, above all for the unemployed, the elderly, migrants, the homeless, prisoners and those who experience marginalization. That the Church’s prayer and its active nearness give them comfort and assistance in hope and strength and courage in defending human dignity.”
The U.S. bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship has advised that because of normal Sunday Mass schedules, it may be challenging to schedule such a gathering simultaneously in the various time zones of the United States. The
Rome time translates to 11am Eastern, 10am Central, 9am Mountain, 8am Pacific, 7am in Alaska and 5am in Hawaii.
The bishops recommend keeping the spirit of the gathering by holding the Holy Hour “at a more convenient time on that day, such as on Sunday afternoon following the last Mass of the day.”
A statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says such a celebration “could include a traditional Eucharistic procession,” and it would also be appropriate “to mark the celebration of regularly scheduled Masses at that particular hour (11am Eastern) with special solemnity,and to note the unity of prayer with the Holy Father at that time through the homily and Prayer of the Faithful.”
Archbishop Fisichella said parishes such as Samoa and Honolulu will nonetheless be united in prayer, even though, for them, it will in the early-morning hours. Others who have experienced hardship, such as those in Carpi, Italy, which suffered a severe earthquake a year ago, will take part, using a local church instead of its cathedral, which remains damaged.
Villagers in Papua New Guinea will also be doing the same, despite similar hardships: A local bishop wrote to Archbishop Fisichella telling him that it is the rainy season, and despite having no electricity and coping with flooding for the past four days, they will be praying with the rest of the world’s Catholics.
In an interview with Catholic News Agency, Archbishop Fisichella said that the strong response to the event did not surprise him, because he has seen “an increasing number of people engaged in adoration” in recent years.
Evangelium Vitae Conference
During the press conference, the Italian archbishop also shared details of a “Day Celebrating Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)” on June 15-16 in Rome. It’s an opportunity for the faithful from around the world to gather with the Holy Father in a communal witness to the sacred value of all life as part of the Year of Faith.
Pope Francis will preside at Sunday Mass at 10:30am with the entire “people of life,” during which he will show his care for them, as well as to all the sick who will be present at the celebration.
Like the other events, it will follow the traditional pattern of the Year of Faith: “Pilgrimages to St. Peter’s tomb will take place on Saturday afternoon, from 2-5pm,” Archbishop Fisichella said. He also said confession and Eucharistic adoration will be available, together with catechesis for the various language groups in several churches around Rome on Saturday morning.
Also on June 15, starting at 8:30pm, a silent, candlelight procession will be held along Via Della Conciliazione, in order to draw attention to the inviolable value of human life. It will conclude in St. Peter’s Square, where several testimonials will be given.
English-speaking participants will receive catechesis from Cardinal Raymond Burke at the Pontifical Urban College and attend a panel discussion with professor Francis Beckwith of Baylor University and Robert Royal of the Faith and Reason Institute.
Families, representatives from bishops’ conferences and members of eccle
sial movements will be among those taking
part, as well as “many people interested in the promotion
and defense of life who aren’t affiliated with a particular association or religion.”
Speaking to the Register May 28, Archbishop Fisichella said he hoped the event would show the world “there’s a clear and total engagement of the Catholic Church — and not only the Church — on engagement in the promotion, first of all, and the defense of human life.”
Asked if the gathering might also produce some definitive statements, such as withholding the Euchari
st from Catholic politicians who advocate abortion-rights legislation, he said the teaching of the Church on the issue is already “very clear.”
“We need to just recall the encyclical of John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, and also the text on the engagement of Catholic politicians in politics written by Cardinal Ratzinger,” Archbishop Fisichella said.
“We should be able to distinguish between the different traditions and cultures, but I wouldn’t say there’s not a clear voice on this issue,” he added. “On the contrary, if we take these texts I mentioned, you cannot expect more than what was written before.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Speaking to reporters May 24, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi denied earlier reports claiming that Benedict XVI was continuing to write the encyclical that would then be signed by Pope Francis.
“As is known, at the time of his resignation, Benedict XVI left the encyclical project that had already been started,” Father Lombardi said, adding that it “now appears his successor is completing it, even if I couldn’t predict the time necessary for its publication.”
Earlier reports given by an Italian bishop claimed that Benedict XVI was concluding his work on the encyclical and that Pope Francis would be writing an encyclical on poverty.
Bishop Luigi Martella of the Diocese of Molfetta-Ruvo-Giovinazzo-Terlizzi wrote May 23 on his diocesan website that, after the encyclical on faith, Pope Francis was planning to prepare his first encyclical on the poor: Beati Paupers (Blessed Are the Poor).
The Italian bishop added that it is to be about poverty “understood not in an ideological and political sense, but in the sense of the Gospel.” He said Pope Francis revealed this when he and his fellow bishops met the Holy Father on their ad limina visit May 13-16.
Father Lombardi said the news about Benedict XVI “finishing off the text is completely unfounded,” but he didn’t rule out a future encyclical dedicated to the poor.
“Let’s take one encyclical at a time,” the Vatican spokesman said.
It would not be unprecedented for a pope to complete an encyclical begun by his predecessor. Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love), contained a large section that had been written during the final months of Blessed John Paul II’s pontificate.
Benedict XVI wanted to use the encyclical on faith to share his reflections on what it means to be a Christian today and the role of faith in the life of man and society, especially in this Year of Faith.
In October, Vatican Insider claimed the incomplete passages had been getting “rave reviews” from those who had already seen drafts.
“The text of the Pope is beautiful,” a senior bishop in the Curia is reported to have said. “With his simple language, Benedict XVI manages to express even the most complex and very deep truths using simple language, which has a widespread reach that goes beyond all imagination.”
Many in the Church would welcome papal teaching on the faith at a time when, especially in many Western societies, the faith is in crisis.
Dominican Father Paul Murray, professor of literature of the mystical tradition at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, said that in an “age of great bewilderment, of a dictatorship of relativism,” doubts are being sown among ordinary believers “in a way they weren’t 20 years ago.”
But quoting Benedict XVI, he stressed the “simplicity of the faith,” saying, “It’s not that complicated; it’s not just for intellectuals.”
He believes such an encyclical is also needed at a time when there is a tendency to succumb to fundamentalism. “In an age of bewilderment, people panic and look for clear and distinct ideas; there’s a refusal to live with the complexity and mystery,” Father Murray said.
Living with that mystery is “part of the faith process,” he said, but stressed it is “not an ambiguity that renders everything relative.” Rather, communion with God makes you “automatically humbled,” he said.
“You can be very confident about the truths of the faith, but that confidence is not a fundamentalist confidence; there’s a humble joy that automatically comes from contact with God.”
“I suspect that will be very important for us to be reminded of,” he said.
Father Murray said that to have two popes contributing to an encyclical on faith is “wonderful and beautiful.”
“The genius of Benedict was just marvelous, but the genius of Francis is that he just talks over all our professional Christians and Catholics and speaks to the world,” he said. “He speaks in a very direct, humble, Gospel way, and I hope the encyclical will have some of that, as well as all the great theological profundity of Benedict.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Among the themes covered in his early morning homilies this week, Pope Francis preached about the importance of praying courageously, of doing good to all, and how to guard against losing the spiritual salt of one’s faith.
On Monday, he underlined the importance of praying with courage, faith and from the heart. Miracles occur even today, he said, but in order to obtain them, they require “strong prayer” that “wrestles with God” and does not end with a one-time “courtesy” supplication.
He was reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading in which Jesus heals a boy with an evil spirit, and tells the disciples that strong prayer is necessary (interestingly, Pope Francis had appeared to do the same the day before, when he prayed over a seemingly possessed boy in St. Peter’s Square).
He recalled an episode in his native Argentina when a father prayed to the Madonna all night to save his daughter from a life-threatening illness; the next day, the daughter’s fever had gone. Such prayer must “gush from the heart – a courageous prayer that fights for a miracle – not the courtesy prayers, “Oh I’ll pray for you an Our Father, a Hail Mary and then I forget,”” he said. Everyone has a “bit of disbelief” he observed, so we need to pray: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”
For a Christian, true progress lies in humbling himself as Jesus did, Pope Francis said in his Tuesday homily. He also reiterated a common theme: that true power is in service and there is no room for power struggles within the Church.
Reflecting on the day’s Gospel in which the disciples argue who is the greatest among them, the Pope pointed out that power struggles have always existed in the Church, but Jesus taught “by his example [the] power of service.” He came not to be served but to serve, humbling Himself unto death “on a cross for us, to serve us, to save us.”
The world sees someone who has been given a superior job as “promotion”. But Jesus, he said, was promoted to the Cross, to humiliation. “That is true promotion [advancement],” he said, “that which makes us more like Jesus!”
On Wednesday, Pope Francis reminded the faithful present that “doing good to all” is a principle that unites humanity no matter what the differences are, and helps create a friendly encounter which is the basis of peace. The Gospel that day was about the disciples who impeded an outsider and believed he could not do any good outside of their group. Jesus, however, tells them not to stop him but allow him to do good as well.
The disciples are a little intolerant, the Pope said, thinking they alone possessed the truth, and all those who did not could not do any good. But he said this was wrong, and Jesus widens the horizons. The roots of doing good are in all of us, he explained, adding that a closed mind is a wall that leads to war and killing in the name of God. He said the Lord redeemed everyone, including atheists, and that by doing good, atheists and Christians can promote peace and meet together in harmony (he meant on earth and not in heaven as some reports claimed).
On Thursday, the Holy Father called on the faithful to spread the spiritual salt of faith, hope and charity given by the Lord. He warned not to let that salt lose its flavour, and must be given away in order to “spice things up.”
He noted that when salt is used well, one doesn’t notice its taste, but rather an improved flavour of the food. In the Christian life, he said, spiritual salt requires two elements to preserve it: preaching and worship. When preaching the faith with this salt, he said, each person receives it differently, bringing “Christian originality”, in accordance with their own personality and culture, which is not uniformity. But the salt of Christians also needs prayer and adoration if it is to keep its flavour.
“If we do not do this, however – these two things, these two transcendences to give the salt – the salt will remain in the bottle, and we will become ‘museum-piece Christians’,” Francis said.
On Friday, the Pope called on the faithful to pray for two graces: “to endure with patience, and to overcome with love.” Regarding the former, he said the Christian has the strength to suffer and not give up. It’s not easy, he said, but it is “a grace to suffer”, and in times of hardship, “we must ask for [this grace].”
Concerning the latter, he said it is also not easy to overcome with love, when enemies cause us suffering, which is why it is important to believe in Jesus who taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who cause us suffering.
“Defeated Christians,” he said, are those who “don’t forgive their enemies or pray for them”, and so don’t have the grace of “enduring with patience and overcoming with love.” But the many who do “have a patient heart, a heart filled with love” which shows in their “beautiful countenance” and “serene happiness.”
In his homily on Saturday, the Pope said those who draw near to the Church should find the doors open, and not find those who want to control the faith. The day’s Gospel was about Jesus rebuking the disciples who try to remove children being brought to him by others to bless. Francis praised the simple faith of the People of God, saying if you want to know who Mary is, go to a theologian, but to know how to love Mary, go to the People of God “who teach it better.”
He warned against being “controllers of faith”, but instead of becoming “facilitators of the faith of the people.” And to give a hypothetical example, he spoke about a single mother who asks to have her child baptized but is refused because she is not married.
“A closed door! This is not zeal! It is far from the Lord! It does not open doors!,” the Pope said. “Jesus is indignant when he sees these things”, the Pope continued, because those who suffer are “his faithful people, the people that he loves so much.”
So many Christians of goodwill are wrong in this regard, he said, and instead of opening a door, close it of goodwill. “So we ask the Lord that all those who come to the Church find the doors open,” the Pope concluded, “open to meet this love of Jesus. We ask this grace. “
VATICAN CITY — The former bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, has underlined the importance of today’s worldwide day of prayer for the Church in China, saying the country currently faces a “really desperate” situation.
Speaking to the Register by telephone from Hong Kong May 24, the cardinal said it’s “very important” to pray for China, as the situation is “very bad,” and the “only hope is from heaven.”
Summarizing the situation in the country, where China’s 12 million Catholics continue to be divided into two communities because of communist state control, he said the government is “enslaving our Church.”
“Our bishops are slaves; they’re just brought everywhere to do what the government wants them to do,” he said. “The Holy See has nothing to do but just watch, and yet it’s important to intervene, especially in the situation in Shanghai.”
In 2012, the Holy See and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association — the state-controlled church — agreed that a new bishop, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, should be the next bishop of Shanghai.
But at his ordination Mass, Bishop Ma announced he would be resigning his membership of the state church, leading the authorities to place him under house arrest. The death in April of Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, former shepherd of Shanghai, has left the see vacant as far as the state authorities are concerned, while the Holy See maintains that Bishop Ma should now be leading the diocese.
“We don’t know what is going to happen,” Cardinal Zen said. “It’s a very bad situation.”
During his weekly general audience May 22, Pope Francis invited all Catholics around the world to join in prayer “with our brothers and sisters who are in China.” In carefully chosen words, he said the Church must implore God for the grace to proclaim Christ with “humility and joy,” to be faithful to his Church and to the Pope, and for Chinese Catholics to live their lives in service to their country in a way that is coherent with their Christian faith.
Concluding his appeal, Pope Francis implored the Virgin Mary to aid Chinese Catholics in “making their difficult commitments increasingly precious in the sight of the Lord.”
“Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China, who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love, so that they may never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world and of the world to Jesus,” the Holy Father said.
May 24 is the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, which is a day of particular devotion for Chinese Catholics and celebrated at the shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.
Benedict XVI, in his historic 2007 “Letter to Catholics in China,” instituted May 24 as a day of prayer for the Church in China.
Asked if he hoped for positive changes under President Xi Jinping, who came to office in November last year, Cardinal Zen said: “Nothing at this moment; maybe in the future. We may have to wait a while.”
“From his words, we don’t find any foundation for hope,” he said. “He’s saying the Communist Party is going to have power forever and won’t accept any control by the people; but without the intervention of people, the Communist Party cannot reform itself. It’s too corrupt.”
Cardinal Zen drew attention to a white paper issued this month in which the authorities claim great strides are being made in human rights. He said, “That’s all rubbish, all big lies.”
The government, he added, is also rumored to be instructing institutions of higher education that “universal values, press freedom and citizens’ rights should not be mentioned — that’s incredible; it’s going backwards, in terms of civilization.”
The 81-year-old Salesian cardinal said it is impossible to talk of unity between the two churches at this moment because the state church is “not Catholic anymore” and should not call itself Catholic.
Only reconciliation of the heart is possible, he said, “because the government now has full power, full control, so the situation is much worse than when Pope Benedict wrote the letter six years ago.”
He said he hoped Pope Francis could make effective changes. “He’s very wise, and he’s not timid,” Cardinal Zen said. Pope Benedict, he added, “did so much for the Church in China, but he was reluctant to use his power — he was so kind and gentle.”
Others, including the Holy See, “made many mistakes,” he said, but Benedict “was so patient.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
By Edward Pentin
The United Kingdom moved closer to being the latest nation to legislate in favor of same-sex “marriage” this week when it passed a bill allowing such ceremonies to take place in England and Wales.
The bill still has to go before the House of Lords, but such legislation coming even this far would have been unthinkable less than 10 years ago. It follows the passing of similar legislation in France and New Zealand this past month, as well as in the U.S. states of Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota.
Part of the reason for this rapid advance is the inability on the part of traditional marriage proponents to argue their case effectively in societies where personal autonomy takes precedence.
And yet for Paul Gondreau, professor of Catholic theology at Providence College, Rhode Island, defending traditional marriage and opposing same-sex “marriage” is actually quite simple, and can be done without having to resort to faith-based arguments.
Speaking at a meeting hosted by the Acton Institute in Rome May 22, he stressed an urgent need for these arguments to be made known as this is becoming the “defining issue of our time.”
Proponents of traditional marriage “ought not to be kowtowed into silence,” he added, observing that to dare to speak in favor of traditional marriage “is to single yourself out as homophobic, intolerant, bigoted, or a hatemonger” in many of today’s Western societies.
In combatting this subtle form of tyranny, Gondreau said it’s important to first clarify a true understanding of what it means to be human and the proper role of the human body. In the ancient philosophical tradition of Aristotle or St. Thomas Aquinas, being human meant there must be a “body-soul unity” – a body biologically designed, and joined with a soul of a spiritual and rational nature.
For same-sex “marriage” proponents, however, the body is viewed as a “kind of accessory” that “doesn’t really enter into the essential identity of what it is to be human.” What’s important to them is to be rational and autonomous in their choices, Gondreau said. It’s an anthropology, he added, that goes back to the father of modern philosophy, Rene Descartes, who viewed the human person as a “thinking, choosing, self, accidentally and loosely tied to the body” – what’s also known as a “Cartesian-style anthropology.”
But both approaches to the human body have moral consequences. For the former, it means you treat your body with “great respect as you treat your own personhood with great respect.” Your body, Gondreau continued, “shares in your moral responsibility, your pursuit of happiness and fulfillment – in moral terms, what we call human flourishing.”
For the latter, the body comes to be treated recreationally, like a toy, because it has “no inherent moral worth” and is “not essential to our human identity.” Someone with a Cartesian- style anthropology sees himself as a “fragmented self.”
He stressed that every person’s body is “hardwired for certain ends and goods” and that when it comes to sex, that means you cannot act in any sexual way and think there’s not anything wrong with it, just as you cannot feed your body with any substance you choose. In bodily terms, sex is very clearly ordered towards procreation and male and female are complimentary in this regard.
“That’s common sense,” Gondreau argued, “but this is the problem with the gay ‘marriage’ principle: We’re being asked to lay aside our common sense, to take the position that biology and our ordered nature is purely and simply irrelevant.” He pointed out that human sex is very different to animal sex in that it’s not only about procreation but is “face to face,” indicating that it’s not just a “bodily, carnal union but obviously a union of spiritual persons, uniting themselves with each other in the deepest bond of love and friendship.”
It’s a unity of body and soul, and any attempts to separate or divide the two must be denounced as opposed to our genuine good. “Only in a marriage can sexual union be procreative and unitive,” he said. “The sexual act must by symbolically ordered to having a child and that intentional measures aren’t taken to disrupt the very nature of the act from attaining its procreative end.”
He stressed that the natural law teaches us this. “When God made us, He had in mind how we should live, how our sexed nature should be used,” Gondreau said. “We are not our own creators, we are not our own Gods, and therefore we are limited and predetermined to certain goods and ends.” He added that the more sensitive we are to our consciences and moral life, “the more we see that.”
“It all boils down to how we view the human being,” he explained. “Benedict XVI constantly reminded people of the natural law and the recovery of it – a way of understanding the moral life in a way that is accessible to reason.”
Gondreau, who has been actively involved in the public debate on the meaning and purpose of marriage in the United States and debated the issue on a number of panels, said many who defend gay “marriage” are often well intentioned and don’t want to be labelled bigoted. “They want to be compassionate with those who struggle with homosexual desires,” he said.
But he said it’s an act of charity to tell them they are wrong.
“If you really want to help the sinner, you have to have him turn away from sin,” he said. “When the woman was caught in adultery, Jesus didn’t say: ‘Go and do whatever makes you happy.’ He said: ‘Go and sin no more.’ So we must always make it clear that is what we’re talking about.”
Recalling a conversation he had with a gay friend, Gondreau told him he was convinced that his lifestyle was not going to lead to his genuine happiness, nor that he was really happy now. “He wasn’t offended, and saw I was convinced of that,” he recalled. “Whether he agreed or disagreed, that’s beside the point; it’s really about genuine human happiness, and God has predetermined what role it plays in ordered happiness.”
Each person’s ultimate happiness is found in God, Gondreau said. “It can never fully be found in some bodily or earthly good. No created good can fulfill the human heart’s deepest yearnings, only God can. We are made for a good that is without limit, that is infinite, so our enjoyment of created goods are only good when they serve as a stepping stone to God.”
He added: “Sexual pleasure is good, but it’s not the chief good that sex aims at. It’s procreation and unitive love. Pleasure is subordinated to that.”
In follow up questions, Gondreau said he believed the homosexual agenda is about “the abolition of marriage altogether” and that activists outright admit it. “It’s about throwing off boundaries, limits; it’s a view of being human as autonomous, and therefore God, nature and Church are rivals to my autonomy.”
And yet, he said, God and nature are not rivals, but rather “safeguards and means to human flourishing.” The Church, keen to avoid “shortchanging our biological hardwiring,” may lead to some people thinking that the Church has an “obsession” with the mechanics of procreation, Gondreau observed, but that’s only because she “refuses to shortchange the procreative ordering of our sexuality.”
Conveying this teaching on “body-soul unity” is a “hard sell” in a society that views sex “first and foremost as an affair of personal desire of the ‘self,'” he admitted, and it needs to be done carefully and sensitively, not condemning the sinner, but the sin.
This article appeared in Zenit, 23 May 2013.
National Catholic Register, 23 May 2013.
VATICAN CITY — A handful of Vatican officials and even a cardinal have recently voiced opinions that appear to be supportive of civil unions between people of the same sex, despite the Church’s teaching being clearly against homosexuality and cohabitation/pre-marital sexual relations.
The majority of statements have been quickly repudiated by the archbishops in question, who have argued that their comments have been misinterpreted, but the Church’s opponents have capitalized on the confusion.
On April 8, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, reportedly told an audience in London that same-sex relationships should be respected and recognized in law.
“There can be same-sex partnerships, and they need respect and even civil-law protection,” he was reported as saying. But he asked that it be kept “away from the notion of marriage” because the definition of marriage “is the stable union between a man and a woman open to life.”
The cardinal’s office later stressed he was not in any way endorsing homosexual civil unions. “The cardinal sees the need to give thought to the question of pastoral care for people living in irregular situations — to truly apply, not to rethink, what the Church has to say about a life in Christ,” his spokesman, Michael Prueller, told the Register May 15.
At a Vatican press conference in February, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, called for “greater efforts to ensure legal protection and inheritance rights for people who are living together but not married,” and he said that “legal means must be found to guarantee rights and regulate inheritance.”
“But do not call it marriage,” the archbishop said, according to a CNS article.
He said if a country “outlawed homosexuality, I would work to overturn it,” adding that he believed there are still “20 or 25 countries that define homosexuality as a crime.”
Archbishop Paglia later said he was surprised by reports saying he was supportive of civil unions for homosexual couples, adding that his comments were “derailed.” He argued that he was calling for individual rights to be protected using existing legal systems and not giving “approval of certain possibilities.”
However, by that time, the misinterpretation had been widely circulated, and same-sex rights groups exploited the confusion to their own advantage.
In 2011, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, told reporters at a press conference that civil partnerships, the U.K. name for civil unions, “actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision.” But like Cardinal Schönborn, he stressed that that is not the same as marriage and insisted it was not for the state to change the institution of marriage.
More recently, Archbishop Piero Marini, who served for 18 years as Pope John Paul II’s liturgical master of ceremonies, said in a published report that the Church should recognize civil unions for people of the same sex.
Arguing that the Church and state should not be enemies of one another, he said: “In these discussions, it’s necessary, for instance, to recognize the union of persons of the same sex, because there are many couples that suffer because their civil rights aren’t recognized. What can’t be recognized is that this [union] is equivalent to marriage.”
Swiss theologian Father Martin Rhonheimer stated last month, in an interview with Catholic News Agency, that same-sex unions and those who promote them discriminate against married heterosexual couples.
“Besides containing an erroneous moral message,” said Father Rhonheimer, who teaches political philosophy and ethics at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, “it actually means to objectively discriminate against married people, who intentionally have engaged in a union ordered towards the task of the transmission of human life, accepting all the burdens and responsibilities of this task.”
“Conferring legal equality to same-sex unions signifies to publicly establish, in the law system, the principle of dissociation of sexuality and procreation,” he added.
When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio appeared to favor civil unions as a kind of lesser of two evils. However, a confidant had said he would never have supported civil unions for homosexual couples: “He certainly would have referred to unions of convenience, but not that anything be legalized,” said Miguel Woites, a personal friend of the Pope. He was fiercely opposed to same-sex “marriage” legislation and has not spoken on the issue of civil unions as Pope.
The Vatican declined to comment on the issue when contacted by the Register.
The Church’s teaching on civil unions for homosexual couples is clear.
In a 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons,” the Vatican said, “Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.”
The document, authored by the future Pope Benedict XVI, prefect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, added: “In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty.”
The Vatican further stressed that “one must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.”
In an address in 2006, Benedict XVI said: “It is a serious error to obscure the value and roles of the legitimate family founded on marriage by attributing legal recognition to other improper forms of union for which there is really no effective social need.”
In comments to the Register, Father Antonio Porras, professor of moral theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, stressed that the comments favoring civil unions by a few Church leaders are opinions and can’t be placed “on the same level as a note from the CDF.”
He referred to Familiaris Consortio, Blessed John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation on the role of the family in the modern world, which examined the different contexts of civil unions, but only considered those between a man and a woman. The document argues there is not a unique response within the truth about marriage and family.
Church leaders with a high level of responsibility need to be “more prudent” in their statements, Father Porras said. He added that the Church must be sensitive to the concerns of homosexuals, as she has concern for all people (he referred to the CDF’s 1986 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”). But he stressed that such concern “doesn’t mean to call good what is evil and what harms them.”
“The Church’s concern for them is shown by the way she realizes the difficulties they face in their Christian lives and helps them to live their circumstances in the life of Christ,” he said. The Church’s mission is to bring the means of salvation through Christ to all people, he added, and that is why “she calls attention to those behaviors that cannot be compatible with a Christian life.”
“But all this doesn’t mean that the Church close her doors to people who commit these sins,” he continued. “The pastoral activity of the Church is to try to help people avoid all the circumstances that separate them from the life Christ gained for us on the cross.”
Catholic politicians defending traditional marriage on the frontline of European politics have been disheartened by the bishops’ remarks.
Luca Volontè, president of the European Peoples’ Party in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, told that Register he didn’t want his comments to be inferred as a criticism of any particular Church figure, but he said he had “no idea why certain personalities within the Church make contributions to the current debate on the family that can at best be described as ‘unhelpful.’”
Volontè, who is also chairman of the Rome-based Dignitatis Humanae Institute, added: “It is already difficult enough to hold an international coalition together to support the traditional family without these interventions from figures of authority that give every impression of speaking in the name of the Catholic Church. The fate of Christian Europe rises or falls with the strength of the traditional family — our ideological enemies know this very well — and that’s why they are repeatedly attacking it. With this in mind, now is not the moment for self-inflicted defeats.”
Asked how the Church could remain sensitive to people with same-sex attraction while upholding Church teaching on this issue, Father Porras said it’s important to know what the proponents of same-sex unions propose and what they mean by “marriage.” He would like to have them answer questions such as: “What is marriage? Why is it necessary? Why put limits on it? What are we protecting with rules about human love?”
In the context of their answers to these questions, it could then be explained why the Church has a coherent doctrine on marriage and why the truth of marriage can’t be changed because it preserves the rights and duties of spouses and their possible children and is geared towards their fulfillment and the good of society.
This is especially urgent as it becomes increasingly clear from recent interviews and statements that many homosexual activists are not interested in preserving marriage and the family, but, rather, focused on destroying them.
Said Father Rhonheimer, “Any attempt of proving the equality, in social and political terms, of heterosexual and homosexual unions is vain, simply because homosexual unions are by their very nature non-procreative.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent. CNA contributed to this report.
VATICAN CITY —Pope Francis’ early morning homilies in the Casa Santa Marta residence chapel — often underreported — continue to challenge the faithful, and this past week was no exception.
On Monday, the Holy Father set the tone for the week leading up to Pentecost Sunday. He focused on the Holy Spirit who, he said, helps Christians remember the history of the faith and the gifts God has given. Without this grace, he said, the faithful risk slipping into idolatry.
Many Christians don’t know who the Holy Spirit is or what He is, he said, and the Holy Spirit “is always somewhat ‘the unknown’ of the faith.” And yet, he continued, the Holy Spirit is “God active in us” and “awakens our memory” of how Christ redeemed us of our misery and sin.
Without this memory a Christian is not a true Christian, but becomes an “idolator,” the Pope went on, a “prisoner of circumstance, a man or woman who has no history.” To remember the grace of God is especially important, he said, when, for example, “a little vanity creeps in, when someone believes themselves to be a winner of the ‘Nobel Prize for Holiness.”
The Holy Father concluded with an invitation to Christians to ask the grace of memory so that “they will not forget that they were slaves and the Lord has saved them.”
On Tuesday, the Holy Father again mined the theme of idolatry, but also the selfishness personified by Judas. Selfish people like Judas do not understand what giving and love are and become traitors, isolated and alone, he said. But if we really want to follow Jesus we must “live life as a gift” to give to others, “not as a treasure to be kept to ourselves.”
Judas “never understood what gift really means,” the Pope said, and this was clearly seen when he bitterly criticized Mary Magdalene for washing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume, saying that it could be used for the poor. “This is the first reference that I personally found in the Gospel of poverty as an ideology,” the Pope said.
But whereas the selfish person, an ideologue, is always alone, those who “give their life for love are never alone: they are always in the community, part of the family,” he said. “The Christian who gifts his or her life, who loses it, as Jesus says, finds it again, finds it in its fullness. And those who, like Judas, want to keep it for themselves, lose it in the end.”
The Pope closed by calling on the Holy Spirit to provide big hearts capable of “loving with humility, with meekness, an open heart that is capable of loving,” and to “always free us from selfishness.”
On Wednesday, the Holy Father exhorted worshippers to pray for priests and bishops, that they not yield to the temptation of money and vanity, but serve the people of God. Shepherds must be on guard for ravenous wolves, Francis said, and be at the service of others — preserving them, building them up and defending them.
He explained it is a relationship of protection and love between God and the pastor and the pastor and the people. But he said like us all, priests and bishops are sinners, and may be tempted by greed for wealth and power. When this happens, he said, people do not love them.
On Thursday, the Pope highlighted St. Paul’s capacity for “being a nuisance” — unsettling those who had become too comfortable in their faith, and imbuing them with an apostolic zeal necessary to move the Church forward.
Such zeal, he said, implies “an element of madness” but it’s a “spiritual madness, a healthy madness.” It can lead to persecution, but even so, we cannot be “backseat Christians” (some also translated this as “couch potato Christians”) cozy in our comfort zones. Such Christians, he said, “are well mannered, do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the Church through proclamation and apostolic zeal.”
But he said the Lord “always wants us to move forward, forward, forward,” and not take refuge in a comfortable, quiet life. Furthermore, he said apostolic zeal, which is not a zest for power or possession, comes from knowing Christ, principally through the heart and personal encounter, the Pope said.
And he closed by again calling on the Holy Spirit to give us apostolic fervor “to be annoying when things are too quiet in the Church, and the grace to go out to the outskirts of life” where many people are yearning to hear the Gospel.
On Friday, the Pope preached that the fact we are all sinners is not the problem — the real problem is “not allowing ourselves be transformed by the love of Christ.” Dwelling on St. Peter’s relationship with Christ, he explained how the apostle matured in love in his encounter with Jesus.
“This great man, Peter is a sinner,” the Holy Father said, “but the Lord makes him feel, and he makes us feel too, that we are all sinners.” But this is not the problem, he said. The problem “is not repenting of sin, not being ashamed of what we have done.”
“Peter was a sinner, but not corrupt,” the Pope said, adding “all are sinners, but corrupt — no!”
Francis recalled how a good parish priest he knew did not feel worthy and was spiritually tormented when appointed to be a bishop. His confessor told him not to worry, saying: “If after everything Peter did, they still made him Pope, you go right ahead!”
The Pope said the Lord makes us mature through our many encounters with him when we recognize him, even with our weaknesses and our sins.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
ROME — Rome’s second annual March for Life, which took place yesterday, attracted approximately double the number of participants compared to last year, and concluded with Pope Francis personally greeting the marchers as they arrived at the Vatican.
Estimates of between 30,000 to 40,000 people attended the pro-life event, which began at 9 a.m. at the Colosseum and ended at noon about a mile away, at Castel Sant’Angelo near the Vatican, in time for the Pope’s Regina Coeli prayer.
The aim of the march is to affirm the sanctity of all human life, rally all people of good will to defend the right to life, and urge others to denounce in politics and culture all legislation that is against the natural law.
The Italian pro-life movement is especially focused on repealing, or at least publicly condemning, Law 194 that legalized abortion in the country in 1978. Since that time, more than 5 million unborn children have been aborted.
As last year, Italians came from all over the country and included many young people, but more nationalities were present than in 2012, with high representations from Poland, France, Belgium and the United States. This year’s event was also more festive, reflecting a growing optimism among pro-life activists that sentiments are changing.
“It’s a growing movement and this is very important as it means the culture of life is spreading,” Virginia Coda Nunziante, chief organizer of the march, told the Register. “People are coming from all around Italy but also around the world. Rome is becoming a center for national and international pro-life movements.”
The Church generally keeps a low profile at the event, as it is directed at all people who seek to protect all human life. But this year, the Church was more actively involved, sending two leading Italian prelates to speak at a March for Life conference on Saturday and the Italian bishops’ newspaper,Avvenire, giving more coverage than last year.
At Eucharistic adoration the evening before the event, Cardinal Raymond Burke called the March for Life “an expression of the Catholic faith and an act of service to the society in which live, and to its common good.”
Pope Francis made a point of welcoming the March for Life participants and invited “everyone to stay focused on the important issue of respect for human life, from the moment of conception.” After reciting the Regina Coeli prayer and as he exited the square, the Holy Father’s open-top vehicle took a short detour and traveled part of the way down the main boulevard leading up to the basilica, where he greeted the participants.
The march’s organizers said the Pope’s greeting represented “the highest recognition of the initiative and confirms the sensitivity of the Pope to the non-negotiable principles, beginning with the right to life.”
During his address, the Pope drew attention to a petition taking place in Italian parishes aimed at giving legal protection to the embryo, and he announced that the Vatican is to host events dedicated to Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (On the Inviolability of Human Life) on June 15 and 16. That occasion, the Pope said, would be “a special moment for those who have cared about the defense of the sanctity of human life.”
Mother’s Day March
Rome’s March for Life 2013 took place on Mother’s Day and began with a series of impassioned speeches from a variety of pro-life representatives from all over the world. Speakers included the new president of the U.S. March for Life, Jeanne Monahan, as well as Lila Rose, founder of the anti-abortion activist group, Live Action, that uses undercover techniques to expose abortion practices.
Rose received rapturous applause for her speech in which she stressed that life is the “human rights issue of our day” and that “we will not rest, we will not grow tired until every child in the world is protected.” She pledged to take Live Action’s undercover work internationally, and said “young people are rising up all over the world” to defend life and that they “will not rest until we have victory: protection of the smallest.”
Mayor Gianni Alemanno of Rome noted that once a year and for many years, the Colosseum has turned out its lights as part of a campaign against the death penalty, logically leading him to conclude that one “cannot say no to the massacre of the innocents.” Law 194, he said, would be just if it aimed at helping women not to have abortions, lending a hand to those in need instead of killing the child.
A woman who regretted her abortion conceived through rape called for pictures of aborted victims to be publicly displayed. Irene Van der Wende from the Netherlands argued that abortionists are happy that for “so many decades we’ve not shown what happened to victims” and called on those present to “be courageous and start showing pictures to the masses.”
A Croatian priest asked for prayers for his country, which is about to hold a referendum on same-sex “marriage” legislation, while a Chinese seminarian spoke about the evils of China’s One-Child Policy and forced abortion laws.
Despite polls regularly showing high levels of support for abortion rights throughout Europe, many of the marchers were heartened by what they see as increasing opposition to anti-life and anti-family policies, in particular widespread protests against legislation to redefine marriage. Campaigns against this issue have been especially strong in France, where two massive marches were held and with another planned at the end of May.
In comments to the Register, Roberto De Mattei, president of the Lepanto Foundation, a Washington-based non-profit organization, implied that a sea-change in European public opinion was taking place on these issues.
“I call it a ‘Latin Spring’,” he said, in reference to the 2011 Arab Spring that led to the toppling of autocratic regimes in the Middle East. “I say Latin because in France you’ve had enormous protests against same-sex “marriage,” in Italy we have March for Life where we are of the same mind as the American March for Life. Each are characterized by being spontaneous, grassroots movements.”
Joseph Meaney of Human Life International, one of the march’s key supporters, said he’d been in touch with many people in France and it’s “revolutionary” what is taking place there. “They’ve never had this big a mobilization,” he told the Register, “so it’s good, there’s a lot of ferment — there are a lot of attacks too — but at the same time many people are waking up and realizing they need to take action.”
Heinz Huerzeler, secretary of the Swiss Association Yes to Life, said the Sixties’ generation is “getting older and older and the young generation are starting to make a difference.” He was also particularly impressed by the lack of opposition at this year’s march, in contrast to a similar event that recently took place in Zurich
Nicolo, a student from Florence, Italy, said he was confident the march would “send a strong signal” to politicians that increasing numbers of people are pro-life, and that young people “are increasingly involved.” Many young people had come to this year’s march from all over Italy, he said.
Coda Nunziante, who was inspired to organize the march by the Washington March for Life, said she and her team hoped for such large numbers. “Our main goal is to have Italy’s abortion law repealed, to send this message to our politicians,” she said. “But personally I didn’t expect the march to grow at such a quick pace.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
by EDWARD PENTIN 05/03/2013
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is remaining tight-lipped over recent reports that a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Pope John Paul II has been given approval by a committee of Vatican doctors.
An official refused to be moved to offer comment by the reports, as was the case with the postulator of John Paul’s cause. But if the news is true, the late Pope’s cause will have advanced considerably, possibly paving the way his canonization later this year.
In late April, the veteran Vatican watcher Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa reported that a Vatican panel of doctors had confirmed there was no medical explanation for a healing attributed to the intercession of John Paul II.
Although the process is being carried out in strict secrecy, Tornielli reported that in January the postulator of the cause, Msgr. Slawomir Oder, submitted a medical file containing details of the alleged miracle to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for a preliminary opinion.
Two doctors of the Vatican who had already examined this new case both gave a favorable opinion, according to Tornielli’s article. The file with medical records and testimonies was then officially discussed by a committee of seven doctors in April. The panel, presided over by Dr. Patrizio Polisca, the papal physician, also gave a favorable opinion.
The alleged miracle — which had to have taken place after John Paul II’s beatification in May 2011 — must now be presented to a panel of theologians and cardinals to examine. If they agree with the doctors, the cause of Karol Wojtyla will be presented to Pope Francis to give his stamp of approval.
But if Tornielli’s account is accurate, already the most important hurdle appears to have been overcome, as neither the theologians nor cardinals can make clinical evaluations of the case. This means the canonization may not be far away and could conceivably take place as soon as this autumn, possibly on the closest Sunday to his feast day on Oct. 22. The 35th anniversary of John Paul II’s election also falls on Oct. 16.
Some are even speculating Pope Francis might announce the date of canonization during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July, as the youth festivals were inaugurated during John Paul’s pontificate.
However, it is worth noting that it took some four years from the partial recognition of the first miracle — that of French Sister Marie Simon Pierre who was miraculously healed of Parkinson’s — to John Paul II’s beatification ceremony in 2011.
Msgr. Oder’s office declined to comment when contacted by the Register May 2, simply asking to contact them “at a later date.” A Vatican official, who has in the past voiced concern at the speed at which the cause is progressing, also said he had nothing to add at this stage, saying: “There are lots of things in life that can’t be done and get done.”
Another question mark over an early canonization is whether the significant amount of planning needed could be carried out in such a short space of time.
But the same concerns were flagged ahead of John Paul II’s beatification, and yet all the arrangements were in place within just four months.
With no clear information forthcoming from the Vatican the skeptics will continue to have their say, but this fact remains: Blessed John Paul II’s cause for canonization continues apace.