The Pope officially announced the date Monday during a meeting with the cardinals inside the Apostolic Palace, confirming what Newsmax’s Vatican correspondent Edward Pentin reported on September 3.
Pentin revealed then that the Pope had let the date be known in a private conversation that the Sunday after Easter was the date he wanted for the ceremony.
A source had told Pentin that having been asked by an official close to the Pope’s inner circle whether a date had been set, Francis responded, “I can tell you now if you like! It will be April 27.”
The source added, “I was surprised by his frankness, but he took a step back, laughed and then [said] the date. He was surrounded by top officials who didn’t seem to mind.”
April 27 next year is the Sunday after Easter, now known in the Catholic Church as Divine Mercy Sunday. The feast day has a special connection to Pope John Paul II — he founded it in 2001 and died on its eve four years later. Divine Mercy Sunday originates from a Polish nun, Faustina Kowalska, who had a devotion to the Divine Mercy after an encounter with Jesus who, she said, asked her specifically for a feast to be established on that day.
The theme of mercy is also of significance to Pope Francis who has frequently said, “This is a time for mercy.”
Pope Francis signed a decree on July 5 that gave the go-ahead for the canonizations of both John Paul II and John XXIII, who was Pope from 1958-63. Usually two miracles must be attributed to a candidate’s intercession in order to become a saint, though Francis took the unusual step of waiving the requirement of a second miracle for John XXIII to allow for his canonization.
Analysts have said the decision to canonize two of the 20th century’s most influential popes together was intended to unify the church since each had admirers and detractors, the Associated Press reports.
On the anniversary of John Paul’s death this year, Pope Francis visited St. Peter’s Basilica, where he prayed at the tombs of eight Popes, including the two he will canonize.
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VATICAN CITY — Even before last week’s major interview, Pope Francis’ pontificate had certainly not been given short shrift in the mainstream media during his first six months as Pope.
In fact, the Holy Father has made such a positive impact on the world stage that negative comments are almost entirely absent in the mainstream media.
Many have been affected not only by his words, but his actions and gestures — from his emphasis on God’s love and mercy and peace-making efforts in Syria to his out-of-the-blue telephone calls and his decision to shun the apostolic palace and live in the St. Martha guesthouse.
Images of him kissing children, hugging the disabled and being driven from the Rio de Janeiro airport in the back of a family hatchback have only further endeared him to the public.
Vanity Fair’s Italian edition named him “Man of the Year” six months before the year had ended.
And mainstream news agencies have been lining up to praise him. A commentator for MSNBC — not usually a pro-Catholic network — went so far as to describe him as “the best pope ever.” Among Americans, he has a 79% approval rating. In Italy, it’s as high as 85%.
From the beginning, his outreach was having a positive effect, also beyond the Catholic world. His emphasis on being bishop of Rome rather than pope was said to have prompted the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople to attend his inauguration — the first time that has happened since the Great Schism of 1054.
When the Pope called for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassou of Syria, a spiritual leader of Sunni Islam, welcomed the appeal, held a similar day of praying and fasting for peace in his country and proposed that the Holy See organize an interfaith meeting.
Jewish leaders have also been impressed. Rome’s Chief Rabbi Ricardo Di Segni said that, although Pope Francis’ words to the Jews are not new, “it is the force with which he expresses them, and his capacity of communicating them, that is astounding.”
Atheists, too, have been affected by the new Pope. Eugenio Scalfari, an admitted atheist and founder of the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica, said he was “greatly moved” that Francis wrote a public letter in reply to his questions on the faith. He was particularly impressed by the candid nature of the reply. “Until now, I had never heard an openness to modern culture and to the secular [on] such a scale coming from the chair of St. Peter,” he said.
Emphasis on Mercy
Central to the “Francis effect” is his emphasis on God’s forgiveness and mercy, manifested in a reluctance to judge.
He explained this clearly at his general audience Sept. 18: Likening the Church to a mother who never gives up on her children even when they err, he said, “I think of the moms who suffer for their children in prison or in difficult situations. They don’t ask themselves if [their children] are guilty or not; they keep loving them and often experience humiliations, but they have no fear. They do not cease giving of themselves.”
The Church, he added, takes a similar approach to her wayward children. She “never shuts the Church’s doors; does not judge, but offers God’s forgiveness — offers the love that invites even those children who have fallen into a deep abyss to return to the path.”
“Mercy” is the word that sums up the pontificate, a senior Vatican official told the Register, “but I don’t think he’s going to sell the Church short at all on doctrine.” His aim, he said, “is to smother you with God’s love and mercy, and it appears to be working.”
The Holy Father’s frequent phone calls, many of which go unreported, are just one example of this — a very pastoral attempt to reach out to suffering humanity and help people find solutions to their problems. As a cardinal, he was known for this outreach, as well as for living an austere life.
Optimism for the Church
Partly as a result of his popularity, the dark cloud pervading the Church over the Vatican and clerical sex-abuse scandals of recent years seems to some to be dissipating — to be replaced by a pervasive mood of optimism and openness.
“What has changed is the passing from a negative, judgmental Church into a positive, open Church,” noted Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi. “Pope Francis has spoken much about a non-self-referential Church, of a Church on a mission, a Church that looks outside of herself to the whole world.”
In reality, previous popes have always had such a global perspective, Father Lombardi said in a Sept. 12 interview with Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference. But he believes Francis’ uniqueness as the first Latin-American pope “is bringing something specific in style and perspective, and it is something desired by the universal Church.”
He said such qualities further “enrich” the Catholic Church and highlight especially Pope Francis’ missionary zeal. He also made a point of praising Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, noting in particular his “serenity, faith, spirituality and extraordinary kindness.”
Over the past six months, the Holy Father has frequently reminded the faithful of the importance of evangelization, peace, charity and service to the poor, even going so far as to say that he wants a “poor Church.”
He makes a point of returning to a specific number of core issues and concerns, as if to drive them home. The main ones are reminders to the faithful not to be self-absorbed and self-referential, to refrain from gossiping and speaking ill of others, and to go out to the margins of society and spread the Gospel.
Priests, he has often warned, must not be careerists, nor mere administrators.
On practical issues of governance, Pope Francis has begun reforming the Vatican’s outdated bureaucracy by establishing three advisory commissions, including a group of eight cardinals whom he knows well. His first key appointment, that of Archbishop Pietro Parolin as secretary of state — considered to be the closest equivalent of a Vatican “prime minister” — was widely welcomed.
A talented and respected Vatican diplomat, he is expected to help restore some of the Holy See’s international credibility and aid Curial reform.
But Francis has made few governing decisions so far, and most are expected in the next few months.
And yet, for all his obvious qualities, not everyone is happy with the new Successor of Peter.
The Holy Father faces increasing criticism from some traditional Catholics who feel slighted, judged and excluded by some of the Pope’s comments, which they see as directed at them.
Some Catholics have also been discouraged by some of his teaching, particularly his misinterpreted comments on homosexuality and atheists, and argue that, although consistent with the Catechism, such views are unclear, incomplete and, therefore, confusing.
They are also uneasy about the way he eschews symbols of the Petrine ministry and protocol and his seeming reluctance to speak out about key life issues and the redefinition of marriage.
Once he does so with more frequency — as he did on Sept. 20 addressing a Vatican conference for gynecologists — many see the secular world’s love affair with the papacy coming to an abrupt end.
But for now, the Vatican isn’t too concerned. “These are all debatable points and I’m not going criticize the Pope for not playing the hard line,” said the official.
“What’s important is that there’s been a tidal wave of positive feeling towards Francis,” he said, “and we’ve seen a lot of people coming back to the Church.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent and a contributor to EWTN News Nightly.
NEWS ANALYSIS: The pope emeritus’ 11-page letter was published in the same newspaper that printed Pope Francis’ recent responses about atheism and the Church.
by EDWARD PENTIN 09/24/2013
VATICAN CITY — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has joined Pope Francis in writing a letter to a prominent Italian atheist in an attempt to engage nonbelievers in a dialogue about the faith.
The 11-page letter, extracts of which were published in Monday’s edition of the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica, is addressed to professor Piergiorgio Odifreddi, an Italian mathematician, popular science writer and a member of the Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
The Pope Emeritus was responding to a book Odifreddi wrote in 2011 titled Dear Pope, I’m Writing to You. The book was a critique of certain arguments and lines of thought found in Benedict’s theological writings, beginning with his 1967 volume Introduction to Christianity, and including his book Jesus of Nazareth, which he wrote as pope. Benedict’s letter, even though published after Francis’, was written prior.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis surprised the world by responding to three questions put to him by the Italian atheist and founder of La Repubblica, Eugenio Scalfari, concerning Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith).
Clerical Sex Abuse
Much of the mainstream media has picked out passages of Benedict XVI’s response relating to clerical sex abuse. Benedict writes that he “never tried to cover up these things,” and “the power of evil [that] penetrates to such a point in the interior world of the faith is, for us, a source of suffering.”
“On the one hand, we must accept that suffering, and on the other, at the same time, we must do everything possible so that such cases aren’t repeated,” he says. “It’s also not a motive for comfort to know that, according to sociological research, the percentage of priests guilty of these crimes is no higher than in other comparable professional categories.”
“In any event,” he continues, “one must not stubbornly present this deviance as if it were a nastiness specific to Catholicism.”
But many other areas of interest are also covered in the letter. The extracts show Benedict to be his usual gentlemanly, unfailingly polite and frank self, unafraid to speak his mind with respect to atheism and the arguments put forward by Odifreddi.
He begins by thanking the Italian author for the critiques of his writings, and he explains that such a dialogue is “in large part” what he was alluding to in his address to the Roman Curia in 2009 that ultimately led to the creation of the Courtyard of the Gentiles.
That initiative, a structure for permanent dialogue between believers and nonbelievers run by the Pontifical Council for Culture, has led to several encounters with atheists in European capitals since 2010. Ironically, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi told the Register shortly before its launch that the Vatican was only interested in engaging with a “noble atheism or agnosticism, not the polemical kind — so not those atheists such as [Piergiorgio] Odifreddi in Italy, [Michel] Onfray in France, [Christopher] Hitchens and [Richard] Dawkins.”
Benedict’s Four Points
But that hasn’t stopped Benedict XVI, who doesn’t hold back in revealing what he thinks of Odifreddi’s work. “My opinion about your book is, as a whole, rather mixed,” he says. “I profited from some parts, which I read with enjoyment, but in other parts I was astonished at a certain aggressiveness and thoughtless argumentation.”
He notes that, several times, Odifreddi refers to theology as science fiction, and he says that, in this respect, he is “surprised that you feel my book is worthy of discussion.” He responds by making the case for theology with four points.
First, Benedict asks: “Is it fair to say that ‘science’ in the strictest sense of the word is just math? I learned from you that, even here, the distinction should be made between arithmetic and geometry. In all specific scientific subjects, each has its own form, according to the particularity of its object. What is essential is that a verifiable method is applied, excluding arbitrariness and ensuring rationality in their different ways.”
Second, he says that Odifreddi should “at least recognize that, in history and in philosophical thought, theology has produced lasting results.”
Third, he explains that an important function of theology is “to keep religion tied to reason and reason to religion.” Both functions, he adds, “are of paramount importance for humanity.” He then refers to his famous dialogue with the atheist and sociologist Jurgen Habermas, in which he showed that there are “pathologies of religion and, no less dangerous, pathologies of reason.”
“They both need each other, and keeping them constantly connected is an important task of theology,” he adds.
Fourth, Benedict says that science fiction exists in the context of many sciences. He explains that he sees science fiction in a good sense when it shows vision and anticipates “true knowledge.” This is “only imagination,” he says, “with which we search to get closer to reality,” and he adds that a “science fiction [exists] in a big way just even within the theory of evolution.”
Benedict then refers to the work of the prominent atheist Richard Dawkins. “The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins is a classic example of science fiction,” he says, and he recalls how the French Nobel Prize winner and molecular biologist Jacques Monod inserted sentences into his work that, in Benedict’s view, could only have been science fiction.
After addressing clerical sex abuse, he asks Odifreddi to remember the great figures the Church has produced, such as Sts. Benedict of Nursia, Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Avila. “It is also true today that the faith leads many people to selfless love, to the service of others, to sincerity and justice,” he says.
He then rebukes Odifreddi for his words about Jesus, saying, “They are not worthy of your scientific rank.” He invites him to become more competent in history and recommends some authors known for their historical accuracy. “That there has been too much exegesis written that has lacked seriousness is, unfortunately, an indisputable fact,” he says, but adds they have “no influence on the importance of serious historical research” that has led to a true knowledge of Jesus.
He then refers to areas of convergence in Odifreddi’s book with his own thinking. “Even if your interpretation of John 1:1 [In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God] is very far from what the Evangelist meant, there is a convergence that is important,” Benedict says. “However, if you want to replace God with ‘Nature,’ it begs the question: Who or what is this nature? Nowhere do you define it, and so it appears as an irrational divinity that explains nothing.”
He adds, “But I want to especially note that in your religion of mathematics three themes fundamental to human existence are not considered: freedom, love and evil.”
“I’m astonished that you just give a nod to freedom that has been and is the core value of modern times,” Benedict says. “Love in this book doesn’t appear, and there’s no information about evil.
“Whatever neurobiology says or doesn’t say about freedom, in the real drama of our history, it is a present reality and must be taken into account. But your religion of mathematics doesn’t recognize any knowledge of evil. A religion that ignores these fundamental questions is empty.”
The pope emeritus concludes: “Dear professor, my criticism of your book is in part harsh. Frankness, however, is part of dialogue: Only in this way can understanding grow. You were quite frank, and so you will accept that I should also be so. In any case, however, I very much appreciate that you, through your confrontation with my Introduction to Christianity, have sought to open a dialogue with the faith of the Catholic Church and that, notwithstanding all the contrasts in the central area, points of convergence are nevertheless not lacking.”
Writing in Monday’s La Repubblica, Odifreddi said few people “can understand the surprise and excitement” you feel on receiving “an unexpected letter from a pope.” He said the letter was delivered on Sept. 3, and he waited to publish it to make sure he had Benedict XVI’s permission. The depth of his answer was “beyond reasonable hopes,” Odifreddi said, and he was particularly surprised that Benedict read his book from cover to cover and wanted to discuss it, as it had been billed as a “luciferian introduction to atheism.”
Odifreddi said the entire 11-page letter will be included in a new edition of his book. He said that he and Benedict may disagree on almost everything, but they have “united in at least one common goal: the search for the Truth, with a capital ‘T.’”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent
Prominent Catholics around the world have mostly lauded Pope Francis’ landmark interview with the Jesuit publication La Civilta Cattolica, but some remain perplexed, deeply apprehensive, and quietly upset by his remarks.
Catholic commentators have generally argued that much of the mainstream media has misinterpreted the 12,000-word interview by viewing it as a radical departure from previous pontiffs, with Francis more aware of current secular mores.
Special reference has been made to Pope Francis’ comments that the Church “cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods.”
Such issues need to be spoken of in context, Francis said, and it is not necessary to address them “all the time.”
The Church’s pastoral ministry, he said, “cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,” but should focus on the essentials and “find a new balance.”
Otherwise, the Pope warned, “even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
In short, Church commentators argue, Francis was calling for the Church’s moral teachings to be discussed within the context of a lived encounter with Jesus Christ. He also said the teachings should be sourced from the gospel, rather than addressed in the abstract or in the context merely of the natural law. Benedict XVI, they point out, said something similar in 2006.
Various priests contacted by Newsmax have also viewed the interview in the same way, though not without fault. The Rev. Conor Donnelly, a medical doctor and theologian of the Opus Dei prelature, described it as “beautiful, simple, and profound.”
He said the Pope speaks “with heart, reflecting a Christlike humanity,” and that although academically he’s not a John Paul II or Benedict XVI, Francis “is not short on intellectual qualities.” But Donnelly said “only people who pray can grasp what the Pope talks about.”
The Rev. Richard Cipolla, a traditionalist priest from Fairfield, Conn., said he values greatly the Pope’s insistence that the mercy of God lies at the heart of the gospel message. But he wondered how it was possible for the Church to imitate Jesus in saying “go and sin no more” when society today has “abolished or relegated to a dark past” the very idea of sin.
“If the Church only preaches mercy without preaching the deadly nature of sin, then she is not true to the mission given to her by Christ,” he said.
Another priest, known to be from the orthodox wing of the Church but who preferred not to be identified, said Francis is a “wonderfully attractive figure in so many ways, and he’s effective.”
But like many, he said the Pope needs to realize that no matter what he says, the media will try to twist his words. “We have to give him time,” he said. “He’s still learning the ropes on how to deal with the media.”
Others are significantly more critical. The American theologian Michael Novak said the Pope’s use of words like “obsession” “hurts the faithful who have even risked their lives” to protect life. He said the “tone” of the interview is “likely to be harmful.”
“It puts many Christians on the defensive, just when they are attacked,” Novak told the Italian newspaper La Stampa. “At the same time, it encourages criticism against the Church by her declared adversaries.”
Roger McCaffrey, president of the publishing house Roman Catholic Books, believes “the Catholic left, and the entire political left, are beside themselves with glee” after the Pope’s interview.
“Now they have a Jesuit who is, to them, beginning to sound like the late Cardinal Martini of Milan,” he said, referring to the Italian Jesuit cardinal, renowned for his liberal leanings, who died last year.
“He appears to refer to two of the most evil developments in human history: the mass organized killing of the unborn, half a billion in number, and the juggernaut of political victories since Obama took office in 2008 that attempt to normalize and mainstream abnormal sexual behavior as ‘issues’ that can be over-stressed,” McCaffrey told Newsmax.
“What that means to the Catholic left is that their issues may now be stressed,” he continued. “What it means to the rest of the left is that the Church is in disarray, and that Rome does not have the bishops’ backs.'”
Those who would rather not criticize the Pope publicly have been similarly forthright in their criticisms of the interview in private. “We all knew he was a liberal, but I had no idea he was so partisan,” one prominent Catholic in Rome told Newsmax.
He believes that Francis is the “apotheosis of everything that was wrong about the Second Vatican Council.”
The council reforms of the 1960s tried to remove barriers between the Church and the secular world, but critics say the council’s teachings were hijacked by liberals, leading to a sharp decline in Church attendance and vocations in much of the West.
“What priests are telling me privately is that they are ‘very disturbed’ or ‘wish the Pope would stop talking,'” a source with close connections to three cardinals told Newsmax, adding that others are also perplexed.
They argue that even before the interview, abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage were hardly ever mentioned in homilies. “I have not talked to a single priest who is cheering the interview,” the source said. “They will never allow themselves to be quoted on the record, but they are out there, all over the U.S.
“To deny that this interview has wounded the flock is to dissemble,” he said. “I think the Holy Father should consider issuing clarifications.”
Vatican officials have been reluctant to comment on the interview, including American Cardinal Raymond Burke. Well known for his firm defense of life, Burke, who heads the Church’s highest court at the Vatican, said he is not giving interviews at this time.
Others speaking on background fear that if the pontificate continues for too long, the Church will suffer greatly with a further decline in vocations to the priesthood, both in quality and number.
Whether that happens or not, this interview has exposed some significant fault-lines in the Church — ones that Pope Francis will have to work hard to heal.
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times.
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BY EDWARD PENTIN 09/24/2013
VATICAN CITY — The past week has seen the first major movements of Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia, a process that is expected to begin in earnest in early October.
The Vatican announced a slew of appointments and confirmations Sept. 21 and Sept. 24, the most significant being the Pope’s confirmation of the prefects of two Vatican congregations.
Archbishop Gerhard Müller remains prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, while Cardinal Fernando Filoni stays as the “red pope” — prefect at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
Both reappointments are significant, demonstrating the Holy Father’s confidence in both cardinals, as well as continuity with Benedict XVI, who had originally appointed them. Francis also confirmed that the highest-ranking Chinese official in the Curia, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, will remain as secretary for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and Archbishop Protase Rugambwa will stay as adjunct secretary.
Archbishop Di Noia
Also significant was the return of Bronx-born Dominican Archbishop Augustine Di Noia to the main offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Pope Francis appointed the American archbishop as adjunct secretary to the congregation, creating the position especially for him. Archbishop Di Noia will vacate his current position as vice president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” to which Benedict XVI appointed him only last year.
The commission, also part of the CDF, has led efforts to bring the Society of St. Pius X back into communion with the Church, and Archbishop Di Noia’s departure is seen by some Vatican watchers as probably pointing to a definitive end to any immediate prospect of reconciliation with the traditionalist group.
The archbishop is a veteran Vatican official who served under Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger and William Levada as undersecretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2002 to 2009. Benedict XVI appointed him secretary for the Congregation for Divine Worship before moving him to “Ecclesia Dei.” Archbishop Di Noia told the Register Sept. 24 he is “very happy to be returning to the CDF.”
In a further unexpected move, given that Cardinal Mauro Piacenza is only 69 years of age, Pope Francis also announced Sept. 21 that the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy would be transferred to head the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican tribunal that deals with matters related to the sacrament of penance and spiritual direction.
Some say this points to a demotion, but it’s more likely that the cardinal has been given a less stressful role after undergoing heart surgery earlier this year. He replaces Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, who is stepping down at the mandatory retirement age of 75.
Replacing Cardinal Piacenza as prefect of the Congregation for Clergy is 72-year-old Archbishop Beniamino Stella, former head of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the institute of training for Vatican diplomats. Replacing Archbishop Stella is Bishop Giampiero Gloder, a ranking official of the Secretariat of State.
Pope Francis also appointed Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, up until now secretary of the Congregation for Bishops and secretary of the College of Cardinals, as secretary general of the Synod of Bishops. He replaces Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, who now becomes apostolic nuncio to Germany. The appointment is something of a surprise and is probably linked to Pope Francis’ wish for a more influential Synod of Bishops than in the past.
Continuity and Change
On Sept. 24, the Pope confirmed Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko and Bishop Josef Clemens, president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, respectively, until the end of their five-year terms in the autumn of 2014. The consultative members of the council are also confirmed, but only up until the end of this year.
Cardinal Peter Turkson and Bishop Mario Toso, president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, were similarly confirmed to the end of their five-year terms, as were the consultative members of the pontifical council. This means Cardinal Turkson, 64, and Bishop Toso have only a year left at the Justice and Peace dicastery and will probably be replaced in October 2014.
Pope Francis is clearly seeking both continuity and change in the Vatican with respect to the Curia of Benedict XVI. Notably, he is appointing mostly Italians or Europeans to the top jobs, despite calls to internationalize the Curia coming from some members of the Pope’s eight cardinal advisory committee on Curial reform.
Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, archbishop emeritus of Santiago de Chile, said in April that the tendency to appoint Europeans to such Curial positions “needs to be revised,” while Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, observed that “quite a few Italians work in the Curia” and that “different perspectives” would be “useful.”
“I think a few English-speaking perspectives won’t hurt,” he said.
The Pope is also filling the bulk of these positions with Vatican diplomats. After seven years of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a non-diplomat, heading the Secretariat of State, Francis clearly believes trained diplomats are best suited to handling administrative matters. Archbishop Pietro Parolin, a respected apostolic nuncio, whom the Pope named secretary of state at the end of August, Cardinal Filoni and Archbishops Baldisseri and Stella are all veteran diplomats.
Archbishops Müller and Di Noia, meanwhile, are both very much “Ratzingerians,” and Pope Francis clearly respects Archbishop Di Noia’s theological expertise, as well as the archbishop’s close relations with the Jewish people, one of Francis’ priorities as archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Pope’s Meeting With Cardinals
The latest Curial appointments come just days before Pope Francis meets with the group of eight cardinals from Oct. 1-3 to advise him on possible changes to the governing structures of the Church. Creation of the group was recommended during the general congregations before the conclave in March.
Along with Cardinals Errazuriz Ossa and Pell, the internationally representative group includes: Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston; Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo; Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich; and Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governatorate of the Vatican city state.
Italian media are describing this as a “hot autumn” of change in the Vatican, but Pope Francis is not expected to make tumultuous reforms in a few sudden moves.
In his interview with La Civiltà Cattolica, which took place at the end of August, he explained that many think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time, but he is wary of decisions made hastily.
“I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change,” he said. “And this is the time of discernment.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent
Pope Francis today gave his most spirited and explicit defense of the unborn and society’s most vulnerable since his election.
The Holy Father was addressing the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and Catholic gynaecologists, currently attending a conference in Rome.
Below is my translation of Pope Francis’ address, not the official English translation which is yet to be published in full:
“I apologize for the delay, because today … this is a morning too complicated for audiences … I apologize.
1 . The first point that I would like to share with you is this: we are witnessing today a paradoxical situation concerning the medical profession. On the one hand we see – and thank God – the progress of medicine, thanks to the work of scientists who, with passion and without counting the cost, are dedicated to finding new cures. But on the other hand, we also find the danger that the doctor might lose his identity as a servant of life. The cultural disorientation has also affected what looked like an unassailable area: yours – medicine! Although by their nature they are at the service of life, health professionals are sometimes induced to disregard life itself. Instead, as we recall in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate: “Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good. If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. The acceptance of life strengthens moral fibre and makes people capable of mutual help.” (n. 28 ). The paradoxical situation is seen in the fact that, while they attribute new rights to the human person, sometimes even presumed rights, there is not always protection of life as a primary value and basic right of every man. The ultimate objective of a doctor is always the defense and promotion of life.
2 . The second point: in this contradictory context, the Church appeals to conscience , the conscience of all health care professionals and volunteers, and in a particular way of you, gynaecologists, called to collaborate in the creation of new human lives. Yours is a unique vocation and mission, which requires study, conscience and humanity. At one time, women who helped in childbirth were called “comadre” [co-mothers], like one mother to the other, the real mother. You also are “comadri ” and ” compadri “, you too.
A widespread utilitarian mentality, the “culture of waste”, which now enslaves the hearts and minds of many, has a very high cost: it requires the elimination of human beings, especially if they are physically or socially weaker. Our response to this mentality is a categorical and unhesitant “yes” to life. “The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and some are more precious, but this one is fundamental – the condition of all the others.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Procured Abortion, November 18, 1974 , 11) . Things have a price and are sold, but people have a dignity, worth more than things and they don’t have a price. Many times we find ourselves in situations where we see that which costs less is life. Because of this, attention to human life in its totality has become a real priority of the Magisterium of the Church in recent years, particularly to the most defenseless, that is, the disabled, the sick, the unborn child, the child, the elderly who are life’s most defenseless.
Each one of us is invited to recognize in the fragile human being the face of the Lord, who, in his human flesh, experienced the indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest, either in the developing nations, or in the developed societies. Each child who is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world. And also each old person – I spoke of the child, let us also speak of the elderly, another point! – each old person, even if infirm or at the end of his days, bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the “culture of waste” proposes! They cannot be discarded!
3 . The third aspect is a mandate: be witnesses and speakers of this “culture of life” . Your being Catholic entails a greater responsibility: first of all to yourself, to be committed to being consistent with the Christian vocation; and then to contemporary culture, to contribute to recognising the transcendent dimension in human life, the imprint of the creative work of God, from the very first moment of conception. This is a commitment to the new evangelization that often requires going against the current, at a cost to the person. The Lord counts on you to spread the “Gospel of life.”
In this perspective, hospital gynaecology departments are privileged places of witness and evangelization, because wherever the Church is “the vehicle of the presence of the living God”, she becomes an “instrument of the true humanization of man and the world” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization , 9). Growing awareness that at the centre of medical care and assistance there is the human person in a condition of weakness leads the medical facility to becoming “a place in which the relationship of treatment is not a profession but a mission; where the charity of the Good Samaritan is the first seat of learning and the face of suffering man is Christ’s own Face”(Benedict XVI, Address at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome , May 3, 2012).
Dear medical friends, you are called to take care of human life in its initial phase, reminding everyone, with facts and words, that this is always, in all its phases and at any age, sacred and always of quality. And not as a matter of faith – no, no – but of reason and science! There is no human life more sacred than another, just as no human life is qualitatively more significant than another. The credibility of a health care system is measured not only in efficiency, but above all in the attention and love towards people, whose lives are always sacred and inviolable.
Do not ever neglect to pray to the Lord and the Virgin Mary for having the strength to do your job well and bear witness with courage – with courage! Today it takes courage – courageous witness of the “Gospel of life”! Many thanks.”
Obstetrician Dr. Robert Walley, the conference chief organiser, told me afterwards that Catholics working in his profession are subject to a “tyranny” that is “getting worse and worse” and having an effect on the numbers of practising Catholics entering the field.
“It begs the question,” he said: “Where are mothers going to go to get the treatment they want, which is dignified, which respects them and where they feel safe?”
The Holy Father has, to borrow a political term, “momentum”.
His impressive peace-making efforts concerning Syria have captured much of the world’s attention and rightfully earned him and the Holy See praise.
Last Saturday’s vigil, which united millions around the world, followed an extraordinary day of praying and fasting for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Pope Francis’ efforts, which included a detailed briefing for diplomats on how to bring peace to the country, even struck a chord with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But given the welcome attention the Pope has received over Syria, shouldn’t the Church also consider giving equal, if not more, weight to a place where conflict rages as never before, where an estimated 125,000 voiceless victims are killed each day, and where each of these lives is innocent and defenceless?
Shouldn’t the institution of marriage, vital to a stable, peaceful and harmonious society, be as strongly defended against increasing attempts to redefine it?
It could be argued that now presents an opportune time for Pope Francis, still widely popular, to make use of this momentum – to lead a similar mobilization on these key issues of our day.
If, as we believe, every life is sacred and created in the image and likeness of God, shouldn’t the Church be as vocal and active – even more so – in helping to bring peace to the womb and protecting marriage as she has been in fighting for peace in Syria?
Blessed Mother Teresa is well remembered for saying abortion is the “greatest threat to peace in the world”.
“If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child,” she once said, “how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”.
In his World Day of Peace Message this year, Benedict XVI warned that tampering with marriage “constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.”
Some may consider it a risky strategy to address these neuralgic issues with such force, but it could also be argued that fewer issues, though more subtle than the Syria conflict, currently present such grave threats to human life and to world peace and security.
Why should the Church be any less forthright on marriage and the unborn than on the conflict in Syria just because, as an issue, it’s more socially acceptable and politically correct?
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has pulled yet another surprise by taking the unprecedented step of writing a long letter to the founder of an Italian daily newspaper, explaining the faith to non-believers.
The 2,500-word missive, written in response to July 7 and Aug. 7 editorials by Eugenio Scalfari, the atheist founder of the socialist-leaning La Repubblica newspaper, principally addresses themes covering the faith, the Church and today’s increasingly secularist culture.
Scalfari was prompted to write his articles partly to show his admiration for the Holy Father, but also in response to Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), that was published in July. After lauding the Popes’ qualities and his love for the poor, Scalfari posed three questions at the end of his Aug. 7 editorial, none of which Scalfari expected to be answered.
The first was whether God’s mercy extends to non-believers; the second, whether it is sinful to doubt the existence of absolute truth; and the third, whether belief in God is merely a product of human thought.
In his letter of reply, published in today’s edition of the newspaper, Francis begins by saying “it is nothing other than positive, not only for us individually but also for the society in which we live, to pause to dialogue about a reality that is as important as faith, which refers to preaching and the figure of Jesus.”
He points to two circumstances that make such dialogue “proper and precious”. The first, he says, stems from a paradox: that the Christian faith, once seen as symbol of light, has been branded as the “darkness of superstition” and “opposed to the light of reason” in today’s modern culture, formed by the Enlightenment.
Noting the lack of communication between the Church and modern culture, Pope Francis said “the time has come” and that the Second Vatican Council “inaugurated” such an exchange, for “an open dialogue without preconceptions that reopens the doors to a serious and fruitful meeting.”
The Security of Faith
The second circumstance, he continues, is to stress that dialogue is “profound and indispensable” and not a “secondary accessory” expression of the believer. He quotes Lumen Fidei and a passage (no. 34) on how truth leads to humility: “Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all.”
He explains how faith for him was born from a personal encounter with Jesus, but also points out how that encounter was made possible through the Church via “the community of faith… the intelligence of Sacred Scripture, to new life that, as gushing water, flows from Jesus through the Sacraments, to fraternity with everyone and at the service of the poor, true image of the Lord.”
“Without the Church, I believe, I would not have encountered Jesus, while being aware that the immense gift that is faith is preserved in the fragile clay vessels of our humanity,” he says.
The Holy Father adds that it is “due to this personal experience of faith lived within the Church that I am at ease in listening to your questions and in seeking, together with you, the paths along which we may perhaps begin to walk some of the way together.”
Referring to the first of Scalfari’s articles, the Pope explains the essence of the Christian faith: the incarnation, the cross, and Christ’s love for every man whom He recognizes has having “inestimable value.”
Each of us, therefore, is called to “choose the love of Jesus, to enter his way of being, thinking and acting,” the Pope explains in his letter. “This is the faith, with all the expressions that are unfailingly described in the encyclical.”
‘Communication, Not Exclusion’
The Pope makes the case that the originality of the Christian faith lies in the fact that it allows each believer to participate in the relationship that Jesus has with God who is “Abba” (“Daddy”) — a relationship that extends to all other men, including enemies, as a sign of love.
The sonship of Jesus, he says, is not an “insurmountable separation” between Jesus and everyone else, but tells us that “in him, all are called to be children of the Father and brothers to each other.” The particularity of Jesus, he says, is for “communication, not exclusion.”
He explains to Scalfari that the Church is called to sow the leaven and salt of the Gospel in the world — that is, the love and mercy of God — pointing to the afterlife and to our own destiny. For those who live the Christian faith, he adds, “that does not mean fleeing the world” or seeking some kind of “hegemony,” but rather “service to mankind,” keeping a sense of hope alive, prompting good works in spite of everything, and always looking to what lies beyond.
He then touches on the Jewish faith, stressing that God’s faithfulness to his covenant with Israel has never failed, and that throughout the “terrible trials” of past centuries, “the Jews have preserved their faith in God.” For this, the Pope says, “we as a Church, but also as humanity, will never be sufficiently grateful to them.”
Their perseverance in faith, he continues, “reminds everyone, including Christians, of the fact that we are always waiting, like pilgrims, for the Lord’s return, and that therefore we must always be open to Him and never take refuge in what we have already attained.”
Answering Scalfari’s Questions
Turning to the first question raised by Scalfari, about whether God’s mercy extends to non-believers, Francis answers: “Considering — and this is the fundamental issue — that the mercy of God knows no limits if we turn to him with a sincere and penitent heart, the real question for those who do not believe in God lies in listening to one’s own conscience.”
He explains: “Sin, also in those who are without faith, exists when it goes against our conscience. Listening to and obeying one’s conscience means, indeed, to make decisions in relation to what is perceived as good and bad. And on this decision rests the goodness or evil of our actions.”
Addressing the second question, on whether it is wrong or a sin to believe that no “absolute truth” exists, the Pope writes: “The truth, according to Christian faith, is God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. So, the truth is a relationship! Each one of us receives the truth and expresses it in his or her own way, from the history, culture, and situation in which he or she lives.”
“This doesn’t mean that truth is variable or subjective, quite the opposite,” the Pope insists. “But is means that it is given to us always and only as a way and a life. Did not Jesus himself say: ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life’? In other words, truth being altogether one with love, requires humility and openness to be sought, received and expressed.”
In response to the final question, on whether belief in God is merely a product of human thought, he says that the greatness of man “rests in his capacity to think of God,” and that this means “being able to experience a knowing and responsible relationship with him.”
“But the relationship is between two realities,” he says. “God does not depend on our thought. Besides, when man’s life on earth ends — for the Christian faith, in any case, this world as we know it is destined to fall — man will not cease to exist, and, in a way that we do not know, nor will the universe that was created with him.”
Francis concludes by emphasizing that the Church, despite “the languidness, the infidelity, the mistakes and the sins that may have been committed by those who belong to her, has no other meaning or aim other than living and bearing witness to Jesus.”
Complementing Benedict’s Initiative
Pope Francis’ efforts to reach out to non-believers complement those of the Pope Emeritus. During his pontificate, Benedict XVI founded the “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” a structure for permanent dialogue between believers and non-believers created by the Pontifical Council for Culture. The initiative has organized several events in European capitals since it began in 2010.
Benedict XVI also shared his thoughts with a secular newspaper when he penned an op-ed for the Financial Times shortly before Christmas last year.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent and a contributor to EWTN News Nightly.
Pope Francis is leading widespread global opposition to Western military action in Syria, proposing a six-point plan in preparation for peace in the country as well as calling for a worldwide day of prayer and fasting. The pontiff’s popularity and proactive approach, which stands in contrast to his predecessor whose influence in foreign affairs was hobbled by personnel problems in the Vatican, is making it harder for the Obama administration and other pro-intervention governments to win the support of their electorates.
The Pope’s efforts, described as the Vatican’s largest peace initiative in 30 years, have been largely driven by Syria’s bishops, whose flocks were protected by the regime of Bashar al-Assad and now fear the threat of rising Islamist persecution. At least two Catholic priests and two Orthodox bishops are being held captive by rebel forces in Syria, and it is feared that an escalation of the conflict will place their lives in further danger.
The document proposes establishment of a ministry dedicated to minorities, insists on the concept of “citizenship with equal dignity,” and emphasizes the importance of respecting human rights and religious freedom. It also stresses that members of the opposition must “distance themselves from extremist groups, isolate them and reject terrorism openly and clearly.”
The last of the six points underlines the importance of ensuring “all necessary cooperation and assistance for the immense task of reconstruction in the country.”
“Absolute priority must be given to ending the violence,” the Holy See says, adding that the “joint effort of the international community is essential.” Furthermore, it stresses the importance of respecting humanitarian law and argues that one “cannot remain passive” in the face of continuing violations of it. “The use of chemical weapons must be stopped and condemned with particular determination,” it says.
The document is particularly strong on humanitarian assistance, saying the situation is “extremely grave” and that it is foreseeable by the end of the year that half of Syria’s population will need assistance. To allow aid to reach all parts of the country, the Vatican plan calls for a ceasefire, even a partial one, and guaranteed safety for aid workers.
Recalling that the Roman Catholic Church is “at the forefront in providing humanitarian aid,” the Holy See also appeals for “solidarity and cooperation” on the part of all governments in the region and nongovernmental organizations.
The document ends by stressing the urgency of the cessation of violence, avoiding a possible “sectarian degeneration” of the conflict. It reiterates the need for dialogue and negotiation and underlines that the focus must be “on the good of the people, not the seeking of positions of power or other unilateral aims.”
On Sept. 7, Muslims and Christians around the world heeded Pope Francis’ call for a day of prayer and fasting which culminated in a peace vigil in Rome.
Francis told the large crowd in St. Peter’s Square that war was “always a defeat for humanity,” that it is caused by “idols, by selfishness, by our own interests,” and that only the cross of Christ will bring “reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue.”
Countless churches across the world took part in the day of prayer, leading the Vatican’s spokesman to describe it as the Roman Catholic Church’s largest peace campaign in at least 30 years.
Diplomats in Rome have been surprised and impressed by the Holy See’s determination in promoting the church’s concerns about the escalating conflict in Syria. Those who attended last week’s briefing of diplomats were also surprised by the detail of the “non paper,” which they saw as an effort by the Holy See to restart the Geneva II negotiations. Those talks, aimed at ending the Syrian conflict and organizing a transition period and post-war reconstruction, stalled earlier this year as the United States was unable to persuade the Syrian opposition to take part.
“The briefing showed us that the Vatican means business; it’s not just rhetoric or platitudes,” one ambassador said. Many noted the high level representation of diplomats attending – 71 countries in all – and see it as a testament to the Holy See’s increasing influence on the world stage under Pope Francis. One diplomat told LIGNET that the Argentine pontiff has such a popular following worldwide that governments in favor of military strikes on Syria “will probably find it very hard to face their electorates if it goes ahead.”
Despite being the world’s smallest state, the Holy See has the world’s oldest diplomatic service and permanent observer status at the United Nations. And as the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, the Pope continues to be an internationally respected figure on moral issues.
Under Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican’s relevance on the international stage declined as the former pontiff was forced to focus on internal troubles. He also may have been ill-served in global diplomacy by his deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was a canon law expert and not a Vatican diplomat – unusual for that position.
Francis’ forceful stance on Syria is said to mark an end to that impasse.
Although it is not rare for a Pope to call for world peace, Pope Francis’ determination to avert an escalation of the conflict in Syria and bring about a lasting peace is being heralded as a new era for the Holy See on the world stage, one in which the church’s contributions on moral and ethical issues are more widely heeded. It marks a return to the kind of global presence Pope John Paul II showed, and which sometimes proved effective, most notably with regard to Soviet communism.
Although doubts remain about the effectiveness on policy of papal pleas for peace, on this conflict, where global public opinion is mostly opposed to a Western military strike, the Pope’s pronouncements and actions are resonating with many, and governments are beginning to take notice. One can expect the Pope to keep up the pressure until the situation improves.
Read more: http://www.lignet.com/ArticleAnalysis/LIGNET-Exclusive-Popes-Peace-Push-May-Scuttle-Syri#ixzz2ecwSuHUn
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11 September 2013
In an exclusive interview with LIGNET, a former head of Britain’s armed forces has voiced his strong opposition to a military strike on Syria, saying a war on the country would be a “mistake” as its consequences would be “particularly uncertain” and could make the situation “much, much worse.”
Field Marshall Charles Guthrie, Baron Guthrie of Craigiebank, also believes hostilities favoured by the Obama administration in reaction to an alleged chemical weapons attack last month would not fulfil the criteria of a just war.
Charles Guthrie served as head of Britain’s armed forces from 1997-2001 under Prime Minister Tony Blair. From 2000 until 2009 he was head of the SAS, Britain’s special forces. He commanded the British Army from 1994 to 1997 and advised the British government during the Bosnian and Kosovo wars.
Speaking to LIGNET Sept. 6th, Guthrie said: “I do not think we should carry out a military strike or anything like that – that’s mainly where I’m coming from.”
He said it would be “a mistake to go to war” because there are “a lot of reasons not to do it.”
“What effect will it have on the region? What effect will it actually have on the people on the ground?,” he asked. “And what we have to remember is that, quite honestly, every war has unforeseen consequences.”
He said this conflict is “particularly uncertain” because “we’re not quite sure of what the opposition is really like,” and he was wary of any military action in the Middle East in general. “There are other countries who are very fragile at the moment – I’m thinking of Lebanon and Jordan – so it could spread quite easily.”
Asked what he thought might be the most likely consequences would be, he said: “It’s difficult to say, but are we seriously going to say that if the bombs don’t work, we’re going to bomb and bomb and bomb, day after day, week after week? Is that a good policy?”
Over the course of his career, Lord Guthrie served in Malaysia, the Persian Gulf, the Balkans, East and West Africa and Northern Ireland. Last year, Queen Elizabeth II raised him to the rank of Field Marshal.
An expert in the ethics of war, in 2007 Guthrie co-authored with Sir Michael Quinlan, a former top official in Britain’s Ministry of Defense, a best-selling book called “Just War – The Just War Tradition: Ethics in Modern Warfare.”
He is particularly concerned that this operation would fail to measure up to the criteria for a just war. Without UN Security Council backing (never likely in this case), he said it would lack legitimate authority. He was also not fully convinced such a war would be a sufficient and proportionate response.
“I think probably there’s a just cause, but it’s awfully difficult to tell,” Guthrie said. “You can never tell whether a war will go smoothly and easily. And when you’ve embarked on a war, there are unforeseen consequences and you’re never quite sure when it’s going to end.” He is also convinced that bombing a country “makes people war resolute.”
Moreover, he’s wary that bombs can hit the wrong targets. “They can hit civilians, there can be collateral damage, and what seems a frightfully good idea can be used against you,” he said.
Some just war theorists argue that punishment is a legitimate criteria, but Guthrie doesn’t share this view. “You’ve got to make the situation better and you could be making it much, much worse,” he said. The Field Marshal is also sceptical that a bombing campaign will be effective as a deterrence against further chemical weapons attacks in Syria. It could work, he said, “but at what price?”
He stressed it’s important to say that chemical weapons are a “horrible thing” and that people are “very emotional about it.”
“People recall even now, a long, long time after the First World War, that chemical warfare has been used recently by Iraq on the Kurds and on the Iranians,” he said. “But though it’s a particularly nasty and revolting way to kill people, there are a lot of other ways to kill people, too.”
A Catholic, Lord Guthrie is supportive of calls from Pope Francis and others for talks and a political settlement. “That’s absolutely right, but the difficult is getting people to want to talk,” he said. “The best way is for people to get round a table and hammer it out. It’s all very well for the Holy See to say that, but you’ve got to have two sides who earnestly want to have a solution, and whether you’ve got that I don’t know,” he said.
“Eventually they will come to the table I suspect, but they’re not ready to come yet and the Russians aren’t being particularly helpful.” Russia and Iran have been accused of arming President Bashar al-Assad. Other nations such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar have been bankrolling Islamist rebel forces fighting the Assad regime, making this conflict “very, very complicated” and “completely different to Iraq,” he said.
“We need to say a lot of prayers,” Guthrie said.
Guthrie’s opposition to a military strike is similar to other very senior military figures such as Lord Dannatt, another former head of the British Army, who recently said he did not currently support military action in Syria “in any shape or form”.
This article appeared in LIGNET, 9 September 2013