Cardinal Baldisseri: ‘The Church Is Not an Abstraction’


Alan Holdren/Catholic News AgencyCardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the October Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on Marriage and the Family, caused controversy recently when he said in an interview that he wanted to bring Pope St. John Paul II’s teaching on marriage, contained in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) up to date.

Some misinterpreted his comments to mean he was suggesting a change to Church teaching. Noting that the document is more than 30 years old, he said: “The Church is not timeless; it lives amid the vicissitudes of history, and the Gospel must be known and experienced by people today.” The interview appeared in the Belgian Christian weekly Tertio.

In this May 20 email interview with the Register, the Italian cardinal explains what he meant by his comments, addresses concerns that the synod may appear to intend to change the Church’s teaching on Communion for civily divorced-and-remarried Catholics and is asked why John Paul II’s teachings on marriage and family have been noticeably absent in some key debates by synod leaders.


You said that the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family needs to be “updated.” What did you mean by this?

In the sense that St. John XXIII intended [the word “updated”] for the Second Vatican Council. This means that the theme of the family, after over 30 years, since the document Familiaris Consortio, must be looked at in a global sense, considering the often uncommon anthropological and social situations today.

The Church is not an abstraction; it is a human and divine reality that moves through history. The Church’s mission is to proclaim Jesus Christ, who is a Person, the Son of God made man. The message is addressed to real people and is transmitted through the word and testimony of people who have believed in him and who, in virtue of different roles and charisms, become missionaries in the world.


Some are concerned that the synod will make it seem as if the Church’s teaching has changed, when that is not the case. Is this concern justified, in your opinion?

The Church’s teaching is contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which everyone can read. The Church’s magisterium exists, which ensures the integrity and authenticity of the faith. There is also theological research and that of other ecclesiastical disciplines that help to deepen the knowledge of the truths of faith, confessed by the faithful and guaranteed by the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

The magisterium has the task of certifying fidelity to the “deposit of faith,” entrusted to the pope and to the bishops. So the next synod moves along this line of doctrinal certainty towards pastoral care suited to the times.


What will be your exact role in the synod, and how much influence will you have on its apostolic exhortation?

The document that will be released by the synod will be the result of the study and reflection of the synod fathers on the themes established by the instrumentum laboris [working document]. The secretary general has the task of monitoring the progress of the event. In the presence of the Holy Father will be the president delegates who, in turn, will direct the sessions and congregations and a relator general with a special secretary, who is in charge of collating the issues and helping with the drafting of the document, which must have the consensus of the members of the assembly and which will then be consigned to the hands of the Holy Father, who will use it as he deems appropriate.


Bishop Nunzio Galantino, the general secretary of the Italian bishops’ conference, recently said the synod should discuss issues related to abortion, homosexuality, etc., without any taboo. Do you agree with this?

In this regard, I would like to say that the topics that will be discussed in the assembly of the synod of next October are those indicated in the questionnaire. The theme of life and, therefore, also of abortion, euthanasia and others, as well as issues that affect the family in its social, economic and political aspects, shall be handled in the second stage. And this will be done with all freedom and clarity.


Some people have noted a reluctance among some of those closely connected with the synod to apply the teachings of St. John Paul II on the family. Why is this, in your opinion?

The teaching of the Church has the secular dynamic of a journey, as on the road to Emmaus. Jesus stands at the side of the disciples, accompanies them and nourishes them with sacred Scripture and the Eucharistic bread as they go along.

Each person, in various stages of life, roles and charisms, brings his contribution, and if we accept this perspective, which is often emphasized by Pope Francis, there is room for everyone to join in and work in the pursuit of truth and the practice of love.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Author Discusses ‘The Vatican According to Francis’


VATICAN CITY — What impact is a Latin-American pope having on a Roman Curia heavily influenced by Italians? Massimo Franco, a senior correspondent with Italy’s daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, shares his perspective in a new book called Il Vatican Secondo Francesco (The Vatican According to Francis).

Drawing on a number of high-level sources within the Vatican and Buenos Aires, Franco aims to show how Pope Francis’ vision of Catholicism is having a positive impact in the heart of the Vatican.

In an interview with the Register, the Italian author explains why he believes Francis has come to save the Roman Curia from “moral default” after recent scandals, how his attempts at Curial reform are faring and why he believes the Pope is more orthodox than many imagine.


Why did you decide to write this book?

My first motive was to give an analysis of the geopolitical change that occurred with the election of a Latin-American pope, because there has been a shift from Europe and Italy to Latin America. That means we have a sort of “colonization of the Vatican” by the Latin-American Church, which has been traditionally a land of mission for Europe and Italy.

Well, now, Europe is the missionary land — there has been a reversal. We now have a Latin American going to re-evangelize Europe and Italy, and his election is very telling about the shift of power from Europe and Rome and the Americas.


You also say in the book that the surprise isn’t that he’s the first Jesuit, or even the first Latin-American pope, but that he is a stranger to the mentality of the Roman Curia. Can you tell us what you mean by that?

I mean that the real novelty is not just that Francis is a Latin American, but he’s a complete outsider. One cannot explain his election without the resignation of Benedict XVI. That resignation signaled that all the positions were at ground zero in the Vatican, so at that point, even a Jesuit could become pope; even a Latin American could become pope. To put it in different terms, we see that the International Monetary Fund tends to save countries that are in financial disarray. In this case, we had a conclave that acted as a sort of international religious or Catholic fund called to save the Vatican from a “moral default.”


You said in your last book, three or four years ago, that you felt the Vatican was “imploding.”

Exactly, the problem is Rome.


Is Francis’ election putting a stop to that?

That was the intention of the cardinals. The conclave was a major defeat of European and Italian Catholicism, and what was quite clear in that conclave was they wanted a brand-new pope with a brand-new-mentality and new paradigms. I think the Pope is trying very hard to obtain results. I think he has gotten the Church on the international stage, but in the governance of the Vatican, the challenge is still there. He has not yet won.


You talk about a South-American model for that. What do you mean by this?

I mean a model in which popular religion is more important than rituals, power or relations with powerful people. It’s an approach that underlines a choice for the poorest and a more available kind of Catholic Church. This is the first major change.

The second is that it is a Church close to the people and with a majority [of the local population], while the European model is that of a Church surrounded by secularism, which is the minority and which tried to recover from a position of self-defense, while this pope is attacking [that secular mindset]. He’s not defending the Church [in a defensive way], because he knows he has behind him hundreds of millions of Catholics. Latin America has roughly half the total of Catholics of the world, so they feel much stronger.

And what is brand new is that Latin America, for the last five years, has reached a sort of unity among all the cardinals and bishops, which it hadn’t had before; so it is a very powerful force, which is joined by Northern and Central Americans and eventually by a part of the European episcopate and Asian and African episcopates.


As an Italian yourself, do you see him as attacking what is primarily an Italian way of doing things in the Curia, or is the Curia a separate culture altogether?

Yes, I think that what was quite clear during the conclave was that most foreign cardinals didn’t want an Italian pope. So this was de facto an anti-Italian conclave. Not by chance, some American cardinals defined some Italian cardinals as the poison-and-dagger lobby, which means that a very bad impression of the way Italians acted had pervaded the other episcopates.

Now, we’re seeing that this pope is choosing his advisers, his closest collaborators, maybe among the Italians, but not among Italians who were particularly powerful in the past. So they are all, in a way, outsiders. This is very telling and speaks volumes about the approach of this pope. And this is, of course, an opportunity and a risk, as well, because this pope doesn’t know very well the mechanisms of the Curia and how papal Rome works.


Some have said there’s resistance in the Curia. Do you know how the Curia generally sees him and whether that resistance is something he’ll not be able to overcome?

Yes, I think there are very strong and rooted resistances. I think there are many people in the Curia who think they must just wait and see what’s going to happen, and they hope this season will be over very soon. So they’re waiting and waiting for the Pope to commit some mistake, but so far, we have seen the Pope is winning.

Although some signals given in Rome — for a solution to the IOR, the Vatican Bank, for instance — have been quite contradictory. Because at the beginning, we understood that the Pope was going to close or reform radically the IOR. Now, we see the solution is much more a compromise.


What is your view of the Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family and the Pope’s wish for open debate?

My impression is that this pope wants to follow processes but doesn’t want to impose an ideology and the truth [in a demanding way]. So his approach to problems is to make them emerge, to have a debate. But, from the point of view of doctrinal decisions, he hasn’t said that much so far. My impression is that, in the past months, he was depicted as a progressive pope, but my feeling is that, eventually, we’ll see that he’s more conservative than we think.


Observers say the synod is a litmus test for the Pope, helping us to better know his position on various issues. Do you agree with this?

Yes, it should be a key point, but we have already seen that the Pope has a very open but also orthodox approach; for instance, when he met French President Francois Hollande and U.S. President Barack Obama. Because, beyond the cordiality and friendliness of the approach, the Vatican let people know publicly there had been points of division; so it means the Pope utilized those two occasions to point out very clearly that he’s a pope: He’s not a “progressive pope.”

So, from the point of view of doctrine, there is a different stress, a different emphasis, but no substantive change of positions. He wants a debate, but a different approach, because he’s very inclusive. He doesn’t want to exclude anybody; he knows the Church comes from a position of very deep difficulties, and he doesn’t want to stress them anymore. He wants to recover and rescue the faithful and to show that the Church is open to the world.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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‘It Takes Two to Tango’


As academics and lawyers urge Beijing to respect religious freedoms after recent church demolitions and detentions, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun has spoken of the damage the current regime has inflicted on Christians.

In a recent interview with the Register, the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong criticized the corruption and restrictions on religious liberty in China, but said he has “full confidence” in Pope Francis to give clear direction for the Church in the country.

Cardinal Zen spoke April 29 on the link between economic and religious freedom at an Acton Institute conference in Rome. In his talk, he stressed that the Holy See is handling the situation better than in the early 2000s, when the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples was ridden with “inertia,” leading to the ruling Communist Party “taking advantage and strengthening its positions.”


What are your hopes for Chinese Christians under the leadership of Pope Francis?

I have full confidence in Pope Francis, because he is full of love, and he’s also very wise and can be decisive when he wants to and sees it as necessary. That’s what we need at this moment, because it’s very difficult to face the Chinese authorities. We don’t see any sign of a sincere will to set things right. They say Pope Francis likes to tango, but you can’t tango alone — so it’s up to the Chinese government. So far, we don’t see any sign.


Are you happy with the Vatican’s approach, particularly that of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples (Propaganda Fide), of which you’ve been critical in the past?

I have said many things about Propaganda Fide in previous years, but, nowadays, we have new personnel, and, at the end of his pontificate, Pope Benedict gave very clear direction. I’m sure Pope Francis is going to continue in that direction, so let’s have some hope. But, surely, the damage that has been done is terrible.


Can it be repaired, be put right?

Yes, everything can be put right, but it takes time.


This conference has been about how economic freedom can bring religious freedom. Do you see the economic advances in China eventually bringing about religious freedom?

You cannot deny that the economic freedom [that China has had] has brought some good fruit, but I tend to see the negative aspects, because it’s the worst kind of capitalism: a capitalism without rules, without fair competition.

So I’m afraid there are many more bad effects than good effects, especially concerning education of the people, because they [overall] have become really materialistic and selfish, looking for easy money [and] have no moral standards. They [often] cheat on everyone, and so, everything is fake: fake medicines; fake buildings, which collapse at the first sign of an earthquake. All that is frightening, because it’s not the deception of something material, but the deception of the capital of a people. Chinese people used to be honest and hardworking, but that’s no more [in many cases].


The world has recently remembered the great example of St. John Paul II and his role in history in bringing down Soviet communism. What can we learn from him today in the context of China?

Pope Benedict said something wonderful: He said John Paul II had conquered communism by preaching, “Who is a human being?” So, actually, he challenged communists with the question: “Who is man?” It’s that type of question that’s important: Who is a human being? Then you have a real solution. We have to follow that way.

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Pope Francis Reflects on His Holy Land Voyage


CNA/Lauren CaterVATICAN CITY — In another frank and revealing papal plane press conference, Pope Francis compared the crime of clerical sex abuse of minors to a black mass, said he doesn’t see the upcoming Extraordinary Synod of Marriage and the Family as simply about Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics and said Pope Pius XII cannot yet be beatified because a valid miracle hasn’t yet been reported.

During the wide-ranging hour-long press conference on the papal plane back from the Holy Land, the Holy Father also revealed he is to make a two-day trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January next year, according to Vatican Insider.

The English translation of the press conference from Vatican Information Service (VIS) can be found here.

Beginning with a question on the subject of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy, the Pope revealed that he is to meet victims at the Vatican on June 6-7 and celebrate a Mass for them in St. Martha’s guesthouse.

He also disclosed that, “at the moment, there are three bishops under investigation” and that “one has already been convicted, and the punishment needs to be decided.”

“There will be no preferential treatment when it comes to child abuse,” the Pope said, adding that, in Argentina, they call those who receive preferential treatment spoiled children. “There will be no ‘spoiled children’ in this case,” he said.

The Pope said “a zero-tolerance approach needs to be adopted with regard to this issue.” When a priest commits abuse, he “betrays the Lord’s body,” he said. A priest “must guide children towards sainthood, and the child trusts him. But, instead, when he abuses him or her, this is very serious. It’s like celebrating a black mass. Instead of steering him or her towards sainthood, you create a problem that will stay with him or her for all of his or her life.”


October Synod

Questioned about the Church’s approach to Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics, the Pope said the upcoming Synod of Bishops on Marriage and the Family will deal with more than just this issue, as the subject of the family is vast.

“What I didn’t like was what some people, within the Church as well, said about the purpose of the synod: that it intends to allow remarried divorcees to take Communion, as if the entire issue boiled down to a case,” he said.

He revealed that choosing the subject of the synod was a “powerful spiritual experience,” as the discussion “turned slowly towards the family.” He said he was “sure the Spirit of the Lord guided us to this point.”

The Pope told reporters the “door is always open” to ending mandatory priestly celibacy, as it is not a dogma of the faith, but he appreciates it a “great deal” and believes it is “a gift for the Church.”

Asked about future trips, the Pope revealed that, as well as his visit to South Korea in August, he will make a two-day trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines next January, to the area affected by Super-Typhoon Haiyan.

Acknowledging that religious freedom is lacking not only in Asia, but further afield, he said “we need to approach certain places carefully, to go and help them, pray a lot for these Churches that are suffering … but it’s not an easy task.” He said he felt there were “more martyrs now than the early Church had seen.”


Pope Pius XII and the Papacy

On Pope Pius XII’s beatification cause, the Pope said no miracle has been found yet, so the process “has stalled. I can’t think of whether I will beatify him or not,” he said.

Turning to recent European Parliament elections, the Pope said he did not know much about the subject and was, in any case, preoccupied with the Holy Land visit. But he regretted low birth rates in Europe, citing Italy and Spain in particular. He spoke of how the young and the old are “discarded” and decried high unemployment rates on the continent. “It is an inhumane economic system,” he said, which is “centered on money, not the human person.”

Asked if he would ever consider resigning as pope, he said he would “do what the Lord tells me to do” and “pray and try to follow God’s will.” Benedict XVI opened the door to the possibility, he said, but “whether there will be others, only God knows.”

“I believe that if a bishop of Rome feels he is losing his strength, he must ask himself the same questions Pope Benedict XVI did,” Francis said.


Financial Issues and Curial Reform

On allegations of financial misconduct at the Vatican, the Pope said an investigation into possible embezzlement of 15 million euros from the IOR (Institute for the Works of Religion, informally known as the Vatican Bank) “is still being looked into.” According to Vatican Information Service, the Pope said, “The Secretariat for the Economy will help prevent scandals and problems. For instance, in the IOR I think that around 1,600 accounts have been closed, belonging to people who were not entitled to hold an account at the IOR. The IOR exists to help the Church, and accounts can be held by bishops, Vatican employees, and their widows or widowers, to draw their pensions. … But other private individuals are not entitled to accounts. It is not open to all.”

Regarding reform of the Vatican and Roman Curia as a whole, the Pope said: “The path of persuasion is very important. There are some people who don’t understand. But I am happy; we have worked hard.”

Responding to a question about Catholic-Orthodox relations, Francis said the different date of Easter in the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is a “bit ridiculous,” and he discussed resolving that with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in Jerusalem. He stressed that unity “comes along a path” and is a journey; it could never be created “at a theological congress.”


Spontaneous Invitation

Reflecting on his trip to the Holy Land, the Pope said his invitation to the Palestinian and Israeli presidents, Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres, to pray at the Vatican was spontaneous. They had wanted to have it during the visit, but, logistically, that wasn’t possible. “The purpose of the meeting will be to pray, not meditate,” he said.

On the future of Jerusalem, the Pope said issues must be resolved “in a spirit of fraternity and mutual trust, following the path of negotiation.” He said courage is needed, and he prayed that “these two presidents have the courage to go on.”

Jerusalem, he said, “should be the city of peace of the three religions.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Pope Faces Serious Health Concerns as Holy Land Trip Begins

Image: Pope Faces Serious Health Concerns as Holy Land Trip Begins

Newsmax cover story 22 May 2014

As Pope Francis begins a trip to the Holy Land on Saturday with a rigorous schedule that could be challenging even for the healthiest person, Vatican insiders are raising questions about the pontiff’s health.

Some in the Holy See are beginning to openly discuss concerns about Francis’ condition and asking if the Holy Father is overtaxing himself.

Less than two years into his papacy, the 77-year-old Pope has been on a remarkable whirlwind of activity that a man half his age might find difficult to keep up with.

But close observers are noting that the Pope’s physical body may be failing to keep up with his youthful energy and vigor, especially considering he only has one fully functioning lung.

Although planned months ago, the Pope last week put off a visit slated for May 18 to the Marian shrine of Divino Amore in the suburbs of Rome. The reason given was to “lighten the commitments” of the Pope ahead of his Holy Land visit, but further cancellations followed that weekend owing to a cold.

These are not the only times appointments have been delayed or canceled in recent months.

On Feb. 28, Francis called off a visit to Rome’s Major Seminary due to a “light fever.”

And before that, in early December, he felt compelled to cancel, at the last minute, a meeting at the Vatican with Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, who came with a delegation from Expo 2015. The Vatican said the Holy Father had “expressed fatigue” after a general audience in St. Peter’s Square in which he had greeted the faithful for nearly three hours.

Indian Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi, told the Italian daily Libero that he concelebrated Mass with the Pope for a few days last summer and found him “very tired and fatigued.”

He added: “I honestly do not know how long he might be able to sustain this pace that he’s certainly not accustomed to.”

Last September, the Argentine magazine Noticias reported that the Pope’s personal physician in Argentina had said he was “concerned” about his patient’s health.

“I have the impression that something is wrong,” explained Liu Ming, a Chinese Taoist doctor who claims to have helped cure the future Pope from heart and liver problems through acupuncture and other Oriental treatments.

But Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi is playing down any fears. The visit to Divino Amore would be “very challenging” given Francis’ usual wish to meet so many people and groups. “I think he thought: ‘Well, we can do all that another time,’ and that shouldn’t be considered a cause for concern,” he said.

Some close to the Pope have said they notice he has difficulty breathing, and during the 14 months of his papacy has gained a significant amount of weight, perhaps as much as 20 pounds.

“It’s a very serious condition,” Dr. Peter Hibberd told Newsmax in discussing the Pope’s single lung.

“If you are 20 years old and have one lung, you wouldn’t notice it because all humans have a large reserve capacity in their lungs,” said Hibberd, a 30-year hospital and emergency medicine specialist who writes for

Hibberd noted that as they age, people “lose lung function,” which in turn makes the extra or “reserve” capacity of the lung more critical in keeping the blood well oxygenated while allowing the body to exchange gases.

“His repeated fatigue reports and weight gain suggest he may be slipping into a form of chronic heart failure common among victims of significant lung disorders such as COPD,” Hibberd suggested.

“His immunity will be challenged when under stress, and more frequent pauses to recover from otherwise small insults — such as colds, sore throats, and minor injuries — can be expected to increase in the future unless he paces himself,” Hibberd said. He noted that patients with chronic lung conditions require an inhaler and nighttime oxygen to breath comfortably.

The Pope’s weekend trip to the Middle East will be grueling. Francis will give 15 discourses in Amman, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem during the 48-hour trip, from Saturday to Monday.

His visit follows the intensity of the last few weeks that have included leading the church’s Easter celebrations and presiding over the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.

The Pope’s visit to the Holy Land is notable for being unusually short, especially given the obvious significance of the destination.

Lombardi said the Pope had received many requests to visit other areas such as Galilee, “but one cannot do everything.”

In any case, he said, it has to be seen in the context of Pope Paul VI’s historic trip in 1964. This visit commemorates the 50th anniversary of that visit, when Paul met the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras, in Jerusalem.

“Even that trip lasted three days,” Lombardi said.

On his trip, Pope Francis plans to meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, also in Jerusalem.


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Israel’s Ambassador to the Holy See: Pope Francis Brings a Message of Peace



Zion Evrony, Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See, said many Israelis are excited about the impending papal visit to the Holy Land, and he believes Pope Francis could “pave the way” towards peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He also says the visit will give a “further push” towards resolving outstanding issues over property rights and tax exemptions for Church property in Israel.

Evrony did not give a definitive answer on the sovereignty of the Cenacle (Upper Room), but in comments reported in the Times of Israel May 15, he said Israel has “no intention” of giving the Holy See sovereignty or ownership over the holy site, which is also believed by Jews to be the site of the tomb of King David.

The ambassador gave the following interview to the Register May 15 via email.

What are your hopes and expectations from this visit, both in terms of bringing peace to the region and Israeli-Holy See relations?

The visit of Pope Francis in Israel is of great historic importance. It is another milestone in the relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people and between Israel and the Holy See. This is the fourth papal visit and third that includes many official elements, which make it a kind of tradition. I am certain that the visit will further strengthen our relations with the Holy See.

The Pope is a man of peace and brings with him a message of peace. He is a spiritual leader with global importance, status and influence over more than a billion believers. Spiritual religious leaders and interreligious dialogue can sometimes pave the way for a dialogue between nations; it can lower the animosity between the two sides, create more trust and build bridges to peace.

How important is this visit to Israelis, and do they believe the Pope can really help to bring peace?

There is much excitement and anticipation in Israel. All Israelis, regardless of their religious affiliation, are looking forward to greeting Pope Francis and his delegation with an open heart and most warmly. He will be a most honored guest. He will be welcomed as a true friend of the Jewish people. His visit will be a moving, important event.

Several disputes and unresolved agreements exist between the Holy See and Israel, namely issues surrounding the Fundamental Agreement and territorial rights to the Cenacle. How could this visit help to resolve these issues?

Nearly 20 years after the signing of the Fundamental Agreement between Israel and the Holy See (which was signed on December 1993 and entered into force in March 1994), it seems like the negotiations regarding the financial agreement are nearing conclusion. We recently have solved and overcome some important obstacles, but there is still some work to be done before we can finally sign it.

Ending the negotiations and signing the agreement is an interest of the two sides: Israel and the Holy See. We are approaching the finish line, but there are still a few unresolved issues. These issues are of a practical property nature and taxation. I believe that the Pope’s visit will give a further push to the conclusion of the agreement.

Regarding the Cenacle, the land of Israel includes many historical and religious sites. There are some sites that are holy to more than one religion and which stir strong emotions to all and raise complex questions. To achieve a fair solution, we have to take into consideration all these sensitive issues. We have to find solutions that will take into account the religious feelings of members of all religions involved.

How optimistic are you that the Fundamental Agreement will be resolved this year?

I am optimistic that the agreement will be signed in the near future.
Another round of negotiations will take place this summer in Rome. Ending the negotiations and signing the agreement is an interest of both sides.

Some are disappointed that the visit is so short. How does the Israeli government view this?

The decision about the length of the visit was made by the Vatican in coordination with Israel. Although his visit is shorter than those of his two predecessors, it is important to remember that it is his first visit outside Italy, considering that the visit to Brazil was a decision of his predecessor.

We hope that in the future he will visit Israel again for a longer period.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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Pope’s ‘Redistribution’ Comments Spark Criticism


Pope Francis’ recent calls for state redistribution of wealth have led to widespread criticism, with many arguing that he misunderstands how the market economy works.

His defenders, meanwhile, say his comments need to be seen in the context of combatting an “economy of exclusion” and a “throw-away culture” that are the consequences of an economy devoid of ethics.

On Friday, the Pope told the heads of U.N. agencies, including Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, that they should urge world governments to back “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society.”

He made similar comments on Saturday, when he told a group of lay Catholic business leaders that the global economic crisis has “profound ethical causes which worsened this ‘allergy’ to words such as solidarity, just distribution of goods, work priorities.”

His comments to the U.N. leaders drew a strong response from conservative radio talk show hosts.

Michael Savage told listeners Friday that if Pope Francis wants income redistribution he should start with his own church. The Pope, he said, is “Karl Marx in a papal outfit.”

Rush Limbaugh also criticized the Pope’s demand that the U.N. should use its influence to get member states to redistribute wealth. “That’s Marxism. That’s socialism. That’s not charity,” he said. “The church is the place where that kind of thing, charity, should come from.”

Savage claimed that Pope Francis was shaped by liberation theology — a popular theory in Latin America in the 1970s that interprets Christ’s teachings as liberation from unjust economic, political, or social conditions. The Vatican rejected it in the 1980s, saying the theology contained “Marxist concepts.”

Francis opposed liberation theology during the 1970s but he accepts its premise, believing the church should have a “preferential option for the poor” without it becoming a political ideology.

His latest comments have also drawn criticism from Catholic economists. Philip Booth, program director at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, said that the Pope’s understanding of economics and the market economy “is quite typically Argentinean” and he appears to approve of a “sort of Peronism,” a predominantly working-class ideology espousing corporatism and based on legacy of former Argentine President Juan Domingo Perón.

Peronism has led to a relationship between the state and business “which is far too close and corrupt,” Booth said, and this “often leads critics to identify problems of these corrupt relationships as being problems of the market economy as such.”

Kishore Jayabalan, Rome director of the Acton Institute, a free-market think tank, said Pope Francis’s comments show that he “sincerely believes” in the state’s ability to redistribute wealth to assist the poor. “That does not make him a Marxist because just about every Western market economy already has progressive income taxes and transfer payments that are directed to the poor,” he said, but he questioned whether these policies “actually do help the poor.”

“Those of us who believe that it is better to focus on wealth creation rather than wealth redistribution by the state would say no,” he said. “It should be obvious the state can’t redistribute what it doesn’t have in the first place, which the crisis of the modern welfare state is making abundantly clear.”

“We just have an honest disagreement with the Pope on this,” he said. Booth agrees that what is needed “is a vibrant free economy” which provides the “greatest opportunities for prosperity through employment and from saving” and which is “naturally intertwined” with civil society through professional associations, unions, and other such bodies.

He pointed out that the amount of “legitimate” redistribution of wealth is “relatively limited” in the tradition of Catholic social teaching. He also argued that the need for redistribution would be “much reduced if we had the kind of vibrant market economy, which Pope Francis often gives the impression of opposing.”

He further said: “The great story of the last 25 years is the reduction in absolute poverty amongst the world’s poorest people. This has come about largely as a result of globalization which is a phenomenon that the Pope also seems to oppose — contrary to his predecessors.”

Booth said an “economy of exclusion” arises in “socialistic systems and systems beset by corruption and regulation.” This would not happen “in properly-functioning market economies.”

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. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.

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SSPX Confirms Bishop Fellay-Pope Francis ‘Meeting’


The breakaway Society of St. Pius X has confirmed reports that its Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay, met Pope Francis at his St. Martha residence, but said the encounter was unplanned and the exchange was brief, lasting “a few seconds”.

“On 13 December 2013 Bishop Fellay and his assistants went to Rome at the request of the Commission Ecclesia Dei, for an informal meeting,” said a May 12 statement in French.

Following this meeting, the statement said Archbishop Guido Pozzo, Secretary of the Commission, “invited his counterparts to lunch in the dining room of St. Martha House where they were joined by Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, adjunct-secretary of the Congregation [for the Doctrine] of the Faith. It is in this large refectory that the Pope takes his daily meals, away from other guests.”

The statement went on to say that Archbishop Pozzo “insisted” on introducing Bishop Fellay to the Pope while the Holy Father was leaving the room. “There was a brief exchange where Pope Francis said to Bishop Fellay, according to the usual polite formula, “I’m very glad to meet you.” To this, Bishop Fellay answered that he was praying a lot, and the pope asked him to pray for him. Such was the “meeting” that lasted a few seconds.


The statement also denied reports that two of Bishop Fellay’s assistants attended a Mass celebrated by the Pope. “Fathers Niklaus Pfluger and Alain-Marc Nély have never attended the Pope’s private Mass,” the SSPX said.

The SSPX recalled an interview Fellay gave to the publication ‘Le Rocher’ (April-May 2014), in which he was asked if Rome had made an unofficial attempt to get back in touch with him since Pope Francis’ election.

“Rome made a ‘non-official’ approach to renew contact with us, but nothing more, and I have not asked for an audience as I did after Benedict XVI’s election,” he said. “For me, things at present are very simple: we stay as we are. Some concluded from my close contact with Rome in 2012 that I regard the necessity of a canonical recognition as a supreme principle. Preserving the Faith and our traditional Catholic identity is essential and remains our first principle.”

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi also confirmed Monday that the encounter took place and that the SSPX statement was accurate.

The full text of the statement has now been posted in English here.

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Cardinal Baldisseri’s Comments in Context


As I reported earlier this week, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, recently gave an interview in which he said he wanted to bring the Church’s teaching on marriage up to date. The interview was with the Belgian Christian weekly, Tertio.

I have now obtained the full translation of his remarks from the interview which I attach below. We are only allowed to reprint exerpts, but these are in any case the most relevant.

The content of the original report on the interview still stands: Cardinal Baldisseri says he wants to “update” St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the meaning of marriage and the family, Familiaris Consortio, noting that it’s now 33 years old. The cardinal doesn’t say how he would like it changed; he naturally leaves that up to the Synod, but he says that in his opinion the Church “is not timeless, it lives amid the vicissitudes of history and the Gospel must be known and experienced by people today.”

In a previous blog post, I mentioned how debate around the upcoming synod, in particular Cardinal Walter Kasper’s speech on the family at February’s consistory, has caused a great deal of concern among theologians and the faithful at large. What is preoccupying them most is that, while the Church’s fundamental teaching on divorce and ‘remarriage’ cannot be changed, pastoral practice might be used as a means to get around it, thereby giving a perception Church teaching has been changed and so weakening her authority. A similar thing happened in the debates surrounding Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, and many fear that being repeated.

Also in the interview, Cardinal Baldisseri discusses the questionnaire that was sent from his office to dioceses around the world to try and ascertain the “sense of the faithful” in this highly sensitive area.


In the West, many expect that openness will arrive on sexual morality, including in the attitude towards re-married divorcees. Do you expect that there are changes, for example, in line with the speech of Cardinal Walter Kasper in the consistory of February (see Tertio number 742 of 3o / 4 /14)?

Cardinal Baldisseri: The questionnaire had many themes. Among them, the themes of sexual morality, but also the situation of real and those civilly re-married. During the consistory, Pope Francis asked Cardinal Kasper, who is a theologian to address the issue of family in view of the synod. There arose a debate as the Pope has asked for repeatedly.  That is synodality: . . . participation and open exchanges in all fields.

We also wish to update the apostolic exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, by Pope John Paul II from 1981.  That is the latest large document of the past thirty years on this issue. The Church is not timeless, it lives amid the vicissitudes of history and the Gospel must be known and experienced by people today. It is in the present that the message should be, with all respect for the integrity of whoever receives that message. We now have two synods to treat this complex theme of the family brought and I believe that the dynamics in two movements will enable us to more effectively respond to the expectations of the people.’

Already noteworthy was the wide consultation in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in October. The response has been massive but how can that multitude of submitted answers – which may greatly differ from continent to continent and from country to country – be handled?

Cardinal Baldisseri: You are right that it is a major challenge for the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. However, we are working tirelessly and with determination. We also have the necessary technical support available. There is a specialized team that has made a synthesis of the responses to the questionnaire. That team has prepared a text that was submitted to the secretariat council on 24 February. Planning now provides for the submission of a final text during the month of May. This is the working paper, or Instrumentum Laboris, which is being circulated to participants in June for the Synod in October. Two synods are to be devoted to the family- the extraordinary one in 2014 and a regular one in 2015. I must say that this issue has drawn, from both Catholics and non-Catholics, immense attention that proves how important this theme is. It shows also that the Church needs to treat it with clarity and truthfulness

Was this survey a way of getting inside the feeling of the people of God, the sensus fidelium?

Cardinal Baldisseri: Let me say this right away: the idea to consult the base was greatly appreciated, but there is more: it helps us as well concretely to assess the actual situation of the people. We can make use of the reflections and suggestions to respond earnestly with adequate pastoral care. The shepherds of the flock and the responsible officers of various sectors can get in touch with the sense of faith of Christians, or in Latin sensus fidelium, which comes from the confession of their faith in the witness of their real life.

Translation thanks to Chris Gillibrand

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Pope Confirms Miracle Attributed to Paul VI’s Intercession


VATICAN CITY — The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Francis has signed a decree confirming that a miracle attributed to Pope Paul VI is authentic and that the former Pontiff will be beatified at the Vatican on Oct. 19.

In a statement, the Vatican said that in the afternoon of May 9, the Pope received in private audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and “authorised the Congregation to promulgate” a decree regarding “the miracle attribute to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God, Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini).”

It added that at the same audience, the Holy Father “authorized the Congregation to communicate that the rite of beatification of the Venerable Servant of God Paul VI will take place at the Vatican October 19, 2014.”

Speaking to the Register May 9, the postulator of Paul VI’s cause for beatification, Redemptorist Father Antonio Marrazzo, said cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints had verified all requirements concerning the miracle “with great unanimity,” and “now we’re in the last room, waiting for the voice of the Holy Father to promulgate a decree on the miracle.”

According to Vatican Insider, the cardinals and bishops came to a decision on May 6.

The attributed miracle involves an unborn child in the 1990s in California who was found to have a serious health problem that posed a high risk of brain damage. The child’s bladder was damaged and doctors reported ascites (the presence of liquid in the abdomen) and anhydramnios (absence of fluid in the amniotic sac). Physicians advised that the child be aborted, but the mother entrusted her pregnancy to the intercession of Pope Paul VI, who succeeded St. John XXIII on June 21, 1963 and served till his death Aug. 6, 1978.

Abortion was offered as an option but the mother reportedly refused, instead taking advice from a nun who was a friend of the family and had met Paul VI. She then prayed for Paul VI’s intercession using a fragment of the Pope’s vestments that the nun had given her.

Ten weeks later, the results of the medical tests showed a substantial improvement in the child’s health, and he was born by Caesarean section in the 39th week of pregnancy. He is now a healthy adolescent and considered to be completely healed.

Not only has a Vatican medical commission ruled that the healing is medically inexplicable, but the consulting theologians for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have also agreed that the healing was a “supernatural intervention,” according to Father Marrazzo.

The Italian postulator said it is not possible to give more details about the case in order to “respect the privacy” of the family and the boy concerned.

“It’s logical to leave the boy in peace,” he said. “I don’t think it’s important at this stage to know who received the miracle, but rather know what the miracle consisted of.”


October Beatification?

Some had speculated that the beatification could take place on Oct. 19, soon after the end of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. The date is fitting: Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops in 1965 and in August, the Church will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of Paul VI’s first major encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam (On the Church).

Born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897 into a middle class family near Brescia, in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, the future pope was ordained a priest at the age of 22. He trained as a papal diplomat and later worked at the Vatican Secretariat of State, where he remained in posts of increasing importance for more than 30 years. He served as archbishop of Milan before his election as pope.

As head of the Church, he oversaw much of the Second Vatican Council, which had been convoked by Pope St. John XXIII. He also promulgated a new Roman Missal in 1969 and published the encyclical Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth) in 1968, which reaffirmed the Church’s teaching against contraception and reaffirmed the merits of priestly celibacy.

His pontificate suffered through the problems and uncertainties of a Church facing a new role in the contemporary, increasingly secular world. His supporters praised him for his careful assessment of each concrete situation, and his sharp awareness of the many varied complications that he believed could not be ignored. But critics say he was too timid, indecisive and uncertain and argue that he let aspects of the Council be at times wilfully misinterpreted and abused, especially when it came to liturgical reform.

But whatever his legacy in terms of governance, these are not relevant to the cause, according to Father Marrazzo.

“The criteria used for analysing the life of a person, a candidate for sainthood, does not include controversial points concerning governance,” he explained. “Otherwise no one would become a saint as some would see these as positive, and others as negative.”

He noted the importance of the decisions Paul VI took but said they were made in “good conscience” and that “one cannot say: He should have done this or that. With respect, that is secondary and we leave it to history, what has been done has been done and historians can decide if what he did was opportune or not. As far as we’re concerned, he acted in good conscience and that’s what is of interest.”

The postulator added: “We have only a few things to verify: That this man acted with goodwill, his comportment and actions were carried out in close communion with God, and in conformity with God’s will.”


Heroic Virtues

Recalling his heroic virtues, Father Marrazzo said the pre-eminent one was “charity” followed by “prudence in discernment.” Giovanni Battista Montini lived a life of “heroic Christian virtue in conformity with the Gospel,” he said.

The cause for the canonization of Paul VI was opened in 1993. In December 2012, Pope Benedict XVI recognized the heroic virtue of Paul VI, giving him the title “Venerable.”

To be canonized, the Vatican would need to receive details of another miracle attributed to Paul VI’s intercession, occurring after the date of his beatification. However, the Pope is free to waive this necessity if he wishes, as happened with Pope St. John XXIII who was canonized last month.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.


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