In response to a statement from His Eminence Cardinal Kasper denying giving the interview that appeared in ZENIT Wednesday 15th October, I issue the following response:
His Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper spoke to me and two other journalists, one British, the other French, around 7.15pm on Tuesday as he left the Synod hall.
I transcribed the recording of our conversation, and my iPhone on which I recorded the exchange was visible. I introduced myself as a journalist with the [National Catholic] Register, and the others also introduced themselves as journalists. I therefore figured the interview was on the record and His Eminence appeared happy to talk with us. In the end, I posted the full interview in ZENIT rather than the Register. ZENIT removed the article on Thursday in response to Cardinal Kasper’s denial.
His Eminence made no comment about not wanting his remarks published. It depends on the context, but normally in such a situation, comments are considered on the record unless otherwise requested.
The recording can be downloaded below. A couple of the questions came from the other two journalists and I included them as part of the interview. Some of the quality of the English has also been improved for publication.
If there was a misunderstanding, I apologise, but I stand by the interview that was published as a correct account of the exchange.
Your Eminence, how is everything going in the Synod?
Everything is very quiet now. This morning it was on fire a little bit but of course that’s because of you – the newspapers!
Yesterday we were told the “Spirit of Vatican II” was in the synod. Do you agree with this?
This is the spirit of the Council – this is very true.
Have you seen some movement on the divorce and “remarriage” issue?
I hoped there would be some opening and I think the majority is in favor. That is the impression I have, but there is no vote. But I think some opening would be left [to happen]. Perhaps it would also be left to the next part of the synod.
Have you seen opposition growing to your proposals in the last few days?
No. In the first phase of the synod I saw a growing majority in favor of an opening. I saw it – but it’s more of a feeling. There was no vote. There will be a vote but not yet.
Do you know how the Holy Father is viewing the synod and how it’s going so far?
He has not said – he’s been silent, he has listened very carefully but it’s clearly what he wants and that’s evident. He wants a major part of the episcopacy with him and he needs it. He cannot do it against the majority of the episcopacy.
Is there any sense that he’s trying to push things in that direction?
He does not push. His first speech was freedom: freedom of speech, everyone should say what he thinks and what he has on his mind and this was very positive. Nobody is asking: what would the Holy Father think about this? What things can I say? This freedom of speech has been very alive here in this synod, more than in others.
It has been said that he added five special rapporteurs on Friday to help the general rapporteur, Cardinal Peter Erdo. Is that because he’s trying to push things through according to his wishes?
I do not see this going on in the Pope’s head. But I think the majority of these five people are open people who want to go on with this. The problem, as well, is that there are different problems of different continents and different cultures. Africa is totally different from the West. Also Asian and Muslim countries, they’re very different, especially about gays. You can’t speak about this with Africans and people of Muslim countries. It’s not possible. It’s a taboo. For us, we say we ought not to discriminate, we don’t want to discriminate in certain respects.
But are African participants listened to in this regard?
No, the majority of them [who hold these views won’t speak about them].
They’re not listened to?
In Africa of course [their views are listened to], where it’s a taboo.
What has changed for you, regarding the methodology of this synod? [question from French journalist]
I think in the end there must be a general line in the Church, general criteria, but then the questions of Africa we cannot solve. There must be space also for the local bishops’ conferences to solve their problems but I’d say with Africa it’s impossible [for us to solve]. But they should not tell us too much what we have to do.
There is a lot of concern about your proposal.
Yes, yes, there’s a lot.
People are saying that it is causing a lot of confusion among the faithful, and people are worried about it. What do you say to that?
I can only speak of Germany where the great majority wants an opening about divorce and remarriage. It’s the same in Great Britain, it’s everywhere. When I speak to laypeople, also old people who are married for 50, 60 years, they never thought of divorce but they see a problem with their culture and so every family has a problem nowadays. The Pope also told me that [such problems exist] also in his family, and he has looked at the laity and seen the great majority are for a reasonable, responsible opening.
But people feel the Church’s teaching is going to be undermined by your proposal if it passes, that it’s undoing 2,000 years of Church teaching. What is your view on this?
Well nobody is putting into question the indissolubility of marriage. I think it wouldn’t be a help for people, but if you look to this word of Jesus, there are different synoptic gospels in different places, in different contexts. It’s different in the Judeo-Christian context and in the Hellenistic context. Mark and Matthew are different. There was already a problem in the apostolic age. The Word of Jesus is clear, but how to apply it in complex, different situations? It’s a problem to do with the application of these words.
The teaching does not change?
The teaching does not change but it can be made more profound, it can be different. There is also a certain growth in the understanding of the Gospel and the doctrine, a development. Our famous Cardinal Newman had spoken on the development of doctrine. This is also not a change but a development on the same line. Of course, the Pope wants it and the world needs it. We live in a globalized world and you cannot govern everything from the Curia. There must be a common faith, a common discipline but a different application.
“I saw it [an opening] — but it’s more of a feeling,” he said, adding that the synod has yet to vote on it. He added that the Holy Father has been “silent” about his opinion and “has listened very carefully” during the synod, “but it’s clearly what he wants and that’s evident,” he said.
“He wants a major part of the episcopacy with him and he needs it. He cannot do it against the majority of the episcopacy,” Kasper said. He added that the Pope had told him problems exist “in his family” and that he has “looked at the laity and seen the great majority are for a reasonable, responsible opening.”
The German theologian has said before that he has the “impression” the Pope would like to see an “opening” in the area of allowing Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, but now he is making the same claim within the synod. His comments drew a sharp rebuke from Cardinal Raymond Burke.
“The Pope doesn’t have laryngitis,” he said last month. “The Pope is not mute. He can speak for himself. If this is what he wants, he will say so.”
In an interview with the National Catholic Register this week, Cardinal Burke said: “I do not know how I could accept such [a change] in the Catholic Church. I just could not.”
Such a move would be unprecedented for the Catholic Church, with critics arguing it would significantly change the Church’s 2,000-year teaching on matrimony.
So far, Francis has been publicly silent regarding his views on the matter. Asked last night if Cardinal Kasper does indeed speak for the Pope, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi did not deny the cardinal’s claim, simply saying: “As I have said, Cardinal Kasper can tell reporters what he believes; he is free and responsible.”
Questioned about the concern and confusion his proposal is causing, Cardinal Kasper replied: “I can only speak of Germany, where the great majority wants an opening about divorce and remarriage. It’s the same in Great Britain; it’s everywhere. When I speak to laypeople, also old people who are married for 50, 60 years, they never thought of divorce but they see a problem with their culture and so every family has a problem nowadays.”
He argued that “nobody” is calling into question the indissolubility of marriage, and argues that his proposal would be a “development of doctrine” rather than a change. “There must be a common faith, a common discipline, but a different application,” he said.
Also on the synod, the cardinal appeared to suggest that African views on homosexuality — where the issue remains taboo — are not listened to by the Western delegates in the assembly. Noting how “impossible” it is for Western delegates to comment on African issues, he said likewise “they should not tell us too much what we have to do.”
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As the Vatican Synod on the Family completed its third day of discussions Wednesday, concerns were growing that a few key officials in Holy See are controlling what comes out of the debates, ensuring the meeting is spun with a liberal bias.
The two week synod, which was called by Pope Francis and runs until Oct. 19, is made up of 250 prelates and experts who are debating a wide variety of contentious topics regarding marriage, the family and relationships.
Although assurances have been made by various church officials that doctrine won’t be changed, there is widespread unease that innovations in pastoral practice will make it seem that the church’s teachings have been weakened on such issues as artificial contraception, same-sex rights and crucial teachings held for two millennia.
The way the Vatican is handling the media during the synod has not reassured observers, with accusations that the synod administrators are muzzling and spinning the debate.
For example, they point out that unlike previous synods, full texts of the discourses will not be published. The reason, according to the synod organizers, is to “promote a more open dialogue” and speak freely.
“No one really believes this,” one Vatican commentator told me. “It’s a way of controlling the outcome, and goes completely against Pope Francis’ wish for greater transparency and openness in the Church.”
Supporters of the new reporting process, however, say it’s very much consistent with Pope Francis’ approach to debate. “He wants the synod participants to undergo a process of calm discernment, hearing proposals without factions developing that could hijack the debate,” another church commentator told me.
But the restrictions mean that the media only has access to a generalized summary, and it’s unclear who is saying what and whether one or more participants might be sharing any particular view.
More seriously, it makes disclosure of the synod’s discussions susceptible to the whims of the few reporting press secretaries and the Vatican press office, many of whom are known to have liberal leanings.
There’s no knowing what is being filtered out, nor what is being given undue attention.
“It seems bizarre conservative voices aren’t being presented, at least on an equal basis with others,” said John Smeaton, chief executive of the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. “One has to ask the question: is it because the truth has a force and power which means they’re afraid of addressing it?”
So far, the press have been fed much on how participants all seem to agree that the church should make herself more attractive to the world. The importance of holding up dogmatic truths or acknowledging that the church should always be counter-cultural seem to be scarcely raised, if at all.
During Tuesday’s discussions, there was particular surprise over what seems to be a unanimous wish to tone down the use of terms such as “living in sin”, “contraceptive mentality”, and “intrinsically disordered.”
Even more significant was that the Vatican made no mention of any criticism of such a controversial proposal from inside the synod hall.
The reason, say supporters of this synod process, is because of a wish to challenge the status quo and introduce new ideas. Everyone already knows the church’s stand on these issues, they argue. Not everyone agrees, however. “They pretend that everybody knows Catholic teaching on these issues but that’s completely false,” said John Henry Westen, editor of Lifesite News. “In reality, we’ve had virtual silence on these issues for 50 years now.”
Quoting a 1986 Vatican letter to bishops on pastoral care of homosexual persons, Westen recalled the Vatican saying that if, in making an effort to be caring and pastoral, bishops fail to tell people of the immorality of this behavior, they’re failing because they’re not giving them what they need. “It’s the only path to healing, in a physical, psychological and eternal sense,” he said. “To abandon souls for the sake of political correctness is insanity.”
Some see this synod as similar to the “Council of the Media” — during the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s — when the debates were politicized by the liberal press, making the perception of the council far different to the intentions of its participants.
But now, critics say, the situation is even worse as the media manipulation seems to be being conducted by the synod administration itself. “This had never happened, even in Vatican II,” commented the traditionalist Catholic blog, Rorate Caeli. “It is as if they took the media manipulation that happened in Vatican II, decried openly by Benedict XVI, and made it official policy.”
Others have criticized the communications strategy during this synod as resembling the media control of a dictatorial regime, or harking back to a time before the Second Vatican Council when the laity were simply meant to “pray, pay and obey”, strangely working against the actively informed laity the Council called for.
“It shows a lack of respect for the world’s media,” one source close to the Vatican told me.
The Vatican insists these are early days and the proposals are only being presented, not yet agreed upon. This is also only one of two synods to take place on marriage and family life, the next one will be held a year from now.
But should the perceived one-sided, liberal spin continue during this synod and beyond, expect the clamor demanding a fairer representation of the debates to increase.
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In this interview with the Register, the cardinal discusses his hopes, concerns and expectations for the meeting that will discuss the theme “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”
What are your hopes and fears for this synod?
Let me begin with my fears. Perhaps “worries” is a better word. My greatest worry is unrealistic expectations, one of which is the media-driven false hope that Pope Francis is going to overturn, single-handedly, a most serious section of Church teaching to satisfy the demands of the modern world.
That’s unrealistic, for a number of reasons. Pope Francis has shown himself to be a team player who takes collegiality seriously. So the most realistic expectation is that this extraordinary synod is going to be more about setting out the problems around marriage and family, rather than determining solutions. In setting out the problems, I can see the synod already indicating directions to be explored.
What are the major crises facing marriage and the family that you would most like to see debated and addressed?
Firstly, Catholic marriage or the sacrament of marriage. Far too many Catholics lack adequate knowledge, understanding and appreciation of what makes marriage between baptized Christians become the sacrament of matrimony — namely, that this union between a baptized man and a baptized woman is their personal means of salvation; that they administer the saving grace of Jesus Christ to each other so that, in effect, each is the means for the other to get to heaven.
Secondly, the first major consequence of this lack of knowledge, understanding and appreciation is the almost universal resistance to proper preparation. This is evidenced by the fact that the parish office is the last port of call when arrangements are being made.
Lastly, total ignorance or disregard for Church teaching on freedom to marry; on fidelity and exclusivity of the marriage bond and openness to life as absolute prerequisites for valid sacramental marriage; on what makes natural family planning an acceptable way of spacing children; on why, in the Church’s eyes, contraception and abortion are the chief destroyers of marriages.
What are your main wishes and expectations?
That the synod will indicate as clearly and practically as possible the back-to-basics path for the Catholic community, those basics being the well-prepared Catholic married couple, the well-organized Catholic family, the neighborhood faith-sharing group and a well-integrated parish community. Some of the above are wishes; others fervent desires. What I expect is far less, namely, the clear naming of the major issues that the universal Church identifies as areas of major concern and how local Churches can go about addressing them.
Are there any people you would like to have seen included as participants but have not been?
My only wish would be that there are no pressure groups pushing their own agendas, but, rather, those seeking the will of God through humble listening, prayerful reflection and determined commitment to what the Church was instituted to be: the bearer of Christ’s message summed up in his opening exhortation: “Repent, and believe the Good News!”
What is your fervent prayer for this synod?
That every Catholic and person of goodwill prays daily for the synod to be guided by the Holy Spirit and the wise counsel of the seniors in age, in wisdom and in faith.
There has been increasing disquiet and accusations of injustice over the forced removal of a Paraguayan bishop, ostensibly because of his “difficult” relations with other bishops and priests.
The Vatican has said Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano was removed last month not so much because he appointed a priest accused of sexual abuse as his vicar general or allegations of embezzlement – as many had thought – but because of internal disagreements.
“The important problem was the relations within the episcopacy and in the local church, which were very difficult,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Sept. 26. Concerns about the former vicar general, Father Carlos Urrutigoity, were “not central, albeit have been debated,” he added. “There were serious problems with his management of the diocese, the education of clergy and relations with other bishops,” Father Lombardi said.
But that being the case, a leaked letter Livieres wrote to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, still points to a possible injustice. In the letter, Bishop Livieres insisted he had not had an opportunity to defend himself, that other bishops conspired against him, and that he was being “persecuted” for his orthodoxy (in an interview with CNS, he said it was because of his opposition to liberation theology, a claim rebuffed by Father Lombardi as “naive”).
He even went so far as to say Pope Francis “must answer to God” for his removal. The action against him was “unfounded and arbitrary,” he said, and added that despite the Pope’s calls for “dialogue, mercy, openness, decentralization, and respect for authority of the local churches,” he did not give him a chance to “clarify any doubts or concerns” about his ministry.
Strong words, to which Father Lombardi responded by saying the bishop’s letter was “a very violent reaction,” adding that “maybe it is easier to understand why there was a problem.”
But none of this negates the fact that Bishop Livieres, who is an Opus Dei numerary with reportedly an excellent track record in attracting vocations, appears not to have had a chance to defend himself and that, even though he was in Rome last week, was not granted an audience with the Holy Father to explain his side of the story.
Just as disconcerting for many is the assertion that ideological reasons have played a significant role in the bishop’s removal. If, as Livieres claims, he is being “persecuted” because of his orthodoxy, that is a very serious charge causing considerable unease, not least within Opus Dei.
The Vatican is not responding to calls for more detailed reasons why the bishop was removed, but the faithful, the bishop’s supporters say, have a right to know. And if the reasons are valid and just, they argue, why not share them?
Oct .2: Sandro Magister has helpfully translated a detailed summary of Bishop Livieres’ defense which can be read here.
MADRID — A vast crowd of pilgrims, many of them families, started arriving in the Valdebebas fields on the outskirts of Madrid Saturday morning for the beatification of Bishop Álvaro del Portillo (1914-1994).
Soon after noon, the immediate successor to Opus Dei’s founder, St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, was declared “Blessed” in a solemn yet festive ceremony. An estimated 250,000 pilgrims from all over the world — so many that they stretched almost a mile back from the specially constructed altar — attended the beatification Mass.
Blessed Álvaro is the first member of Opus Dei to be raised to the altars since St. Josemaría was canonized in 2002, making the event highly significant for the personal prelature and for the Church as a whole.
A large number of clergy, comprising 150 bishops and 1,200 priests from around the world, were present to witness the beatification. Eighteen cardinals also made the pilgrimage to Madrid, including several from the Curia, such as Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.
President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama was among the dignitaries, as were more than 200 people with disabilities and representatives from the many social initiatives that Blessed Álvaro promoted, particularly in Africa and Latin America.
‘Simple, Beautiful and Solemn’
“The ceremony was simple, beautiful and solemn,” said Opus Dei Father Robert Gahl, who teaches moral philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome — a university that the newly blessed helped to set up. “It was low key, and, at once, it was festive with a simple sobriety — just what Don Alvaro would have wanted.”
Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided over the ceremony, which began with Father Fernando Ocariz, the vicar general of Opus Dei, reading a message sent by Pope Francis.
The Holy Father, who became close to Opus Dei in Argentina in the 1970s, expressed his “special joy” at learning of the newly beatified bishop’s “life of humble service to others,” which “began to take shape in the simplicity of family life, through friendship and service to others.”
Blessed Álvaro, he noted, “is also teaching us that in the simplicity and ordinariness of our daily lives we can find a sure path to holiness.” His example provides a lesson for us “not to be afraid to go against the current and suffer for announcing the Gospel.”
Álvaro del Portillo, he added, served the Church “with a heart devoid of worldly self-interest, far from discord, welcoming towards everyone and always seeking in others what was positive.” He knew of our need for God’s mercy, the Holy Father added, and even in especially difficult times, “he never spoke a word of complaint or criticism.” On the contrary, “as he had learned from St. Josemaría, he always responded with prayer, forgiveness, understanding and sincere charity.”
In his homily, Cardinal Amato, speaking in front of an image of Our Lady of Almudena in Almudena Cathedral, where Blessed Álvaro used to often pray, stressed the bishop’s humility, which he practiced in an “extraordinary way.” Cardinal Amato said Blessed Álvaro was “infected” by the behavior of the Lord and that, like St. Augustine, for him, “humility was the dwelling place of charity” and the key to holiness.
“For Don Álvaro, humility was ‘the key that opens the door to enter into the house of holiness,’” Cardinal Amato said, quoting the newly blessed. While pride was the “greatest obstacle” to seeing and loving God, “humility strips away from us the ridiculous cardboard mask that presumptuous, self-satisfied people wear.”
“The Church and the world need the great spectacle of holiness so that its pleasing fragrance can purify the noxious fumes of the many vices which are being praised so arrogantly and insistently,” Cardinal Amato said. “Now, more than ever, we need an ecology of holiness, to counteract the pollution of immorality and corruption.”
Prominent throughout the ceremony, above the altar, were the words of Blessed Álvaro’s episcopal motto: Regnare Christum Volumus (We Want Christ to Reign). His relics were brought to the altar by the Ureta Wilsom family, whose son Jose Ignacio was miraculously cured thanks to the intercession of the new blessed.
Centenary of His Birth
The year of his beatification is significant: It happened to take place on the centenary of Álvaro del Portillo’s birth, to a Mexican mother and Spanish father, on March 11, 1914. It also came 70 years since his ordination in 1944 and 20 years since his death on March 23, 1994.
A trained engineer, Alvaro del Portillo joined Opus Dei, which was founded in 1928, in 1935 and moved to Rome in 1946, where he helped St. Josemaría lay the foundations for the movement that would later become a personal prelature. He played an active role in the Second Vatican Council; and in the years that followed — especially after the death of St. Josemaría in 1975 — he became instrumental in expanding Opus Dei across the world.
He died in 1994, just hours after returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where he had celebrated his last Mass at the Cenacle, the place of the Last Supper, in Jerusalem. Testimonies to his personal kindness, humility, supernatural courage and personal holiness soon began spreading after his death.
In his homily during a thanksgiving Mass the following day, the current prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, highlighted Blessed Álvaro’s concern for the poor and abandoned and how, through his solidarity with them, he revealed God’s mercy. He also noted the many families present and said their large presence was a testimony to the fruitfulness of Blessed Álvaro’s life.
“It was a wonderful ceremony,” said Steve Rosallo, who had made the pilgrimage from Toronto with his wife and 12 children. “My parents had known Opus Dei for a long time, and they have been a great help for our family.”
Many noted the ordinariness of the event, which reflected Opus Dei’s dedication to fostering holiness in everyday life.
“There were so many families praying in a natural fashion, and that was very moving for me,” said Augusto Silberstein from Brazil. “There weren’t any groups: Each one went with friends, family — everyone in their ordinary life, with their family friends, coming to pay tribute to Don Álvaro and to worship God.”
Reinforcements for Confession
Also significant were the large numbers of faithful going to confession during both the beatification and the thanksgiving Mass the following day — so many that non-local priests who were attending the ceremony were asked to help. One was Father Scott Hastings from the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb., who is studying canon law in Rome.
“It was the best part for me, hearing confessions with 100 other priests in all kinds of languages,” he told the Register..
Father Gahl, who was ordained a deacon by Blessed Álvaro, said the beatification was “confirmation” of St. Josemaría’s message and charism: that ordinary people can find God and holiness in their ordinary lives. He recalled how Blessed Álvaro liked “to do ordinary things and enjoyed ordinary things.”
At the end of the celebration, Bishop Echevarría thanked those present who had made the ceremony possible.
“The raising of Álvaro del Portillo to the altars reminds us anew of the universal call to holiness, proclaimed with great fervor by the Second Vatican Council,” he said.
And he asked those present to pray in a special way “for our brothers and sisters who suffer persecution for their faith, including martyrdom in different parts of the world.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
VATICAN CITY — A powerful example of peaceful coexistence between followers of different faiths, heavy sacrifices made to secure freedom from communist dictatorship and a rebuke of the “grave sacrilege” of killing in the name of God were key points of Pope Francis one-day visit to Albania on Sunday.
The Holy Father chose to visit Albania for two main reasons: to highlight a country on the periphery of Europe, away from the major powers of the European Union, and because of its interreligious harmony, achieved through a great deal of suffering.
The Eastern-European country has a Muslim-majority population (59%). Christians are estimated to make up 27%, of whom roughly 15% are Orthodox, and 10% are Catholic.
In 1967, communist authorities conducted a violent campaign to extinguish religious practice in the country, claiming that religion had divided the Albanian nation and kept it mired in backwardness.
Today, Albania remains a constitutionally secular country, and religious observance and practice is reported to be generally lax.
After arriving in the country’s capital, Tirana, at 9am, the Pope was driven to a welcome ceremony at the presidential palace, where he praised Albania for its “precious gift” of peaceful coexistence and collaboration between followers of different religions.
He stressed that respect is an “essential word” for the Albanian people and that religious freedom, freedom of expression and the dignity of the human person are vital for a country’s “social and economic development” and “to further the common good.”
‘Perverted’ Religious Spirit
Francis then contrasted this with “these times,” where an “authentic religious spirit is being perverted” and religious differences distorted.
“Let no one consider himself to be the ‘armor’ of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression,” the Pope exhorted. “May no one use religion as a pretext for actions against human dignity and against the fundamental rights of every man and woman, above all, the right to life and the right of everyone to religious freedom.”
Albania, he added, shows how peaceful coexistence between different religions is “possible and realistic” and that dialogue and cooperation is a “gift which we need to implore from God in prayer.” He underlined the role of Albanian martyrs, Blessed Mother Teresa — an Albanian native — and men and women of goodwill who have contributed to “the flourishing of civil society and the Church in Albania.”
The Holy Father further underlined the need for a “globalization of solidarity” and said that “every effort” must be made to ensure growth and development are sustainable and at the service of all.
‘Never Forget the Eagle’
During his homily at Mass in Mother Teresa Square, attended by some 250,000 people, the Pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading that told of Jesus sending out 72 disciples. This is reflected in the Church’s missionary experience, said the Pope, who called Albania a “land of martyrs” during decades of “atrocious suffering and harsh persecutions” against Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims during its years of communist oppression.
He said the Lord raised Albanians up on “eagle’s wings,” as he did for the people of Israel, and noted that the eagle in the country’s flag “calls to mind hope” and to “always place your trust in God.”
“Never forget the eagle,” the Pope said. “The eagle does not forget its nest, but flies into the heights. All of you, fly into the heights! Go high!” And he urged Albanians not to forget their long history, but also not to be vengeful.
The Holy Father again took up the theme of violence in God’s name, stressing to interreligious leaders at the Catholic University of Tirana that “authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence,” that to “kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege” and that to “discriminate in the name of God is inhuman.”
Religious freedom, he added, cannot be guaranteed by legislation alone, but requires respect and cooperation in the service of the common good. When a person is secure in his or her own beliefs, he said, there is no need to impose or put pressure on others.
Father Troshani’s Witness
After hearing the testimonies of persecution under communism from Father Ernesto Simoni Troshani, an 84-year-old diocesan priest, the Pope wept and held the priest in a long embrace. Father Troshani was imprisoned in a labor camp for 18 years and, as well as his own experiences, recounted the courageous witness of many Albanian martyrs from that time.
Speaking afterwards at vespers with clergy, religious and laity in the Tirana cathedral, Francis returned to the legacy and example of Albanian martyrs, expressing his gratitude to those who “paid a great price for their fidelity to Christ and for their decision to remain united to the Successor of Peter.”
He said he appreciated efforts to oppose new “insidious” forms of “dictatorship” that threaten to enslave, such as “individualism, rivalry and heated conflicts.” These are “world mentalities,” he said, “that can contaminate even the Christian community.” But he said they shouldn’t discourage us, as the Lord is always at our side.
Evangelization, he continued, is more effective when carried out as a team, and he stressed the importance of placing the love of Christ above our needs, moving “outside of ourselves, of our personal or communal pettiness” and towards Jesus. “The more our mission calls us to go out into the peripheries of life, the more our hearts feel the intimate need to be united to the heart of Christ, which is full of mercy and love,” he said.
Children’s Care Center
The Pope’s last stop was to visit “Bethany” children’s care home in Bubq Fushe-Kruje, about 20 miles from Tirana. The center shows how it is possible to live together peacefully and fraternally, regardless of difference, he said.
“Here, differences do not prevent harmony, joy and peace, but, rather, become occasions for greater mutual awareness and understanding,” the Pope said. “The variety of religious experiences reveals a true and reverential love of neighbor.”
He added, “Goodness is its own reward and draws us closer to God. [It] offers infinitely more than money, which only deludes, because we have been created to receive the love of God and to offer it, not measuring everything in terms of money or power.”
The Pope stressed that the secret to a good life is found in loving and giving oneself for love’s sake. “From here comes the strength to ‘sacrifice oneself joyfully,’ and thus the most demanding work is transformed into a source of a greater joy,” he said. “In this way, there is no longer any fear of making important choices in life, but they are seen for what they are: namely, as the way to personal fulfillment in freedom.”
Telegram to Albania’s President
Upon leaving Tirana at 8pm, Francis sent a telegram to Albanian President Bujar Nishani, expressing his “deep gratitude” to him and the “beloved Albanian people” for their “generous hospitality.”
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters many Muslims were present at the Mass in Tirana, as they wanted to be with the Pope and receive his blessing. He also said, prior to the visit, that Muslims gathered to pray for the success of the visit in a central mosque.
The Vatican spokesman also made clear no Jewish leaders were present at the meeting with interreligious groups only because there are so few Jews in Albania, and organizers were unable to put together a representative group.
Asked whether there were heightened security concerns due to reports of possible threats against the Pope’s life, Father Lombardi said, “Absolutely not.” He explained the Pope did not stop to chat with people as he does at the Vatican because he had a tight schedule and had to keep on time.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
History was made in Canterbury, England, last night when the Vatican’s newly formed cricket team played its first ever match against the Church of England.
The Vatican narrowly lost the 150 minute game in a nail-biting finish: the Vatican scored 106 runs to which the Anglican XI replied with 108 runs with just five balls – closest equivalent to baseball pitches – left in the game.
The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, congratulated both sides and presented the trophy to winning captain Stephen Gray, an Anglican college chaplain. “It was a very good match that could have gone either way,” archbishop Welby said. “I seriously hope we do it again – it’s been hugely enjoyable.”
The match was played to support the Global Freedom Network, a faith-based charity begun in April this year that aims to bring people of all faiths together to combat human slavery and trafficking.
The idea for the charity came from a conversation the Anglican leader had with Pope Francis last year. The Holy Father has frequently drawn attention to the extent of human trafficking in the world today, calling it a “grave crime against humanity” which is estimated to affect some 30 million people.
The Vatican XI, officially known as the St. Peter’s Cricket Club, was formed earlier this year through the Pontifical Council for Culture. Last night’s match was the last fixture of a week long “Light of Faith Tour” of the UK, which included matches against the Queen’s guard at Windsor Castle and Catholic chaplains of the British Armed Forces. The Vatican XI won two matches and lost three.
Made up of seminarians mostly from the Indian sub-continent and captained by English Vatican official Father Tony Currer, the St. Peter’s Cricket Club was the idea of Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See and keen cricket enthusiast, John McCarthy.
Yesterday’s match was well attended by laity, cricket aficionados, and ecclesial leaders. “I was very delighted to be here,” said the papal nuncio to Britain, Archbishop Antonio Mennini. “I don’t understand the game and the rules but the event has been a real, true and concrete example of friendship between our churches,” he told the Register. “It’s shown how friendship can help both churches to continue the path of mutual understanding and so deal with the great challenges we have in front of us,” he added.
Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker, said it was a “fantastic game, played in the right spirit, and there’s been a wonderful crowd, all in a really good cause.”
Speaking before the game, Father Currer, an experienced cricketer who just so happens to head the Anglican desk of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, called the match “the biggest game of my life”. “If one of the boys gets hit in the face by a ball, it could set back ecumenical relations by decades!,” he joked to the Canterbury Times.
Antonia Stampalija, chief executive officer of the Global Freedom Network, said the match was the first fundraising event for the charity. Quoting research from the International Labor Organisation, she said profits from human slavery and trafficking amount to $150 billion per year, of which $99 billion comes from sexual exploitation. By uniting faiths to combat the scourge, Stampalija said this can be an issue that “won’t draw us apart but draw us together.”
VATICAN CITY — As cardinals publicly line up on opposing sides of the debate of Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics ahead of next month’s Synod and the Family, “wishful” speculation is mounting in Rome that the issue might be cast aside before the meeting begins.
Family life will be the focus of the third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that will meet at the Vatican Oct. 5-19. The 150 synod fathers taking part will discuss “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”
But although the scope of the two-week meeting is wide, the controversial issue of changing the Church’s discipline with regards to holy Communion for Catholics divorced and remarried has threatened to eclipse the discussions, prompted by a keynote speech by Cardinal Walter Kasper earlier this year.
In a long address that opened a consistory on the synod, the German cardinal ended his speech by considering arguments for a possible change in pastoral practice that would in some instances allow such Catholics to receive the Eucharist. His arguments were roundly criticized by both cardinals and scholars, leading Cardinal Kasper to complain of a “doctrinal war.”
A central concern is that, despite unanimity that the Church’s teaching on this matter cannot be changed, discussions will result in changes to pastoral practice, thus making it appear that a relaxation of Church teaching has effectively taken place.
Mainly for this reason, an intense and very public debate followed Cardinal Kasper’s speech, unsettling both laity and Church leaders. This week, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat on the Economy, both weighed in with their opposition to any changes on this issue in forewords for two new books.
“When we are in the presence of a valid marriage, there is no way to sever that bond,” Cardinal Müller writes in Remaining in the Truth of Christ. “Neither the pope nor any other bishop has the authority to do so, because it touches on a reality that belongs to God, not to them.”
Writing in The Gospel of the Family — a book-length riposte to Cardinal Kasper’s address — Cardinal Pell says that doctrine and pastoral practice “cannot be contradictory,” and he adds that “one cannot maintain the indissolubility of marriage by allowing the ‘remarried’ to receive Communion.”
He warns of a repeat of protests that surrounded Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth) and says that focusing on this issue is a “counterproductive and futile search for short-term consolations.” Pressure to change rules regarding Communion for the divorced and remarried are centered mainly in Europe and places where the faith is failing, he argues. “Healthy communities do not spend most of their energies on peripheral issues,” he adds, and says the group affected by this particular one “is very small indeed.”
Pope: ‘Issue Is Bigger and Wider’
Pope Francis, who initiated the debate to have a full and open debate on the issue, has also expressed his disapproval of the attention it’s now receiving. Speaking to reporters in May, the Holy Father said: “I have not been happy that so many people — even Church people, priests — have said: ‘Ah, the synod will be about giving Communion to the divorced.’”
“No, the issue is bigger and wider,” he said, and explained that the family and marriage as a whole are in crisis. “I don’t want us to fall into this casuistry of ‘Can we?’ or ‘can’t we?’”
Particularly unsightly for many is the public jousting between cardinals in this debate. Although this is not a particularly new phenomenon, the polarization of this debate and the depth of disagreement appear to be unique.
Cardinal Kasper has said such overt criticism of his thesis is “a first” and that he has never before witnessed such public attacks in his academic career. The German cardinal believes the criticisms were really aimed at Pope Francis, who encouraged him to explore possible changes in pastoral practice on the issue.
For all of these reasons, influential Vatican officials are hoping the issue will be shut down before the synod begins. This is believed to be especially true among prelates from the developing world, for whom this issue is minor, compared to the other challenges they face concerning the family and evangelization.
One official told the Register on condition of anonymity that there is “certainly” a wish among senior officials to put a halt to the discussion, as it’s “distracting” from the focus of the synod. But he said such a possibility is “wishful thinking,” as the decision ultimately rests with Pope Francis.
For Cardinal Pell, the debate is being seen as a symbol of polarization in the Church. And the issue of Communion to the divorced and remarried has become “a prize in the clash between what remains of Christendom in Europe and an aggressive neo-paganism,” he writes in the book foreword. “Every opponent of Christianity wants the Church to capitulate on this issue.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Pope Francis’ decision to marry a cohabiting couple last Sunday has brought a mixed reaction from Catholics and a predictable reaction from much of the media.
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