Mon, 17 Dec 2018 09:17:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- If the Holy Family lived in Rome and the baby Jesus had a cold or flu, Mary and Joseph certainly would bring him to the Vatican pediatric clinic for help, Pope Francis said. The Vatican's St. Martha Dispensary was founded in 1922 and, staffed by volunteers, it provides medical care and basic necessities to any child in need; most of the clients are immigrants. Dozens of children, their parents and the clinic volunteers anticipated Pope Francis' 82nd birthday, singing for him and giving him a large cake Dec. 16. His birthday was the next day. "I wish you all a merry Christmas, a good holy Christmas, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you do. Really," the pope said. "And, I also hope that no one gets indigestion from a cake that big. Thank you!" In brief comments to the women religious who run the clinic and to the doctors and others who volunteer there, Pope Francis said, "Working with children isn't easy, but they teach us much." "They taught me something: to understand the reality of life, you must lower yourself, like you bend down to kiss a child. They teach us this," he said. "The proud and haughty cannot understand life because they are not capable of lowering themselves." Everyone who works at the clinic gives children something, the pope said. "But they give us this proclamation, this teaching: bow down, be humble and you will learn to understand life and understand people."
Mon, 17 Dec 2018 07:46:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- For more than 38 years, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa has preached to the pope and top officials of the Roman Curia. In early January, he will lead the weeklong retreat of the U.S. bishops. As they continue to study and discuss ways to respond to the clerical sexual abuse crisis, the bishops will gather for the retreat Jan. 2-8 at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago. Pope Francis suggested the bishops hold the retreat and offered the services of the 84-year-old Father Cantalamessa, who has served as preacher of the papal household since 1980. In an email Dec. 6, the Capuchin declined to be interviewed about the retreat, saying, "At this delicate moment in the life of the U.S. church, I don't believe it would be opportune for me to give interviews." The theme of the U.S. bishops' retreat will be "the mission of the apostles and of their successors" and will draw from Mark 3:14, which says Jesus "appointed 12 -- whom he also named apostles -- that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach." In a follow-up email Dec. 15, Father Cantalamessa said, "I will not talk about pedophilia and will not give advice about eventual solutions; that is not my task and I would not have the competence to do so." "The Holy Father asked for my availability to lead a series of spiritual exercises for the episcopal conference so that the bishops, far from their daily commitments, in a climate of prayer and silence and in a personal encounter with the Lord, can receive the strength and light of the Holy Spirit to find the right solutions for the problems that afflict the U.S. church today," Father Cantalamessa wrote. Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, told Catholic News Service, "You can see why the pope asked the bishops to make the retreat together in what he told the bishops of Chile: without faith and without prayer, fraternity is impossible." "At a moment like this, the bishops need to be united in prayer, and Catholics in the U.S. should see them at prayer," Burke said Dec. 13. "A retreat is always a time for conversion, and perhaps there's been no time in the U.S. with more need for conversion than now." The job of "preacher of the papal household" is not a fulltime position; each year it requires the priest to give an average of eight meditations -- one each on most Fridays of Advent and Lent -- and the homily during the pope's Good Friday celebration of the Lord's Passion. The title, and the ministry, has a very long history. Superiors of different religious orders took turns preaching to the pontiff and his aides during Advent and Lent until the mid-1500s, when Pope Paul IV appointed the first preacher of the papal household; his successors followed suit, always choosing a religious-order priest for the job. Pope Benedict XIV decided in 1743 to be more specific, decreeing that the preacher of the papal household always be a Capuchin friar. St. John Paul II asked Father Cantalamessa to take the job in 1980; since then, the Capuchin has given more than 300 spiritual talks and homilies to the popes and their closest aides in the Roman Curia. When he is not preaching to the pope, Father Cantalamessa leads retreats around the world, writes books and articles and works with charismatic Catholics; in late October, he was named ecclesial adviser of "Charis," the new international coordinating body for the Catholic charismatic renewal. In a 2015 interview with CNS, he said the first time he climbed the steps to the lectern in St. Peter's Basilica to preach to the pope on Good Friday, "It felt like I was climbing Mount Everest." But, he told TV2000, the Italian bishops' television station, "this post of preacher of the papal household says more about the pope than the preacher. He has the humility to set aside all his important tasks on the Fridays of Advent and Lent to come listen to the preaching of a simple priest." The three popes he has preached to have given him the freedom to choose ...
Thu, 13 Dec 2018 10:10:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will make a three-day visit to Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Vatican announced. He will be the first pope to visit the Republic of Macedonia, which declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. "Accepting the invitation of the respective highest authorities" of both nations and of the Catholic communities there, Pope Francis will travel to Bulgaria May 5-7 and Macedonia May 7, Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said in a written statement Dec. 13. While the pope's itinerary will be published later, Burke said the pope would visit the Macedonian capital, Skopje, which is the birthplace of St. Teresa of Kolkata, and the Bulgarian capital of Sofia and the city of Rakovski -- the city with the largest number of Catholics in Bulgaria, which is predominately Orthodox. Catholics make up less than 1 percent of Bulgaria's 7 million people. The Vatican released the logo and motto of both trips. "Do not be afraid any longer, little flock" from Luke 12:32 was chosen for the Republic of Macedonia. The colors -- red and gold -- match the colors of the nation's flag and three blue stripes bordering the bottom symbolize the blue stripes of Mother Teresa's white sari. The motto for the trip to Bulgaria is "Pacem In Terris" (Peace on Earth), the title of a 1963 encyclical by St. John XXIII, who served in Bulgaria in the '20s and '30s as a Vatican diplomat, and the prayer for peace Pope Francis will make during the trip, the Vatican said. St. John Paul II visited Bulgaria in 2002, planning his visit around the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Greek brothers who evangelized in Central Europe in the ninth century, before the Orthodox-Catholic split of 1054. The Polish pope had named them co-patrons of Europe and described them as unity figures for modern Catholics and Orthodox. Their feast day is celebrated by the Orthodox Church May 11 and by the Catholic Church Feb. 14. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is about 64 percent Orthodox, 33 percent Muslim and less than half of 1 percent are Catholic or belong to other Christian denominations.
Thu, 13 Dec 2018 08:23:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- No one should be afraid to turn to God with prayer, especially in times of great doubt, suffering and need, Pope Francis said. Jesus does not want people to become numb to life's problems and "extinguish" those things that make them human when they pray, the pope said Dec. 12 during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI audience hall. "He does not want us to smother our questions and requests, learning to put up with everything. Instead, he wants every pain, every apprehension to rise up to heaven and become a dialogue" with God, the father, he said. Continuing a new series of audience talks on the Our Father, the pope reflected on the simplicity of the prayer and the way it addresses God with intimate familiarity. With this prayer, Jesus shows an "audacious" way to address God immediately as "our Father" without any pomp and "preambles," the pope said. "He doesn't say to turn to God calling him 'O, the All-Powerful' or 'O, the One on high,' or 'O, You who are so far from us and I am the wretched one ....'" "No. He doesn't say that, but simply (uses) the word, 'Father,' with great simplicity, like children who turn to their daddy. This word, 'Father,' expresses intimacy, filial trust," he said. The prayer invites people to pray in a way that "lets all the barriers of subjection and fear fall away," he added. While the Our Father is rooted in "the concrete reality" of every human being, prayer, in essence, begins with life itself. "Our first prayer, in a certain way, was the first wail that came with our first breath" as a , and it signals every human being's destiny: "our continual hunger, our continual thirst, our constant search for happiness." Prayer is found wherever there is a deep hunger, longing, struggle and the question, "why?" Pope Francis said. "Jesus does not want to extinguish (what is) human, he does not want to anesthetize" the person in prayer, he said. Jesus understands that having faith is being able to "cry out." "We all should be like Bartimaeus in the Gospel," he said. This blind man in Jericho kept crying out to the Lord for help even though everyone around him told him to be quiet and not bother Jesus, who -- they felt -- ought not be disturbed because he was so busy. Bartimaeus did not listen and only cried out louder "with holy insistence," the pope said. Jesus listened to his plea and told him his faith is what saved him. The pope said this shows how the cry for healing is an essential part of salvation, because it shows the person has faith and hope and is "free from the desperation of those who do not believe there is a way out of so many unbearable situations." "We can tell him everything, even those things in our life that are distorted and beyond comprehension. He promised us that he would always be with us," he said. When greeting visitors at the end of the audience, the pope greeted all those from Mexico and Latin America, noting that Dec. 12 marked the feast "of our patroness," Our Lady of Guadalupe. He asked that she help people surrender themselves to God's love and to place all of their hope in him. Before the audience, the pope blew out a few candles on a birthday cake a visitor had prepared for him. The pope will celebrate his 82nd birthday Dec. 17. Greeting visitors at the end of the audience, the pope met with a delegation from Panama, representing the upcoming World Youth Day events in January, and he greeted a delegation of Austrian members of parliament who were marking the 200th anniversary of the song "Silent Night," whose melody was composed by an Austrian school teacher. The pope said that "with its profound simplicity, this song helps us understand the event of that holy night. Jesus, the savior, born in Bethlehem, reveals to us the love of God the father."
Tue, 11 Dec 2018 07:36:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The lives of 19 religious men and women martyred during the Algerian civil war are a testament to God's plan of love and peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, Pope Francis said. In a message read Dec. 8 at the beatification Mass for the six women religious and 13 clerics, Pope Francis said it was a time for Catholics in Algeria and around the world to celebrate the martyrs' commitment to peace, but it was also a time to remember the sacrifices made by all Algerians during the bloody war. Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, celebrated the Mass in Oran, Algeria, for the martyrs who were killed between 1994 and 1996. Both Christians and Muslims in Algeria "have been victims of the same violence for having lived, with faithfulness and respect for each other, their duties as believers and citizens in this blessed land. It is for them, too, that we pray and express our grateful tribute," the pope said. Among those who were beatified were Blessed Christian de Cherge and six of his fellow Trappists -- Fathers Christophe Lebreton, Bruno Lemarchand and Celestin Ringeard as well as Brothers Luc Dochier, Michel Fleury and Paul Favre-Miville -- who were murdered in 1996 by members of the Armed Islamic Group in Tibhirine, Algeria. Their life and deaths were the subject of the movie "Of Gods and Men," which won the grand prize at its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. Several months after their deaths, Blessed Pierre Claverie, bishop of Oran, was assassinated along with his driver by an explosive device. According to the website of the Dominican Order of Preachers, his death was mourned also by Muslims who considered him "their bishop." Pope Francis said that all Algerians are heirs of the great message of love that began with St. Augustine of Hippo and continued with the martyred religious men and women "at a time when all people are seeking to advance their aspiration to live together in peace." "By beatifying our 19 brothers and sisters, the church wishes to bear witness to her desire to continue to work for dialogue, harmony and friendship," the pope said. "We believe that this event, which is unprecedented in your country, will draw a great sign of brotherhood in the Algerian sky for the whole world."
Tue, 11 Dec 2018 07:25:00 -0500
ROME (CNS) -- Pope Francis made surprise visits Dec. 7 and 8 to people receiving medical care far from their homes, to a dozen intellectually challenged young people and to the staff of a major Rome newspaper. The late-afternoon visits Dec. 7 to the CasAmica residence for families with a member needing long-term medical care far from home and to Il Ponte e l'Albero, a therapeutic rehabilitation home, were part of the pope's continuing "Mercy Friday" activities. Pope Francis began the Friday visits to hospitals, clinics, schools and residential communities during the 2015-16 Year of Mercy to demonstrate that mercy involves concrete acts of kindness and solidarity. Both the CasAmica and Il Ponte e l'Albero are on the extreme southern edge of Rome. The Vatican said most of the guests at the CasAmica are Italian families, mostly from the south, who cannot afford to stay in a hotel or rent an apartment while their family members are receiving treatment for cancer, leukemia or other serious illnesses. A few of the families, though, come from North Africa and from Eastern Europe. "The pope rang the doorbell and was welcomed by the personnel on duty, who were dumbstruck at the unexpected visit," the Vatican said. Some of the guests were in the kitchen and some children were in the playroom. "The Holy Father stopped to play and joke with them" before listening to the parents of some sick children and offering them words of comfort. The visit to Il Ponte e l'Albero came in response to a letter from some of the young people describing "the daily difficulties that come from their mental disadvantages," as well as their desire and efforts to follow the programs their doctors have designed for them. According to a Vatican statement, the pope sat with the young people, listened to them, responded to their questions and encouraged them. The parents of some of the young people heard the pope was there and arrived in time to embrace him and thank him for the visit. His visit to the newspaper, Il Messaggero, Dec. 8 also came in response to an invitation. The newspaper is marking its 140th anniversary. Pope Francis stopped at the newspaper's headquarters in the center of Rome just after leading prayers for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. In a video of the visit, posted by the newspaper, Pope Francis confirmed Il Messaggero is his preferred daily paper, even though, he said, "I've been advised against" reading it by some people. "I wish you the best -- another 140 years," he told the staff. Pope Francis said journalism should be a service, "explaining things without exaggeration, always looking for the concrete." Discover the facts, report them and then comment on them, he said. "This is the kind of information we all need."
Mon, 10 Dec 2018 08:06:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The annual unveiling of the Vatican's Christmas tree and Nativity scene brought some much-needed warmth to people's hearts as winter approached. Hundreds of people in St. Peter's Square Dec. 7 applauded as white curtains unfurled, revealing a 52-foot wide artistic representation of Jesus' birth made entirely of sand and dubbed the "Sand Nativity." The bas-relief sculpture, which weighed over 700 tons, was made with sand from Jesolo, an Italian seaside resort town roughly 40 miles north of Venice. Shortly after, as the sun set behind St. Peter's Basilica, the sounds of "Silent Night" filled the square before the lights of the Vatican's towering Christmas tree were lit. The 42-foot-tall red spruce tree, donated by the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone in the northern Italian region of Veneto, was unveiled at the Vatican's annual tree lighting ceremony. Among those present at the annual Christmas tree lighting were Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State; Archbishop Francesco Moraglia, patriarch of Venice; and Bishop Giuseppe Pellegrini of Concordia-Pordenone. The "Sand Nativity" scene and tree will remain in St. Peter's Square until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord Jan. 13. Earlier in the day, Pope Francis met with delegations from the northern Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, responsible respectively for the 2018 Vatican Christmas tree and Nativity scene. Thanking the delegations for their gifts, the pope said the Nativity scene and Christmas tree are visible signs that "help us to contemplate the mystery of God, who was made man in order to be close to us." The bright lights emanating from the Christmas tree, he explained, "remind us that Jesus is the light of the world, the light of the soul that drives out the darkness of enmity and makes room for forgiveness." The soaring height of the Christmas tree, he added, also symbolizes "God who -- through the birth of his son, Jesus -- came down to man to raise him to himself and elevate him from the fog of selfishness and sin." Pope Francis also reflected on the unique composition of the Nativity scene. Sand, he said, is a poor material that "recalls the simplicity, the littleness and frailty with which God show himself through the birth of Jesus in the precariousness of Bethlehem." "The child Jesus, Son of God and our Savior, whom we lay in the manger, is holy in poverty, littleness, simplicity and humility," the pope said. "By contemplating the God-child who emanates light in the humility of the manger, we, too, can become witnesses of humility, tenderness and goodness." Kicking off preparations to celebrate the birth of Christ was special exhibition in the morning of over 100 different Nativity scenes at the Vatican. The event, now in its 43rd edition, was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. Dubbed "100 Cribs at the Vatican," the Dec. 7-Jan. 13 exhibition featured a wide variety of artistic representations depicting Jesus' birth in Bethlehem. In a statement promoting the event, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the pontifical council, said the exhibition of different Nativity scenes -- a tradition credited to St. Francis of Assisi -- was "a strong instrument of evangelization." "So many people stop every Christmas before the mystery of God made man, represented with figurines -- which in many cases are authentic masterpieces of art -- to pray, to reflect and to discover the love of God who became a child for us." - - -
Fri, 07 Dec 2018 10:41:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis approved a new set of laws concerning the structure and governance of Vatican City State in an effort to simplify the many offices and activities of the world's smallest nation and to boost oversight, transparency and budgetary controls. The measures, issued "motu proprio," on the pope's own accord, were published Dec. 6. In his letter, the pope said the reorganization was necessary to make it "suitable to current needs" while ensuring its mission to serve the pope and the specific aims of the departments and activities within Vatican City State. He said the time was right to "proceed with a systematic legislative reform enlightened by the principles of rationalization, cost-effectiveness and simplification as well as pursuing the criteria of functionality, transparency, regulatory consistency and organizational flexibility." The pope approved the legislation that had been drafted by a working commission headed by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the governing office of Vatican City State. The new laws will go into effect June 7 and fully replace the law approved by St. John Paul II's motu proprio in 2002. While most of the new law reorganizes existing offices and departments, it "suppresses," that is, eliminates from its jurisdiction, the Pilgrim and Tourist Office, and it allows the Vatican pharmacy -- run by the Brothers of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God -- to maintain its "technical and administrative autonomy." The new law aims for greater transparency with the creation of an oversight and inspection body. "This new position will have the specific tasks of verifying that the norms, procedures and evaluation of cost-effectiveness and efficacies are being observed" within the different departments and offices, said a note accompanying the new law. It also creates the general secretariat office, which will be under responsibility of the secretary-general of the office governing Vatican City State. The office will run the new oversight and inspection body, manage the "coordination of events" and take care of the central archives. According to the legislation, the organizational structure of the governorate will remain substantially unchanged, yet will have greater responsibility in supervising the offices in Vatican City State. The changes that have been made to the operational structure were hoped to allow the governorate of Vatican City State "to operate effectively with regard to problems, emergencies and ordinary management." The legislation is also geared toward "a moderate decentralization" as well as a strengthening of internal audits, strategic planning in preparing budgets that ensures "greater and more efficient functionality." While ensuring greater oversight and transparency, the heads of the governorate's offices and departments will be responsible for their own "assigned objectives, workplace safety and data protection" without the obligation of consistently seeking approval from the general administration.
Thu, 06 Dec 2018 09:17:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will visit the United Arab Emirates next year, becoming the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula, the Vatican announced. In a Dec. 6 statement, the Vatican said the pope will "participate in the International Interfaith Meeting on 'Human Fraternity'" after receiving an invitation by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi. "The visit will take place also in response to the invitation of the Catholic Church in the United Arab Emirates," the Vatican said. The trip Feb. 3-5 will take place less than a week after Pope Francis returns from his Jan. 23-28 visit to Panama for World Youth Day. Shortly after the announcement, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, welcomed the announcement of the pope's visit in a post on his personal Facebook page. The visit, he said "will strengthen our ties and understanding of each other, enhance interfaith dialogue and help us to work together to maintain and build peace among the nations of the world." In a message published on the visit's official website, Swiss Bishop Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar of Southern Arabia, expressed his hope that the pope's "short visit will be a moment of deepening our faith and our adherence to the bishop of Rome." Although a detailed program of the pope's schedule "will be published before Christmas," Bishop Hinder confirmed that Pope Francis will celebrate a public Mass in Abu Dhabi Feb. 5 and that arrangements are being made to allow as many faithful as possible "to participate in this historic event." "Let us keep in mind that it will be the first visit of a pope to the Arabian Peninsula," the bishop said. The Vatican also released the logo and the theme of the papal visit, "Make me a channel of your peace," which is inspired by St. Francis of Assisi's prayer for peace. The theme, the Vatican statement said, "expresses our own prayer that the visit of Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates may spread in a special way the peace of God within the hearts of all people of goodwill." Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, said the theme was also a fitting description of the purpose of the pope's visit which will focus on "how all people of goodwill can work for peace." "This visit, like the one to Egypt, shows the fundamental importance the Holy Father gives to interreligious dialogue," Burke said. "Pope Francis visiting the Arab world is a perfect example of the culture of encounter."
Wed, 05 Dec 2018 08:22:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis expressed his condolences for the death of the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a telegram to the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, telling him the pope was "saddened to learn of the death" of the former president. "Pope Francis offers heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his prayers to all the Bush family," he said in the telegram published by the Vatican Dec. 5. "Commending President Bush's soul to the merciful love of almighty God, His Holiness invokes upon all who mourn his passing the divine blessings of strength and peace," Cardinal Parolin wrote. Bush died Nov. 30, at the age of 94 at his home in Houston. He was to be honored with a state funeral in Washington Dec. 5.
Thu, 29 Nov 2018 18:35:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People who visit Catholic shrines must find a place of warmth and welcome, as well as good priests who enjoy being with and listening to the faithful, Pope Francis said. "It is sad," he said, whenever visitors arrive and "there is no one there who gives them a word of welcome and receives them like pilgrims who have accomplished a journey, often a long one, to reach the shrine," and it is even worse if they find the place is closed. "It cannot happen that more attention is paid to material and financial demands, forgetting that the most important part is the pilgrim. They are the ones who count," he said. The pope spoke Nov. 29 to hundreds of priests, religious and laypeople attending the first International Convention of Rectors and Pastoral Worker of Shrines, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. The convention, held in Rome Nov. 27-29, focused on the way shrines are "an open door to the new evangelization." Pilgrimages and visits to shrines are a key part of popular traditions, and Pope Francis told the group that keeping such popular piety alive was very important. "It is the immune system of the church. It protects us from many things," he said. Welcoming groups and visitors is very important, he said, so make sure they are made to feel "at home, like a family member who has been expected for a very long time and has finally come." Sometimes visitors are people who have distanced themselves from the church, but they made the trip because they are attracted to the shrine's artistic treasures or its beautiful natural surroundings, the pope said. "When they are welcomed, these people will become more willing to open their hearts and let them be shaped by grace. A climate of friendship is the fertile seed our shrines can toss on pilgrim soil, allowing them to rediscover that trust in the church" that might have been lost because of having been met with indifference, he said. No one must ever feel like a stranger or an "outsider, above all when they get there with the burden of their own sins." If the sacrament of reconciliation is offered at a shrine, the priests should be "well-formed, holy, merciful" and able to help the penitent experience "the true encounter with the Lord, who forgives," he added. Shrines should be places of prayer, but also a place where an individual can pray in silence, he said. He added that priests serving the shrine must be ministers who love being with and understand the people of God. If not, "the bishop should give him another mis
Wed, 28 Nov 2018 08:25:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Fully automated and autonomous lethal weapons systems must be banned now before they become a reality in tomorrow's wars, a Vatican representative said. The development of robotic weapons or "killer robots" will provide "the capacity of altering irreversibly the nature of warfare, becoming more detached from human agency, putting in question the humanity of our societies," Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic told a group of experts at the United Nations in Geneva. The archbishop, who is the Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva, spoke Nov. 22 at a meeting of the high contracting parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, held in Geneva Nov. 21-23. The Vatican mission in Geneva released the archbishop's remarks Nov. 27. The legal and ethical implications of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) have been discussed and on the convention's agenda for the past five years, the archbishop said in his speech. The International Committee of the Red Cross has defined LAWS as being "any weapon system with autonomy in its critical functions. That is, a weapon system that can select -- i.e. search for or detect, identify, track, select -- and attack -- i.e. use force against, neutralize, damage or destroy -- targets without human intervention." The first such autonomous weapon was the land mine, but rapid advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning have broadened the potential for weapons with extensive autonomy from human decision-making. "The Holy See has expressed its concerns on several occasions" about this deadly form of weapons system, the archbishop said. "Various proposals for possible concrete outcomes have been put forward; what these proposals have in common is the underlying need for a multilateral approach and the need to retain the human person at the heart of decisions exerting injurious or lethal force," he said. The Vatican advocates the attitudes of precaution and prevention as being "the only options that will ensure a sound and lasting outcome." "In order to prevent an arms race and the increase of inequalities and instability, it is an imperative duty to act promptly: Now is the time to prevent LAWS from becoming the reality of tomorrow’s warfare," he said. The convention's parties "should make a courageous and enlightened decision of prohibiting LAWS like it did in the past concerning other types of weapons," Archbishop Jurkovic said, like with the international ban on land mines and the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
Mon, 19 Nov 2018 08:42:00 -0500
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) -- Cal Fire officials reported that the death toll had reached 77 in the Camp Fire north of Sacramento, one of the deadliest blazes in the state. The number of people who are missing has reached almost 1,000. At the Vatican Nov. 18, Pope Francis said, "A special prayer goes to those affected by the fires that are plaguing California. ... May the Lord welcome the deceased in his peace, comfort their families and support those who are involved in relief efforts. As of Nov. 19, 150,000 acres had been scorched and 12,794 structures destroyed by the Camp Fire. Containment of the fire was 65 percent to date and full containment was expected Nov. 30. "The tremendous loss from the Camp Fire ravaging parts of the diocese is devastating," said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento. "The families in Paradise and the surrounding communities affected by the fire can rely on the support of our prayers." The entire population of Paradise of about 30,000, was forced to evacuate Nov. 9; the town was destroyed. "We also pray for the brave men and women responding to this disaster and battling the fires," the bishop added in a statement posted on the diocesan website, www.scd.org. "May all those who have died in this catastrophic inferno be granted eternal repose in the merciful hands of the Lord Jesus." Bishop Soto celebrated Mass Nov. 18 at St. John the Baptist Church in downtown Chico for all those affected by the Camp Fire. He especially invited the community of St. Thomas More Parish in Paradise; their church was in the direct line of fire. Many of St. Thomas' parishioners have lost their homes. The Sacramento Diocese confirmed that the church and school buildings survived the fire. The new rectory, old rectory and parish hall were destroyed. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Northern Valley Catholic Social Service were working with partner organizations on local relief and recovery efforts. Donations can be made through the Sacramento Diocese by visiting www.scd.org/donate (choose the Fire Assistance Fund). Residents of Southern California have been coping with the Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles, which started Nov. 8, the same day as the Camp Fire. Both fires were fueled by low humidity and strong winds. As of Nov. 16, residents displaced by the Woolsey Fire were being allowed to return home. Full containment of the fire was expected by Nov. 22. It burned close to 97,000 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, destroyed 1,452 structures and damaged another 337. Three fatalities were confirmed. In a Nov. 14 statement, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez asked all people of faith and goodwill to join him in offering prayers and support for everyone affected by the fires in Southern California. "The devastation of the wildfires continues throughout our state. We need to keep praying for those who have lost their lives and their homes and livelihoods, and for all the men and women fighting the fires," said Archbishop Gomez. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has started a fund to help the victims of these fires. Donations can be made at www.archla.org/fires . "These funds will assist families within our parish communities in their recovery efforts," he said. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has been providing support to the communities affected by the fires through Catholic Charities of Los Angeles and local parishes and schools.
Mon, 19 Nov 2018 08:32:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As the rich get richer, the increasing misery and cries of the poor are ignored every day, Pope Francis said. "We Christians cannot stand with arms folded in indifference" or thrown up in the air in helpless resignation, the pope said in his homily Nov. 18, the World Day of the Poor. "As believers, we must stretch out our hands as Jesus does with us," freely and lovingly offering help to the poor and all those in need, the pope said at the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. About 6,000 poor people attended the Mass as special guests; they were joined by volunteers and others who assist disadvantaged communities. After the Mass and Angelus, the pope joined some 1,500 poor people in the Vatican's audience hall for a multi-course lunch. Many parishes, schools and volunteer groups across Rome also offered a number of services and meals for the poor that day. God always hears the cries of those in need, the pope said in his homily at the Mass, but what about "us? Do we have eyes to see, ears to hear, hands outstretched to offer help?" Pope Francis urged everyone to pray for the grace to hear the cries of all the poor: "the stifled cry of the unborn, of starving children, of young people more used to the explosion of bombs than happy shouts of the playground." May people hear the cry of the abandoned elderly, those who lack any support, refugees and "entire peoples deprived even of the great natural resources at their disposal," he said. Referring to the Gospel story of the poor man begging for scraps, Pope Francis many people today are just like Lazarus and "weep while the wealthy few feast on what, in justice, belongs to all. Injustice is the perverse root of poverty." Every day, he said, the cry of the poor becomes louder, but it is increasingly ignored. Their cries are "drowned out by the din of the rich few, who grow ever fewer and more rich," he said. The pope reflected on St. Matthew's account of what Jesus did after he fed thousands with just five loaves and two fish. The passage (Mt 14: 22-32) explains that instead of gloating or basking in the glory of successfully feeding so many people, Jesus goes up to the mountain to pray. "He teaches us the courage to leave, to leave behind the success that swells the heart and the tranquillity that deadens the soul," the pope said. But then Jesus goes back down the mountain to the people who still need him, he said. "This is the road Jesus tells us to take -- to go up to God and to come down to our brothers and sisters," to tear oneself away from a life of ease and comfort and leave behind fleeting pleasures, glories and superfluous possessions, the pope said. Jesus sets people free from the things that do not matter so they will be able to embrace the true treasures in life: God and one's neighbor, he added. The other event in the passage according to St. Matthew, the pope said, is how the storm and the winds died down after Jesus got into the boat carrying his frightened disciples. The secret to navigating life and its momentary storms, the pope said, "is to invite Jesus on board. The rudder of life must be surrendered to him" because it is he who gives life, hope, healing and freedom from fear. The third thing Jesus does is stretch out his hand to Peter, who, in his fear and doubt, is sinking in the water. Everyone wants true life and needs the hand of the Lord to save them from evil, the pope said. "This is the beginning of faith -- to cast off the pride that makes us feel self-sufficient and to realize that we are in need of salvation," he said. "Faith grows in this climate" of being not on a pedestal aloof from the world but with those crying for help. "This is why it is important for all of us to live our faith in contact with those in need," the pope said. "This is not a sociological option or a pontifical fad. It is a theological requirement" to acknowledge one's own spiritual poverty and that everyone, especially the poor, is pleading for salvation. ...
Fri, 16 Nov 2018 08:18:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis welcomed Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to the Vatican Nov. 15 for a private discussion that included the importance of building greater trust between Israelis and Palestinians. During their 35-minute meeting, they spoke about the importance of mutual trust in negotiations "so as to reach an accord respecting the legitimate aspirations of both peoples," the Vatican said in a statement. "The hope was expressed that suitable agreements may be reached" also between Israeli authorities and local Catholic communities "in relation to some issues of common interest," it said, adding that the Holy See and the State of Israel would soon celebrate the 25th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations. Aided by interpreters, the pope and president spoke about "the political and social situation in the region, marked by different conflicts and the consequent humanitarian crises. In this context, the parties highlighted the importance of dialogue between the various religious communities in order to guarantee peaceful coexistence and stability," the statement said. "Mention was made of the importance of building greater mutual trust in view of the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians so as to reach an accord respecting the legitimate aspirations of both peoples, and of the Jerusalem question, in its religious and human dimension for Jews, Christians and Muslims, as well as the importance of safeguarding its identity and vocation as City of Peace." Exchanging gifts, Rivlin gave Pope Francis a small bas relief replicating the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. According to pool reporters, the president told the pope that the image showed how one could divide the various parts of the city, but also unite it in new ways. The walled Old City is divided into the Jewish quarter, the Armenian quarter, the Christian quarter and the Muslim quarter. "Jerusalem has been a holy city for the three monotheistic religions for centuries. For the Jewish people, #Jerusalem has been the spiritual center since the days of the First Temple over 3,000 years ago, but it is also a microcosm of our ability to live together," the president tweeted later, adding a photo of the two of them speaking during the gift exchange. The Vatican consistently has called for a special status for Jerusalem, particularly its Old City, in order to protect and guarantee access to the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. During the meeting, Pope Francis gave Rivlin a large medallion, which the pope described as representing wheat being able to grow in the desert. Pool reporters said the pope told the president he hoped this desert would be transformed from a desert of animosity into a land of friendship. The Jerusalem Post reported that Rivlin thanked the pope for supporting the fight against anti-Semitism. "Your absolute condemnation of acts of anti-Semitism and your definition of such acts as anti-Christian are a significant step in the ongoing fight to stamp it out," Rivlin said. Members of Rivlin's entourage said they also talked about the controversy between Jerusalem's city government and the Catholic Church concerning city property taxes. In early February, the Jerusalem Municipality announced it would begin collecting $186.4 million in property taxes from some 887 church-owned properties that were not houses of prayer. Since then, the Israeli government set up a negotiating team to resolve the dispute.
Thu, 15 Nov 2018 08:27:00 -0500
ROME (CNS) -- Plans are underway for a solemn opening in February of the sainthood cause of Father Pedro Arrupe, superior general of the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983. Jesuit Father Arturo Sosa, the current superior, informed Jesuits Nov. 14 that the cause "has been set in motion in the Vicariate of Rome, the place of his death" and that "from now on, therefore, he is considered a 'Servant of God.'" In July, during a meeting in Spain, Father Sosa told Jesuits and lay collaborators that the serious work of preparation had begun. That preparation included compiling all of Father Arrupe's writings and seeking eyewitnesses who could attest to his holiness. More than 100 witnesses -- mainly from Spain, Japan and Italy -- are expected to testify, Father Sosa said. In addition, two commissions already have begun reviewing all Father Arrupe's published works and "many unpublished documents written by or about Father Arrupe and the socio-ecclesial context in which he lived." Father Sosa, in his November letter, said that assuming the Vatican and the bishops in and around Rome pose no objections, "the session formally opening the cause will take place at the Basilica of St. John Lateran" in Rome Feb. 5, 2019, the 28th anniversary of Father Arrupe's death. "Eloquent and even moving postulatory letters received from all over the world confirm that his reputation for holiness is recognized in different sectors of the church," Father Sosa said. "This reputation of holiness is spontaneous, continuous and enduring." Father Arrupe's work to help Jesuits rediscover the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and "the method of personal discernment and discernment in common" helped the Jesuits renew their life, "their consecration and vows, community and mission," Father Sosa said.
Thu, 15 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0500
The Vatican did the right thing when it halted final action by the U.S. bishops on a policy to respond to the clergy sex-abuse crisis, and this is why the Holy See’s decision was correct. As has been so well indicated, the crisis is worldwide. Many U.S. Catholics understandably see it in terms of the Church in the United States, but the Vatican sees the problem in its full dimension. Sexual abuse of youth, ongoing literally for generations, has had effects little short of catastrophic around the world. Think about it. Every bishop in Chile had to resign. Once upon a time, over 90 percent of Chileans identified themselves as Catholics. The country had been solidly Catholic since the days of Spanish colonization centuries ago. Now, just over 60 percent of people in Chile call themselves Catholics. Very, very many have left the Church because of the scandal. The picture in Ireland is heartbreaking. For four long, wearying, agonizing centuries, the Irish held onto their ancient Catholicism despite the relentless persecution of the British. In great measure, because of child sex abuse by priests and nuns, the Irish people are walking away from the Church by the thousands. Then, look at Australia. The list of entire national societies disheartened by sexual abuse of youth is sickening to consider. What is needed is a bold step forward by the Church, with application everywhere, without exception, and written into the universal law of the Church. This precisely is what the pope intends to put into place after meeting with representatives of the world’s bishops in February, after all data has been gathered, after all options have been drawn with care, and when the best remedies have been found. Were the U.S. bishops to act now, however noble their intentions, and however attuned they would be to the outrage of millions of Catholic Americans, they would be acting alone, and their policies would have to be modified or qualified, very possibly, when the gathering of bishops in February actually met and acted. What signal would that send? How strong would be their policy? In addition, given the force of the United States in general, and the impact resulting from the enormous size and vast resources of the Church in this country, any decision taken by the U.S. bishops easily could put the discussions in Rome on the spot. What then would happen? Catholics elsewhere in the world feel virtually coerced by the powerful Americans, so would they ignore any decisions reached by the Roman meeting? How would that help in resolving the problem? Would victims be helped? Would future crimes be prevented? Some have suggested a plan that would include creation of committees to oversee actions by bishops. If a critical judgment were rendered in the case of a given bishop, he virtually would be expected, if not required, to resign. So, it is about time. This is what we need! Get rid of the old boy network. Fine, but once this step is taken, a precedent has been set. Other issues confront the Church, and they can be daunting, indeed ominous. The Vatican knows that bishops who are faithful to the teachings of the Church might not survive if oversight committees in other circumstances thought badly of them. Nothing guarantees that any process, just because it is composed of third parties, everywhere and inevitably will act impartially or in behalf of Gospel values. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . The problem is much more complex than might be thought. Asking the U.S. bishops to delay action until the Church acts worldwide is hardly calling for an end to any process to address sex abuse, indifferent to its staggering dimensions, and to jump to this conclusion simply is unfair and inaccurate. Evidence is clear. The problem is everywhere and longstanding. Victims, potential victims, and all of us deserve a thorough, universal, and fully accepted, response. Msgr. Owen F. Campion is OSV’s chaplain.
Tue, 13 Nov 2018 15:41:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As workers were getting St. Peter's Square ready for this year's Nativity scene, nearby a large mobile health care facility was set up and running to serve the city's homeless and poor. About two dozen men and a few women were sitting or standing in a spacious area, quietly waiting their turn or filling out basic paperwork before being called for their free checkups. Doctors volunteering from Rome hospitals or other health clinics and nurses from the Italian Red Cross took shifts running laboratory tests and seeing patients from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. For the second time, the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization organized the free health care initiative in conjunction with Pope Francis' celebration of the World Day of the Poor, which was to be celebrated Nov. 18. But this year, the clinic offered extended morning and evening hours. Anyone in need could find general and specialist care, including cardiology, dermatology, gynecology and ophthalmology. Roberta Capparella, a Red Cross nurse, told reporters Nov. 13 that she and many others took part in last year's initiative and found it "very gratifying." She said they were so happy to hear Pope Francis wanted to offer the free health services again this year that they jumped at the chance to serve again. "Just by being here all day, volunteers realize that they aren't giving of themselves, but that they are receiving" from the people they serve, she said. The World Day of the Poor -- marked each year on the 33rd Sunday of ordinary time -- focuses this year on a verse from Psalm 34, "This poor one cried out and the Lord heard." The commemoration and the period of reflection and action preceding it are meant to give Christians a chance to follow Christ's example and concretely share a moment of love, hope and respect together with those in need in one's community, the pope said in his message for the day, published in mid-June. Local churches, associations and institutions were again asked to create initiatives that foster moments of real encounter, friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance. The pope was to celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Nov. 18 with the poor and volunteers, and he was scheduled to have lunch afterward with about 3,000 people in the Vatican's Paul VI audience hall. Other volunteer groups and schools were also set to offer free meals throughout the city.
Tue, 13 Nov 2018 08:09:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis named Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, arguably the Catholic Church's most respected abuse investigator, to be adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Announcing the appointment Nov. 13, the Vatican press office said the archbishop would continue to serve simultaneously as head of the Malta Archdiocese. "To fulfill the duties entrusted to him by Pope Francis, Archbishop Scicluna will travel to Rome on a regular basis," said a note on the archdiocese's website. Archbishop Scicluna is expected to have a key role in the organization of a meeting in February on child protection that Pope Francis has asked all presidents of national bishops' conferences to attend. The 59-year-old archbishop, who holds a doctorate in canon law, worked at the doctrinal congregation for 10 years as the "promoter of justice" -- a position similar to prosecuting attorney -- dealing with cases of alleged clerical sexual abuse. But even after being named auxiliary bishop of Malta in 2012, he continued to be the person the pope would call on to investigate high-profile cases of abuse, consolidating a reputation for treating victims with compassion and respect, and for insisting church officials respond to allegations clearly. He generally is credited with consolidating the cases against Legionaries of Christ founder Father Marcial Maciel Degollado and Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien and, most recently, for convincing Pope Francis to take measures against several bishops in Chile. Archbishop Scicluna also serves as president of the doctrinal congregation board that reviews appeals filed by priests laicized or otherwise disciplined in sexual abuse or other serious cases. Although born in Toronto, he has lived in Malta since he was a year old. He did his university and seminary studies in Malta and was ordained to the priesthood in 1986. During the Synod of Bishops in October, reporters asked Archbishop Scicluna about the state of discussions regarding the need for greater accountability of bishops in handling abuse cases. He said accountability would be a topic at the world meeting on abuse prevention the pope called for Feb. 21-24. "We know there is a great expectation for more accountability," he said. "Now how is that going to develop? I think we need to trust Pope Francis to develop a system whereby there is more accountability." "We bishops realize that we are accountable not only to God but also to our people," and accountable not only for what they do, but what they fail to do when it comes to "stewardship" and protection, he said. The crisis caused by ongoing revelations and allegations "is a very important moment" for everyone in the church because "it is going to make us really, really humble," the archbishop told reporters. "There is no other way to humility except through humiliation, and it is a big humiliation, and it is going to make us humble, I hope."
Sun, 11 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0500
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Appealing to the international community to help bring peace to Syria and Iraq, Pope Francis and Catholicos Gewargis III, patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, also paid homage to the lands' persecuted Christians, who demonstrate that faith in Christ is a bond that is stronger than any denominational difference. "Just as the blood of Christ, shed out of love, brought reconciliation and unity and caused the church to flourish, so the blood of these martyrs of our time, members of various churches but united by their shared suffering, is the seed of Christian unity," said a statement signed Nov. 9 by the pope and the patriarch. The two leaders signed their joint declaration in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace after praying together, particularly for persecuted Christians and for those who have felt forced to flee the Middle East. The patriarch, who is based in Irbil, Iraq, leads a church of about 400,000 members with parishes in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, North America, Australia and India. The Assyrian Church of the East, which is closely related to the Chaldean Catholic Church, is engaged in a variety of ecumenical dialogues, but it is not in full communion with any other church. In 1994, then-Catholicos Dinkha IV and St. John Paul II signed a common Christological agreement, which expressed the two churches' common faith in Christ's incarnation. In 2017, the Catholic-Assyrian Church of the East dialogue commission issued a joint statement on the sacraments, including holy orders and the Eucharist. "We are most grateful for the fruits of this dialogue of love and truth, which confirm that a diversity of customs and disciplines is in no way an obstacle to unity, and that certain differences in theological expressions are often complementary rather than conflicting," said the joint statement of Pope Francis and Catholicos Gewargis. "It is our prayerful hope that our theological dialogue may help us to smooth the path to the long-awaited day when we will be able to celebrate together the Lord's sacrifice on the same altar," the two leaders said. In his speech to the pope, Catholicos Gewargis focused on the importance of a Christian presence in the Middle East and how that is challenged each day by violence and discrimination. "The many decades of war, violence, religious hostilities and sectarianism have had an inevitable and sadly irreversible effect on the ancient Christian communities of the East," he said. "What we have witnessed in both Iraq and Syria in the last 15 years is a living testimony to this grievous situation of the forced departure and displacement -- both internally and externally -- of millions of Christians from the region of the Middle East. "In addition," he said, "the rise of religious fundamentalism has scarred at least two generations of children and youth who no longer have the experience of peace and justice in their lives; rather, they have grown up with the understanding that war and religious violence is not only a normal part of daily human life, but indeed a dictate of religion." Pope Francis said that Christian victims of violence, who are "frequently forced to leave the lands in which they have always lived" in the Middle East "tread the 'via crucis' in the footsteps of Christ." While they belong to different Christian communities, he said, "they are forging fraternal relationships among one another and thus becoming, for us, witnesses of unity." In their joint statement, the pope and catholicos said, "Without distinction of rite or confession, they suffer for professing the name of Christ. In them, we see the Body of Christ which, today too, is afflicted, beaten and reviled. We are profoundly united in our prayer of intercession and in our charitable outreach to these suffering members of Christ's body."