Vatican Watch

JULY

TUESDAY 28

Vatican Exhibit Marks Progress of Catholic-Jewish Relations

Helping to inaugurate an exhibit at the Vatican today, the chief rabbi of Rome noted just how much “times have changed.” “Seeing in St. Peter’s Square the banner announcing the exhibit with an image of a Pope, that’s normal, but a Pope shaking hands with a rabbi?” said Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni. “That’s not normal. It’s a sign of how times have changed.” The banner shows the late St. John Paul II and the late Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff greeting each other in 1986 at Rome’s main synagogue. St. John Paul was the first Pope in modern history to enter a synagogue. The exhibit, A Blessing to One Another: John Paul II and the Jewish People, began 10 years ago, at Cincinnati’s Xavier University in 2005. Seen in another 17 U.S. cities over the years, it was open in the Vatican’s Braccio di Carlo Magno hall through September 16.


AUGUST

THURSDAY 6

Pope marks Hiroshima bombing’s 70th anniversary

Marking the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Pope Francis repeated the Catholic Church’s call for a ban on nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction. Seventy years after the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing of Hiroshima and the bombing of Nagasaki three days later, “this tragic event still gives rise to horror and revulsion,” the pope said Aug. 9 after reciting the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square. The atomic bombings of the two Japanese cities by the United States during World War II, he said, have become a symbol of “the vast destructive power of human beings when they make distorted use of scientific and technical progress.” At the same time, he said, the destruction unleashed is a lasting call to humanity to reject war and “ban nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction.”

WEDNESDAY 12

Celebrations, including Mass, essential for family life

Families need moments of rest and celebration, time for standing back and recognizing the gifts of God and how well they have developed, Pope Francis said today. Celebrations are times “to enjoy that which cannot be produced or consumed, that cannot be bought or sold,” the Pope said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square. “Celebrations are God’s invention,” he said, pointing to the description in the Book of Genesis of how, after creating the world, God took a day of rest and contemplated all he had created.

MONDAY 17

Pope seeks special “Missionaries of Mercy”

Pope Francis is looking for a few good “missionaries of mercy,” priests who are known for their preaching and their dedication to hearing confessions and granting absolution, it was announced today. If they have their bishop’s or superior’s support, priests interested in being one of the special communicators of God’s mercy are invited to apply online at the Year of Mercy website: http://www.im.va/content/gdm/en/partecipa/missionari.html. The missionaries will be commissioned formally by the Pope and sent out on February 10, 2016, Ash Wednesday. When Pope Francis announced the Holy Year of Mercy, he said he would give the “missionaries of mercy” special authority or faculties “to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.”

TUESDAY 18

New “app” connects people with Vatican Museums

GPII-e-EBREI-TOAFFBy downloading an “app” for a smartphone or tablet, members of the public can chat with others about famous works of art in the Vatican Museums, share strategies for dealing with the crowds and choose a work to help restore. “Patrum,” the new application from the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, was launched in mid-August. Part social network and part crowdsourcing, the application lets museum fans communicate with each other and make donations online. It includes short features about people who work in the museums or who are members of the Patrons, provides tips for tourists, and explains the art and architecture at the Vatican, both well-known and often overlooked.

FRIDAY 21

Pope surprises Mass-goers on Feast of Pius X

From the time he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pope Francis has said special prayers for catechists on the feast of St. Pius X, who wrote a catechism in 1908. Pope Francis celebrated a private Mass in his residence very early on the feast day, August 21, but decided also to pray for catechists at the tomb of St. Pius in St. Peter’s Basilica. About 70 people were in the pews in front of the tomb waiting for 7 a.m. Mass when the Pope arrived and joined them, sitting in the front pew and surprising everyone in attendance, including the celebrant, Msgr. Lucio Bonora. Msgr. Bonora went down to the Pope during the sign of peace and, for Communion, the Pope stood in line with others from the small congregation, L’Osservatore Romano reported. After Mass, outside the basilica, Francis told the monsignor that he went to St. Pius’ tomb “to pray for all catechists, entrusting them to his protection as I did every year in Argentina.”

WEDNESDAY 26

Church joins Orthodox in World Day of Prayer for Creation

The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation should be a time for individuals to examine their lifestyles and the way they impact the environment, Pope Francis said today. At the end of his weekly general audience, the Pope asked Catholics and “all people of goodwill” to join members of the Orthodox Church in the special day of prayer on September 1. “We want to make our contribution to overcoming the ecological crisis that humanity is experiencing,” the Pope said, explaining why he decided the Catholic Church should mark the annual day of prayer begun by the Orthodox Church in 1989. Around the world, the Pope said, Church groups are planning prayer and reflection initiatives in order to make the day a key moment for “assuming coherent life­styles” with a less negative impact on nature.

SATURDAY 29

Former archbishop awaiting trial died of natural causes

Initial results of the autopsy on the body of former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who was awaiting trial in the Vatican on charges of child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography, indicate he died late August 27 of a “cardiac incident,” the Vatican said. Wesolowski, 67, the former Vatican nuncio to the Dominican Republic, had been confined to Vatican property for some months while awaiting trial.


SEPTEMBER

THURSDAY 10

Pope’s November visit to Africa confirmed

The Vatican today officially announced that Pope Francis will accept invitations from “heads of state and the bishops” to travel to Kenya, November 25-27; Uganda, November 27-29; and the Central African Republic, November 29-30, a plan informally revealed by the Pope himself this summer.

WEDNESDAY 16

Women’s Special role

Women have a special role in protecting against the evils of the time, Pope Francis said in his weekly Wednesday general audience. Reflecting on the book of Genesis, Pope Francis noted that this first man and woman failed at protecting God’s creation, resulting in the inheritance of original sin for all of mankind. But, rather than abandoning us to this “disease” of original sin, God set up a woman as a “protective barrier” against the evils of every generation, he added. “This means that the woman carries a secret and special blessing” for defending us against evil, the pontiff said, recalling the woman from the book of Revelation who hid her son from the dragon.

THURSDAY 17

Missions in japan

A collection of documents recently restored at the Vatican tells of the persecution of Christians in Japan. Pope Francis has often spoken of these Japanese as the “hidden Christians” who knew how to keep and pass on the faith in a time of persecution, and even when deprived of priests. The Vatican Library and Secret Archives contain precious testimonies of those Christians who, between the 16th and 19th centuries, lived under violence and humiliation. From the 1930s through the 1950s, Croatian missionary to Japan Fr. Mario Marega collected boxes of documents about the prohibitions that Christians, converted by 16th-century Jesuit missionaries in northern Kyushu, underwent due to their faith, which the feudal shogun enforced politically. Nagasaki Teruaki, Japan’s ambassador to the Holy See, recalled on the opening day of the exhibition that the “Kakure Kirishitan” (Hidden Christian) were “discovered” 150 years ago, when Japan was reopened to the world.

SEPTEMBER 11

Little engine that could: Pope coaxes Vatican to open railway to villa

TRENO-022A1715Pope Francis’ desire for a Church whose doors are wide open isn’t just a metaphor for encouraging a greater spirit of welcoming. He also has been giving real orders to Vatican staff to lift the locks on places and spaces that were long closed to the general public — the latest being the papal summer home in the hilltop town of Castel Gandolfo, about 15 miles outside of Rome on the lip of an ancient crater lake. The head of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci, said the Pope did not want the rich botanical and architectural treasures of the papal gardens and villas to be wasted, especially since the Pope had no intention of ever spending his summers there with “too much to do in Rome.” The Pope told him, “Arrange for opening them up” to the public, Paolucci told reporters during an inaugural tour of the new offering. But the Pope’s initiative goes even further by linking Vatican City State with the so-called “second Vatican” by a specially chartered train to Castel Gandolfo, just a 40-minute train ride away.

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