New commission on abuse prevention
A new papal commission for protecting minors from sexual abuse met today for the first time to discuss its mandate and expand input from more countries. Pope Francis established the “Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors” in December. The commission’s May 1-3 meetings are being held at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where the Pope lives. The commission is led by US Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston.
Attitude of “evangelical service” needed
Pope Francis told his new economic oversight council that it must be “courageous and determined” in helping the Church not to waver from her real mission of bringing the Gospel to the world and helping those most in need. “A new mentality of evangelical service” must take hold throughout the Vatican, the Pope said May 2. The Pope’s comments came as the new Vatican Council for the Economy, composed of eight cardinals and seven lay experts chosen to set policies for the financial activities of all Vatican offices, met for the first time since the Pope created the council in February.
Pope cries iver crucifixons
Pope Francis said today that he wept when he recently saw images of Christians reportedly killed by crucifixion in Syria. “Still today there are people who kill, who persecute in the name of God,” he said in his homily at the morning Mass in the chapel of his residence. “I wept when I saw in the media” photographs of “Christians crucified in a certain non-Christian country,” he told those at the Mass.
Read gospel daily
Receive Communion every Sunday and read the Gospel every day to keep discouragement away, Pope Francis said. “The word of God and the Eucharist always fill us with joy!” the Pope said in his address to people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the Regina Coeli with him. The Pope spoke about the day’s reading from the Gospel of St. Luke (24:13-35), in which two of Jesus’ disciples left Jerusalem, saddened and dejected by Christ’s death. Failing to grasp the truth of the prophets, the disciples did not recognize the risen Christ when he appeared before them on the road to the village of Emmaus. However, when Jesus explained the Scriptures, and blessed and broke bread with them, their “eyes were opened” and their hearts started “burning” with joy and hope. Often the same thing happens to people today, the Pope said. “Life sometimes hurts us and we go there, toward our ‘Emmaus,’ feeling sad with our backs to God’s plan. We distance ourselves from God,” he said.
Social climbers: not in the church!
The Catholic Church is no place for “climbers” who want to reach the heights of prestige, power and profit, Pope Francis said. Instead of setting their sights on the Church, such people should set off for the Alps for a healthier way to get to the top, the Pope said May 5 during his homily at Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
He also raised a red flag against “many good Catholics” and benefactors, who have raised money for the Church, but profited handsomely from their efforts. People should reflect on their true motivation for being part of the Church. It should never be for prestige, power or profit, but purely out of love for Jesus, he said. Unfortunately, there are Christians who like to “strut around like real peacocks,” full of vanity, the Pope said.
Pope to Swiss Guard:
“Impress visitors with kindness”
Pope Francis told members of the Swiss Guard to impress Vatican visitors with their courtesy, kindness and generosity, not just with their flashy, colorful uniforms. The Pope held a private audience with the Swiss Guard, including new recruits and their family members, on May 5, the day before the Guard’s annual swearing-in ceremony. New recruits pledge to “faithfully, loyally and honorably” serve the pontiff and, if necessary, sacrifice their lives for him. The induction ceremony, held May 6 every year, marks the date in 1527 when 147 Swiss Guards lost their lives defending Pope Clement VII in the Sack of Rome. Only 42 guards survived. Today, the 110 Swiss soldiers are responsible for guarding all entrances into Vatican City State as well as keeping watch over the Pope in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
Sex abuse panel to stress education
The new papal commission for protecting minors from clerical sex abuse will recommend stricter standards for accountability of abusers and those who fail to protect children, and will fight widespread denial of the problem within the Church, said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston. “In some people’s minds, ‘Oh, this is an American problem, it’s an Irish problem, it’s a German problem,’” the cardinal told reporters May 3. “Well, it’s a human problem, and the Church needs to face it everywhere in the world. And so a lot of our recommendations are going to have to be around education, because there is so much ignorance around this topic, so much denial.”
Progress in stopping sexual abuse
Appearing for the second day before a UN committee monitoring adherence to an international treaty designed to fight torture, a Vatican official insisted that, over the past 10 years, the Catholic Church has “in a systematic, constructive and effective way” worked to prevent clerical sexual abuse of minors and assist victims. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s representative to UN agencies in Geneva, told the Committee Against Torture that the sexual abuse of children “is a worldwide plague and scourge” that the Vatican, national bishops’ conferences, religious orders and individual dioceses have worked seriously to eliminate.
Pope: Give witness to Christ every day
Christianity is not a school of ideas or a collection of beautiful temples and lovely art; it is a living people who follow Jesus and give witness to him every day, Pope Francis said today.
“Am I a Christian giving witness to Jesus or am I a simple numerary of this sect,” unable to let the Holy Spirit “drive me forward in my Christian vocation?” he asked in his homily at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. “We are not a religion of ideas, of pure theology, of beautiful things and commandments. No, we are a people who follow Jesus Christ and give witness… and this witness sometimes ends up being giving one’s life,” he said.
The Pope looked at the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first martyr. Like Jesus, Stephen was the object of jealous leaders and false witnesses, Francis said.
Vatican official rebukes US nuns’ group for “errors”
Using what he acknowledged was unusually “blunt” language, the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office rebuked officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) for honoring a Catholic theologian whose work was judged “seriously inadequate.” Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made the remarks April 30 in an address to the presidency of the LCWR, a Maryland-based umbrella group claiming 1,500 leaders of US women’s communities as members, representing about 80 percent of the country’s 57,000 women religious. The group is currently undergoing a major reform ordered by the Vatican in 2012. The text of Cardinal Mueller’s remarks was posted today on the Congregation’s website.
At the April 30 meeting with LCWR officials, Cardinal Mueller voiced “increasing concern” about the LCWR’s promotion of the “concept of conscious evolution” in various publications. Conscious evolution is a set of ideas developed in the writings of Barbara Marx Hubbard, who addressed the LCWR annual assembly in 2012. Hubbard’s website describes the concept as “part of the trajectory of human evolution, the canvas of choice before us now as we recognize that we have come to possess the powers that we used to attribute to the gods.”
Pope: “Never forget to pray!”
Never forget to pray, even while commuting, taking a walk or when waiting in line, Pope Francis said. And don’t stick to prayers memorized from childhood, but include heartfelt requests and pleas for help, he said. During his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square today, the Pope continued a series of audience talks on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. Looking at the gift of counsel, Pope Francis said people know how important it is to go to the right person — to “people who are wise and who love us” — to get the best advice, especially concerning difficult or “thorny” situations.
Meeting Armenian Catholicos Karekin II
“Just as in the ancient Church the blood of the martyrs became the seed of new Christians, so in our day the blood of many Christians has become the seed of unity,” the Pope told Catholicos Karekin II of Etchmiadzin, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Pope Francis welcomed the Catholicos to the Vatican, paying homage to the fidelity and sacrifice of Armenian Christians during decades of persecution and oppression. “The number of disciples who have shed their blood for Christ in the tragic events of the last century is certainly greater than the number of martyrs in the first centuries” of Christianity, the Pope said. “In this martyrology, sons and daughters of the Armenian nation have a place of honor.”
“Don’t let bureaucracy block evangelization”
Too often Catholics turn the Church into “a company that manufactures impediments” to faith, rather than a community that patiently helps people come to believe in Jesus, Pope Francis said today. “Grace is more important than bureaucracy,” the Pope said in a homily at his morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
Francis focused his homily on the day’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (8:26-40), which details how the apostle Philip led the Ethiopian to faith and baptism. The first thing the account shows, the Pope said, is Philip’s willingness to obey the Lord’s call to leave what he was doing and set out. “Without this docility to the voice of God, no one can evangelize.” Second, the Bible explains how Philip walked with the Ethiopian, listening to his concerns, respecting his sensibilities and offering explanations. “You cannot evangelize without dialogue. You just can’t because you must begin where the person is,” the Pope said. “This is very important.”
US priest trusts Christian unity is possible
The issues dividing Christian communities have changed over the past 50 years, but a Philadelphia archdiocesan priest working in ecumenical dialogue at the Vatican is confident Christian unity is possible. “We are people of hope. We trust we have the same Scriptures, the same belief in Christ,” said Msgr. Gregory Fairbanks, an official at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Msgr. Fairbanks is working at the Pontifical Council to improve dialogue on an international level. “We have to learn what people actually believe, learn where they are coming from, and then learn how we can come together in faith,” he said.
Pope tells UN to respect human life
The Pope today received UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other leading UN administrators. Catholic organizations around the world work closely with the UN’s World Food Program and the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees. However, tensions also have arisen with some UN departments and agencies, particularly concerning population control programs and efforts to broaden access to legalized abortion. Francis did not dwell on the tensions or mention any of them specifically, but insisted that the promotion of human dignity include a recognition that “life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death.”
Bring Gospel to all
“For a world in transformation, there is need of a renewed Church transformed by contemplation and a personal encounter with Christ,” Francis said today during a meeting with the national directors of the pontifical mission societies. The societies include the Holy Childhood Association, the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and the Society of St. Peter the Apostle, which raise funds for the work of the Church in mission territories around the globe.
Jesus makes the Church holy, transforms sinners into saints
Christ has made the Church holy and he can make sinners holy, too, Pope Francis said today.
“No one can sanctify himself,” the Pope said during his morning Mass. “There is no class for becoming a saint. Holiness is a gift Jesus gives the Church, and so that we can see this, he chooses certain people in whom we can clearly see his sanctifying work.”
How can the Church “be holy if we belong to it?” the Pope asked. “We are all sinners.” But the Church “is the bride of Christ and he loves her, he sanctifies her, he sanctifies her every day with the Eucharistic sacrifice because he loves her so much. We are sinners, but in a Church that is holy. And we, too, are sanctified by belonging to the Church. We are children of the Church, and Mother Church sanctifies us with her love and the sacraments.”
Pope to beatify Pope Paul VI at end of synod on the family
Pope Francis will beatify Pope Paul VI October 19 during the closing Mass of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.
Pope Francis signed a decree May 9 recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope Paul, who led the Church from 1963 to 1978, and authorized publication of the October 19 beatification date, according to a Vatican statement today. The miracle involved the birth of a baby in California in the 1990s. The family’s name and city have not been released, but according to news reports, a pregnant woman whose life was at risk along with the life of her baby, was advised by doctors to terminate the pregnancy.
Instead she sought prayers from an Italian nun who was a family friend. The nun placed a holy card with Pope Paul’s photograph and a piece of his vestment on the woman’s belly. The baby was born healthy. For Pope Paul’s cause, physicians continued monitoring the child’s health up to the age of 12 and everything was normal. Pope Paul’s connection with the themes expected to be raised at the Synod on the Family October 5-19 include the encyclical for which is he is most known, Humanae Vitae. The 1968 encyclical affirmed the Church’s prohibition against artificial contraception, placing that teaching in the context of Catholic doctrine on the beauty and purpose of marriage, married love and procreation.
Pope says schools must show connection of truth, goodness, beauty…
Pope Francis today told about 300,000 Italian students that he loved school as a boy, as a teacher, and as a bishop because it was a place where he met different people and where he was challenged to try to understand reality. Meeting with the students in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said he has never forgotten his first grade teacher.
“I loved school because that woman taught me to love it. Going to school means opening your mind and heart to reality in all its richness and various dimensions,” he said. “If one learns how to learn — this is the secret, learning to learn — this will stay with you forever.”
The Pope, who taught high school literature and psychology as a young Jesuit in Argentina, warned teachers that their students would be able “to smell” it if a teacher lacked the enthusiasm to keep learning.
Priests, show mercy
Always be merciful, just like Jesus, who came to forgive, not condemn, Pope Francis told new priests today. “Always have in front of your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who didn’t come to be served, but to serve and to look for and save those who were lost,” he said in his address for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
The Pope’s remarks came at an ordination Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, where Francis ordained 13 new priests. He reminded the men that they were called by Jesus to continue his mission as teacher, priest and shepherd. Nourish God’s people with his word and doctrine, “which isn’t yours,” Francis said. “You do not own the doctrine. It is the doctrine of the Lord and you must be faithful to the Lord’s doctrine.”
God makes no one struggle with life’s challenges alone
God is always by our side, never giving us more than we can handle, Pope Francis said.
The countless women and men who stand tall through enormous difficulties, pain and especially persecution, are armed with the divine gift of fortitude that gives them the strength and hope to go on, he said.
“It will do us good to think about these people: If they can do it, why can’t I? Let’s ask the Lord for the gift of fortitude,” he said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Highlighting some of the tragedies facing people today, the Pope made a special appeal at the end of his audience talk. He urged everyone to work together to prevent the “shameful massacres” of hundreds of immigrants who drown in the Mediterranean while attempting to reach Europe from North Africa.
The Pope’s appeal came after two boats sank attempting to make the crossing in early May; 53 bodies were recovered and about 250 people rescued, but hundreds more were missing. Francis also said his prayers were with those killed after a mine explosion in Soma, Turkey. Government authorities said the explosion May 13 left 205 people dead and dozens more trapped in underground tunnels.
“If you want peace, end arms trade”
If individuals and nations are serious about protecting human rights and promoting peace, they must do much more to curb the global arms trade and help immigrants, Pope Francis told seven new ambassadors to the Vatican.
There are “stories that make us weep and feel ashamed: human beings — our brothers and sisters, children of God —spurred by a desire to live and work in peace, who face exhausting journeys and are subject to extortion, torture, abuse of every kind and sometimes end up dying in the desert or at the bottom of the sea,” the Pope said.
Forced migrations, conflicts and the proliferation of weapons are closely-linked phenomena, the Pope told new ambassadors from Switzerland, Liberia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Jamaica, South Africa and India.
Welcoming the new ambassadors, Pope Francis said, “Everyone speaks of peace, all declare they want it, but unfortunately the proliferation of weapons of every kind goes in the opposite direction.”
Pope cuts meetings before Holy Land trip because of cold
Because he has a bit of a cold and wants to rest up for his May 24-26 trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis has postponed several scheduled appointments. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters today that Pope Francis had celebrated his morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
Vatican Radio’s coverage of the morning Mass includes several clips of Pope Francis’ homily, delivered in a slightly hoarse voice.
Because he was not feeling well and his agenda included meetings that could easily be postponed, the Pope decided to “consolidate his rest” and take the remainder of the day off, Lombardi said.
Already yesterday, Lombardi had announced that the Pope decided to postpone a planned May 18 pastoral visit to Rome’s parish and Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love to rest up for his visit to Jordan, Palestine and Israel later in May.
“Church tensions must be resolved with discussion”
In the Church, as in any other situation, “problems cannot be resolved by pretending they don’t exist,” Pope Francis said. “Confronting one another, discussing and praying — that is how conflicts in the Church are resolved,” the Pope said before praying the Regina Coeli with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square. The Pope focused his remarks on the day’s first reading, Acts 6:1-7, which describes how the early Christian community, as it grew to include people from different groups, began to experience internal tensions, and how those tensions were resolved at a meeting of the disciples.
Pope encourages Mexican bishops
Pope Francis underscored migration and the narcotics trade as among the grave ills plaguing the Catholic Church in Mexico and called on the country’s bishops to help their flocks through solidarity and prayer. The Pope spoke today to Mexican bishops making their periodic ad limina visits to the Vatican.
“I have learned much from what you have told me,” he told the bishops, led by Cardinal José Francisco Robles Ortega of Guadalajara, president of the Mexican bishops’ conference. “You leave me with serious worries about your Churches. Some of your children who cross the border, all the problems of migration, those who don’t make it to the other side. Children who die, children killed by hired assassins. All these serious problems,” Pope Francis said. “And then drugs, which is something you suffer from very seriously today,” he said.
As the Vatican implements new controls on financial transactions, its watchdog agency has seen a steep rise in reports of suspicious transactions.
“It means the reporting system is working,” said Rene Bruelhart, director of the office that monitors and investigates Vatican financial transactions to prevent their use for money laundering or the financing of terrorism. Bruelhart presented the 2013 annual report of the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority during a news conference today.
The number of suspicious transaction reports filed grew from six in 2012 to 202 in 2013, Bruelhart told reporters.
He said the majority of those reports involved transactions carried out through the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank.
After investigations by his office, Bruelhart said, five of the reports were deemed worthy of further investigation and possible criminal charges and, therefore, handed over to the judicial offices of Vatican City State. He said he could not talk about the current status of those cases since they are now in the hands of the Vatican police and court system. New Vatican finance laws and regulations issued by the Financial Intelligence Authority have “put the threshold quite low” for what triggers an obligation on the part of Vatican offices to file suspicious transaction reports, he said.
Pope setting up board to hear appeals of clerical sex abuse offenders
The Vatican said today Pope Francis is establishing a commission under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to examine the appeals of priests punished for sexual abuse of minors and other very serious crimes. In a brief note, the Vatican press office announced the Pope had nominated Argentine Archbishop José Luis Mollaghan of Rosario to be a member of the congregation “in the commission being established to examine the appeals of clergy for ‘delicta graviora,’” the Vatican term for sexual abuse of minors and serious sins against the sacraments. The Vatican did not provide further details about the commission, when it would be established or what the extent of its mandate would be.
Jesuit leader intends to resign after 80
Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Jesuits, announced his intention to resign in late 2016 after he turns 80. “Reflecting on the coming years, I have reached the personal conviction that I should take the needed steps toward submitting my resignation to a general congregation,” Father Nicolas said in a letter dated May 20 and sent to Jesuits around the world. Father Nicolas, who was elected in 2008, said he already has discussed the idea with Pope Francis — a Jesuit —,with officials at the Jesuit headquarters and with Jesuit provincials around the world. “The result of the consultation is favorable toward the convening of a general congregation,” he said.
Like the Pope, the superior general of the Jesuits is elected for life, although the Jesuit constitutions include provisions for the superior general to resign. Father Nicolas succeeded Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, who resigned at the age of 79. At the time, Father Kolvenbach said, “The Society of Jesus has the right to be governed and animated by a Jesuit in full possession of his physical and spiritual talents and not by a companion whose energies continue to diminish because of age.”
“Dialogue is always best”
Anytime there are misunderstandings, errors or problems concerning religious orders, dialogue is the best way to deal with the situation, the head of the Vatican office that oversees the world’s religious orders said today.
Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, was responding to a question about the Vatican’s rapport with religious sisters in light of recent “difficulties,” particularly in reference to the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious, undergoing a major reform ordered by the Vatican in 2012. Aviz and Sister Carmen Sammut, president of the International Union of Superiors General, were speaking at a news conference to highlight how religious sisters around the world were mobilizing to prevent human trafficking and exploitation during the World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil June 12-July13.
Vatican denies criminal investigation of Bertone
The Vatican spokesman denied a German newspaper report that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, retired Vatican secretary of state, was under criminal investigation for misappropriating funds from the so-called Vatican bank. “No investigation of a criminal nature is being conducted by the Vatican magistrate involving Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone,” said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, in a statement issued late today.
The German newspaper Bild had published a report yesterday claiming an investigation had been launched into a 15-
million-euro (about $20.5 million) loss resulting from an arrangement with Lux Vide, an Italian producer of television programs and films, mostly of a religious nature. At the time the arrangement was made, Cardinal Bertone was president of the cardinals’ commission overseeing the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly called the Vatican bank. In mid-January, Pope Francis replaced Cardinal Bertone and another three of the five cardinals on the commission. Speaking to Italian media outlets today, Cardinal Bertone denied the Bild report and said the agreement the institute made with Lux Vide “was discussed and approved” by the bank’s commission of cardinals and board of supervisors December 4.
Holy Land trip “strictly religious”
Asking prayers for his May 24-26 trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis said his visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories would be “strictly religious.”
At the end of his weekly general audience May 21, Pope Francis told an estimated 50,000 people in St. Peter’s Square that he was about to make the trip.
The first reason for going, he said, “is to meet my brother, Bartholomew,” the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, to mark the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople.
“Destroying creation is destroying a gift of God”
Polluting or destroying the environment is like telling God one does not like what he created and proclaimed to be good, Pope Francis said today. The Bible says that after every stage of creation, God was pleased with what he had made, the Pope said at his weekly general audience. “To destroy creation is to say to God, ‘I don’t like it.’” On the other hand, he said, safeguarding creation is safeguarding a gift of God. “This must be our attitude toward creation: safeguarding it. If not, if we destroy creation, creation will destroy us. Don’t forget that!”
Vatican: More help needed for those bearing brunt of climate change
World leaders and policy makers need to look beyond the scientific and economic consequences of climate change and direct their attention to the human beings who will be most affected by rising global temperatures, a Vatican official said.
“As with most natural disasters, climate-related emergencies cause more suffering and personal loss to those who live in poverty,” Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, told members of the World Health Assembly in Geneva today. The archbishop thanked the assembly for its support of a global strategy to promote breastfeeding as a way to “assure the health and well-being of children worldwide. “Breast-feeding is a major protection against early child malnutrition,” he said, and “should be guaranteed by laws governing workplace practice.” While there are “many who openly disparage mothers who choose to breastfeed their children in public,” Pope Francis has been a vocal supporter of nursing mothers, urging them to “overcome hesitation of breastfeeding their children when they are hungry,” he said.
Pope assigns new cardinals
Three months after he gave 19 new cardinals their red hats, Pope Francis gave new responsibilities to the 16 who are under age 80. Cardinals assist the Pope most visibly as members of Vatican Congregations and Pontifical Councils; the assignments often reflect a mix of the cardinal’s expertise and geographic origin. In the appointments announced today, German Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was named a member of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Mueller has been involved in ongoing talks with the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious; in 2012, his office ordered a major reform of the group, which includes the superiors general of most women’s congregations in the US.
UN board: “punish bishops”
The UN Committee Against Torture urged the Vatican to impose “meaningful sanctions” on any Church authority who fails to follow Church law in dealing with allegations of sexual abuse and asked that Church officials worldwide be required to report abuse allegations to local police. The recommendations were issued today as a follow-up to a May 5-6 session at which Vatican representatives were questioned about the Holy See’s report on its adherence to the UN “Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.” In a statement today, the Vatican said it would “give serious consideration” to the committee’s recommendations, although it said the committee mistakenly gave “the impression that all the priests serving around the world are directly, legally tied to the Vatican as a sovereign.”