Vatican Watch – April 2015

MONDAY 16

Following an ecumenical meeting with Pope Francis on February 16, the moderator of the Church of Scotland, John Chalmers, said the gathering could signal the end of its tensions with the Catholic Church. “Meetings like today, talking to each other on a very significant level means almost the end of that sectarian divide,” Chalmers said.

Sixteen percent of Scots are Catholic. Chalmers said “we need to embrace those things over which we are in total agreement,” such as “the radicalization of people’s minds, the need for finding peace across the world, especially in the middle East, and climate change — huge issues­ for all of our churches.”

TUESDAY 17

VATICAN’S VOLUNTEER BARBERS DISCOVER “TREMENDOUS HUMANITY”

Volunteers at the Vatican’s new showers and barber shop for the homeless say they are deeply moved by their encounter with a population often rejected by society.

“Initially when they offered me this (job) I thought I would find myself confronted with grouchy, perhaps mean people,” said volunteer barber Danielle Man­­cuso. “Instead, I discovered a truly tremendous humanity. You see these poor people out in the middle of the street, discarded. Then, you speak to them, and they’re human.”

Officially inaugurated on February 16, the facilities offer the homeless hair cuts each Monday, and showers daily.

POPE PRAYS FOR 21 BEHEADED COPTS

Pope Francis offered his Tuesday morning Mass for the repose of the souls of the 21 Egyptian Christians killed by ISIS militants, praying that man learn to reject his evil temptations and choose what is good.

The Pope prayed for “our brother Copts, whose throats were slit for the sole reason of being Christian, that the Lord welcome them as martyrs, for their families, (and) for my brother Tawadros, who is suffering greatly.”

Francis called Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria Tawadros II to offer his condolences and solidarity.

GOD WANTS YOU TO FIND REALS LOVE…

“Do you realize how much you are worth in the eyes of God?” Pope Francis asked youths in his annual message for local celebrations preparing for World Youth Day in Krakow July 25-Aug 1, 2016. “Do you know that you are loved and welcomed by him unconditionally?” The ability to love and be loved is beautiful and is a key to happiness, but sin means it also can be “debased, destroyed or spoiled” by selfishness or the desire for pleasure or power, he said in the message.

FAMILY IS SCHOOL OF FREEDOM AND PEACE

The Pope continued a series of talks on the family by focusing on Christianity’s emphasis on the fraternal ties that unite the whole human family.

“The bond of fraternity that forms in a family among brothers and sisters, if it happens in an atmosphere of learning to be open to others, is the great school of freedom and peace,” the Pope said. God, through his son Jesus, makes this natural bond something that can “surpass all national, linguistic, cultural and even religious differences,” he said.

WEDNESDAY 18

During shroud display, Turin reaches out to women who’ve had abortions

St. Peter's Square, Ash Wednesday, February 18, General Audience: Pope Francis greets a Polish family from Ruda Slaska. Their son was born prematurely and declared dead by doctors. After receiving baptism in the hospital from a nurse, he began to breathe.

St. Peter’s Square, Ash Wednesday, February 18, General Audience: Pope Francis greets a Polish family from Ruda Slaska. Their son was born prematurely and declared dead by doctors. After receiving baptism in the hospital from a nurse, he began to breathe.

With the aim of ensuring that the public display of the Shroud of Turin promotes conversion and healing, the archbishop of Turin has given priests throughout the archdiocese special faculties to offer absolution to women who confess to having had an abortion. The display of the shroud April 19-June 24 should be “a time of grace that translates into attitudes of conversion, the fruit of repentance and newness of life,” Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia wrote in a decree signed February 18, Ash Wednesday. However, he said, the permission granted to priests is limited to the time of the Shroud’s public display so as not to “diminish the rigor of the law,” which aims to teach people how seriously wrong it is to kill an innocent life.

THURSDAY 19

FAITHFUL SHOULD FEEL “WONDER” AT LITURGY

The liturgy should help the faithful enter into God’s mystery and to experience the wonder of encountering Christ, Pope Francis told priests of the Diocese of Rome.

“For me the key of ‘ars celebrandi’” — celebrating the liturgy well — “takes the path of recovering the allure of beauty, the wonder both of the person celebrating and the people, of entering in an atmosphere that is spontaneous, normal and religious, but isn’t artificial, and that way you recover a bit of the wonder,” he said.

CHOOSE LIFE OVER FALSE GODS

Don’t use peer pressure, greed or laziness as an excuse to chase after false gods and become a wildly successful failure, Pope Francis said.

Slow down, reflect and choose the path that takes you closer to God and your loved ones, he said during his morning Mass. One mistake in life, he said, is “always seeking one’s own success, one’s own benefit without thinking about the Lord, without thinking about one’s family,” he said.

“Someone can gain everything, but in the end become a failure,” the Pope said.

FRIDAY 20

TO UKRAINE BISHOPS: AVOID POLITICIZING ROLE

Pope Francis urged Ukraine’s Catholic bishops to focus on the social and human tragedies unfolding in their country and avoid politicizing their role as Church leaders.

He asked bishops from the nation’s Eastern- and Latin-rite traditions to work together and be a clear moral voice calling for peace and harmony as well as strong defenders of families, the poor and weak.

”The sense of justice and truth is moral before being political, and such a task is entrusted to your duties as pastors, too,” he said in a written address.

The Pope met with bishops from Ukraine’s Byzantine- and Latin-rite communities, who were in Rome February 16-21 for their ad limina visits to report on the state of their dioceses.

UKRAINIAN BISHOPS IN ROME VISIT WITH POPE

As the Ukrainian Catholic bishops met with Pope Francis, Ukraine was marking its first Day of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes, commemorating those who died in the Euromaidan movement one year earlier.

Renamed the Revolution of Dignity, the four months of demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital, from November 2013 to February 2014, saw 120 people killed; February 20 was the bloodiest day.

“We’ve come on this ad limina visit… to meet the Holy Father and… to tell the whole world in a loud voice: Do not be indifferent, because indifference kills,” Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of Kiev-Halych, told a packed church in his homily at the Basilica of St. Mary Major February 19. The archbishop warned that the conflict in the country’s east is not just “a Ukrainian crisis” but one with global implications. “What is taking place now, if it is not stopped, will spread everywhere and can touch every capital in Europe and the world,” he cautioned.

MONDAY 23

UKRAINIAN ARCHBISHOP INVITES POPE FRANCIS TO VISIT, “BRING PEACE”

The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church invited Pope Francis to visit the war-torn nation, saying it would help bring peace. “It would be a prophetic gesture that would show the power of prayer and Christian solidarity, give us courage and hope and build a better future for everyone,” said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of Kiev-Halych.

THURSDAY 26

Homeless man of deep faith given funeral

A homeless person sleeps outside the Vatican Press office near St. Peter's Square.

A homeless person sleeps outside the Vatican Press office near St. Peter’s Square.

A homeless man, Willy Her­teleer, who for decades faithfully attended Mass at a church inside Vatican City, was buried in a Vatican cemetery after it was discovered he had died and was left unidentified in a hospital morgue.

“He attended 7 o’clock Mass every day for more than 25 years,” Father Bruno Silvestrini, the pastor of the Vatican’s Church of St. Anne, told Vatican Radio.

“He spoke a lot with young people, “ Fr. Silvestrini said, “he spoke to them of the Lord, he spoke about the Pope, he would invite them to the celebration of the Eucharist,” which Herteleer always said was “his medicine.”

FRIDAY 27

Pope plans to canonize St. Therese’s parents during family synod

Pope Francis is expected to canonize Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, during the world Synod of Bishops on the Family in October.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, leading a conference today on the role of saints in the life of the Church, announced that “thanks be to God, in October two spouses, parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, will be canonized.”

Blessed Louis and Marie Zelie Guerin Martin were married in 1858. The couple had nine children, but four of them died in infancy. The five who survived — including St. Therese — all entered religious life. Marie Zelie Martin died of cancer in 1877, at the age of 45; her husband died when he was 70 in 1894. The couple was beatified in 2008. They are believed to be the first parents of a saint to be beatified, highlighting the important role parents play in their children’s human and spiritual upbringing.

SATURDAY 28

Leak of documents on economic reform

As Pope Francis and Vatican officials try to completely revamp the Vatican’s economic policies and procedures at what is commonly called the Vatican bank, differences of opinion are normal, but leaking documents about those discussions is illegal, said the Vatican spokesman.

“The fact that complex economic or legal issues are the subject of discussion and diverse points of view should be considered normal,” said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the spokesman, in a note. “Passing confidential documents to the press for polemical ends or to foster conflict is not new, but is always to be strongly condemned, and is illegal,” he said.

The spokesman’s comments came after the Italian magazine L’Espresso published three articles allegedly illustrating how “power struggles between the most important prelates are placing the reforms of Pope Francis at risk.”

In a statement released today, the Secretariat for the Economy said the magazine’s report of a conversation between Pope Francis and Cardinal Pell about his office’s supposedly lavish spending — presented in direct quotes — is “complete fiction.”

The money spent by the secretariat in its first year was “in fact, below the budget set when the office was established” in February 2014, it said.

TUESDAY 3

Good works are response to God’s pardon

When the Bible says that, “though your sins be like scarlet” God will make them “white as snow,” it exaggerates, just like God exaggerates in his willingness to forgive people, Pope Francis said. “The Lord forgives generously,” the Pope said during his early morning Mass. God never says, “‘I will forgive you just this much, then we’ll see about the rest.’ No. The Lord always forgives everything.” The Lenten call to conversion is a call to seek God’s forgiveness and demonstrate sincerity by acts of charity and works of justice, Pope Francis said.

WEDNESDAY 4

Abandoning the elderly is a sin, pope says

Seeing the elderly only as a burden “is ugly. It’s a sin,” Pope Francis said at his weekly general audience. “We must reawaken our collective sense of gratitude, appreciation and hospitality, helping the elderly know they are a living part of their communities” and sources of wisdom for the younger generations, the 78-year-old Pope said at his weekly general audience.

“If we do not learn to treat the elderly well,” the Pope said, “we won’t be treated well either” when the time comes.

The elderly he visited in Buenos Aires, he said, would often tell him that they had many children and that their children visited them. “And when was the last time they came?” the Pope said he asked one woman. “She said, ‘Well, at Christmas.’ It was August. Eight months without a visit from her children. Eight months of being abandoned. This is called a mortal sin. Understand?”

Holy See urges states to abolish death penalty

The Catholic Church firmly opposes the death penalty and urges all states to move toward its abolition, said the Vatican’s permanent observer to United Nations agencies in Geneva.

“My delegation contends that bloodless means of defending the common good and upholding justice are possible and calls on states to adapt their penal system to demonstrate their adhesion to a more humane form of punishment,” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told the UN Human Rights Council during a discussion on the death penalty.

In addition, he said, the death penalty has not worked to deter crime and its “irreversibility… does not allow for eventual corrections in the case of wrongful convictions.”

FRIDAY 6

Pope Francis is helping church reach world’s “seekers,” speakers say

“I think the Church had gotten into the stance of defending itself against its critics and trying to convince them, but that’s not a stance of dialogue. Pope Francis is going out and reaching out,” said Charles Taylor, professor emeritus of philosophy at Canada’s McGill University.

Taylor was one of the main speakers at an international conference, “Renewing the Church in a Secular Age,” March 4-5 at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. The Pontifical Council for Culture supported the conference.

Msgr. Tomas Halik, a Czech professor of sociology and winner of the 2014 Templeton Prize, said that Pope Benedict XVI took the first step, inviting nonbelievers studying ethics and truth to his 2011 interreligious gathering for peace in Assisi. He also supported the Pontifical Council for Culture’s “Courtyard of the Gentiles” project, which promotes dialogue between believers and nonbelievers.

Pope Francis, Msgr. Halik said, is taking things a step further by reaching beyond the academic community.

“We must be seekers,” he said, “for the seekers, with the seekers.”

Euthanasia threatens improvements in end-of-life care, experts say

As more parts of the world, as in Quebec last year, legalize active euthanasia, it is being treated as a legitimate form of medical care, said a bishop from the province at a Vatican conference.

“Killing is not care. True care is palliative care because it is accompanying the person with compassion, true compassion,” said Bishop Noel Simard of Valleyfield at a workshop called “Assisting the Elderly and Palliative Care,” sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Richard Doerflinger, of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, said experience shows that euthanasia “undermines the ability and willingness of doctors to practice this more difficult art of addressing patients’ real problems,” he said.“The last moments of your life are important. Sometimes they are moments where you can reconcile with other family members, when you can just accept the reality of the promise of eternal life,” especially when patients can receive absolution and the sacrament of the sick, he said.

SATURDAY 7

Pope: Mass in vernacular helps people understand God, live the faith

Pope Francis smiles as he meets the faithful during his pastoral visit to All Saints Parish in Rome on March 7.

Pope Francis smiles as he meets the faithful during his pastoral visit to All Saints Parish in Rome on March 7.

“You cannot turn back, we have to always go forward, always forward and whoever goes back is making a mistake,” Pope Francis told parishioners after commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first Papal Mass in the vernacular.

”It was really a courageous move by the Church to get closer to the people of God so that they could understand well what it does, and this is important for us: to follow Mass like this,” he said as he left Rome’s Church of All Saints March 7. On that date in 1965, Blessed Paul VI publicly celebrated Mass in Italian for the first time following the Second Vatican Council.

SUNDAY 8

Pope thanks women as dozens gather in Vatican to share faith stories

On International Women’s Day, Pope Francis thanked women, “who in thousands of ways, witness to the Gospel and work in the Church.” The Pope’s comments preceded a five-hour celebration, Voices of Faith, in the Vatican of the ways Christian women minister to their sisters who are poor, sick, excluded from education, and victims of human trafficking and exploitation.

International Women’s Day, popular in Italy, is an occasion “to reaffirm the importance and necessity of women’s presence,” the Pope said. “ They give us the ability to see with different eyes, to understand things with hearts that are more creative, patient and tender.”

TUESDAY 10

Bishops must be accountable in abuse prevention

Bishops of dioceses around the world have an obligation to work to ensure that priests in their dioceses do not commit acts of abuse, said Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The cardinal spoke during a March 9-10 special course at the university looking specifically at “crimes against the sacrament of penance.” However, he spoke in general about the crimes the Church defines as “more grave delicts,” which includes the sexual abuse of minors.

The ordinaries of dioceses and their collaborators, he said, “have the obligation to prevent and to be vigilant in order to avoid the commission of such crimes.”

Catholics urged to support Middle East Christians on Good Friday

Catholics can “become promoters of dialogue through peace, prayer and sharing of burdens” with Middle East Christians, said Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

In a letter sent to bishops around the world, Cardinal Sandri asked for continued support for the traditional Good Friday collection for the Holy Land. Sixty-five percent of the funds raised go to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, responsible for most of the shrines connected with the life of Jesus.

Historic cemetery inside Vatican walls home to royalty, homeless

A small, inconspicuous cemetery inside the Vatican walls made headlines recently with the burial of a Belgian homeless man, Willy Herteleer. “The pilgrims’ tomb” is a common grave, just a few yards from the tombs of bishops, royalty and intelligentsia. Herteleer is buried there, his name engraved on the tombstone of plot No. 106, along with five other pilgrims.

The Teutonic Cemetery, known officially as the “Camposanto of the Teutons and the Flemish,” lies in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica, on ground once part of the Circus of Nero. According to tradition, the cemetery chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows marks the spot where St. Peter was killed.

WEDNESDAY 11

May 23 outdoor Mass set for beatification of Archbishop Romero

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero will be beatified in San Salvador May 23, said Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator or chief promoter of the archbishop’s sainthood cause.

“Romero, from heaven, wants every Salvadoran to walk the path of peace and justice,” Archbishop Paglia said at a news conference in San Salvador.

The archbishop called the beatification a gift for the world, but particularly for the people of El Salvador.

Pope to celebrate Holy Thursday Mass at prison

Pope Francis will celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at a Rome prison and wash the feet of male and female inmates. The Vatican announced that the Pope will visit the Rebibbia detention facility on the outskirts of the capital April 2, then celebrate Mass in Our Father Church on the grounds of the complex. During the Mass, the Pope will wash the feet of male inmates from Rebibbia and female inmates from a nearby women’s prison.

THURSDAY 12

Hearing confession is source of grace, conversion for priest, pope says

Hearing a Catholic’s confession should be awe-inspiring for a priest, an experience that makes him look at his own life and willingness to convert, Pope Francis told a group of seminarians, new priests and priests who hear confessions in the major basilicas of Rome.

“Let yourselves be educated by the sacrament of reconciliation,” he told them.

Hearing someone’s confession, he said, should lead the priest to make an examination of his conscience, asking, for example, “Do I, the priest, love the Lord like this old lady does?” Or, “Am I, as a confessor, willing to change and convert like this penitent, who I am here to serve?”

FRIDAY 13

Pope announces Holy Year of Mercy

Pope Francis today announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to highlight the Catholic Church’s “mission to be a witness of mercy.” In his homily, he said “I have frequently thought about how the Church can make more evident its mission to be a witness of mercy,” he said, during his homily; that is why he decided to call a special Holy Year.

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