“Let them know the affection and warmth,” pope says
During the Year of Consecrated Life, thank God for the gifts those in religious life give the Church and the world, join them in prayer and support them and their ministries, Pope Francis said.
“Let them know the affection and the warmth which the entire Christian people feels for them,” the Pope said in a letter issued for the special year, which opened November 30 and will close February 2, 2016, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
The letter included greetings to Orthodox communities of monks and nuns, and Protestant religious orders who also take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and are “expressions of fraternal communion and service.”
Currently, Catholic religious priests, brothers, sisters and consecrated virgins number some 900,000.
The Pope, a Jesuit, called himself “a brother who, like yourselves, is consecrated to the Lord” and knows the gifts and challenges of religious life from the inside.
Countering declining vocations in the West will not be the “result of brilliant vocations programs,” the Pope said, but of attracting young people by the joy of religious men and women, whose hearts are filled “to the brim with happiness” by God.
Lay, independent general auditor being added to Vatican’s reform team
In ongoing efforts to strengthen oversight of the Vatican’s finances, a lay auditor general will be appointed in 2015, with power to audit any Vatican agency and answerable only to the Pope, Cardinal George Pell said in the London-based Catholic Herald. The massive overhaul of accounting and budgeting procedures has also revealed a brighter financial picture, after the secretariat discovered “some hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet,” he wrote.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters December 5 that the money was not “illegal, illicit or badly managed funds,” but the Vatican’s old system of budgeting and reporting never “in any way included all the numerous administrative offices based at the Vatican, but just the main institutions of the Curia and the (Vatican City) State.”
Before modern accounting standards were implemented, Cardinal Pell said, the Vatican’s “Congregations, Councils and, especially, the Secretariat of State, enjoyed and defended a healthy independence.” He said that “eventually, all investments will be made through Vatican Asset Management, controlled by an expert committee, which will offer a range of ethical investment options, with varying degrees of risk and return, to be chosen by individual agencies such as Congregations.” “
A Church for the poor should not be managed poorly,” the cardinal said.
Church needs more women theologians, pope says
Pope Francis said he was pleased that five of the 30 members of the International Theological Commission are women, but the body that advises the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as the Church in general, need more women theologians.
“They are the ‘strawberries on the cake,’ but there is need for more,” the Pope said as he met the members, who were named to a five-year term in July.
Two women served on the commission for the past 10 years; in July the Pope named five new female members, coming from the United States, Canada, Australia, Slovenia and Austria.
“The greater presence of women — although they are not many — is a call to reflect on the role women can and must have in the field of theology,” the Pope told the commission.
Saturday 6 Pope issues decrees in sainthood causes of eight women
Pope Francis recognized the miracles needed for the canonization of two Palestinian nuns and of a French woman who founded a religious order.
The three religious women to be declared saints are:
—Blessed Jeanne Emilie De Villeneuve, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. Born in Toulouse, France, in 1811, she died in Castres, France, in 1854.
— Blessed Mary Alphonsine Danil Ghattas, founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Rosary of Jerusalem, the first Palestinian religious order. She was born in Jerusalem in 1843 and died in Ain Karem in 1927.
— Blessed Mariam Baouardy, a Melkite Catholic member of the Discalced Carmelites. She was born in 1846 in Ibillin, in the Galilee region of what is now Israel, and died in Bethlehem in 1878. By declaring them “Venerable,” the Pope also recognized the heroic virtues of two married women with children: Spaniard Prassede Fernandez Garcia, mother of four children; and Italian Elisabetta Tasca, mother of 13 children.
The three other decrees the Pope signed December 6 also were for the causes of women. He recognized the heroic virtues of: Sister Francesca Prestigiacomo, the Italian founder of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of the Incarnate Word; Sister Maria Seiquer Gaya, the Spanish founder of the Apostolic Sisters of Christ Crucified; and Czech Sister Adalberta Vojtecha Hasmandova, a former superior general of the Sisters of Mercy of St. Charles Borromeo.
Do not be indifferent to tragedy of exploitation, pope says
When shopping and when interacting with people on city streets, everyone can help fight the evil of modern-day slavery, Pope Francis said in his annual message for the World Day of Peace, January 1.
”Together with the social responsibility of businesses, there is also the social responsibility of consumers,” the Pope said. “Every person ought to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral — and not simply an economic — act.”
With the Global Slavery Index estimating there are nearly 30 million people worldwide living in slave-like conditions, Pope Francis said, “I urgently appeal to all men and women of good will not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the suffering of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, who are deprived of their freedom and dignity.”
St. Josephine Bakhita, the former Sudanese slave, is “an exemplary witness of hope for the many victims of slavery” today, the Pope said. The first International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking will be marked February 8, St. Josephine’s feast day.
Pope to create new cardinals in February
Pope Francis will create new cardinals February 14, following a two-day meeting of the world’s cardinals that will discuss reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, among other issues.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the names of the new cardinals would be announced in early or mid-January.
As of today, the College of Cardinals had 208 members, 112 under 80, with two more turning 80 before February.
His creation of new cardinals will follow a consistory or meeting of the entire College of Cardinals February 12-13. Its theme has not been set yet, Father Lombardi said, but the nine-member Council of Cardinals advising the Pope on Vatican reform — the so-called C9 — will brief their fellow cardinals on the new constitution they are drafting for the Church’s central administration, the Roman Curia.
Time running out to tackle global warming, pope tells climate summit
Tackling the problem of climate change is a serious ethical and moral responsibility, Pope Francis told negotiators at a climate summit in Lima, Peru.
“We can find adequate solutions only if we act together and unanimously,” he said in a written message, released publicly December 11, to Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s minister of the environment and host president of the 20th U.N. Climate Change Conference. Thousands of negotiators from 195 countries gathered for the meeting in Lima December 1-12 to craft a new international agreement to reduce emissions of “greenhouse gases.”
Pope concerned about Syriac Catholics fleeing in Mideast
Pope Francis expressed his concern for members of the Syriac Catholic Church who have had to flee from the “inhumanity” unfolding in the Middle East.
“Many have fled to find refuge from an inhumanity that throws entire populations onto the streets, leaving them without any means for survival,” he said December 12 in a special audience with Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan and about 350 of his faithful.
The audience followed the bishops’ annual Synod, held in Rome December 8-10. Participants came from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and the Holy Land, and from the diaspora communities in Europe and the Americas.
Patriarch Younan said the Nineveh plain, once 40 percent Syriac Catholic, has been “completely emptied of Christians.”
Kerry asks Vatican for help in relocating Guantanamo detainees
US Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Vatican counterpart December 15, and asked him to support the Obama administration’s efforts to close the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, met with Kerry for an hour, according to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. Ken Hackett, the US ambassador to the Holy See, was also present.
Kerry underscored the “commitment of the United States to close the Guantanamo prison and the desire for the Holy See’s support in the search for appropriate humanitarian solutions for the current detainees,” Father Lombardi said. The military prison still holds 136 persons as part of the “war on terror.”
Earlier this month, six men, inmates for more than 10 years who are not considered security threats, were transferred to Uruguay, which took them in as a humanitarian gesture, and where they are now free men.
Vatican report calls US women religious to continued dialogue
A massive, detailed Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. communities of women religious ended with a call to the women themselves to continue discerning how best to live the Gospel in fidelity to their orders’ founding ideals while facing steeply declining numbers and a rapidly aging membership.
Although initially seen by many religious and lay Catholics as a punitive measure, the apostolic visitation concluded with the publication December 16 of a 5,000-word final report summarizing the problems and challenges the women themselves see in their communities and thanking them for their service to the Church and to society, especially the poor.
The visitation process, carried out between 2009 and 2012, attempted to help the Vatican “and the sisters themselves to be more cognizant of their current situation and challenges in order to formulate realistic, effective plans for the future,” said the report, signed by Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the congregation for religious, and Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary.
In summarizing the results, the congregation called for special attention in several areas, including: formation programs for new members; the personal, liturgical and common prayer life of members; ensuring their spiritual practices and ministries are fully in harmony with Church teaching “about God, creation, the Incarnation and redemption” in Christ; strengthening community life, especially for members living on their own or with just one other sister; living their vow of poverty while wisely administering financial resources; and strengthening communion within the Church, especially with the bishops and Vatican officials.
A Murderer comes to see the Pope
As prison inmates were moved by a letter Pope Francis sent to the prison of a small town in central Italy, news broke that a man serving a life sentence would be among those at an audience with Pope Francis December 20.
The meeting was scheduled for members of the Community Pope John XXIII, founded by Fr. Oreste Benzi, who died in 2007. Members were to meet Pope Francis for the opening of Fr. Benzi’s cause for beatification, and included Carmelo Musumeci, sentenced to life in prison for homicide in 1991. While in prison, Musumeci completed high school and then earned a law degree.
Pope Francis mentioned life imprisonment in an October 23 address to the International Association of Penal Law, urging “respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom” and calling a life sentence “just a death penalty in disguise.”
Opening series of talks on the family, pope extols Mary, St. Joseph
At his last weekly public audience of 2014, Pope Francis started a series of talks on the family — the subject of the October 2015 Synod of Bishops — with a reflection on the Holy Family. The Pope spoke December 17 after getting cheers, balloons and even a birthday cake as he arrived for the audience that coincided with his 78th birthday. The Pope called the family “this great gift that the Lord has given the world from the start, when he gave Adam and Eve the mission of multiplying and filling the earth.”
In his usual conversational style, Pope Francis reflected that God chose to become man not “spectacularly, or as a warrior, an emperor” but as the son of a “pious and hardworking Israelite family” in a “forlorn village on the periphery of the Roman empire.”
The Pope offered a picture of their daily life: “The mother cooked, kept house, ironed the shirts, did all the work of a mom. The dad, a carpenter, worked, taught his son to work.” He encouraged mothers and fathers to “learn from Mary’s care for that son,” and also “from the example of Joseph, a just man, who devoted his life to supporting and defending his child and wife, his family, in difficult periods.”
Christians WITH differences on life issues… ‘“It would be a shame” if differing positions on the sanctity of all human life or on marriage were to increase the divisions among Christian churches and communities, Pope Francis said.
“Questions related to the dignity of the human person at the beginning and end of life, as well as those related to the family, marriage and sexuality, cannot be concealed or overlooked just because we do not want to jeopardize the ecumenical consensus already reached,” he said at a meeting with German Catholics and Lutherans.
Pope Francis praised the German Catholic-Lutheran dialogue commission for its joint study on “God and human dignity,” as it drew to a close.
Mutual esteem, the recognition that Catholics and Lutherans share the basics of Christian faith and that they can pray together, he said, will determine how they mark together the 500th anniversary, in 2017, of the Protestant Reformation.
Pope: Tree, creche inspire everyone, even nonbelievers, to love, share
God did not come to the world with arrogance to impose his might; he offered his powerful love through a fragile child, Pope Francis said, meeting the donors of the centerpieces of the Vatican Christmas decorations.
The Italian city of Verona donated the Nativity scene, and the southern Italian city of Catanzaro donated the 82-foot white spruce tree, which was lit in St. Peter’s Square at a ceremony today.
The Nativity scene and Christmas tree touch the hearts of everyone, “even those who do not believe, because they speak of fraternity, intimacy and friendship, calling all people of our time to rediscover the beauty of simplicity, sharing and solidarity,” he said.
Afterwards, Vatican officials were scheduled to flip the switch for the new 315-bulb LED lighting, saving 70 percent on lighting bills, on the facade and dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. A similar system was installed at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major.
Pope warns of “spiritual Alzheimer’s”
Pope Francis’ Christmas greeting to the Vatican bureaucracy this year was an impassioned warning against spiritual ills to which he said they are prone, including “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” “existential schizophrenia,” publicity-seeking, the “terrorism of gossip” and even a poor sense of humor.
The Pope warned against “exhibitionism,” the “malady of persons who seek insatiably to increase their power and to that end are capable of calumniating, defaming and discrediting others.”
Pope Francis called for a “joyous spirit, full of humor and even self-mockery, that makes us amiable persons, even in difficult situations.” He said he recites a daily prayer he attributes to St. Thomas More, asking God for a sense of humor.
The Pope ended on a note of encouragement, saying “priests are like airplanes, they make news only when they fall, but there are so many that fly.”
On Christmas, pope hears the cry of children
The crying of Baby Jesus is not the only cry people should hear on Christmas; many children around the world are crying because of war, maltreatment and abuse, Pope Francis said.
“My thoughts today go to all children who are abused and mistreated: those killed before they are born; those deprived of the generous love of their parents who are buried under the selfishness of a culture that does not love life; those children displaced by war and persecution, abused and exploited under our eyes and the silence that makes us accomplices.”
Before giving his solemn Christmas blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world), Pope Francis addressed an estimated 80,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, urging them to pray for peace in Ukraine, in the Middle East, Nigeria, Libya, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Congo.
On Christmas eve, in a St. Peter’s Basilica filled to capacity, 10 children from around the world led Pope Francis toward the altar and stood listening to the solemn “Christmas proclamation,” recounting the timing of the birth of Christ in human history.
Pope Francis then removed the cloth covering a statue of Baby Jesus, bent over and kissed it gently.
Embrace, be amazed by God’s great gift of children, pope says
Becoming a mother or father is a gift from God, but women and men have a duty to embrace that gift and be astonished by its beauty, Pope Francis said. When people recognize that every child is unique and wanted by God, they will be “amazed by what a great miracle a child is,” he said December 28, the Feast of the Holy Family.
The Pope greeted the multiple generations present at the audience, who came from all over Italy, as well as other parts of Europe, and asked them how early they had to get up that morning to get to the Vatican. “Six o’clock? Five o’clock? Aren’t you tired? Well, I’ll put you to sleep with my speech!” he joked.
While each family is “a cell” that together builds the body of society, large families are “a hope for society,” he said; they are “richer, more alive,” and governments should recognize the importance of “investing in” large families.
Pope: True charity takes compassion that does not demand conversion
“Quality of life” proponents who think the gravely ill lead lives not worth living are peddling a great lie, Pope Francis said in a message for the 2015 World Day of the Sick.
Criticizing approaches that devalue human lives, especially the lives of those who suffer from serious illness, Pope Francis highlighted the importance of offering increased care and concern instead, urging people to demonstrate a compassion that does not judge and that “does not demand conversion.” The World Day of the Sick is celebrated February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Vatican honors murdered missionaries, Ebola victims In addition to its annual report on Church workers murdered during the year, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples highlighted the sacrifice of pastoral workers who died of Ebola contracted while caring for others and reminded Catholics that the fates of five kidnapped priests remain unknown.
Fides, the congregation’s news agency, reported today that 26 pastoral workers were killed in 2014, most during robbery attempts: 17 priests, one religious brother, six religious women, a seminarian and a layman. But the agency also drew special attention to the four Hospitallers of St. John of God, the religious sister and 13 lay workers who died at Catholic hospitals in Liberia and Sierra Leone after contracting Ebola. The 18 “gave their lives for others like Christ,” said Father Jesus Etayo, prior general of the order.
The fates of five kidnapped religious-order priests remains unknown, Fides said: Three Assumptionist priests from Congo were kidnapped in North Kivu in October 2012; Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio was kidnapped in Syria in 2013; and Indian Jesuit Father Alexis Prem Kumar, director of Jesuit Refugee Service in Afghanistan, was kidnapped in June outside a JRS-run school in Herat.
New Year’s Eve time TO examine conscience
While God is eternal, time is important even to him, Pope Francis said during a prayer service New Year’s Eve in St. Peter’s Basilica. “He wanted to reveal himself and save us in history,” becoming human to demonstrate “his concrete love.”
As a strong winter wind blew outside, Pope Francis ended 2014 celebrating evening prayer with Eucharistic adoration and Benediction, and the solemn singing of the Te Deum, a hymn of praise for God’s blessings. After the prayer service, despite the cold, Pope Francis went into St. Peter’s Square to pray before the Nativity scene. He spent about 20 minutes greeting the hundreds huddled behind barricades, and offering a personal “Happy New Year” and handshake to the Italian police officers on duty.