In “Google Hangout,” pope helps launch worldwide social network
“The educational partnership has been broken” as families, schools and society are “no longer united together for the child,” Pope Francis said September 4 after holding his first “Google Hangout” — a live video conversation — across five continents with teenagers who belong to the international network of “Scholas occurentes,” uniting students of all faiths and cultures.
This is why “it’s very important to strengthen bonds: social, family and personal ties” with children and young adults, so that they will not be “left only with the path of delinquency and addiction,” Francis said.
The Scholas initiative was begun in Buenos Aires and supported by its then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, who also used to teach high school.
Pope mourns murders of three missionary sisters
Pope Francis mourned the deaths of three Xaverian Missionary Sisters of Mary, who were murdered in two separate attacks in their residence in Burundi.
Sister Lucia Pulici, 75, and Sister Olga Raschietti, 82, were found dead September 7 in their mission residence in the capital of Bujumbura. Sister Bernadetta Bogianni, 79, who had found the bodies, was killed the next night.
In telegrams sent to Archbishop Evariste Ngoyagoye of Bujumbura and Sister Ines Frizza, superior general of the Xaverian Missionary Sisters of Mary, the Pope expressed his sadness and hope that “the blood they have shed may become the seed of hope to build true fraternity between peoples.” The three missionary sisters had been working in Burundi, helping the poor and the sick, the past seven years, Vatican Radio reported. Sister Bogianni had been a superior of the congregation for many years.
Pope Francis’ nine-member international Council of Cardinals, the so-called C9, has begun the first draft of a new apostolic constitution for major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy and Church governance.
Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told reporters that the continuing discussions have now begun a more “concrete” phase with “putting ink on paper.”
In a first step toward reorganizing the Roman Curia, Pope Francis created the Secretariat for the Economy in February to begin universal oversight and standards for all of the Vatican’s financial assets and activities. The council is now turning its attention to the different pontifical councils of the curia as part of a bigger strategy of efficiently reorganizing the large bureaucracy.
The nine cardinals “focused on two principal hotspots,” Fr. Lombardi said. The first topic included the laity, the family, “the role of women in society and the Church, youth, childhood, or matters related to lay associations and movements and so on,” he wrote. The second topic combined the issues of “justice and peace, charity, migrants and refugees, health, and the protection of life and ecology, especially human ecology,” the written statement said. The twofold division may support predictions of merging the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family into one, and similarly the pontifical councils for Justice and Peace, Cor Unum and Migrants and Travelers, since their areas of focus are closely related and often overlap.
Pope names five women to International Theological Commission
Pope Francis, who has said the Catholic Church has “not yet come up with a profound theology of womanhood,” named five women to the International Theological Commission of 30 members.
One of the women is U.S. Mercy Sister Prudence Allen, former chair of the philosophy department at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, and now a member of the chaplaincy team at Lancaster University, England.
Until now, no more than two women at a time have served on the panel, whose members serve a five-year term.
The five women appointees also include Australian Tracey Rowland, dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne and prominent authority on the theology of Pope Benedict XVI; and Moira Mary McQueen, a Canadian-British citizen who is director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto.
The International Theological Commission was established in 1969 to study important doctrinal issues as an aid to the Pope and to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It has produced documents in recent years on such topics as “Christian monotheism and its opposition to violence” and “sensus fidei in the life of the Church.”
Vatican puts former nuncio accused of sex abuse under house arrest
The Vatican has placed a laicized papal ambassador under house arrest as he awaits a criminal trial for sexually abusing young boys.
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi released a statement regarding the case of former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, a Pole who served as nuncio to the Dominican Republic until August 2013.
The Vatican announced in June that a canonical court had investigated Wesolowski and concluded by dismissing him from the clerical state, depriving him of all rights and duties associated with being a priest except the obligation of celibacy. Wesolowski would face a criminal trial under the laws of Vatican City State, the Vatican said at the time.
Investigators decided to arrest the former ambassador, the spokesman said, but “in light of the medical condition of the accused, supported by medical documentation,” he was placed under house arrest in Vatican City.
Father Lombardi said Vatican authorities had acted in accordance with the “will expressed by the Pope, that such a grave and delicate case might be addressed without delay, with the just and necessary rigor, with the full assumption of responsibility by the institutions of the Holy See.”
Pope launches alarm, tells Vatican security force to be “gossip police”
The biggest threat facing the Vatican isn’t a bomb or bullet from the outside, but the insidious work of mischief-makers within, who plant discord and resentment, Pope Francis told the Vatican’s security force.
The Pope celebrated Mass for his own “guardian angels” in anticipation of the September 29 feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. St. Michael is the Vatican security service’s patron.
In addition to the more colorful Swiss Guard, the Vatican’s other security body is its own 130-man police force, the gendarme corps, responsible for papal security, crowd control, and law and order within the Vatican. But, the Pope said, “I want to tell you something a bit sad; there are bombs in here” and it doesn’t matter if it’s “a homemade bomb or an atomic bomb,” every single one is “dangerous” and “there are many.” He added: “The worst bomb inside the Vatican is gossip,” which “threatens the life of the Church and the life of (the Vatican) every day,” because it “sows destruction” and “destroys the lives of others.”
Pope: Greed, throwaway culture fuel “hidden euthanasia” of elderly
Pope Francis warned against the abandonment and neglect of the elderly, calling it a “hidden euthanasia” rooted in today’s “poisonous” culture of disposal and an economic system of greed.
In the presence of his predecessor, Pope Francis also thanked retired Pope Benedict XVI for staying to live at the Vatican and being like “a wise grandfather at home.”
“A people who don’t take care of their grandparents and don’t treat them well is a people with no future… they sever their own roots,” he said. The Pope’s comments came during “The Blessing for a Long Life” event, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family, and attended by some 40,000 grandparents and retired persons.
Specifically invited by Pope Francis, the 87-year-old former Pope arrived carrying a cane but looking strong. About 10 minutes later, while the famed Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli sang “Con te partro” (“I’ll Go With You”), Pope Francis entered and went to embrace Pope Benedict.
The Pope also thanked Mubarak and Aneesa Hano, an older couple from Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, for coming.
Hano told the Pope that, for 2,000 years, their parish church bells had tolled until the militants invaded, chased them from their homes and replaced the crosses atop their churches with black flags. In commemoration, the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica tolled at the end of Hano’s testimony.
“Church suffers from bishops choosing ill-suited priests”
Many of the problems in the Church today come from accepting men who are unsuitable for the priesthood, Pope Francis told the Congregation for Clergy.
The vocations crisis and lack of priests have meant that “we bishops are tempted to take in, without discernment, the young men who present themselves. This is bad for the Church,” he told the congregation’s plenary assembly.
“Examine closely whether he belongs to the Lord, if that man is healthy, is balanced…capable of forming a family and turning that down in order to follow Jesus,” he said in off-the-cuff remarks.
Married life is better with NFP, say couples at synod
Catholic couples who ignore Church teaching on contraception “don’t know what they are missing,” said a U.S. couple invited to address the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. Alice and Jeff Heinzen, family life leaders in the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, spoke at the synod, urging efforts to find new ways to share its teaching about the beauty of family life.
The couple said in an interview that Church teaching about married sexuality and natural family planning is clearly a place where this is needed. The good news, they said, is that NFP is good for a marriage, good for one’s health and good for the environment.
NFP courses in the United States are increasingly popular because they are natural, not for religious reasons, Alice said. “However, after they [couples] start… they notice a shift in their relationship, they notice a deepening of their conversation.” When that happens, she said, instructors can say: “This is God’s plan. When you allow Him into this whole process, how can you not expect more joy?”
Pope recalls his first Communion
Unable to resist relating a personal event dear to his heart, Pope Francis said that 70 years ago to the day, he had celebrated his First Communion.
“They say that you shouldn’t talk about personal things, but I can’t resist the temptation,” he said at his weekly general audience.
“Today I am so thankful to the Lord because 70 years ago I made my first Communion,” he said with a broad smile. “Let us all thank the Lord for our baptism, all of us thank him for our First Communion.”
The Pope’s revelation underlined what it means to enter into communion with the Catholic Church and to seek communion with Christians of other traditions.
The Pope lamented the long history of divisions among Christians, saying they “wound the Church and wound Christ,” whose desire is “that they may all be one, so that the world may believe.”
Unity was already under threat while Jesus was still with his disciples, who would argue “among themselves who was better, who was more important,” the Pope said.
Let theologians “seek the theological truth because it is a duty,” he said. “But we, we will walk together, praying for one another, doing charitable work and that is how we will build communion by walking together.”
Anglican, Lutheran delegates say synod’s concerns are theirs, too
Upholding the Christian ideal of marriage and family life while also reaching out to those whose lives do not reflect that ideal is a pastoral challenge faced by all Christian communities, said the Anglican representative to the Synod of Bishops.
Anglican Bishop Paul Butler of Durham, England, and “fraternal delegates” from seven other Christian communities addressed the synod October 10.
Bishop Butler, married 32 years with four grown children, said that although Anglicans have married clergy, “like you,” he told them, Anglicans “are wrestling with how best to respond” to the challenges facing family life around the world.
He said, “We want to speak more of the promise of and hope from the family than focus on the threats,” while also making it clear that “marriage is between a man and a woman and is intended to be for life.”
Lutheran Bishop Ndanganeni Phaswana of South Africa, representing the Lutheran World Federation, also told the synod that his community’s “lively discussions” about how to respond to “new forms of family and marital relationships” have “created tensions” within the federation.
Missionaries help keep people, church, healthy and holy, pope says
Missionaries who leave their homes and even risk their lives “have done immense good for the Church, because once the Church stops moving and becomes closed up inside herself, she gets ill, she can be corrupted, either by sin or that false knowledge separated from God that is worldly secularism,” Pope Francis said in a homily October 12.
The Pope presided over a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in thanksgiving for the canonizations of Sts. Marie de l’Incarnation and Francois de Laval, two 17th-century French missionaries who were pioneers of the Catholic Church in Canada.
Pope Francis declared the new saints April 3 without requiring the verification of a miracle through their intercession or holding a canonization ceremony; instead he used a procedure known as “equivalent canonizations.”
They left everything behind “to live the Gospel in absolutely new conditions with hardly any resources,” Archbishop Paul-André Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, said. “Everything had to be created” from scratch as they found new ways to preach the Gospel, said the archbishop. He said St. Francois de Laval, born in 1623, studied in a Jesuit school before traveling to Quebec in 1639. “He was a kind of 17th-century Pope Francis,” setting set aside the ornate material trappings and living a simple, “nearly austere, lifestyle.” The first bishop of Quebec “journeyed by canoe and on foot” to show his “great love for the native people that he met, for their struggles, for their trials,” the archbishop said.
Known as the “Mother of the Canadian Church,” St. Marie de l’Incarnation was born in 1599 and although drawn to the religious life, she followed her parents’ wishes and was married at the age of 17. Six months after her son was born, her husband died. When the child turned 12, she entered the Ursuline Order and, in 1639, set sail for Quebec, dedicating herself to teaching.
Paul VI was pope of firsts, a pope of dialogue, cardinal says
Retired Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who comes from the same diocese as Pope Paul VI did and worked for him in the Vatican Secretariat of State, described the late Pope as a man rich in spirituality, a thinker and a pastor “very sensitive to the challenges of the modern world.”
Pope Paul exemplified “a dialogue respectful of others, one that listens to others… but also a dialogue that aims to proclaim God’s love for all and to proclaim the truths of the Gospel,” the cardinal said. Cardinal Re told reporters that Pope Paul was a “Pope of firsts” … the first Pope to take a plane, the first Pope since St. Peter to visit the Holy Land and the first Pope to give up the papal tiara.
The cardinal said the Pope’s renunciation of the crown was a sign that his authority did not come from earthly power and that he did not want earthly glory.
All wars begin in a jealous heart; let go of pride, envy, pope says
All wars begin in the human heart — a heart that is jealous and bitter and tears apart communities through misunderstandings and marginalization, Pope Francis said. “How wonderful if we would remember more often who we are, what Jesus Christ did with us: We are his body,” filled with the Holy Spirit’s gift of new life and united in fellowship, he said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
This is “the great gift we receive on the day of our baptism,” he said, conforming ourselves to Christ and sharing his love “as living members of the same body.” However, this is not always easy; jealousy tears the community apart and damages the one who is filled with envy, he said. “It is the beginning of war. War does not begin in the battlefield. Wars begin in the heart.”
Pope Francis calls for abolishing death penalty and life imprisonment
Pope Francis called for abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, and denounced what he called a “penal populism” that promises to solve society’s problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice.
“It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples’ lives from an unjust aggressor,” the Pope said in a meeting with representatives of the International Association of Penal Law.
“All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to struggle not only for abolition of the death penalty, whether it be legal or illegal and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty. And this, I connect with life imprisonment,” he said. “Life imprisonment is a hidden death penalty.”
The Pope noted that the Vatican recently eliminated life imprisonment from its own penal code.
In Turkey, pope will visit Blue Mosque
Although prayers and meetings with Orthodox leaders dominate the schedule of Pope Francis’ November 28-30 trip to Turkey, he also will meet government leaders and visit Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. Pope Francis will join Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in Istanbul on the feast of St. Andrew.
The Pope and patriarch send delegations to each other’s Churches yearly for their patron saints’ feast days: the Vatican’s June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul and the Orthodox Churches’ November 30 feast of St. Andrew. Pope Francis will visit the city’s Hagia Sophia Museum, once regarded as the finest church of the Christian Byzantine Empire. It was converted into a mosque in the 15th century and then turned into a museum in 1935. He will also visit the grandiose Sultan Ahmet Mosque, the “Blue Mosque,” so called because of the turquoise ceramic tiles that adorn the 400-year-old structure’s interior.
World Meeting of Popular Movements presented by Cardinal Turkson
At a press conference in the Vatican, the head of the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council, Cardinal Peter Turkson, presented details of a World Meeting of Popular Movements to be held in Rome later in October.
The meeting is being organized by the Justice and Peace Council, together with the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and leaders of various popular movements.
Cardinal Turkson said that the Church and society must reach out to “the marginalized and rejected, especially among the young and old,” which first requires us to “listen humbly” to their “expectations, hopes and proposals.”
Pope Meets Orientale Lumen Foundation
Pope Francis greeted an ecumenical pilgrimage sponsored by Orientale Lumen Foundation and led by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Great Britain.
He said he was pleased that the pilgrimage chose to commemorate the two saints he canonized in April, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, who “always witnessed a burning passion for the unity of Christians.”
That passion was visible when Pope John said it was his objective in announcing the Second Vatican Council, and when Pope John Paul in 1995 wrote his encyclical letter Ut Unum Sint, reflecting the words of Christ, “That they may be one.”
Pope Francis says Pope Benedict was a “great pope”
Retired Pope Benedict XVI is a perfect example of how intellectual knowledge and scientific curiosity do not lead a person further from God, but can strengthen their love for God and for his human creatures, Pope Francis said.
“Benedict XVI was a great Pope,” he said, “great for the power and penetration of his intellect, great for his considerable contribution to theology, great for his love for the Church and for human beings, great for his virtues and his religiosity.”
Pope Francis praised his predecessor at a meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, where he unveiled a bronze bust of Pope Benedict at the academy’s headquarters in the Vatican Gardens.
The Pope said that the sculpture—particularly the eyes—captured the spirit, intelligence and love of Pope Benedict.
“No one could ever say of him that study and science made him and his love for God and his neighbor wither. On the contrary, knowledge, wisdom and prayer enlarged his heart,” the Pope said.