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Vatican department heads meet to discuss budget deficit

Friday, September 20, 2019

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2019 / 11:50 am (CNA).- The heads of dicasteries and Vatican City State institutions met Friday to discuss finances and how to reverse a reportedly rapidly growing deficit in the Holy See’s budget.

Matteo Bruni, Holy See press office director, confirmed to CNA that the meeting took place Sept. 20 among heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia and of institutions connected to the Holy See and Vatican City State.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in May Pope Francis asked Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, coordinator of the Council for the Economy, which oversees Vatican finances, to convoke the meeting to consider solutions and to “inform the respective heads about the gravity of the situation.”

The Holy See sustained a deficit of roughly 70 million euros ($77 million) in 2018, doubled from the previous year, according to Vatican officials, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Sept. 20 meeting was intended to increase awareness of the issue among Vatican officials, many of whom are unaware of the gravity of the situation, according to Joseph Zahra, a Maltese economist who is a member of the Council for the Economy.

Zahra also said the Vatican will be releasing a financial report this fall, the first since 2015.

Vatican finances have been one of the major focuses of Pope Francis’ reform efforts, though he has faced serious setbacks.

Efforts began in 2013, with the creation of an investigatory commission to examine the Holy See's administrative structures. Consisting of seven lay experts, one clerical secretary, and external consultants, the commission met from August 2013 to May 2014.

This work was later overshadowed when, in 2015, two former members of the commission were arrested for stealing and leaking confidential information about Francis’ papacy.

In February 2014, Pope Francis made his first major structural changes to the Roman Curia, establishing the Council for the Economy and the Office of Auditor General, an autonomous office with the power to conduct special investigations.

He also created the Secretariat for the Economy, appointing Cardinal George Pell as prefect, but that office is now vacant, as Pell returned to his home country to defend himself against charges of child sex abuse, of which he was convicted. The cardinal is appealing his conviction.

Cardinal Marx holds 'constructive dialogue' with Pope Francis on synodal plans

Friday, September 20, 2019

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2019 / 08:25 am (CNA).- Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German Episcopal Conference, has held talks with Pope Francis and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, about the German bishops’ plans for a “binding synodal path.”

The meetings, held in Rome Sept. 19, followed a public exchange between the German hierarchy and the Vatican over the draft statutes for a “Synodal Assembly” to be formed by the bishops in partnership with the Central Committee of German Catholics.

In a media release issued by the German bishops’ conference on Friday, Marx called the meetings “constructive,” but offered no details about any further instructions given by the pope or the Curia concerning the synodal plans.

“In both talks, a constructive dialogue took place, which will feed into the deliberations of the general assembly of the German Episcopal Conference next week.” The release noted that Marx was in Rome for meetings of the pope’s Council of Cardinal Advisors, and the Vatican Council for the Economy, both of which Marx is a member.

The German bishops will meet in plenary session on Sept. 23-26 and are expected to formally adopt a set of statutes for the synodal process.

Pope Francis wrote to the German bishops in June, expressing a series of concerns with the German proposals, and warning them to proceed in communion with Rome and the whole Church.

That letter was, according to Cardinal Walter Kasper, “set aside” by the executive committee of the German bishops’ conference, who voted in August to endorse a set of statues codifying their previous plans, while rejecting an alternative proposal drafted to accommodate the pope’s concerns.

Earlier this month, Cardinal Ouellet wrote to Marx, presenting a four-page legal assessment of the synodal plans. That document, issued by the Pontifical Commission for Legislative Texts, concluded that the proposed synodal assembly was “not ecclesiologically valid,” and set out to treat matters of universal Church teaching and discipline which “cannot be the object of the deliberations or decisions of a particular Church without contravening what is expressed by the Holy Father in his letter.”

The most recent version of the synodal statues, approved in August and unchanged through September, were due to be adopted by the German bishops at their plenary assembly next week.

In response to Ouellet’s intervention, Marx indicated that the synodal plans would proceed as planned, saying that Rome could not apply a canonical criticism to what he called a “sui generis process” that would be “helpful for the guidance of the universal Church and for other episcopal conferences.”

It is unclear if any changes will be made to that document following Marx’s “constructive dialogue” with the pope and Cardinal Ouellet. It is also unclear if the alternative statutes for a “Francis-model” of the synodal process will be given new consideration by the bishops, despite their rejection by the executive committee last month.

The German synodal process is scheduled to begin on the first day of Advent.

Pope Francis to doctors: Assisted suicide is 'false compassion'

Friday, September 20, 2019

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2019 / 08:02 am (CNA).- Pope Francis told a group of Italian doctors Friday they must resist the temptation to participate in assisted suicide or euthanasia, which trades the dignity of the patient for a “false compassion.”

“It is important that the doctor does not lose sight of the singularity of each patient, with his dignity and fragility. A man or a woman to accompany with conscience, with intelligence and heart, especially in the most serious situations,” the pope said Sept. 20.

“With this attitude, one can and must reject the temptation – induced also by legislative changes – to use medicine to support a possible desire for death by the patient, providing assistance to suicide or causing death directly with euthanasia.”

Euthanasia or assisted suicide are “hasty paths,” and not an expression of a person’s freedom, as they might seem, he continued, adding that to be asked to help cause the premature death of a patient is a “discarding of the patient” and “false compassion.”  

Quoting the New Charter for Health Care Workers, published in 2017 by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, he said: “There is no right to arbitrarily dispose of one’s life, so that no doctor can be the executive guardian of a non-existent right.”

The pope’s audience took place with around 350 members of the Italian National Federation of Orders of Surgical Doctors and Dentists.

The president of the organization, Filippo Anelli, gave a signed message to Pope Francis talking about the “profound unease” with which Italian doctors live their profession today, “the result of a distortion of the values that sustain our society.”

“This is why the crisis that affects the profession today requires a special awareness and effort not only from doctors but also from all civil society in order to restore the right gradation of values, recognizing the citizen’s right to health and the doctor’s role as a professional who protects that right to the health of the citizen and his community,” the message states.

Pope Francis said medicine, by definition, “is service to human life, and as such it involves an essential and inalienable reference to the person in his spiritual and material integrity, in his individual and social dimension.”

It is not just about the illness, he continued, adding that it is a person with a disease, not a disease with a person. “It is with this integrally human vision that doctors are called to relate to the patient.”
 
“It is for the doctors to possess, together with the due technical and professional competence, a code of values and meanings with which to give meaning to the illness and to one’s work and to make every single clinical case a human encounter.”

Quoting St. John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium vitae, Pope Francis said: “the responsibility of health workers ‘is today enormously increased and finds its deepest inspiration and its strongest support precisely in the intrinsic and unavoidable ethical dimension of the health profession, as the ancient and ever current Hippocratic oath, according to which every doctor is asked to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness.’”

 

Pope's cardinal advisors continue to discuss apostolic constitution

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2019 / 10:14 am (CNA).- Pope Francis’ now six-member Council of Cardinal Advisors met this week to continue work on the forthcoming apostolic constitution, incorporating into the draft suggestions submitted by bishops’ conferences and others during the summer.

According to a brief press release from the Holy See press office Thursday, the council met Sept. 17-19, with a focus on “re-reading and modifying the draft of the new Apostolic Constitution,” which has the provisional title Praedicate evangelium.

“This first rereading, which has come to an end, was a passage of listening and reflection that responds to the indications of the Holy Father in the sense of communion and synodality,” the statement said.

The new constitution has been the advisory group’s key reform project since its establishment in 2013, one month after Pope Francis’ election.

The document is expected to place renewed emphasis on evangelization as the structural priority of the Church’s mission, with some predicting the merger of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization into a single larger department.

Praedicate evangelium will replace Pastor bonus, the current apostolic constitution on the Roman Curia promulgated by Pope John Paul II on June 28, 1988, and subsequently modified by both popes Benedict and Francis.

Pope Francis attended the council’s meetings, the advisory group's 31st, when not in other audiences and appointments. On Wednesday morning the pope held his usual general audience, and Thursday morning he had a full slate of appointments, including with Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising and the coordinator of the Council for the Economy, who is also president of the German bishops’ conference.

The Council of Cardinal Advisors is often referred to informally as the “C9,” although there have been only six members since December 2018, when three of the original members, Cardinals George Pell, Francisco Javier Errazuriz, and Laurent Monsengwo, were removed, ostensibly for reasons of age.

In addition to Marx, the other members of the pope’s advisory council are Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, Seán Patrick O’Malley, Giuseppe Bertello and Oswald Gracias.

Bishops Marcello Semeraro and Marco Mellino, the secretary and adjunct secretary of the council, were also present at the meetings this week.

The next round of gatherings will take place Dec. 2-4.

Blood of St. Januarius liquefies on feast day

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Naples, Italy, Sep 19, 2019 / 10:06 am (CNA).- The miracle of the liquefiction of the blood of early Church martyr St. Januarius took place Thursday in Naples.

The blood was shown to have liquefied shortly after 10 a.m. during Mass in the Naples’ Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary.

The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Archbishop of Naples, who in his homily, strongly criticized the violent crime of Neapolitan streets.

Despite the city’s recurring miracle, “the evil that the hateful and violent killers commit in Naples is limitless,” he said.” In effect they try to kill at birth just the possibility of making a future…”

This, he noted, generates fear and insecurity, and goes against the common good. 

“We must ask ourselves: does Naples still have a great and sincere heart? Us citizens of today's Naples have to answer this question with truth, therefore, with realism, with honesty and courageously, without letting ourselves be taken by a false nostalgia of the times we once had,” he stated.

St. Januarius, or San Gennaro in Italian, the patron of Naples, was a bishop of the city in the third century, whose bones and blood are preserved in the cathedral as relics. He is believed to have been martyred during Diocletian persecution.

The reputed miracle is locally known and accepted, though has not been the subject of official Church recognition. The liquefaction reportedly happens at least three times a year: Sept. 19, the saint's feast day, the Saturday before the first Sunday of May, and Dec. 16, the anniversary of the 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

During the miracle, the dried, red-colored mass confined to one side of the reliquary becomes blood that covers the entire glass. In local lore, the failure of the blood to liquefy signals war, famine, disease or other disaster.

The blood did not liquefy in December 2016, but Monsignor Vincenzo De Gregorio, abbot of the Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, said it was a sign that Catholics should pray rather than worry about what the lack of miracle could mean.

“We must not think of disasters and calamities. We are men of faith and we must pray,” he said at the time.

The vial has sometimes changed upon the visit of a pope.

On March 21, 2015, Pope Francis met with priests, religious and seminarians at the cathedral and gave a blessing with the relic.

Sepe then received the vial back from the pope and noted that the blood had partially liquefied.

The last time blood liquefied in the presence of a pope was in 1848 when Bl. Pius IX visited. The phenomenon didn’t happen when St. John Paul II visited the city in October 1979, or when Benedict XVI visited in October 2007.

 

Pope Francis: 'Canon law is essential for ecumenical dialogue'

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2019 / 07:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Thursday that canon law is essential for ecumenical dialogue with Orthodox and Oriental Churches.

“Many of the theological dialogues pursued by the Catholic Church, especially with the Orthodox Church and the Oriental Churches, are of an ecclesiological nature. They have a canonical dimension too, since ecclesiology finds expression in the institutions and the law of the Churches,” Pope Francis said Sept. 19.

In an audience with members of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches, Pope Francis said: “Canon law is essential for ecumenical dialogue,” adding that “ecumenical dialogue also enriches canon law.”

Canon law is the Church’s legal discipline, it gives expression to concepts like natural and divine law, and orders the Church as an ecclesiastical society. It explains and safeguards the rights and duties of the faithful of all orders of church life: laity, clergy, bishops, and religious.

As the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches marks its fiftieth anniversary this year, Pope Francis remarked that the society’s founder, Father Ivan Žužek, made significant contributions to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

The pope met with Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople the day prior for lunch in Vatican City. Bartholomew, to whom Pope Francis gifted relics of St. Peter earlier this year, was the law society’s first vice president.

Pope Francis said that the Church can learn from the synodal experience of the Eastern churches.

“Synodality expresses the ecumenical dimension of canon law,” Pope Francis said, explaining: “the commitment to build a synodal Church — a mission to which we are all called, each with the role entrusted him by the Lord — has significant ecumenical implications.”

“How much we can learn from one another in all areas of ecclesial life: theology, the experience of spirituality and liturgy, pastoral activity and, certainly, canon law,” he said.

“Based on the common canonical heritage of the first millennium, the current theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church seeks precisely a common understanding of primacy and synodality and their relationship in the service of the unity of the Church,” Pope Francis said.

A new book from a Vatican journalist, for Vatican journalists

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- A book on papal communication aims to connect the history of the Vatican’s communications office with the theology of the Second Vatican Council.

"I welcomed this publication with great pleasure," Alessandro Gisotti, deputy editorial director at Vatican Media, during a September launch event for “Anche i Papi comunicano,” - “The popes also communicate.”

 "I believe it is also a sign of gratitude to all the colleagues who accompanied me during the months in which I held the position of director of the Press Room. I was part of this story and now that it has been dedicated to Navarro Valls the Press Room is even more the home of journalists,” Gisotti added, according to a report from Vatican Media.

The book is authored by Veronica Giacometti, an editor at Italian news agency ACI Stampa and a former intern at Radio Vaticano. ACI Stampa is CNA’s Italian-language partner agency.

Gisotti said the book is important because it connects contemporary Catholic communicators to the Church’s tradition.

"Tradition means transmitting knowledge, it is important that Vatican experts know how popes have communicated in recent decades," he said.

“Popes communicate first of all with their presence. A president, if he does not act, is thought not exist. But the pope exists and communicates as Peter's successor, he is the message itself, therefore political categories cannot be applied to his communication,” Gisotti said.

Giacometti told Vatican Media that she wrote the book to be a resource to Vatican journalists.

This book can be a working tool. It contains basic information (for Vatican journalists.) For example, what is a bolletino, how is the press office structured," among other questions, she said.

Giacometti said she aimed to put the traditions of Vatican journalists on paper.

Alan Holdren, director of EWTN’s Rome office, and long-time Vatican journalist, also spoke at the launch event.

“I think all of us feel this need to know where we have come from. I have been here for 10 years, my first days of journalism at the Vatican were right in the Vatican’s press room. I spent a year and a half there, every day of the week, to report the facts about the pope. The press room for us is a meeting point, a welcome point, a point of information that is essential to carry out our profession,” Holdren said.

 

Analysis: Cardinal Marx’s next step on the German synodal path

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2019 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- This week, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, travels to Rome. There he will meet with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, to clear up some “misunderstandings” about the German bishops’ intended synodal process.

The stakes of the closed-door meeting are high. 

The German bishops seem poised to press ahead with plans for a “synodal assembly,” despite criticism of the plan from Curial offices and the pope himself. The matter seems likely to escalate into an open conflict between the Apostolic See and one of the most influential bishops’ conferences in the global Church.

Marx first announced the “binding synodal path” earlier this year. In addition to creating a new Synodal Assembly in partnership with the Central Committee of German Catholics, the bishops intend – indeed have already begun – a review of universal Church teaching and discipline on a range of sensitive matters, including sexual morality, the role of women in offices and ministry, and clerical celibacy.

Critics say the German plan disregards, or defies, the universality of teaching and discipline that makes the Catholic Church catholic. 

In June, Pope Francis wrote a letter to Germany Catholics offering a corrective to their bishops’ plans. He warned against a “new Pelagianism” and the temptation to “adapt” the Church “to the spirit of the age.”

Most specifically, the pope warned the German bishops against striking out on their own. Communion with the whole Church, he said, and respect for the hierarchy, are vital to any authentic understanding of synodality.

“Every time an ecclesial community tried to resolve its problems alone, trusting and focusing exclusively on its forces or its methods, its intelligence, its will or prestige, it ended up increasing and perpetuating the evils it tried to solve,” he told the Germans.

Cardinal Walter Kasper summarized recently the pope’s effect on the German bishops: “In Germany, the Pope's letter was much praised, but then put aside and [the process] continued as previously planned.”

On Sept. 4, Ouellet wrote to the German bishops, presenting an official assessment of the German plans from the Pontifical Commission for Legislative Texts, which concluded that the synod’s proposed structures were “not ecclesiologically valid” and that its proposed subject matter “cannot be the object of the deliberations or decisions of a particular Church without contravening what is expressed by the Holy Father in his letter.”

Marx has insisted that the Vatican’s critique is based on an old draft of their plans, and that the current version renders them moot. But, as CNA reported, the most recent version effectively retained the provisions and themes opposed by Rome, and Vatican officials were already in possession of the new draft by the time Ouellet’s letter was sent – to the point that Ouellet’s letter even noted that he had seen the minutes of the August 19 executive session.

One official at the Congregation told CNA that there is a sense in Rome that Cardinal Marx wants to deflect criticism onto past documents in the hopes of keeping the synodal process moving faster than Rome can keep up.

“We see this happening: the Germans say we have already made the changes you want, and by the time there can be a response saying “no, the concerns remain,” the next step is already made,” an official at the Congregation for Bishops told CNA.

“If we come to [the point where] the Holy Father [is] saying ‘stop, do not begin the synod,’ they will reply ‘we already began – now we must finish!’”

Any official account of this week’s meeting between Marx and Ouellet is highly unlikely – the Congregation for Bishops has a long track record of declining to comment on its work, even on the most internationally pressing issues. Whatever account Marx offers will likely be his own impression, and may not be shared by the congregation.

The first tangible indication of whether an understanding has actually been reached will likely come next week, when the German bishops are scheduled to vote on the draft statues for the Synodal Assembly.

If the bishops pass an unaltered text from the one adopted by their executive committee last month, it will indicate either that the Vatican has acquiesced to the German plans, or that Ouellet’s letter has been “put aside,” as was the pope’s in June.

If the German bishops proceed with their plans over Vatican objections, the pope could be expected to address the matter during the upcoming Amazon synod. 

Thus far, the language of Rome to Germany has been couched in terms of “concern” and “guidance.” But should the Germans ignore a further, perhaps even explicit, instruction by Francis to halt the synodal plans, it will raise serious questions – first about the legitimacy of the entire enterprise, and then about the relationship of the Church in Germany to the Apostolic See.

Sources close to the German bishops’ conference have told CNA that Marx sees the German synodal plans as the means of reshaping the global Church. “The cardinal believes it is the German Church’s duty to lead on the path for others to follow on these matters,” one senior German Church official said.

“There is no question of wishing to break the communion with the universal Church, but to remake it for a more modern Church.”

Some officials in Rome have told CNA they suspect that Marx simply does not believe the pope is willing to act decisively to halt the German plans.

“They [the German bishops] do not ask permission to begin, or listen to the instructions given. They just continue, continue, and then – what?” one senior official at the Pontifical Commission or Legislative Texts told CNA.

“In the end, the idea of schism is unthinkable for everyone. But if no one thinks it can happen, you can do anything you like - the Holy Father says no, but a cardinal can say yes.”

The official at the Congregation for Bishops agreed, telling CNA that the German bishops’ continued action appeared calculated.

“Dialogue in communion means you listen to what the pope says,” he said. “If you don’t listen, there is no communion.”

Through sin and scandal, God's Church remains, Pope Francis says

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2019 / 04:34 am (CNA).- Because of sinfulness, human projects will always fail, but the Church remains steadfast, even in times of scandal, because she is sustained by the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said Wednesday.

“Let us think of the history of Christians, including the history of the Church, with so many sins, with so many scandals, with so many bad things in these two millennia. And why did it not collapse? Because God is there,” the pope said Sept. 18.

“We are sinners, and so often we even give scandal. But God is with us,” he added. “But the Lord always saves. Strength is ‘God with us.’”

In contrast, human projects always fail, Pope Francis noted, pointing to the many political projects of history, including the empires and dictatorships of the last century.

“They felt very powerful, they thought they dominated the world. And then they all collapsed,” he stated. “Even today, think of today’s empires: they will collapse, if God is not with them, because the strength that men have in themselves is not lasting. Only the strength of God endures.”

During his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles with a reflection on the importance of the Holy Spirit.

In the fifth chapter of Acts, the Apostles are facing opposition from Jews, but they “respond with courage,” showing they possess the “obedience of faith,” Francis said.

They have this courage, he said, because from Pentecost they are no longer alone, but the Holy Spirit is working through them.

“They feel they cannot say, ‘I’ alone,” he added. “Strengthened by this covenant, the Apostles do not let themselves be intimidated by anyone. They had an impressive courage!”

Pope Francis noted that at Jesus’ arrest, the disciples ran away like cowards. “But, from cowards they have become so brave. Why? Because the Holy Spirit was with them.”

“The same happens to us: if we have the Holy Spirit inside, we will have the courage to move forward, the courage to win many struggles, not for ourselves but for the Spirit that is with us,” he said, pointing to the martyrs, who gave their lives and never hid their Christian identity.

The pope recalled, in particular, the Coptic Orthodox Christians who were killed in Libya in 2015. “But the last word they said was, ‘Jesus, Jesus.’ They were filled with the Holy Spirit,” he said.

In Acts, the Apostles are living like “megaphones” of the Holy Spirit, and this “makes the Jewish ‘religious system’ tremble,” feel threatened and respond with violence and death threats, Francis explained.

However, the pope said, one Pharisee in the Sanhedrin, Gamaliel, tries to stem this reaction, showing how to practice discernment. He shows that what is of God will last while human projects may first succeed but then become “shipwrecked.”

“Gamaliel concludes that, if the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth believed an impostor, they are destined to disappear into thin air; if instead they follow one who comes from God, it is better to give up fighting them; and warns: ‘Do not happen to find yourself even fighting against God’ (Acts 5:39). He teaches us to make this discernment,” he stated.

Gamaliel’s reasoned words teach people to “recognize the tree by its fruits.”

“We ask the Holy Spirit to act in us so that, both personally and as a community, we can acquire the habitus of discernment,” Francis concluded.

Vatican City prosecutor asks that Italian priest be charged with sexual abuse during seminary

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2019 / 11:55 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Tuesday that the Vatican City State’s Promoter of Justice has requested the indictment two Italian priests -- Fr. Gabriele Martinelli on charges of sexual abuse and Fr. Enrico Radice for “aiding and abetting.”

In 2012, Martinelli was accused of having, over a period of five years, sexually molested his roommate at the Vatican’s St. Pius X minor seminary, in which, in addition to seminarians, also live boys who altar serve for papal liturgical celebrations in St. Peter’s Basilica.

That allegation was reported by the Associated Press in 2018, and by Italian journalists in 2017. The initial handling of the case by the Vatican was severely criticized -- Kamil Jarzembowski, the former student who had made the allegation, was dismissed from the seminary while the alleged abuser, Martinelli, was ordained a priest in 2017.

Charges are also being brought against Fr. Enrico Radice, who was rector of the minor seminary at the time of the alleged abuse, for alleged “aiding and abetting.”

According to the Vatican statement, an investigation into the accusations was begun in November 2017, following media reports, but, according to the statement, the Vatican City State’s operative law at the time prevented a trial from taking place without a complaint from the alleged victim within one year of the alleged abuse.

The statement says the charges may now be brought forward because on June 29, Pope Francis made a special provision that would allow the case to proceed.

Martinelli, 26, is a priest in the Diocese of Como, in northern Italy and a member of the “Opera don Folci,” a religious association centered on the formation of priests. He is still listed on the diocesan website, but a parish is not indicated.

Italian media reported in early August that the prosecutor’s office in Rome is also close to indicting Martinelli on charges of abuse with the aggravating circumstance of abuse of power.

In comments published in early July, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano criticized the Vatican's handling of two cases of alleged sexual abuse, including the case of Martinelli.

Vigano claimed the case was “immediately covered up by the then-bishop of Como, Diego Coletti, together with Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Vicar General of Pope Francis for Vatican City.  In addition, Cardinal Coccopalmerio, then president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, who was consulted by Don Stabellini, strongly admonished him to stop the investigation.”

The former nuncio did not mention that the Church had since launched a new canonical investigation into the allegations. That investigation was triggered when the alleged victim came forward to make a complaint himself, according to a July 2018 AP report.

 

Ed. note: This story has been updated to clarify that the promoter of justice has requested the indictment of the two priests.

 

Archbishop Gomez to present conclusions of V Encuentro to Pope Francis

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2019 / 11:19 am (CNA).- A delegation from the U.S., including Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, will present the conclusions and proceedings of the National V Encuentro of Hispanic and Latino Ministry to Pope Francis Wednesday.

The Encuentro was a September 2018 meeting of around 3,000 Hispanic and Latino Catholics on issues such as the accompaniment of immigrants, access to higher education, lay leadership formation, community outreach, and evangelization.

The four-day meeting was a culmination of four years of consultation and workshops at the parish, diocesan, and regional levels of the Church in the U.S. The theme was “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God”.

Archbishop Gomez told CNA that the Encuentro helped “Latinos to understand that they really belong in the United States and they are bringing their gifts to our society.”

“I think it was beautiful to see their participation and the reality that we need them to be leaders in our community,” he said. “They are totally committed to the life, society in the United States and making a contribution to every single aspect of life in the United States and especially the values of the Gospel.”

He added that the Latino community bring with them a commitment to Christian values that are at the foundation of their own countries.

Gomez also urged U.S. Catholics to pray more for the government to reach a solution on comprehensive immigration reform.

The archbishop comes with a delegation of 12 people, including Bishops Nelson Pérez of Cleveland and Arturo Cepeda, an auxiliary bishop of Detroit, who will meet Pope Francis after the Sept. 18 General Audience.

The group has also had meetings with Vatican offices and dicasteries during their visit Sept. 13-18.

Pope Francis sent a video message at the start of the Encuentro last year, and Gomez said, “the first thing” he would like to do is thank the pope “for the assistance he sent and also for his support during this time.”

Gomez, who is vice president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and a Mexico native, said the group will present to Francis a document summarizing what different people experienced at the meeting and practical ways to follow-up the process.

“The Encuentro has been a beautiful process, that’s what we want to share with [Pope Francis] and everybody else,” Gomez said.

“It’s been a beautiful exercise of how to especially get the Latino community involved in the life of the Church. So that’s what we want to share with him.”

Bishop Perez is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church. He told CNA that some of the fruit of Encuentro has been the “emerging leadership, in so many ways, of the next generation of leaders and pastoral lay leaders in the church in the United States.”

On the parish level, he said, 3,000 parishes and 350,000 Catholics participated in the Encuentro process over the last several years.

He said the emergence of new leadership, especially young adults, was immediately apparent. “That was really promising and very hopeful.”

Junuee Castro, the director of youth and young adult ministry in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, seconded this. She told CNA the diocesan Encuentro meetings were very meaningful for her and that “young people have raised their hands and said yes, I am willing to go forward, I am willing to commit; I definitely want to see them in leadership roles.”

Bishop Perez also noted that 250 U.S. parishes started Spanish pastoral outreach and began holding Spanish Masses as a result of the V Encuentro. He added that they have also seen several dioceses establish and staff offices with new lay leaders.

“The V Encuentro is really in so many ways the implementation of the joy of the Gospel. So the whole process, the spirit, the mysticism of the spirituality revolves all around the joy of the Gospel,” Perez said.

He pointed to Pope Francis’ description, in Evangelii gaudium, of the Church “as a community of missionary disciples that takes initiative, that accompanies, that is engaged, that is fruitful, that is joyful.”

“This is the spirit of the V Encuentro,” he said.

Noting that deportations have taken place in his diocese, Perez said one of the blessings of the V Encuentro was that “it comes at a time of that uncertainty and fear and became, in so many ways, a soothing balm where people would come together and support each other, accompany each other and strengthen each other in a very tumultuous time.”

The delegation meeting with Pope Francis includes lay USCCB staff, members of the National V Encuentro Team, and other delegates with experience in diocesan and parish ministry.

Castro said, “what the Church can do is what the Encuentro process has done for us. They have paused and listened to us.”

“They have listened to us, which is key to anything we want to do as a Church; the mode of listening and accompaniment definitely. Being accompanied and being mentored by those who have been in ministerial roles we need their advice and we are willing to walk with them and them with us.”

Delegates and married couple Mario and Paola Martinez are co-directors of the marriage and family life ministry in the Diocese of San Bernardino. They said they serve a range of people in their work, and it has been critical for them to see way in which mothers and fathers seek help for themselves and their families.

“They have this desire for their families to be healthy, for their families to find this peace and they just want the best for their families. That’s what we see, that passion for family life among our Hispanic community. They have a love for their families and for their traditions and their cultures and you can just feel that in the communities that we serve,” Paola said.

Analysis: The Amazon and Germany - A tale of two synods

Monday, September 16, 2019

Vatican City, Sep 16, 2019 / 04:48 pm (CNA).- For the next two months, most of the ink spilled by Catholic journalists will be dedicated to the Amazon, and especially the three-week Rome meeting of bishops in October that will discuss the region. But while the Amazon synod of bishops holds popular attention, some astute Church-watchers wll be more attentive to the emerging controversy surrounding a different synod, to be held in Germany.

The pan-Amazonian synod has become the latest battleground in the long series of internecine conflicts that have plagued the Church in recent years. Conservative figures have decried the synod’s preparatory documents as pantheistic heterodoxy, while progressive Churchmen have cast the meeting as the occasion of some kind of new beginning for the Church, after which, at least one bishop has said, “nothing will be the same.”

At issue, at least theoretically, are two loaded topics in the Church’s life: the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood, and the quagmire surrounding questions of “inculturation,” which ask how the Gospel can be expressed in diverse cultural settings.

The topic of ordaining married men is on the table because the remoteness of some Amazon villages, which almost never see a priest, has led to the suggestion that ordained “viri probati,” older, married men, could make it possible for more Catholics to have access to the sacramental life.

But some bishops are concerned that considering the possibility of married priests in the Amazon region, where priests are few, will lead to widespread adoption of the practice, and the loss of the custom of clerical celibacy. There is also concern that a broadly applied dispensation from the obligation of priestly celibacy will stir up the simmering debate over ordaining women to the diaconate, and even the officially settled argument over ordaining women as priests.

While most proponents of the possibility say their sights are fixed only on the problems of Amazonia, critics are skeptical. Among advocacy groups, intellectuals, and even a few bishops, heated rhetoric has begun to fly.

As the synod grows closer, the rhetoric will grow only more intense, from all corners of the Church.

Rome will host an entire cottage industry of pundits in the weeks preceding the synod, and “experts,” from both the left and the right, will hold symposia and conferences, trying to make the case that the synod matters, that their opponents are wrong and that, whatever their viewpoint, it is the only legitimately Catholic perspective on the matters at hand.

The pan-Amazonian synod, in short, is likely to follow the playbook that has characterized the two most recent synods in Rome, beginning with the 2015 Synod on the Family. After that meeting, which is best remembered for a fracas over divorce and communion, a 2018 synod on youth and young people was similarly polemical.

The conflicts surrounding synods are unfortunate, for at least two reasons. In the first place, they distract from the sincere and earnest conversation that might take place among bishops about critical issues.

Synods are supposed to be conversations, and the topics discussed are usually ones about which many people in Church leadership or pastoral ministry have something to contribute, or something to learn. The Amazon region, in which Pentecostalism is overtaking Catholicism, in which child labor and human trafficking are serious issues, and deforestation threatens whole communities, is in need of the Church’s leadership and pastoral presence. A conversation, rather than a debate, over the issues in the Amazon would be of real benefit to the Church there. But conflict over hot-button issues, and a sense that the synod is a gladiatorial contest between warring sides, is likely to blunt that conversation.

Conflict over synods of bishops is unfortunate mostly because there is very little to be gained from it. Synod assemblies are low-stakes affairs: synods have no power, they can not make policies or declare doctrine or do anything, except publish documents to be reviewed by the pope as he formulates his thoughts on the topic under discussion. Synods are consultative conversations. They do not bind the pope, or instruct him. They just offer the advice of a usually diverse-thinking assembly of leaders.

Synods have grown contentious because Pope Francis used his 2016 post-synodal document Amoris laetitia to signal an openness to the possibility that divorced and remarried people could, under certain circumstances, receive the Eucharist while remaining in a sexual relationship. That suggestion has been divisive, and because it is associated with the family synod of 2015, at least some bishops have begun to treat synods as though they are convened to legislate for the Church.

They are not convened for that purpose.

And the pope could have introduced his ideas about divorce, remarriage, and the Eucharist in any way he chose. He happened to do it in a post-synodal document, but not because the synod in some way freed him to do so, or mandated that he do so. It is sometimes suggested that the synod gave him some political cover, but since the idea did not have full-throated support from the synod’s participants, the hypothesis seems flimsy.

In short, nothing about the synod compelled, authorized, or permitted the pope to teach as he did. But because of Amoris laetitia, and the controversial synod of 2015, pundits seem now to characterize each synod not as an exchange of ideas, but as a battle for the pope's endorsement.

While the stakes of the pan-Amazonian synod are far lower than they’re usually perceived, the stakes of a showdown over a synod in German are much higher than has likely been realized by many Catholics.

The German bishop are planning a two-year “synodal pathway” in the country. The idea is to bring bishops together with lay people, especially those associated with the Central Committee of German Catholics, to pass “binding resolutions,” on controversial topics, including sexual morality and clerical leadership.

The planned synod in Germany is not intended to be a conversation. It is intended to redefine the course of Christianity in Germany, even while giving new consideration to long-established points of Christian doctrine.

The Vatican has warned the German bishops not to continue with their plans, noting that a synod of the type planned by the Germans would disrupt the Church’s life, and could cause a catastrophe by denying the Church’s doctrinal teaching.

But the German bishops, under the leadership of Cardinal Reinhard Marx, have insisted that the synod will proceed, and that the Vatican simply doesn’t understand what’s at stake.

Marx will meet with Vatican officials this week. The cardinal hopes to persuade the Vatican to allow him to proceed with his plans. He is not in a position to back down, because he has assured the Central Committee of German Catholics, which includes advocates of same-sex marriage, that they will have a deliberative voice in the future of the German Church. Relenting, for Marx, would likely mean losing his support among secular German figures, and, by admitting that the Vatican was right, falling out of favor among the Churchmen who support him.

Cardinal Marx, by some estimates, seems to be playing a kind of ecclesiastical game of chicken with the Vatican, and betting that the pope’s Curia will back down before he does.

But if the Vatican does not relent, and the Germans push forward, a great deal is at stake: some experts have suggested that if the Germans proceed with their synodal path in defiance of instructions from Pope Francis and the Vatican, they run the risk of being declared in schism.

At the moment, Marx seems unintimidated by efforts from two different Vatican offices to rein in Germany’s planned synodal process. He might be persuaded, if at all, only by a direct and personal intervention from Pope Francis.

Marx is said to be persuasive with Pope Francis, but sources tell CNA that the pope is growing impatient with the cardinal’s approach to the German synod. If Francis has to intervene, and Marx does not accept the pope’s direction, the result would be a serious crisis for the Church in Germany.

The situation is still developing.

The pan-Amazonian synod will provide plenty of fodder for debate this autumn. But a serious ecclesiological crisis is unfolding in Germany, and how it will be resolved remains to be seen.

Pope Francis: Life imprisonment forgoes the ‘right to start over’

Monday, September 16, 2019

Vatican City, Sep 16, 2019 / 08:48 am (CNA).- In an audience with penitentiary staff and prison chaplains, Pope Francis said Saturday that sentencing prisoners to life imprisonment diminishes their “right to hope.”

“It is up to every society … to ensure that the penalty does not compromise the right to hope, that prospects for reconciliation and reintegration are guaranteed,” Pope Francis said Sept. 14 in St. Peter’s Square.

“Life imprisonment is not the solution to problems - I repeat: life imprisonment is not the solution to problems, but a problem to be solved,” the pope said.

Pope Francis explained that he believes that during the penitentiary process of rectifying mistakes, hope for the future should not be eliminated.

“Because if hope is closed in a cell, there is no future for society,” he said. “Never deprive one of the right to start over.”

Directing his message toward all prisoners, Pope Francis said: “Never let yourself be imprisoned in the dark cell of a hopeless heart; do not give in to resignation. God is greater than any problem and is waiting for you to love you.”

“Stand before the Crucifix, in the gaze of Jesus, in front of Him with simplicity and sincerity,” the pope told prisoners. “From there, from the humble courage that belongs to those who do not lie to themselves, peace is reborn with the trust of being loved, and the strength to go on flourishes again.”

“You who are detained are important to God, who wants to do wonders in you,” he said. “Have courage because you are in the heart of God; you are precious in his eyes, and even if you feel lost and unworthy, do not lose heart.”

“God is greater than our hearts,” the pope encouraged, quoting 1 John 3:20.

Pope Francis also thanked prison chaplains and volunteers for being “the bearers of the Gospel within the walls of prisons.”

He encouraged them to continue to “enter the most difficult situations with the sole strength of a smile and a heart that listens” and to carry others in prayer.

In his audience with the Italian Penitentiary Police, the law enforcement agency dedicated to the country’s prison security, inmate safety and transportation, Pope Francis encouraged the penitentiary staff to always recognize the “irrepressible dignity” in the face of “wounded and often devastated humanity.”

“Lay the foundations for a more respectful coexistence and therefore for a safer society,” he told the police and administrative staff.

 

 

Prince Charles to attend Newman’s canonization in Rome

Monday, September 16, 2019

Vatican City, Sep 16, 2019 / 05:00 am (CNA).- Prince Charles will attend the canonization of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman next month.

The heir to the British throne will travel to Rome to witness the canonization Mass of the first non-martyr English saint since the Reformation.

After the Mass in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 13, the Prince of Wales will attend a reception at the Pontifical Urban College, where Newman studied to become a Catholic priest, the prince’s office announced.

“We are delighted that HRH The Prince of Wales will lead the UK delegation for the canonisation of Cardinal Newman,” the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said after the announcement Sept. 12.

“Cardinal Newman’s exploration of faith, depth of personal courage, intellectual clarity and cultural sensitivity make him a deeply admired follower of Christ. His ministry, especially among the poor, is a permanent sign of the Church’s pastoral compassion and a challenge to us all today,” Nichols said.

Newman was a 19th century theologian, poet, Catholic priest and cardinal. Originally an Anglican priest, he converted to Catholicism in 1845 and his writings are considered among some of the most important Church-writings in recent centuries.

Tens of thousands of people attended Newman’s beatification in Birmingham, England in Sept. 2010. At the beatification Mass, Pope Benedict XVI said that Newman’s “insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world.”

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, met Pope Francis in April 2017 during a visit to the Vatican. The Prince of Wales previously met Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 and St. John Paul II in 1985 with his first wife, Princess Diana.

Pope Francis: God forgets our sins after confession

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Vatican City, Sep 15, 2019 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Sunday that God forgets sins absolved within the confessional.

“How do you defeat evil? Accepting God's forgiveness … It happens every time we go to confession; there we receive the love of the Father who overcomes our sin. It is no longer there, God forgets it,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus message Sept. 15.

“God, when He forgives, loses His memory. He forgets our sins, forgets. God is so good with us,” he added in a departure from his prepared remarks.

In the sacrament of confession, God completely erases the evil confessed, making one new inside, reborn in joy, Pope Francis explained.

“Brothers and sisters, have courage. With God, no sin has the last word,” the pope said.

Pope Francis reflected upon Sunday’s Gospel from Luke in which the Pharisees complain that Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

“Jesus 'welcomes sinners and eats with them.' This is what happens to us, in every Mass, in every church: Jesus is happy to welcome us to his table, where he offers Himself for us,” Pope Francis said.

“It is a phrase that we could write on the doors of our churches: 'Here Jesus welcomes sinners and invites them to his table,’” he added.

The pope focused on the lessons of God’s mercy and justice contained within Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. He said that the elder brother’s rejection of the father’s mercy for the prodigal son contains an important warning.

“The eldest son, who does not accept the mercy of his father ... makes a worse mistake: he is presumed to be just … and judges everything on the basis of his thought of justice,” he said. “It is also a risk for us: to believe in a more rigorous than merciful god, a god who defeats evil with power rather than forgiveness.”

“We are also wrong when we believe ourselves to be right, when we think that the bad ones are the others. Let us not believe ourselves good because alone, without the help of God who is good, we do not know how to overcome evil,” Pope Francis said.

“Our Lady, who unties the knots of life, frees us from the pretense of believing we are righteous and makes us feel the need to go to the Lord, who is always waiting for us to embrace us, to forgive us,” he said.

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis expressed his joy because of two beatifications this weekend. Benedetta Bianchi Porro, an Italian laywoman, who died in 1964 of a lifelong illness at the age of 28, was declared blessed on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

At her beatification Sept. 14, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu called Porro a shining example of “what the cross can and must be for us Christians.”

On Sept. 15, Father Richard Henkes will be beatified in Limburg, Germany. Henkes was a Pallottine priest, who died a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp in Dachau in 1945 while caring for sick prisoners in the camp.

“The example of these two brave disciples of Christ also supports our journey to holiness,” Pope Francis said.

“Don't be afraid: God loves you, loves you as you are,” the pope said. “Only His love can change your life.”