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Exorcists to Jesuit head: Satan is real

Friday, August 23, 2019

Vatican City, Aug 23, 2019 / 11:49 am (CNA).- An international organization of Catholic exorcists said Thursday that the existence of Satan as a real and personal being is a truth of Christin doctrine.

“The real existence of the devil, as a personal subject who thinks and acts and has made the choice of rebellion against God, is a truth of faith that has always been part of Christian doctrine,” the International Association of Exorcists said in an Aug. 22 press release.

The organization’s release came in response to recent remarks on the devil from Jesuit superior general Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, which the organization called “grave and confusing.”

The exorcists said they released their statement to provide “doctrinal clarification.”

Sosa made headlines earlier this week when he told Italian magazine Tempi that “the devil exists as a symbolic reality, not as a personal reality.”

The devil “exists as the personification of evil in different structures, but not in persons, because is not a person, is a way of acting evil. He is not a person like a human person. It is a way of evil to be present in human life,” Sosa said.

Citing a long history of Church teaching on the nature of Satan, including several citations from Pope Francis and his recent predecessors, the exorcists’ organization said that Catholics are bound to believe that Satan is a real and personal being, a fallen angel.

“The Church, founded on Sacred Scripture and on Apostolic Tradition officially teaches that the devil is a creature and a personal being, and she cautions those who, like Father Sosa, consider him only a symbol.”

Sosa’s remarks are “outside the ordinary and extraordinary-solemn magisterium” of the Church, the exorcists said.

The International Association of Exorcists is an “association of the faithful” formally approved by the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy in 2014. Among its founders was well known exorcist Fr. Gabrele Amorth, who died in 2016.

Sosa, 70, was elected the Society of Jesus’ superior general in 2016. A Venezuelan, he has a pontifical licentiate in philosophy and a doctorate in political science. He served as a Jesuit provincial superior in Venezuela from 1996 to 2004, and in 2014 began an administrative role at the general curia of the Jesuits in Rome.

Sosa has offered controversial comments about Satan in the past. In 2017, he told El Mundo that “we have formed symbolic figures such as the Devil to express evil.”

After his 2017 remark generated controversy, a spokesman for Sosa told the Catholic Herald that “like all Catholics, Father Sosa professes and teaches what the Church professes and teaches. He does not hold a set of beliefs separate from what is contained in the doctrine of the Catholic Church."

Analysis: Pell, and the politics of Rome

Friday, August 23, 2019

Vatican City, Aug 23, 2019 / 11:15 am (CNA).- This week’s decision by the Court of Appeal in Victoria marked the apparent conclusion of the criminal trial of Cardinal George Pell in Australia.

While the cardinal may yet exercise his final right of appeal to the country’s High Court, legal experts and those close to Pell are skeptical that such a petition would even be accepted, let alone return a verdict in his favor.

With no further civil progress likely, and Pell almost sure to remain in prison for the foreseeable future, attention now shifts to Rome, where a canonical process has been pending.

Given the questions raised about his treatment by the Australian courts, how that process plays out will be of defining significance, not just for Pell, but for how credibly the Church can still claim to operate an independent legal system that dates back to the Roman Empire.

Pell will face a canonical process at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on charges of crimes of sexual abuse of minors – the same charges brought against him in Victoria. But what sort of process he will receive, and when, remain unanswered questions.

With concerns raised from experts and observers about the strength of the evidence against him, it seems highly unlikely Pell would face the kind of abbreviated administrative procedure like the one used to handle the case of Theodore McCarrick.

The shorter administrative process is reserved in canon law for cases where the facts are reasonably clear, or the proof nearly self-explanatory. In many instances of cases of clerical sexual abuse, a civil conviction is taken by the canonical authorities as effective proof as they decree into evidence all the acts of the civil case.

Yet, because of the reporting ban in place for Pell’s two jury trials (which returned two very different results), little of that original evidence is in the public domain, and would need to be brought to the canonical process as-new.

Also, unlike Theodore McCarrick, Pell did not leave a string of legal settlements behind him in his former dioceses, nor does he face anything like the sheer number of accusers over a sustained period of time – he was convicted in Victoria on the testimony of a single man.

The contentious nature of the result, which came complete with a dissenting opinion from a respected judge, means that public interest and scrutiny remain at fever pitch, and a rushed process would likely raise serious concerns in the Church’s own legal community.

All signs point to Pell receiving a full canonical trial, a process which can, if allowed to fully develop, stand next to any secular court system for legal probity. But that is a big “if.”

The first hurdle will be the access to primary evidence and testimony. Pell’s accuser would need to testify again before the canonical tribunal, and canonists from both sides have the opportunity to put questions to him – there is no guarantee he would be interested in participating.

Also, while it is likely that most if not all of the witnesses in Pell’s defense would make themselves available to testify again, Pell himself is in prison, making it hard for him to appear in front of a tribunal.

But assuming that a canonical court could receive all the evidence and access it needs, Pell’s supporters and legal scholars may have as many concerns about the justice of a canonical process as they do about the criminal proceeding in Victoria.

In the ordinary mechanism, Pell’s trial – like that of any bishop - would be handled by a panel of three or five judges, usually cardinals or archbishops, specially selected by the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, under the authorization of the pope.

These judges are normally chosen for their legal expertise and judicial experience and the trial is conducted independent from the ordinary business of the CDF. But, whatever conclusion the deliberations of such a panel might reach in Pell’s case, it would unlikely be the final word.

Pope Francis has in the past exercised his prerogative to judge high-profile cases himself, and, given Pell’s stature and the significance of any possible outcome, he may find it impossible to delegate a final decision in the matter.

If the case arrives on the papal desk, Francis would likely find himself receiving advice that is as much diplomatic as legal.

While the CDF’s legal process can be set up to resist outside pressures, many in the Secretariat of State view Pell’s situation as a potential diplomatic crisis to be resolved.

If a Vatican court were to acquit Pell of the charges on which he was convicted, it would be perceived by many as an indictment of the Australian justice system and a tacit acknowledgment of charges that Pell is imprisoned by anti-Catholic sentiment.

The resulting diplomatic fallout could well fuel calls by international leaders to end the Holy See’s sovereign status under international law.

On the other hand, if Pell were canonically convicted, those in the Church who believe the cardinal’s Australian trial was fundamentally unjust might conclude that the Church no longer really has an independent legal system, and that bishops and priests the world over should not look to Rome for a fair hearing.

That outcome could lead to dissension among an already embattled global episcopate.

Diplomatic considerations to one side, Pell, in particular, may already have reasons for concern.

As prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, Pell was openly loathed by many of the other curial leaders.

The Australian cardinal’s efforts to deliver financial transparency and accountability to the curia in the first years of the Francis pontificate met with internal Curial resistance – in one famous incident, the Secretariat of State maneuvered without Pell’s knowledge to cancel an announced independent audit. Since his return to Australia, Pell’s reforms have largely been reversed by those who would take the closest interest in his case in Rome.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the pope’s increasingly omnipotent Secretary of State, has been known for years to “check in” on CDF cases which he considers to be of wider importance to the Holy See. Canonists charged with handling the administration of justice have long complained about “pressure” being applied from across St. Peter’s square.

One high-ranking Churchman in Rome familiar with several Vatican trials told CNA that Parolin’s attempts to involve himself in cases have been extensive.

“When [the CDF] was told to basically stop talking to State, [Parolin] started calling nuncios to monitor correspondence between the Congregation and places where cases were in progress. It was a serious problem.”

As the pope’s chief advisor on nearly all aspects of Church governance, Parolin’s advice could prove decisive in any decision the pope makes on Pell.

In March, Parolin called the news of Pell’s conviction “shocking and painful.” On Feb. 28, he told L'Osservatore Romano that Pell’s case “is an incentive to continue in the pope's line: to fight against this phenomenon and pay attention to the victims."

While there is no certainty about how Parolin might counsel the pope, one member of the Vatican’s diplomatic staff told CNA that Parolin is a pragmatist.
 
“Innocent or guilty, the reality is Pell is convicted in an Australian prison,” he said.

“The cardinal puts the stability of the Holy See’s diplomatic status first in line - if you don’t believe it, ask the Chinese,” he said, in reference to the number of Chinese bishops and priests imprisoned by Beijing, despite a landmark 2018 deal between China and the Vatican.

If Pell appeals his case to Australia’s High Court, his canonical case will be delayed until its conclusion. But, whenever it does come to Rome, Pell and his advocate might discover that the Vatican politics he left behind in 2017 still have bearing on his future.

Agreement reached on permanent Holy See representative to Vietnam

Friday, August 23, 2019

Vatican City, Aug 23, 2019 / 10:08 am (CNA).- A Holy See-Vietnam diplomacy working group, which met inside the Vatican this week, reached an agreement on establishing a permanent resident papal representative to the southeast Asian country.

A resident papal representative is considered an intermediary step in diplomatic relations, below an apostolic nuncio.

The Holy See and Vietnam have never had full diplomatic relations, but have been engaged in formal bilateral discussions since 2009. The Aug. 21-22 summit was the eighth meeting of the working group, which had previously met in Hanoi in December 2018.

Since 2011, the Holy See has had a non-resident pontifical representative to Vietnam. At the 2018 meeting in Hanoi, the delegations had agreed to upgrade this representative from a non-permanent, non-resident to a permanent, resident status.

According to a joint statement Aug. 23, the Holy See-Vietnam working group discussed the regulations to underly such an agreement “in view of the setting up of the Office at the earliest possible date.”

In the meeting, the Holy See also expressed appreciation for the State’s assistance to the Catholic community in Vietnam. The State gave its assurance of its continued commitment to improve consistent policy for respect of freedom of belief and religion.

“The two sides also expressed their commitment to continuing dialogue based on trust and respect for the mutually agreed principles governing the bilateral relations. They underscored the importance of further promoting contacts, including at high levels, between the two sides,” according to the statement.

The Vietnamese delegation also met with Pope Francis, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Gallagher.

The delegations are headed by Mons. Antoine Camilleri, Vatican under-secretary for relations with states, and To anh Dung, Vietnam's deputy minister of foreign affairs.

The position of non-resident papal representative to Vietnam is held by the nuncio to Singapore, who is currently Archbishop Marek Zalewski.

Catholics are estimated to make up about 7% of Vietnam’s population of 97 million. Predominant religious practice is of folk religions, followed by Buddhism.

Vietnam’s religious freedom law has been under discussion since 2013, when the Vietnamese constitution was revised. The law guaranteed freedom of belief to people, and formally guarantees religious freedom.

However, Catholic communities have experienced several limitations under the communist regime that took power in 1976.

According to the 2019 annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, religious freedom conditions in the country regressed from 2018 to 2019, and despite small improvements, the government of Vietnam continues to persecute religious individuals and organizations.

Vatican diplomat: Solidarity must be at the heart of the European project

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Rimini, Italy, Aug 22, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- The Vatican Secretary for Relations with States said Wednesday that politics surrounding migration in Europe fuel ideological conflicts that do not fully take into account the complexity of the problem.

“I believe it is clear to everyone that such a delicate issue cannot be dealt with effectively without a clear political vision at all levels. But how can we have such a vision, without a cultural perspective that allows us to face the wide spectrum of related problems?” Archbishop Paul Gallagher said Aug. 21 in a speech in Rimini, Italy.

Gallagher pointed to the Catholic social principles of solidarity and inalienable human dignity. He also spoke of the necessity to balance the rhetoric of “rights” in Europe with that of their corresponding duties.

“The concept of law no longer seems to be associated with the equally essential and complementary concept of duty, so that we end up affirming the rights of the individual without taking into account that every human being is linked to a social context, in which his rights and duties are connected to those of others and to the common good of society itself,” Gallagher said, quoting Pope Francis’ speech to the European Parliament in 2014.

The bishop said that the duty of solidarity is an indispensable underlying principle to achieve the pillars of the European unification project: the defense of freedom, the promotion of justice and the building of peace.

Solidarity, he said, is “not based on the compassion or repulsion that another arouses, but on the objectivity of a common human nature.”

The crises Europe has faced in the last decade from the financial crisis to Brexit have been compounded by the growing “emotionality and reactiveness of political choices,” he said.

“It is precisely this characteristic of objectivity and reasonableness that links duties and rights between them. Since the objective duty of solidarity with others corresponds to that set of rights that are as objective as any human person,” Gallagher said.

“Where objectivity is lacking, the same system of rights loses its meaningfulness. This is what has been happening in the last fifty years when the interpretation of some rights has progressively changed, so as to include a multiplicity of new rights,” he continued.

The process of “relativization of rights,” Gallagher said, is intricately connected to the progessive exclusion of religion from European social life, which has resulted in an unhealthy secularization.

Gallagher said that the result of this process is a “fragmentation of existence,” which he said was presciently described by St. John Paul II in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in Europe:

“We find ourselves before a widespread existential fragmentation. A feeling of loneliness is prevalent; divisions and conflicts are on the rise. Among other symptoms of this state of affairs, Europe is presently witnessing the grave phenomenon of family crises and the weakening of the very concept of the family, the continuation or resurfacing of ethnic conflicts, the re-emergence of racism, interreligious tensions, a selfishness that closes individuals and groups in upon themselves, a growing overall lack of concern for ethics and an obsessive concern for personal interests and privileges,” John Paul II wrote in 2003.

“The weakening of the sense of duty and the progressive subjectivation of rights has therefore weakened the very heart of the European project,” Gallagher said.

“The European project arises with the idea of ​​giving life to a community of peoples who agree to be bound by mutual duties,” he said at the Rimini “Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples.”

Gallagher outlined examples duties of states that relate to the migration issue in Europe.

“Above all, there is the most obvious duty: that of human solidarity with the person who is in need, suffering and often in danger,” he said.

He said that the duty of solidarity between states  is “a key principle of the very existence of the European Union.”

States also have a duty to offer opportunities for integration to migrants and security to their citizens, Gallagher said, explaining that cultural integration can free migrants from “the dynamics from which they had fled home and which often reappear in the lands of landing remaining within their national communities.”
 
In an interview with Vatican News Aug. 22, Gallagher responded to the current debate in Europe on national sovereignty surrounding both the migration and European Union issues.

“No one questions the sovereignty of a country, of a nation. The problem emerges … when there is again an exaggerated view of sovereignty, when there is an insistence on sovereignty,” he said.

“It is very difficult for a government to guarantee all rights to their peoples, as well as peace, defense, security. We are all interconnected… The idea that ‘sovereignty’ means a total closure to others perhaps has a certain theoretical, pragmatic attraction, but I do not think it's the path to follow,” he added.

Gallagher underlined in his speech in Rimini that when approaching the issue of migration, in particular, “ we need to rediscover the duties, rather than the rights,that are at stake.”

“The first and perhaps greatest contribution that Christians can bring to today's Europe - the Pope affirms - is to remind them that it is not a collection of numbers or institutions, but is made up of people, endowed with of transcendent dignity,” he said.

 

Jesuit superior general: Satan is a 'symbolic reality'

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Vatican City, Aug 21, 2019 / 01:44 pm (CNA).- The superior general of the Society of Jesus said Aug. 21 that the devil is a symbol, but not a person.

The devil, “exists as the personification of evil in different structures, but not in persons, because is not a person, is a way of acting evil. He is not a person like a human person. It is a way of evil to be present in human life,” Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, said Wednesday in an interview with Italian magazine Tempi.

“Good and evil are in a permanent war in the human conscience and we have ways to point them out. We recognize God as good, fully good. Symbols are part of reality, and the devil exists as a symbolic reality, not as a personal reality,” he added.

Sosa’s remarks came after he participated in a panel discussion at a Catholic gathering in Rimini, Italy, organized by the Communion and Liberation ecclesial movement.

The Catechism of the Catholic teaches that “Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: ‘The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.’”

Angels, the Catechism says, are “spiritual, non-corporeal beings.”

“They are personal and immortal creatures,” it adds, who “have intelligence and will.”

Sosa, 70, was elected the Jesuits’ superior general in 2016. A Venezuelan, he has a pontifical licentiate in philosophy and a doctorate in political science. He served as a Jesuit provincial superior in Venezuela from 1996 to 2004, and in 2014 began an administrative role at the general curia of the Jesuits in Rome.

Sosa has offered controversial comments about Satan in the past. In 2017, he told El Mundo that “we have formed symbolic figures such as the Devil to express evil.”

After his 2017 remark generated controversy, a spokesman for Sosa told the Catholic Herald that “like all Catholics, Father Sosa professes and teaches what the Church professes and teaches. He does not hold a set of beliefs separate from what is contained in the doctrine of the Catholic Church.”

 

Pope Francis: Self-interest and hypocrisy destroy the Church

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Vatican City, Aug 21, 2019 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis decried hypocrisy and self-interest Wednesday, saying that Christian community should always be characterized by generosity and solidarity.

"A life set only on profiting and taking advantage of situations at the expense of others inevitably causes interior death," Pope Francis said Aug. 21 in Paul VI Hall.

“And how many people say they are close to the Church, friends of priests, bishops, while they are only looking for their own interest. These are the hypocrisies that destroy the Church,” he added in a departure from his prepared remarks.

Pope Francis said he asks the Lord to “pour over us His Spirit of tenderness, which overcomes all hypocrisy and puts into circulation that truth which nourishes Christian solidarity.”

The pope said that solidarity is “the inalienable expression of the nature of the Church,” which he called the “tender mother of all, especially the poorest.”

“Being members of the body of Christ makes believers co-responsible for each other. Being believers in Jesus makes us all co-responsible for each other,” he said.

“Among Christians we cannot say: 'Poor person, he has a problem at home, he is going through this family difficulty'. But, I must pray. I carry it with me. I am not be indifferent. This is being a Christian,” Francis explained.

Throughout Pope Francis’ general audience, a young girl who appeared to have a mental disability, danced across the stage clapping her hands in front of the pope in Paul VI Hall.

“We have all seen this beautiful girl - she is beautiful … victim of an illness and does not know what she is doing,” he said.

Pope Francis asked the audience if they had prayed for this young girl and her family. “Whenever we see someone suffering we must pray,” he said.

The pope stressed the importance of concrete acts of generosity in the life of a Christian, particularly with one’s time and money.

“The sign that your heart has converted is when conversion reaches your pockets,” he said. “There  is where we see if one is generous with others, if one helps the weakest, the poorest.”

In the life of the Church, there have always been Christians who stripped themselves of unnecessary things to give them to those who needed them, Pope Francis said.

He pointed to the example of the early Christians described in the Acts of the Apostles.

“A concrete example of sharing and communion of goods comes to us from the testimony of Barnabas: he owns a field and sells it to deliver the proceeds to the Apostles,” Francis said.

“The Christian community is born from the overabundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit and grows thanks to the leaven of sharing between brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a dynamism of solidarity that builds the Church as the family of God,” he said.

Pope Francis also pointed out that there were negative examples of hypocrisy and selfishness among this same community. He described the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira described in chapter 5 of the Acts of the Apostles.

Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of property to give the proceeds to the apostles, but retained for themselves a portion of the purchase price.

To which St. Peter responded, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart so that you lied to the Holy Spirit and retained part of the price of the land? ... Why did you contrive this deed? You have lied not to human beings, but to God.”

Upon hearing these words from Peter, Ananias fell down and died. “This cheating interrupts the chain of free sharing... and the consequences are tragic, are fatal,” Pope Francis said.

“We could say that Ananias lied to God because of an isolated conscience,” he said. “Hypocrisy is the worst enemy of this Christian community, of this Christian love: that of pretending to love each other, but only looking for one's own interest.”

“To fail in the sincerity of sharing … in the sincerity of love, means to cultivate hypocrisy, move away from the truth, to become selfish, to extinguish the fire of communion and turn to the frost of interior death,” the pope said.

Vatican ‘acknowledges the court's decision’ to dismiss Cardinal George Pell's appeal

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Vatican City, Aug 21, 2019 / 04:18 am (CNA).- The Vatican said Wednesday it acknowledges the decision by the Court of Appeals in Victoria to uphold the conviction of Cardinal George Pell, while recalling Pell’s insistence of his innocence throughout the judicial process.

The conviction of Cardinal George Pell on five counts of abuse was upheld by the Court of Appeals in Victoria Aug. 21. After an appellate panel announced its decision at a court proceeding, the cardinal was returned to prison.

“While reiterating its respect for the Australian judicial system... the Holy See acknowledges the court’s decision to dismiss Cardinal Pell’s appeal,” Matteo Bruni, Holy See press office director, said Aug. 21.

Bruni stated that “as the proceedings continue to develop, the Holy See recalls that the Cardinal has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process and that it is his right to appeal to the High Court.”

Pell’s legal team has said it will thoroughly examine the over 300-page judgment before deciding whether to petition the Australian High Court in Canberra. Such an effort is expected by legal experts to offer very slim chance of success, given the appeal court result.

Pell’s lawyers have said that he will not petition for a shorter sentence.

Bruni concluded his brief statement Aug. 21 by expressing the Holy See’s closeness to victims of sexual abuse and confirming its commitment to carry out appropriate ecclesiastical procedures against clergy who have committed abuse.

The Vatican announced in March the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would carry out a canonical process against Pell at the conclusion of the judicial process in Australia.

In response to questions, Bruni confirmed to journalists Aug. 21 that the CDF is “awaiting the outcome of the ongoing proceedings and the conclusion of the appellate process prior to taking up the case.”

Bruni also referenced the precautionary measures imposed on Pell on his return to Australia in summer 2017, per Vatican norms: “the prohibition from exercising public ministry and from any voluntary contact whatsoever with minors.”

The cardinal was convicted Dec. 11, 2018, on five charges that he sexually abused two choristers after Sunday Mass while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and 1997.

He was sentenced to six years in prison, of which he must serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible to apply for parole.

The cardinal, 78, who remains an archbishop and a member of the College of Cardinals, was returned to prison immediately after court adjourned. He has been held in solitary confinement for 176 days. Pell is not permitted to celebrate Mass in prison.

He may now be transferred from the intake and evaluation facility at which he is currently being held to a different prison in Victoria.

Pell’s lawyers have said that he will not petition for a shorter sentence.

A statement from the Australian archbishops’ conference Wednesday said the bishops “believe all Australians must be equal under the law and accept today’s judgement accordingly.”

The statement also noted the Australian bishops’ commitment to bringing healing to those who have suffered abuse and to ensuring Catholic spaces are always safe, especially for children and vulnerable adults.

Individual Australian bishops also released statements Wednesday, including Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, who said “reasonable people have taken different views when presented with the same evidence” in Pell’s case, urging people “to maintain calm and civility.”

“I know that there are many in the Catholic community and beyond who will find it difficult to come to terms with this judgment,” Fisher said, “especially those who know the Cardinal and will struggle to reconcile this outcome with the man they know. I thank them for persevering in faith, hope and love.”

“As we wait to hear whether the legal process will continue, I will seek to provide pastoral support to those Catholics who may have found their faith tested,” the archbishop added.

The current Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter A. Comensoli, said in his statement that he knows “the complexity of the search for the truth in this matter has tested many, and may very well continue to do so.”

He expressed his prayers and support for the man who brought the case against Pell before the courts, offering “pastoral and spiritual help, should he seek it.”

Comensoli also said that he will ensure “Cardinal Pell is provided pastoral and spiritual support while he serves the remainder of his sentence, according to the teaching and example of Jesus to visit those in prison.”

Pope Francis: Discover the beauty of prayer in adoration

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Vatican City, Aug 18, 2019 / 05:25 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Sunday that prayer in adoration of God and service to others spreads the fire of God’s love, changing the world one heart at a time.

“I invite everyone to discover the beauty of the prayer of adoration and to exercise it often,” Pope Francis said Aug. 18.

Adoration of God in prayer is necessary to allow the fire of love that Jesus brought to the earth to envelop our entire existence, the pope explained.

In his Angelus address, the pope reflected upon this Sunday’s Gospel from Luke in which Jesus says to his disciples, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”

“These words are intended to help the disciples to abandon any attitude of laziness, apathy, indifference and closure to welcome the fire of God's love; that love which, as Saint Paul reminds us, ‘has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,’” Pope Francis said.

“Jesus reveals to his friends, and also to us, his most ardent desire: to bring to earth the fire of the Father's love, which kindles life and through which man is saved,” he said.

The Gospel is a limitless fire that saves and changes the world beginning with a change inside the heart of each person, Francis said. For this, he explained, it is necessary to adore God and serve others.

“It is a question of not living in a hypocritical way, but of being willing to pay the price for coherent choices - this is the attitude that each of us should look for in life: consistency - paying the price to be consistent with the Gospel,” Pope Francis said.

“It is good to say that we are Christians, but above all we must be Christians in concrete situations, bearing witness to the Gospel which is essentially love for God and for our brothers,” he said.

Pope Francis pointed to the example of communities and groups of young people who dedicate their summers to service to others. The pope said that he admires those who devote themselves to the service of the sick, the poor, and people with disabilities.

“To live according to the spirit of the Gospel it is necessary that, in the face of ever new needs that are looming in the world, there are disciples of Christ who know how to respond with new initiatives of charity,” he said.

“May Mary Most Holy help us to let our hearts be purified by the fire brought by Jesus and to spread it with our lives through decisive and courageous choices,” Pope Francis said.

International scholars express concerns about John Paul II Institute

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Vatican City, Aug 15, 2019 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- A group of 49 academics from universities around the world has asked the administrators of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Rome to reinstate several faculty members recently dismissed from the institute.

Contributors to the recently completed Dizionario su Sesso, Amore e Fecondità, an interdisciplinary academic tome on sex, love, and fertility, expressed their view in an Aug. 3 letter to administrators of the institute.

The project, which involved scholars from multiple specializations, was coordinated by recently dismissed John Paul II Institute professor Fr. Jose Noriega.

The scholars said that their work on the project was “a very fruitful and professional scientific collaboration which has highlighted to us the outstanding academic profile of your institute as well as the great scientific and editorial competence of the main curator of the Dizionario, Professor José Noriega.”

“It is therefore with great distress that we learned the news about the sudden dismissals of two full professors, José Noriega and Livio Melina, together with other colleagues: Maria Luisa Di Pietro, Stanisław Grygiel, Monika Grygiel, Przemysław Kwiatkowski, and Vittorina Marini. All of them are scholars of outstanding international reputation and some of them have equally collaborated with us at the Dizionario,” they wrote.

“We cannot see any convincing reason – academic, doctrinal or disciplinary – which justifies their dismissal.”

“If your institute wants to maintain its high academic profile and international reputation, we ask you to revoke these dismissals and to reassume the aforementioned scholars among the faculty of your Institute,” the scholars concluded.

The letter comes during a period of controversy at the institute.

Last month, new statutes were approved for the institute, in response to a 2017 announcement that Pope Francis would legally refound the Institute, and broaden its academic curriculum, from a focus on the theology of marriage and the family to an approach that will also include the study of the family from the perspective of the social sciences.

After the new statutes designed to implement that vision were approved, students, alumni, and faculty raised concerns about the role of faculty members in the institute’s new governing structure, about the reduction of theology courses and the elimination of some theology disciplines, and about the dismissal of some faculty members, including Msgr. Livio Melina and Noriega.

Faculty members have told CNA they do not object to the pope’s desire to expand the school’s mission or approach, but say that the administrators responsible for implementing that mission have acted unfairly.

More than 250 students and alumni of Rome’s John Paul II Institute have signed a letter expressing their concern about the school’s new statutes, and the dismissal of Noriega and Melina. The letter expresses concern that current students will not be able to complete the academic programs in which they are currently enrolled, and the faculty dismissals have taken place without due process.

On July 31, Fr. Jose Granados, the Institute’s vice-president, told CNA that “the identity of the Institute is seriously threatened,” and called for administrators to resume discussion with faculty members about the approach to implementing Pope Francis’ call for an expansion of the school’s approach.

Earlier in July, the Institute’s president, Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, told Vatican News that that although some students have raised concerns about the Institute's direction, others “have already written expressing confidence in the renewal and expansion of research and training in theological-pastoral and anthropological-cultural fields,” at the Institute.

Sequeri lamented the controversy surrounding changes to the Institute’s identity.

“The polemics, more or less malicious, that in this regard, try to involve the many students that look with trust to the project of a truly 'Catholic' knowledge and formation, obviously cultivate other interests. They are not the ones of John Paul II, not the ones of Pope Francis, not the ones of the Institute."

Among the signatories to the letter are John Crosby, a professor of philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville; Ignacio de Ribera-Martin, an assistant professor at the School of Philosophy of the Catholic University of America; and Tracey Rowland, the St John Paul II Research Chair in Theology at Australia’s University of Notre Dame, Australia and member of the International Theological Commission.
 

 

 

 

Pope Francis gives thousands of rosaries to Christians in Syria

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Vatican City, Aug 15, 2019 / 05:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis announced Thursday that he is giving 6,000 blessed rosaries to Catholic communities in Syria as a sign of his closeness on the Marian Feast of the Assumption.

“Prayer made with faith is powerful! We continue to pray the rosary for peace in the Middle East and in the whole world,” Pope Francis said Aug. 15 in his Angelus message for the Assumption of Mary.

The pope blessed the rosaries made by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, and said that the Syrian families that lost someone because of the war are close to his heart.

“The Feast of the Assumption of Mary is a call for everyone, especially for those who are afflicted by doubts and sadness,” Pope Francis said. “Today we look at Mary and we see the goal. We see that a creature was assumed to the glory of Jesus, the Risen Christ.”

The Feast of the Assumption, commemorating the end of Mary’s earthly life and assumption into heaven, is a major feast day and a public holiday in many countries. In most countries, including the United States, it is a Holy Day of Obligation, and Catholics are required to attend Mass.

“Mary is assumed in heaven; small and humble, she receives the highest glory first. She, who is a human creature, one of us, reaches eternity in soul and body. And she awaits us there, like a mother waiting for her children to return home,” Francis said.

“Every time we take the rosary into our hands and pray with it, we take a step towards the great goal of life,” he said.

Pope Francis said that Mary exalts in the greatness in the Lord and invites everyone to raise their eyes to the great things that the Lord accomplished in her.

“Mary shows us that if we want our life to be happy, God must be placed first, because he alone is great,” he said.

Mary, as every mother, wants the best for her children, the pope explained. He said that Mary tells each person: “You are precious in the eyes of God; you are not made for the small fulfillment of the world, but for the great joys of heaven.”

“Let us be attracted by true beauty, let us not be sucked into the smallness of life, but choose the greatness of heaven,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis: In times of suffering, know that you are never alone

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Vatican City, Aug 13, 2019 / 10:45 am (CNA).- Pope Francis wrote a heartfelt letter Tuesday to an Italian community still suffering one year after a bridge collapse. His message: “Know that you are not alone.”

“Jesus passed before us through suffering and death. He has taken upon us all our sufferings. He was despised, humiliated, beaten, nailed to the cross and brutally killed. God's response to our pain was closeness, a presence that accompanies us, that does not leave us alone,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter published Aug. 13.

Pope Francis’ letter was published in a local newspaper in Genoa to mark the one year anniversary of the collapse of the Morandi Bridge, which killed 43 people.

“Jesus made himself like us, and for this reason, we have Him next to us, to cry with us in the most difficult moments of our lives. We look to Him, we entrust our questions to Him, our pain, our anger,” the pope continued.

“Today I want to tell you one thing first of all: know that you are not alone. Know that you are never alone. Know that God our Father has answered our cries and our questions, not with words, but with a presence that accompanies us, that of His Son,” Francis said.

“I would also like to tell you that Jesus on the cross was not alone,” he said. “Beneath that scaffold was his mother, Mary. Stabat Mater, Mary was under the cross, to share the suffering of the Son.”

“We are not alone, we have a Mother who from Heaven looks at us with love and is close to us. Let us cling to her and say to her: ‘Mother,’ as child does when it is afraid and wants to be comforted and reassured,” he added.

Pope Francis said that the collapse of the Morandi Bridge inflicted a wound on the heart of Genoa, and encouraged solidarity with the local Catholic community.

“The more we are aware of our weakness, of the precariousness of our human condition, the more we rediscover the beauty of human relationships, of the bonds that unite us, like families, communities, civil society,” he said.

“I know that even after a great tragedy that has hurt your families and your city, you have been able to respond, to get up, to look forward,” he said. “Don't lose hope, don't let it be stolen! Continue to stand by those most affected.”

“We are men and women full of defects and weaknesses, but we have a Merciful Father to whom we can turn, a crucified and Risen Son who walks with us, the Holy Spirit who assists and accompanies us. We have a Mother in Heaven who continues to spread her mantle over us without ever abandoning us,” Pope Francis said.

“I would also like to tell you that you are not alone because the Christian community … is with you and shares your sufferings and your difficulties,” he said.

Pope Francis prays for monsoon victims in India

Monday, August 12, 2019

Vatican City, Aug 12, 2019 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis offered prayers and condolences Monday for the victims of monsoon flooding in southern India that has left more than 150 people dead.

“Deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life in the monsoons of recent days in Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat … His Holiness Pope Francis sends his heartfelt condolences to the relatives of the deceased and injured,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote in a telegram on the pope’s behalf Aug.12.

According to local government reports, 152 people are confirmed dead and another 17 missing in India after days of heavy rains.

The Vatican Secretary of State said Pope Francis is praying for the relief efforts underway, mindful of all those who have lost homes and livelihood.

More than 400,000 people were displaced by the floods and mudslides, according to the Associated Press. Many have taken refuge in relief camps set up in the Indian states of Kerala and Karnataka.

“Upon the nation he [Pope Francis] willingly invokes the divine blessings of strength and perseverance,” Parolin said.

Myanmar, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh also experienced heavy rainfall in recent weeks. Landslides in Myanmar killed 53 people and damaged more than 4,000 homes since Aug. 9, according to their government. 

The monsoon season in Southeast Asia typically stretches from June until September. Last summer, flooding in India left nearly 400 people dead and 1 million displaced.

Pope Francis: War is always a loss for all humanity

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Vatican City, Aug 11, 2019 / 09:14 am (CNA).- Pope Francis marked the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions Sunday with a message urging the protection of life and human dignity in armed conflicts.

“Let us not forget that war and terrorism are always a serious loss for all humanity,” Pope Francis said Aug. 11 after his Angelus prayer.

The Geneva Conventions are “important international legal instruments that impose limits on the use of force and are aimed at the protection of civilians and prisoners in times of war,” Francis said.

Signed amid the aftermath of World War II on August 12, 1949, the four Geneva Conventions expanded international humanitarian law for the protection of civilian populations during war and further defined protocols for the humane treatment of prisoners of war, as well as for the wounded and the sick.

Pope Francis urged the particular importance of protecting unarmed populations and civil structures today, especially hospitals, schools, places of worship, and refugee camps.

Last month the pope spoke out after an airstrike hit a migrant detention center amid the armed conflict in Libya, killing more than 50 people. “The international community cannot tolerate such serious facts,” Francis said July 7.

Hospitals and schools also became targets during the Syrian civil war. More than 300 healthcare facilities in Syria were attacked in the conflict by 2018, according to Physicians for Human Rights.

Pope Francis said that he hopes that the anniversary of the Geneva Conventions will help countries today to be more “aware of the indispensable need to protect the life and dignity of victims of armed conflicts.”

“We are invited, that is, to live an authentic and mature faith, capable of illuminating the many ‘nights of life,’” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address.

The pope explained that “the lamp of faith needs to be constantly nourished with meeting Jesus heart to heart in prayer and listening to His Word.”

“True faith opens our hearts to others and spurs us towards concrete communion with our brothers, especially those in need,” Pope Francis said.

“The thought of our final encounter with the Father, rich in mercy, fills us with hope, and spurs us to a constant commitment to our sanctification and to build a more just and fraternal world,” he said.

 

Pope Francis: Ordination of married men 'absolutely not' main theme of Amazon synod

Friday, August 09, 2019

Vatican City, Aug 9, 2019 / 06:38 am (CNA).- The ordination to the priesthood of mature, married men, sometimes called viri probati, is among the topics to be addressed at October’s Amazon synod but is “absolutely not” one of the principle themes of the meeting, Pope Francis said.

In an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, published Aug. 9, Pope Francis said the possibility of ordaining viri probati is “absolutely not” among the main topics and is “simply a number of the Instrumentum Laboris.”

“The important themes,” the pope stated, “will be the ministries of evangelization and the different ways of evangelizing.”

Instrumentum Laboris is the name given to the working document published ahead of a synod. The working document for the special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region was published in June and opened the door for a discussion of the ordination of mature, married men.

In the working document, the discussion of viri probati is listed as a suggestion for “new ministries” alongside the promotion of vocations among indigenous and identifying “the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women.”

“Affirming that celibacy is a gift for the Church, it is requested that, for the most remote areas of the region, the possibility of priestly ordination be studied for older people… even if they have an existing and stable family, in order to ensure availability of the Sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life,” one section of paragraph 129 states.

The Amazon synod will be held at the Vatican Oct. 6-27. In the Aug. 9 interview, Pope Francis warned that a synod “is not a meeting of scientists or politicians. It is not a parliament: it is another thing.”

“It comes from the Church and will have an evangelizing mission and dimension. It will be a work of communion guided by the Holy Spirit.”

The pope also called the Amazon synod the “son” of  Laudato Si, adding that those who have not read his 2015 encyclical on the environment “will never understand the Synod on the Amazon.”

Laudato Si, he added, is “not a green encyclial, it is a social encyclical, which is based on a 'green' reality, the care of creation.”

Francis said he chose to hold a synod specifically on the Amazon because of its “decisive contribution to the survival of the planet” through its production of oxygen and biodiverse vegetable and animal life.

Threats to the Amazon region and its safeguarding derive “from economic and political interests of the dominant sectors of society,” he argued, stating that policy should work to reduce corruption and take responsibility for actions which harm the environment.

True wealth is found in Jesus Christ, not money, Pope Francis says

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Vatican City, Aug 7, 2019 / 04:26 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Wednesday criticized those who give more consideration to money than the sacraments or helping others find true wealth – a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“How many times do I think of this when I see some parishes where it is thought that money is more important than the sacraments! Please! A poor Church: let us ask the Lord for this,” the pope said Aug. 7.

The Gospel teaches to not put trust in financial resources, but in “the true wealth” that is a relationship with Jesus Christ, he said. “We are indeed – as St. Paul would say – ‘poor, but capable of enriching many; as people who have nothing and instead possess everything.’”

“And we, each of us, what do we own? What is our wealth, our treasure? What can we make others rich with?” he asked.

“Our all is the Gospel, which manifests the power of the name of Jesus who performs wonders.”

“Here the portrait of the Church appears, which sees those in difficulty, does not close its eyes, knows how to look humanity in the face to create meaningful relationships, bridges of friendship and solidarity instead of barriers,” he said.

After a month-long break from general audiences, Pope Francis resumed his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, reflecting on the book’s first account of disciples performing a miraculous healing.

In the episode, Peter and John are going to the temple to pray when they encounter a crippled man who had been carried to sit outside the gate called “the Beautiful Gate” to beg for alms.

Francis explained that at that time, people with physical disabilities were not allowed to offer sacrifices inside the temple, or even to enter, because it was believed their infirmity was due to their sin or sins of their parents.

As Peter and John entered the temple, they saw the man and Peter said, “look at us.” The crippled man looked back at the disciples, then Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, [rise and] walk.”

Then Peter took him by the hand and raised him up. The man, crippled from birth, “leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.”

“This is the ‘art of accompaniment,’” Pope Francis said. “This [is what] the two disciples do with the cripple. They see him, they say look at us, they give a hand, they help him rise, and they heal him.”

“This is what Jesus does for all of us,” he added. “When we are in bad moments, in moments of sin, in moments of sadness. We say to Jesus: Look at me. I am here. And we take Jesus’ hand and we let ourselves be raised.”

The goal should be a Church “which knows how to take by the hand and accompany to lift, not to condemn,” he said, adding that “Jesus always, always holds out his hand, always trying to lift, to make people heal, to be happy, to meet God.”