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Amazon synod discussion groups support married priests, female deacons

Friday, October 18, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2019 / 10:26 am (CNA).- At least four of the 12 language groups at the Amazon synod overtly propose the ordination of married men to the priesthood in summary reports published by the Vatican Friday, with the majority of the discussion groups expressing openness to the idea.

“We ask, Holy Father, that you accept, for the Pan Amazon region, men to the priestly ministry and women to the diaconate, preferably indigenous, respected and recognized by their community, even if they already have a constituted and stable family, in order to assure the sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life of the community,” Portuguese language group A, moderated by Bishop Jesús Maria Cizuarre Berdonces of Bragança do Pará, stated in their report Oct. 18.

The Vatican released summary reports in Spanish and Portuguese from the Amazon synod’s 12 “circoli minori,” small synod discussion groups divided by language: five in Spanish, four in Portuguese, two in Italian, and one in English/French.

All four of the Portuguese discussion groups express openness to the possibility of the ordination of viri probati – a term referring to mature, married men – in remote areas of the Amazon to the priesthood.

“The ordination of the viri probati was considered necessary for Panamazonía. Married men candidates for ordination, after a fruitful diaconate must meet the following criteria, among others: life of prayer and love of the Word of God and the Church, Eucharistic life that is reflected in a life of donation and service, community experience, missionary spirit,” Portuguese group B stated in their summary report.

The Portuguese group moderated by Archbishop Pedro Brito Guimarães of Palmas proposed that the implementation the ordination of married men as priests could be delegated to the bishops’ conferences in the region or entrusted to the local bishops.

The first Italian group noted that there has been concern among some synod fathers that that the proposal of married priests in the Amazon would have implications for the Church other regions of the world.

“Other synod fathers believe that the proposal concerns all continents, that it could reduce the value of celibacy, or make the missionary impulse to serve the most distant communities be lost. They believe that, in virtue of the theological principle of synodality, the subject should be placed before the opinion of the whole Church and therefore suggest a universal Synod in this regard,” the Italian group A report stated.

The majority of Spanish groups also expressed open support for ministerial alternatives for women, including female deacons.

“Given the tradition of the Church, it is possible to recognize women's access to the existent ministries of the lectorate and the acolyte, as well as the permanent diaconate,” Spanish language group C, moderated by Bishop Jonny Eduardo Reyes Sequera, Vicar Apostolic of Puerto Ayacucho, stated.

Spanish group E, however, stated it was against the ordination of female deacons, but proposed instead some other ministerial alternative for women. This language group is moderated by Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.

Italians participating in the Amazon synod proposed in their report the development of an “Amazonian Rite” that would open a path for married priests and female deacons.

The group, moderated by Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that the creation of an “Amazon Rite” would “express the liturgical, theological, disciplinary and spiritual heritage” of the local culture.

The Synod of Bishops on the Amazon is an Oct. 6-27 meeting on the Church’s life and ministry in the Pan-Amazonian region.

“These are not final texts,” Fr. Giacomo Costa, a communications official for the Amazon synod, said at the synod press conference presenting the language group reports Oct. 18.

“Everybody has something important to say … The synod must consider everyone’s contribution,” he added.

The synod drafting committee will meet over the next week to assemble into a document the recommendations of the language groups into the final document of the Amazon synod.

The final document of the synod will then be voted on by synod members, on the penultimate day of the gathering. Per synod norms, it must pass with a 2/3 majority.

The document of synod recommendations will then be given to Pope Francis for him to use, or not, as he desires, in the writing of a post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

“The final document of the synod is offered exclusively to the Holy Father who is then going to do with it what he thinks fit,” Costa said.

Vatican denies Indian nun's appeal of dismissal from religious life for disobedience

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2019 / 02:22 pm (CNA).- The Congregation for the Oriental Churches has rejected the appeal of Sister Lucy Kalapura, who was dismissed from religious life in August for several acts of disobedience, including a protest of the handling of another nun's accusation that a bishop serially raped her.

The congregation's Sept. 26 decree denying recourse to the nun of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation  was conveyed in an Oct. 11 letter from the apostolic nunciature in India.

Sr. Lucy has the right to further appeal to the Apostolic Signatura.

However, she told the BBC that “I don't see any point in doing that since they have made up their mind. I will now go to court on behalf of all the people who are being suppressed and facing illegal behaviour from authorities of the congregation.”

She maintained: “I am not going to leave the convent. The lifestyle I lead is as per the rules and regulations.”

Sr. Lucy was sent a letter Aug. 5 from the superior general of the FCC, Sr. Ann Joseph, notifying her she had been dismissed from the community, which decision had been confirmed by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

Sr. Lucy has led a life against the principles of religious life, the community says, by disobeying a transfer order, publishing poems after having been denied permission to do so, buying a vehicle, withholding her salary from the congregation, and participating in a protest against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur, who has been charged with several instances of raping a nun of a different congregation.

The letter from Sr. Ann Joseph said that Sr. Lucy “did not show the needed remorse and you failed to give a satisfactory explanation for your lifestyle in violation of the proper law of the FCC.”

Sr. Lucy had been sent a letter of warning Jan. 1, asking that she appear before Sr. Ann by Jan. 9 to explain her disobediences, or face expulsion from the congregation.

In January Sr. Lucy said that the congregation was trying to silence her, and denied any wrongdoing.

She was sent a second letter of warning in February, and India Times reported that she “failed to respond to a notice issued against her in March”.

The congregation's General Council, held May 11, voted unanimously to dismiss Sr. Lucy, and asked for confirmation from the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

In the January letter of warning sent to Sr. Lucy, the superior general wrote that she joined a protest regarding Bishop Mulakkal “without the permission of your superior. You have published articles in some non-Christian newspapers and weeklies … gave interviews to 'Samayam' without seeking permission from the provincial superior. Through Facebook, channel discussions and the articles, you belittled the Catholic leadership by making false accusations against it and tried to bring down the sacraments. You tried to defame FCC also. Your performance through social media as a religious sister was culpable, arising grave scandal.”

The letter also said Sr. Lucy failed to obey a transfer order given her in 2015 by her provincial superior, and that she published a book of poems despite being denied permission to do so, and used 50,000 Indian rupees ($700) from the congregation's account “without proper permission” to do so.

Sr. Kalapura is also accused of buying a car for about $5,670 and learning to drive without permission, and failing to entrust her salary from December 2017.

Sr. Ann Joseph called these acts “a grave infringement of the vow of poverty.”

The superior general added that Sr. Kalapura has been corrected and warned several times by her provincial over her “improper behaviour and violations of religious discipline.”

“Instead of correcting yourself, you are simply denying the allegations against you stating that you have to live your own beliefs, ideologies and conviction. You are repeatedly violating the vows of obedience and poverty. The evangelization and social work you do should be according to the FCC values, principles and rules. The present mode of your life is a grave violation of the profession you have made,” Sr. Ann Joseph wrote.

Another nun of the FCC, Sister Lissy Vadakkel, was transferred earlier this year from Muvattupuzha to Vijawada.

Sister Alphonas Abraham, superior of the FCC's Nirmala Province, said in February that Sr. Lissy's transfer was unrelated to her acting as a witness in the case against Bishop Mulakkal.

In April, Bishop Mulakkal was charged with rape.

Analysis: A pink dolphin, a carved image, and inculturation at the Amazon synod

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2019 / 12:40 pm (CNA).- At a “moment of Amazon spirituality” Oct. 16, in a church just down the street from St. Peter’s Square, a woman told the Amazonian folk tale of a pink river dolphin who seduced a village girl.

The story, and the conversation that ensued, is a poignant example of questions raised about the Vatican’s Amazon synod, and about the meaning of calls to “inculturate” the Gospel.

She was seated on a low stool, on a cloth mat, in the aisle leading to the sanctuary of Santa Maria in Traspontina, a Carmelite Church built five centuries ago. Two indigeneous people sat behind her. Between them was a now-controversial wooden figure of a pregnant woman, along with carved bowls filled with water, pieces of woven netting, and small carved statues.

The storyteller’s version of ancient mythical story in the Amazon goes like this:

There is a pink river dolphin deep in the Amazon. When he hears the sound of drums, he sometimes emerges from the water, to enter villages and to dance with village people. He takes to land to seduce young women in the villages.

To young girls the dolphin appears as a handsome stranger, a foreigner, a white man. To everyone else he still looks like a dolphin.

Eventually, the mysterious stranger seduces a young woman from the village. In some tellings, she becomes pregnant. In other versions, she simply falls in love. But in every case, she finds herself compelled to the river. She has fallen under a spell. If the spell can’t be broken, sometimes by a local shaman, she will throw herself into the river, and there she will become a mermaid.

When she finished telling her story, the storyteller asked those gathered in the church to share what the story means to them.

“What does it mean to you?” is not the same question as “What does it mean?” Both questions have merit, of course. And mythical and folkloric tradition has a place in every culture, in which new meanings and ideas can emerge from old stories.

 

At today’s Amazon spirituality gathering at Santa Maria in Traspontina. #AmazonSynod pic.twitter.com/J0C4wenh0m

— JD Flynn (@jdflynn) October 16, 2019  

Still, the critics of the liturgies, ceremonies, and rituals surrounding the Amazon Synod say those events have been plagued by ambiguity, by a sort of postmodern subjectivism, and by an absence of the proclamation of the Gospel and reference to sacred revelation.

Some of that criticism is hyperbolic and overwrought. And, in fact, synod-connected events expressing Amazon spirituality, including the controversial Oct. 4 tree-planting attended by Pope Francis, have included readings from scripture, obviously Catholic prayers, and reflections or preaching on the saving mystery of Jesus Christ.

But the identifiably Christian aspects of the rituals have often taken place alongside unidentified images and sculptures, and with the incorporation of rituals of unclear origin. That has led to confusion.

Journalists asking “What does this mean?” have heard, in response, another question: “What does this mean to you?”

On Oct. 16, a journalist asked for clarity at a Vatican press conference about the carved image, first seen at the tree-planting ceremony, and featured at other events connected to the synod. The image had been described by at least one western Catholic journalist as the Virgin Mary and by Getty International as a pagan goddess.

Fr. Giacomo Costa, a synod spokesman, said the image is not the Virgin Mary, but a female figure representing life. Paolo Ruffini, a Vatican communications officially, said that in his personal view, the image seems like that of a tree, which is, he said, a kind of “sacred symbol.”

Ruffini committed to learning more, but offered a qualifier that has become a familiar line at the Amazon synod: “We know that some things in history have many interpretations.”

A journalist asking bishops about the image Oct. 7 got a more nebulous answer.

“We all have our own interpretations: the Virgin Mary, the Mother Earth...probably those who used this symbol wished to refer to fertility, to women, to life, the life present among these Amazonian people and Amazonia is meant to be full of life. I don’t think we need to create any connections with the Virgin Mary or with a pagan element,” Bishop David Martínez De Aguirre Guinea of Peru said at a Vatican press conference.

Among the journalists, observers, and other interested parties watching the synod, there are clearly two perspectives on the carved image, and the controversy surrounding it.

One camp seems to say that this kind of ambiguity represents the ordinary process of inculturation. They see in the ambiguity the complicated reality of proclaiming the Gospel in an unfamiliar context, and they are eager to affirm points of similarity between Amazonian spirituality and Christianity. If a carved image highlights those points, they say, it should be celebrated, even if every question doesn’t have a clear answer. Being unduly dogmatic, they suggest, is a kind of hostility to the good will of the synod and its participants.

The other camp, those who would usually be classified as conservatives, are more skeptical. They have begun to ask whether the synod’s participants have thought through the limits of inculturation, or the consequences of ambiguity on issues that seem close to religious syncretism or even tacit consent to functional idolatry.

That camp is concerned that legitimate inculturation has been reduced to an ambiguous and undirected blending of Christian and local customs, with very little rational explanation of the theology behind emerging praxes. Some ask whether the result of such a process can really be Christianity at all.

The more skeptical observers say that the Catholic Church teaches that subjective reflection must be complemented by rational analysis and coherent proclamation, especially in the context of religious practice, where meaning, fundamentally, is derived from revelation. They say that while inculturation is important, the haphazard blending of customary and Christian symbols leads to religious rituals that can only be interpreted subjectively.

While the lines among the various camp followers are clear, it’s not clear what most of the synod participants think, in large part because the flow of information at the Amazon Synod is tightly controlled, and the messaging from the press office has for the most part seemed curated.

Even the synod participants who have talked about inculturation, and the controversy surrounding the image and the Amazon spirituality events, have not done so with particular theological depth.

At an Oct. 12 press conference, Bishop Rafael Cob García of Ecuador told CNA that inculturation is a process, not something that happens overnight.

Inculturation requires “trying to get into their frame of mind, and then, after a very long time, you can see what is connected with the Gospel,” Brazilian Bishop Adriano Ciocca Vasino added.

This is done always, he said, “with reference to Christ.”

Bishops have not commented on the desired results of inculturation, or the principles that should guide it, or way to prevent it from becoming syncretistic, or undermining evangelization. Their failure to do so has made the skeptical camp all the more skeptical.

What bishops have explained is that inculturation, however they understand it, takes a long time.

“If you follow a long pathway, trying to understand and respect, to the point of understanding the soul of their spirituality, then you get really interesting results,” Vasino said. “To understand, we must delve deeply.”

Catholics at the Vatican synod may soon give more thought to the story of the pink dolphin.

They’ll ask whether the synod fathers have been attracted by the idea of inculturation without seeing its dangers. They’ll wonder if the Church must throw herself into a river to understand how the story of a rapacious pink dolphin is “connected with the Gospel.” The answers have not yet been forthcoming.

 

Brazilian bishop: Lack of holiness among clerics an obstacle to vocations

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2019 / 11:01 am (CNA).- A bishop in Brazil who is a member of the Amazon synod said Wednesday he believes a major obstacle to increasing priestly vocations in the region is a lack of personal holiness among the ordained, rather than the discipline of celibacy.

Bishop Wellington de Queiroz Vieira of Cristalandia said Oct. 16 that the proposal to combat priest shortages in the Amazon region by ordaining mature, married men – called viri probati  – to the priesthood does not address a greater problem.

Noting that he does not speak for all synod fathers, but that he knows many of them share his views, de Queiroz said the real obstacles to increasing local priestly vocations are scandals and a lack of holiness in bishops, priests, and deacons.

Bishop de Queiroz, 51, spoke at a press conference on the Amazon synod, which is taking place at the Vatican Oct. 6-27, and is addressing the Church’s ministry in the region. His Diocese of Cristalandia was elevated from a territorial prelature in July; it is located in Tocantins state, which includes both part of the Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado savanna.

The bishop said clergy need to be close to their people as Pope Francis says: “But very often we do that, but do not convey the perfume of Christ. And we are not able to convey the real message.”

Instead, clerics often drive people away from Christ, he said, or very easily are “proclaimers of ourselves.”

“We are not always holy priests and holy bishops in our own Churches,” he said, adding that before talking about changing as a Church, people should think about changing themselves.

Bishop de Queiroz said the instrument to reawaken vocations lies in the holiness of the evangelizers. “I am convinced that if I live a holy life, I will not lack ordained ministers,” he said, because young people are looking for models of holiness and will be drawn to it when they see it.

“We have an obligation to provide examples of holiness.”

He described holiness as including simplicity of life, openness to dialogue, respecting differences, unwavering proclamation of the Christian life, compassion for those who suffer, charity, and accepting challenges.

The bishop said he thinks there should be consideration of another solution to priest shortages in the Amazon, which is an unequal distribution of priests. He said in some areas there is a higher concentration of priests than in others, but they lack a “missionary spirit” to leave and travel to the more remote and challenging areas of the Amazon. “We need to change this mentality,” he said.

Pope Francis: God has a universal desire for salvation

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2019 / 10:01 am (CNA).- God wills the salvation of all persons, Pope Francis said in his General Audience Wednesday, refelcting on the Acts of the Apostles.

God “wants His children to overcome all particularism in order to be open to the universality of salvation,” the pope said Oct. 16 in St. Peter's Square.

“This is the aim: to overcome particularism and open oneself to the universality of salvation, because God wants to save everyone. Those who are reborn by water and the Spirit - the baptized - are called to come out of themselves and open themselves up to others, to live close together, in the style of living together, which transforms every interpersonal relationship into an experience of fraternity.”

He said St. Peter is “the witness of this process of 'fraternization' that the Spirit wants to trigger in history, citing Peter's vision in which he was told to eat animals that were impure in Jewish law.

“With this fact, the Lord wants Peter no longer to evaluate events and people according to the categories of the pure and the impure, but to learn to go beyond, to look at the person and the intentions of his heart,” Francis said. “What makes man impure, in fact, does not come from outside but only from within, from the heart. Jesus said this clearly.”

After his vision, St. Peter preached “the crucified and risen Christ and the forgiveness of sins to whoever believes in Him” to the household of Cornelius, a gentile, and baptized there.

“This extraordinary fact – it is the first time that something of this type has happened – becomes known in Jerusalem, where the brothers, scandalized by Peter’s behaviour, harshly reproach him. Peter did something that went beyond what was usual, beyond the law, and for this reason they rebuke him,” the pope stated.

“But after the encounter with Cornelius, Peter is more free from himself and more in communion with God and with others, because he has seen God’s will in action in the Holy Spirit.”

Because of this, St. Peter can “understand that the election of Israel is not the reward for merits, but the sign of the gratuitous call to mediate the divine blessing among pagan peoples.”

For Pope Francis, St. Peter teaches “that an evangelizer cannot be an impediment to the creative work of God … but one that fosters the encounter of hearts with the Lord.”

He asked: “How do we behave with our brothers and sisters, especially with those who are not Christians? Are we impediments to the encounter with God? Do we hinder or facilitate their encounter with the Father?”

The pope concluded, saying: “Today we ask for the grace to allow ourselves to be astonished by God’s surprises, not to hinder His creativity, but to recognize and encourage the ever new ways in which the Risen One pours out His Spirit into the world and attracts hearts.”

Pope puts virtue and family at center of World Food Day message

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2019 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis voiced his concerns about the world’s approach to food, and called for a global attitude of virtue towards nutrition in his World Food Day message to the UN Food & Agriculture Organization on Wednesday, Oct. 16. 

The theme of this year’s World Food Day is “Our Actions Are Our Future. Healthy Diets for a #ZeroHunger World,” which Pope Francis said he hoped would serve as a reminder that throughout the world, people are not eating in a healthy manner.  

“It is a cruel, unjust and paradoxical reality that, today, there is food for everyone and yet not everyone has access to it, and that in some areas of the world food is wasted, discarded and consumed in excess, or destined for other purposes than nutrition,” the pope said in a message sent to the Director General of the UNFAO, Mr. Qu Dongyu, on Oct. 16.

Francis said that while steps have been taken to help solve the issues of malnutrition and hunger, the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has not yet been fully implemented worldwide.

While 820 million people in the world suffer from hunger, nearly the same number of people are overweight-- these he said were ”victims of improper dietary habits.” 

“We are in fact witnessing how food is ceasing to be a means of subsistence and turning into an avenue of personal destruction.” 

The pope said he was concerned that obesity is to be found not only in rich countries, but in poorer countries where people are imitating diets that come from other more developed areas, and damaging their health in the process.

“Due to poor nutrition, pathologies not only from the imbalance caused by ‘excess,’ often resulting in diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and other forms of degenerative diseases, but also by ‘deficiency,’ as documented by an increasing number of deaths from anorexia and bulimia,” said Francis. Anorexia and bulimia are eating disorders. 

To fight this, the pope called for a “conversion in our way of living and acting,” and said that improved nutrition is “an important starting point.” He said that the only way to fight these “nutritional disorders” is by creating a lifestyle that is “inspired by gratitude for the gifts we have received” along with “the adoption of a spirit of temperance, moderation, self-control, and solidarity.” 

By embracing these virtues, Francis said that people will become more concerned for one another, and “grow in a fraternal solidarity that seeks the common good and avoids the individualism and egocentrism” that perpetuates societal ills. This will further lead to a healthier relationship with oneself, others, and the environment. 

The pope said the family, particularly farming families, has a “primary role to play” in accomplishing this societal shift. The family, he said, teaches how to embrace the earth, without abusing it. Through the family, “we also discover the most effective means for spreading lifestyles respectful of our personal and collective good,” Francis added. 

He praised the “increasing interdependence of nations” as a way for people to put aside other interests and create a sense of trust and friendship, particularly related to food concerns. Citing his environmental encyclical letter Laudato Si, he said that there needs to be a promotion of institutions and initiatives that assist the poor with access to basic resources, and that the current system is failing the neediest. 

In his message, Francis criticized “the logic of the market” and the quest for profit, which he said resulted in food being “regulated to a mere commercial product subject to financial speculation,” instead of being seen as something with “cultural, social and indeed symbolic importance.” 

Instead of taking this view of food, Francis suggested shifting views so that care of the human person is more of a concern than a profit margin. This approach, he said, will result in more effective programs that will solve the issues of hunger and obesity. 

“When priority is given to the human person, humanitarian aid operations and development programs will surely have a greater impact and will yield the expected results,” said Pope Francis.

“We must come to realize that what we are accumulating and wasting is the bread of the poor.” 

Vatican communications official: Carved figure at Amazon synod not Virgin Mary

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2019 / 07:18 am (CNA).- Fr. Giacomo Costa, a communications official for the Amazon synod, said Wednesday a wooden figure of a nude pregnant woman, which has been present at events related to the synod, is not the Virgin Mary, but is instead a female figure representing life.

“It is not the Virgin Mary, who said it is the Virgin Mary?” Costa said Oct. 16 at a press conference for the Amazon synod, a meeting taking place in the Vatican Oct. 6-27 on the ministry of the Church in the region.

Costa referred to a controversial image of a female figure which was part of a tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican Oct. 4. The same figure has been present in the vicinity of the Vatican at various events happening during the synod, under the “Casa Comun” initiative.

The wooden figure of a pregnant woman has been described as both a Marian image and as a traditional indigenous religious symbol of the goddess Pachamama, or Mother Earth.

When told “many people have said” the woman is a figure of the Virgin Mary, Costa added “‘many have said,’ okay, as you like, but I have never heard that.”

“There is nothing to know. It is an indigenous woman who represents life,” he stated, adding that his information commission will look for more information about it, but “it is a feminine figure” and is “neither pagan nor sacred.”

Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican communications dicastery, said Wednesday he sees the figure as “representing life.”
 
“Fundamentally, it represents life. And enough. I believe to try and see pagan symbols or to see... evil, it is not,” he said, adding that “it represents life through a woman.” He equated the image to that of a tree, saying “a tree is a sacred symbol.”

Ruffini said that interpretation is his personal opinion, and he was not speaking as the head of Vatican communications or synod communications.

He added that “We know that some things in history have many interpretations” and he would look for more information about the image and inform journalists about what he finds out.

Cristiane Murray, vice director of the Holy See press office, added that more information about the wooden figure should be sought from REPAM or the organizers of the events where the image has been present.

Mauricio Lopez, REPAM's executive secretary, told CNA after the press conference that he could not comment on the press conference, directing CNA to Costa's remarks, as the "official spokesperson" of the Synod.

REPAM (the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network), a group backed by the bishops’ conferences in Latin America, describes itself as an advocacy organization for the rights and dignity of indigenous people in the Amazon. The network is involved in operations for the synod assembly and is one of 14 groups on the organizing committee of the Casa Comun initiative, which is promoting more than 115 events hosted by a loose network of groups, connected in varying degrees to the Catholic Church.

Missionary: Married priests in Amazon wouldn't get to the root of the problem

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- A South American missionary to Angola who is participating in the Amazon Synod at the invitation of the pope has said the proposal to ordain as priests married men to solve the lack of evangelization in the Amazon is “illusory”.

“Is the lack of vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the Amazon a pastoral challenge, or rather is it the consequence of theological-pastoral options that have not yielded the expected or partial results? In my opinion, the proposal of 'viri probati' as a solution to evangelization is an illusory proposal, almost magical, which does not address the real underlying problem,” Fr. Martín Lasarte Topolanski, a Salesian priest, said in a text published by Sandro Magister Oct. 12 in his Settimo Cielo column at L'Espresso.

The Uruguayan priest and missionary in Angola is responsible for missionary efforts in Africa and Latin America for the Salesian congregation. Pope Francis included him among the 33 ecclesiastics he personally called to participate in the Synod on the Amazon.

The text published by Magister is a summary of Fr. Lasarte's Aug. 12 article “Amazonia: Are 'viri probati' a solution?” published in Settimana News.

In his text, the missionary pointed out that the argument that ordaining married men as priests because it is hard to reach remote communities with the ministry “commits the sin of major  clericalism” because it sets aside the work of lay people, believing that the Church where “the 'priest' is not there doesn't function. That's an ecclesiological and pastoral aberration. Our faith, being a Christian, is rooted in baptism, not in priestly ordination,” he said.

As examples he gave Korea, Japan, Angola, and Guatemala, where the laity were essential.

He noted  that the Church in Korea got its start thanks to layman Yi Seung-hun, who was baptized in China and baptized other Catholics. “For 51 years (1784-1835) since its foundation the Church in Korea was evangelized by lay people, with the occasional presence of some priest. This Catholic community flourished and expanded enormously despite the terrible persecutions, thanks to the leadership of the baptized,” Lasarte said.

In the case of Japan, after the martyrdom of the last priest in 1644, priests did not return until 200 years later, finding “a living Church” made up of “hidden Christians.”

Regarding his 25 years of experience in Angola, the priest said that “when the civil war was over in 2002, I had the possibility of visiting Christian communities, which for 30 years did not have the Eucharist, nor did they see a priest, but they were strong  in faith and were dynamic communities guided by the 'catechist,' an essential ministry in Africa (...) A living Church, laity with the absence of priests.”

In Latin America he gave as an example “the Quetchi from central Guatemala (Verapaz), where despite the absence of priests in some communities the lay ministers also had living communities” where the evangelicals “were little able to penetrate.” He said that despite the shortage of priests “it is a local Church rich in indigenous priestly vocations” and “men and women religious congregations of totally indigenous origin.”

In that regard, he noted that in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis pointed out that the shortage of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life is often “due to the absence of contagious apostolic fervor in communities which lack enthusiasm and thus fail to attract.”

“The Holy Father gives the key to the problem. It's not the lack of vocations but the poor proposal, the lack of apostolic fervor, the lack of fraternity and prayer; the lack of serious and profound processes of evangelization,” the Salesian priest said.

Thus with regard to the question why after 200 to 400 years of evangelization vocations are lacking in the Amazon, the priest said that “one of the pastoral problems in various parts of Latin America, and in particular in Amazonia, is the insistence on the 'old ways'. There is a great conservatism in various churches and ecclesial structures, I'm not referring just to pre-conciliar traditionalists, but to pastoral lines, mentalities, that remain stuck  in '68 and in the 1970-1980 decade,” Lasarte pointed out.

The Salesian priest indicated three kinds of “Alzheimer pastoral ministry” which affect evangelization in the Amazon.

The first is “cultural anthopologism,” which originated after the 1971 Barbados Declaration, put together by 12 anthropologists, which “claimed that the Good News of Jesus is bad news for the indigenous peoples.”

Although “from this provocation emerged in various places a fruitful dialogue between anthropologists and missionaries, which served mutual enrichment,” in other places “it fell into a self-censorship, losing 'the joy of evangelizing,” with “cases of religious that decided to not announce Jesus Christ, or give catechesis 'out of respect for the indigenous culture,'” and that “they would limit themselves to witness and service” claiming that this “substitutes for the proclamation.”

The missionary recalled that in Evangelii nuntiandi Saint Paul VI said that “the Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.”

Fr. Lasarte said that the second kind of “Alzheimer pastoral ministry” is “social moralism.” “In more than one place I have heard similar expressions from pastoral workers: 'When people require services they come to us (the Catholic Church), but when they are looking for meaning to their lives, they go to others (evangelicals, etc.)'  It is evident and observable that the church that wants to be a 'Samaritan Church' has forgotten to be  a 'Magdelene Church', a Church providing services that doesn't announce the joy of the Resurrection of the Lord,” he pointed out.

The missionary reaffirmed that the social commitment of the Church and the option for the poorest continues to be “a constitutive aspect of the evangelizing process” and a richness; but “the problem is when this kind of activity has absorbed the rest of the life and dynamism of the Church, leaving in the shadows, silencing, or taking for granted the other dimensions: kerygmatic, catechetical, liturgical, koinonia. We are in an unresolved tension of Martha and Mary.”

He said that the “great hemorrhaging” of Catholics toward evangelical communities has to do with several factors, certainly “the lack of a much 'more religious' pastoral ministry and a 'less sociologized' one has had a very great influence”.

“I visited a diocese where at the beginning of the 1980's, 95% of the population was Catholic, today they are 20%. I remember the comment of one of the European missionaries that systematically had 'de-evangelized' the region: 'We do not foster superstition but human dignity'...I think that says everything,” he said. “The Church is some places has been transformed into a grand manager of services (healthcare, educational, development, advocacy...) but little as a mother of the faith.”

Finally there is secularism. He said, “a church secularizes when its pastoral workers interiorize dynamics from a secularized mentality: the absence or a very timid, almost apologizing, manifestation of the faith.”

He said that the consequences “are reflected in vocational sterility or the lack of perseverance in the path undertaken, because of a lack of deep motivations,” since “no one leaves everything to be a social director, no one dedicates his existence to an 'opinion,' no one offers what is absolute in his life for what is relative, but only to the Absolute which is God.”

“When this theological, religious dimension is not evident, patent, and alive in the mission, there will never exist options for evangelical radicalness, which is an indicator that the evangelization touched the soul of a Christian community,” he pointed out.

To conclude his article, Lasarte said that a Christian community that “does not generate priestly and religious vocations, is a community carrying some kind of spiritual disease. We can ordain the 'viri probati, the honeste mulieribus, the pueribus bonum, but the underlying problems will remain: an evangelization without the Gospel, a Christianity without Christ, a spirituality without the Holy Spirit.”

“Logically in a horizontal vision of the dominant culture, where God is absent or reduced to a few symbolic, cultural or moral concepts, it's impossible to come to appreciate the fruitful spiritual and pastoral value of priestly celibacy as a precious gift from God and of a total and sublime disposition of love and service to the Church and to humanity.”

The Salesian missionary said that “there will only be able to be authentic priestly vocations when an authentic, demanding, free and personal relationship is established with the person of Jesus Christ. Perhaps this may be simplistic, but the way I see things, the 'new path' for the evangelization of Amazonia is the novelty of Christ.”

Newman scholar critiques Catholic universities

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Catholic universities should try to do more than run an assembly line of information for students who never learn to think, a prominent scholar told said this week, adding that many contemporary Catholic universities are not recognizably Catholic, or living up to their mission.

“John Henry Newman famously described a Catholic University as ‘an Alma Mater, knowing her children one by one, not a foundry, or a mint, or a treadmill’,” said Professor Tracey Rowland of the University of Notre Dame, Australia, and a member of the International Theological Commission. 

“I would argue that most of our universities are what Newman would call factories, mints and treadmills, that is, places where thousands of students, known to the university only by their student numbers, pass exams to qualify for employment in a particular field,” Rowland said.

Rowland spoke at an Oct. 12 symposium in honor of Newman hosted by the Thomistic Institute at the Angelicum - the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas - on Oct 12.

There are “only a very small number of academic institutions anywhere in the world where something like Newman’s vision has any possibility of success. Most of these institutions operate at the level of liberal arts colleges that are specifically Catholic,” the professor said.

“Excluded are numerous institutions with the adjective Catholic in their title where no attempt is made to offer a specifically Christian formation of every aspect of the soul, or a specifically Christian integration of the various disciplines, but where there are merely buildings named after local Catholic worthies, a chapel, a chaplain who is a priest if you are lucky, and lots of opportunities to improve the welfare of minority groups,” she said.

“The accountants who normally run such institutions might be members of the Catholic Church but the institutions themselves, their ethos, the content of their curricula, their marketing strategies, the beliefs of their faculty members, administrators, janitors and librarians and the bureaucratic idioms found in their policies are not only not Christian but in many cases simply the outcome of corporate ideology.” 

“Newman would not recognize these institutions as in any sense consistent with his own vision.”

The conference, “Newman the Prophet: A Saint for Our Times,” was held as part of the celebrations of St. John Henry Newman,’s canonization which took place on Sunday, Oct. 13, in St. Peter’s Square. Newman was an expert in university education, and the author of “Idea of a University,” a text that Rowland said offers a compelling vision for Catholic universities.

Newman was a 19th century English theologian, author, Catholic priest and cardinal born in 1801. While holding a prestigious teaching position at Oxford University, he converted to the Catholic faith from Anglicanism in 1845. His conversion came at great social and personal cost.

He became a Catholic priest in 1847, and founded the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England. Continuing his dedication to education, Newman also founded two schools for boys and the Catholic University of Ireland, which later became University College, Dublin.

Rowland said Newman envisioned a Catholic university as a true spiritual mother, where students are known by their professors on a first-name basis and live in a Catholic community, rather than a place for Catholics to simply earn degrees for potential employment—“although this may be a happy secondary effect,” she said.

The object of such a university is not an impersonal vision of knowledge for its “own sake,” Rowland said, but it exists for the betterment of the souls of students, “with a view to their spiritual welfare and their religious influence and usefulness.”

A chief problem of Newman’s age was “an ethical atheism” which for many had become “a lived reality of which one is convinced and for which one is willing to die,” she said. Many colleges and universities today are either “factories” dispensing degrees for potential employees, or hotbeds of anti-Catholic social theories, Rowland said.

The professor argued that most elite institutions have devolved and distorted senses of the liberal arts.

“In so many of these institutions the liberal arts have morphed into social theory subjects like gender studies and the objective is no longer to produce gentlemen but to form social activists, people who act like trained assassins against the last vestiges of Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian civilization.”

This, she said, is far from Newman’s vision of a university.

“A residential university college, limited to a couple of hundred students, can thereby be an ‘alma mater’ as Newman understood it,” she said. Other models that could work today could be Catholic programs at secular universities, such as the University of Chicago’s Catholic Studies program, she said.

Rowland praised a few specific institutions: Christendom College in Virginia, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, St. Mary’s University in London, among others.

In Newman’s university, she continued, a student receives more than “knowledge of great Catholic literature and music, philosophy and theology,” but is also “someone whose soul has been nourished by the sacraments,” she said.

That kind of formation would foster an “integrated personality,” she said, “a personality that is

driven by a fully Catholic heart, intellect, memory, will and imagination, all nourished by

sacramental graces, all seeking to participate in that which is true, beautiful and good.”

A Catholic university must educate students in the Catholic intellectual tradition, she said, but must also equip them to understand modern disciplines like “feminist theory and its spin-offs, queer theory and gender theory,” in order “to understand the chaotic dictatorship of relativism into which they have been born.”

Having learned to engage various thinkers with “their memories, their intellects, their

wills, their imaginations and above all their hearts,” Rowland said, such students will be “able to

operate with equally high levels of competence across a range of social positions” when they graduate.

“In the final analysis a genuinely Catholic University” according to Newman “would be an alma mater, not a foundry, mint or treadmill, or what we today call a sausage factory, because it would dare to form the human soul with reference to all that true, beautiful and good,” Rowland said.

Pope names members of drafting committee for Amazon synod final doc

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2019 / 09:53 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Tuesday made four personal nominations of members to the group responsible for drafting the final document of the Amazon synod.

In addition to the members who will be voted to the committee by the synod, Pope Francis has nominated Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria; Argentinian Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences; missionary Archbishop Edmundo Ponciano Valenzuela of Asuncion, Paraguay; and Italian Salesian Fr. Rossano Sala.

Maltese Bishop Mario Grech, who is pro-secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, is also part of the drafting committee.

The nominations were announced by the Vatican communications chief Paolo Ruffini during a press conference on the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, an Oct. 6-27 meeting on the Church’s life and ministry in the region.

The drafting committee will meet over the next two weeks to assemble into a document the recommendations of the small groups -- called circoli minori -- from their discussions during the Amazon synod.

The final document of the synod will then be voted on by synod members, called synod fathers, on the second-to-last day of the gathering. Per synod norms, it must pass with a 2/3 majority. The document of synod recommendations will then be given to Pope Francis for him to use or not use as he desires in the writing of a post-synodal exhortation.

The members of the drafting committee elected by the synod assembly are Bishop Mario Antonio da Silva of Roraima, Brazil; Archbishop Hector Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, Peru; Bishop Nelson Jair Cardona Ramirez of San Joes del Guaviare, Colombia; and Archbishop Sergio Alfredo Gualberti Calandrina of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the synod; Cardinal Michael Czerny, head of the migrants and refugees section in the Vatican; and Bishop David Martinez de Aguirre Guinea of Puerto Maldonado, Peru are also members of the committee.

The drafting committee's president is Cardinal Claudio Hummes, archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo, Brazil and president of REPAM.

Speaking in the press conference Oct. 15, Bishop Eugenio Coter, apostolic vicar of Pando, Bolivia, said that in response to calls for greater accompaniment of Catholics in the Amazon, there has been during the synod the suggestion of creating not only a Church structure, but “a permanent episcopal organism.”

On the idea of creating an “Amazon rite,” Coter clarified that the synod is asking for an inculturated liturgy, not a new liturgical rite.

On giving the liturgy an “Amazonian face,” Coter proposed the creation of Church commissions to explore the topic directly.

Proposals for the inculturation of the Mass have included the translation of the Mass into the local language of the various ethnic groups, of which there are around 300.

Bishop Rafael Alfonso Escudero López-Brea of the prelature of Moyobamba, Peru, also suggested the introduction of some “symbols” or “rituals” which are ornamental and do not impact what is essential about the celebration of the Eucharist.

Escudero said his proposal to the synod was one of “profound evangelization of an explicit proclamation of Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior, through preaching, teaching, and charity, so that the peoples and cultures are imbued with salvation, which comes from Jesus Christ.”

An evangelized culture, he said, is one which will naturally produce vocations to the ordained ministries of priesthood and the diaconate, and non-ordained ministries and services. He thanked God for the many active lay men and women who are involved in serving the Church in the Amazon.

“That is a reason for hope and thanksgiving to God,” he said.

 

This story was updated Oct. 16, 2019 with the names of all of the drafting committee members.

Vatican promotes 'smart rosary,' selling for $109

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2019 / 09:44 am (CNA).- The Vatican promoted the launch of a ‘smart rosary’ bracelet Tuesday compatible with an iOS and Android app, which costs over $100.

“In a world of indifference and in the face of so many injustices, poverty, elementary rights denied, praying for peace in the world means reconciling ourselves in our daily relationships, with the poorest, with the stranger, with different cultures and spiritual and religious traditions, but also with our land, our forests, our rivers and oceans,” Fr. Frédéric Fornos, SJ said in a press release sent by the Holy See Press Office Oct. 14.

“The rosary is a beautiful spiritual tradition for contemplating the Gospel with Mary, it is a simple and humble prayer,” he said.

The “eRosary” bracelet is activated by making the sign of the cross, and is synced to an app, “Click to Pray eRosary” that tracks the user’s progress and contains visual aids and audio reflections on the mysteries of the rosary.

The bluetooth and water-resistant digital rosary is currently available for pre-order sale on Amazon.it for 99 euros, roughly $109. It is sold by “Click to Pray” -- an initiative of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

Taiwan-based tech company GadgTek Inc (GTI) developed the “smart rosary” for the initiative.

Pope Francis launched the “Click to Pray” smartphone app in an Angelus address in January 2019, encouraging young people to download the app to pray the “Rosary of Peace.”

Among the “exclusive images and personalized content about the praying of the Rosary” contained in the app is a “themed” rosary option. Themes will include Laudato Si, migrants and refugees, vocations, and young people.

“Aimed at the peripheral frontiers of the digital world where the young people dwell, the Click To Pray eRosary serves as a technology-based pedagogy to teach the young how to pray the Rosary, how to pray it for peace, how to contemplate the Gospel,” the Click to Pray press release said.

Pope Francis appoints new head of Vatican security

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2019 / 04:39 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Tuesday appointed the second-in-command of Vatican security to head the City State's national police force, after the resignation of the former chief Oct. 14.

The pope named Oct. 15, Gianluca Gauzzi Broccoletti, who has worked as part of the Vatican's gendarmerie since 1995, and has been vice director and vice commander of the Vatican security and civil protection services since 2018.

Broccoletti's nomination follows the resignation of Domenico Giani, who resigned after a confidential internal memo was leaked to the press that announced the suspension of some Vatican officials and employees and restricted their access to the Vatican.

The suspended officials were connected to an Oct. 1 raid of some Vatican offices, part an unspecified investigation overseen by a prosecutor, called the “promoter of justice” in the Vatican City court system.

The Vatican press office said Giani was not personally responsible for the leak.

Giani was Commander of the Vatican Gendarmerie, and had been a part of the Vatican’s security and police force for more than 20 years. The leaked memo, issued Oct 2, was signed by Giani and published by L’Espresso.

Pope Francis visited Giani and his wife and daughter in their home in the afternoon Oct. 15. Giani also has a son who lives in the United States.

The memo was issued after the Oct. 1 raid of offices within the offices of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Among the suspended employees is Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who oversees documentation at the Secretariat of State, along with layman Tomasso Di Ruzza, director of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority.

Two other men and one woman were also listed as suspended in the memo. During the raid, documents and devices were taken in connection to an investigation following complaints made last summer by the Institute for Religious Works - commonly called the Vatican Bank - and the Office of the Auditor General, concerning a series of financial transactions "carried out over time," an Oct. 1 Vatican statement said.

Broccoletti, 45, has worked as part of the Vatican gendarmerie and in Vatican security since 1995. Since 1999, he was responsible for the City State's cyber security and technological infrastructure. He is married with two children.

The Secretariat of State is the central governing office of the Catholic Church and the department of the Roman Curia which works most closely with the pope. It is also responsible for the governance of the Vatican City state. The Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority oversees suspicious financial transactions, and is charged with ensuring that Vatican banking policies comply with international financial standards.

The Vatican Gendarmerie collaborates with the Pontifical Swiss Guard, which is responsible for the personal protection of Pope Francis. The Gendarmerie oversee general security operations in the Vatican City State, along with criminal investigations and counterterrorism operations.

Details about the nature of the investigation at the Secretariat of State have not yet been forthcoming.

 

This story was updated on Oct. 17, 2019.

Bishop Byrne: Newman would be surprised to be canonized a saint

Monday, October 14, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal John Henry Newman would be surprised by his own canonization as a saint, an English bishop said Monday, adding that Newman’s life offers an important witness of holiness for contemporary Catholics.

“I am sure that no one would be more surprised than Newman to find himself a canonized saint. In his own life time it was suggested that he led a saintly life – his response was typical. ‘I have nothing of the saint about me as everyone knows and it is a severe and salutary mortification to be thought next door to one,’” Bishop Robert Byrne said Oct. 14, during a Mass of Thanksgiving for Newman’s canonization, celebrated at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

“Nonetheless the Church thinks otherwise after due deliberation and the approval of two miracles brought about by the intercession of the saint, John Henry Newman, the Londoner born in 1801 and who died a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church in Birmingham in 1890 is now raised to the honours of the altar,” Byrne added.

“He is held up to us as a model of Christian life and virtue and as our intercessor in heaven.” Newman was a 19th century theologian, poet, Catholic priest and cardinal. Born in 1801, he was before his conversion a well-known and well-respected Oxford academic, Anglican preacher, and public intellectual.

Newman’s 1845 conversion to the Catholic faith was controversial in England, and resulted in the loss of many friends, including his own sister, who never spoke to him again.

He became a priest in 1847 and founded the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England. He was particularly dedicated to education, founding two schools for boys and the Catholic University of Ireland. His “Idea is a University” became a foundational text on Catholic higher education. He was a prolific author and letter writer. Newman died in Birmingham in 1890 at 89.

Pope Francis declared Newman a saint at Sunday Mass Oct. 13 in St. Peter’s Square. 

Byrne celebrated Mass in thanksgiving for the canonization, invoking the intercession of Newman in his prayers. The Mass was attended by an international congregation of scholars, devotees, and admirers of Newman, concelebrated by priests and bishops who have been influenced by the man.

Among those in attendance at St. John Lateran were members of the Oratorian religious congregation, of which Byrne is a member, and which Newman famously brought to England. Also there were priests and sisters of the Spiritual Family of the Work, an ecclesial movement of priests and religious sisters devoted to the spirituality and intellectual legacy of Newman. Worshipping too were pilgrims who had come to Rome for Newman’s canonization, including some who had found the Catholic Church through the saint.

Byrne said that it was “the saintly Cardinal’s relentless and heroic search for truth and holiness which brings us to this morning’s celebration.”

“The pursuit of holiness and truth were for St John Henry the driving force of his life. We see throughout his long life how he championed the cause of revealed truth and was fearless in proclaiming it not only by his many writings but also by the institutions he established. He did much to promote the Christian cause in bringing the Congregation of the Oratory to England, founding a University in Ireland and a school in Edgbaston. He worked tirelessly as a Parish Priest and had a fatherly care for his Oratorian community. He guided countless people with letters of spiritual direction and counsel.”

“He gave light to those who were searching for the truth and continues to do so through his published works of theology, philosophy, sermons and prayers.”

“Newman speaks to us in different ways as preacher, writer, theologian and pastor. But however he speaks to us we are united in giving thanks that his life and legacy is now a gift to the Universal Church,” the bishop concluded.  

 

 

Amazon Synod bishop: The Gospel brings new concepts to cultures, like forgiveness

Monday, October 14, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- While the Vatican’s Synod of Bishop on the Amazon discusses the idea of “inculturating” the Gospel’s proclamation with local culture, one bishop shared that the Gospel called one tribe in southern Venezuela to a difficult cultural concept: forgiveness.

“The Gospel helps cultures maintain all the good they have and at the same time brings new things that helps them grow,” José Ángel Divassón Cilveti, former head of the apostolic vicariate of Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela, said at a Vatican press conference Oct. 14.

Cilventi, a Salesian who served as apostolic vicar of Puerto Ayacucho from 1996-2015, explained how his religious order has carried out missionary work among the Yanomami people in the Amazon rainforest along the Venezuelan-Brazilian border for more than 60 years.

He said that in the past there was much violence among the Yanomami people. “In the past, if you killed others, you were killed,” he said. “And then started the continuous fights and struggles that made their lives difficult.”

The bishop explained that Salesian missionaries who taught newly converted Yanomami Catholics “Jesus said you have to forgive,” spurred a broad cultural change within their community, while “not taking away from being Yanomami at all.”

“In that culture, forgiveness was difficult, and yet these people as they were learning this ability … realized that having the ability to forgive solved so many problems,” Cilventi said.

Another synod participant, Bishop Carlo Verzeletti of Castanhal, Brazil, spoke of the need for change at the press conference.

In particular, Verzeletti called for is a change in the church’s discipline of priestly celibacy.

“In the synod I support and continue to support the importance of being able to ordain married men for the priesthood, so the Eucharist may become a reality that is closer to people and communities, so that these married men can, in fact, accompany the lives of the peoples, the lives of their communities” Verzeletti said Oct. 14.

“I would already know who I would choose to ordain as priests,” the Bishop of Castanhal added.

The Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon is an Oct. 6-27 meeting on the Church’s life and ministry in the Pan-Amazonian region.

The working document for the synod proposed the possibility of ordaining elder married men -- viri probati -- in response to a shortage of priestly vocations in the Amazon region of South America.

Verzeletti, an Italian who served the Brazilian state of Para since 1996, said that because of colonization, the region suffered 400 years in which the values of native people were “destroyed,” and now suffers from the negative aspects of globalization.

He noted that in recent years the region’s Pentecostal churches have grown much more rapidly than the Catholic Church, saying that there are 750 Pentecostal churches and only 50 Catholic churches in his city.

179 synod fathers attended the morning assembly in the Synod Hall Oct. 14 in which the discussion included: protecting indigenous peoples’ rights, environmental protection, how to inculturate the liturgy, and how to respond better to the needs and cultures of the people, according to Fr Giacomo Costa, Secretary of the Information Commission

Cardinal Becciu at center of Vatican financial investigation

Monday, October 14, 2019

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2019 / 09:51 am (CNA).- The recent raid of Vatican offices is connected to an investigation into charges that Vatican money financed the development of luxury properties in London, and led to a windfall for the Vatican’s investment managers, according to an Oct. 14 report from Financial Times.

According to Financial Times, Vatican police and prosecutors are investigating the possibility of improprieties in a 2014 $200 million investment made through Athena Capital, a Luxembourg investment fund, which financed a stake in the development of a luxury apartment project in London. That investment, along with a nearly $50 million 2018 investment in the same property, has raised questions about the internal control of Vatican money held in international banks and investment vehicles, especially after repeated efforts to bring financial practices into line with international practices and standards.

The Financial Times reported that the Vatican’s 2014 and 2018 investments were authorized by Cardinal Giovanni Becciu, who was from 2011 until 2018 the second-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, and was in 2018 appointed to head the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

In 2016, Becciu was instrumental in bringing to a halt Vatican financial reforms initiated by Cardinal George Pell. Although Pope Francis had given the newly created Prefecture for the Economy autonomous oversight authority over Vatican finances, Becciu interfered when the prefecture planned an external audit of all Vatican departments, to be conducted by the firm PriceWaterhouseCooper.

Unilaterally, and without permission of Pope Francis, Becciu cancelled the audit and announced in a letter to all Vatican departments that it would not take place.

When Pell challenged internally the audit’s cancellation, Becciu persuaded Pope Francis to give his decision ex post facto approval, sources inside the prefecture told CNA. The audit never took place.

In 2017, Becciu was also responsible for the dismissal of the Vatican’s first-ever auditor general, Libero Milone.

Milone was fired in dramatic fashion by Becciu, who accused the auditor of “spying” on the finances of senior officials, including Becciu. The then-Archbishop Becciu threatened criminal prosecution of Milone if he did not agree to leave his Vatican office quietly.

Milone maintained that he was fired for being too good at his job, and because he and the reforming work of the Prefecture for the Economy were perceived as a threat to the autonomy and business practices of long-time Curial officials. He said that he was dismissed on trumped-up charges after he uncovered evidence of financial misconduct under Becciu’s leadership.

In May 2018, the Vatican quietly announced it had dropped all charges against Milone.

Also in 2017, Becciu was involved in a complicated chain of events with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta that ended with the Grand Master of the Order being deposed, and Becciu being installed as special papal envoy charged with running the order.

At the center of that controversy were allegations that Vatican financial authorities had siphoned off more than 30 million euros from a 120 million euro bequest held in a Swiss bank account, in order to ease liquidity problems.

On Oct 1, 2019, Vatican prosecutors authorized a raid within the Secretariat of State’s offices. Documents and devices were seized, though the Vatican did not indicate what exactly had prompted the investigation.

The next day, a confidential memo was leaked announcing the suspension of five Vatican employees, including two officials: Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who oversees documentation at the Secretariat of State, along with layman Tomasso Di Ruzza, director of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority.

On Oct. 14, the Vatican announced that Domenico Giani, head of the Vatican City State’s national police force had resigned, apparently because the leak of the confidential memo took place under his command. The Vatican press office said that Giani “bears no personal responsibility in the unfolding of events.”

Vatican officials have not yet commented on the Financial Times’ report.