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In fight against hunger, Pope says ‘beautiful words’ must lead to collective action

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Feeding the hungry requires combined action and political will to provide real help for the poor, Pope Francis has said.

 

In an Oct. 16 letter marking World Food Day, Pope Francis said that words needed become actions in the effort to eliminate poverty and hunger.

 

“We do indeed have the adequate means and framework so that beautiful words and good wishes may become an action plan of substance that leads effectively to the eradication of hunger in our world,” the Pope said Tuesday.

 

“To this end we need joint efforts, upright hearts, and persistent concern to firmly and resolutely make the other’s problem one’s own.”

 

There are “immense obstacles” to solving problems, and barriers that are “the fruit of indecision or delays, and a lack of enthusiasm on the part of responsible political leaders who are often absorbed purely by electoral concerns or are focused on biased, transitory or limited perspectives,” he said.

 

The pope’s message for World Food Day was sent to José Graziano da Silva, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This year’s World Food Day aims for a zero-hunger world by the year 2030.

 

In the letter, the pontiff advocated policies for the real needs of the poor, especially regarding levels of agricultural production, access to food markets, and other initiatives and actions. He stressed the need to realize that all countries are “equal in dignity” when it comes to making decisions.

 

“What is needed is the willingness to end hunger, and this ultimately will not happen without a moral conviction that is shared by all peoples and all religious persuasions, where the integral good of the person is at the heart of all initiatives and consists in ‘doing to another what we would want done to ourselves’.”

 

“We are speaking of an action based on solidarity among all nations and of the means that express the disposition of the people,” he said, stressing that it is imperative for civil society, media, and educational institutions to join forces.

 

“From now until 2030 we have 12 years to set up initiatives that are vigorous and consistent; not giving in to occasional spurts or intermittent and fleeting headlines, but rather facing up unremittingly to hunger and its causes in a spirit of solidarity, justice and consistency,” the Pope continued.

 

“The poor expect from us an effective help that takes them out of their misery, not mere propositions or agreements that, after studying in a detailed way the roots of their misery, bear as their fruit only solemn events, pledges that never materialize, or impressive publications destined only to enlarge library catalogues,” he said.

 

One in nine people around the world lack enough food to eat, according to Catholics Confront Global Poverty, a joint initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services, said that

 

The initiative has expressed its frustration at the failure of the Congressional Farm Bill Conference Committee to finalize the “critical piece of legislation” and pass it into law before it expired on Sept. 30.

 

Catholics Confront Global Poverty is calling on Catholics and others to contact their lawmakers to ensure that “critical improvements” to international food security programs are present in the final version of the bill.

 

Catholic Relief Services is the largest private distributor of U.S. food aid in response to immediate emergencies including drought, flooding, or war or conflict. The agency also has land management and conservation programs to preserve and expand productive farmland.

 

While the pope’s remarks addressed global policy priorities and solutions for poverty and hunger, Joseph Cullen, a spokesperson for the Knights of Columbus, said the fraternal organization and its 1.9 million members worldwide are among those working to fight hunger directly, both overseas and close to home.

 

“We often forget that many people in the developed world also experience hunger,” Cullen told CNA.

 

The Catholic fraternity’s Food for Families program in the U.S. and Canada has donated almost $14 million for food and 28 million pounds of food since its launch in 2012.

 

Cullen suggested that such organized volunteerism and charity is a basis for creating the will to fight hunger.

 

“Many of us are unaware on a practical level that families and individuals struggle and are unable to provide food for their families,” he said. “By conducting and publicizing Food for Families programs in our communities, the underlying problem of hunger becomes better known and understood, helping create the will to eliminate this problem.”

 

The Knights of Columbus’ Supreme Council reimburses a portion of local councils’ monetary donations to food pantries, food banks and soup kitchens. Since 2014, the organization’s aid to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East has also included a food program component.

 

Pope Francis’ message further lamented the incongruity between technological advancement and continued problems with hunger.

 

“In this twenty-first century that has seen considerable advances in the field of technology, science, communications and infrastructure, we ought to feel shame for not having achieved the same advances in humanity and solidarity, and so satisfy the primary needs of the most disadvantaged,” he said in his World Food Day message.

 

“Neither can we console ourselves simply for having faced emergencies and desperate situations of those most in need. We are all called to go further. We can and we must do better for the helpless. We must move to concrete action, so that the scourge of hunger disappears completely.”

'We need to show young people what holiness looks like' Gomez tells synod

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- Young people should look to the “saints of our times,” as models of holiness, Archbishop José Gomez told the Synod of Bishops on Tuesday. The Archbishop of Los Angeles highlighted the example of the seven recently canonized saints in his speech to the assembly.

 

Gomez spoke Oct. 16 during the fifteenth ordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops, currently meeting in Rome to discuss young people, the faith, and vocational discernment. The session continues until Oct. 28.

 

In looking to saints, of which there are examples from “every continent,” young people will be inspired to live their vocation as “everyday saints” in their own unique way, Archbishop Gomez said. He also called on his brother bishops to be a model of sainthood for young people.

 

“We need to show young people what holiness looks like, by living the Gospel we preach, proclaiming Jesus Christ by the way we live. We need to call young people to be saints — and we need to be saints ourselves,” he said.

 

Gomez emphasized that calling young people to “conversion and new life in Christ” should be a priority in the synod’s final conclusions, and that the Church is called to serve and accompany young people on that journey.

 

This involves, he said, setting an example of how to pray, helping young people meet the Lord in the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession, encouraging them to perform works of mercy for the poor, and cultivating a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

“Sadly, young people today do not know how to live authentic human lives because the adults of our secular society have not shown them the way,” Gomez said.

 

“The vision for life offered to young people in Western societies does not call them to goodness or beauty or truth. Instead, what is offered are various life ‘styles’ and alternatives for self-creation rooted in the restless consumption of material comforts, virtual entertainments, and passing pleasures,” he said.

 

The archbishop said that in his conversations with young people in his own diocese he came to see that the Church did offer the answers they were seeking.

 

"In the Incarnation of the Son of God and in his Passion and Resurrection, we see revealed the dignity and destiny of the human person, created in God’s image and called to live by his Spirit as a child of God and to be saints — to be holy as our Father in heaven is holy,” Gomez said.

 

Archbishop Gomez, along with seven auxiliary bishops, leads the largest archdiocese in the country, with over 4 million Catholics out of a total population of over 11 million.

Brazilian bishop says basic synod theme is how to pass on the faith

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Brazilian Archbishop Jaime Spengler said Tuesday he believes the question at the foundation of the Synod of Bishops’ debates so far has been how to pass the Catholic faith on to young people, specifically in the face of the challenges posed by contemporary society.

 

“I think that the basic question, which passes through all the discussion both in the synod hall and in the smaller groups (the language circles) is a very simple question, that is: how to transmit the faith to the new generations,” the archbishop told journalists Oct. 16.

 

In a press briefing just past the halfway mark of the Synod of Bishops’ ordinary general assembly on young people, faith, and vocational discernment, the archbishop noted two “phenomena” which present challenges: the great scientific and technological change of this era, and globalization.

 

“What counts in this world is productivity, consumerism, and earnings,” he said. “This reality strikes at the most profound values of our culture. It takes the lives of our young people.”

 

“How can the Church, how can we pastors, respond to the necessity of young people that… live this reality daily?” the archbishop asked.

 

Spengler also noted that an issue of importance in Brazil is drug use, which he said affects many young people and families, and which he would like to see discussed more at the synod than it has been thus far.

 

Cardinal Peter Turkson, speaking during the same press briefing Oct. 16, said he would like to see the synod help young people develop a “manual of life.” Everyone needs guiding principles, he explained, but often these are dictated by modern society, not by the Church or by good families and teachers.

 

Cardinal Louis Sako I, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, said he has been keeping careful notes on the synod in Arabic to share with people in the Middle East, since for those who speak no other languages, it was their only means of following the synod’s progress.

 

He described the meetings as a miniature version of the universal Church and a school, saying everyone has “learned a lot from each other.”

 

The Chaldean patriarch noted this was his fourth synod, and said this one is very different, particularly “in the way in which we are reasoning and analyzing all the challenges that the young face.” Though he said he had hoped for a larger presence of youth, noting that there are just 34 young adult auditors and over 260 bishops.

 

He said in the synod hall and small groups they have discussed the hopes, dreams, and fears of young people and that he sees reasons to hope: “I think at the end of the tunnel there’s a great deal of light.”

 

Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, announced that the synod fathers will have the opportunity to take part in a short pilgrimage toward the end of the assembly.

 

Organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, it will take place on the morning of Oct. 25, and consist of prayer while walking around 3.7 miles along part of the “Via Francigena,” or “Way of St. Francis,” near Rome.

A synod summary from the Polish synod fathers – Oct 16

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2018 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The synod of bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment is being held at the Vatican Oct. 3-28.

CNA plans to provide a brief daily summary of the sessions, provided by the synodal fathers from Poland.

Please find below the Polish fathers' summary of the Oct. 16 session:

Education in values, the formation of young leaders, immigration, and the Christian ideal - these are some of the topics discussed during the morning session of the Synod of Bishops, on October 16th, and mentioned by Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki in his summary of the day.

During this morning’s session, the third part of the Instrumentum Laboris was discussed. After the introductory speech on the last part of the working document, the participants' reports on the topics addressed in this part were presented. The interventions highlighted the need for young leaders, the necessary formation of young animators, and drew attention to young people's’ political interests, which should also be taken into account.

Some interventions also addressed the issue of immigration. “Much has been said about being close to young people coming to our countries from Africa, so that the Church may welcome them with love, but also so that this may be an occasion to engage in dialogue with Muslims,” noted Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

During the session, some also spoke about the education of young people. “Not only in terms of the transmission of information but in the sense of an education in values. Attention was also paid to the value of catechesis in connection with Lectio Divina, with retreats for young people in the parishes,” said Archbishop Gądecki.

It was pointed out that the young themselves are the most effective witnesses for other young people. The important role of popular piety, which helps to experience religiosity, was recalled too. The question of volunteering, especially on the international level, was also raised.

Attention was drawn to the need for clarity in the transmission of the faith. “It was said that the Church should present the Christian ideal, and not just be immersed in difficulties. She should not renounce to the idealism of the young, because that is what attracts young people the most,” Archbishop Gądecki summed up.

Jesuit superior says pope is not the ‘chief’ of the Church- What did he mean?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2018 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal, superior general of the Jesuits, said in an interview Monday that Pope Francis consciously calls himself the Bishop of Rome, instead of using grander titles.

"Very frequently we forget that the pope is not the chief of the Church, he's the Bishop of Rome," Fr. Sosa told EWTN in an interview Oct. 15.

 

"As the bishop of Rome, he has another service to do to the Church, that is, to try to [bring about] the communion of the whole Church."

 

By convoking the youth synod, taking place in Rome Oct. 3-28, Francis is exercising his role as pope by bringing together a group “of his own peers” to make a “contribution to the communion of the whole Church,” Sosa said.

 

“Fr. Sosa is certainly correct to say that the pope is the Bishop of Rome, but it would be a mistake to infer from that title that the Holy Father is merely ‘first among equals,’” Chad Pecknold, Associate Professor of Theology at the Catholic University of America, told CNA.

 

Pecknold told CNA that popes often and correctly speak of their “brother bishops,” but that the Petrine office is unique.

 

The pope “holds an office of supreme authority over every bishop in communion with him, and of course over the faithful too. It isn’t a charism of dominance but of paternal care - the popes traditionally use the title ‘servant of the servants of God.’”

 

Sosa said that because Pope Francis feels each bishop is responsible for his local church, this synod, in which Church leaders come together to discuss and decide church affairs, is an expression of dialogue and communion between all of the bishops.

 

Pecknold agreed that the world’s bishops are each truly invested with the authority to govern, teach, and minister to their own dioceses. But a bishop’s ministry must always be done in union with the pope, who, he said, “is the visible center of communion for the universal Church.”

 

“The worldwide college of bishops exists in what the Church calls ‘hierarchical communion’ with each other and with the head, the pope. When the we talk about authority of the college of bishops to teach or lead, the Church is always careful to emphasize that this is only possible in union with the pope, who is the head of the college,” Pecknold explained.

 

In his interview, Sosa also explained that the collaborative work of the synod is a work of discernment, something he said was very important to Pope Francis.  The Jesuit superior said that although the concept of discernment is a key feature of Jesuit spirituality, the act of listening to the Spirit has been a part of the Church’s for a long time.

 

“Discernment is the way that this communion [of the universal Church] can be made and how the Church will find the structure to reflect a Church that is open to that synodality,” Sosa continued.

 

“Because the Church is supposed to be governed not by men but by the Spirit. So [the Synod of Bishops] is not a kind of parliament, where you have to have a majority or minority, but we all together try to listen to the Spirit. And that's what discernment teaches us to do.”

 

In comments to journalists Oct. 16, Cardinal Louis Sako I, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, echoed this point: “The synod is not a political parliament, is a synod of fathers, teachers,” he said. “What can we give, what can we offer the young, the faithful?”  

 

The Synod of Bishops, which was established by Pope St. Paul VI following Vatican Council II, was created to continue the collaborative effects of the council fathers.

 

The Code of Canon Law defines it as a work of “collaborative assistance” to the pope’s ministry, and stresses that it exists to “foster unity” among the bishops, including with the pope. It also states that the synod is itself a creation of papal authority, deriving its legitimacy not from the bishops attending but from the pope who called them to the session. Whether a synod session’s conclusions are deliberative or consultative is explicitly up to the pope, who decides how much of his own authority to delegate to it.

 

In this sense, Pecknold told CNA, it functions nothing like a parliament.

 

“Parliaments are political, legislative bodies,” he said.

 

“The Synod of Bishops exists to foster unity and to give the pope the benefit of their counsel. In that sense, their job isn’t to pass this resolution or block that one - it is to work together to advise the pope as best they can, and that is a work of communion and service, not confrontation.”

Pope laicizes two Chilean bishops for sexual abuse of minors

Monday, October 15, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis has officially expelled two Chilean bishops from the clerical state. Both men were accused of sexual abuse of minors. The decision was issued without the possibility to appeal, the Vatican announced on Saturday.

The Vatican announced that Francisco José Cox Huneeus, 84, archbishop emeritus of La Serena, Chile, and Marco Antonio Órdenes Fernández, 53, bishop emeritus of Iquique, Chile, were removed from the clerical state “as a consequence of manifest abuse of minors.”

Both former bishops have reportedly been living retired lives of prayer and penance for some years now.

By Vatican order, Cox has been living at the institute of the Schönstatt Fathers, of which order he is a member, in Santiago since 2002. Fernandez retired from office in 2012 at the age of 42, due to health problems. He is believed to have retired to Peru, and has not been seen publicly since 2013, according to the New York Times.

The expulsion of the two bishops comes several months after 34 sitting bishops of Chile offered their resignations to the Pope during a crisis meeting in May. That meeting followed a Vatican investigation that revealed systematic sexual abuse and cover-up among the clergy in the country.

Thus far, seven of those bishops have had their resignations accepted by the Pope.

Pope Francis launched an investigation into sexual abuse in Chile earlier this year, following multiple reports concerning Fernando Karadima, a Chilean priest convicted in 2011 of the sexual abuse of minors, and against Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who was accused of protecting Karadima.

In recent years, Barros had repeatedly insisted that he knew nothing of Karadima’s abuse, and Pope Francis initially gave the bishop his personal backing, naming him head of the Diocese of Osorno in southern Chile in 2015 and insisting he had not seen evidence of his covering-up of abuse, angering accusers of Barros and Karadima.

Karadima, 88, was a highly influential Santiago-area priest who for decades led a lay movement from his parish in El Bosque. He is believed to have personally fostered around 40 vocations to the priesthood, some of whom went on to become bishops also accused of covering up abuse.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found Karadima guilty of the sexual abuse of minors in early 2011. A civil case against him had been dismissed due to Chile’s statute of limitations.

Following the 2011 conviction, and citing his advanced age and poor health, he was ordered by the Vatican to “retire to a life of prayer and penance, in reparation [for his crimes] as well for the victims of abuse.” At the time, he was also prohibited from any public exercise of ministry.

In January, Francis appointed Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta to lead the investigation. Scicluna is a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and is considered as an expert in the canonical process for handling allegations of clergy sexual abuse.

Scicluna’s investigation resulted in a 2,300-page report that, to date, has not been made public. After receiving the report, Francis apologized for his support of Barros and asked to meet the bishops and abuse survivors in person.

The Pope accepted the resignation of Barros in June, and Karadima was laicized by Francis last month.

The dismissals of the two Chilean bishops also comes in the midst of an ongoing canonical process concerning another archbishop, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. McCarrick is accused of sexually abusing minors and seminarians over a period decades.

Vatican confirms synod’s final report to be voted on ‘part by part’

Monday, October 15, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2018 / 10:05 am (CNA).- The head of Vatican communications said Monday the youth synod’s final document will be voted on “part by part,” requiring a 2/3 majority to pass each section, before being forwarded to Pope Francis.

Speaking at a press briefing Oct. 15, Paolo Ruffini, who serves as Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications, said the voting on the concluding report produced by the synod on young people, faith, and vocational discernment will take place Saturday, Oct. 27 – the second to last day of the assembly.

Each numbered section will be considered by the synod fathers and require a 2/3 majority to pass.

“Regarding the rules [of the voting], when there are additional rules I can share with you, I will,” Ruffini told journalists.

He said he did not know what languages the final document will be available in at the time of voting, or how translation will work for those bishops who do not speak or read Italian, but added that he believed the synod fathers will have the opportunity to understand what is being stated in each part of the report before voting.

What exactly the format of the final document will be is also still being determined. Discussions are ongoing on whether the document will be accompanied by a separate message to young people, or include a message within it, as was discussed last week in some of the small working groups, Ruffini said.

He noted that efforts were being made to draft a “new document” based on the synod discussions – both in the general congregations and small groups – rather than just retooling the working document, called an Instrumentum laboris, for use as the final report. This followed requests to this effect from several of the working groups last week.

Ruffini indicated that the final draft could take a less comprehensive approach – as it has done following previous synodal sessions  – with the pope being presented with individual paragraphs of numbered propositions passed by a vote of the bishops. Rather than producing a document to be read for its own sake, these propositions would be intended to help inform the writing of the pope’s traditional post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

If this is indeed the format the final document takes following the Synod of Bishops meeting on youth, questions remain as to whether any propositions which do not pass with the needed 2/3 majority will be made public.

Ruffini said that the 12 members of the writing commission, elected last week, have begun work on the final report, focusing on parts one and two of the Instrumentum laboris, and are working to integrate what has come out of the small group discussions thus far.

Pope Francis at canonization Mass: 'Jesus is radical'

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2018 / 05:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- "Jesus is radical,” Pope Francis said in his homily at the canonization of Pope Paul VI, Oscar Romero, and five other new saints.

“He gives all and he asks all: he gives a love that is total and asks for an undivided heart,” the pope told the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 14.

Christ “gives himself to us as the living bread; can we give him crumbs in exchange?” the pope asked.

Francis officially recognized Pope Paul VI, Oscar Romero, Vincent Romano, Francesco Spinelli, Nunzio Sulprizio, Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa, and Maria Katharina Kasper as saints at the Mass.

“All these saints, in different contexts, put today’s word into practice in their lives, without lukewarmness, without calculation, with the passion to risk everything and to leave it all behind. May the Lord help us to imitate their example,” Pope Francis said at their canonization.

Oscar Romero, who was beatified by Pope Francis in El Salvador in 2015, was the archbishop of the nation's capital city of San Salvador. He was shot while celebrating Mass March 24, 1980, during the birth of a civil war between leftist guerrilla forces and the dictatorial government of the right.

An outspoken critic of the violence and injustices being committed at the time, Romero was declared a martyr who was killed in hatred of the faith for his vocal defense of human rights.

Saint Oscar Romero “left the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to give his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people, with a heart drawn to Jesus and his brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis said in his homily Sunday.

“Let us ask ourselves where we are in our story of love with God. Do we content ourselves with a few commandments or do we follow Jesus as lovers, really prepared to leave behind something for him?” the pope asked.

Pope Saint Paul VI, like St. Paul, his namesake, “spent his life for Christ’s Gospel, crossing new boundaries and becoming its witness in proclamation and in dialogue, a prophet of a Church turned outwards, looking to those far away and taking care of the poor,” Francis said.

As pope, Paul VI oversaw much of the Second Vatican Council, which had been opened by Pope St. John XXIII, and in 1969 promulgated a new Roman Missal. He died in 1978, and was beatified by Pope Francis Oct. 19, 2014.

Apart from his role in the council, Paul VI is most widely known for his landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae, which was published in 1968 and reaffirmed the Church’s teaching against contraception in wake of the sexual revolution. This year marks the 50th anniversary the encyclical.

“Pope Saint Paul VI wrote: ‘It is indeed in the midst of their distress that our fellow men need to know joy, to hear its song,’” Pope Francis said.

“Today Jesus invites us to return to the source of joy, which is the encounter with him, the courageous choice to risk everything to follow him, the satisfaction of leaving something behind in order to embrace his way. The saints have travelled this path,” he continued.

The pope encouraged Catholics to imitate the saints’ detachment,  “Is Jesus enough for us or do we look for many worldly securities?”

“Let us ask for the grace always to leave things behind for love of the Lord: to leave behind wealth, the yearning for status and power, structures that are no longer adequate for proclaiming the Gospel, those weights that slow down our mission, the strings that tie us to the world,” he said.

“Without a leap forward in love, our life and our Church become sick from ‘complacency and self-indulgence,’” he continued.

“The problem is on our part: our having too much, our wanting too much suffocates our hearts and makes us incapable of loving,” the pope said.

At the Sunday Angelus following the Mass, Pope Francis greeted Queen Sofia of Spain and the presidents of Chile, El Salvador, Panama, and Italy, who attended the canonization Mass.

The canonizations took place midway through the 2018 Synod of Bishops on the topic of young people, the faith and vocational discernment from Oct. 3-28.

Analysis: Will bishops push for clarity on the synod’s procedural rules?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2018 / 06:13 pm (CNA).- Recent changes to canon law have left some bishops attending the 2018 Synod of Bishops uncertain about the meeting’s procedural rules. Unanswered questions about the synod’s norms could have significant effect on how the meeting’s final documents are regarded in the Church, and by the synod fathers themselves.

The synod’s undersecretary, Bishop Fabio Fabene, told reporters in early October that because of changes Pope Francis made to synod policies Sept. 15, the Vatican had not yet decided on the exact rules for this month’s synod.

Asked whether synod participants would be able to vote on individual provisions of the document as they have in prior meetings, Fabene said it would depend on what emerged from the synod, adding that “as we move along, we will decide.”

But two weeks into the gathering, decisions about the synod’s procedural and voting rules have not yet been announced. Several synod fathers have told CNA they are confused about the rules, or uncertain about how the synod’s voting process will actually work.

In the absence of clear norms, some observers have begun to ask whether the 2018 synod will prove to be an authentic consultation of the world’s bishops, or an exercise only in the appearance of “synodality.”

Synods are meetings of bishops gathered to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, in order to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope. The discussion at a synod is framed around an instrumentum laboris- a working document- developed before the meeting by a small working committee of Vatican officials and diocesan bishops.

During a synod, bishops make comments and observations on the working document, and meet in small discussion groups to propose changes to the text, or to suggest new texts and additional areas for consideration.

The 2018 synod, a meeting of 267 bishops and other Church leaders, is tasked with developing a document on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.  

The modern form of synods in the Latin Catholic Church began with the 1965 promulgation of Pope Paul VI’s Apostolica sollicitudo. That document established some processes and procedures governing the work of a synod, as did revisions made in 1969 and 1971. The 1983 Code of Canon Law gave additional clarity.  

But the 2006 rescript Ordo synodi episcoporum established the most detailed procedural rules for every aspect of a synod of bishops, among them the election of members; the appointment, work, and authority of the general secretariat and general relator; and the voting on proposals (modi) and documents, including the points to be included in the final report.

Ordo synodi episcoporum required that modi and documents be voted on according to a procedure allowing bishops to make additional amendments, and delineating specific cases when a 2/3 majority of voting bishops would be required, and others cases that would require only an absolute majority (50 percent+1) of bishops.

According to those procedural rules, synod fathers were able to vote on proposals made for amendments or additions to the document, and eventually to vote on their approval of the document as a whole; those votes would require 2/3s majorities.

Though these procedural norms were tweaked in recent years, they remained largely intact. But on Sept. 15, they were abrogated- revoked- when Pope Francis promulgated a new document governing synods, the apostolic constitution Episcopalis communio.

Episcopalis communio eliminates nearly all specific procedural norms pertaining to the synod, including the established procedures for proposing amendments and for voting, and sets no specific approval thresholds for documents generated by the synod.

Instead of establishing specific rules, the September document calls on the General Secretary for Synod of Bishops, now Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, to issue instructions on those matters, and “regulations for each Synod Assembly."

No such instructions or regulations seem to have been issued for the current synod, at least not publicly.

The general rules promulgated in September do explain that the synod should seek “moral unanimity insofar as this is possible” on a final document written by the drafting committee, and that “approval of the members” should be obtained before that document is presented to the pope, who is newly able to promulgate it directly as an expression of his ordinary magisterium.

Neither “moral unanimity” nor “approval by the members” are defined in the document, nor are they technical terms in canon law. At the moment, the General Secretary is able to interpret them according to his own judgment, and is bound to seek “moral unanimity,” whatever he decides that to mean, only insofar as he judges it to be possible. While the document says that particular law can determine how approval is to be sought, that particular law is precisely what has not yet been issued.

Nevertheless, Baldisseri has given some indication of how he understands the idea of “moral unanimity.”

“It is a matter of achieving a consensus that clearly goes beyond 50 percent. However, there is no legal definition. Moral unanimity is not defined by numbers,” he said Sept. 17, according to La Croix International.

Baldisseri and other Vatican officials have declined to indicate how much more than 50 percent would indicate “moral unanimity” among the bishops.

In the absence of particular regulations, the General Secretary is no longer obliged to hold votes on modi proposed to the drafting committee, as he was under the policies of the 2006 norms.  He must now only hear from the discussion groups before deciding how to proceed, with a considerable amount of latitude.

Absent regulations to the contrary, the General Secretary is at liberty to conduct, for example, only one yea or nay vote on a final synod document prepared by the drafting committee, without opening the floor for debate, or holding votes on particular sections or proposals offered by the bishops.

Furthermore, because of the September document’s caveat that moral unanimity might be unobtainable, the General Secretary may consider the document to be approved with anything more than 50 percent of votes, regardless of whether the bishops are obviously divided on controversial questions. Subsequent to such a vote, he may present a document to the Holy Father for approval as a part of the Church’s ordinary magisterium.

The procedures used at the 2018 synod are likely to be used again at the 2019 Special Synod on the Pan-Amazonian Region, and in synods subsequent to that as well.

Cardinal Wifrid Napier of Durban, South Africa, told CNA Oct. 13 that in his estimation, the synod is proceeding along the same course as the previous eight synods he has attended. He added that while he has trust in the synod process and in organizers, he is uncertain about how voting will work in the later stages of the meeting. Napier mentioned that the process used in past synods, the one governed by the 2006 norms, “worked quite well.”   

Although Pope Francis has technically abrogated them, it still seems reasonable that the pope might intend for the procedural norms established by prior law to largely govern the proceedings of this synod, even if Baldisseri’s remarks are decidedly more circumspect. Certainly, the meeting has proceeded to this point according to the ordinary way of doing things. But the synod fathers have good reason to seek clarity.

As Napier told CNA Saturday: “It’s when we get into the hall [for final deliberations] that I think that process still has to be explained to us more clearly.”

It seems unlikely that many synod fathers will be content with the ambiguous answers offered thus far by synod organizers. Few are likely to consider it fair if they are asked to continue working, getting closer to final deliberations, with no real understanding of the meeting’s rules. And observers, especially the pope’s critics, are likely to begin questioning the legitimacy of the synod’s proceedings if it is not governed by a clearly defined process.

It could also become a detriment to the credibility of the synod, and even the communion of the synod fathers, if voting rules were to become a point of division and rancor at the last minute. For those reasons, synod fathers may judge it better that norms be discussed and promulgated as soon as possible, so that the final deliberations are not clouded by discontment or confusion about the rules.

To some observers, the most critical issue is not just that the rules be clarified, but that those rules reflect a genuinely “synodal” approach to the assessment of recommendations to the pope.

Questions have been raised frequently during this synod about whether the final texts are already a fait accompli, devised mostly by curial officials before the meeting began, and likely to be passed with only very few modifications from the synod fathers. If the synod fathers are not permitted to vote on sections of the documents in isolation, or to meaningfully propose amendments, there will be an ongoing debate about whether the final texts reflect the authentic consensus of the synod fathers themselves. Pope Francis is likely eager to avoid such a debate.

Of course, doctrine isn’t determined democratically, and the function of this synod is only to advise. But some observers say that if the pope has convened the synod to hear the views of the participating bishops, taking a real measure of consensus should matter. It seems clear that if the pope wants to ensure he is getting advice from the synod hall, instead of from the permanent secretariat, he may decide to insist that Baldisseri take a meaningful measure of episcopal reactions to each aspect of the proposed synodal documents.

The bishops most in support of the pope’s efforts to reform the synod are likely to begin advocating for clarity, and for the regulations called for by the September document, as soon as possible. The promulgation of those regulations, along with open debate and the possibility for synod fathers to amend procedure by majority vote, would likely quell the critics who argue that the September norms make the synod a less democratic affair.

There is no norm in Episcopalis communio allowing for democratic objections to procedural law, unlike the 2006 synod norms that allowed for bishops to raise objections to procedures, and to resolve “questions of procedure” through the vote of an absolute majority. Still, it is reasonable to expect Pope Francis, who has been widely praised for active and collaborative engagement with the synod, to communicate the synod’s voting rules with enough time to allow for open and free discussion about them among the synod fathers.

When he established the synod of bishops, Pope Paul VI told bishops that his ministry depended upon the “consolation of their presence, the help of their wisdom and experience, the support of their counsel, and the voice of their authority.” In the week ahead, the wisdom and experience of the 2018 Synod of Bishops seems likely to be deployed to help the pope fairly and transparently govern the synod process itself.

Napier: Parishes should learn from youth synod, and synod should hear African voices

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2018 / 12:04 pm (CNA).- A prominent South African cardinal said Saturday that the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment can be a model for the way that Church leaders engage with youth in parishes and dioceses around the world.

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durbin also called for revisions to a synod working document he called “Eurocentric,” saying that the synod’s work must take into account the situation of young people and the Church in other parts of the world, noting especially the needs of the Church in Africa.  

The bishops meeting for the Oct. 3-28 synod are not only talking “about young people, but we’re talking with them and to them,” Napier said at on Oct. 13 press conference. He praised the conributions of 34 young people invited by Pope Francis to be active participants in a meeting predominantly comprised of bishops.

The cardinal said that those young people are active participants in the synod, offering short speeches, called interventions, just as bishops do, and participating in the small discussion circles that will help to shape the synod’s final report.

“More important than just their being in the synod hall is their presence and participation in our small groups,” he said.

The cardinal said that this is the eighth time he has participated in a synod of bishops, and that the participation of young Catholics in this synod makes it a very different experience from those he has previously attended. He added that the “proactive involvement” of Pope Francis in the synod process has also made the experience unique.

Napier said that he hopes the active involvement of young people at the synod will become a model of the Church’s engagement with youth.

For most Catholics, “the daily face of the Church is the face of the priest.” For that reason, synod fathers should encourage parish priests to listen and actively engage young people in parish life and planning in the same way the synod has.

Napier also said that the synod’s working document is written from a "Eurocentric" perspective.

African delegates to the meeting, he said, should “present the African reality much more clearly from our perspective.”

He noted that the document does not sufficiently recognize the impact of mass migration from Africa on the continent’s countries. Africa is losing some of its most gifted young people to migration, he said, because of the exploitation of natural resources and the environment.

“Those who would have been living off the land are now unable to do so” so they migrate, he said, because of the effect of deforestation and aggressive mining techniques.

He also decried the economic conditions that lead to child labor in Africa, saying that because children are put to work at a young age, they “are not getting the education they need in order to have a good start at life.”

Because of corruption within many African governments, “this cycle of exploitation just continues.”

The cardinal said there is another African reality that is not reflected in the synod’s working document.

"While many young people in the West are leaving Jesus, or at least his Church, and they’re doing this for a variety of reasons…in Africa there is a very different kind of phenomenon and that is that young people are looking for Jesus and looking for answers to their problems” in the Church.

The growth of Christianity among young Africans, he said, has important lessons for more developed nations.

The Seven in Heaven: Meet the new saints to be canonized this weekend

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2018 / 06:00 am (ACI Prensa).- Meet the seven people Pope Francis will officially recognize as saints of the Catholic Church on Sunday.

Below are brief biographies on each of their lives, as well as photos of each saint's banner currently on display at the Vatican.

Blessed Pope Paul VI



Born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897 and ordained a priest in 1920, he did graduate studies in literature, philosophy, and canon law in Rome before beginning to work for the Vatican Secretariat of State. In 1954, he was named Archbishop of Milan, and in 1958 was made a Cardinal by Pope John XXIII. As a Cardinal, he helped to arrange the Second Vatican Council and chose to continue the council after he became Pope.

Montini was elected as Pope Paul VI in 1963 at age 65, not long after the start of the second Vatican Council. This was a difficult time for the Church and for the world, as the “Sexual Revolution” was in full swing and the struggle for civil rights in the United States in particular was at its peak. Paul VI is perhaps most noted for his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which served as the Church’s official rebuke to artificial contraception, prohibiting its use.

Paul VI died in 1978 and Pope Francis beatified him in 2014.  

Blessed Oscar Romero



Born in 1917 in El Salvador, Romero was auxiliary bishop of San Salvador for four years before being elevated to Archbishop in 1977. He was an outspoken defender of the rights of the poor in El Salvador, who were being terrorized by right-wing military death squads mainly because of protests over the extreme economic inequality in the country in the 20th century.

His weekly homilies, broadcast across the country on radio, were a galvanizing force for the country’s poor as well as a reliable source of news. In addition to speaking out against the government’s actions El Salvador, he also criticized the US government for backing the military junta that seized El Salvador in 1979, and even wrote to Jimmy Carter in February 1980 asking him to stop supporting the repressive regime.

In March 1980, Romero was assassinated, likely by a right-wing death squad, while celebrating Mass.

Pope Francis beatified Romero in 2015.

Blessed Vincent Romano



Born in 1751 and ordained a priest in 1775, Romano had studied the writings of St. Alphonsus de Liguori and developed a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He spent his whole life as a priest in Torre del Greco and was known for his simple ways and his care for orphans. He worked to rebuild his parish, often with his bare hands, after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1794. He died in December 1831 of pneumonia and was beatified by Paul VI in 1963.

Blessed Francesco Spinelli



Born in Milan in 1853, Spinelli entered the seminary and was ordained a priest in 1875. He began his apostolate educating the poor and also served as a seminary professor, spiritual director, and counselor for several women's religious communities. In 1882, Fr. Spinelli met Caterina Comensoli, with whom he would found the Institute of the Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament. The sisters dedicated themselves to Eucharistic adoration day and night, which inspired their service to the poor and suffering.

He died in 1913. Today his institute has around 250 communities in Italy, Congo, Senegal, Cameroon, Colombia, and Argentina. Their ministries include caring for people with HIV, orphans, drug addicts, and prisoners.

St. John Paul II beatified him in 1992.

Blessed Nunzio Sulprizio



Born in Pescosansonesco, Italy in 1817, Sulprizio lost both of his parents at age six and was brought up by an uncle who exploited him for hard labor. Fatigued and often given dangerous assignments, he developed gangrene and eventually lost his leg. Despite his tremendous suffering, he would reportedly make statements such as: “Jesus suffered a lot for me. Why should I not suffer for Him? I would die in order to convert even one sinner.”

He recovered from the gangrene and dedicated himself to helping other patients before his health deteriorated again. Sulprizio died of bone cancer in 1836, when he was only 19 years old.

Pope Paul VI beatified him in 1963.

Blessed Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa



Born in 1889 in Madrid, Spain, Nazaria was the fourth of 18 children. Growing up, her family was indifferent and sometimes even hostile to her desire to enter religious life, but later she led several family members back to the Church when she entered the Franciscan Third Order. Her family moved to Mexico in 1904, and Nazarie met sisters of the Institute of Sisters of the Abandoned Elders, who inspired her to join their order. In 1915, she chose to take perpetual vows with the order in Mexico City and was assigned to a hospice in Oruro, Bolivia for 12 years.

Beginning in 1920, she felt a call to found a new order dedicated to missionary work. In June 1925, she founded the Pontifical Crusade, later renamed the Congregation of the Missionary Crusaders of the Church, with the mission to catechize children and adults, support the work of priests, conduct missions, and to print and distribute short religious tracts. Many opposed her work, but Nazaria pressed on. Her order cared for soldiers on both sides of the 1932-35 war between Paraguay and Bolivia, and she herself survived persecutions in Spain during the Spanish Civil war. She died in July 1943, and four years later Pope Pius XII finally granted papal approval to the Congregation of the Missionary Crusaders of the Church, which by that time had spread throughout South America and begun work in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Cameroon.

Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1992.

Blessed Maria Katharina Kasper



Born in Dembach, Germany in 1820 as Catherine Kasper, she attended very little school because of poor health. Despite this, she began to help the poor, the abandoned, and the sick at a young age. Her mother taught her household chores, as well as how to spin and weave fabric. After her father died when she was 21, Catherine worked the land as a farm hand for about 10 cents a day. Her helpfulness toward others attracted other women to her, and she felt a call to the religious life, but knew she needed to stay and support her mother, who was in poor health.

After her mother died, Catherine started, with the approval of the bishop of Limburg, Germany, a small house with several friends who also felt the call. In 1851 she and four other women officially took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and formed the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. Catherine, known in the religious community as Mother Mary, served five consecutive terms as superior of the house and continued to work with novices and to open houses for their order all over the world. Today there are 690 sisters in 104 houses in Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, Mexico and India.

She died of a heart attack in February 1898, and Pope Paul VI beatified her in 1978.

 

All photos, Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

A synod summary from the Polish synod fathers – Oct 12

Friday, October 12, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2018 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- The synod of bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment is being held at the Vatican Oct. 3-28.

CNA plans to provide a brief daily summary of the sessions, provided by the synodal fathers from Poland.

Please find below the Polish fathers' summary of the Oct. 12 session:

The themes discussed today were oriented by the search for general concepts that could give a new meaning to the entire document. Among them, that of the family appeared.

“It is necessary to write a new document, based on the Instrumentum Laboris,”  said the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, summing up this day of the Synod’s work in discussion groups.

“The family is an institution that resembles the Church. The Church as a family must constantly accompany Her children. Just as no two vocations are ever exactly alike, but all are different, so too parents, in relation to their children, have to ask each day what they should do to bring them up well, to lead them to the fullness of the life towards which faith is advancing,” emphasized Archbishop Gądecki.

The family’s role in the life and the discernment of the young person’s vocation was also highlighted by Archbishop Grzegorz Ryś, who recalled that, according to the values declared by Polish youth, it is precisely the family which is the most important factor.

“Young people esteem the family in itself and if they are helped to understand the family’s value, then starting from it, one can lead them to faith, to God, who is the Creator of the family. We want to lead young people not only to truly live their youth but to discover Jesus Christ. In order to reach Him, one must first meet them in places that are important to them. Such places are friendship, work, freedom, and the family, which comes first,” said Archbishop Ryś.

Archbishop Ryś also spoke about the question of vocations.

“A vocation, in the broad sense, touches the eternal design of God in relation to every human being. Speaking about vocations, we want to say, first of all, that every person is needed and is eternally wanted by God, that God needs everyone. The fact of coming into being is accompanied by a call, that is a vocation.”

The head of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Gądecki, also noted that, in the course of today’s work, attention was drawn to the fact that the document lacks an acknowledgement that in order for it to be Christian, a young person’s calling must necessarily be connected with the cross.

Too often an excessively light vision of the lives of young people is presented, one which omits their worries and their engagement with the transcendental.

Film tells story of Irish chaplain on frontlines of World War I

Friday, October 12, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2018 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- A new film tells the story of Irish Jesuit Fr. William “Willie” Doyle, who during World War I brought the sacraments to dying soldiers on the battlefield, before he himself died in action on the frontline.
 
Just over an hour in length, the docudrama, “Bravery Under Fire,” screened at the Vatican’s “filmoteca” theater Oct. 12. It was written, produced, and directed by EWTN Ireland employee Campbell Miller, a native of Northern Ireland.

Miller presented a copy of the film to Pope Francis Oct. 10 after the general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
 
Among those present at the screening were Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh; UK Ambassador to the Holy See Sally Axworthy; Fr. John Dardis, an Irish priest working in the Jesuit General Curia in Rome; and Aidan Gallagher, CEO of EWTN Ireland.
 
The film combines interviews with family members and historians with dramatic depictions of episodes in Doyle’s life, particularly those on the battlefield, as known through the many letters he wrote to his family and others throughout his life.
 
Fr. Willie Doyle grew up in a devout Catholic family in Ireland, and inspired by two older brothers, decided to become a Jesuit priest. After formation and ordination, and serving as a missionary priest in parts of Dublin, he volunteered as a chaplain for the British army at the outbreak of World War I.
 
As a chaplain, Doyle served at the frontlines as “a soldier without arms,” the film said. He did not spare himself in any way and did not accept the privileges afforded to a chaplain. Instead, he walked among the men of his brigade, even among shellfire, to hear confessions and deliver last rites to the dying.
 
The film also recalled the Jesuit’s dedication to helping not only his own men, but dying captured German soldiers, to whom he brought comfort and the sacraments.
 
The priest spent his days in the fields and would often spend his nights praying or writing letters to the anxious families of soldiers from both sides of the war.
 
Night is also when the priest most often could find the time to bury the dead, moving the bloody and dismembered bodies into graves.
 
In one letter home, Doyle recalled with special poignancy a Mass he offered on the battlefield for the dead, whose bodies were lying all around him, since there had not yet had time to bury them.
 
The documentary credits the priest’s many sacrifices on the frontlines to his strong spiritual life, in particular the severe physical penances and deep prayer he engaged in prior to the start of the war. He was killed in action in Belgium in 1917.

 

Bishop Barron at Synod of Bishops: Young people are ‘hungry for mission’

Friday, October 12, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2018 / 10:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Young people are “hungry for mission,” Bishop Robert Barron said Friday during the 2018 Synod of Bishops, convened to discuss young people, the faith, and vocational discernment

“They're hungry for involvement in the life of the Church, and to be out in the field declaring the Lord,” Barron said at an Oct. 12 Vatican press conference.

Barron, the auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, is a delegate to the bishops’ synod. He has advocated in conversations in and around the synod that young people should be challenged intellectually and morally.

In his four-minute intervention at the Synod of Bishops, he called for greater intellectual faith formation of young people, particularly catechesis and apologetics.
“Why has it been the case, over the past several decades, that young people in our own Catholic secondary schools have read Shakespeare in literature class, Homer in Latin class, Einstein in physics class, but, far too often, superficial texts in religion?” Barron asked the synod.

Barron also said that acceptance and outreach to young people needs to be accompanied by a call to holiness and conversion, in response to a question about outreach to same-sex attracted young people.

“As always, the church’s first move in regard to everybody, in regard to gay and lesbians, is to reach out and say ...  'You are a beloved child of God,” Barron responded to reporters in Rome. “It is under that rubric that the Church does its work.”

“Now, having said that, the Church also calls people to conversion. So Jesus calls, but then he always moves people to fullness of life, and so the Church also has a set of moral demands to everybody, and it calls them to conversion,” Barron continued.

“My hesitation is that ‘inclusion’ is more of a secular term. I would use the word 'love,’” he said.

“The Church reaches out in love, and love is ‘willing the good of the other,’ and sometimes that means calling people to a change of life.”

“I think that is where the Church's attitude is situated is included in both those moments. Of course outreach in love, but acceptance and inclusion doesn't mean that we don't call to conversion. So that's again to speak about it in a more general term.”

Barron also touched on the idea that many young people will be called to holiness through a generous family life, connecting it to Pope Paul VI’s upcoming canonization Oct. 14.

The canonization on Sunday will be “a moment to celebrate some of that prophetic quality of Humanae Vitae,” said Barron.

“We certainly have talked about marriage and family life in the small groups,” he added, speaking about the synod discussions.

Youth delegates are auditing the 2018 Synod of Bishops and participate in the discussions in the synod hall in a historic first.

“Pope Francis told the young people present in the synod hall to ‘continue making noise,’” Barron shared.

At the Oct. 12 press conference, one bishop from the Netherlands said that a youth testimony in the synod hall motivated him to work with young Catholics to aid persecuted Christians.

Bishop Everard de Jong, auxiliary bishop of Roermond, Netherlands said he was very moved by the testimony from an Iraqi young man in the synod hall.

“At that moment, I realized, ‘what am I doing in my diocese for these Christians there?’” Bishop Jong  reflected.

He said that in his experience Christian refugees from Iraq have brought “a lot of faith into our Catholic communities that are getting grey, getting older, dying.”

Jong concluded that it will be good for all involved to stress the importance of learning about issues of Christian persecution all around the world in the youth pastoral care in his diocese.

“This global solidarity for our church would be very good because it is also for our faith,” Jong said.

Pope Francis accepts resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, appoints him interim DC leader

Friday, October 12, 2018

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2018 / 04:01 am (CNA).- Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl on Friday, while asking the cardinal to continue leading the Archdiocese of Washington on an interim basis until a permanent successor is appointed.
 
In a letter to Wuerl obtained by CNA Oct. 12, Pope Francis told the cardinal: “Your renunciation is a sign of your availability and docility to the Spirit who continues to act in his Church.”

“In accepting your resignation, I ask you to remain as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese until the appointment of your successor.”

Wuerl, 77, originally submitted his resignation on Nov. 12, 2015, when he turned 75 years old, as required by canon law.

The pope said Friday that he had also received a Sept. 21 request from Wuerl that his resignation be accepted.

“This request rests on two pillars that have marked and continue to mark your ministry: to seek in all things the greater glory of God and to procure the good of the people entrusted to your care,” Pope Francis wrote.

In the Oct. 12 letter accepting Wuerl’s resignation, Francis defended the cardinal from the widespread criticism he has faced in recent months.

“You have sufficient elements to ‘justify’ your actions and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with problems, and to commit some mistakes.”

“However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you.”

“Your renunciation is a sign of your availability and docility to the Spirit who continues to act in his Church,” he added.

In an Oct. 12 statement, Wuerl wrote that “the Holy Father’s decision to provide new leadership to the Archdiocese can allow all of the faithful, clergy, religious and lay, to focus on healing and the future. It permits this local Church to move forward.”

“Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon. My resignation is one way to express my great and abiding love for you the people of the Church of Washington.”

The cardinal has been the subject of criticism since late June, when revelations about alleged sexual misconduct on the part of his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, raised questions about what Wuerl knew about McCarrick, and how he responded to that knowledge.

The Aug.14 release of a grand jury report detailing decades of abuse allegations in six Pennsylvania dioceses put under close scrutiny Wuerl’s record as Bishop of Pittsburgh, where he served from 1988 to 2006. Some cases in the report raised concerns that Wuerl had allowed priests accused of abuse to remain in ministry after allegations had been made against them.

Those factors led to calls for Wuerl’s resignation and demonstrations outside of his Washington residence.

After Wuerl made a trip to Rome in late August, media reports said that Pope Francis had instructed the cardinal to consult with Washington clergy about the best way forward for him and the archdiocese.

In a Sept. 11 letter to DC priests written after a private meeting with them, Wuerl said that he would soon meet with the pope to discuss his future, but did not immediately state that he would ask the pope to allow him to resign. A spokesman for Wuerl confirmed to CNA Sept. 12 that the cardinal intended to formally ask Pope Francis to allow him to step down.

It is widely believed that Wuerl hoped to remain in his position at least until the fall meeting of the U.S. bishops’ conference in November. That session is expected to focus on the fallout of the recent sexual abuse crises, and Wuerl is said to want to play an active part in helping the Church respond.

As apostolic administrator, Wuerl will continue to lead the day-to-day activities of the archdiocese, but will not be permitted to make any major changes.

If a successor is not appointed and installed before Nov. 13, the apostolic administrator will attend the bishops’ conference annual meeting as the representative of the Archdiocese of Washington.

The auxiliary bishops of Washington also released a statement Friday, saying the cardinal’s “pastoral and spiritual leadership in the archdiocese is well appreciated.”

“We believe that Cardinal Wuerl’s decision to request that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, accept the resignation he first offered years ago is a clear manifestation of his love and concern for the people of this archdiocese,” wrote Bishops Mario E. Dorsonville, Roy E. Campbell Jr., and Michael W. Fisher.

Kim Viti Fiorentino, chancellor and general counsel of the Archdiocese of Washington, said in a statement Oct. 12 that the archdiocese has “been profoundly blessed to have this great priest as our archbishop.”

“His final decision to act in favor of the people he loved and served for twelve years is the most eloquent witness to the integrity of his ministry and his legacy,” she continued. “I am truly thankful for his steadfast fidelity and his courageous and sacrificial commitment to the future of the Church in Washington.”

A native of Pittsburgh, Penn., Wuerl studied at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1966 and went on to receive a doctorate in 1974.

In the 1990s Wuerl hosted the television program, “The Teaching of Christ.” He also wrote a best-selling adult catechism of the same name, and has since more than 20 other books.

Wuerl was appointed an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Seattle in 1986, following a Vatican investigation into Seattle’s Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen. Wuerl was charged with special responsibility for five problem areas in the archdiocese: liturgy, the tribunal, priest formation, moral and bioethical issues in Catholic hospitals, and ministry and teaching concerning homosexuality. The appointment generated serious conflict among Hunthausen’s supporters, and Wuerl was relieved of his responsibility in 1987.

He was appointed Bishop of Pittsburgh in 1988. He held this position until he was appointed in May 2006 to head the Archdiocese of Washington. He was named a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI on Nov. 20, 2010.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that front runners to replace Wuerl include Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, and Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Wuerl is a member of several Vatican departments, including the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Congregation for Bishops.

CNA's Courtney Grogan contributed to this report.

This story is developing and has been updated.