Author Archive

A Middle East without Christians – cardinals consider sad prospect

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2014 / 10:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Monday’s consistory of cardinals focused on the plight of Christians in the Middle East, especially in light of the rise of the Islamic State, and it also decided on two causes for canonization.

Cardinals and patriarchs from the Middle East together with top officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State and interested dicasteries attended the Oct. 20 summit with the Pope, which was called a ‘public ordinary consistory’.

A consistory is a meeting of cardinals which can be public, semi-public or secret. During a consistory, new cardinals may be created, or it is possible to vote for cause of canonization, or to discuss of topics of general concern.

Initially set in order to proceed with the causes of canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz and Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception, the consistory schedule was enlarged by Pope Francis, who wanted it to be dedicated to the discussion of the plight of Christians, taking advantage of the presence of Middle Eastern patriarchs in Rome, on the heels of the synod.

In his opening address, Pope Francis stressed that “we are facing terrorism on a scale that was unimaginable,” and that “we cannot resign ourselves to think of a Middle East deprived of Christians, who have been settled there for 2,000 years.”

The Pope maintained that “so many of our brothers are persecuted and had to leave their homes,” adding that “it seems the value of human life is not considered anymore, that the person does not count and may be sacrificed to other interests.” He denounced that “many remain indifferent” while this happens.

After the Pope’s initial address, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, took the floor and reported to cardinals and patriarchs about the situation in Middle East and the outcomes of the Oct. 2-4 meeting among the top officials of the state secretariat, dicasteries, nuncios to the Middle East, and the Holy See Permanent Observers to the United Nations in New York and Geneva.

Articulated in six points, the speech stressed that the present situation – broadly speaking and in particular as it regards the Christian communities present in the region – is unacceptable.

“We have listened with commotion and great worry to the testimony of the atrocities perpetuated by many in the region, particularly by the fundamentalists of the self-proclaimed group Islamic-State, an entity that .. uses terroristic means in an attempt to expand its power,” Cardinal Parolin affirmed.

The Secretary of State reaffirmed the right of refugees to return to their homes, and reiterated that “it is licit to stop an unjust aggressor,” but that “the military response cannot be the only one” put into action.

“In the specific case of the violations and the abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State, the international community, through the United Nations and the appropriate bodies, will have to act in order to prevent possible and new genocide and to assist the numerous refugees.”

Cardinal Parolin made a quick summary of the political situation in the Middle East, urged for a durable political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, praised Iran for its involvement in the resolution of the Iraq and Syria crisis and in combatting the Islamic State; and expressed concern about political instability in Lebanon, which the Holy See attentively watches because of the impact Christians have there in public life.

Regarding the humanitarian drama of refugees and displaced persons in the Middle East, Cardinal Parolin underscored that the Church urges the international community “to generously face this tragedy” and at the same time provides help through local relief services.

The Secretary of State once more asked religious leaders – both Christian and Muslim – for a mutual commitment in interreligious dialogue, and underscored that “of peculiar importance is the commitment of Muslim leaders” in order to address the Islamic State and condemn its acts.

In general, the international community is urged to commit in helping refugees and displaced persons and in defending Christians and other religious minority to defend human rights, especially that of religious freedom.

After Cardinal Parolin’s speech, there was a free discussion. According to Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, all the Middle East patriarchs voiced their concerns.

Among them was Ignatius Joseph III Younan, the Syriac Patriarch of Antioch.

Patriarch Younan recounted to CNA Oct. 20 that participants in the consistory “spoke about the situation of Christians who are facing a very, very critical phase in their history after this event of the so-called ‘Islamic State,’ and after the crisis in Syria and that of Iraq, and tensions in Lebanon.”

The consistory also approved two causes of canonization.

The cardinals did not set a date for the canonization of Bl. Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception, an Italian religious who founded, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Congregation of the Sisters, Expiatory Victims of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The Pope himself will canonize Blessed Joseph Vaz, a native of Goa who evangelized Sri Lanka, whose Canonization Mass will take place Jan. 14, 2015, during the papal voyage to Sri Lanka.

Blessed Paul VI, the Pope who led the Church’s barque in troubled waters

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2014 / 07:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bl. Paul VI was the first ‘modern man’ to be elected Bishop of Rome, and he put the Church in conversation with the world in order to build a dialogue of salvation, a cardinal who was one of Montini’s collaborators said.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, 84, had served for 12 years in the Secretariat of State during Bl. Paul VI’s pontificate. He later served, from 1979, as pro-president of the Secretariat for Non-Believers, renamed in 1988 the Pontifical Council for Culture.

“Paul VI was the first modern man to be elected Pope,” Cardinal Poupard told CNA Oct. 17.

Cardinal Poupard remembered that “during the homily of the Mass of the beginning of his Petrine ministery, he addressed the voices of the modern world, and asked if the Church would be able to listen to them.”

This question led to the publication of his first encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, on the Church.

“Paul VI was a very good friend with the French philosopher Jean Guitton. In a walk in the gardens of the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo, the Pope asked Guitton which subject he would have chosen for an encyclical, if he had been Pope. Guitton said he would have chosen truth. And the Pope responded: ‘You are right on the final scope, since the papal Magisterium deals with transmitting truth. But, to partake truth with others, to transmit truth to the world, we have to dialogue.’”

“Paul VI’s Church is a Church that listens to people before speaking, makes conversation and dialogue with the world. But it is a dialogue of salvation, in order to bring the world to salvation,” Cardinal Poupard commented.

This dialogue was somehow broken, since Bl. Paul VI said in 1968 that “from some fissure, the smoke of Satan has entered the Church.”

Cardinal Poupard recounted: “I lived this very intense moment. Paul VI’s claim came by the fact that the Council had gone toward the modern world to convert it. But this missionary effort had turned into a general protest. In the name of the Council, a counter-Council was being held.”

This counter council led to a “haemorrhage in the big religious orders; many people left the Church. It was a horrible suffering for the Pope. Paul VI was in this sense a martyr of the Church, because he lived a suffering for the Church, coming from the Church herself.”

In 1968, Bl. Paul VI issued his last encyclical, Humanae vitae, which has been taken as a model for the Synod of Bishops on the family.

The encyclical reaffirmed the teaching of the Church on the regulation of birth, but received many protests, even from inside the Church.

After that, Bl. Paul VI did not promulgate any other encyclical, though he remained Pope for another 10 years.

Cardinal Poupard remembered the times of the preparation of Humanae vitae, the establishment of the commissions that had to study the issues at stake, the many expectations around the Pope’s decision.

“Paul VI told me: ‘Things are difficult, complex. The Pope must meditate before making a decision… since when a decision is made, it is irrevocable.”

After the issuance of the encyclical, “there was a sort of refusal of it by the western world, and even entire bishops’ conferences distanced themselves from it.”

Cardinal Poupard said: “I would read the decision this way: after the protests against Humanae vitae, the Pope did not want to expose the Church to this worrying and painful distance from the bishops’ conferences. So he continued his Magisterium through apostolic letters and other means.”

The cardinal also revealed that “the first telegram we received in the state secretariat after the publication of Humanae vitae was that of Bishop Helder Camara.”

Bishop of Recife, in Brazil, Helder Camara was well known for his commitment to and advocacy for the poor.

“He wrote to the Pope: ‘Thank you, Holy Father, for defending us in the third world, since the rich world is attacking its only richness: children’,” Cardinal Poupard remembered.

Interreligious marriage: a look at the synod from India’s perspective

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2014 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While some countries face family issues such as divorce and polygamy, the synod’s Indian participants have voiced concern for interreligious marriages, which pose pastoral concerns across Asia.

“We have got this whole thing of mixed marriages, there are many marriages in India which are between (a) Catholic and somebody who is not baptized, a Hindu, a Muslim, or a Buddhist, and that is what specifically came out of India,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay told CNA Oct. 10.

While marriage between a Catholic and an unbaptized person would normally be invalid, the local ordinary can dispense from this impediment, and thus allow such a marriage to be validly contracted (canon 1086).

Cardinal Gracias, who is part of Pope Francis’ ‘council of cardinals’, explained that when faced with the difficult situations interreligious marriages can present, it’s always necessary to have a “positive pastoral approach” to the couples and families involved.

The cardinal was accompanied to the synod by Fr. Cajetan Menezes, who is director of the Bombay archdiocese’s Snehalaya Family Service Center.

Fr. Menezes has served as an auditor for the synod, and spoke to CNA Oct. 15 saying the topic of interreligious marriages was one of the three points he brought up when he addressed the synod fathers.

With the number of interreligious marriages on the rise across Asia, the priest said that it is an important issue, and one with which the Church needs to have a “very specific pastoral care.”

“We need to reach out to them rather than look at them as problems. (They are) an opportunity to evangelize, and we need to take them on board,” he said, explaining that interfaith couples are often “ostracized by their own families because they are going against family tradition.”

“That creates more problems for them in their marriage, and that is not conducive for their marriage to grow and do well,” he observed.

Although other countries might not share the pastoral difficulties caused by interreligious marriages, Fr. Menezes observed that “this is a big issue in Asia because we are a minority,” and cited  India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Japan as being countries with a high percentage of interreligious couples.

Thus there is a need to specifically address the issue and to give interreligious families more help and support, particularly in light of the challenges the couples face due to the differing traditions of their families, the priest explained.

Fr. Menezes said that the synod’s emphasis on welcoming and inviting those who are far from the Church or who find themselves in situations that could be problematic is also a way of embracing those who have been ostracized because of interreligious challenges.

“I think it’s the first time I noticed (them) speaking a different (kind of) language, and I think that’s a very positive influence of Pope Francis, (who) is reaching out, welcoming, and also looking at not only those who are at the center, but at the periphery,” the priest continued.

By reaching out to the marginalized, the synod fathers are making great progress in their attempt to “get everybody on board,” including members of the gay community and those who are divorced and remarried.

Cardinal Gracias, who has taken part in numerous synods before this, praised the free spirit in which discussion has taken place.

Even though each synod is free in its own way, the cardinal explained that when talking about the family “there is nothing which is taboo, nothing that you can’t speak about, no one is frightened to say ‘ok, this is a problem, we have got to face it.’”

To have differing opinions is important and essential, he said, and helps participants to reach more concrete, effective solutions.

“We have another synod next year which will be bigger (and) with more participation, and probably we will come to clearer conclusions at that particular moment of time,” the cardinal noted, but for now he is happy that “it is working well.”

Returning to the situation in India, Cardinal Gracias said that while Indians have traditionally maintained strong family ties, this is being influenced negatively by outside sources, including the film industry.

“I think that people are beginning to feel that this is not the best thing and we have got to try to reinforce the family,” he said, noting that although a zero percent breakdown rate is impossible, “it should not be 50 percent.”

However, he explained that much of a lasting family dynamic will depend on the preparation of the couple before marriage, as well as the process of accompanying them after the sacrament is contracted.


Pope beatifies Paul VI, ‘great helmsman’ of Vatican II

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2014 / 11:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Addressing those gathered in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday for the beatification of Paul VI, Pope Francis reminded Christians who live out the Gospel message that they are “God’s newness” both “in the Church and in the world.”

In his Oct. 19 homily, the Pope said God is “continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways.”   In so doing, “he renews us: he constantly makes us ‘new’.   

“A Christian who lives the Gospel is ‘God’s newness’ in the Church and in the world. How much God loves this ‘newness’!”

An estimated 70,000 people, including Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, were present at the Mass to celebrate not only the closing of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, but also the life of Bl. Paul VI, who first established the Synod of Bishops as an institution of the Church designed to help the Pope with his magisterial office.

“When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle,” the Holy Father said, in reference to the new Blessed, “we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks!… “Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI!   Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!”

Referring to him has “the great helmsman of the Council,” Pope Francis cited Bl. Paul VI’s words at the closing of its final session: “Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour.”

“In this humility,” Pope Francis continued, “the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.”

Turning to the day’s Gospel reading, Pope Francis highlighted Christ’s “ironic and brilliant” response to the Pharisees who were trying to catch him in error: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

“It is a striking phrase which the Lord has bequeathed to all those who experience qualms of conscience,” the Pope said, “particularly when their comfort, their wealth, their prestige, their power and their reputation are in question.”

The second part of the phrase, “and (render)  to God the things that are God’s”,   Pope Francis said, “calls for acknowledging and professing – in the face of any sort of power – that God alone is the Lord of mankind, that there is no other.” Christians must discover this “perennial newness” every day, and to do so “requires mastering the fear which we often feel at God’s surprises.”

This “rendering to God the things that are God’s”, the Pope continued, “means being docile to his will, devoting our lives to him and working for his kingdom of mercy, love and peace.”

“Here is where our true strength is found… the leaven which makes it grow and the salt which gives flavour to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us.”

“Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s.”

For this reason, the Pope said, we should turn our eyes to “the future, God’s future,” in order to “live this life to the fullest – with our feet firmly planted on the ground – and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way.”

Turning his attention to the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which concluded its two-week course with the beatification of Paul VI, Pope Francis described the experience as one of “synodality and collegiality,” in which was felt “the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the Church.” 

“The Church,” he said, “is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope.”

Citing the words of Saint Paul, Pope Francis gave thanks to God for the gift of the Synod, and the constructive spirit shown by its participants. He called on the Holy Spirit, who, over the course of the synod, “has enabled us to work generously, in true freedom and humble creativity,” to “continue to guide the journey” toward the Ordinary Synod of Bishops, which will take place in October, 2015.

“We have sown and we continued to sow,” he said, “patiently and perseveringly, in the certainty that it is the Lord who gives growth to what we have sown.”

At the conclusion of Mass, and before presiding over the weekly Angelus prayer, Pope Francis welcomed all the pilgrims who had travelled to Rome to take part in the beatification.

The Holy Father also noted that Bl. Paul VI “was a staunch supporter of the mission ad gentes,” adding that “it is the witness above all of the apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi  with which he intended to reawaken the enthusiasm and the commitment of the Church for the mission.”

Evangelii nuntiandi – ‘To proclaim the Gospel’ –  “is still relevant,” he said.  “It is significant to consider this aspect of the pontificate of Paul VI, especially today (Oct. 19), which is celebrated as World Missionary Day.”

Pope Francis also made mention of Bl. Paul VI’s “profound Marian devotion.” In particular, he noted the new blessed’s proclamation of Mary as “Mother of the Church” at the “close of the third session of the Second Vatican Council,” as well as his 1974 apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus, for the right ordering and development of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Before leading the Angelus in Latin, Pope Francis called on “Mary, Queen of Saints and Mother of the Church,” to “help us to faithfully realize the will of the Lord in our life, just as the new blessed did.”

Church teaching on sexuality is simple, but not easy, priest says

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2014 / 05:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When it comes to human sexuality, one of the predominant themes being discussed by participants at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family pertains to the certainty that truth and mercy cannot be se…

Hard winter looms for Iraq’s ‘betrayed’ Christian refugees

Erbil, Iraq, Oct 18, 2014 / 04:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Despite efforts by northern Iraq’s Catholic bishops to ensure that Christians and other refugees can survive the winter, housing shortages and a significant lack of financial support pose ser…

Pope Francis’ closing synod speech received with standing ovation

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2014 / 04:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ address at the conclusion of the Synod on the Family, delivered Saturday, was responded to with a four-minute standing ovation on the part of the bishops attending the Vatican meeting.

In the Oct. 18 speech, the Pope thanked the bishops for their efforts, and noted the various temptations that can arise in such a synod setting. He encouraged the bishops to live in the tension, saying that “personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace.”

“Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parrhesia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the ‘supreme law,’ the ‘good of souls; (cf. Can. 1752).”

In conclusion, looking forward to the 2015 synod, which will also be on the family, Pope Francis said, “now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.”

Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ address, according to the provisional translation provided by Vatican Radio:

Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,

With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.

From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.

I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!

I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”
And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

  – One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

  – The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

  – The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

  – The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

  – The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parrhesia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of   their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it… that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.

One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!

[The Te Deum was sung, and Benediction given.]

Thank you, and rest well, eh?

A missionary Pope: Cardinal Etchegaray’s memory of Paul VI

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2014 / 03:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Paul VI was a missionary Pope who wished to bring the light of the Gospel all over the world, a cardinal who worked with the late Roman Pontiff, who will be beatified on Sunday, has recalled.

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 92, vice-dean of the College of Cardinals, had a long term relation with Paul VI, whom he first met during the 1960s.

“I was serving as general secretary of the French bishops’ conference, and I met the-then Cardinal Montini, who showed great interest in European matters,” Cardinal Etchegaray told CNA in an Oct. 17 interview.

Giovani Battista Montini had served for several years in the Secretariat of State before being appointed Archbishop of Milan in 1954.

In his years in the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Montini had been (from 1925 to 1933) the spiritual assistant to the Italian Federation of Catholic University Students, while as a young priest Fr. Roger Etchegaray had served as responsible of the Catholic Association in the Diocese of Bayonne.

Their common sensitivity toward young people and their formation played a major role in fostering their confidence and friendship.

“I had the occasion to lunch with him in the Archbishop Curia of Milan a few months before he was elected Pope. So when he was elected, I knew the importance the name Paul had for him,” Cardinal Etchegaray said.

“The name Paul was chosen after the Apostle Paul, the missionary apostle. I have a very precise memory of this Pope who seemed to be shy, to be discreet, and who had at the same time this missionary zeal.”

“If I had to summarize Paul VI with two adjectives, I would say that he was mystic and prophetic” Cardinal Etchegaray underscored.

“Paul VI has been considered a cold Pope, but he was really a mystic, and I can testify to it; to deepen in his spirituality would do one so much good.”

Cardinal Etchegaray also stressed that “Paul VI had the courage and the spiritual strenght to carry forward the Second Vatican Council.”

“I was a peritus at the Second Vatican Council, and I had many times the occasions to meet him with a circle of periti. He wanted to be informally informed of the debate. In his very discreet way, he was very attentive to others and to the opinion of others. He did not want his ideas to be imposed,” Cardinal Etchegaray recounted.

The cardinal said that Paul VI was “a very discreet, very reserved Pop, who became a wanderer Pope, the first Pope to take the plane, the first Pope to go to the Holy Land, the first Pope to go to the United Nations.”

Paul VI prophetic nature lies in the fact that “he had taught the truth of humanity to all men, and he went toward the poorest.”

“Once, in the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, in a very popular block of Rome, Paul VI took with his fragile hands a paralyting and embraced him very strongly. He told him: ‘My friend, my friend, you cannot walk, but I will look for you, and in Heaven we will dance together in front of the Lord.’”

Cardinal Etchegaray said that “Paul VI is not well known, even because of his persona. I already spoke about his discreetion, his modesty, his absolute respect toward others. He did not want to impose faith, since faith is a gift of God; it does not come from a logic argument. Faith is a light that comes from God.”

Synod’s final report shows nuance on homosexuality, remarriage

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2014 / 03:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The synod’s final report, released Saturday, presents substantial changes with respect to the much discussed midterm report, especially regarding homosexual persons and the divorced and remarried.

The final report was voted on, paragraph by paragraph, by the synod fathers; and, by Pope Francis’ choice, the result of each poll has been publicized, thus showing a glimpse into the synod fathers’ thought.

Though all the paragraphs gained a majority of votes, not all of them reached the super-majority of two-thirds, which is required for official approval.

With 181 voting synod fathers (out of 193), a simple majority is 93, while the super-majority is reached at 123 votes.

Speaking with journalists during a press briefing Oct. 18, Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, commented that in light of preparations for the 2015 synod, the paragraphs that failed to gain official approval  “cannot be considered as dismissed, but primarily as paragraphs that are not mature enough to gain a wide consensus of the assembly.”

An overall glance at the final report

Like the midterm report, the final report is divided in three parts, titled: “Listening, context, and challenges of the family”; “the glance to Christ: the Gospel of the Family”; and “The confrontation: pastoral perspectives.”

The 62 paragraphs of the document are filled with quotes from the Sacred Scriptures, the lack of which in the midterm report was lamented by most of the small groups.

Another outcome of the small groups’ suggestions is the frequent reference to the positive testimonies Christian families can give in contemporary society.

The strong stance against international organizations that bind financial aid to the introduction of homosexual rights has been clarified and emphasized in a separate paragraph, while it was included in a wider paragraph in the midterm report.

At a first glance, all the concerns expressed by the small groups have been taken in consideration.

The divorced and remarried: pastoral consideration, points of clarification

The paragraphs on the divorced and remarried and on homosexual persons having been the most controversial of the midterm report, the paragraphs on those issues have been slightly modified, though they still failed to meet a wide consensus.

Regarding the divorced and remarried, almost all the synod fathers agreed that “pastoral care of charity and mercy tends to the recovery of persons and relations,” and that “every family must be listened with respect and love.”

The consensus is slightly lower when the document stresses that “the synod fathers urge new pastoral paths, that may start from the effective reality of families’ fragility, being conscious that these fragilities are endured with suffering than chosen with full freedom.”

There is even less consensus when the final report speaks about reforming the procedures for the declaration of nullity of marriages.

In contrast, a paragraph stating that those who are divorced without having remarried, who “often testify to the faithfulness of marriage” should “be encouraged in finding in the Eucharist the food which can sustain them.”

The report however states that “a particular discernment” must be put in action for a pastoral accompaniment of separated, divorced, abandoned; focuses on the situation of those who separate because of domestic violence; and underscores that divorced and remarried must not feel “discriminated” against, and that their participation in the community “must be promoted” since “taking care of them is not for the Christian community a weakening in faith and in the testimony to the indissolubility of the marriage.”

The paragraphs on access to Communion for the divorced and remarried (52 and 53) did not gain a supermajority among the synod fathers.


Also, one paragraph concerning homosexual couples did not gain the needed supermajority: paragraph 55 describes the situation of families “having within them persons with a homosexual orientation.” Considered vague, it received only 118 yes votes.

The following paragraph, 56, condemned the linking of international financial aid to the establishment of same-sex marriage, did receive a supermajority.

Synod Fathers all agree: more education is needed

There is however only one paragraph – the second one – that reached unanimity among the synod fathers.

“Despite the many signals of crisis of the institution of the family in the diverse contexts of the ‘global village’, the wish for a family is still alive, especially among young people, and this motivates the Church, expert in humanity and faithful to her mission, to tirelessly and with profound conviction announce the ‘Gospel of the family’,” paragraph two states, in part.

The final report provides largely the same view of the current situation of the family as did the midterm report, but it also notes positive testimonies of the family, and the role of grandparents.

The final report also addresses the importance of the affective life: “the individualistic danger and the risk of living selfishly are relevant. The Church’s challenge is to help couples in the maturation of their emotional dimension and in the affective development through the promotion of dialogue, of virtue, and of trust in the merciful love of God.”

In general, the paragraphs based on Sacred Scriptures and providing quotes of Magisterial documents gained a wide consensus among the fathers.

The final report also emphasized the need for a positive reception of Humanae vitae, Paul VI’s encyclical on regulation of birth, which highlighted many positive aspects of family life and reaffirmed the doctrine of the Church.

Education has always been a primary challenge, as has been stressed since the publication of the synod’s working document, and this is why the two final paragraphs of the final statement focus on the issue.

The “educative challenge” is one of “the fundamental challenges of families,” and the Church “supports families, starting from the Christian initiation, through welcoming communities.”

“The Church is requested to support parents in their educative commitment, accompanying babies, children, and adolescents in their growth through personalized paths able to introduce them to the full sense of life and arise choices and responsibility, lived in the light of Gospel.”

Toward the 2015 synod

The final report values more the experience of Christian families than did the midterm report, and put in action many suggested changes.

Yet, it cannot be considered a definitive document: the final report will function as a “working document” for the 2015 Synod of Bishops, which is considered the second part of unique synodal path on the family.

Only after that will the Pope issue a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, which will shed light on how the Church is called to face the challenges of the family today.

Meeting of Pope Francis, Vietnamese minister a key step in restoring ties

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2014 / 02:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met with Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung Saturday morning, which is a move seen as a important step in strengthening ties between the Vatican and Vietnam.

A statement released by the Vatican regarding the Oct. 18 encounter explained that during their “cordial conversations,” the Pope and the prime minister both expressed satisfaction in the meeting’s discussion.

Described as “an important step in the process of strengthening bilateral relations between the Holy See and Vietnam,” the meeting marks the second visit of Nguyen to the Vatican, the first being to meet with Benedict XVI in 2007.

In their discussion, Pope Francis and Nguyen spoke of the Church’s committed contributions to the development of Vietnam, thanks in large to the Church’s presence in various fields that are beneficial society as a whole.
According to the Vatican statement, there was a “sincere appreciation” expressed on the part of the Holy See for the support given to the Catholic community by Vietnamese authorities in wake of developments regarding religious policy sanctioned by the drafting of Vietnam’s new constitution in 2013.

The Holy See also voiced gratitude for the assistance given to the non-resident Papal Representative of the Holy See to Vietnam in the execution of his mission, “which is aimed at promoting relations between Church and State with a view also to the common objective of diplomatic relations.”

Diplomatic relations between the two states were dissolved in 1975, when the communist north overran South Vietnam. However, since then the visits of more than 20 Vatican delegations led to Nguyen’s 2007 visit with Benedict XVI.

After the 2007 meeting, the Holy See and Vietnam began talks to re-establish diplomatic ties; the following year, the Holy See was allowed, for the first time in decades, to appoint seven new bishops in Vietnam.

And in 2009, a joint Vietnam-Holy See working group was established to work toward formal diplomatic ties.

Continuing talks led to the appointment of Archbishop Girelli as non-resident special envoy to Vietnam in 2011.

The following year, Nguyen Phu Trong, secretary of the Vietnamese communist party, visited Benedict XVI, thus showing the sincere with of Vietnamese authorities to normalize diplomatic relations.

In their meeting, Pope Francis and Nguyen also spoke of certain issues which, it is hoped, “will be further examined and resolved through the existing channels of dialogue.”

Discussion also gave way to an exchange of the parties’ views on a few current regional and international issues, with special emphasis given to initiatives aimed at the promotion of peace and stability throughout the Asian continent.

Further improvements on the diplomatic side of relations between Vietnam and the Holy See are expected for the sixth meeting of the Vietnam-Holy See Joint Working Group, which held its fifth meeting in September.

Plugin by Social Author Bio

Hide me
Sign up below to have the hottest Catholic news delivered to your email daily!
Enter your email address:
Show me