Vatican Connections: October 31, 2014

Things are returning to a normal pace at the Vatican after the end of the extraordinary synod. Pope Francis kept a full schedule this week, which included his daily masses, a meeting with members of popular movements from around the world (non-religious movements that advocate for worker’s rights, indigenous land rights, fair wages, and access to housing) and he unveiled a bronze bust of a his predecessor. At that unveiling he also said the so-called “big bang theory” is not incompatible with faith. This sparked a media frenzy, quickly quelled when Catholic scholars pointed out that it was indeed a Catholic priest who first developed the big bang theory.

Another memorable quote was delivered during the pope’s talk to the members of popular movements. He said “we see with sadness that [these three things] are increasingly unattainable for most people: land, roof, and work. It’s strange but when I talk about these things, some people feel the pope is communist.” Pope Francis went on to say that these three things are actually at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine. This leads to an interesting point: how many people actually know what is in the Church’s social doctrine? For those who are curious, the compendium of social doctrine of the Church can be found here.

Other notable events this week: a new batch of consultors have been named to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.


Coast to Coast: October 18 to 24

In Ottawa, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast reacted to this week’s shooting at parliament hill.

In Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario one couple celebrates 10 years of giving up everything to help bring water to campesinos in rural Guatemala.

Archbishop Paul Andre Durocher shares his thoughts on the Extraordinary Synod on the Family that just ended in Rome.

In Vancouver, a chapter of the Catholic Voices group has been established and the head of the Canadian branch shares tips on how to defend the faith without getting mad.


Vatican Connections: October 24, 2014

With the Synod of Bishops wrapped up this week was rather quiet at the Vatican. One surprise did arrive: the Vatican announced that Pope Francis will be visiting Turkey at the end of November.

He will fly to Ankara on November 28, where he will meet with government officials. From there he continues on to Istanbul where he will stop at the Haiga Sofia and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (known as the “Blue Mosque”). While in Istanbul Pope Francis will take part in an ecumenical prayer service and celebrate a Divine Liturgy. In between he will meet privately with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

In a talk to the Orientale Lumen Foundation the pope said his visit to Turkey and his meeting there with Patriarch Bartholmew is a sign of hte profound ties that unite Rome and Constantinople, and the mutual desire to overcome the obstacles that separate the two churches.

Also this week the Vatican released the schedule of liturgical celebrations that the Pope Francis will take part in during the month of November:

November 1 – Solemnity of All Saints

Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at Rome’s Verano cemetery

November 2 – All Souls

Pope Francis will hold a prayer service in the Vatican Grottoes to remember all the faithful departed

November 3

Pope Francis will preside at a Mass to remember all the cardinals and bishops who died in the past year

November 23 – Solemnity of Christ the King

Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at 10:30 am in St. Peter’s square to canonize six new saints:

Giovanni Antonio Farina

Kuriakose Elias Chavara of the Holy Family

Ludovico da Casoria

Nicola da Longobardi

Eufrasia Eluvathingal of the Sacred Heart

Amato Ronconi


Coast to Coast: October 12 – 17

Here’s what’s been going on in the church in Canada this week:

National events have been obscured by the Synod of Bishops in Rome. Archbishop Paul Andre Durocher of Gatineau is there representing the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. He has been posting to his blog “Sing and Walk” on a daily basis. Check it out for an insider’s explanation of the Synod.

In Edmonton, parishes are finding new and creative ways to reach out to kids.

In Ottawa, where the supreme court is debating over Canada’s  “assisted suicide” or euthanasia laws, one expert says the opposition to euthanasia needs to be framed in non-religious terms if it is to win in court.


Vatican Connections: Friday, October 10 – 2014

The first week of the Synod on the family has wrapped up in Rome. Participants have moved from general working sessions into small group sessions where they will go over the issues discussed “in aula” and work towards creating a unified document that can be presented to Pope Francis.

While there has been unity among the Synod participants on some issues, there remain divisions on the issues of sacraments for divorced and (civilly) remarried Catholics, homosexuals – specifically welcoming them in parishes, and the annulment process.

There seems to have been agreement among synod fathers that church doctrine on marriage and divorce cannot change, but a new pastoral approach is needed because people are suffering. As well, it was recognized that no two cases are the same and treating each case in the exact same way is not pastorally effective. Of course there are prelates who remain steadfastly opposed to any discussion about what could be done differently when it comes to this issue.

Other issues that came up with week: the knowledge and use of natural family planning. One French couple gave a witness talk speaking about the benefits of NFP, although it has had mixed results for them.

The synod also focused on the situation in the middle east. On Friday members of the synod issued a message of solidarity for all families suffering the effects of war and violence, especially those in Iraq and Syria.

Next week the synod participants will spend the bulk of the week working in small groups. They will have the opportunity to delve deeper into the various issues presented, and undoubtedly have face to face discussions with those members who hold different views on the issues.

Coast to Coast: October 6 to 10

Here’s a few things happening in the church across Canada:

In Montreal, one family is fighting to stay in the country after their refugee claims were denied. The family’s parish has launched a campaign to raise public awareness about their case. The parish pastor calls the government’s reaction so far a “wall of indifference.”

In Edmonton, parishioners mourn the loss of one young priest whose unique look and creative approach to ministry was model for reaching out to young people.

and in Mission, B.C. the Benedictines unveil the latest addition to their monastery church: a bejeweled crucifix that took seven years to complete…no small feat given that the artist is 90 years old.

and on a lighthearted note, Bishop Gary Gordon of Victoria, B.C. posted  a blog about the recent plenary assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. It seems Bishop Gordon has embraced the art of the “selfie” and is sharing his knowledge with his brother bishops.

Vatican Connections: Friday October 3, 2014

We are days away from the opening of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishop on the Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the context of Evangelization, and the already things are heating up…most of that heat, however, is being generated by the media publishing interviews with prelates with opposing opinions on the same issues.

There are some real novelties, as far as synods go: all participants who are expected to speak during the synod were asked to submit the text of their talk in advance. Most of those texts are already in the Vatican’s hands.

In the past each participant was given 5 minutes to talk. This time they have 3 to 4 minutes, no more, and their intervention must focus on the discussion topic of the day. That itself is a new twist. Usually participants speak on whatever aspect of the synod topic they would like, with the end result being a hodge podge of topics being presented in each session.

One new practice that is not going over well with journalists is the way those talks will be made available to the outside world: they won’t. There will be a press briefing every day of the Synod, as there has been in the past. This time, however, journalists will not receive the full text of all the day’s interventions at that briefing. Instead the Vatican’s spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi and his assistants (which include the CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, Fr. Thomas Rosica) will give journalists an overview of what was discussed and the key points that were made during the day. Journalists will not know who made which comments.

While some are saying this is a step backwards for Vatican transparency, synod officials hope the privacy created by this new method will allow bishops to have an open, honest conversation about the topics on the docket, similar to what happens during the General Congregation meetings before a conclave.

This could lead to one unwanted side-effect: some Vaticanists will inevitably get play by play accounts of what happened inside the synod hall from their Episcopal friends and other long-established sources. We will probably see this information published in exclusive reports that cannot be confirmed or denied without violating the rules the Vatican has established for this synod. The same problem is faced before every conclave. The content of the pre-conclave meetings is not released by the Vatican, but some cardinals end up sharing details with journalist friends, resulting in all kinds of interesting headlines. The most outlandish reports generally get a dryly worded denial by Fr. Lombardi.

Each day of the synod will have a specific topic assigned to it. The schedule of topics has already been released:

Monday October 6

God’s design for marriage and the family

The awareness and acceptance of Church documents on marriage and the family

Tuesday October 7


The Gospel of the family and natural law

The family and the vocation of each person in Christ


Family Ministry: the various proposals in action

Wednesday October 8


Pastoral challenges to the family

The crisis of faith and the family / critical situations inside the family

External pressures on the family / some specific situations


Difficult pastoral situations

Family situations/ regarding same sex unions

Thursday October 9


Pastoral challenges regarding openness to life


The Church and the family in the face of the crisis of education

General education challenges / Christian education in difficult family situations

From Friday October 10 onward, Synod participants will meet in small groups and begin working on the final document to be presented to Pope Francis.


Salt + Light will provide comprehensive coverage of the Synod. Tune in at 7pm ET / 4pm PT for Inside the Synod, which will feature daily synod updates and interviews. Vatican Connections will air every Friday evening at the usual time to continue our Synod coverage.




Coast to Coast: September 5 to 12

Here’s what’s been going on across the country this week:

Barely a week after being installed as Bishop of Victoria, B.C. Bishop Gary Gordon has launched a new blog on the diocesan website. He’s already making pastoral visits to the further reaches of his new diocese. Visit his blog to keep track of his visits and the gorgeous west coast scenery.

In Alberta, as in many other parts of the world, Catholics are uniting in prayer for Iraq’s religious minorities.

and in Toronto Catholics are remembering the St. John Paul II’s visit to Canada in 1984

The next edition of Coast to Coast will be posted Friday, October 3.


Vatican Connections: Friday September 12, 2014

The third season of Vatican Connections has kicked off on our network, and just in time too! There were some notable Episcopal moves in the last couple of weeks, some late breaking announcements, and some surprises. You can hear all about those in this week’s edition of Vatican Connections.

One event that came by surprise, was the news that the head of Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) will meet with Cardinal Gerhard Muller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on September 21. The Vatican and the  SSPX have been in talks for years, trying to find a way for the society to once again be recognized by Rome as a religious order. Those talks have been handled by the Ecclesia Dei commision at the CDF.

The announcement of the September 21st meeting was not much of a surprise to insiders, but to the average church watcher it appeared as though the talks had broken down in 2013.

Just before Pope Benedict XVI retired in 2013, the vice president of the Ecclesia Dei commission, Cardinal Augustine Di Noia sent a rather bluntly worded letter to the St. Pius X leadership saying, essentially that the dialogue was at a stalemate over the issue of Vatican II. The letter ended up published by the French newspaper Le Figaro.  Cardinal DiNoia said “something new must be injected” into the talks in order to move forward. After the election of Pope Francis, Bishop Bernard Fellay gave a homily in Kansas City in which he publicly outlined his issues with various statements made by Pope Francis.

External appearances can be deceiving, however. Louis Tofari, the spokesperson for the U.S. District of the Society of Pius X told Salt + Light in a phone interview that the dialogue between the Vatican the SSPX never came to an end, although since 2013 there have been only informal meetings. “It is the society’s wish to continue discussions with the Holy See,” Tofari said, adding that the society’s three bishops “re-affirmed their attachment to the Holy See” in a statement read at the 25th anniversary of their Episcopal ordination.

Tofari said because SSPX maintains it’s attachment to the Holy See and the pope, the group believes solidly that “everything must come from the Holy Father…it is his duty to resolve this.” However, he said the society does not have the same relationship with Pope Francis that they had with Pope Benedict XVI. Tofari pointed out the society had worked with Pope Benedict XVI since he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “We’re waiting to see if Pope Francis will interact with us,” he said.

The meeting between Cardinal Muller and Bishop Fellay will be an informal opportunity for the two men to meet. Tofari said the society does not know what will be discussed, or if details of the meeting will be released afterwards.


Some late breaking developments out of the Vatican:

Pope Francis will address the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on November 25. The president of the European Parliament, Martin Shultz, made the announcement Friday morning and the Vatican immediately confirmed it.

The pope will travel to Strasbourg and back on the same day. His trip will not be considered an apostolic visit to France.


As promised on this week’s program here some links that might come in handy:

If you’re ever interested in getting a papal blessing for someone’s birthday, ordination, or wedding, you can order on-line directly from the Papal Almoner’s office. visit  Be advised, you must order the blessing at least one month in advance. 

Finally, Pope Francis took part in a Google Hangout with kids from across five continents. If you’re so inclined, you can watch the full video, about 20 minutes long, on the Scholas Occurrentes youtube channel. Pope Francis speaks in Spanish throughout, the children ask questions in various languages, and there are some English subtitles.

Perspectives: Pope Francis turns his attention to Iraq’s Christians

Today on Perspectives: Pope Francis turns his attention to Iraq’s Christians, the mafia makes death threats against an Italian priest, and the church in Sierra Leone is using the pulpit to educate against Ebola.