Vatican Connections: August 2, 2015

Last summer Pope Francis was sending millions of young people into a frenzy at World Youth Day Rio. This summer he will be attending the Asian Youth Day in Daejon, Korea, It will be the first time a pope has attended this Asian youth event.

In truth, Asian Youth Day will be one part of a packed itinerary. Only two of the pope’s 11 scheduled public events are related to the youth event. His other activities include a beatification Mass in Seoul, and visits to two shrines dedicated to Korean Martyrs.

Upon arrival in Seoul, Pope Francis will have the usual protocol visits, meeting with Korean President Park Geunhye and civil authorities, as well as the Korean bishops

His first full day in Korea will have him celebrating Mass at the World Cup stadium in Daejeon and meet with Asian youth at Solmoe Sanctuary, the shrine dedicated to St. Andrew Kim. The shrine marks the site where St. Andrew Kim was born lived until he was seven years old. His remains are buried in the nearby Cathedral.

On August 16 the pope will celebrate a Mass at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Gate where he will beatify Paul Yun Ji Chung.

Chung was a young man from a noble Korean family who discovered Catholicism around 1783 and catechized his family. In 1790 the bishop of Beijing banned Asian Catholics from using Confucian ancestral rites. Chung and his cousin burned the family’s ancestral tablets so they could not be used again. When Chung’s mother died, he gave her a Catholic funeral.

News of the Catholic funeral reached the Royal Court. Chung and his cousin were arrested and interrogated but refused to renounce their faith. They were sentenced to death and beheaded. It was nine days before the family received the bodies for burial, but the blood stains were still fresh and there was no decomposition. The faithful soaked handkerchiefs in the still-fresh blood. Reportedly, people who came into contact with these handkerchiefs were miraculously healed.

Chung and 123 companions will be beatified by the pope.

To close Asian Youth Day, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at Haemi Castle which was the backdrop of the 1864 Donghak Rebellion.

On the final day of the visit Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass for Peace and Reconciliation at Seoul’s Meyongdong Cathedral.


Emergency supplies to Iraq: Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives: CNEWA launches a campaign to rush aid to Iraqi Christians who fled Mosul to save their lives. Pope Francis’ travel agenda expands, and Fransiscan Sisters show others how to live carbon-netural with their unique straw-bale house.

Coast to Coast: July 19 to 25

Most diocesan news papers and news sites have scaled back production for the summer. This week’s Coast to Coast is a look at upcoming events across the country.

July 31 is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Canadian Jesuits and Jesuit affiliated parishes, schools, and organizations will be celebrating in different ways across the country. Here are some of the “Iggy Day” events:

St. Mark’s Parish in Vancouver (on the UBC Campus) will celebrate a special Mass followed by a gathering “in Plato’s Cave”. Click on the link above for more details.

In Midland, Ontario Martyr’s Shrine is hosting a full day of events to mark the feast day of St. Ignatius. Events include a 4km walking pilgrimage.

and if you don’t have a Jesuit parish or community close at hand but want to mark the day, the Canadian branch of  Christian Life Community has a great way for you to spend the day.

If you have stories we should know about, send us a tweet: @saltandlighttv


Vatican Connections: July 25, 2014

Several weeks ago Pope Francis, while giving a homily in Cassano allo Ionio, declared that members of the Mafia are not in communion with God, “they are excommunicated”.

Outside of Italy the homily got attention because it was so unexpected and didn’t really make sense. For Italians in the south, the declaration was long overdue. Priests have been killed in the southern Italy for standing up to parishioners who are involved in organized crime, for not giving in to their “requests”, for preaching forcefully against everything the mafia represents, and for working to keep youth from being sucked into the mob by community pressure and promise of wealth.

This week’s “Vatican Letter” from Catholic News Service’s Cindy Wooden looks at the complicated relationship between the Church and the Mafia in southern Italy. :

Catholic mask: Italian bishops try to reveal truth behind mafia’s faith

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The godfather who stands up for a child’s baptism one day and spends the rest of the week running a brutal crime ring unfortunately is not the stuff of movies.

In southern Italy, the Mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta and other organized criminal gangs still cloak themselves in symbols of Catholicism, and the region’s bishops have had enough.

It’s not that the bishops have just begun to act — they have been coordinating their anti-mafia work since the 1970s — but they have seen just how deeply tied the mafia is to local Catholic cultural expressions and how essential those fake religious ties are to the continued thriving of mafia relationships.

The bishops of Calabria met in late July to discuss ways to cut those ties and make it clear to people in their region that hanging onto a holy card or applauding when a statue of Mary is carried past does not make a criminal Catholic.

One possibility they are considering is petitioning the Vatican for an exemption from canon law that would allow them to ban godfathers, godmothers and confirmation sponsors completely.

It was not a coincidence that the blockbuster film series based on the book by Mario Puzo and directed by Francis Ford Coppola was called “The Godfather.”

Archbishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini of Reggio Calabria asked the Vatican months ago if he could suspend for 10 years the naming of godfathers in his archdiocese.

“There are two problems,” he told Vatican Radio July 1. “There is the use of religious symbols and even a sacrament to present a ‘clean’ face to society, but there is also the concrete fact that being a godfather at a baptism or sponsor at confirmation forms a bond between families.”

While that can be a good thing, the archbishop said that “the ‘Ndrangheta is built on the foundation of collaboration and strict bonds between families,” and serving as a godfather “extends the family’s bonds, allowing them to better dominate more territory.”

In an interview a week later with SIR, the Italian bishops’ news agency, he said some parents “put off baptism for years — even until adolescence or beyond — because they are waiting for the godfather to get out of prison.”

Father Enzo Gabrieli, spokesman for the president of the Calabrian bishops’ conference, said the bishops of the 12 dioceses in the region all agree on the need for “re-evangelization” about the role of godparents and sponsors, but the situation varies so much from one diocese to another that concrete measures also should vary.

The choice, he said, is to “either suspend the naming of godfathers for a time or concentrate completely on education.”

In his Archdiocese of Cosenza-Bisignano, Father Gabrieli told Catholic News Service, the biggest problem with godparents and sponsors is that friends and relatives tend to be chosen as a sign of affection with little or no awareness that their role is to assist the growth in faith of the baptized or confirmed.

For Father Gabrieli, like for the region’s bishops, the solution lies not simply in condemning gangsters, but in helping Christians live their faith seriously and coherently.

Pope Francis made headlines June 21 when he visited Calabria and said, “Those who follow the path of evil, like the mafiosi do, are not in communion with God; they are excommunicated!”

Using the term “excommunicated” got people’s attention, but it was not Pope Francis’ first condemnation of the mafia and organized crime.

In March, almost exactly a year after the solemn inauguration of his ministry, Pope Francis met in a Rome church with mafia victims. In addition to listening to them and praying for them, he used the occasion to address mafiosi: “Men and women of the mafia, please change your lives, convert, stop doing evil. We pray for you. Convert, I ask on my knees! It is for your own good.”

“Convert,” he said. “There is still time not to end up in hell, which is what awaits you if you continue on this path.”

The need for local bishops to take concrete steps to educate their people and purify church practices became evident soon after Pope Francis visited Calabria: In what media described as a threat to boycott Mass, mafia members jailed in Locri asked their chaplain why they should bother going to Mass if they are excommunicated; and scandal erupted in early July when participants in a Marian procession bowed — with a statue of Mary — in front of the house of a presumed mafia boss.

The bishop of Oppido Mamertina-Palmi, where the bowing incident took place, banned all religious processions for the time being. The bishop of Mileto-Nicotera-Tropea banned a procession scheduled for July 16 in Vibo Valentia after local law enforcement officials notified the parish that men suspected of having mafia ties were among those scheduled to carry the statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Archbishop Salvatore Nunnari of Cosenza-Bisignano, president of the Calabrian bishops’ conference, suggested a two-year stop to all processions to give church leaders time to ensure future processions would be strictly Catholic.

The bishops’ conference of Calabria, led by Archbishop Nunnari, will publish joint pastoral guidelines in October, Father Gabrieli said, but each bishop also is expected to issue his own rules for ending the mafia’s access to public expressions of faith. Unless, of course, they are ready to repent.

Photo courtesy of CNS

Meriam is Free: Perspectives Daily

Italy’s prime minister declared “today is a day for celebration” after an Italian diplomat escorted Meriam Ibrahim and her family safely from Sudan to Italy. Hours after landing, Meridam met with Pope Francis. Find out more about that special encounter. Also, we look back on the factors that led to WWI.

Coast to Coast: July 12 to 18


In Vancouver, the Catholic school board has created a policy for dealing with transgender children after one family pulled their child out of a lower mainland Catholic school and filed a human rights complaint.

The dioceses of Edmonton and Mackenzie – Fort Smith have signed a covenant of cooperation, inspired by John Paul II.

In Winnipeg, the Jesuit Centre for Catholic Studies got a big boost thanks to a major donation to St. Paul’s College. The gift will help further develop the Jesuit centre.

Can you imagine paying $25.14 for a 295ml container of orange juice? (think of the size of a can of juice concentrate). That’s reality for families in Canada’s north. The Vincentians are now working to bring food security to northern residents.

Vatican Connections: July 19, 2014

The  Church could play a significant role in tackling youth unemployment in Europe, according to a noted banker and economist.

Mohammad Yunnus, known for establishing the micro-credit Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, made the suggestion at a conference hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The conference, called The Global Common Good: Towards a More Inclusive Economy” brought together economists and bankers from around the world.

Yunnus said the current economic system “is comparable to a machine that feeds itself continually sucking the lifeblood from the wide base of humanity to transport it up high towards a restricted elite.” He said moral responsibility has no space in a company’s annual financial report, and Economics schools don’t tackle such issues with their students.

While charity is a worthy concept, it is an unsustainable model according to Yunnus. Instead a new model is needed that is a mix between the for-profit business model and the charity model. In this alternate business model money “does its job, and comes back [into the business] and can be re-used infinately through independent businesses that are self sustaining.”

The current economic system is also “an insult to the human being” and the current level of youth unemployment, which seems to have been accepted “as if it was predestined by God…do we not insult God by accepting this destiny?” He said special funds for social enterprises have been created in Bangladesh specifically for unemployed young people, who are now reaping the rewards of this type of support.  He said the same approach could be used in Europe.  “The Church could easily create funds for social enterprises with the aim of solving the problem of youth unemployment in Europe.”

The creation of funds for social business enterprises would mean more options for helping people in need, and less likelihood those people would remain dependent on assistance.

Yunnus was one of 65 participating in the conference, including Bank of England Chancellor Mark Carney, US Economist Jeffrey Sachs, World Bank director Bertrand Badre, and Oxfam International Director Winnie Byanyima.



Coast to Coast: July 5 to 11, 2014

Here’s what’s been happening across our country this week:

The Catholic Civil Rights League of Canada has chosen a new executive director. The previous director, Joanne McGarry passed away earlier this year after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

In Vancouver St. Mark’s and Corpus Christi Colleges have a new president.  The previous present was made Bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith.

And that bishop….Bishop Mark Hagermoen is blogging as he goes about his pastoral duties. Last week he went to visit some of his parishioners in the far north, and posted this blog about the experiences.

Vatican Connections: July 11

Pope being presented with Pope App

Traditionally in Rome once the last wisps of fresh air are sucked out of the atmosphere by the July heat and humidity, the city vacates and the Vatican essentially shuts down. Not this summer.

Bishops who cover abuse

The second week of July delivered a plate full of news-worthy Vatican events. On July 6 the pope met with six people who had been abused by clergy as children. Not only did he ask for forgiveness, but during his homily he said bishops who fail to report abuse the appropriate authorities will face consequences. Now the question being asked is: when will we see that statement backed up with concrete guidelines or changes to cannon law?

In December, when Cardinal Sean O’Malley announced the creation of the commission to journalists at the Vatican, he said one of the areas the commission would focus on would be compliance and non-compliance of Bishops. As of early July, the commission was still finalizing its own statutes and identifying experts who should be added to the commission. As yet the commission does not have any members from Latin America or Asia. Drafting regulations regarding Bishops’ roles in reporting abuse would, at this point, would be pointless if those rules do not reflect reality across the globe. Don’t expect the commission to turn its attention to the matter of bishops before its membership is finalized.

Money Management

Next up was the presentation of the Vatican financial summary for the year. The real financial news came mid-week with the announcement of a new president for the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR)  and some restructuring of various Vatican financial offices.

Ernst Von Freyburg, who was appointed in 2013 just days before Pope Benedict XVI ended his papacy, is stepping down as head of the bank. He is being replaced by Jean Baptiste de Franssu. Von Freyburg was not prepared to be the full time director of the Vatican Bank. His successor will be based in Rome and dedicate himself to the bank full time.  IOR has also closed thousands of accounts belonging to people who do not have direct ties to the Vatican anymore. With this housecleaning, IOR will refocus it’s work and become more of a “neighbourhood savings and loan” (without the loan aspect).

As was announced several weeks ago, the Secretariat for the Economy will have a Project Management office. That office will be run by Danny Casey, former business manager for the Archdiocese of Sydney and World Youth Day Sydney. The secretariat will also assume the “Ordinary Section” of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (known by its Italian acronym APSA). That means the secretariat will deal with matters related to employees and employment at the Holy See, keep track of income and expense and prepare a budget every year, and over see the financial functions of Vatican offices and departments.

APSA will refocus its work to managing the buildings and assets of the Holy See and acting as the treasury of the Holy See. In the short term APSA will also focus on building relationships with other central banks.

The Secretariat for the Economy has also set up a “technical committee” to study the Vatican’s Pension Fund. In a press conference Cardinal George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy, said Vatican employees pensions are secure for the next 20 years at least, but new statutes are needed to ensure long term viability of the fund.


A committee was also appointed to “propose reforms” to the Vatican media and communications structures. The global consulting firm Mackinsey & Co was contracted in December 2013 to review the current state of the Vatican’s various communication and media offices. The new 11 member committee will look at the final report from that assessment and propose ways to implement change.

Heading the committee is Lord Christopher Patten, former chair of the BBC Trust and the person who was brought in to coordinate Pope Benedict XVI visit to the UK in 2010. Lord Patten is also the Chancellor of Oxford University and served as the last Governor of Hong Kong. The rest of the committee is made up of Catholic media experts from around the world, including the American Greg Erlandson, publisher of Our Sunday Visitor.

One of the biggest challenges facing the Vatican in term so it’s media and communication operations is not the infrastructure but the organization. No other state has the state Television and Radio stations separated into two completely different entities. The accreditation process for journalists can be head-ache inducing. Videographers and Photographers deal with one office, while the producers they work with must deal with en entirely different office in a different department.

These new structures and process should pave the way towards smoother, user-friendly operations at the Vatican. However, those inside who are accustomed to the age old Roman ways of hiring, organizing and working, will no doubt find themselves outside their comfort zones.

For the full list of




Coast to Coast: June 28 to July 4, 2014

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

The Archdiocese of Toronto will be home to the country’s first Catholic funeral home (officially, that is. There are several small funeral homes across the country run by Catholic families)

In Saskatoon, the diocese is sending its married couples on a date. It’s part of an annual initiative aptly  called “Date Date”

A group of students from Edmonton have invited Pope Francis to visit their city. Chances that he will accept are slim, but he did send a reply.

and in Vancouver, the summer institute will hold a day of classes in August. One of the presenters is Dr. Donna Orsuto, co-founder of the Lay Centre in Rome. Details here.