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Coast to Coast: May 10 to May 16

coast to coast

Here is some of what has been happening in dioceses across the country this week:

In Vancouver a group of kids are showing adults how to put their faith into action.

In his weekly reflection Fr. Ron Rolheiser explains why he believes we should be praying for other Christian Churches during our Mass.

In London, Ontario a new centre dedicated to Catholic research is officially open.

Behind Vatican Walls: Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez


Caritas Internationalis began its general assembly in Rome this week. The keynote speaker for the weeklong meeting is Father Gustavo Gutierrez, the Peruvian priest commonly considered the “father” of Liberation Theology. At a press conference before the start of the meeting Fr. Gutierrez spoke about why the Church and Caritas devote attention and resources to helping the poor. Of course Fr. Gutierrez was also asked several questions about Liberation Theology and his relationship with the Vatican. Here is a summary of some of his comments.

Speaking in Spanish and Italian Fr. Gutierrez answered several questions about theology, Liberation Theology, his relationship with the Vatican, and the work of helping the poor.

When asked about the role of theology, Fr. Gutierrez answered:

“There can be no charity without justice. Theological reflection must be tied to people’s daily life. Theology is not a religious mysticism but a reflection on the practice of charity, compassion, mercy and justice. Seen this way theology can help give a certain vision to those who are engaged in the practical work of justice and charity. It’s a modest role.”

He followed that by adding, “For the Christian the important thing is to follow Jesus and put into practice what he teaches, what we call spirituality. Theology is a secondary thing, less important than living the faith – but it is necessary because it helps make the practice of faith more effective. It helps, modestly.”

He emphasized his point saying, “Theology is not secondary in a derogatory sense, but I mean to say if I had not spoken of theology in the last 40 years I would still be Christian.”

Inevitably Fr. Gutierrez was asked about the Vatican’s position towards liberation theology. His answer:

“Liberation Theology was never condemned, never. If anyone said that, it was not true. There was dialogue with the congregation [for the doctrine of the faith] about Liberation Theology, a critical dialogue, that is true.”

Asked whether his appearance at the Vatican was a rehabilitation of Liberation Theology Fr. Gutierrez answered just as directly:

“Rehabilitation is not the exact word to use. At this moment the climate around this theology is different, that is true. But to say it is a rehabilitation means that as some point there was a ‘dis’ habilitation and this was never the case. It is just another time. What is important is a rehabilitation of the Gospel.”


On Thursday Caritas members elected Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as the new president of the international confederation.

Watch Vatican Connections:

Photo – CNS/Paul Haring

AliciaEvery week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person.

Coast to Coast: May 2 to May 8


Here’s some of what’s been going on and what is being talked about across the country:

In Alberta, a newly elected (and unprecedented) NDP government has school boards across the province – including Catholic school boards – anxiously awaiting the new government’s budget and asking what will happen to their funding.

In Toronto, the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Youth is redefining the term “Missionary.”

In Winnipeg, the Archdiocese celebrated its 100th anniversary with a Mass at the MTS centre which included the confirmation of more than 800 people.

Behind Vatican Walls: Papal Photographer

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It’s March 11, 1956 like many other young men at the time, a 16-year-old was getting ready to start his first day of work. This young man was born and raised in Rome’s Borgo neighbourhood. He really hadn’t had much chance to ever leave that neighbourhood. What’s more, his new job would only take him around the corner. His new job was at the L’Osservatore Romano Photo Service, just inside the Vatican walls he walked by every day. This young man could never have imagined that his new job would eventually take him around the world, camera in hand, to photograph six popes.

That 16-year-old boy was Arturo Mari. Today he is known as “the pope’s photographer” even though he gave up that job in 2007.

Mari learned the art and skill of photography as a young boy. At the age of six he would follow his father – and amater photographer – into the darkroom and help develop photos. He honed his skill and his eye at the Vatican newspaper’s photo desk. His first assignment: capturing an image of Pope Pius XII being carried on the “sedia gestatoria”, wearing the papal tiara, during a beatification ceremony. He took the photo and – as per protocol – quickly stepped back into the shadows.

He must have done well because he lasted through the rest of Pius XII’s papacy. He was still around when John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council. When Paul VI started making trips abroad, Mari was right there documenting his voyages. By the time Karol Wojtyla was elected pope, Mari was the official papal photographer.

“I lived side by side with that man from the first day [of his pontificate] to the last,” Mari told Salt and Light in a recent interview. Never was there a dull moment.

The long hours with nary a sick day or day off taken, meant Mari was witness to some of the moments that defined the papacy of John Paul II: in 1981 when the pope was shot in St. Peter’s Square, Mari kept snapping away. Some years later, in Italian media interviews, he said “I don’t remember how I took those photos.” In fact, the only time Mari attended a Vatican event without his camera in hand was in 2007 when his son, Juan Carlos, was ordained a priest by Pope Benedict XVI.

It was that same year Mari finally retired passing on the job of Papal Photographer to his nephew, Francesco Sforza who learned the craft acting as his uncle’s shadow.

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections here:

Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connection. Already watched the program? come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issues, headline or person.

Coast to Coast: April 25 to May 1


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

In Ottawa, the mother of one of the 43 student teachers who disappeared in Mexico has asked the Canadian government to take Mexico off its list of safe countries.

In Winnipeg, reflecting on euthanasia and and palliative care brought out this touching story of the kind of healing that can happen at the end of one’s life.

In Vancouver, after 120 years in the heart of the city, the one Catholic acute-care hospital is moving.

In Edmonton, the Catholic Women’s League has a new president who is no stranger to big dreams.

Vatican Connections – May 1, 2015


This week we learned that Pope Francis’ encyclical on human ecology should be released in June. Environmental groups welcomed the news warmly while skeptics told anyone who would listen that the pope is being taken for a ride by new-age tree huggers. Whatever one’s opinion on environmental issues, the encyclical has been written and is on its way. What can we expect?


Pope Francis’ view of creation should come as no surprise, especially if one has listened at all to any of his public talks, homilies, or messages. As described in the book of Genesis, the pope believe God created humans and gave us the job of being custodians of the earth. That means humans have very real duties related to the planet and there are very real links between what happens to the earth and what happens to humans.

Being a custodian of the earth means, according to Pope Francis, making sure growth happens in a responsible way that ensures there is enough for everyone. Concretely: making sure no one is kicked out of their “habitat” because of development, that there are enough crops to feed everyone, enough water for all, etc. Ignoring our duty to safeguard creation results in hunger, a lack of work and the development of a culture where everything and everyone is disposable, according to the Pope.


Why devote pastoral energy towards the environment? According to Pope Francis, if humans can accept responsibility towards creation then humans can also learn to better respect each other.

This link between what happens to the environment and what happens to humans is turning the environment into the hot button moral issue of the day, shared by many different faith groups. The environment could be the issue that provides common ground between the Church and members of other faiths, or people of no faith at all.


Like everything Pope Francis has done during his papacy, there are people who don’t like him speaking out on environmental issues. In the United States several groups have released statements against the pope’s forthcoming encyclical. One group said Pope Francis is being misled by, among others, the United Nations. Other climate change skeptics travelled to Rome and at least one infiltrated the April 28 conference on climate change hosted by the Pontifical Academy for Science.

In response to accusations that the Vatican is unwilling to hear both sides of climate change issue Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences was quoted as saying that climate change skeptics are “the same people who defend the oil industry…its the lobby of profit.”

Human ecology and the issue of how Christians should relate to the natural world is an issue that is not going anywhere soon, no matter who doesn’t like it.

Coast to Coast: April 18 to April 24


Here is what’s been happening across Canada this week:

The federal government presented the budget this week, after some delay. Somehow the budget is balanced. What does it say about the financial year ahead?

The Archdiocese of Vancouver announced on Friday that Archbishop Emeritus Raymond Roussin has passed away. Roussin was diagnosed with clinical depression while he was archbishop of Vancouver and shared his struggles with the faithful of the diocese.

From Edmonton, a reminder that even the smallest gesture of kindness can have a deep, lasting impact.

In Regina, one former Saskatchewan Roughridger (football, incase you’re wondering) shared his faith journey with participants at a local Prayer Breakfast.

Vatican Connections: April 24, 2015


Bigger than any financial scandal or bishops’ resignation was the story of hundreds of illegal migrants who drowned off the coast of Libya when their vessel capsized. Pope Francis used his Angelus address to draw attention to the tragedy and call on the international community to take “decisive and quick action” to prevent further tragedies. Church officials and agencies have echoed that call, but will the international community – specifically the European Union – take action?

The Promised Land

African migrants cross perilous borders and trek across the Sahara desert to reach Libya or Tunisia where they are placed on boats headed towards Italy, Malta, or even Greece. Increasingly Syrian migrants are undertaking similarly arduous voyages to get to Europe. Karolina Babicka, a migration expert for Caritas Europe told Salt + Light their journey often starts with the loss of the family home in Syria. They move to Lebanon, or Egypt and try to re-establish themselves there. When that fails they move on to Libya and, like their African counterparts they seek out people who are willing – for a price- to put them on a boat to Europe.

The Strait of Sicily, which separates Tunisia from the southern Italian region, is about 145 kilometers wide. The distance between the Libyan coast and Sicily’s southern coast is wider, about 205 kilometers. It looks like a short crossing to a land where peace and economic prosperity seems assured. In the first four months of 2015 and estimated 36,000 migrants made the crossing while aproximately 1,800 are believed to have perished.

The vessels used to smuggle people to Europe are often not seaworthy and easily take on water and get into distress. That is when the Italian Navy steps in. If the vessels do survive the crossing, a better life is far from guaranteed. Babicka says migrants who land in Greece are more than likely to end up on the streets because “the Greek asylum system is in crisis” and cannot provide migrants with the basic necessities.

Operation Mare Nostrum

In October 2013 the Italian Navy established what they called “Operation: Mare Nostrum” (appropriately, the Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea) to respond to the increasing numbers of boats and ships arriving or sinking off the southern Italian coast.

Operation Mare Nostrum involved the use of

  • 1 amphibious vessel
  • 1 -2 frigates
  • 2  second line High Seas units with fully operational medical facilities on board
  • 1 team from the San Marco Marine Brigade
  • 1 Coastal Radar network
  • 1 Atlantic patrol aircraft
  • 1 Predator A+ (a drone, it escorts navy ships and films the operation)
  • 1 MM P180 aircraft
  • 2 unmanned camcopters
  • 1 forward logistics site

At any given time there were five Italian ships or aircraft on duty. The Italian Navy says because of Operation Mare Nostrum 150,810 lives were saved and 330 people smugglers were brought to justice. The cost of running the program was an estimated nine million euros per month. Remember, around this time the Italian government was changing practically every month with each new government eventually falling over economic and financial management issues.

European Union steps in

By the fall of 2014, Italy was calling for help from the rest of European Union to step up and help. In November 2014, the EU’s border patrol department, Frontex, launched Operation Triton. It was conceived as a border patrol operation that would rely on funds from the EU and vessels and aircraft contributed by member states.

It has a budget of 2.9 million euros per month to work with. That is six million less than what it cost to run Mare Nostrum. Thanks to Finland, the Netherlands and Portugal, Operation Triton has:

  • 7 boats
  • 2 planes
  • 1 helicopter

Naturally with a smaller budget and fleet, the scope of the operation would be reduced. Operation Triton actively patrols up to 48 kilometers off the coast of Italy.

The head of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri told The Guardian newspaper this week the European Union’s mandate is to patrol borders, not search and rescue. Leggeri said he would not ask for more boats, or send them out closer to the Libyan coast because doing so would simply draw more migrants and encourage people smugglers. In his view, the presence of EU vessels off the coast of Libya would be seen as a guarantee of safe passage.

Babicka says this is an example of the lack of political will that seems prevalent among politicians and bureaucrats who could develop more effective immigration policies and humanitarian based operations, but do not.

International outcry

Perhaps the international outcry or even the Pope’s appeal that moved the European Council to hold a special April 23 meeting focused on illegal migration.

In a statement after the meeting the European Council said it would triple the budget for Frontex’s Operation Triton and reinforce its assets. Members of the EC also agreed to try to stem the flow of migrants by addressing the root causes: the EC will support UN led efforts to establish a functional government in Libya and step up efforts to address the situation in Syria.

Organizations like Caritas and the United Nations are welcome the promise of more funding and resources, but say it is not enough. People use illegal immigration channels because, “there are no legal channels available,” said Babicka.

Photo: CNS/Loukas Mastis, EPA

Coast to Coast April 11 to April 17

coast to coast

Across the country this week, these are the stories we’ve been reading:

Montrealers said goodbye to Cardinal Jean Claude Turcotte who passed away last week. He is credited with building bridges between the Church and Quebec’s highly secular society.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons in Saskatoon has been working on a draft policy on conscientious refusal.

A high school in Edmonton is getting in on the preparations for Archbishop Oscar Romero’s beatification – for good reason.

And, if you thought all millennials were caught up in the latest tech fads, these two sisters turn that stereotype on its head.

Vatican Connections: April 17


This week the Vatican, specifically Pope Francis, was the target of the angst of the Turkish government. While that drama played itself out on newspaper pages around the world, a couple of other things happened:

  • The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Congregation for Institutes of Religious Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a joint final report that ended about seven years of investigation and dialogue.
  • New cardinals got their appointments to various vatican dicasteries and commissions…including councils that will probably disappear when the new curial constitution is written.


The leaders of the LCWR and Archbishop Peter Sartain met at the Vatican on Thursday to officially present the final report about how the 2012 Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR has been implemented. This is what we learned:

  • New statues for the LCWR approved by the membership of the LCWR in 2014, reviewed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and approved by the Congregation for Institutes for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in February 2015.
  • Scholarly rigor will be promoted in LCWR publications to ensure theological accuracy and avoid ambiguous statements. The scope of LCWR publications is to address spiritual matters, not to further theological enquiry.
  • Speakers and presenters at LCWR events will be chosen “in a prayerful, thoughtful and discerning manner” so that the speakers chosen have healthy regard for Church teaching even if they are dealing with contemporary issues.

For more analysis on this joint statement and the end of the Vatican’s oversight of the LCWR, you might want to check out these articles:

  • CNS offers this look at the statement and the lengthy process of writing it.
  • Crux posted this article by John Allen.

Cardinal appointments

All cardinals get appointed as members of different vatican dicasteries and offices shortly after they are elevated to the College of Cardinals. This week the 15 cardinals under 80 who were created in the last consistory got their appointments.

Cardinal Dominique Mamberti 

  • Member of the Council of Cardinals of the Secretariate of State’s section for Relations with States
  • Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments
  • Congregation for the Causes of Saints

Cardinal Ricardo Bazquez Perez

  • Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Council for Culture

Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel

  • Congregation for Oriental Churches
  • Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Cardinal John Dew

  • Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
  • Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity

Cardinal Pierre Nguyên V?n Nhon

  • Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
  • Council for Justice and Peace

Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij

  • Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
  • Council for Social Communication

Cardinal Arlindo Gomes Furtado

  • Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
  • Council “Cor Unum”

Cardinal Soane Mafi

  • Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
  • Council “Cor Unum”

Cardinal Manuel José Macário do Nascimento Clemente

  • Congregation for Clergy
  • Council for Social Communication

Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda

  • Congregation for Clergy
  • Council for Justice and Peace

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B

  • Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Council for Culture

Cardinal  Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet

  • Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated life and Societies of Apostolic Life
  • Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization

Cardinal José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán O.A.R.

  • Congregation for Catholic Education
  • Council for Culture

Cardinal Francesco Montenegro

  • Council “Cor Unum”
  • Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Cardinal Edoardo Menichelli

  • Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers
  • Congregation for Oriental Churches

Photo: CNS/Mass imiliano Migliorato, Catholic Press Photo