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Receiving Laudato Si': remember no encyclical is released in a vacuum

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(Pope Francis greets Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in the Vatican gardens in 2014. With the publication of Laudato Si’, Francis has joined Benedict in issuing an encyclical that addresses the ecological crisis and integral human development. Caritas in Veritate was issued by Benedict in 2009. Photo courtesy of CNS.)

With the release of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ new encyclical on ecology and the care of our common home, a new chapter in the ever-growing Magisterium of the Catholic Church has been written. This encyclical, the second of Francis’ pontificate (Lumen Fidei was published in June of 2013), is the first ever to deal solely with the environmental question, its ramifications for people of faith, and indeed the entire human family.

Within minutes of its publication, quotes from it were being shared on social media along with various summaries and the always popular lists, “(insert random number here) things you need to know about Laudato Si’”. Even critiques of certain themes in the document were being issued.

Of course this kind of popular and immediate response is typical of our culture. I wonder if the level of enthusiasm for discussing, sharing and even debating or critiquing Laudato Si’ will continue in the coming weeks and months once the initial novelty of the text wears off. I hope it will.

In any case, in this initial release phase it’s worth reflecting on the question of how we receive this document; by that I mean, with what attitude are we approaching Laudato Si’ and, perhaps, with what narrow perspective and ideological baggage?

Immediate reactions or responses to things are typically not well thought out. The most intense and emotional responses to Laudato Si’ on the Internet have come from people who find in the text either a strong affirmation or a harsh critique of their own, firmly held opinions. But a papal encyclical is not meant to offer a definitive ruling on this or that issue. And while the countless tweets of those folks do serve to raise awareness of the document, they end up saying more about the tweeter than the tweeted.

We might say that an encyclical is the opposite of a tweet. Encyclicals are dreadfully long (Laudato Si’ is 230,398 characters… with spaces), dense and require intense and prolonged reflection. They are written by one pope (with the exception of Lumen Fidei that was written by Pope Francis and Pope Benedict), but only as part of an established body of magisterial teachings. Even when one deals with a particular theme, like Laudato Si’, an encyclical is not released in a vacuum.

A good example of this is the encyclical Caritas in Veritate, on integral human development issued by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. Many people are already putting this encyclical in conversation with Laudato Si’, and Pope Francis himself references Caritas in Veritate to make his arguments. But beyond this, Caritas in Veritate is a tribute to an older encyclical Populorum Progressio, on the development of peoples written by Pope Paul VI in 1967. From the outset Pope Benedict states:

“I intend to pay tribute and to honour the memory of the great Pope Paul VI, revisiting his teachings on integral human development and taking my place within the path that they marked out, so as to apply them to the present moment.” (Caritas in Veritate 8)

There have been other cases of popes writing encyclicals to mark an anniversary of an older encyclical or to re-present its fundamental principles in light of a new social or cultural situation. This is the practice of what Pope John XXIII called “reading the signs of the times,” that is, applying the fundamental truths and principles of the Catholic faith to the current reality. This is what Pope Benedict did with Caritas in Veritate and this is what Pope Francis has done with Laudato Si’.

Today, the temptation to see only what is immediately in front of us hinders a proper reception of an important teaching like Laudato Si’. Twitter is not helpful in this regard. We cannot understand, process or reflect on everything immediately. On top of that, ignorance of the historic and thematic thread running through the modern encyclicals, especially the social encyclicals, is an injustice to the organic process of development within the body of magisterial teachings. It seems to me that this organic process is a constitutive quality of Catholicism and cannot be dismissed or ignored for ideological purposes. As Pope Benedict stated clearly in Caritas in Veritate:

The Church’s social doctrine is “a single teaching, consistent and at the same time ever new. It is one thing to draw attention to the particular characteristics of one Encyclical or another, of the teaching of one Pope or another, but quite another to lose sight of the coherence of the overall doctrinal corpus.” (12)

When receiving and reading Laudato Si’ it would be good to ask, “what do I see here?” If the answer is merely “an acknowledgement that climate change is real,” or “a particular economic perspective,” or another singular issue that tends to draw attention and create controversy—something that can be tweeted—then perhaps greater appreciation is needed for what an encyclical is. Though it requires time and reflection, in reading Laudato Si’ we should see, not only Pope Francis’ enormous contribution to the ecological discussion, but also Caritas in Veritate, Populorum Progressio, Pope John Paul II’s consistent call for greater ecological action, Gaudium et Spes, the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi, the Gospel.

The beauty of Catholic teaching, which is really Catholic Tradition, is that it is organic and dynamic. It is alive. As Pope Benedict said, it is consistent and ever new. Because of this, Pope Francis can read the signs of the times in light of the Gospel. He can adopt the most up-to-date and authoritative science as part of his analysis of the ecological crisis. He can critique what is in reality an unjust economic system that excludes millions of people. He can show that creation is interconnected, theologically, biologically and socially.

Pope John XXIII famously said, “It is not that the Gospel has changed: it is that we have begun to understand it better.” The contribution of the papal encyclicals to our understanding of the human person, the created world, modern civilization, the reality of God, the challenges we face together, is a living testament to that statement. Here we find Laudato Si’, the latest in a long line of reflections on the signs of the times, and one that will require of everyone a lengthy commitment to read, discuss, understand, and ultimately live.


 

SebastianGOn Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice of dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and correspondent for S+L TV.

Two months after the Nepal earthquake, local Jesuits help to rebuild homes and lives

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(Fr. Bill Robins SJ, a Winnipeg native, sits by a Hindu shrine on the Pulchowki hilltop in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.  Fr. Bill is Socius to the Regional Superior of Nepal, and superior at Kamai Niwas Jesuit Training Center in Kathmandu. For the past few months he has been involved in the Nepal earthquake relief effort.)

On April 25, 2015 a massive earthquake struck Nepal. It registered a catastrophic 8.1 surface wave magnitude and killed more than 8,800 people while injuring more than 23,000. A major aftershock occurred a few weeks later, striking at a depth of 18.5 kilometers and being felt 2,500 kilometers away. The relief effort is ongoing, emergency aid is still needed. Amidst the destruction and chaos, the local Jesuit community is helping the Nepali people rebuild.  Fr. Bill Robins is one of those Jesuits, and recently spoke to S+L about the experience…

S+L: It’s been two months since the devastating earthquake. What is the general mood/spirit among the Nepali people? How are they coping?

Fr. Robins: Most of Nepal’s people lead the difficult lives of subsistence farmers. They constantly put up with rain and heat on the plains, and snow and cold in the high hills. Nepal’s rural road network is expanding, but except for the main highways, roads are rough, steep, and cut along steep slopes. Maintenance is a constant problem. Many people carry their supplies, walking several days from the road head to home. The earthquake, of course, caused many more problems than usual! There was plenty of fear at first, and as people were settling down, the second quake about three weeks after the first, was even more unsettling.

These are practical people. There was no time for crying. Frantic searches saved lives. The dead were quickly and properly cremated or buried. People immediately salvaged what they could from their homes; lumber and roofing sheets to build temporary shelters, and whatever stored food and bedding they could.

Then they were back to work: hoeing corn fields, preparing seed beds for rice, and ploughing the rice fields. Those who did not lose their livestock have animals to nurture. Despite some fear, people now have relatively safe and comfortable places to lay their heads, to cook, and to enjoy one another’s company.

S+L: In the aftermath of the earthquake, much of the international media attention focused on the destruction and loss of life in Kathmandu and other more populated areas. What was the effect of the earthquake on the people living in rural towns and villages?

Fr. Robins: The international media did not get far from good roads and airports! There was plenty of material for sensationalist reporting, so why go farther? Later reporters did get out to severely damaged rural areas. There, the damage to houses was almost total. Building materials are stone, mud and wood, good enough to withstand storms, but not earthquakes! Yet in Kathmandu, though there was much destruction of old buildings, people are using most houses and offices. Electricity was off for a few hours, as were telephones, but the main roads to Kathmandu from the Indian border, and especially the Kathmandu airport, were only briefly closed. The western half of Nepal, as well as the eastern districts, did not suffer.

Fellow Jesuits coming from India expected total devastation, based on news reports, but we continued to live comfortably in our residence. The hill people picked up the pieces and stoically got back to work.

S+L: The Jesuits in Nepal (and their students/alumni) are directly involved in the relief and reconstruction effort. What are the main focuses of that effort? What has been accomplished so far?

Fr. Robins: Many organizations, working with the U.N. immediately got busy with initial relief work. Caritas Nepal, with a lot of help from Caritas Internationalis, as well as the Catholics of Kathmandu, our school alumnl/ae, students, and parishioners reached out as we could: helping to clear streets in the city, and getting tarpaulins, food and medical aid to accessible areas.

Many aid organizations are working, so with government approval, are bringing help to specified village areas. The Nepal Jesuits have set up the Nepal Jesuit Social Institute to coordinate our work in five areas.

S+L: Looking more generally at the relief effort, what is needed at this stage? What are the biggest challenges?

Fr. Robins: People will not rebuild their houses until October, after the monsoon rains. The challenge is to build shelters and see that there is enough food on hand. Most schools have collapsed so we help build temporary classrooms and especially get the students settled down to studies again. Several District hospitals are beyond use, so they operate out of tents. The challenge the Jesuits can best meet is in education, helping as we can to get schools running well. Hopefully we can free a few Jesuits from other important ministry to stay several months in the villages we help, to especially provide moral support to the people there.

S+L: What have you learned about the Nepali people through this tragedy?

Fr. Robins: Stoic determination: None have experienced such an earthquake, but have all faced challenges most of us could hardly bear: mothers giving birth to eight or ten children and loosing half of them to disease, crops lost due to drought or floods, landslides taking away fields, land, and sometimes houses.

A sense of humour: A smile is generally on a Nepali face. They deal with sorrow or hurt, and move on, looking ahead.

The Jesuits first went to Nepal in 1951 and set up projects gradually over the years, among them the St. Xavier Social Centre in 1970. In 1997, they opened a parish and two schools, including Moran Memorial School for the children from a neighboring tea estate.  To support the Jesuits in Nepal and the earthquake relief effort, visit Canadian Jesuits International or call 1.800.448.2148

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Fr. Bill baptizes a Nepali child at Gyalthung, Sindupalchow District.

New POV episode airs tonight on S+L

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Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect is a S+L series that goes deeper into the important questions surrounding the person and pontificate of Pope Francis. The series consists of a selection of the full interviews from S+L’s original documentary The Francis Effect.

Tonight: Fr. James Martin SJ and Dr. Philip Berger

In this episode of Point of View, we hear from two men who share their unique thoughts on Pope Francis and how he’s reaching out and affecting so many different people.

Everyone remembers the famous “Jesuit interview” with Pope Francis that was published in September of 2013. Fr. James Martin, SJ, Editor-at-Large for America Magazine in New York City is the man who first proposed the idea to his colleagues, and then collaborated with the Jesuit journal in Rome to get it done.

For Fr. Martin, the interview was a glimpse into the real Francis, his personality, faith and perspective on the Church. This kind of openness and accessibility is authentically Francis, according to Fr. Martin, who received a personal thank-you letter from the Pope after sending him his latest books published in Spanish. “He started the letter by saying “Dear brother”, and I thought that was beautiful because we’re brother Jesuits, and I think most bishops or cardinals would write, “Dear father”, but he writes, “Dear brother, thank you for sending me these books.” Fr. Martin tells the whole story and comments further on the “Jesuit-ness” of Francis in this interview.

Part two of this episode is my interview with Dr. Philip Berger, Medical Director with the Inner City Health Program at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and the Co-founder of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care. Dr. Berger’s professional life has been dedicated to the ongoing fight for proper health care for refugees in Canada, an uphill battle, he says, because of recent policy changes under the current federal government.

“I’m sure that Pope Francis’ statements on refugees are helping all the refugee advocates in Canada who are attempting to make Canada a safe place for refugees, as it has been in the past,” he says.

Dr. Berger, who is Jewish, sees in Pope Francis a much needed global moral voice for the poor and marginalized. He is so impressed with the current leader of the Catholic Church for “his refusal to make severe judgments on people, even people whose activities may be anathema to the Catholic Church.” This approach, he says, “humanizes the Pope and brings his teachings down to the street level, which is really where they should penetrate.”

Dr. Berger’s testimony as a medical doctor and concerned citizen sheds light on the immense value of the Catholic Church’s moral voice in this day and age, particularly with Pope Francis, who is undoubtedly a Pope for the entire human family.

Watch Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect
Airs Wednesday, June 17, 2015
9:00 pm ET / 6:00 pm PT
Only on Salt and Light Television (check schedule for repeats)

Few embodied lay leadership in the Canadian church more than Romeo Maione

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(Romeo Maione, the first Executive Director of Development and Peace and a lifelong social activist died on May 12th, 2015.  Photo courtesy of Development and Peace.)

It’s often said of the major developments in the history of the Catholic Church that it takes decades, even centuries, to fully comprehend their significance and put them into practice.  We often hear this regarding the teachings of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960’s.

Yet, it is too simplistic to say that Catholics are only now beginning to realize what the Council was about and what it means for our faith community in the modern world.  Such a claim, though generally accurate in my opinion, fails to recognize the prophetic witness of many individual bishops, priests, religious and lay men and women who, stirred by the Spirit, courageously implemented the teachings of the Council in its immediate wake.

In Canada, no one understood or embodied the teachings of the Council better than Romeo Maione, the first executive director of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP), commonly known as Development and Peace, serving in that capacity from 1967-1973.  Maione, a lifelong advocate for justice, solidarity and the Church’s preferential option for the poor, passed away in Ottawa last month on May 12th at the age of ninety.

Born and raised in Montreal to Italian parents, Maione received only a grade school education before becoming an industrial worker.  In 1950 at the age of 25 he joined the Young Christian Workers, a lay movement founded by Belgian Cardinal Joseph Cardijn in response to the harsh and unjust labor conditions of industrial work at the time.  The movement became very strong in Quebec, building close relationships with trade unions.  Maione, an impassioned young Catholic, quickly rose to the top of the national movement and in 1957 was elected as the international president of the Young Christian Workers.

In 1962 he became assistant director of the Social Action Department of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), and through the 60’s and 70’s held various positions in the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), served as the president of the World Assembly of Youth, and worked as a union representative.  In 1987 he was invited to participate in the Synod of Bishops on the Laity at the Vatican, where he had the opportunity to meet Pope John Paul II.

Maione’s wealth of international organizational experience and ability to speak fluent English, French and Italian made him the perfect candidate to lead Development and Peace as it was taking off in the years following Vatican II.

The Canadian Bishops had returned from the Council with an entirely new perspective on the world.  During the four years the Council was in session they encountered other Bishops from Latin America, Africa and Asia who shared the life experiences of their people and articulated the need for action on behalf of justice between the wealthier and poorer nations, and across cultures.

The key to the Council’s vision of social justice, solidarity and a preferential option for the poor was human dignity.  What became apparent in the thinking of the hierarchy was the centrality of the dignity of the other, who, in a globalized world, often looked, thought and believed differently than traditional Eurocentric Catholicism.  Bishop Alex Carter of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario was president of the CCCB in 1967 when Development and Peace began and later recalled the Council experience in this way:

“I doubt whether many of us returned from the Council unaware that we faced a challenge which could only be answered in the Canadian church with a new vision, new forms of social action and, where necessary, a new vehicle if we were to translate this into action.”

That new vehicle became Development and Peace, a democratic movement for international solidarity pursuing alternatives to unjust social, political and economic structures.  In Development and Peace, the Bishops of Canada created a structure with real lay leadership, something the Council explicitly called for if the Church was to fulfill its mission to help build the Kingdom of God.  If the Church was to be present and active in building a better world, the lay faithful had to do it; this was their baptismal responsibility.

Romeo Maione took this challenge to heart.  He asked how Development and Peace could educate lay Catholics in Canada about their baptismal responsibility.  Part of that education was redefining the commonly held view of charity and the donor-recipient relationship.  For Maione, the notion of rich people simply giving to poor people without building a mutual relationship or working to free others to participate in their own development only perpetuated the oppression and domination that was afflicting the world of that time in the form of unjust social, political and economic structures.

Under Maione’s leadership, Development and Peace would stress this educational component designed to change the perspective of Canadian Catholics so that the poor were seen, not as helpless victims, but as victims of unjust structures who were capable of developing their own dignified lives and communities. The poor, in fact, were the primary arbitrators of their own development.  It was the role of wealthier countries, like Canada, to build partnerships to allow for this organic development.

Looking back on the life of Romeo Maione and fifty years of Development and Peace in Canada, it is remarkable how much good has been accomplished. Countless individuals and communities in the Global South have raised themselves up because of the partnerships fostered through the organization, and many Canadians have learned much about what it means to put the Catholic faith into action. But beyond this, the vision and faith of Romeo Maione, and others of his generation, helped create an unrivaled standard of lay, democratic Catholic organizational leadership here in Canada. That is something the Canadian church should remember and be very proud of, as the Fathers of Vatican II undoubtedly would be.

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(Maione shakes hands with Pope John Paul II during the Synod of Bishops on the Laity in 1987.  Photo courtesy of Development and Peace)


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On Further Reflection

In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice of dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and correspondent for S+L TV.

“Pope Francis brings hope to Mid-East Christians and Muslims,” says CNEWA president

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Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect is an S+L series that goes deeper into the important questions surrounding the person and pontificate of Pope Francis. The series consists of a selection of the full interviews from S+L’s original documentary The Francis Effect.

Tonight: Msgr. John Kozar

Monsignor John Kozar is all too familiar with the various conflicts in the Middle East and the stories of the millions of victims they produce. He runs the Catholic Near East Welfare Association that works with Eastern Churches to provide relief aid and promote local development. It’s tempting, says the Monsignor, to think of the Middle East as lost and hopeless. And that’s exactly where Pope Francis comes in. The Pope, he says, has brought new hope to many—both Christians and Muslims—by his sincere concern for all human suffering and especially for those on the margins. The question is, can one man really make a difference?  Find out in this in-depth interview with Msgr. John Kozar, airing tonight for the first time on S+L TV.

Watch Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect
Airs Wednesday, June 10, 2015
9:00 pm ET / 6:00 pm PT
Only on Salt and Light Television (check schedule for repeats)

The development equation: church teaching on the New Evangelization

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When we talk about a development in church tradition or teaching, we are talking about a phenomenon that has taken place within Christianity from the very beginning. Even the varying articulations of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that we find in the four Gospels represent a development as such: the written narratives were built on the oral tradition of the first Christian communities that was built on the witness of the Apostles that was built on the experience and teachings of Jesus. (The 1964 instruction by the Pontifical Biblical Commission on The Historical Truth of the Gospels is an excellent tool for understanding this three-stage development.)

More recently, since the election of Pope Francis, there has been much discussion about possible development in the areas of the church’s pastoral response to divorced and remarried Catholics and its teaching on the environment.  The Pope’s forthcoming encyclical and the October general Synod of Bishops on the family will serve to clarify these heated discussions.

There is another area of the church’s teaching that may be less “juicy” then the above mentioned but still provokes this discussion of development. It is the church’s contemporary tagline, “the New Evangelization.” Everyone in the Catholic world has heard about it and a lot of great work is being done at the grassroots level to put it into action.

It is a decidedly modern initiative, based on the church’s experience of the realities of our present time. It can be traced back to Vatican Council II, but Pope John Paul II conceived of it, Pope Benedict XVI refined and promoted it—especially through the 2012 Synod—and now Pope Francis has effectively put it into action.

Interestingly, Pope Francis has not spoken much about “the New Evangelization,” though anyone who listened to what Pope Benedict said about it can see the obvious parallels between the words of one pope and the actions of another.

But last week Pope Francis met with the staff of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and shared his thoughts on the subject:

            “This is what people today expect from the Church: that she be able to walk with them offering the company of the witness of faith, which renders one in solidarity with all, in particular with those most alone and marginalized. How many poor—also poor in the faith—await the Gospel that liberates! How many men and women, in the existential peripheries generated by the consumer, atheist society, await our closeness and our solidarity! The Gospel is the proclamation of the love of God that, in Jesus Christ, calls us to participate in his life. Hence, the New Evangelization is this: to be aware of the merciful love of the Father so that we also become instruments of salvation for our brothers.

This rich description of the New Evangelization represents a deepening of previously articulated magisterial teachings. We can clearly see the “Francis” accents: emphasis on the poor, on accompanying people and on the mercy of God.  These are matters of emphasis, yes, but also of development. And taken together with the reflections of Pope Benedict and JPII, a clearer picture of this thing we call “the New Evangelization” takes shape.

It was JPII who recognized the need for a re-articulation of the fundamentals of the faith in a rapidly changing modern world. It was Benedict who explicitly linked the content of the New Evangelization with the documents of the Second Vatican Council.  Now Francis has put his finger—as he often does—on the heart of the matter, namely, an experience of God’s mercy.

We can say that all the pieces seem to have come together. Back in 1962 Pope John XXIII opened the Vatican Council by shifting the emphasis from an attitude of condemnation to one of mercy, saying nowadays, “The Bride of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.” Francis has said essentially the same thing.

 In all of this we can see an organic development in the church’s teaching on evangelization in the world today.  As pieces fall into place a more complete picture emerges. There is a pattern within this process of development that always considers these three variables: 1) how the truth of the Gospel can be 2) interpreted in light of the particular historical moment 3) over a period of time. This is the “equation” for development in the church and it is a fascinating thing to watch at this particular historical moment.


SebastianGOn Further Reflection

In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice of dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and correspondent for S+L TV.

Read history, look at the big picture and understand Pope Francis a bit better

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Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect is an S+L series that goes deeper into the important questions surrounding the person and pontificate of Pope Francis. The series consists of a selection of the full interviews from S+L’s original documentary The Francis Effect.

Tonight: Fr. John O’Malley, SJ

In his opening address at the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII spoke those inspired words concerning the value of a proper understanding of history:

“In the daily exercise of our pastoral office, we sometimes have to listen, much to our regret, to voices of persons who, though burning with zeal, are not endowed with too much sense of discretion or measure. In these modern times they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin. They say that our era, in comparison with past eras, is getting worse, and they behave as though they had learned nothing from history, which is, none the less, the teacher of life. They behave as though at the time of former Councils everything was a full triumph for the Christian idea and life and for proper religious liberty. We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand.”

Pope John was not advocating indifference among the bishops to the serious problems of the modern world in the 1960’s, but was criticizing the point of view of some Catholics who dismissed church history and consequently suffered from a fearful and defensive shortsightedness, unable to read the signs of the times. Pope John felt that a proper understanding of church history and tradition should liberate Catholics to do new and daring things in order to effectively preach the Gospel in the modern world.

According to the renowned Jesuit historian Fr. John O’Malley, a widespread ignorance of history runs through the Catholic Church and prevents us from seeing the bigger picture. Our interview on the historical significance of the pontificate of Pope Francis delves into precisely this issue. “How is it,” Fr. O’Malley asks in disbelief, “that the church of the great tradition doesn’t know its own tradition?” It is essentially the same question posed by Pope John five decades ago.

Church history, which Fr. O’Malley says has been unjustly relegated to an auxiliary science, is the key to understanding the shifts taking place inside the Catholic Church under Pope Francis. Our patrimony—the “great tradition”—is an inexhaustible gift for the Church in the 21st century. Spark your imagination and broaden your perspective through this penetrating conversation with one of the church’s leading historians, airing for the first time on S+L.

Watch Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect
Airs Wednesday, June 3, 2015
9:00 pm ET / 6:00 pm PT
Only on Salt and Light Television (check schedule for repeats)

Like-minded, like-hearted: Boston Cardinal discusses the Francis effect

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Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect is a S+L series that goes deeper into the questions surrounding the person and pontificate of Pope Francis.  The series consists of a selection of the full interviews from S+L’s original documentary The Francis Effect.  Find the full schedule for Season 2 of POV here.

Tonight: Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap.

Before and during the 2013 conclave there was much talk about the possibility of an American pope. As unlikely as it may have seemed at the time, we can now say with a degree of certainty that the American Cardinals at the conclave were, not only influential, but one of them in particular was getting a lot of attention: Seán O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston. His authenticity, simple lifestyle and concern for the marginalized have set him squarely in the ‘Francis camp.’ It’s no wonder the Pope has brought the beloved Franciscan friar into his inner circle and is relying on him to spearhead some of the most important church reforms.

Cardinal O’Malley is the most powerful churchman in North America and our lengthy interview touches on everything from reform of the Vatican bureaucracy to the sexual abuse crisis to women and the role of the laity in the Church. It reveals a Christian and a bishop who – as he himself admits – is very proud of Pope Francis and all that he has done to bring the Church’s message of mercy to the fore. “The Holy Father,” says O’Malley, “is opening the doors of the Church to go out and encounter the people where they are, but, also, to be able to invite them home.”

Here is an excerpt from the interview with Cardinal O’Malley that airs tonight on S+L:

Gomes: Regarding Pope Francis, a lot of people say, “the substance is the same, but the style is different.” I wonder, is it that, or is there something deeper going on? Is there a kind of radical transformation of the papacy taking place at this moment in history that goes beyond just the stylistic changes?

Cardinal O’Malley: Well, the papacy is always evolving. Just in my lifetime: as a child it was Pius XII, and this was a man who took all of his meals in solitude and never left Vatican City. And when Pope John XXIII went to Assisi, this was revolutionary. And then Paul VI went to the Holy Land and addressed the UN in New York and went to Columbia. And then, of course, John Paul II who was probably seen by more people than any other human being in the history of the world. So there have been changes constantly. But with John Paul II I think there was this move towards a new, modern image of the pope, more engaged with the world as a whole. And in Pope Francis I think it’s just more of a natural evolution that’s taking place.  And, of course, he’s bringing to it his gifts, his personality, his experience as a Latin American. And he’s a little freer from some of the weight of historical traditions and people are reacting to that, they feel very comfortable with that.

Gomes: Do you think it would be possible, at least theoretically, for the changes Francis is implementing to be reversed in the future?

Cardinal O’Malley: I think that with the modernization of the papacy – I don’t know – I can’t imagine going back to some of the old ways of doing things. But every Holy Father will be different and have his own style and his own way of doing things. And so, if anything, Pope Francis has shown that the Holy Father can choose to do things differently and in his own way. And even Pope Benedict’s decision to resign was very, very historic and will, perhaps, give popes in the future a greater freedom to be able to make a similar decision.

Watch Episode 6 of Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
9:00pm ET / 6:00pm PT
Only on Salt and Light Television

The Vatican and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: peace trumps politics

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The enormous amount of media attention that Pope Francis attracts has highlighted the Church’s influence in the world of global politics. The Pope, whoever he is, is a spiritual leader, but one with a permanent seat at the political table. Hardly a week goes by in which Francis doesn’t meet with some head of state or foreign diplomat to discuss religion and politics in the respective country.

This past week it was the Palestinians’ turn. On May 13 the Vatican announced that the Bilateral Commission of the Holy See and the State of Palestine had finalized the draft text of an agreement on essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine.

Then on May 16, on the eve of a canonization Mass in which two Palestinian nuns were proclaimed saints, Pope Francis met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The two men expressed their hope that peace talks would resume with Israel and that interreligious dialogue be promoted across the region.

Predictably, the three events—the bilateral agreement, the meeting with Abbas and the canonization of two Palestinians—reignited the discussion over the Vatican’s recognition of the “state of Palestine,” a recognition Israel categorically denies.

Israeli officials suggested that such recognition from third parties discourages the Palestinians from returning to the negotiating table, and some pro-Israeli voices even raised concern over what this could mean for Catholic-Jewish relations.

For the sake of clarification, it is helpful to review the Vatican’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reiterate the rationale behind it.

When last Wednesday’s announcement came from the Bilateral Commission, some credible voices in the media rightly pointed out that it wasn’t the first time the Vatican officially recognized the “state of Palestine.” It has been using this language since the 2012 United Nations vote to grant Palestine “non-member observer status,” a status shared by only one other state at the UN: the Holy See.

Far from going out-on-a-limb with its language, the Vatican simply recognizes what the vast majority of other nations recognize (the UN vote carried 138 in favor and 9 against with 41 abstentions).

And beyond this, it should be pointed out that the Vatican has long supported a “two-state” solution to the conflict. Upon his arrival in Tel Aviv last year, Pope Francis said:

“I renew the appeal made in this place by Pope Benedict XVI: the right of the State of Israel to exist and to flourish in peace and security within internationally recognized borders must be universally recognized.  At the same time, there must also be a recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign homeland and their right to live with dignity and with freedom of movement. The “Two State Solution” must become reality and not remain merely a dream.” (Welcome Ceremony)

Pope Benedict said as much during his visit to the Holy Land in 2009, and John Paul II on many occasions insisted on a peaceful solution to the conflict. He also sought solidarity with the Palestinian people by fostering a relationship with then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Upon hearing of Arafat’s death in 2004, the Vatican issued a statement saying the Pope, “feels particularly close to the family of the departed, the Palestinian authorities and the Palestinian people,” and that he has “called upon the Prince of Peace to let the Star of Harmony shine over the Holy Land so that the two peoples who dwell in it may reconcile as two independent and sovereign states.”

Suffice it to say, no ground-breaking language was used over the past week by the Vatican regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation. The Church’s position has been clear for years: a peaceful two-state solution whereby both parties respect the right and legitimacy of the other, with absolutely no recourse to violence. In recognizing the “state of Palestine” since 2012, the Vatican is adhering to the legitimate decision of the United Nations.

The Church always insists on peace over politics. Its support for a realized Palestinian state and a peaceful coexistence built on respect and mutuality is not exclusionary or one-sided, as some voices are suggesting. The Church equally supports the right and security of an Israeli state. But when it comes to conflict, especially violent conflict, the Church raises the bar beyond petty politics to the greater good, that is, justice and peace. As Pope Benedict XVI said in an address to the President of Israel in Jerusalem in 2009, “A nation’s true interest is always served by the pursuit of justice for all.”

SebastianGOn Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice of dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and correspondent for S+L TV.

“The Pope’s economics message is hard to dismiss because the facts are so real,” says US economist

Clark_blog

Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect is an S+L series that goes deeper into the questions surrounding the person and pontificate of Pope Francis.  The series consists of a selection of the full interviews from S+L’s original documentary The Francis Effect. Find the full schedule for Season 2 of POV here.

All new tonight: Charles Clark, PhD

The highly anticipated visit of Pope Francis to the United States in September will help define his pontificate. He is one of the most popular and beloved global figures, but he will undoubtedly bring a challenging and potentially divisive message regarding economic ideologies and the Church’s resurging preferential option for the poor. Nowhere will his remarks on economics—whatever they entail—be felt more strongly than on North American soil.

The Pope has said just enough over the past two years to stir enormous controversy, not only in the economic world, but in the Church as well.  Disagreements among Catholic economists over the Pope’s statements in The Joy of the Gospel are common. Some critique his views as narrowly Latin American, while others see them as coming straight out of the Church’s long-standing social doctrine.

Charles Clark is a Catholic economist belonging to the latter group—he’s a professor of economics at St. John’s University, NY and an advisor to the Holy See Mission to the United Nations. He applauds Francis for pushing an evidence-based critique of the global economy, and says the Pope’s call to put human beings at the center of all economic activity has profound consequences for the way we think about money and wealth, and—more importantly—how we choose to use them.

Tonight for the first time on S+L TV, viewers can see the full interview I conducted with Charles Clark on the Pope’s economic ideas and vision for a Church that is inclusive; one that is of and for the poor.

Watch Episode 5 of Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect
Airs Wednesday, May 20, 2015
9:00pm ET / 6:00pm PT
Only on Salt and Light Television