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Vatican Connections: December 12, 2014

This week the Council of Cardinals met again in Rome, a consistory was announced, a papal interview was published, and Pope Francis delivered a powerful homily for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe .

The Guadalupe homily, delivered in Spanish during a mass Pope Francis celebrated at St. Peter’s, packs a powerful punch and sends an unmistakable message to anyone who thinks Latin America is free for the exploiting. Read the English translation of that homily on Vatican Radio’s website.

and while their meeting did not produce any ground breaking news, the media briefing about the meetings brought much to write about. Pope Francis himself shook things up by giving an exclusive interview to an Argentine newspaper in which he didn’t shy away from any topic and set the record straight on a couple of things.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s Spokesperson, admitted that the reform of the Curia’s constitution is a long way from being written, but deliberation and analysis continues. Then, almost as an aside, he informed journalists that Pope Francis will create new cardinals at a February consistory. Cue the lists of red-hat predictions.

If Pope Francis sticks to the current rules regarding the size of the College of Cardinals, he will have between 10 and 12 “red hats” to hand out in February. North American observers are already deliberating if he might name American cardinals. European observers believe it is unlikely he will do so.

In a recent interview the pope granted to the Argentine newspaper La Nacion, the pontiff said he does not believe that heads of Vatican departments need to be Cardinals. There are some exceptions of course. Specifically, he said the only dicasteries that need cardinals at the helm are the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Divine Worship, and Bishops. So the likelihood of Pope Francis elevating curial officials to the College of Cardinals is also unlikely.

The other news Fr. Lombardi delivered is that the Commission for the Protection of Minors will be expanded to included 18 members who represent different parts of the world. The first meeting of that fully established commission is scheduled for early February.

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Pope Francis gave a no-holds barred interview to Elisabetta Pique of La Nacion, an Argentine daily newspaper.

Perhaps because he’s known Pique since 2001, he was not shy about saying what he thinks and even clarifying what others think he thinks.

The pope had very clear words to say about the recent synod, the way divorced and civilly remarried Catholics are treated by the church ( they’re treated as “de-facto excommunicated” people, unable to even be Godparents), people who claim they don’t understand his plans for the church, his appointment of Cardinal Raymond Burke as chaplain of the Order of the Knights of Malta, and on the importance of keeping his head on straight.

Elisabetta Pique elaborates on some of these comments, and talks to me about her book “Francis: Life and Revolution” on this week’s edition of Vatican Connections.

**

The week ended with the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The music setting used for this Mass was the Argentine Mass setting “Missa Criolla”. Stay tuned after the end of Vatican Connections for some clips from the Mass featuring this goose-bump inducing Mass setting.

 

Vatican Connections: December 5, 2014

How Bishops are Appointed

Last week on Vatican Connections we talked about how a bishop gets appointed. It’s a rather long process, and some viewers wrote in asking if there was a text explaining the process. (I talk fast sometimes!).

Step one:

The process begins at the local level. The bishops in a region submit to their metropolitan archbishop, names of priests who they believe would be good bishops. During regional bishops meetings those names are voted on. The final list of names is then sent on to the national bishops’ conference.

Step two:

When an Episcopal appointment needs to be made, the bishops’ conference sends a list of relevant names to the papal nuncio, who begins his own investigation into the names presented to him. This involves getting to know the candidate’s character and is often done with a questionnaire, sent secretly to people who have had close contact with the would-be bishop. One of the goals of the investigation is to ensure there is nothing in the candidate’s past or present that would make him unsuitable to be bishop.

Step three:

Once the nuncio has completed his investigation he picks the three candidates he thinks would be most suitable for the vacancy needing to be filled. The nuncio send those that list of three names (called a “terna”) to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops.

Step Four:

The “terna” is handed over to the Congregation for Bishops. This is where things slow down somewhat. If the appointment involves a priest being made a bishop, the entire congregation needs to weigh in on the matter. Since the congregation only meets twice a month, it take a while for a given appointment to be considered. A cardinal-relator must be appointed to present the file on each candidate to the congregation, and then the congregation votes. There are two options: the congregation might pick a candidate, or they may decide none of the three candidates is right. If the congregation decides that none of the candidates are right for the vacancy, they send word to the Nuncio in that country to start over again and submit three more names.

If the congregation decides on a candidate, the prefect of the congregation takes that decision and all relevant information about the appointment, to the Pope.

If the appointment involves raising a Bishop to Archbishop, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops can review the case and make recommendations himself, without needing the whole congregation to vote on it.

Step Five:

The Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops tells the pope what the congregation recommends for the appointment in question. He then leaves the matter with the pope. When the pope has considered the matter and made a decision, he informs the Congregation for Bishops of his decision, and the appointment is announced.

The process has encounter roadblocks at any point along the way: Early on it can be discovered that the candidate is unsuitable for a number reasons, the Congregation for Bishops might not approve of any of the names on the “terna”, the pope might not agree with the Congregation’s recommendations, or a candidate might discover he is being considered for an Episcopal position and ask to be removed from the list of candidates.

 

 

Vatican Connections: November 28, 2014

Three priests and a layperson where arrested in Spain after Pope Francis encouraged an abuse victim to take his case to authorities.

The victim, a 24 year old, male,  Opus Dei supernumerary, wrote to Pope Francis after hearing the pontiff statements about zero tolerance for abusers and people who cover up abuse. Upon reading the letter Pope Francis called the man, apologized for the abuse and told him “tomorrow you go to the bishop.”

Pope Francis followed up on that conversation by writing directly to the Archbishop of Granada, instructing him to begin an investigation into the priests named by the victim.

In a statement posted on the archdiocese’s website, the Archbishop of Granada “scrupulously followed” church law and opened a canonical investigation into the allegations. The three priests in question were also immediately removed from ministry.

The archdiocese’s statement also says once the victim took his allegations to police the archdiocese agreed to comply with the police investigation. According to the archdiocese, it could not forward the matter to police on behalf of the victim because the victim is now an adult. As such the victim was only person entitled to take the matter to police.

Spanish media have reported that the pope called the victim a second time, encouraging him to go to police. The Vatican has not confirmed that this second phone call occurred.

As a result of the police investigation into the allegations, three priests and one layperson were arrested. The lay person was religion teacher. That person’s teaching authorization has since been removed by the Archdiocese of Granada.

The Spanish newspaper ABC reported that at least one more victim has come forward to police with allegations of abuse related to the priests in question.

Pope Francis was asked about the case during a press conference on Tuesday that was held while he was flying back to Rome from Strasbourg. The pope said he received the news of the allegations “with great pain” adding “but the truth is the truth and we cannot hide it.”

Vatican Connections: November 21, 2014

VatiConnections

The Vatican bank has repatriated twenty three million euros that were frozen for more than three years, by Italian authorities.

The Institute for Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank, announced the repatriation of the money in a statement released November 18. The funds were unblocked in 2011 but was not repatriated because “issues regarding customer due diligence remained unsolved.”

Since 2011 the Vatican has implemented new policies in line with the European Union’s anti-money laundering measures. Those policies were approved by the MONEYVAL committee of the council of Europe.

In 2010 the Vatican bank moved 23 million euro from its treasury funds into an Italian bank account. According to Italian financial authorities it was unclear where the money came from and to whom it belonged. Vatican officials maintained the lack of information was due to a clerical error. Italian financial police seized the money as part of an anti-money laundering operation.

**

The theme of the next synod on the family has been set and new document on family issues will be sent to bishops around the world before the end of the year.

The theme of the 2015 synod is “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world.” Four Cardinals will serve as synod presidents: Andre Vignt Trois of Paris, Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, Brazil and Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa.

The council agreed to send a the preparatory document for the next synod to bishops around the world along with “a series of points that may assist in its reception and analysis”

Vatican Connections: October 31, 2014

VatiConnections

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.

 

Vatican Connections: October 24, 2014

Turkey

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

 

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.

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.

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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 elemosineria.va  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.

Vatican Connections: August 29, 2014

With the pope’s one major summer trip over and done with, attention can now return to what we could call “housekeeping” matters: appointing new bishops to dioceses that have been awaiting appointments, and filling up the papal agenda for this fall.

This week Pope Francis named the new Archbishop of Madrid, Spain. Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela turned 75 in 2011.  During World Youth Day Madrid 2011 Cardinal Rouco Varela delivered his resignation letter directly to Pope Benedict XVI. The appointment of a successor, like many others, was delayed.

After much speculation by Vatican watchers, the cardinal’s sucessor was finally made public: Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra, currently leading the Archdiocese of Valencia, will move to Spain’s capital. That left an opening in Valencia, a vibrant, seaside diocese brimming with vocations. In an unexpected move, the pope moved Cardinal Antonio Cañizarez Llovera from the head of the Congregation for Divine Worship to his home diocese of Valencia.

Cañizarez Llovera’s time in the Roman Curia was undoubtedly coming to an end – he was one of the few curial officials who had not been permanently confirmed in his job by Pope Francis. However, forgetting that this pope has no qualms about breaking unwritten “rules”, most believed Cañizarez Llovera would be named to Madrid.

Quashing any notion that the appointment was some sort of punishment or humiliation, the cardinal told Vatican Insider, a vatican news web site run by the Italian paper La Stampa, “It was my wish. I said to Francis: I want to have the odor of sheep. I asked to go back to a diocese, to whichever diocese he wanted to send me.” The cardinal comes from Utiel, a town in the autonomous region of Valencia and sees the appointment as a welcome homecoming.

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On the North American side there is one major appointment expected soon: the replacement for Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, 77.

The cardinal submitted his resignation in 2012 when he turned 75. This year when he revealed that he was once again dealing with cancer, the Vatican informed that a replacement would be surfaced quickly for Chicago.

Cardinal George  was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2006 and suffered a relapse in 2012. Earlier this year he revealed the cancer was once again showing signs of activity and he would under go a more aggressive round of chemotherapy. This week the archdiocese announced the cardinal had cancelled a scheduled trip to Rome in October in order to undergo treatment as part of a clinical trial run by the University of Chicago.

 

 

 

 

Vatican Connections: Friday, August 8, 2014

Most of the 80,000 Iraqi Christians forced out of their villages in recent days and weeks have taken refuge around the churches in Ain Kawa, a Christian neighbourhood of Erbil, according to aid officials in Iraq.

A member of the Sant’Egidio Community in Iraq reported to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association that Christian churches are working together in Erbil to create and “emergency unit” in order to provide urgent care for displaced Christians.

Pope Francis renewed his call for peace, this time asking all Christians to pray for peace. On Friday he appointed Cardinal Fernando Filoni as his special envoy to Iraq. The cardinal will travel to Iraq to meet Church and government officials as well as Christians displaced from their homes.

Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi told journalists Cardinal Filoni will travel to the Iraqi Kurdistan region where most Christians have taken refuge.

Cardinal Filoni was the Vatican Nuncio to Jordan and Iraq from 2001 to 2006. He was the only diplomat who remained in Iraq during the 2003 U.S. -led invasion.

In an interview with Vatican Radio Cardinal Filoni said it would not be easy to organize his trip because the region he intends to visit is not easy to reach. He said his first goal is to show the pope’s solidarity with Iraqi Christians.

No date has been set for his visit to Iraq but Fr. Lombardi said Cardinal Filoni would not be joining Pope Francis on his up coming trip to Korea August 13 to 16.

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As the Vatican gears up for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in October, one Vatican department is bearing the fruit of the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments sent a circular letter to episcopal conferences around the world about the Sign of Peace during the Mass.

Nine years after the Synod, during which bishops questioned whether the sign of peace should be moved within the liturgy, the congregation determined the sign of peace should stay where it is.

However, it should be carried out simply. If for some reason “it is forseen that it will not take place properly” it can be omitted.  The congregation also said the priest should not leave the altar in order to exchange the sign of peace with the congregation, and there should not be any special music selected or played specifically for the exchange of peace.