English  ·  Français   ·   Italiano   ·   中文  

Behind Vatican Walls: New Custodian of the Holy Land

CustonBVW

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

There is a new Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land. The Order of Friars Minor elected Father Francesco Patton, OFM as the new Custos. He replaces Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa who ended a 12 year term as Custos in April.

Father Patton is 53 years old and comes from the Trent region of Italy. He was ordained a priest in 1983. Since then he completed a licentiate in Social Communication at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome and is enrolled in the order of journalists. He has had a variety of posts within the Franciscan order and with his diocese. Most recently Fr. Patton has been Minister General (superior general) for the St. Anthony Province of the order, which includes all Franciscan Friars in northern Italy.

The Custos of the Holy Land is considered one of the Catholic ordinaries of the Middle East even though he is not ordained a bishop.His mandate lasts six years but can be extended if the Franciscans and the Holy See believe it is necessary. The Custos works with the heads of the Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Coptic, Syriac and Ethiopian Churches to maintain the status quo.

In regards to the Holy Land “status quo” refers to an agreement ratified in 1852 that lays out the ownership of the various christian sanctuaries and the spaces within them. The agreement also regulates the times and durations of religious functions celebrated in those sanctuaries by the different Christian churches. Any change to the status quo agreement requires the consent of all the churches represented by the agreement.

Given that the ownership of different sanctuaries is often linked to national interests of neighbouring countries, maintaining that status quo can be quite challenging.

New Custos, New Focus, New Story

The appointment of Fr. Patton could also signal a new approach to ministering in the delicate region of the Middle East. Father Patton holds a graduate degree in journalism and social communication while past custodians had extensive backgrounds in scripture and oriental churches.

During a recent visit to the Holy Land, representatives of various church organizations in the region told me one of the biggest challenges they face is telling the story of life in the Holy Land for Christians. The world is well aware of the plight of Christians in Syria and Iraq but less so about the challenges faced by Arabs, especially Arab Christians in Israel and Palestine. Various officials told me the information that makes it out to the international community about either overlooks the hardship faced by Arabs, or paints the picture of a menacing threat from which Israel needs to defend itself at all costs. There is little talk of severe water restrictions to Palestine, long waits at checkpoints, a near impossibility of getting permission to go to Jerusalem, or the seizing of land from private Palestinians for the construction of new sections of the Israeli wall. Another official told me tourists believe it is unsafe or not possible to visit Bethlehem. In reality tourism in pretty much the one industry Bethlehem has going for it.

Because of the hardships in the entire region, every year hundreds of Christian families leave the Holy Land. According to the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, if emigration continues at current rates, within 50 years there will be no Christian community in the Holy Land.

Given the need to get the full story of the Holy Land in the public eye and stay on good terms with all the key players on the ground, the appointment of a Custos with a background in Social Communication could signal a shift in approach. While theology, scripture, and historical knowledge are important, in this modern mediatic age, knowing how to shape a message and get it out into the world is just as important.

This week’s episode of Vatican Connections will be available below shortly.


AliciaHeadShot

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 Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

 

Behind Vatican Walls: Phoebe and the Deaconesses

PopeWomenDeacons

Pope Francis will ask the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation to study the issue of women deacons. The pope announced the decision during a question and answer session with participants of the International Union of Superiors General plenary assembly.

During a question and answer session with the nearly 900 religious sisters taking part in the meeting, Pope Francis was asked what prevents the Church from including women in the diaconate.

Speaking without a prepared text the pope said there is evidence that women were deacons in the early church.

In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul mentions “our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the Church at Cenchreae” and asks that she be given a warm welcome. Deaconesses are also mentioned at the Council of Chalcedon. The council says deaconesses should not receive “the laying on of hands” under the age of 40. Once they do receive the laying on of hands, the council says they should not get married.

Pope Francis told the UISG members the evidence does not provide much detail about what women deacons did or if they were ordained ministers. It appears, he said,  the role of deaconesses in the early church was to help with the baptism of other women and to examine the wounds of abused women and report back to the local bishop.  

The pope went on to say he will ask the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to show him any studies that exist about the role of women deacons in the early church. He added that he will ask for a commission to be established to study the question of women deacons, “I think it will be good for the Church to clarify this point.”

At the same time Pope Francis warned against what he calls a desire to “clericalize” consecrated and lay women. He said when a lay person or a consecrated person shows a talent for pastoral work in the parish, has brains, and is organized, there is an instinctive reaction to want to give that person a clerical role. By that logic pushing for ordained women deacons is just another attempt to “clericalize” women.

Reaction to the pope’s comments were swift and divided. On social media three lines of thought were evident: those who were happy about the pope’s call to study the issue, those who were appalled he would consider such a thing, and those who were upset because they believe the pope did not go far enough.

After many news headlines proclaimed the pope is opening the door to women’s ordination, the Vatican issued a statement on May 13 saying “The Pope did not say he intends to introduce the ordination of female deacons and even less did he talk about the ordination of women as priests.”  

Reading the transcript of the Pope’s meeting with UISG participants it appears clear Pope Francis is calling for clarity on specific points: what were deaconesses in the early Church? What did they do? How did they do it? Were they ordained? If so, why? Why did the role of deaconess fall out use?

The answers to those questions do not lead straight line to women’s ordination. However they could lead to a wider vision of the role of consecrated women. Not to mention such a study could produce a better understanding of what roles lay people can and should take on in today’s church.

This week’s episode of Vatican Connections will be available below shortly.


AliciaHeadShot

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 Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Behind Vatican Walls: I Have a Dream…

PopeDreamVC

The Charlemagne Prize was created in 1949 by Dr. Kurt Pfeiffer in Aachen, Germany as a reminder and a call for European unity. The 2016 prize was awarded to Pope Francis this week.

In post-war Europe several new organizations and pacts were in development. These organizations and agreements would unify Europe economically and politically. However, in 1948 work suddenly stopped on a customs agreement between Britain and France. This stopped the development work being done for a Council of Europe.

A group of citizens of Aachen, Germany started looking for some way to inspire a renewed push for European unity. Dr. Pfeiffer came up with the idea of awarding a prize for “most valuable contribution to western European understanding.” The Charlemagne Prize Society was founded in March 1950 and the first prize awarded in May of that same year.

Why Charlemagne? The Frankish king, who was later crowned Roman Emperor, is considered the Father of Europe, politically and culturally.

Since 1950 recipients have included the Italian Prime Minister Alcide de Gasperi, who was also one of the founding fathers of the European Community, Konrad Adenauer, a former Chancellor of the Republic of Germany who campaigned for an office for European Unity, Robert Schumann, another founding father of the EU, Simone Veil, the first woman president of the European Parliament, Brother Roger, the founder of the Taize Community, Pope John Paul II, and Andrea Riccardi, the co-founder of the Sant’Egidio Community.

On ten occasions the prize was not awarded because the Charlemagne Prize Society felt no one deserved the it. In the 1960s and 70s when the European unification process was stagnating, the board of directors felt it was better not to award the prize than to pick a “second rate” candidate.

European Prize, Pope from the ends of the earth

The board of directors of the International Charlemagne Prize decides who will receive the award each year and publishes the reasoning behind their decision. The board said they decided to award the 2016 prize to Pope Francis because at a time when European citizens are looking for guidance he has a message of hope and encouragement. Specifically, he encourages European officials and citizens to “return to the firm convictions of the founding father of the European Union.” The board refers specifically to the pope’s 2014 address to the European Parliament in which he appealed to every Member of Parliament to support and uphold the dignity of man, and keep the human person at the centre of their political action.

This week the board of directors and past Charlemagne Prize Laureates traveled to the Vatican to confer the prize on Pope Francis. The Holy Father gave an uncharacteristically long ( 30 minute) speech that is being called his “I have a dream” speech. He pulled no punches, calling on Europeans to step up, open their hearts and borders, and be the people they always envisioned themselves as being.

His speech is well worth reading. The full text can be read here.

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:


AliciaHeadShot

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 Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

 

Behind Vatican Walls: Syrian Refugees

BVWRefugees

While Pope Francis has been personally helping Syrian refugees relocate to Europe, a joint Catholic – Russian Orthodox delegation visited Lebanon and Syria. The delegation identified ways the two churches can work together to help Syrians.

Officials from the Catholic aid agency Aid to the Church in Need and officials from the Moscow patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church visited Beirut, Damascus and Lebanon’s Bekka Valley. The group found two ways they can help Syrian Christians: compiling information about churches and shrines that have been destroyed, and providing aid to children.

Peter Humenik, the Russian expert for Aid to the Church in Need, was quoted in a press release from the organization as saying that Christians identified rebuilding of churches as one of the most pressing needs for their communities. According to Humenik they identified rebuilding churches as more urgent than rebuilding homes, because the life of the local Christian communities happened in those churches, shrines and parish buildings.

Christians in the communities visited told the joint delegation that recording testimonies about the martyrdom of Syrian Christians is also highly important to them.

The Moscow-based news agency Interfax quoted Humenik as saying that the joint delegation decided to hold “an action” at the end of the year ‘in favour of children of Syria in the city of Homs.”

***

This week – Friday April 22 –  the Jewish faithful celebrate Passover.

Pope Francis sent this telegram to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni :

“In remembering with renewed gratitude our meeting on 17 January, when I was cordially welcomed by you and by the Jewish Community of the city in the Great Synagogue, I wish to express my most heartfelt wishes for the feast of Passover. It points out that the Almighty has released His beloved people from slavery and brought them to the Promised Land. May God also accompany you today with the abundance of His Blessings, protect your community and, in His mercy, bestow peace upon everyone. I ask you to pray for me, as I assure you of my prayers for you: may the Almighty allow us to be able to grow more and more in friendship”

We here at Salt + Light would like to wish a Happy Passover to all of our Jewish friends and supporters!

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:


AliciaHeadShot

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 Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Behind Vatican Walls – Amoris Laetitia…What is it?

BVWAL

Pope Francis’ long awaited post-synodal exhortation on the family was made public today. As he has made clear over the past two years, there was no doctrinal change announced in this document. The document covers a wide range of topics, from the thorny to the common sense. As is his way, Pope Francis includes some frank comments on various issues and directs very clear words to different groups of faithful.

Here are some links to intelligent articles explaining what this exhortation is and is not:

Of course there are many other articles out there offering a balanced look at The Joy of Love. These are just a few to start with. Expect more commentary early next week after the bishops of the world have had time to read the nearly 300 page text.

Watch this week’s Vatican Connections below:


AliciaHeadShot

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 Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Behind Vatican Walls: You Cannot Dialogue With The Devil!

PapaBVW

Among the phrases that captured people’s attention during the Pope’s visit to Mexico was a phrase ad-libbed during his homily in Ecatepec. Lifting his gaze from the text in front of him, lifting his right hand to his forehead, Pope Francis exclaimed “let’s get this in our heads, you cannot dialogue with the devil.”  

We know Pope Francis has a tendency to speak about the devil and the traps he sets for us. But this time the Holy Father was highlighting two “devils”: the supernatural fallen angel, and specific forces at work in the world and in a special way in Mexico.

“What are these forces? What is this devil?”  The pope lays it out clearly:

There are three temptations of Christ… three temptations for the Christian, which seek to destroy what we have been called to be; three temptations which try to corrode us and tear us down.

First, wealth: seizing hold of goods destined for all, and using them only for “my own people”. That is, taking “bread” based on the toil of others, or even at the expense of their very lives. That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering. That is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children.

The second temptation, vanity: the pursuit of prestige based on continuous, relentless exclusion of those who “are not like me”. The futile chasing of those five minutes of fame which do not forgive the “reputation” of others.

“Making firewood from a felled tree” gradually gives way to the third temptation, the worst. It is that of pride, or rather, putting oneself on a higher level than one truly is on, feeling that one does not share the life of “mere mortals”, and yet being one who prays every day: “I thank you Lord that you have not made me like those others…”.”

What does this have to do Mexico? What does this have to do with us?

The Pope was speaking to a country with a Gross Domestic Product of 1.283 trillion dollars, but a per capita GDP of $14,000. Almost half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line even though more than half of the country has a paying job. Many of those who find themselves unable to afford basic needs are employed. The Mexican organization Accion Ciudadana Frente a la Pobreza (Citizen Action Against Poverty) told the Wall Street Journal the price of foods that are considered part of Mexican’s “basic basket” grew more than the rate of inflation.

Money is being made, somewhere, but huge chunks of the population are not seeing it.

Faced with this reality people turn to other ways to make ends meet. Enter Ecatepec’s high crime rate and the nation’s drug cartels.

While this is an extremely simple overview of the situation, the pope certainly know to whom he was speaking and what situation they find themselves in. Most importantly, he grasped the very basic, very powerful temptations that can worm their way into people’s minds and hearts when faced with a system that simply does not seem to reward the honest, hardworking, well intentioned citizen.

Pope Francis also provides tools with which to combat these temptations, to avoid dialogue with devil:

“It is worth asking ourselves:

To what degree are we aware of these temptations in our lives, in our very selves?

How much have we become accustomed to a lifestyle where we think that our source and life force lies only in wealth?

To what point do we feel that caring about others, our concern and work for bread, for the good name and dignity of others, are wellsprings of happiness and hope?”

This examination of conscience before the three great temptations listed above, is also a wonderful examination for everyone who calls themselves a Jesus-follower.

I find it an especially poignant examination for those of us who are aware that we live comfortably today because someone before us had to make difficult decisions in order escape a cycle of corruption, oppression, and poverty.  

***

This week there has been a lot of talk about walls and the nature and quantity of the walls surrounding the Vatican.  Here is a great description of Vatican City’s walls from Michael O’Loughlin at Crux.

Having lived and worked in Rome for several years to cover the Vatican, I can personally vouch for the fact that the Vatican’s walls aren’t as much of an obstacle as some would like to make them seem. As a lowly student intern I was able to make my way into Vatican City to visit the pharmacy by showing my press badge and having a quick chat with a Swiss Guard.  

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:

CNS Photo


AliciaHeadShot

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 Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Behind Vatican Walls: Historic Meeting of East and West

PopeHilarion

For the first time ever, the pope will meet with the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. The announcement was made in a joint press release issued by the Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow. Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill will meet in Cuba on February 12. At the end of their two hour meeting, they will sign a joint declaration.

Although the announcement seemed to come out of the blue, it reportedly took two years of quiet dialogue and negotiation. Russian Orthodox officials say this does not mean past tensions have been resolved, it just means there is a bigger problem that requires the Catholic and Orthodox churches to work together. Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion, who is responsible for the church’s foreign relations, said the problem between the two churches is the Ukrainian Catholic Church – which he referred to as “uniates.” He said “regrettably, the problem of Unia is still there, with Unia, remaining a never-healing blooding wound that prevents the full normalization of relations between the two Churches.”

However, Metropolitan Hilarion said the issue of Christians being persecuted in the Middle East and North Africa is bigger than the historic tensions between the two churches and requires them to work together. It is estimated that out of the 1.5 million Christians who used to live in Iraq, there are only 200,000 left in the country.

One of the requirements that had to be satisfied in order for the meeting to happen was finding the right location. According to Russian Orthodox Church’s department for foreign relation, Patriarch Kirill wanted the meeting to happen outside of Europe. The patriarch will visit Cuba, Paraguay and Brazil from February 11 to 22, while Pope Francis is scheduled to be in Mexico from February 12 to 18. The fact that both men would be in Latin America at the same time provided a chance to meet in fairly neutral territory.

The pope’s Mexican itinerary will not change. Instead he will leave Rome earlier than scheduled to allow for a stop over in Cuba. He is expected to touch down in Havana around 2pm local time and be on route to Mexico by 5:30 pm local time. The meeting will take place at Jose Marti International Airport. Some observers say Patriarch Kirill could possibly face backlash from within the Russian Orthodox Church for going ahead with the meeting.

This is not the first time a pope and Russian patriarch have tried to meet. Russian Orthodox official revealed today that from 1996 to 97 negotiations took place for a meeting between St. Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Alexy II. That meeting was supposed to be held in Austria but negotiations stopped after both sides got stuck on two points: actions of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and the activity of Catholic clergy within the geographic area of the patriarchate of Moscow which Moscow considered proselytism.

Vatican officials said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has been informed of the meeting and is pleased.

The meeting comes just as Orthodox patriarchs have agreed on the details of the Pan – Orthodox Synod, to be held in Crete starting June 19.

CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:


AliciaHeadShot

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 Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Behind Vatican Walls: Vatican Diplomacy

PopeHi

The Holy See maintains diplomatic relations with 180 states. Among those are countries that do not have diplomatic relations with each other. Iran is one of those cases. Both Canada and the US do not currently have formal diplomatic relations with Iran. The Holy See, however, has maintained diplomatic relations with all three of these nations, even receiving president Hassan Rouhani in audience this week.  

President Rouhani’s visit to the Vatican was the first time since 1999 that an Iranian president met with a pontiff. The Holy See has had formal diplomatic relations with Iran since 1957, through thick and thin. However, in 2010 then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  visited Rome for a UN meeting on the effect soaring food prices. In a break with protocol he did not visit the Vatican during his time in Rome. Reports at the time stated that the Vatican had canceled all meetings with heads of state in order to avoid giving the hard line Iranian president the publicity he was after. The relationship between the two nations survived that moment and the rest of Ahmadinejad’s presidency.

The president received at the Vatican this week is different type of leader, facing unique challenges. Rouhani’s visit was the first official Iranian visit to Europe in almost 20 years. His goal was quite simple: try to rebuild economic ties with potential EU trade partners. The stop at the Vatican was a protocol visit, but also an overdue visit to an old friend. Crux, the Catholic news site of the Boston Globe, reports that in 2007 when it seemed that tensions over Iran’s nuclear program might lead to armed conflict with the U.S., Tehran turned to the Holy See as a potential mediator. While their motivation may be different, both parties want peace and stability in the middle east. Yet for all his goodwill, Rouhani faces challenges at home.

Despite his moderate leanings, some ruling bodies in Iran, including – according to some reports- security and intelligence forces, are still control by hard line groups who disagree with Rouhani. These groups override Rouhani’s attempts at reform, cancelling cultural performances at the last second and banning books. At the same time Human Rights Watch reports that executions have increased in recent years and growing numbers of journalists, bloggers and social media activists are being arrested.

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:


 

Alicia

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 Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Behind Vatican Walls: Mercy, Disagreement and Unity

PopeVCMercy

With the Christmas season officially over, this week the Vatican got back to business. Pope Francis had a full slate of meetings this week with a wide variety of guests: the priests from the Argentine College, the nuncios to Zimbabwe, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the papal delegate to Palestine and Jerusalem and a group of bishops from Peru. He also met with the Chairman of of Alphabet, the company that owns Google, and paid an unscheduled visit to a retirement home in Rome.

The meeting that church watchers were keeping on this week, however, was not a Vatican-meeting. The leaders of the Anglican Communion were gathered in England to discuss the issues that have caused division among the 38 provinces of that church. Specifically the provinces do not see eye to eye on issues around sexuality and the ordination of women bishops. The U.S. province, known as the Episcopal Church has elected women bishops, and opened ordained ministry to gay and lesbian members of the church. Both moves caused a strain in relations with the other Anglican provinces and led some Episcopal parishes to become part of other provinces.

As a result of the week long meeting the Anglican primates decided to sanction the Episcopal church. For the next three years Episcopal clergy will not be able to represent the Anglican Communion on ecumenical and interfaith panels nor will they have decision making roles within the Anglican Communion. This could have significant impact on the Anglican – Roman Catholic Theological Consultation in the U.S. The announcement has also sparked anger among some Anglicans in various provinces of the communion.

That same meeting also brought positive signs for Christian unity worldwide. At a press conference Archbishop Welby told journalists the Anglican primates agreed to join in on trying to unify the dates for Easter.  He said he discussed the idea with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II in Cairo last year. Pope Tawadros has been discussing the idea with Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The Coptic leader has proposed fixing the date for Easter at the second or third Sunday in April.

* * * *

Next week is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, marked by Christian churches around the world. Watch for ecumenical prayer services and other events taking place this week in your city. Pope Francis will celebrate a vespers service on January 25 to close the week.

The International Eucharistic Congress takes place January 24 to 31 in Cebu, Philippines. Prelates from around the world will be in Cebu giving talks and catechesis. Pope Francis is not attending the congress. Watch here for information about the event as it happens.

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:

CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout


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 Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Behind Vatican Walls: New Year, New Hope

VCNewHope

History

On November 16, 1989 on the campus of the Central American University in San Salvador, six Jesuit priests were pulled from their beds in the middle of the night and executed. The military officers who carried out the killing went unpunished for decades. Five of six Jesuits were Spanish citizens.

In 2008 the Spanish Association for Human Rights and the Centre for Justice and Accountability lodged a criminal complaint in Spanish courts against the Salvadoran military officials involved in the killing of the six Jesuits. A judge in Madrid issued an order for the arrest and extradition of the Salvadoran officers named in the case. Interpol also issued a world wide warrant and extradition order. Authorities in El Salvador did not comply with the order. The officers accused were located and transferred to an ex-national guard military base.

Plot Twists

On January 4, Spanish judge Eloy Velasco issued a new arrest and extradition order for the 17 soldiers and officers accused of killing the six Jesuits. Salvadoran presidential spokesperson Eugenio Chicas told reporters “The only path for our security forces to take is to proceed with the arrests, that is, there’s nothing to do but follow the law.” He also said once legal requirements had been met, the order would be followed. However, it is up to El Salvador’s supreme court whether or not to extradite the accused.  

The statement from the Salvadoran government gave room to cautious optimism that perhaps justice would finally prevail. January 8 reports surfaced that the military defence counsel has presented a request for Judge Velasco to recuse himself from the case. The request claims that the judge is biased because he teaches at a Jesuit university and the case involves events that took place at a Jesuit university.

Happy Endings?

It remains to be seen just how much this case will move forward. Will El Salvador’s supreme court allow the 17 accused soldiers to be extradited? Will Velasco stay on as judge for this case? Will justice prevail? 2016 should bring plenty of things to watch.  

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:


Alicia

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 Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.