Vatican Connections: Friday April 11, 2014

This week we have details on Pope Francis’ Holy Week schedule and his Holy Week schedule. Venezuela has officially asked the Vatican for help in talks between government and opposition leaders, and we look at one holy site in Rome that is being restored for the first time since the 15th century.

***

In a late-breaking development, On Friday, Pope Francis sent a letter to Venezuela’s president Nicholas Maduro, members of the government and opposition, and the people of Venezuela. Below is Vatican Radio’s translation of the letter:

To President Nicolas Maduro Moros, members of Government, representatives of the Mesa de Unidad Democratica and UNASUR leaders.

“Firstly, I desire to thank you for inviting the Holy See to take part in this process of dialogue and peace for your beloved country. I assure each of you of my prayers, so that this meeting and the process you are undertaking bear the desired fruits of national reconciliation and peace, gifts that we invoke from God, for the Venezuelan population.

I am aware of the restlessness and pain that many people are experiencing, and while I express my concern for what is taking place, I renew my affection for all Venezuelans, especially for the victims of violence and their families. I am deeply convinced that violence can never bring peace and wellbeing to a country, because it only ever generates more violence. On the contrary, through dialogue you can rediscover common and shared ground that will help to overcome the current moment of conflict and polarization, which profoundly wounds Venezuela, to find new forms of collaboration. In respect and recognition of the differences that exist in your country, the common good can be favored. In fact, all of you share in the love you have for your nation and its people. You also share concerns linked to the economic crisis, violence and criminality. You all care deeply about your children’s future and desire that peace which distinguishes the Venezuelan people. You all share faith in God and the will to defend the dignity of the human person.

This is what draws you together and urges you to undertake a process of dialogue which begins today, which must be rooted in an authentic culture of encounter, aware that unity must always prevail over conflict. Therefore, `I urge you not to get stuck in the conflict of the moment but open yourselves to one another to become true builders of peace. At the heart of all sincere dialogue is reciprocal recognition and respect . Above all, there is the “heroism” of forgiveness and mercy, which free us from resentment, from hate and open up a road that is truly new. It is a long and difficult road, which requires patience and courage, but it is the only one that can lead to justice and peace. For the good of all your people and the future of your children, I ask you to have this courage.

With these sentiments I accompany the dear Venezuelan nation, and upon each of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing, invoking the help of Our Lord”.

Also on Friday, Pope Francis met with the International Catholic Child Bureau. During his audience he made the strongest public statements on clerical sexual abuse that we have heard from him thus far. Abandoning his prepared text, Pope Francis said:
 
” I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children. The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children…”
 
Victims advocacy groups were quick to say his statement was not enough. The US based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, released a statement asking Catholics to “be impressed by deeds, not words.”
 
Until recently it might have been an understandable response, but this year Pope Francis created the Commission for the Protection of Minors. He appointed eight people to that Commission, all of whom can be considered “heavy weights” in the area. One of the members, Marie Collins, is a survivor of clerical sexual abuse who started advocacy and support groups for victims in Ireland. Other members of the commission include psychiatrists specialized in identifying potential abusers, and experts in canon and civil law. The commission is currently working on ratifying its statues and identifying additional members for the committee. 
 

***Vatican Connections will be on hiatus for the next two weeks. Tune in May 2, 2014

Vatican Connections: Friday April 4, 2014

This week Pope Francis recognized as saints three people who can essentially be credited for founding the Church on the American continent: Francois de Laval, Marie of the Incarnation, and Jose de Anchieta. Francois de Laval was a French missionary who became the first Bishop of New France and laid the foundations for what is today Laval University. Marie of the Incarnation was a French Ursuline nun whose vocation took a somewhat winding road. She was married young, widowed, and when her son was 12 finally entered the convent. She is considered the “Mother of the Church” in Canada. Jose de Anchieta was a Spanish born, Jesuit missionary who was sent to Brazil where he founded what is today Sao Paolo. All three were builders of the church in the places they were sent, and serve as models of how the church and a local culture can interact positively. Laval and Marie de L’Incarnacion both learned about the culture and languages of the native people of New France. De L’incarnacion actually compiled an Algonquin dictionary and translated prayers and catechetical texts into Huron and Algonquin. The educational institutes both saints founded were open to both the European and Native people. Laval’s also turned his attention to the exploitation of the Native people being carried out by European merchants and pushed for a prohibition on the liquor trade. He also excommunicated anyone who dared sell or trade liquor with the Native people. Similarly, in Brazil Jose de Anchieta took such a great interest in the culture of the Native people of his region that today some consider him the first anthropologist. All three saints laid the foundations not just for the church, but for society on the American continent. Laval’s seminary and training schools evolved into what is today Laval University. De l’incarnacion’s Ursuline order was a key element in Quebec’s education system and De Anchieta established what is today the city of Sao Paolo. With these three saints it can safely be said that the American continent -like Europe – is built on a Christian foundation that should not be forgotten. *** Details were released this week about the events surrounding the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII. As previously reported, ticket will NOT be required to attend the Mass. The city of Rome has said it is expecting around 3 million people to come to Rome for the canonizations – far beyond the capacity of St. Peter’s Square and Via della Conciliazione. Jumbo screens will be set up at these location in Rome to allow everyone to watch the canonization: Via dei Fori Imperiali (Screens here will be installed on Good Friday and remain in place until after the canonizations. The area will also be pedestrian-only ) Piazza Navona Piazza del Popolo Rome’s subway will run 24 hours throughout the canonization weekend, and the main bus line from Termini station to St. Peter’s will also run 24 hours. Unlike the 2011 beatification of John Paul II, there will not be a vigil the night before the ceremony. There will be a youth gathering on April 22 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.    

Vatican Connections: Friday, March 28, 2014

For most North American Vatican-watchers, this week was supposed to be about the first meeting between Pope Francis and President Barack Obama. Once again, Pope Francis diverted people’s attention and forced a substitution of headlines.

The Diocese of Rome hosted a Penitential Service on Friday evening, during which Pope Francis was scheduled to hear confessions for about an hour. While making his way to his assigned confessional, he stopped, waved off the master of ceremonies and appeared to say “wait a minute”, then made a bee-line across the aisle to another confessional where a priest was already seated, patiently waiting for penitents. With his trademark certainty, Pope Francis knelt on the penitent’s kneeler and proceeded to confess himself.

Vatican officials have said this was not in the schedule and no one, not even the priest who heard the pope’s confession, had advance warning.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Pope Francis would take the opportunity to avail himself of the services of a good confessor. He has publicly stated he goes to confession every two weeks, he has repeatedly encouraged the faithful to “never tire of asking God for forgiveness,” and has urged priests to make the confession experience less like a torture chamber and more of a transformative experience.  

Even for committed Catholics the Sacrament of Reconciliation can seem about as appealing as going to the dentist for root canal. The image of the pope stepping sure-footedly up to the penitent’s kneeler, will undoubtedly go a long way to shaking up that attitude.

The image of the man in the white cassock kneeling in front of a confessor, also shakes up the general idea of what a leader looks like: someone who can get in trenches and do the very things he asks his followers to do.

The full text of Pope Francis’ homily at the penitential service can be read on Vatican Radio.  

Vatican Connections: Friday March 14, 2014

One year after (perhaps) the most watched interregnum and conclave in recent history, the church finds herself changed. Most would say changed for the better. This change has also established new bridges between the church and the wider world. The catalyst for that change was a 76 year old man who had already picked out his room in a local retirement residence.

Jorge Bergoglio has captured the attention of Catholics and non-Catholics alike for several reasons: His down to earth manner shows what it means to life a life of faith and highlights the fact that it is something anyone can do.

Over the last year people of all leanings and backgrounds have found themselves inspired by this example. Priests across Canada and Europe have noticed a rise in Mass attendance and more demand than ever for confession. Non Catholics have been heard professing their love of Pope Francis, and even many people estranged from the church have begun to discuss the reasons for their distance in a calm, open, dialogue.

Perhaps the biggest changes Pope Francis has engendered in the last year will never be seen on a screen or in interviews: a change in Vatican culture, and a change in the hearts of the faithful. Recent appointments and innovations at in the Roman Curia are more than just administrative decisions: people are being appointed to roles because they are qualified for that role, wok hard, and never forget their day job: Priest.

In living rooms around the world Pope Francis homilies have caused people to question their behavior, habits, prayer life, priorities, and values. This has resulted in changes big and small that, combined, “renew the face of the earth.”

 

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Curial reforms have been at the forefront these last few weeks. First the Vatican announced the creation of the Secretariat for the Economy, to be led by Australian Cardinal George Pell, and the Council for the Economy. This week the members of the Council for the Economy were announced.

The council is made up of eight cardinals and seven laypeople from around the world.

Cardinal Renhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising
The German prelate will serve as Coordinator of the council. He is also part of the so-called C8, the Council of Cardinal who are working with Pope Francis to rewrite the constitution of the Roman Curia.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston
The American cardinal has been archbishop in Texas since 2006, He worked in Rome at the Congregation for Bishops from 1980 to 1994, which gives him some knowledge of the inner workings of the Vatican, but enough time outside the Curia to bring a fresh view.

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Archbishop of Durban, South Africa
He has been Archbishop of Durban since 1992. Cardinal Napier was a member of the former Council of 15 Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Questions of the Apostolic See. Cardinal Napier is active on social media, tweeting regularly as he visits with different groups in his archdiocese.

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico City
The Mexican Cardinal has been Archbishop of Mexico City since 1995.
Cardinal Rivera Carrera was a member of the former Council of 15 Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Questions of the Apostolic See.

Cardinal Juan Cipriani Thorne, Archbishop of Lima, Peru
He has been Archbishop of Lima since 1999. Cardinal Cipriani Thorne was a member of the former Council of 15 Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Questions of the Apostolic See.

Cardinal Jean Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux, France
The French cardinal has been Archbishop of Bordeaux since 2001. Previously, he was Bishop of Montpellier (1996-2001. Cardinal Ricard was a member of the former Council of 15 Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Questions of the Apostolic See.

Cardinal John Tong Hon, Archbishop of Hong Kong
Cardinal Tong Hon succeeded Cardinal Joseph Zen in 2009. He has previously been Auxiliary and Coadjutor bishop of Hong Kong. Like many of the cardinals appointed to this council, he was a member of the Council of 15 Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Questions of the Apostolic See.

Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome
Cardinal Vallini has been Vicar General of Rome since 2008. Previously, he was Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Bishop of Albano, and Auxiliary Bishop of Naples. Cardinal Vallini was a member of the former Council of 15 Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Questions of the Apostolic See.

Joseph Zahra, Malta
Zahra will serve as the Vice-Coordinator of the Council for the Economy. He is an economist and founding partner and Managing Director of MISCO, an independent consulting group operating in Malta, Italy and Cyprus. He has been a consultant and board facilitator in the Corporate World, for over 25 years guiding executives in changing the way they do business, using new technologies and business models. Zahra is also a former director of the Central Bank of Malta and former member of the Monetary Policy Committee. In July 2013, Pope Francis appointed him President of the Commission for the reforms of the economic and administrative structures of the Holy See. He sits on a number of boards of directors of both private and listed companies operating in financial services, oil services, transportation, retailing and accommodation

Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, France
Up to the end of October 2011 Franssu was Chief Executive Officer of Invesco Europe and a member of the Invesco Worldwide management committee. Jean-Baptiste was also a member of the European Commission’s asset management expert group on UCITS regulatory regime evolution. Since 2013, Jean-Baptiste has been a member of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See.

John Kyle, Canada/USA
Kyle retired in 2008 as Vice-President and Treasure of Imperial Oil Limited in Canada after 34 years of service. Born in the United States on January 16, 1943, he is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States. He has been a member of the Council of International Auditors of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See since 2005. He was a member of the Finance Council of the Archdiocese of Toronto from 1991 to 2005, and a member and chair of the audit committee of the Board of Catholic Cemeteries of Toronto.

Enrique Llano Cueto, Spain
Llano Cueto is an Economist from the University of Madrid and a Chartered Accountant. He began his career at Deloitte Haskins and Sells (now Deloitte and Touche). He was elected in 1986 member of the Partnership Board until 1988. Then, between 1988 and 2008, he was audit partner of KPMG Peat Marwick (now KPMG). At present, he is an independent adviser to middle size and family business companies and has been a member of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic- Administrative Structure of the Holy See since 2013.

Jochem Messemer, Germany
Messemer is a former Partner of McKinsey&Company (1993-2003), and has worked for various Catholic institutions in Germany. He has been an International Auditor of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Vatican and the Holy See since 2009 and a member of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See since 2013.

Francesco Vermiglio, Italy
Vermiglio is Full Professor of Business Administration at the University of Messina  since 1987 and has also taught at Rome’s LUISS University. He was member of the Executive Committee of the OIC (Organismo Italiano Contabilità), the institution that defines and maintains the Italian Accounting Standards. Vermiglio has been a board member for several companies and banks including Banco di Sicilia and Bank of Valletta (Malta). From 1992 to 2013 he was in the Board of Directors of the Diocesan Institute for the support of the Clergy of the Dioceses of Messina, Lipari and S. Lucia del Mela.

George Yeo, Singapore
Yeo has been Chairman of Kerry Logistics Network since 2012. He has served as the Singapore Government as Minister of State for Finance, then as Minister for Information and the Arts, Health, Trade and Industry, and Foreign Affairs. Mr. Yeo chairs the International Advisory Panel of India’s Nalanda University, and is a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, the Berggruen Institute on Governance, the Asia-Pacific Advisory Board of Harvard Business School, the International Advisory Board of IESE Business School, the Economic Development Commission, Hong Kong. In 2013, Mr. Yeo was appointed a member of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See.

Vatican Connections: Friday March 7, 2014

This week was big in many ways: Pope Francis made some significant appointments, including naming his personal secretary to the number two position at the newly created Secretariat for the Economy. Wednesday was the beginning of Lent and Pope Francis’ first Ash Wednesday liturgy as pontiff. It was also the day one the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published it’s exclusive interview with Pope Francis.

The sit down with Corriere editor Ferrucio de Bortoli was supposed to be a sort of “taking stock” of Pope Francis’ first year as pontiff. Even though the first thing the pope said was “I only take stock every 15 days with my confessor” the interview covered everything from his relationship with Benedict XVI to relations with China.

BENEDICT XVI

Pope Francis said he has asked his predecessor for advice, stating “the pope is not a statue in the museum.” He also said some people wanted the retired pope to disappear into a monastery somewhere.  Pope Francis views the Pope Emeritus as a grandfather and said grandparents “do not deserve to end up in a rest home” because their wisdom strengths the family unit.

CHINA

Pope Francis revealed he wrote to the Chinese president Xi Jinping when he was elected and the president replied. While he wouldn’t reveal more than that, Pope Francis said “there are relations.”

SEX ABUSE

The pope said abuse is a “tremendous” scandal because it leaves victims with such profound wounds. He also said no other body has done as much as the church to act against sex-abuse. Several victims’ groups immediately reacted to the statement. You can read an in depth analysis of that debate by the Boston Globe’s John Allen Jr.

WOMEN IN THE CHURCH

Women need to be more present in the church at all levels, but simply naming women to decision making positions is little more than going through the motions, according to Pope Francis. He said there needs to be a deepening of the theology on the role of women, something currently happening in the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Pope Francis also said he is reading the book “Pietro e Maddalena” (Peter and Magdalene) by Italian priest and theologian Fr. Damiano Marzotto, which is about the female dimension of the Gospel.

THE FAMILY, CIVIL UNIONS, HUMANE VITAE

The recurring theme is the need to carefully reflect on and respond to the needs of specific situations instead of applying one formula across the board.

The family: Pope Francis said the Church must respond to the problems facing the families today, but must reflect carefully in order to respond to each unique case effectively.

On civil unions: Civil unions are state-created constructs, according to Pope Francis. They are generally motivated by a government’s need to regulate financial matters and deliver services to people in a variety of co-habitating situations. The pope said there are many different types of civil unions, and each case must be looked at individually.

Humane Vitae: Pope Paul VI was courageously counter cultural, according to Pope Francis, but he also advised confessors to respond to people with mercy, paying close attention to what is possible in their specific situation.

You can read a full English translation of the interview here.

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As Rome prepares for another tourist season, one expected to be especially robust given the double canonization just after Easter, the Vatican announced the opening of the papal gardens at Castel Gandolfo.

Castel Gandolfo is actually the name of the town 24 kilometers south east of Rome where popes traditionally spend their summer holidays. The gardens of this papal villa have never been open to the public. Tickets to the gardens can be purchased through the Vatican Museums. Tickets can be purchased either just for the gardens, or as a combo-pack along with tickets to the Vatican Museums. For more details and to reserve or purchase tickets visit the “Guided Tours” page of the Vatican Museums website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vatican Connections: Friday February 21, 2014

This week we have details on Pope Francis’ Holy Week schedule and his Holy Week schedule. Venezuela has officially asked the Vatican for help in talks between government and opposition leaders, and we look at one holy site in Rome that is being restored for the first time since the 15th century.

***

In a late-breaking development, On Friday, Pope Francis sent a letter to Venezuela’s president Nicholas Maduro, members of the government and opposition, and the people of Venezuela. Below is Vatican Radio’s translation of the letter:

To President Nicolas Maduro Moros, members of Government, representatives of the Mesa de Unidad Democratica and UNASUR leaders.

“Firstly, I desire to thank you for inviting the Holy See to take part in this process of dialogue and peace for your beloved country. I assure each of you of my prayers, so that this meeting and the process you are undertaking bear the desired fruits of national reconciliation and peace, gifts that we invoke from God, for the Venezuelan population.

I am aware of the restlessness and pain that many people are experiencing, and while I express my concern for what is taking place, I renew my affection for all Venezuelans, especially for the victims of violence and their families. I am deeply convinced that violence can never bring peace and wellbeing to a country, because it only ever generates more violence. On the contrary, through dialogue you can rediscover common and shared ground that will help to overcome the current moment of conflict and polarization, which profoundly wounds Venezuela, to find new forms of collaboration. In respect and recognition of the differences that exist in your country, the common good can be favored. In fact, all of you share in the love you have for your nation and its people. You also share concerns linked to the economic crisis, violence and criminality. You all care deeply about your children’s future and desire that peace which distinguishes the Venezuelan people. You all share faith in God and the will to defend the dignity of the human person.

This is what draws you together and urges you to undertake a process of dialogue which begins today, which must be rooted in an authentic culture of encounter, aware that unity must always prevail over conflict. Therefore, `I urge you not to get stuck in the conflict of the moment but open yourselves to one another to become true builders of peace. At the heart of all sincere dialogue is reciprocal recognition and respect . Above all, there is the “heroism” of forgiveness and mercy, which free us from resentment, from hate and open up a road that is truly new. It is a long and difficult road, which requires patience and courage, but it is the only one that can lead to justice and peace. For the good of all your people and the future of your children, I ask you to have this courage.

With these sentiments I accompany the dear Venezuelan nation, and upon each of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing, invoking the help of Our Lord”.

Also on Friday, Pope Francis met with the International Catholic Child Bureau. During his audience he made the strongest public statements on clerical sexual abuse that we have heard from him thus far. Abandoning his prepared text, Pope Francis said:
 
” I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children. The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children…”
 
Victims advocacy groups were quick to say his statement was not enough. The US based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, released a statement asking Catholics to “be impressed by deeds, not words.”
 
Until recently it might have been an understandable response, but this year Pope Francis created the Commission for the Protection of Minors. He appointed eight people to that Commission, all of whom can be considered “heavy weights” in the area. One of the members, Marie Collins, is a survivor of clerical sexual abuse who started advocacy and support groups for victims in Ireland. Other members of the commission include psychiatrists specialized in identifying potential abusers, and experts in canon and civil law. The commission is currently working on ratifying its statues and identifying additional members for the committee. 
 

***Vatican Connections will be on hiatus for the next two weeks. Tune in May 2, 2014

Vatican Connections: Friday, February 14, 2014

When Fr. Han Lim Moon is ordained to the episcopate on May 4 he will make history. Bishop Elect Moon will become Auxiliary Bishop for San Martin, Argentina.. He will be the first South Korean-born prelate to be appointed to the episcopate outside his native country. It will also be the first time an Asian-born prelate joins the Argentine Episcopal Conference.

At 58 years of age, however, he has lived more of his life in Argentina than in South Korea.

Bishop Elect Moom immigrated to Argentina at the age of 21 along with his mother and brother. When he arrived in country he had nine years of minor and major seminary studies under his belt. The young seminarian moved straight away to ask the Archbishop of Buenos Aires for admission to the diocesan seminary.

In 1984 he was ordained to the priest hood for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires and served as a hospital chaplain, parish pastor, and a point of reference for the Korean community living in Flores, a suburb of Buenos Aires.

When asked if he expected to me made a bishop he told journalists that just before being told he was being appointed auxiliary bishop, he was in the chapel praying before the Blessed Sacrament. He said, “it occurred to me to ask God if there was anything he wanted to tell me and he dictated to my heart a prayer that I have in which He asks me to be a blank page so He can do with my life what He wills.”

Bishop Elect Moon met then-bishop Bergoglio in 1994 when he wanted to invite the Little Servants of the Holy Family of Seoul to Flores. Bergoglio gave his permission to invite the sisters, and from then on was invited to all the major feasts celebrated by the Korean community in Flores. Despite the long standing connection to Pope Francis, Bishop Elect Moon said only God knows why the Holy Father decided to make him a bishop.

*****

Next week will be a full week at the Vatican. On Monday, February 17 the Council of Cardinals will meet for the third time. The council will meet from February 17 to 19.

Pope Francis will then hold a Consistory or consultation with the entire College of Cardinals on February 20 and 21.

On February 22, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Pope Francis will meet with the College of Cardinals again, this time to officially create 19 new cardinals. The following day the new cardinals will celebrate Mass at St. Peter’s with Pope Francis and their brother cardinals.

After the October session of the Council of Cardinals the Vatican that Pope Francis had called for an Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the context of Evangelization. In December, during the Council’s second session, it was announced that Pope Francis would create a Commission for the Protection of Minors.

During the last meetings of the Council of Cardinals the Vatican’s spokesperson, Father Federico Lombardi said the cardinals had been reviewing each Vatican dicastery, examining what needed to be changed or restructured. At the time Fr. Lombardi said the cardinals felt it was too early to begin announcing changes to the structure of the curia, but changes would be made in due time.

Given the number of meetings scheduled in the week ahead, we could see more announcements about new initiatives approved by the pope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vatican Connections: January 31, 2014

The week started off with a shocking theft, the recovery of the stolen item (in multiple installments) the announcement of a new book that is already getting a mixed reception, an audience with an American University, the announcement that several people are moving closer to sainthood….and it closed with the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life laying out their two-year plan.  More details on how the Vatican is focusing on consecrated life can be found below. For everything else watch Vatican Connections, above.

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In preparation for the 2015 Year for Consecrated Life, the Vatican department that oversees religious communities is updating the documents that regulate different aspects of religious life.  

Presenting plans for the Year for Consecrated life Archbishop Jose Carballo, secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life said the dicastery has been working with various organizations to revise the documents that regulate: the relationship between bishops and religious communities, societies of contemplative life, and institutes of religious brothers.  

Archbishop Carballo said, “we are expecting a document from the Holy Father during the year for consecrated life, to replace the current document on contemplative life, Sponsa Christi which was promulgated by Pope Pius XII in 1950”

The archbishop added that Pope Francis asked for work to go ahead on revising Verbi Sponza, a 1999 document about the autonomy of contemplative cloistered communities. He said although the document is fairly recent, “the evolution of contemplative life in recent years has made it necessary to revise the current discipline and autonomy” of cloistered communities, paying close attention to formation in those communities.

In addition to the documents being updated, the congregation will release a new document directed at religious brothers.

Archbishop Carballo said the new text, “is about the vocation and mission of religious brother in lay institutes. A lot of work has gone into this document, in collaboration with these institutes.”

On March 8 and 9 the congregation will host a symposium at Rome’s Pontifical Antonianum University on managing community finances and assets.

During 2015 the congregation expects to hold several international meetings for members of religious institutes. Archbishop Carballo said there willbe one meeting specifically for young and newly professed religious men and women. A second international gathered will be held for formators in men’s and women’s communities.

Pope Francis announced the 2015 Year for Consecrated life in 2013 during a meeting with superior generals of men’s communities November 29. No opening date has been set, but Archbishop Carballo said, “we are thinking of a solemn celebration presided by the Holy Father. Possibly, if he can, November 21 2015 which is 50 years from the promulgation of Perfecate Caritatis” the Vatican II document about religious life.

 

 

 

Vatican Connections: Friday, January 17

 

If the war in Syria continues another year there will be no Christians left in the country, according to one bishop in the region.

Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo made the comment during a meeting of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches, which is known by its Italian acronym ROACO.

As international leaders and government bodies fail to put an end to the ongoing conflict in Syria, people in that country are looking to the pope and the church to bring peace to the region, according to the director of a church aid agency working in the area.

Carl Hetu, the director of the Canadian office of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), attended several meetings at the Vatican that were focused on the situation in Syria, including the ROACO meeting and a brainstorming session hosted by the Pontifical Academy for Science.

Hetu told Salt and Light the session was meant to help Pope Francis and the Holy See’s representative to the United Nations organizations in Geneva formulate a better understanding of what is needed to end the Syrian conflict.  

Participants at the session said both Muslim and Christian Syrians are looking to the Vatican and Pope Francis as a moral authority that can guide the international community to a peaceful solution to Syria’s conflict, according to Hetu.

While the specific points submitted to the Holy Father are confidential, Hetu said participants agreed on three key elements: the need for an immediate ceasefire, the removal of any “pre-conditions” for negotiation, and an urgent need to stop weapons from coming into the country.

The Holy See’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, will take part in a UN sponsored conference aimed at ending the conflict in Syria. His position is expected to reflect point brought up during the brainstorming session at the Pontifical Academy for Science.

Various Catholic aid agencies took part in the ROACO meeting to review the aid being given to Christians in the region.

“Catholic organization alone have given 80 million dollars since 2012,” Hetu said. Most of that money went to help people in Syria, some also went towards helping Syrians in Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

Hetu said most of the aid CNEWA provides is food. The food is distributed through local parishes and charities which are already on the ground. CNWA also helps stock schools, provides housing, healthcare and pastoral care to. While the organization focuses on helping Christians, CNEWA helps all refugees.

Vatican Connections – December 20, 2013

Francis_dispensary 

Watch Vatican Connections LIVE on Salt and Light at 8:00pm ET/5:00pm PT

If  the year-in-review articles, videos and talk show segments are anything to go by, 2013 will be remembered not as the year Pope Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy, but the year Pope Francis was elected as his successor.

From the moment Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran stepped onto the loggia of St. Peter’s to announce the name of new pope, a name the Cardinal knew would take everyone by surprise, Benedict XVI and his historic gesture seem to have faded into the mists of  short term memory.

Still, when Pope Francis was named Person of the Year by TIME magazine, critics were quick to say that in the nine months since his unexpected election, the Argentine pontiff done little more put a personable face on the papacy and the church.

On the surface it is easy to see why this claim might be made. There has been no change in any of the church’s core doctrine. Most likely, those doctrines will never change. However, reform has started taking shape at the Vatican and in the Church at large.

The Franciscan Reform

Beginning soon after his election, the pope set in motion a series of changes to the curia and the Vatican’s financial offices. These changes also showed his intent to dive headfirst into a process of reform, starting inside Vatican walls.

Barely a month into his pontificate Pope Francis named eight cardinals to advise him on reform to the Roman Curia. The eight cardinals picked each came from a different continent and were not Curia officials. Pope John Paul II also attempted to reform the curia, focusing on the Vatican bank and the office responsible for the Holy See’s assets. While John Paul II asked several cardinals to form an advisory panel to help with much needed reforms, he picked cardinals already working in the Curia.

Not long after Pope Francis named his advisory panel, he decided he would not be bestowing prelates with the traditional, honorary title “monsignor.” Seemingly insignificant, it represents a huge shift in the power structure within the Vatican. On a practical level, the honorific entitles a prelate to little more than the right to wear a fuscia sash with his black cassock. Yet that little sash can make a world of difference inside the walls. A “monsignor” could, (and some do) pull rank on a regular “father” who doesn’t agree with the monsignor’s directives. Certainly in Italian circles,“monsignor” commands more respect than a simple “father.”

Over the spring and summer months Pope Francis issued several decrees enacting new financial laws, widening the scope of the Financial Information Authority, and created new bodies to study how the Vatican Bank and the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA). ‘Moneyval’ the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measure and the Financing of Terrorism, praised these moves in a Dec 10 report, and urged the Vatican to go even further. In its report, Moneyval said it was encouraging that several Vatican Bank (formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion) accounts had been closed, and suspicious transactions reported. The committee recommended a full inspection of the Vatican Bank without delay.

To help with the necessary evaluations and reforms, several outside firms were contracted in 2013 to study specific Vatican departments. The Promontory Group, a US based, risk-assessment firm was hired to study the Vatican Bank’s assets and currently open accounts. Ernst and Yonge was hired to examine the administrative practices at the Vatican Bank. McKinsey and Company, a us based consulting firm, was hired to evaluate and help streamline the Vatican’s communications outlets. Currently the Press Office, Vatican Radio, Vatican Television, the publishing house, and the Pontifical Council for Social Communication  

The most drastic shake up to the Roman Curia was the appointment of a new head of the Synod of Bishops. Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri replaced Archbishop Nicola Eterovic, who was made Nuncio to Germany. In the blink of an eye an October 2014 date was set for an extraordinary Synod on the Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the context of Evangelization. A questionnaire was sent to bishops around the world with directions to get feedback from their priests and laypeople in order to finally have a clear picture of what the modern Catholic family looks like. It was the first time such a move was taken.

Finally, in early December the Council of Cardinals announced Pope Francis had decided to create a Commission for the Protection of Minors. The commission was suggested by the eight cardinals.