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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.


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 – June 13, 2014

Henrique Cymerman has made a career out of talking to people who technically, should be his enemies. That was exactly why Pope Francis enlisted his help to bring the Israeli and Palestinian presidents together to pray for peace.

Cymerman is the middle east correspondent for several news outlets based on the Iberian peninsula, including Spain’s La Vanguardia newspaper and Portugal’s SIC television.

Why would the pope turn to a journalist to help orchestrate his peace prayer gathering? Cymerman is Portuguese-born. His father was Polish Jew and his mother came from a Sephardic Spanish family. He moved to Israel as a young man, studying at the University of Tel Aviv. As a journalist he has interviewed the key players in the constantly evolving situation in the middle east. Cymerman was there when Anwar Saddat landed in Tel Aviv to announce he wanted peace, broke the news about the Madrid Peace Conference in the 1991, and was the last journalist to interview Yitzak Rabin, hours before the Prime Minister was killed.

Still, when Cymerman accompanied Rabbi Abraham Skorka to the Vatican about a year ago to visit the new pope, he had no reason to expect anything other than a good, long talk.

According to Cymerman he and Rabbi Skorka spent five hours at the Santa Marta visiting with the pope. Cymerman had his video camera with him, and recorded some of there conversation “but it was not an interview.”

The three men adjourned to the dining room to eat. Cymerman told Spain’s TeleCino that after the meal Pope Francis led them to one of the meeting rooms, closed the door, and with the cameras off, asked “How can I help? How can I help with the Middle East?” Both Cymerman and Skorka reportedly said “Come visit. Your presence will send a message”

From that moment on there were numerous phone calls, emails and messages. Because of Cymerman’s contacts in the middle east he was tasked with taking messages to some of the parties involved, delivering papers, and providing advice. Originally the gathering was supposed to take place during the pope’s trip but with the breakdown of peace talks between Israel and Palestine in April, it became more difficult to get both sides to meet in the region.

Cymerman was also granted an exclusive interview with Pope Francis, which was published in Spain’s La Vanguardia on Friday. The video version of the interview is scheduled to in Europe over the weekend.

The English translation of the interview is available on Vatican Insider.

Vatican Connections: March 21, 2014


The Vatican, the Anglican Communion, the Al Azhar Mosque and the Walk Free Foundation have joined forces to eliminate slavery and human trafficking by the end of the decade. The four parties launched the Global Freedom Network this week at the Vatican.

The network aims to get 162 governments commit to endorse it and the Global Fund to End Slavery, 50 multinationals to commit to investigating their supply chain for slavery, and G20 nations to adopt anti-slavery legislation.

The Walk Free Foundation, founded by Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest to end slavery, reports that 29.8 million people around the world are in situations of slavery.

Gina Dafalia, the policy and research manager for the Walk Free Foundation, told Salt + Light the foundation realized very early on there was limited data about the prevalence of slavery. The first major project the foundation undertook was putting together the Global Slavery Index, examining data from countries around the world to determine where slavery is most prevalent. The Global Slavery Index also ranks nations according to that prevalence.

Mauritus is the nation with the highest prevalence of slavery, while Iceland, Ireland and the United Kingdom are the nations with the lowest prevalence of slavery.

The Walk Free Foundation defines slavery as any situation where one person deprives another of his or her freedom, whether through debt bondage, forced marriage, sale and exploitation of children, forced labour, or trafficking.  

Dafalia said the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the Global Freedom Network, hopes to raise awareness about what constitutes slavery and where it is prevalent, spur businesses to eliminate it from their supply chains and get nations to adopt anti-slavery and anti-trafficking legislation.

Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences told Salt + Light the Holy See is participating in the Global Freedom Network as the result of a request by Pope Francis.

As part of the Holy See’s commitment to the Global Freedom Network the Academy for Social Sciences will be organizing meetings to study the best responses to the phenomena. The academy will also ask bishops conferences around the world to organize a similar meeting in order to raise awareness among their faithful about what constitutes slavery.

“Slavery is anything that takes away a person’s freedom, anyone who has to work in difficult conditions for nothing, the person who is forced to prostitute themselves, or has their passport taken away,” said Archbishop Sanchez Sorondo  

To learn more, visit the Global Freedom Network website

To read the Global Slavery Report and see where your country is ranked, visit the Walk Free Foundation website.




Vatican Connections: October 11, 2013


Pope Francis has been invited to visit and speak at the European Parliament. Martin Schultz, president of the EU Parliament made the invitation when he met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday.

If he were to accept, Pope Francis would be the second pope to address the European Parliament. Pope John Paul II visited the European Parliament in 1988 during a four day visit to France.

Pope Benedict XVI was invited to speak at the European Parliament, but never accepted the invitation.


Another Canadian religious woman is on her way to sainthood. Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtues of Servant of God Marie Elisabeth Turgeon. The Quebec-born religious founded the Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of St. Germain in Rimouski Quebec.

The order dedicated itself to teaching and training other women to become teachers. She died in 1881 in Rimouski, Quebec. The Congregation of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary is still active today in Quebec, Labrador, the United States, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

Archbishop Gilles Ouellet of Rimouski approved the opening of Turgeon’s sainthood cause at the diocesan level in 1989.

Turgeon will now be known as Venerable Marie Elisabeth Turgeon.. In order to be declared “Blessed” a miracle must be attributed to Turgeon’s intercession

Vatican Connections: The changing face of the curia

Its finally here! The Season 2 premiere of Vatican Connections. To get back into things we’re taking a look at what’s been happening over the summer at the Vatican. There were new commissions created, important appointments made, and some blockbuster announcements.

This week’s Roman Profile is an introduction to the figure of Cardinal Celso Costantini – the fisrt papal delegate to China in the 1930s.

Vatican Connections: Roman Profiles


Vatican Connections is on summer hiatus, returning on September 27. One feature of every Vatican Connections is the “Roman Profile” segment. Below is a Roman Profile post, featuring Cardinal Celso Costantini. Watch for the full, television version of this Roman Profile, featuring and interview with Costantini biographer Monsignor Bruno Pighin, during the new season of Vatican Connections starting this fall.

The Vatican’s official documents from the World War II period are still locked in the Vatican Secret Archives. Yet one detailed, wartime Vatican diary sits on bookshelves across Italy. It reveals, among other things, that Vatican officials were aware that Pope Pius XII had likely helped pay the ransom demanded of the Jewish community by the Germans.

The diary was kept by Cardinal Celso Costantini, an Italian cardinal who served as the first papal delegate to China, then served as secretary to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome during WWII, and eventually, wrote key documents on the importance of sacred art.

Throughout his varied career, it seems there is nothing this man did not do: from founding a congregation to winning a Gold Lion at the Biennale di Venezia, the prestigious Italian art expo, according to his biographer, Monsignor Bruno Pighin.

As papal representative to China, Cardinal Costantini spoke of the importance of “de-colonizing” the church in Asia. He founded a congregation of priests, the Congregation of Disciples of the Lord, which led to him witnessing the ordination of the first six Asian born, Asian formed priests.

Yet, it was precisely his push to “de-colonize” the church in Asia that, angered those trying to maintain a European presence in the area and led to him being posted to Rome as secretary for the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, says his biographer.

During his posting in Rome he kept a detailed diary of events in the city. He witnessed first hand the bombing of the eternal city, and the deportation of the Jewish community. Through it all he quietly maintained friendships with government officials.

It was these friendships, according to Msgr. Pighin, which helped establish a core group of Italian politicians that would not support German policies against Jews in Rome.

Considered by many to be a prophetic voice – Costantini began speaking of the need for a second Vatican Council back in the 1930s – he was viewed by many Cardinals as “papabile” in the 1958 conclave.

Cardinal Costantini didn’t make it to the conclave that elected Pope John XXIII. On October 9, 1958, Pope Pius XII died, and just eight days later Cardinal Costantini passed away. The conclave to elect the next successor of Peter did not begin until October 25.

For more information about he Congregation of the Disciples of the Lord, visit their website

For a full biography of Cardinal Celso Costantini, visit the Italian page : 

 The English version of the cardinal’s wartime diary will be released by McMaster-Queens University Press this fall.

Image courtesy of:  Associazione Amici del Cardinal Costantini

Vatican Connections: Friday, June 7, 2013

In 2012 about 14 million refugees and 28.8 million internally displaced migrant were registered in the world. This week theVatican issued guidelines to for the pastoral care of Migrants and Refugees.

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People released the document with guidelines for the providing pastoral care to refugees and forced migrants, June 5. The document was written in collaboration with the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the church’s charity arm.

The last time the council for migrants issued a set of guidelines was 1992. Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the council, told journalists at a press conference the reasons people migrate or seek refuge today are much different than when the last guidelines were published.

Refugees are considered those who are forced to leave their country due to the political situation: civil war, or violence and persecution. Forced migrants are those who leave their country because there is no work in the home country and no way no make a living, according to Bishop Joseph Kalathimparambil of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants told Salt + Light June 4.

The Pastoral Council for Migrants is one of several Catholic organizations that serve migrants and refugees. Other organizations include:

The International Catholic Migrant Commission, founded after World War II to support people needing refuge and resettlement. Today the organization is involved in policy building work, and collaborates with various international bodies to promote the importance of family unity in resettlement and help find durable resettlement solutions. The ICMC also work with international organizations to help resettle refugees.

Caritas Internationalis was founded in 1951, with the help of then-monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini, later Pope Paul VI. The idea was to create a network of aid organizations around the world. Today there are 165 member organizations in the Caritas network that provide aid to people affected by natural disasters and humanitarian crises, and support he vulnerable in developed nations. Some operate under the name “Caritas” others have a different name, like Trocaire in Ireland, or Catholic Relief Services in the United States.  Caritas is considered the largest, most extensive humanitarian aid network in the world.

Jesuit Refugee Services works in accompanying, serving and advocating for refugees and forcibly displaced persons. Founded by the Jesuit order in 1980, JRS has programs in 50 countries and a Refugee Research Centre at Oxford University. The organization coordinates programs in those 50 countries from its head office in Rome, at the Jesuit General Curia. Programs include education, emergency assistance, healthcare, and social services. JRS works both with refugees and those who are marginalized in their own country.

For more information on any of these organizations visit their website:

International Catholic Migrant Commission


Caritas Internationalis


Jesuit Refugee Services











Vatican Connections: Friday, April 19


The pope creates and advisory panel

Eight Cardinals from around the world have been asked by Pope Francis to advise him on reforms to the Roman Curia.

The Vatican announced April 13 that Pope Francis had appointed eight cardinals to be part of an advisory panel to help him make changes to “Pastor Bonus,” the Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope John Paul II in 1988 about the curia. In a statement the Vatican said the idea of creating such a panel arose during the General Congregation meetings that took place before the recent conclave.

Should Pope Francis make changes to the various departments of the Vatican, it would not be the first time such changes were made. The Curia as is exists today is largely the result of reforms made by Pope Paul VI in 1967.

Paul VI

When Paul VI was elected pope in 1963 the Secretariat of State had three departments, including a Chancery for Apostolic Briefs. Additionally the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs reported to the Cardinal Secretary of State. One office handled the economic affairs of the Holy See: the Apostolic Camera. The Curia included a total of five Pontifical Commissions and 11 Congregations. One of those congregations was the Congregation for the Council. Created in 1564, it was originally the Congregation for the Interpretation of the Council of Trent.

In 1967 Pope Paul VI issued the Apostolic Constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, changing the structure of the Secretariat of State, and redefining the role and name of some Congregations.

Paul VI suppressed the Secretariat of State’s Chancery for Apostolic Briefs and created a Council for the Public Affairs of the Church.  Two additional offices were created to oversee different aspects of the economic affairs of the Church: the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See and the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See. Two new councils were created: Cor Unum, which would effectively become the Church’s charity arm, and the Council for the Laity. The pope also created the Secretariat for Non – Christians. Several congregations had name changes, including the Congregation for the Council (of Trent) and the Holy Office. The former became the Council for the Clergy, the latter became the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

John Paul II

This was the Curia that John Paul II inherited in 1978. Ten years into his pontificate he called together a panel of cardinals to advise him on reforms to the curia. Although the cardinals came from different parts of the world, when John Paul II called on them for help they were all serving as Vatican officials.

The 1988 Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus  made some changes to the Secretariat of State. The Council for Public Affairs of the Church was absorbed back into the structure of the Secretariat, which itself was divided into two sections: the section for Relations with States, and the section for General Affaris. Several commissions were upgraded to Councils. The Congregation for Bishops, lost some jurisdiction when the Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants was created. Until 1988 the Congregation for Bishops dealt with the issue of pastoral care for migrants and other itinerant peoples. Otherwise, the constitution clarified the role of existing congregations and offices.

Pope Francis named his advisory team one month into his pontificate. The group will officially meet for the first time October 1-3, 2013, however Pope Francis is already in contact with the members of the panel.

Vatican Connections: Easter with Pope Francis

Vaticanists have been waiting with baited breath to see who will be Pope Francis’ personal secretary and who is named Secretary of State. The first appointment he made as pope, however, was the new Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

The move shows two things: first, that the Holy Father still has his head and his heart in Buenos Aires. The several phone calls he has made, one to the man who delivered his newspapers, two to friends celebrating birthdays, and one to cancel a dentist’s appointment, suggest the same.

The quick move to appoint his successor also shows that he had a successor in mind already and perhaps that he goes with his gut to take quick, decisive action.

Then, Cardinal Bergoglio turned 75 in December 2011 and promptly submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. The pope decided not to accept the resignation, but clearly Cardinal Bergoglio had given some thought as to who should succeed him.

On March 28, Pope Francis announced that Bishop Mario Poli of Santa Rosa, La Pampa would become Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Archbishop Poli was born, raised and formed in Buenos Aires. He entered the Metropolitan Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in 1969 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1978.

Pope John Paul II appointed Poli auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires in 2002. He served in that position until 2008 when Pope Benedict XVI named him Bishop of Santa Rosa.

His installation as Archbishop of Argentina’s primatial see will take place April 20th at the Cathedral of Buenos Aires.

Vatican Connections: Holy Week Edition

Vatican Connections Holy Week edition is here! We walk you through the Holy Week liturgies that will happen at the Vatican and tell you about the new Holy Week tradition Pope Francis has started. We also have details about the Pope’s meeting with his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Enjoy.