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Vatican Connections: Season 2


When Vatican Connections launched in January 2013, it was just an idea. Something we were testing out to see if it would fly. Then suddenly, everything changed. On February 11, 2013 Pope Benedict XVI announced to the Cardinals that was resigning from his Petrine Ministry. Overnight, Vatican Connections became the go-to source for information about what happens at the Vatican.  It was so in-demand that we added a French and Chinese language version of the program.

This Friday, September 27, Vatican Connections (English language version) returns for a second season of bringing you everything you need and want to know about what’s happening inside the walls of the world’s smallest city.

Our season starts with a look at what’s been happening in Rome over the summer. Traditionally July and August are the months when Vatican officials – and Vaticanistas – take their much  needed holidays. This summer was anything but.  We’ll look at the stories that shook the Vatican, the powerful moments in Rio de Janeiro at World Youth Day, and how the face of the Curia and the Church is changing around the world. As before we also bring you a glimpse into the people and places that have shaped our church and our history. To start off the season we bring you a profile of  Cardinal Celso Costantini, the prelate who paved the way to formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and China, saved key players from death in Nazi occupied Rome, and shaped the world of Sacred Art.

Vatican Connections is produced in partnership with Catholic News Service’s Rome Bureau.

Tune in Friday September 27, at 8pm ET / 5pm PT for Vatican Connections.  

Pope: Digital domain needs loving dialogue, not spiritual engineers


By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Helping the church get the Gospel message out to the digital world depends more on a loving passion for reaching out to others than being tech savvy or a verbal warrior, Pope Francis told Catholic communicators.

“I believe that the goal is to understand how to enter into dialogue with the men and women of today in order to appreciate their desires, their doubts and their hopes,” he said in his talk Sept. 21.

Despite the temptation that exists today, dialogue and bringing people to Christ have nothing to do with hounding others into submission in a kind of “theological brainwashing,” he said.

The pope’s comments, which included a number of off-the-cuff remarks, came during a special audience with participants of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications’ plenary assembly meeting Sept. 19-21 at the Vatican. The discussions focused on the church and digital communication.

In a world of rapidly changing methods of communication, “the issues are not principally technological,” the pope said.

He said it is important “to know how to dialogue and, with discernment, to use modern technologies and social networks in such a way as to reveal a presence that listens, converses and encourages.”

Some people “sometimes feel let down by a Christianity that to them appears sterile and in difficulty as it tries to communicate the depth of meaning that comes with the gift of faith,” the pope said.

He emphasized that meeting Christ requires a personal encounter that cannot be forced or engineered.

“We have a great temptation in the church today” to engage in “spiritual harassment, the manipulation of conscience, a theological brainwashing,” which, in the end, he said, only leads people to an encounter with Christ in name only and not with the living person of the Lord.

Meeting Christ involves the living Christ and the individual experiencing the encounter, “not what’s wanted by the ‘spiritual engineer,’ who wants to manipulate people,” the pope said.

“Are we up to the task of bringing Christ into this area and of bringing others to meet Christ,” he asked.

People are searching for the “precious treasure” of the Gospel, which brings light and hope to a world that often lacks meaning, direction and purpose, he said.

Communicators need to portray “the face of a church, which is ‘home’ to all,” and convey the beauty of faith and joy of meeting Christ.

“The church must warm the hearts of men and women. Do our presence and plans measure up to this requirement?” he said, “or do we remain mired in technicalities?”

“Thorough and adequate formation” is key, he said, because religious and lay Catholic communicators need to be able to venture into the darkness of indifference without losing their way; “to listen to (people’s) dreams without being seduced; to share their disappointments without becoming despondent; to sympathize with those whose lives are falling apart without losing our own strength and identity,” he said.

In fact, “we ourselves are means of communication,” he said and “the real problem does not concern the acquisition of the latest technologies, even if these make a valid presence possible.”

No matter how outdated or inadequate the tools, God loves people so much that he “wants to reveal himself through the means at our disposal, however poor they are, because it is he who is at work, he who transforms and saves us,” he said.

The pope ended his talk by asking for people’s prayers “because I have this mission, too,” of communicating Christ to the world.

Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins told Catholic News Service that “in many ways we’re made to be analog Christians in a digital world.”

The digital world is in many ways very abstract, and it can be isolating and disorienting,” he said. While it has many benefits, people cannot forget that human beings are meant “to be in relationship, personal relationship” with others.

Analog, he said, comes from “‘analogy,’ which means connectedness, relationship, and we always have to maintain that.”

Christians need to keep real human connections and personal presence alive “in the midst of a world which, if left to itself and its own dynamics, will dry us out, make us abstract and disconnect us from one another.”

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt and Light Television and adviser to the social communications’ council, said the pope “is the best example of what the new evangelization is all about.”

The priest said the pope’s success in making the media pay attention does not stem from studying communication theories.

“He didn’t hire an ad company or a public relations firm, he is communicating with his person, the credibility of his person, the gestures, the desire to be with people,” Father Rosica said.

The pope “has put a lot of us to shame because we can spin our theories, but as long as we continue to do that without establishing human relationships, all of our efforts are in vain,” he said.

“What he’s doing is he’s touching the hearts of people, and the world has stopped and the world is listening,” said the priest.

Greg Erlandson, president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, said Catholic communicators can learn some lessons from Pope Francis.

“We have to live the faith in a very authentic way and a very physical way. We can’t just write encyclicals about it, we just can’t issue documents about it,” he said.

However, this personal approach is not new to Christianity, “it’s really the witness of the Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles, so maybe we have to keep rediscovering this,” he said.


Pope Francis’ homily for Evangelium Vitae celebration

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This celebration has a very beautiful name: “Evangelium Vitae”, the Gospel of Life. In this Eucharist, in the Year of Faith, let us thank the Lord for the gift of life in all its forms, and at the same time let us proclaim the Gospel of Life.  On the basis of the word of God which we have heard, I would like to offer you three simple points of meditation for our faith: first, the Bible reveals to us the Living God, the God who is life and the source of life; second, Jesus Christ bestows life and the Holy Spirit maintains us in life; and third, following God’s way leads to life, whereas following idols leads to death.

1. The first reading, taken from the Second Book of Samuel, speaks to us of life and death. King David wants to hide the act of adultery which he committed with the wife of Uriah the Hittite, a soldier in his army. To do so, he gives the order that Uriah be placed on the front lines and so be killed in battle. The Bible shows us the human drama in all its reality: good and evil, passion, sin and its consequences. Whenever we want to assert ourselves, when we become wrapped up in our own selfishness and put ourselves in the place of God, we end up spawning death. King David’s adultery is one example of this. Selfishness leads to lies, as we attempt to deceive ourselves and those around us. But God cannot be deceived. We heard how the prophet says to David: “Why have you done evil in the Lord’s sight? (cf. 2 Sam 12:9). The King is forced to face his deadly deeds; he recognizes them and he begs forgiveness: “I have sinned against the Lord!” (v. 13). The God of mercy, who desires life, then forgives David, restores him to life. The prophet tells him: “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die”.

What is the image we have of God? Perhaps he appears to us as a severe judge, as someone who curtails our freedom and the way we live our lives. But the Scriptures everywhere tell us that God is the Living One, the one who bestows life and points the way to fullness of life. I think of the beginning of the Book of Genesis: God fashions man out of the dust of the earth; he breathes in his nostrils the breath of life, and man becomes a living being (cf. 2:7). God is the source of life; thanks to his breath, man has life. God’s breath sustains the entire journey of our life on earth. I also think of the calling of Moses, where the Lord says that he is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of the living. When he sends Moses to Pharaoh to set his people free, he reveals his name: “I am who I am”, the God who enters into our history, sets us free from slavery and death, and brings life to his people because he is the Living One. I also think of the gift of the Ten Commandments: a path God points out to us towards a life which is truly free and fulfilling. The commandments are not a litany of prohibitions, but a great “Yes!”: a yes to God, to Love, to life. Dear friends, our lives are fulfilled in God alone. He is the Living One!

2. Today’s Gospel brings us another step forward. Jesus allows a woman who was a sinner to approach him during a meal in the house of a Pharisee, scandalizing those present. Not only does he let the woman approach but he even forgives her sins, saying: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Lk 7:47). Jesus is the incarnation of the Living God, the one who brings life amid deeds of death, sin, selfishness and self-absorption. Jesus accepts, loves, uplifts, encourages, forgives, restores the ability to walk, gives back life. Throughout the Gospels we see how Jesus by his words and actions brings the transforming life of God. This was the experience of the woman who anointed the feet of the Lord with ointment: she felt understood, loved, and she responded by a gesture of love: she let herself be touched by God’s mercy, she obtained forgiveness and she started a new life.

This was also the experience of the Apostle Paul, as we heard in the second reading: “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). What is this life? It is God’s own life. And who brings us this life? It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the risen Christ. The Spirit leads us into the divine life as true children of God, as sons and daughters in the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Are we open to the Holy Spirit? Do we let ourselves be guided by him? Christians are “spiritual”. This does not mean that we are people who live “in the clouds”, far removed from real life, as if it were some kind of mirage. No! The Christian is someone who thinks and acts in everyday life according to God’s will, someone who allows his or her life to be guided and nourished by the Holy Spirit, to be a full life, a life worthy of true sons and daughters. And this entails realism and fruitfulness. Those who let themselves be led by the Holy Spirit are realists, they know how to survey and assess reality. They are also fruitful; their lives bring new life to birth all around them.

3. God is the Living One; Jesus brings us the life of God; the Holy Spirit gives and keeps us in our new life as true sons and daughters of God. But all too often, people do not choose life, they do not accept the “Gospel of Life” but let themselves be led by ideologies and ways of thinking that block life, that do not respect life, because they are dictated by selfishness, self-interest, profit, power and pleasure, and not by love, by concern for the good of others. It is the eternal dream of wanting to build the city of man without God, without God’s life and love – a new Tower of Babel. It is the idea that rejecting God, the message of Christ, the Gospel of Life, will somehow lead to freedom, to complete human fulfilment. As a result, the Living God is replaced by fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but in the end bring new forms of slavery and death. The wisdom of the Psalmist says: “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps 19:8).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us look to God as the God of Life, let us look to his law, to the Gospel message, as the way to freedom and life. The Living God sets us free! Let us say “Yes” to love and not selfishness. Let us say “Yes” to life and not death. Let us say “Yes” to freedom and not enslavement to the many idols of our time. In a word, let us say “Yes” to the God who is love, life and freedom, and who never disappoints (cf. 1 Jn 4:8; Jn 11:2; Jn 8:32). Only faith in the Living God saves us: in the God who in Jesus Christ has given us his own life, and by the gift of the Holy Spirit has enabled us to live as true sons and daughters of God. This faith brings us freedom and happiness. Let us ask Mary, Mother of Life, to help us receive and bear constant witness to the “Gospel of Life”.

Below please find a Vatican Radio translation of Archbishop Rino Fisicella’s address to the Holy Father at Mass on Evangelium Vitae Day:

Holy Father,
Thank you for this intense moment of prayer, which, like every Sunday, rises from the Church to give glory to the Trinity on the day of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Gathered here today is a large representation of the “people of life”. They come from different parts of the world, but they are united by a commitment that goes beyond the boundaries of nations. They have come from Italy, USA, France, Germany, Spain, Poland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Malta, Slovakia, Singapore, Hungary, Costa Rica, Japan, Ireland, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia … to testify that “life was made visible “(1 Jn 1:2), that this life gives life to all other life, and we are witnesses to this.

In the course of twenty centuries of our history, in every part of the world, we have had the constant witness of men and women who, under the action of grace, have touched “flesh of Christ” with their hands – to use one of your meaningful expressions – and who have defended dignity, while others were distracted and turned their eyes away. Children left alone, abandoned women, the chronically ill, those with the most diverse disabilities and handicaps, people who are dying, the marginalized, and all affected by that which man’s sin and selfishness has produced, found instead the ready availability and the love of these witnesses. The holiness of their lives, which often met with opposition, was the beginning of a cultural revolution. Today, in a changed and transformed society there are additional challenges that are gathering on the horizon. Unfortunately, they are not always perceived in their severity in the midst of a general indifference and put a strain on the very concept of human life and respect for its dignity.

In the Year of Faith it was important that a moment of reflection and prayer be dedicated to those who are witnesses to Evangelium vitae. Their daily passion clearly shows a commitment to the full promotion of human life and for its defense. From the very beginning in the womb of a woman, until the very last moment when a person’s speaks of his or her presence in this world, this life is human – even if it develops into an immense array of conditions of weakness, suffering and demands help. Believers in Christ cannot remain indifferent to this. As B. John Paul II wrote: ” If, at the end of the last century, the Church could not be silent about the injustices of those times, still less can she be silent today, when the social injustices of the past, unfortunately not yet overcome, are being compounded in many regions of the world by still more grievous forms of injustice and oppression, even if these are being presented as elements of progress in view of a new world order.”(EV 5).

Holy Father, in the Year of Faith, the day dedicated to Evangelium vitae is a renewed call for everyone to respect, protect, love and serve human life. It is not a prerogative of us Christians. It is a common path shared with so many men and women who do not have our faith, but who share our proclamation and commitment. Thank you for your support and the strength of your witness testimony. May the Lord indicate to us all, once again, the path of life.

The text can also be found on the Vatican Radio website.

Bombay Archdiocese launches campain to end violence against women

This video came to our attention this past week. It was produced by the Women’s Commission of the Archdiocese of Bombay to raise awareness about the increase in violence against women in India. It seems violence against women has always been an issue in the country but has increased recently.

Our friends at Catholic News Service reported that parishes in Bombay held an hour of prayer to remember all women who have been victims of violence as part of this campaign.

What makes news Catholic?

Watch television, read newspapers and listen to the radio and you will know what is happening in the world around you. But as we know, the world is becoming more and more secular. Where is the Catholic voice in this world? Should Catholic media outlets cover secular issues or just the issues that concern the Church? If so, what makes news Catholic? And what is Catholic news?

To answer these questions, our host Deacon Pedro talks to Tony Spence, Director and Editor in Chief of Catholic News Service, and Salt and Light Producer Alicia Ambrosio.

Vatican Connections – Friday, Jan. 18

In this week’s edition of Vatican Connection we go through the headline: the Pontifical Council for Culture takes on the issue of doping in sports, we introduce you to one of our Vatican Connections, the director and editor in chief of Catholic News Service and Royalty stops by to visit Pope Benedict.

For me, the real attention grabber in this week’s program comes in the “Rinunce e Nomine” section, or the “Resignations and Nominations” section. Why? Because it reveals a new reality in the North American church that is being noticed on a wider scale than ever before.

In Las Cruces, New Mexico Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, CSB retired after having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. His successor is Bishop Oscar Cantu from the diocese of San Antonio. The appointment reflects a new reality in the demographics of the U.S. and Canada: a thriving Hispanic community.

[Read more…]

“Adveniat regnum tuum!” – May your kingdom come!

Solemnity of Christ the King – November 25, 2012

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, is enriched by our reception into the College of Cardinals of six new members whom, following tradition, I have invited to celebrate the Eucharist with me this morning. I greet each of them most cordially and I thank Cardinal James Michael Harvey for the gracious words which he addressed to me in the name of all. I greet the other Cardinals and Bishops present, as well as the distinguished civil Authorities, Ambassadors, priests, religious and all the faithful, especially those coming from the Dioceses entrusted to the pastoral care of the new Cardinals.

In this final Sunday of the liturgical year, the Church invites us to celebrate the Lord Jesus as King of the Universe. She calls us to look to the future, or more properly into the depths, to the ultimate goal of history, which will be the definitive and eternal kingdom of Christ. He was with the Father in the beginning, when the world was created, and he will fully manifest his lordship at the end of time, when he will judge all mankind. Today’s three readings speak to us of this kingdom. In the Gospel passage which we have just heard, drawn from the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus appears in humiliating circumstances – he stands accused – before the might of Rome. He had been arrested, insulted, mocked, and now his enemies hope to obtain his condemnation to death by crucifixion. They had presented him to Pilate as one who sought political power, as the self-proclaimed King of the Jews. The Roman procurator conducts his enquiry and asks Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Jn 18:33). In reply to this question, Jesus clarifies the nature of his kingship and his messiahship itself, which is no worldly power but a love which serves. He states that his kingdom is in no way to be confused with a political reign: “My kingship is not of this world … is not from the world” (v. 36). [Read more…]

CNS: Mass of Thanksgiving for St. Kateri

In the following video from Catholic News Service, S+L’s Alicia Ambrosio tells us about the recent Mass of Thanksgiving for St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Mass was celebrated at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, QC on Nov. 4.

Many thanks to our partners at CNS for their video compilation.

Credit: CNS video

Perspectives Daily – Wednesday, Dec. 7

Tonight on Perspectives: We look in-depth at Pope Benedict’s weekly General Audience and the American Catholic Church may soon be getting a new Saint. More than that, the Knights of Columbus were honoured in Rome yesterday and Catholic News Service will soon be getting a new Rome Bureau Chief – we tell you who.

On eve of Benin visit, a closer look at the Pope’s health

In several hours, Pope Benedict will land in the western African nation of Benin. As was the case with his 21 previous papal visits, he faces a packed schedule — 16 events and 10 speeches over the course of 3 days. On the eve of another arduous trip, Catholic News Service examines the validity of recent reports about the 84-year-old pontiff’s health.

S+L’s full coverage of the Apostolic Voyage to Benin begins Friday at noon ET / 9:00am PT.