WATCH LIVE   ·  English  ·  Français   ·   中文    

The Sistine Chapel opens to VIPs: Vatican Connections – March 27, 2015


This week we focus on the details of the upcoming Holy Week liturgies. Catholic News Service has details on how Pope Francis and the Diocese of Rome are helping Christians in two areas where Christians have been hit hard with persecution: Iraq and Nigeria.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As Holy Week and Easter approached, Pope Francis wanted to show his ongoing concern for people persecuted and displaced by violence in Iraq and in northern Nigeria.

Although not specifying the amount, the Vatican press office said March 27 that the pope was sending aid money to people seeking shelter in Iraq’s Kurdistan region and to the Nigerian bishops’ conference to assist families in the northern part of the country where the terrorist group Boko Haram has been on a rampage.

In addition, the Vatican said, the people of the Diocese of Rome, “united with their bishop,” Pope Francis, held a special collection and will send “colomba” Easter cakes to the displaced in Iraq.

“In Holy Week,” the Vatican statement said, “these families share with Christ the experience of being unjustly subjected to violence and they participate in the suffering of Christ himself.”

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who visited refugees and displaced people in Iraqi Kurdistan last August, will return for Holy Week, the Vatican said. The cardinal is prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the former nuncio to Iraq.

“Pope Francis is constantly concerned about the situation of Christian families and other groups who have been the victims of being expelled from their homes and villages, particularly in the city of Mosul and on the Ninevah Plain,” the Vatican said. Terrorists from Islamic State have been active in the region.

“The pope prays for them and hopes that they soon can return and resume their lives on the land and in the places where, for hundreds of years, they lived and wove relationships of peaceful coexistence with all,” the Vatican statement said.

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope’s Weekly General Audience – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis’ weekly General Audience and Catholic News Service takes a look at the Church in Morocco.

Meet the Cardinals: Luigi De Magistris


by Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The day Pope Francis announced he would be making Italian Archbishop Luigi De Magistris a cardinal, the archbishop was doing what he usually did in retirement on Sundays: He was administering the sacrament of confession in the cathedral of Cagliari, his hometown.

The cardinal-designate, who will celebrate his 89th birthday nine days after receiving his red hat Feb. 14, spent almost a quarter-century at the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican tribunal dealing with matters of conscience. The office also coordinates the work of the priests serving as confessors in St. Peter’s Basilica and the major basilicas of Rome and an annual course for priests and seminarians on administering the sacrament of penance.

In preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000, then-Msgr. De Magistris put out a general call for more priests to staff the confessionals of the Rome basilicas.

“The more there are, the better,” he said. “We will have to pray to the Lord to send many, many good priests” to administer the sacrament.

Pope Francis announced Jan. 4 the names of the 20 churchmen he had chosen to induct into the College of Cardinals. Archbishop De Magistris and four others are over the age of 80, so they will be ineligible to participate in a conclave to elect a new pope, but they are invited to take part in the meetings and discussions of the college, which advises the pope.

Born in Cagliari Feb. 23, 1926, he studied for the priesthood in Rome, earning degrees in philosophy and theology from the Pontifical Lateran University, and was ordained in 1952. After six years of pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Cagliari, he was called back to the university, this time to serve as its secretary.

After a year, he was transferred to what is now known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he served under Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani during the Second Vatican Council. In 1969, he moved to the Vatican Secretariat of State where he worked for 10 years. Pope John Paul II named him regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary in 1979 and named him a bishop in 1996.

Solid rumors that he was about to be named a cardinal began in 2001 when Pope John Paul named him head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a position church rules reserve to a cardinal. But he was still an archbishop in 2003 when he retired at the age of 77.

He has served as a consultant to the congregations for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, for Saints’ Causes, the Evangelization of Peoples and Clergy, as well as for the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” which Pope John Paul established to assist Catholics attached to the pre-Vatican II liturgy.

Photo credit: Diocese of Cagliari

Meet the Cardinals: Julio Duarte Langa


By Lise Alves Catholic News Service

SAO PAULO, Brazil (CNS) — Cardinal-designate Julio Duarte Langa, retired bishop of Xai-Xai, Mozambique, is best known for staying close to his congregation and always looking out for the poorest in his community.

“He is a true pastor,” said Auxiliary Bishop Joao Hatoa Nunes of Maputo, Mozambique. “While others travel around the country and the world, he remains at his diocese, prioritizing the poorer population in his region.”

Cardinal-designate Langa, 87, is one five bishops over 80 who will be elevated to cardinal Feb. 14. Fifteen other new cardinals will be eligible to vote in a conclave, but church rules say Cardinal-designate Langa and others over 80 will not be allowed to vote for a new pope.

Pope Francis said he chose to honor these older bishops who are “distinguished for their pastoral charity in service to the Holy See and the church.”

The nomination of Cardinal-designate Langa has also been interpreted as a recognition by the pope of the work done by the church in this African nation.

“By nominating someone, as he once said of himself ‘from almost the end of the world,’ the pope reiterates his belief that the church should go out to the streets, to those most in need,” Archbishop Nunes, spokesman for the bishops’ conference in Mozambique, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview.

He also described the nomination of the country’s second cardinal as a great honor for the relatively new independent country and church. Mozambique obtained its independence from Portugal in 1975.

“For such a new church to have already two cardinals is a feat and an honor,” added Archbishop Nunes. He said he believes that by nominating another cardinal from Mozambique, Pope Francis is recognizing the hard work of evangelization by the Catholic Church in the country.

Cardinal Alexandre Jose Maria dos Santos, retired archbishop of Maputo, is 90.

In a country where the biggest challenges of both church and state are poverty, minimal education and maintenance of the newly obtained democracy, the archbishop said the nomination also will put an “African face” to the church in the continent.

“Our presence will be stronger in Rome, even though Bishop Langa will not be a voting cardinal,” he said.

Julio Duarte Langa was born in Mangunze, Mozambique, in Oct. 27, 1927, and was ordained a priest in 1957. He was ordained a bishop by Blessed Paul VI in 1976 and named to head the Xai-Xai Diocese right after the country’s independence.

Archbishop Nunes said a man of God does not have to be well known outside his diocese to be a vital member of the church.

“It is those who remain anonymous, who do not stand out much, who do the most work and carry God’s words farther,” he said. “I believe that Pope Francis, with these nominations, has tried to remind the world that there are God’s children in places like this who have not been correctly represented.”

Meet the Cardinals: Luis Hector Villalba


By David Agren Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Cardinal-designate Luis Hector Villalba of Tucuman, Argentina, was watching the Angelus prayer from the Vatican on television Jan. 4 when he heard Pope Francis — an old colleague and countryman — read his name as one of 20 new cardinals.

He then went to the Santa Cruz chapel in Tucuman, 775 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, where the octogenarian celebrated Sunday Mass for barrio dwellers.

Cardinal-designate Villalba was to become one of 20 prelates elevated to cardinal in ceremonies at the Vatican Feb. 14. He is one of five new cardinals over the age of 80 and ineligible to vote in a future papal conclave.

Still, his elevation sends a signal of the kind of church Pope Francis wants to promote in which a pastoral approach is preferred and those living on the periphery are placed in prominent positions.

“The new Argentinian cardinal was and is a priest, a shepherd with the smell of sheep,” journalist Hector Tito Garabal wrote on his news website Infobae. He has known Cardinal-designate Villalba for more than 40 years.

Garabal described his friend as an exemplary priest and bishop. “Once he became a bishop, he never stopped being a priest. One virtue of Villalba … is that he has always been a priest,” he said.

Cardinal-designate Villalba could be credited with showing Pope Francis — Jorge Mario Bergoglio — the pastoral approach he is promoting today. As auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, he was vicar in the Flores district of the diocese, which includes Pope Francis’ birthplace. The pope succeeded him in 1992 and said he only had to continue doing the same “because Villalba has left everything sown,” Garabal said.

Cardinal-designate Villalba was born in Buenos Aires, Oct. 11, 1934. He was ordained in 1960 and, after studying in Rome, he was named a parish priest in the Argentine capital. There, he was known for overhauling the local Caritas from being a food and clothing bank to an organization known for serving people who came with more than material needs, Garabal said.

He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires in 1984 and bishop of San Martin in 1991. In 1999, he became archbishop of Tucuman, where he stayed after retiring in 2009. Cardinal-designate Villalba was active in the Argentine bishops’ conference, serving twice as vice president and working with the then-president, Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires — acting as a sort of troubleshooter.

“He worked actively with Bergoglio in the Argentine bishops’ conference,” said Jose Maria Poirier, publisher of the Catholic magazine Criterio in Buenos Aires. “He faced very complicated and difficult situations in some dioceses.”

One situation was a scandal in the Diocese of Santiago del Estero, where the well-liked bishop, known for his work with the poor, resigned after being caught on tape with a male lover in what many, including some in the church, considered revenge for his denouncing political corruption.

“Villalba had to confront this difficult situation with great balance, without deteriorating the image of his predecessor and continuing his work,” Poirier said.

“Always in conflictive situations in other dioceses or the conference, Villalba was a man of moderation, acting as a bridge, and finding agreement.”

Cardinal-designate Villalba still acts as a pastor in Tucuman. He is in charge of the Holy Cross chapel and is catechism director at St. Martin de Porres Parish.

Meet the Cardinals: Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet


By David Agren Catholic News Service.

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Cardinal-designate Daniel Sturla Berhouet of Montevideo, Uruguay, was ministering in a working-class barrio when he learned of his elevation to cardinal — circumstances not lost on Uruguayan church officials.

The Jan. 4 announcement that the archbishop was one of 20 men who would be elevated to cardinal Feb. 14 was “a sign in the direction pointed to by Pope Francis,” Bishop Heriberto Bodeant Fernandez of Melo, Uruguay, told Catholic News Service in an email.

In neighboring Argentina, Pope Francis pointed the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires in a similar direction by putting his best priests in poor barrios and making those on the margins of society the center of his ministry.

Cardinal-designate Sturla, 55, has adopted a similar approach in Montevideo, capital of Uruguay. He sees young people falling away from the church as a challenge to correct, in what is already the least-Catholic country in Latin America and one moving in a socially liberal direction.

In comments provided by Bishop Bodeant, Cardinal-designate Sturla said after his elevation: “In Uruguay, we have to think what we can do so that this message (of the Gospel) gets to young people in the working-class barrios.

“This, for me, is priority No. 1.”

The cardinal-designate has his work cut out for him. Only 46 percent of Uruguayans profess Catholicism, according to a government survey, compared with 76 percent in Argentina. Bishop Bodeant said Uruguay also has “a strongly secularized culture,” evidenced by the approval in recent years of more liberal abortion laws, the legalization of same-sex marriages and the decriminalization of marijuana.

Bishop Bodeant said the cardinal-designate speculated he might have been named a cardinal to help the Catholic Church gain ground.

“Uruguay is not the poorest country in Latin America (but) the Uruguayan Catholic Church is the poorest in the region in its resources and quantity of people. Pope Francis knows this,” Bishop Bodeant commented, citing what Cardinal-designate Sturla had said.

Cardinal-designate Sturla told the Uruguayan newspaper El Pais that introducing people to the Gospel is another priority, while changing perceptions of the church was a challenge, especially as the average prelate is shown no special reverence or respect and seen simply in Uruguay as “che cura,” loosely translated as “priest dude.”

Cardinal-designate Sturla was the youngest of five children in a church-going family. Both his parents died while he was a teenager.

He studied in a school run by the Brothers of the Holy Family and participated in the Jesuits’ youth movement. In 1975, he was among the five Jesuits and 33 lay Catholics abducted by soldiers in Montevideo on Good Friday, according to an account from Italian journalist Nello Scavo in his book, “Bergoglio’s List: Those Saved by Pope Francis; Stories Never Told.”

Pope Francis, then Jesuit provincial for Argentina and Uruguay, managed to inform the Vatican, which sent telegrams to Uruguayan officials urging the captives be released.

In 1980, Cardinal-designate Sturla joined the Salesians of St. John Bosco and was ordained in 1987. The cardinal-designate has taught history and even authored a book: “Holy Week or Tourism? The secularization of the calendar in Uruguay.”

The announcement he would be elevated to cardinal comes less than a year after he was appointed archbishop of Montevideo, a move Bishop Bodeant said came as a surprise.

It also came as Uruguay, a country of just 3.4 million people, was making headlines for decriminalizing marijuana.

In a newspaper interview in early 2014, the cardinal-designate said, “I do not have a fully formed opinion.”

“I think that those promoting the law have the good intention of curbing drug trafficking,” he told El Pais. “The law that was approved has faults” — such as the state possibly controlling the production and distribution of marijuana — “but I understand that we have to find ways to save young people from drugs.”

He also expressed opposition to approval of abortion and same-sex marriages, but called for the church to “look ahead” because laws on both issues were “already approved.”

“The important thing is that the church goes out and cures the injured of society, that it continues defending the life of the unborn,” he said.

Meet the Cardinals: Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij


By Catholic News Service

BANGKOK (CNS) — When Cardinal-designate Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok learned he would be elevated to cardinal, there was no formal announcement, no courier from Rome to tell him the news.

Instead, a friend called to say he read a report on the Internet, reported the Asian Catholic news portal

“We better find out if this is true,” the cardinal-designate told reporters in early January at the diocesan center in nearby Nakhon Pathom province.

He will be one of 20 prelates elevated to cardinal in a consistory Feb. 14 at the Vatican. Of the group, 15 are eligible to elect Pope Francis’ successor in a conclave. The other five are older than 80 and, therefore, ineligible to vote.

The cardinal-designate told reporters that where the next pope comes from doesn’t matter.

“Catholic means universal. We belong to one church. We have already elected a pope from a communist country. We can elect a pope from Asia, from Africa, from Europe. It doesn’t matter,” he said.

Cardinal-designate Kovithavanij heads a church in a country under martial law. Instability has been a common theme in Thai politics, forcing the country to overcome one crisis after another.

Speaking mostly to Thai journalists, the archbishop said the Catholic Church had the same role as all religions in Thailand: to promote peace and unity.

In an earlier meeting with Buddhist and Muslim leaders, Cardinal-designate Kovithavanij suggested that when the Thai national anthem is broadcast daily at 6 p.m., Thai citizens should pause an additional minute to pray for peace and unity. The religious leaders later took that proposal to government leaders.

The cardinal-designate said he believes that Asian Catholics, and Asians in general, have a cultural sensibility that promotes strong values and respects people’s dignity.

“Asian people by nature are religious people. We are open to other religions, to other people. We see the possibilities of interreligious collaboration. We respect each other’s faith,” he said.

Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij was born June 27, 1949, in Bangkok. He was ordained a priest in the Bangkok Archdiocese in 1976. He was installed as bishop of Nakhon Sawan Diocese in 2007. Two years later, he was installed as archbishop of Bangkok, succeeding Cardinal Michael Michai Kitbunchu, Thailand’s first cardinal.

Meet the Cardinals: Soane Mafi


By Patrick Downes Catholic News Service

HONOLULU (CNS) — When Tonga’s future cardinal came to Hawaii as a priest in 2005 for the ordination of his cousin, one of the Tongan Catholic women hosting him wanted to buy him a pair of shoes. Then-Father Soane Mafi politely turned down the offer, preferring instead the sandals he was already wearing.

A few years later, then-Bishop Mafi again visited Hawaii, and his cousin, Sacred Hearts Father Johnathan Hurrell, invited him to his parish in Waialua, where he was parochial vicar. They celebrated a weekday Mass together, but Father Hurrell was unsure of the protocol of concelebrating with a bishop. His cousin put him at ease.

“He told me that he would be my altar server,” Father Hurrell said, “and he did. The small weekday congregation was delighted.”

“He’s a simple man,” Father Hurrell said. “Very humble.”

Father Hurrell, who is now the provincial superior of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, spoke to his cousin shortly after Pope Francis’ Jan. 4 announcement that he would be among the church’s newest group of cardinals. He said the bishop told him he was awakened that day at 4 a.m. by his brother in San Francisco, who gave him the news.

According to Father Hurrell, Bishop Mafi told his brother that he was mistaken and went back to sleep.

In the morning, discovering that his brother was correct, he “quietly cried,” Father Hurrell said.

“He’s very warm, genuine, very real,” he said.

Father Hurrell was born in New Zealand but spent about 15 years of his youth in Tonga.

The priest said he and the cardinal-designate, who is four years older and one of seven children, grew up together and were probably considered the least likely in the family to become priests.

“We were the most rascal of the kids,” he said.

Father Hurrell said the cardinal-designate “is encouraging, supportive and a mighty preacher.”

He also has a great sense of humor.

“He loves to laugh,” the Sacred Hearts priest said.

Soane Patita Paini Mafi was born in the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa Dec. 19, 1961, the son and grandson of catechists. He joined a parish youth group growing up in the settlement of Kolofo’ou, near the capital, on the main island of Tongatapu.

He studied at the Pacific Regional Seminary in Suva, Fiji.

Ordained a priest June 29, 1991, he spent four years at Ha’apai parish on an outer island. In 1995, he became vicar general.

In an interview with Catholic San Francisco in 2008, Bishop Mafi said his bishop sent him for three years of study at then-Loyola College in Baltimore. After he graduated in 2000, he returned to Fiji to join a formation team training local priests.

He was named coadjutor bishop of Tonga in 2007 and bishop of Tonga in April 2008, the first Tongan diocesan priest to be named a bishop.

He told Catholic San Francisco that, at the time, he was both eager and apprehensive about being the bishop, “because I want to be myself.

“It’s kind of a mixed feeling, excited but at the same time overwhelming,” he said. “Now I belong to everybody.”

He will be elevated to the rank of cardinal, a first for Tonga, by Pope Francis at a consistory at the Vatican Feb. 14.

Father Hurrell said he believes the message the pope is giving with this choice was that “the little ones matter.”

The cardinal-designate is the current president of CEPAC, the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific. “He is very well-respected by his brother bishops,” said Father Hurrell.

With only about 15,000 Catholics, the Diocese of Tonga is the size of some American parishes. At 53, Bishop Mafi will be the youngest of the 120-plus-member college of cardinals.

Tonga is a constitutional monarchy made up of 176 islands, of which about 50 are inhabited, spread across 270,000 square miles of ocean. The people speak Tongan and English.

The country lies about 3,000 miles southwest of Hawaii.

The country’s prominent religion is Methodist; Catholics make up around 13 percent of the population.

Contributing to this story was Peter Grace in Auckland, New Zealand.

Meet the Cardinals: José de Jesús Pimiento Rodríguez

Pimiento Rodriguez

By David Agren Catholic News Service

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Cardinal-designate Jose de Jesus Pimiento Rodriguez, retired archbishop of Manizales, Colombia, will be the oldest of 20 men elevated to cardinal Feb. 14.

The cardinal-designate, who will turn 96 Feb. 18, was ordained a priest Dec. 14, 1941 — three days before Pope Francis turned 5 years old.

Cardinal-designate Pimiento “is a man of spectacular intelligence, sincerity of words, faith to what he has proposed doing, and never afraid to tell the truth, whatever the cost,” Father Gilberto Lopez Hincapie, who worked with the cardinal-designate in Manizales for more than 20 years, told the newspaper El Tiempo.

The elevation of Cardinal-designate Pimiento continues the pattern of Pope Francis promoting prelates from peripheral places into the church hierarchy and opting for men who share a similar pastoral vision.

Priests who know the cardinal-designate describe him as humble and frugal.

After his retirement in 1996, he returned to his hometown of Zapatoca, where he worked as a parish assistant. He was often seen “sweeping his own room,” said a biography provided by the Archdiocese of Manizales.

“He had the slogan, ‘A priest must live as simply as his people,'” Father Fabian Quintero Orozco said in a story sent to Catholic News Service by the Archdiocese of Manizales. “For him it was an embarrassment to give himself any luxury, when so many brothers did not even have the basics for a dignified life.”

Cardinal-designate Pimiento participated in the Second Vatican Council and in the Latin American bishops’ council, but he was mostly a pastor and put an emphasis on serving displaced people in a country confronting violence, said Father Quintero.

“It was difficult because violence impeded the displaced persons from staying in one single place,” he wrote. “Archbishop Jose de Jesus Pimiento, today a cardinal, is above all a man of God. His life is marked by serving him and adoring him and service to those brothers and sisters most in need.”

Meet the Cardinals: Karl-Josef Rauber

Rauber 3

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — German Cardinal-designate Karl-Josef Rauber said he would be more than content to continue celebrating daily Mass and hearing the confessions of the Schonstatt Sisters he lives with and helping out with confirmations in the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart.

The 80-year-old veteran Vatican diplomat said he knows he must travel to the Vatican to receive his red cardinal’s biretta from Pope Francis Feb. 14, but after that he hopes his life will return to normal as a chaplain for the sisters.
Because he is over 80, Cardinal-designate Rauber will not be appointed a member of a Vatican congregation or council, a key task of cardinals in the church’s day-to-day operations.

He also will be ineligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.
He told the German Catholic website that he had no idea how Pope Francis came up with his name when he announced the new cardinals Jan. 4. The future cardinal had a brief conversation with the pope last May after concelebrating the early morning Mass in the chapel of the pope’s residence. “He said, ‘pray for me.’ But I’m not any closer to the pope than that.”

Pope Francis might have heard about the German prelate from people he had worked with in Vatican nunciatures in Europe and Africa, he said.

Perhaps the pope heard about the role the archbishop played in resolving a conflict in the Diocese of Chur, Switzerland, he told, without detailing his actions. Bishop Wolfgang Haas was appointed head of the Diocese of Chur in 1990, when Cardinal-designate Rauber was president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which trains Vatican diplomats; Bishop Haas’ appointment and ministry were opposed publicly by many of the diocese’s clergy and laity, who accused him of being a conservative autocrat. As the protests continued, St. John Paul II named Cardinal-designate Rauber his envoy to Chur in the hopes of finding a solution.

In 1993, St. John Paul appointed two auxiliary bishops for the diocese with the specific purpose of helping to “re-establish full communion” in the diocese. Relations worsened to the point that the pope replaced Bishop Haas in 1998 and moved him to an archdiocese in neighboring Liechtenstein.

Born April 11, 1934, in Nuremberg, the future cardinal was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Mainz in 1959. Three years later, he was sent to Rome to begin studies at the diplomatic academy and to earn his doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

From 1966 to 1977, he worked in the Vatican Secretariat of State, eventually heading the German-language section. Sent into the field, he worked at Vatican nunciatures in Belgium, Greece and Uganda.

Pope John Paul ordained him a bishop in early 1983, shortly after appointing him nuncio to Uganda, a position he held for seven years. In 1990, he became head of the diplomatic academy.

Later he served four years as nuncio to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, six years as nuncio in Hungary and Moldova and six years as nuncio in Belgium and Luxembourg. He retired in 2009 at the age of 75.