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Connect5: Tony Spence on polarization in the church


CNS Director and Editor-in-Chief Tony Spence looks at political polarization in the Church, plus the growing trend of Catholic news in the secular press.

How are you going to spend the next five minutes of your time?  You could browse social media or check your email, but how about meeting a fascinating person and learning something relevant that will broaden your perspective?  Sit down with host Sebastian Gomes and his various guests, and go straight to the heart of the matter.  It will be five minutes well spent…

Connect5 airs on our network every Friday at 8:25 pm ET, immediately following Vatican Connections. Catch a new episode of Connect5 online every Wednesday.


U.S Bishops respond to California’s Assisted Suicide Ruling – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, U.S. Bishops respond to California’s assisted suicide ruling and Sebastian Gomes continues his coverage of the Bishops’ Synod on the Family. Today he speaks with several of the Synod Fathers and delegates and we hear from Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Ghana and Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph Younan of Antioch. He also shares part 2 of his conversation with Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service.

Behind Vatican Walls: Laudato Si’


The pope’s ecology encyclical, Laudato Si, was finally, officially released this week. The label “ecology” does not fully capture the breadth and depth of what Pope Francis discusses in the document. He does outline the problems with our planet, but shows how climate issues cannot be disconnected from human issues like poverty, migration and quality of life. Then he leads readers to the roots of the problem: humans. Human activity and a disordered view of the role humans should play in relation to the creation lead to plundering of the earth’s resources, technological advancement at breakneck speed just to have power over everything and everyone else on the planet have – according to Pope Francis – got us into our present global situation.

Better than reading my one paragraph summary, here is the link to the full text of the encyclical in English. For other languages click on the the language of your choice in the upper right corner.

This papal letter was highly anticipated not just by Catholics but the world at large. Here is a collection of articles about Laudato Si and the key themes developed in it.

The New York Times had this assessment of Laudato Si, and the tradition of popes speaking out on global issues.

The Guardian provided comprehensive coverage of the encyclical, including this assessment.

While Canadian politicians did not acknowledge the encyclical (at least, none that got media coverage) The Globe and Mail did look at both the encyclical and its expected effects.

Catholic News Service, once again, has provided all the tools the average and not so average Catholic might need to fully digest this papal document (not that Pope Francis is difficult to understand.) First, a glossary of words and phrases that come up in the encyclical.

Then, a comprehensive list of the practical tips Pope Francis offers for saving our planet.

The Catholic Herald out of the UK offered this assessment of Laudato Si from a faith perspective, and it might scare those Catholics who would prefer their faith and their life be two separate things.

Watch this week’s Vatican Connections below.



Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person.

Catholicism and the Challenge of Ecology


Prior to the release of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, experts reflect on the history and significance of the church’s role in promoting stewardship of creation.

Videos courtesy of Catholic News Service.

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.