Today on Perspectives, Sister Nirmala Joshi the former Superior of the Missionaries of Charity dies and the Vatican releases the Instrumentum Laboris of the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family.
Today on Perspectives: The Pope’s message to engaged couples, developments in the Synod office, IOR releases its annual report and other news from the Vatican.
The enormous amount of media attention that Pope Francis attracts has highlighted the Church’s influence in the world of global politics. The Pope, whoever he is, is a spiritual leader, but one with a permanent seat at the political table. Hardly a week goes by in which Francis doesn’t meet with some head of state or foreign diplomat to discuss religion and politics in the respective country.
This past week it was the Palestinians’ turn. On May 13 the Vatican announced that the Bilateral Commission of the Holy See and the State of Palestine had finalized the draft text of an agreement on essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine.
Then on May 16, on the eve of a canonization Mass in which two Palestinian nuns were proclaimed saints, Pope Francis met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The two men expressed their hope that peace talks would resume with Israel and that interreligious dialogue be promoted across the region.
Predictably, the three events—the bilateral agreement, the meeting with Abbas and the canonization of two Palestinians—reignited the discussion over the Vatican’s recognition of the “state of Palestine,” a recognition Israel categorically denies.
Israeli officials suggested that such recognition from third parties discourages the Palestinians from returning to the negotiating table, and some pro-Israeli voices even raised concern over what this could mean for Catholic-Jewish relations.
For the sake of clarification, it is helpful to review the Vatican’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reiterate the rationale behind it.
When last Wednesday’s announcement came from the Bilateral Commission, some credible voices in the media rightly pointed out that it wasn’t the first time the Vatican officially recognized the “state of Palestine.” It has been using this language since the 2012 United Nations vote to grant Palestine “non-member observer status,” a status shared by only one other state at the UN: the Holy See.
Far from going out-on-a-limb with its language, the Vatican simply recognizes what the vast majority of other nations recognize (the UN vote carried 138 in favor and 9 against with 41 abstentions).
And beyond this, it should be pointed out that the Vatican has long supported a “two-state” solution to the conflict. Upon his arrival in Tel Aviv last year, Pope Francis said:
“I renew the appeal made in this place by Pope Benedict XVI: the right of the State of Israel to exist and to flourish in peace and security within internationally recognized borders must be universally recognized. At the same time, there must also be a recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign homeland and their right to live with dignity and with freedom of movement. The “Two State Solution” must become reality and not remain merely a dream.” (Welcome Ceremony)
Pope Benedict said as much during his visit to the Holy Land in 2009, and John Paul II on many occasions insisted on a peaceful solution to the conflict. He also sought solidarity with the Palestinian people by fostering a relationship with then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Upon hearing of Arafat’s death in 2004, the Vatican issued a statement saying the Pope, “feels particularly close to the family of the departed, the Palestinian authorities and the Palestinian people,” and that he has “called upon the Prince of Peace to let the Star of Harmony shine over the Holy Land so that the two peoples who dwell in it may reconcile as two independent and sovereign states.”
Suffice it to say, no ground-breaking language was used over the past week by the Vatican regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation. The Church’s position has been clear for years: a peaceful two-state solution whereby both parties respect the right and legitimacy of the other, with absolutely no recourse to violence. In recognizing the “state of Palestine” since 2012, the Vatican is adhering to the legitimate decision of the United Nations.
The Church always insists on peace over politics. Its support for a realized Palestinian state and a peaceful coexistence built on respect and mutuality is not exclusionary or one-sided, as some voices are suggesting. The Church equally supports the right and security of an Israeli state. But when it comes to conflict, especially violent conflict, the Church raises the bar beyond petty politics to the greater good, that is, justice and peace. As Pope Benedict XVI said in an address to the President of Israel in Jerusalem in 2009, “A nation’s true interest is always served by the pursuit of justice for all.”
On Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation. For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice of dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society. Sebastian Gomes is a producer and correspondent for S+L TV.
Today on Perspectives: Palestine has two new saints, President Mahmoud Abbas and Pope Francis have a cordial meeting, and the Pope meets with different groups of religious men and women.
Caritas Internationalis began its general assembly in Rome this week. The keynote speaker for the weeklong meeting is Father Gustavo Gutierrez, the Peruvian priest commonly considered the “father” of Liberation Theology. At a press conference before the start of the meeting Fr. Gutierrez spoke about why the Church and Caritas devote attention and resources to helping the poor. Of course Fr. Gutierrez was also asked several questions about Liberation Theology and his relationship with the Vatican. Here is a summary of some of his comments.
Speaking in Spanish and Italian Fr. Gutierrez answered several questions about theology, Liberation Theology, his relationship with the Vatican, and the work of helping the poor.
When asked about the role of theology, Fr. Gutierrez answered:
“There can be no charity without justice. Theological reflection must be tied to people’s daily life. Theology is not a religious mysticism but a reflection on the practice of charity, compassion, mercy and justice. Seen this way theology can help give a certain vision to those who are engaged in the practical work of justice and charity. It’s a modest role.”
He followed that by adding, “For the Christian the important thing is to follow Jesus and put into practice what he teaches, what we call spirituality. Theology is a secondary thing, less important than living the faith – but it is necessary because it helps make the practice of faith more effective. It helps, modestly.”
He emphasized his point saying, “Theology is not secondary in a derogatory sense, but I mean to say if I had not spoken of theology in the last 40 years I would still be Christian.”
Inevitably Fr. Gutierrez was asked about the Vatican’s position towards liberation theology. His answer:
“Liberation Theology was never condemned, never. If anyone said that, it was not true. There was dialogue with the congregation [for the doctrine of the faith] about Liberation Theology, a critical dialogue, that is true.”
Asked whether his appearance at the Vatican was a rehabilitation of Liberation Theology Fr. Gutierrez answered just as directly:
“Rehabilitation is not the exact word to use. At this moment the climate around this theology is different, that is true. But to say it is a rehabilitation means that as some point there was a ‘dis’ habilitation and this was never the case. It is just another time. What is important is a rehabilitation of the Gospel.”
On Thursday Caritas members elected Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as the new president of the international confederation.
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Photo – CNS/Paul Haring
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.
Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus address and the Ecumenical Prayer Service to close the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis baptizes 33 babies, his weekly Angelus address, his address to the Diplomatic Corps., the Archbishop of Rimouski dies and a look ahead at Salt + Light’s coverage of the Pope’s trip to Asia.
Pope Francis delivered his Christmas present to the Church a little late, but still well within the liturgical Christmas season.
On January 4, while leading the Angelus, Pope Francis announced the names of the 15 men under 80 he wants to elevate to the rank of cardinal. Among them are Latin Americans, Africans, Asians, and a select few Europeans from unexpected places. They are:
Abp.Dominique Mamberti – Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Segnatura
Abp. Manuel José Macário do Nascimento Clemente – Patriarch of Lisbon
Abp. Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, C.M., Archbishop of Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
Abp. John Atcherley Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand
Abp. Edoardo Menichelli, Arcbishop of Ancona-Osimo. Italy.
Abp. Pierre Nguyên V?n Nhon, Archbishop ofHà Nôi, Viêt Nam
Abp. Alberto Suárez Inda, Archbishop of Morelia, Mexico
Abp.. Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B., Arcbishop of Yangon, Myanmar
Abp. Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, Arcbishop of Bangkok, Thailandia
Abp. Francesco Montenegro, Archbishop of Agrigento, Italy
Abp. Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet, S.D.B., Archbishop of Montevideo, Uruguay
Abp. Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, Archbishop of Valladolid, Spain
Bp. José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán, O.A.R., Bishop of David, Panamá
Bp. Arlindo Gomes Furtado, Bishop of Santiago of Cape Verde
Bp. Soane Patita Paini Mafi, Vescovo di Tonga, Isole di Tonga
There is much rejoicing among devotees of El Salvadorian Archbishop Oscar Romero. The official newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference reported on Friday that a panel of theologians at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints had voted unanimously to recognize the slain archbishop’s death as that of a martyr.
The Vatican did not confirm the report.
In order to be beatified the cardinals and bishops who make up the Congregation for Saints causes would need to ratify the theological commission’s vote. Finally, Pope Francis would have to give his approval.
Getting papal approval to recognize Romero’s sanctity should not be difficult. In August 2014 Pope Francis told reporters “for me, Romero is a man of God.” In 2013 he reportedly told El Salvador’s Ambassador to the Holy See “I hope that under this pontificate we can beatify (Archbishop Romero).”
Earlier in the week Pope Francis read an excerpt from one of Archbishop Romero’s 1977 homilies during his catechesis talk at the weekly General Audience.
Archbishop Romero was killed on March 24 1980, while celebrating Mass in a hospital in San Salvador. One day earlier he had given a homily in which he called on soldiers in the country to stop enforcing the government’s policies of oppression and human rights violations.