Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis’ weekly Angelus address and a visit to a Roman Parish, a Dutch Jesuit is assassinated in Syria and a Ukrainian Catholic Church in Brampton is destroyed.
Following the first consistory of Pope Francis’ pontificate the first major overhaul of the Roman Curia was revealed.
Pope Francis created the Secretariat for the Economy and appointed Australian Cardinal George Pell as the prefect of the new secretariat. This new body will oversee the finances of all Vatican departments, carry out budgeting and forecasting, and oversee hiring.
A second body, the Council for the Economy, was also established this week. It will be made up of 15 people. Eight of those members will be cardinals or bishops and seven will be laypeople with professional experiences in the area.
Speaking to Catholic News Service, South African Cardinal Wilfred Napier who sat on one of the advisory panels studying the economic and administrative activities of the Holy See, said to date the Vatican has done anything that can be considered real budgeting.
No decision has been made yet regarding the future of the Institute for Works of Religion, commonly referred to as the Vatican Bank.
The creation of these two new bodies is a step towards bringing the Vatican’s administrative and financial activities a new level of efficiency and effectivness.
The changes in the Roman Curia were eclipsed only by the rising tensions in two parts of the world: Ukraine and Venezuela.
In both countries the church has played a role in attempts to quell the violence and bring about peace.
In Ukraine, where protests began three months ago, Christian churches stood alongside protestors watching student-based political protests evolve into a wide ranging uprising involving citizens from all walks of life.
On February 28 Ukranian Catholic Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk told Salt and Light, “we have a government that works now, but the situation in Crimea is very tense.” The Archbishop was speaking on the phone from Lviv where he was meeting with the permanent synod of the Ukranian Catholic Church.
Archbishop Shevchuk said churches had functioned as medical centres during the worst of the protests. He said the damage, however, was not just physical but psychological and spiritual as well. The challenge, he said, is to encourage solidarity, help foster dialogue and reconciliation, and provide long term care to citizens now affected by Post Traumatic Stress (PTS).
Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski of New Westminster, British Colombia was also in Lviv for the meeting of the church’s permanent synod. He told Salt and Light the church is partnering with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Caritas Ukraine to provide long term medical care to people affected by PTS.
In Venezuela, where students began protesting the lack of public security after an attempted rape in San Cristobal, bishops have met with students leading groups for and against the current government. Salt and Light learned February 26 the Venezuelan Bishops Conference was scheduled to meet with the government to discuss the national situation.
Student protests continued after those meetings. On February 28 the Diocese of Guayana announced via Twitter the opening of a Human Rights Office and invited anyone who had experienced a violation of their human rights to come forward and file a claim with the office.
Pope Francis has called for a peaceful resolution to the situation in Ukraine, and asked all Venezuelans to promote dialogue as a way towards reconciliation. The Holy Father also asked all faithful to pray to Our Lady of Coromoto for peace in Venezuela.
This week we have details on Pope Francis’ Holy Week schedule and his Holy Week schedule. Venezuela has officially asked the Vatican for help in talks between government and opposition leaders, and we look at one holy site in Rome that is being restored for the first time since the 15th century.
In a late-breaking development, On Friday, Pope Francis sent a letter to Venezuela’s president Nicholas Maduro, members of the government and opposition, and the people of Venezuela. Below is Vatican Radio’s translation of the letter:
To President Nicolas Maduro Moros, members of Government, representatives of the Mesa de Unidad Democratica and UNASUR leaders.
“Firstly, I desire to thank you for inviting the Holy See to take part in this process of dialogue and peace for your beloved country. I assure each of you of my prayers, so that this meeting and the process you are undertaking bear the desired fruits of national reconciliation and peace, gifts that we invoke from God, for the Venezuelan population.
I am aware of the restlessness and pain that many people are experiencing, and while I express my concern for what is taking place, I renew my affection for all Venezuelans, especially for the victims of violence and their families. I am deeply convinced that violence can never bring peace and wellbeing to a country, because it only ever generates more violence. On the contrary, through dialogue you can rediscover common and shared ground that will help to overcome the current moment of conflict and polarization, which profoundly wounds Venezuela, to find new forms of collaboration. In respect and recognition of the differences that exist in your country, the common good can be favored. In fact, all of you share in the love you have for your nation and its people. You also share concerns linked to the economic crisis, violence and criminality. You all care deeply about your children’s future and desire that peace which distinguishes the Venezuelan people. You all share faith in God and the will to defend the dignity of the human person.
This is what draws you together and urges you to undertake a process of dialogue which begins today, which must be rooted in an authentic culture of encounter, aware that unity must always prevail over conflict. Therefore, `I urge you not to get stuck in the conflict of the moment but open yourselves to one another to become true builders of peace. At the heart of all sincere dialogue is reciprocal recognition and respect . Above all, there is the “heroism” of forgiveness and mercy, which free us from resentment, from hate and open up a road that is truly new. It is a long and difficult road, which requires patience and courage, but it is the only one that can lead to justice and peace. For the good of all your people and the future of your children, I ask you to have this courage.
With these sentiments I accompany the dear Venezuelan nation, and upon each of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing, invoking the help of Our Lord”.
***Vatican Connections will be on hiatus for the next two weeks. Tune in May 2, 2014
The week started off with a shocking theft, the recovery of the stolen item (in multiple installments) the announcement of a new book that is already getting a mixed reception, an audience with an American University, the announcement that several people are moving closer to sainthood….and it closed with the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life laying out their two-year plan. More details on how the Vatican is focusing on consecrated life can be found below. For everything else watch Vatican Connections, above.
In preparation for the 2015 Year for Consecrated Life, the Vatican department that oversees religious communities is updating the documents that regulate different aspects of religious life.
Presenting plans for the Year for Consecrated life Archbishop Jose Carballo, secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life said the dicastery has been working with various organizations to revise the documents that regulate: the relationship between bishops and religious communities, societies of contemplative life, and institutes of religious brothers.
Archbishop Carballo said, “we are expecting a document from the Holy Father during the year for consecrated life, to replace the current document on contemplative life, Sponsa Christi which was promulgated by Pope Pius XII in 1950”
The archbishop added that Pope Francis asked for work to go ahead on revising Verbi Sponza, a 1999 document about the autonomy of contemplative cloistered communities. He said although the document is fairly recent, “the evolution of contemplative life in recent years has made it necessary to revise the current discipline and autonomy” of cloistered communities, paying close attention to formation in those communities.
In addition to the documents being updated, the congregation will release a new document directed at religious brothers.
Archbishop Carballo said the new text, “is about the vocation and mission of religious brother in lay institutes. A lot of work has gone into this document, in collaboration with these institutes.”
On March 8 and 9 the congregation will host a symposium at Rome’s Pontifical Antonianum University on managing community finances and assets.
During 2015 the congregation expects to hold several international meetings for members of religious institutes. Archbishop Carballo said there willbe one meeting specifically for young and newly professed religious men and women. A second international gathered will be held for formators in men’s and women’s communities.
Pope Francis announced the 2015 Year for Consecrated life in 2013 during a meeting with superior generals of men’s communities November 29. No opening date has been set, but Archbishop Carballo said, “we are thinking of a solemn celebration presided by the Holy Father. Possibly, if he can, November 21 2015 which is 50 years from the promulgation of Perfecate Caritatis” the Vatican II document about religious life.
If the war in Syria continues another year there will be no Christians left in the country, according to one bishop in the region.
Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo made the comment during a meeting of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches, which is known by its Italian acronym ROACO.
As international leaders and government bodies fail to put an end to the ongoing conflict in Syria, people in that country are looking to the pope and the church to bring peace to the region, according to the director of a church aid agency working in the area.
Carl Hetu, the director of the Canadian office of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), attended several meetings at the Vatican that were focused on the situation in Syria, including the ROACO meeting and a brainstorming session hosted by the Pontifical Academy for Science.
Hetu told Salt and Light the session was meant to help Pope Francis and the Holy See’s representative to the United Nations organizations in Geneva formulate a better understanding of what is needed to end the Syrian conflict.
Participants at the session said both Muslim and Christian Syrians are looking to the Vatican and Pope Francis as a moral authority that can guide the international community to a peaceful solution to Syria’s conflict, according to Hetu.
While the specific points submitted to the Holy Father are confidential, Hetu said participants agreed on three key elements: the need for an immediate ceasefire, the removal of any “pre-conditions” for negotiation, and an urgent need to stop weapons from coming into the country.
The Holy See’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, will take part in a UN sponsored conference aimed at ending the conflict in Syria. His position is expected to reflect point brought up during the brainstorming session at the Pontifical Academy for Science.
Various Catholic aid agencies took part in the ROACO meeting to review the aid being given to Christians in the region.
“Catholic organization alone have given 80 million dollars since 2012,” Hetu said. Most of that money went to help people in Syria, some also went towards helping Syrians in Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.
Hetu said most of the aid CNEWA provides is food. The food is distributed through local parishes and charities which are already on the ground. CNWA also helps stock schools, provides housing, healthcare and pastoral care to. While the organization focuses on helping Christians, CNEWA helps all refugees.
A 51-year-old Italian priest, Dario Edoardo Viganò, born in Rio de Janeiro, began his new job at the Vatican on January 22, 2013, only weeks before the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Viganò’s main mission as director of the Vatican Television Centre (CTV) is to provide global TV and Internet feeds of what unfolds in the Vatican’s inner sanctums, to which CTV has exclusive access. Within a few weeks of beginning his new job, his first major assignment was to tell the world the story of the resignation of a pope, the Sede Vacante, the Conclave and election of a new Bishop of Rome. Under Viganò’s artistic eye, magnificent images of those events went around the entire world. Join host Fr. Thomas Rosica in this exclusive WITNESS interview as he speaks with the head of Vatican TV about Viganò’s mission to keep an age-old institution firmly in the 21st century.
Tonight on this special extended-Edition of Perspectives
The Vatican announces celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Encyclical Pacem in Terris and we bring you more about the CCCB plenary 2013
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.
Many people remember the stunning views of the hillside town to which Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI retreated on February 28, 2013. Castel Gandolfo has been an official papal residence for five centuries. This summer is the second summer in the history of the town that the reigning pope has not spent the summer there.
Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service spent a day exploring the town and meeting the locals. She discovered the pope’s decision to stay at the Vatican and keep working is affecting more than just the Roman Curia. Read her story to find out about the financial and social impact of new papal summer plans.
(CNS Photo/ Paul Haring)
A unique gathering taking place in Rome today and tomorrow, June 15 and 16 and sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, is expected to draw tens of thousands of parishes, communities, youth groups, voluntary associations for the sick and disabled and ordinary families. It will offer the opportunity for the faithful from around the world to gather with Pope Francis in a communal witness to the sacred value of all life and further study and discussion on the encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (The Gospel of Life) promulgated by Blessed John Paul II in March 1995. The Gospel of Life is the defense of all life. This major event gives witness to the consistent life ethic of the Catholic Church.
There is no question that the issue of abortion is certainly important and central to our struggle to uphold the dignity and sacredness of all human life. We must be people who defend and speak for those who are suffering, for those whose lives are being marginalized by a culture of death. We must be advocates for the disabled or ill who are not deemed by society to be ‘productive.’ We must care for the elderly in nursing homes, or those who are being treated in any way with violence and indignity.
On Saturday afternoon, June 15, there will be a pilgrimage down Via della Conciliazione to Pio XII Square, which will conclude with the recitation of the Creed in various languages and a vigil of prayer. On Sunday morning at 10:30, Holy Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis will celebrate mass that will be will be broadcast globally through Vatican Radio and Vatican TV’s online player in 6 languages.
Human life has a sacred and religious value, but in no way is that value a concern only of believers. Today we are living in the midst of a culture that denies solidarity and takes the form of a veritable “culture of death”. This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents that encourage an idea of society exclusively concerned with efficiency. It is a war of the powerful against the weak. There is no room in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure or anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them and can only communicate through the silent language of profound sharing of affection.
Abortion is the most serious wound inflicted not only on individuals and their families who should provide the sanctuary for life, but inflicted as well on society and its culture, by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders. It is important to recall Benedict XVI’s words and pro-life vision at the opening ceremony of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, on July 17, 2008:
“And so we are led to reflect on what place the poor and the elderly, immigrants and the voiceless, have in our societies. How can it be that domestic violence torments so many mothers and children? How can it be that the most wondrous and sacred human space – the womb – has become a place of unutterable violence?”
The Church offers a teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and dignity of the human person. Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the dignity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself, whatever insults human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons – all of these things and more poison human society.
In Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, ‘Caritas in Veritate’, (Charity in Truth), he addressed the dignity and respect for human life “which cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples.” Benedict wrote, “In economically developed countries, legislation contrary to life is very widespread, and it has already shaped moral attitudes and praxis, contributing to the spread of an anti-birth mentality; frequent attempts are made to export this mentality to other states as if it were a form of cultural progress.”
“Openness to life is at the centre of true development,” said Benedict. “When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good. If personal and social sensitivity toward the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.”
Pope Benedict summed up the current global economic crisis in a remarkable way with these words: “Human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs.”
The Roman Catholic Church offers a teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and the dignity of the human person: a 20/20 vision for which we must strive each day if we claim to be “pro-life.” Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. We must strive to see the whole picture, not with tunnel vision.
Being pro-life is one of the deepest expressions of our baptism: we stand up as sons and daughters of the light, clothed in humility and charity, filled with conviction, speaking the truth to power with firmness, conviction and determination, and never losing joy and hope. Being Pro-Life is not an activity for a political party or a particular side of the spectrum. It is an obligation for everyone: left, right and centre! If we are Pro-life, we must engage the culture around us, and not curse it. We must see others as Jesus does, and we must love them to life, even those who are opposed to us.
Two role models of contemporary Pro-life prophetic women
Let us consider two outstanding, Catholic role models who can help us in our efforts to be prophetic, to be Catholic witnesses, and to be authentically pro-life. First, a young Italian pediatrician and mother of a family, Gianna Beretta Molla, who died in 1962 at the age of 39, leaving behind her husband and four young children.
In September, 1961, toward the end of the second month of pregnancy with her fourth child, Dr. Molla had to make a heroic decision. Physicians diagnosed a serious fibroma in the uterus that required surgery. The surgeon suggested that she undergo an abortion in order to save her own life. A few days before the child was due, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: Choose the child – I insist on it. Save the baby.” She gave herself entirely, generating new life.
Dr. Molla was not the typical candidate for one of the Vatican’s most impressive ceremonies and most significant honors. Gianna loved culture, fashion and beauty. She played piano, was a painter, enjoyed tennis, mountain climbing and skiing. She attended the symphony, theatre and Milan’s La Scala Opera. Gianna also had a passion for nice clothes and enjoyed traveling. She loved children, the elderly and the poor.
In an age when permanent commitment is widely discouraged, when human life is cheap and disposable and family life is under siege, when abortion is all too available, when sacrifice and virtue are absent in so many lives; when many in the medical profession have little concern for the dignity and sacredness of every human life; when suffering is seen as a nuisance without any redemptive meaning; when goodness, joy, simplicity and beauty are suspect; St. Gianna Beretta Molla shows this world, gripped by a culture of death, an alternative gospel way of compelling beauty.
Her action at the end of her life, in saving young Gianna Emanuela, her daughter, was heroic in that she prepared for her final action every day of her life. Her final decision for life was the natural flowering and culmination of an extraordinary life of virtue and holiness, selflessness and quiet joy. St. Gianna Molla continues to remind the church and the world of the necessity of a consistent ethic of life, from the earliest to the final moments of human life.
Gianna Beretta Molla is certainly not the first laywoman and mother to be canonized, but her contemporary witness is badly needed by so many people around the world today. Her life was truly prophetic. In the simple words of one of St. Gianna’s closest friends, Piera Fontana, “50 years ago, before Gianna, how was it possible that only nuns, priests and friars were raised to the altar? Why were we never raised to the altar? Gianna was raised to the altar. She represents all mothers. A mother has finally arrived.”
Dorothy Day: model of conversion, courage and commitment
The second example I would like to hold up to you is a very special woman in the Christian tradition, one closer to home for each of us: Dorothy Day. During their annual General Assembly in Baltimore last year, the Bishops of the United States engaged in a canonical consultation regarding the cause for canonisation of Dorothy Day, a pacifist and convert to Catholicism from New York City. This unprecedented canonical consultation was a procedural step in the process toward canonisation.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and leader of the Archdiocese of New York, was seeking the consultation of the full body of bishops. Dorothy Day already carries the title ‘Servant of God,’ a designation awarded by the Vatican when it gave her cause a Nihil Obstat, that is, a formal declaration that the Vatican has no objection to the cause moving forward. The American bishops gave unanimous voice through their vote to proceed with the sainthood cause for Dorothy Day.
She is a remarkable, prophetic woman of our times who transmitted the good news by her life and actions, and at times by her words. Born on November 8, 1897 in Brooklyn, New York, Dorothy was neither baptized nor raised in the church. After dropping out of college in 1916, she pursued the radical causes of her day: women’s suffrage, free love, labour unions, and social revolution. But when a decade of protest and social action failed to produce changes in the values and institutions of society, Dorothy converted to the Catholic Church and the radicalism of Christian love. Her life was filled with friendships with famous artists and writers. At the same time she experienced failed love affairs, a marriage and a suicide attempt. The triggering event for Dorothy’s conversion was the birth of her daughter, Tamar in 1926. After an earlier abortion, Dorothy had desperately wanted to get pregnant. She viewed the birth of her daughter as a sign of forgiveness from God.
For 50 years, Dorothy lived with the poor, conducted conferences, and published a newspaper, all dependent entirely upon donations. She dedicated her life fighting for justice for the homeless in New York City and was co-founder the Catholic Worker Movement. Seventy-five houses of hospitality were established during her lifetime, where the hungry were fed, the naked clothed, the homeless sheltered, the sick cared for, and the dead buried. She was put in jail, for the first time, at the age of 20 while marching in support of women’s suffrage. She was put in jail, for the last time, at the age of 75 while marching in support of the United Farm Workers. She was an avid peacemaker and a prolific author. Dorothy died on November 29, 1980, thirty-two years ago at Maryhouse in New York City, where she spent her final months among the poor. She was an average person who read her bible and tried to live and to love like Jesus. She challenges each of us to take seriously the message of the gospel.
In March 2000, the late Cardinal John O’Connor of New York City, formally announced the opening of the Beatification Process for this great woman of faith, calling Dorothy a Servant of God. In his letter, he wrote: ‘It has long been my contention that Dorothy Day is a saint – not a ‘gingerbread’ saint or a ‘holy card’ saint, but a modern day devoted daughter of the Church, a daughter who shunned personal aggrandizement and wished that her work, and the work of those who labored at her side on behalf of the poor, might be the hallmark of her life rather than her own self.
The conversion of mind and heart that she exemplified speaks volumes to all women today on two fronts. First, it demonstrates the mercy of God, mercy in that a woman who sinned so gravely could find such unity with God upon conversion. Second, it demonstrates that one may turn from the ultimate act of violence against innocent life in the womb to a position of total holiness and pacifism. Her abortion should not preclude her cause, but intensifies it.
Dorothy Day’s life is a model for each one of us who seeks to understand, love, teach and defend the Catholic faith in our day. She procured an abortion before her conversion to the faith. She regretted it every day of her life. After her conversion from a life akin to that of the pre-converted Augustine of Hippo, she proved a stout defender of human life. This prophetic woman of our own time gives us courage to defend our Catholic faith, especially to uphold the dignity and sacredness of every single human life, from womb to tomb. She shows us how to cherish the gift of human life. She helps us never to forget that we are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us.