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The Vatican and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: peace trumps politics

Abbas

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.”

SebastianGOn 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.

Palestinian women canonized during Pope’s busy weekend – Perspectives Daily


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.

Behind Vatican Walls: Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez

FrGutierrez

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.

Watch Vatican Connections:

Photo – CNS/Paul Haring

AliciaEvery 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.

Movies, Priests and Pope Francis – Still Popular

Priests_Pope

Noel-BlogWelcome to S+L’s Weekly News Round-Up. As the Director of Marketing and Communications here at S+L, many interesting Catholic news stories and articles come across my desk on a daily basis. Some of them we’ll cover on our different television programs and others I’d like to share with you on this blog.

This blog column is where I’ll point out some of the more interesting news pieces that I’ve come across over the past week! Enjoy!

So many great articles have surfaced over the past few weeks that I don’t event know where to begin or how to group them so that there is some order to this week’s blog post! Nevertheless, below are some of the pieces that I’ve enjoyed.

Being a big movie fan and working in television, I found this article particularly interesting. Apparently, there’s a list complied by the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications back in 1995 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the film industry. Check out the Vatican’s top 45 list of great films.

Since we are on the topic of films, our friends at Aleteia published an article highlighting 12 Great Movie Priests in film in the past 4 years. It’s really great to see that the priesthood is being portrayed very positively in some big-budget Hollywood films. I hope it’s a trend that we’ll continue to see!

Speaking of the priest hood in big films, how about on the “small screen”? Imagine some of the funny things that a poor pastor has to put up with on a daily basis at his church!

Check out these Funny Church Moments video posted on the Crux:

Ok, on to a more serious note. I’m sure we all remember from our history class, the atrocities that were committed against the Armenians during the Armenian genocide in 1915-16 when the Ottoman government systematically exterminated Armenian, leaving 1.5 million dead. Apparently, old files have surfaced detailing how the Vatican tried to stop the genocide. It is indeed a very interesting read. The article about it can be read here.

Earlier this month, Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, published a long but interesting article in The New York Times on why a lot of evangelical Christians are ready to follow Pope Francis’ lead. He makes some compelling arguments as to why evangelicals should love the Pope. It’s definitely worth the read.

And since we are talking of interesting reads, do you remember the Screwtape letters written by C.S. Lewis? Here is an absolutely fantastic article, or letter if you so will, written in the same C.S Lewis fashion published in Catholic365. It seems that both Wormwood and Screwtape are still at it but this time in Connecticut.

Check it out here.

Finally now, here is a quiz that I thought you might like. Take it here: How well do you know the Eucharist? Being a catholic all my life I thought, this was an easy one. How wrong I was. Let’s see if you can beat my score of 2.

Well, that’s it for me this week folks. I’d love to hear you thoughts and comments on these stories. If you have any interesting stories yourself, please feel free to send them to me!

I hope you enjoyed these little stories! I certainly have. Till next week!

– Noel

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Vatican Connections: January 9, 2015

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.

 

 

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Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis’ weekly general audience, the Vatican steps up its efforts in the fight against Ebola, the Eastern Churches and the Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas and the feast of St. Andre Bessette.

O Christmas Tree

 

Vatican Christmas Tree

Although it stands tall next to the obelisk in the middle of St. Peter’s Square every year, the Vatican’s Christmas tree is relatively new addition to the Holy See’s yuletide traditions.

St. John Paul II introduced the Christmas Tree to St. Peter’s square in the early 80s.

Why was the piazza bereft of a tree until then?

It could be due to the fact that the Christmas tree is not, strictly speaking, a religious symbol of feast of the birth of Christ.

The practice of decorating the home with boughs of evergreen and setting up a decorated tree, seem to be liked to pagan traditions prevalent in Roman times. It was common practice to decorate one’s home with greenery at New Year’s to scare away the devil.

Other sources point to the medieval nativity plays. At some point in time the date we now know as Christmas was the date of a feast dedicated to Adam and Eve (or very close to it). Medieval nativity plays kept that connection alive, and as a result often featured live trees decorated with fruits.

Eventually the practice was banned. However, it seems people in Germany took to setting up fruit-decorated trees, known as “Paradise Trees” in their homes and keeping them up throughout the Christmas season.

The practice of setting up a tree in one’s house was largely confined to Germany. It wasn’t until 1848 that the practice was introduced to the rest of the world, thanks to Queen Victoria.

The beloved queen encouraged Prince Albert to set up a decorated tree in the palace just as he did as a child in Germany. A picture of the royal Christmas tree was published in newspapers and magazines around the wor ld and the practice suddenly became fashionable.

By the time St. John Paul II became pope, Christmas trees were widely accepted as a Christmas symbol alongside the nativity scene, so it seemed natural to have a tree placed in St. Peter’s square next to the manger scene. Since St. John Paul II had the first tree placed in the piazza different places around Italy and northern Europe have considered it an honour to donate the tree that will adorn St. Peter’s Square.

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)