En route home to Vatican City following his three-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land, His Holiness Pope Francis held an hour-long question and answer session with the media. The in-flight event covered a wide variety of topics, the first of which was clerical child abuse. The Holy Father stated clearly that there would be absolutely no preferential treatment when dealing with this matter. He noted that there were in fact three bishops currently under investigation and that another had been convicted with a decision on punishment pending. In response to the crisis, Pope Francis said that he will be holding a two day conference next week with abuse survivors at the Vatican and celebrate mass with them at Casa Santa Marta. He said that, “we must move forward on this issue, with zero tolerance!”
The Pope was then asked about the matter of Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics in advance of October’s Synod of Bishops on the Family. The Holy Father said that the fundamental question that required examination by the Synod, was the problem of fewer and fewer young people choosing to marry. He said that he did not want the Synod to find itself being dominated by questions relating to divorced and remarried Catholics. He did however say that such people should not be treated as if they were excommunicated.
Speaking on the European Parliamentary elections this past weekend, he said that unemployment was the key issue voters. He said the current global economic order has money at its center and not the human person. This has resulted in people’s priorities shifting and the vulnerable such as children and the elderly being discarded by society. He said that this is ultimately reflected through the continents continually declining birth rate.
Responding to other questions, he noted that priestly celibacy was no means dogmatic, and that in fact the Church has married priests among the Eastern Rites. Asked about reform of the Curia, the Pontiff said he planned to lighten the size of the government of the Church by merging various dicasteries. The Holy Father also announced that in addition to his planned trip to South Korea in August that he would also be travelling to both Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January. He said the in some areas of Asia there are still concerns over religious freedom, saying that “There are martyrs! There are martyrs in our times, Christian martyrs, both Catholic and non-Catholic. There are places where it is forbidden to wear a crucifix or to possess a Bible; where it is forbidden to teach the catechism to children.” He also noted that during his visit to the Philippines he would be visiting areas affected by the typhoon.
To conclude his gathering with the media the Pope answered a question about whether or not he would follow the lead of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and one day retire. The Holy Father responded by saying that the brave decision made by Benedict opened all kinds of doors, but that he would ultimately listen to what the Lord was calling him to do.
Upon returning to Rome, Pope Francis made a private visit to the Archbasilica of Santa Maria Majore. While there he gave thanks to the Blessed Mother for the success of his trip and presented a bouquet of flowers before the icon of Madonna Salus Populi Romani. After praying for about half an hour, the Holy Father then took a few minutes to speak to the faithful visiting the Archbasilica.
This past Saturday, the Archdiocese of Toronto ordained eight men to the permanent diaconate. Ordained by His Eminence Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, the rite of ordination took place at St. Paul’s Basilica in downtown Toronto. The men and their wives received formation at St. Augustine’s Seminary, including a year of prayer and discernment, as well as four years of theological study. The Archdiocese’s new permanent deacons are: Deacon Delbert John Francis Allan, vice-principal of St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic High School in Aurora, Deacon John Patrick Brown, a partner at a major law firm, Deacon Joerg-Stephan Brunck, president of a gourmet cookie company, Deacon Timothy Joseph Dunlop, a financial advisor and mortgage agent, Deacon Paul Ma, an engineering specialist, Deacon Peter Tetsuo Takaoka, manager at an engineering consulting firm, and Deacon Richard Go Te, assistant vice president of business operations at a wealth management firm. The new class included, the Archdiocese of Toronto has 113 permanent deacons.