PopeWatch

PopeWatch: Canonizations

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The canonization sermon by Pope Francis in regard to Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII with commentary by Father Z:

At the heart of this Sunday, which concludes the Octave of Easter and which John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, are the glorious wounds of the risen Jesus.

He had already shown those wounds when he first appeared to the Apostles on the very evening of that day following the Sabbath, the day of the resurrection. But Thomas was not there that evening, and when the others told him that they had seen the Lord, he replied that unless he himself saw and touched those wounds, he would not believe. A week later, Jesus appeared once more to the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, and Thomas was present; Jesus turned to him and told him to touch his wounds. Whereupon that man, so straightforward and accustomed to testing everything personally, knelt before Jesus with the words: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. [May I add also that there are hard teachings which we must accept if we are to remain Christians?  I have in mind, among others, the Lord’s teaching about marriage, to which the Church has] That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness. Saint Peter, quoting Isaiah, writes to Christians: “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet2:24, cf. Is 53:5). [It is a great mystery that, even through Christ conquered death definitively, once for all time, we still have to die.]

John XXIII and John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. [As Christ said and John Paul famously repeated, “Do not be afraid.”] They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother (cf. Is 58:7), because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. These were two men of courage, filled with the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.

They were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century. [Let us not forget the indignities and sufferings they experienced as children, lay men!] They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful – faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother.

In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy (1 Pet 1:3,8). The hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them. The hope and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice. Such were the hope and the joy which these two holy popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude.

This hope and this joy were palpable in the earliest community of believers, in Jerusalem, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 2:42-47). It was a community which lived the heart of the Gospel, love and mercy, in simplicity and fraternity.

This is also the image of the Church which the Second Vatican Council set before us. John XXIII and John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries. Let us not forget that it is the saints who give direction and growth to the Church. In convening the Council, John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader. This was his great service to the Church; he was the pope of openness to the Spirit. [Since last July I have been saying that this canonization of the two Popes is also the canonization of the Second Vatican Council.]

In his own service to the People of God, John Paul II was the pope of the family. He himself once said that he wanted to be remembered as the pope of the family. I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains. [All of you should note that reference to the Synod.  I know that the Cardinals and Bishops present heard that.]

May these two new saints and shepherds of God’s people intercede for the Church, so that during this two-year journey toward the Synod she may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family. May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, [NB!] which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves. Continue reading

You Knew This Was Going to Happen Eventually, Didn’t You

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From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:

VATICAN––The Vatican Press Office Director Father Federico Lombardi issued a statement to the media today concerning Pope Francis’ recent telephone call to a divorced and remarried Argentine woman, in which he supposedly gave her permission to receive Holy Communion. The woman at the center of the story, Jacqui Sabetta, and her ex-husband told reporters that His Holiness told them that “divorced people who take communion are not doing anything wrong.”

In response to the controversy, Lombardi has issued the following statement:

Statement from the Director of the Holy See Press Office

Several telephone calls have taken place in the context of Pope Francis’ personal pastoral relationships.

Since they do not in any way form part of the Pope’s public activities, no information or comments are to be expected from the Holy See Press Office.

Consequences relating to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred from these occurrences.

Nevertheless…in light of how out of control these phone calls are becoming, and the distraction they are causing from the Church’s mission, we have decided to disconnect His Holiness’ phone service indefinitely. For the lack of a better term, His Holiness is hereby grounded, his phone has been taken away, as well as his access to social media. He has said nothing wrong, but he knew better than to give ammunition to you in the media.

Our telephone provider, Telefonica, has been notified of our wish that no one be allowed to call outside the Vatican until the end of His Holiness’ pontificate,  and they have assured us that phone service in the Vatican is to be disconnected sometime tonight, before His Holiness finds some spare time and decides to dial someone back home. We ask all of you in the media to please keep this news on the hush-hush until service is successfully shut off.

Thank you for your cooperation. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Father Lombardi

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PopeWatch has long admired the standup comedy performed by Vatican press flack Father Federico Lombardi.  In reaction to the cold call mess, go here to read about it, he has outdone himself with this hilarious statement:

Several telephone calls have taken place in the context of Pope Francis’ personal pastoral
relationships.
Since they do not in any way form part of the Pope’s public activities, no information or
comments are to be expected from the Holy See Press Office.
That which has been communicated in relation to this matter, outside the scope of personal
relationships, and the consequent media amplification, cannot be confirmed as reliable, and is
a source of misunderstanding and confusion.
Therefore, consequences relating to the teaching of the Church are not to be inferred from
these occurrences. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Yoannis Lahzi Gaid

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The appointment of Father Yoannis Lahzi Gaid as a personal secretary is an intriguing appointment by the Pope.  Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa gives us the details:

Pope Francis has a new personal secretary. His name is Yoannis Lahzi Gaid. He is an Egyptian priest of the Coptic rite and a member of the Vatican diplomatic service. A figure with an unusual résumé. The author, in the past, of statements very critical in regard to Islam.

Gaid is taking the place of the Maltese Alfred Xuereb, whom the pontiff inherited a year ago from Benedict XVI and has now destined for the position of prelate secretary of the newly created secretariat for the economy. He is joining the pope’s other personal secretary, the Argentine Fabián Pedacchio Leániz, who is also staying in his role as an official of the congregation for bishops.

The selection of Gaid, as of personal secretaries in general, is not a formal appointment and so was not made public in an official manner. The news was broken by the website Vatican Insider last week.

Born in 1975, Gaid attended the pontifical ecclesiastical academy and in 2007 entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See. Initially destined for the nunciature of Brazzaville in Congo, he remained there for three years. In March of 2010 he was transferred to that of Iraq and Jordan. But his stay there was very brief. In July of 2011, in fact, he was destined for the pontifical nunciature of New Delhi, but before the transfer to India could take place he was kept back in the first section of the secretariat of state, in an office of slight importance, that of honorary awards, usually reserved for non-diplomatic personnel.

But Francis has been able to appreciate him both as his fellow neighbor at the residence of Santa Marta and as an interpreter during meetings with Arabic speakers. Gaid is also the prelate who gives the greetings in the language of the Quran during the Wednesday general audiences.

The admirers of the pope’s new secretary have included his fellow Egyptian Magdi Cristiano Allam, a Muslim journalist and writer who converted to Christianity and was baptized in Saint Peter’s by Benedict XVI on March 22, 2008. For some time has been very critical of a Church that in his view is too yielding toward Islam. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Priestly Joy

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Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa has a report on remarks by the Pope to priests last Holy Thursday:

For me, there are three significant features of our priestly joy. It is a joy which anoints us (not one which “greases” us, making us unctuous, sumptuous and presumptuous), it is a joy which is imperishable and it is a missionary joy which spreads and attracts, starting backwards – with those farthest away from us.

A joy which anoints us. In a word: it has penetrated deep within our hearts, it has shaped them and strengthened them sacramentally. The signs of the ordination liturgy speak to us of the Church’s maternal desire to pass on and share with others all that the Lord has given us: the laying on of hands, the anointing with sacred chrism, the clothing with sacred vestments, the first consecration which immediately follows… Grace fills us to the brim and overflows, fully, abundantly and entirely in each priest. We are anointed down to our very bones… and our joy, which wells up from deep within, is the echo of this anointing.

An imperishable joy. The fullness of the Gift, which no one can take away or increase, is an unfailing source of joy: an imperishable joy which the Lord has promised no one can take from us (Jn 16:22). It can lie dormant, or be clogged by sin or by life’s troubles, yet deep down it remains intact, like the embers of a burnt log beneath the ashes, and it can always be renewed. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy remains ever timely: I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands (cf. 2 Tim 1:6).

A missionary joy. I would like especially to share with you and to stress this third feature: priestly joy is deeply bound up with God’s holy and faithful people, for it is an eminently missionary joy. Our anointing is meant for anointing God’s holy and faithful people: for baptizing and confirming them, healing and sanctifying them, blessing, comforting and evangelizing them.

And since this joy is one which only springs up when the shepherd is in the midst of his flock (for even in the silence of his prayer, the shepherd who worships the Father is with his sheep), it is a “guarded joy”, watched over by the flock itself. Even in those gloomy moments when everything looks dark and a feeling of isolation takes hold of us, in those moments of listlessness and boredom which at times overcome us in our priestly life (and which I too have experienced), even in those moments God’s people are able to “guard” that joy; they are able to protect you, to embrace you and to help you open your heart to find renewed joy.

A “guarded joy”: one guarded by the flock but also guarded by three sisters who surround it, tend it and defend it: sister poverty, sister fidelity and sister obedience.

The joy of priests is a joy which is sister to poverty. The priest is poor in terms of purely human joy. He has given up so much! And because he is poor, he, who gives so much to others, has to seek his joy from the Lord and from God’s faithful people. He doesn’t need to try to create it for himself. We know that our people are very generous in thanking priests for their slightest blessing and especially for the sacraments. Many people, in speaking of the crisis of priestly identity, fail to realize that identity presupposes belonging. There is no identity – and consequently joy of life – without an active and unwavering sense of belonging to God’s faithful people (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 268). The priest who tries to find his priestly identity by soul-searching and introspection may well encounter nothing more than “exit” signs, signs that say: exit from yourself, exit to seek God in adoration, go out and give your people what was entrusted to you, for your people will make you feel and taste who you are, what your name is, what your identity is, and they will make you rejoice in that hundredfold which the Lord has promised to those who serve him. Unless you “exit” from yourself, the oil grows rancid and the anointing cannot be fruitful. Going out from ourselves presupposes self-denial; it means poverty.

Priestly joy is a joy which is sister to fidelity. Not primarily in the sense that we are all “immaculate” (would that by God’s grace we were!), for we are sinners, but in the sense of an ever renewed fidelity to the one Bride, to the Church. Here fruitfulness is key. The spiritual children which the Lord gives each priest, the children he has baptized, the families he has blessed and helped on their way, the sick he has comforted, the young people he catechizes and helps to grow, the poor he assists… all these are the “Bride” whom he rejoices to treat as his supreme and only love and to whom he is constantly faithful. It is the living Church, with a first name and a last name, which the priest shepherds in his parish or in the mission entrusted to him. That mission brings him joy whenever he is faithful to it, whenever he does all that he has to do and lets go of everything that he has to let go of, as long as he stands firm amid the flock which the Lord has entrusted to him: Feed my sheep (cf. Jn 21:16,17).

Priestly joy is a joy which is sister to obedience. An obedience to the Church in the hierarchy which gives us, as it were, not simply the external framework for our obedience: the parish to which I am sent, my ministerial assignments, my particular work … but also union with God the Father, the source of all fatherhood. It is likewise an obedience to the Church in service: in availability and readiness to serve everyone, always and as best I can, following the example of “Our Lady of Promptness” (cf. Lk 1:39, meta spoudes), who hastens to serve Elizabeth her kinswoman and is concerned for the kitchen of Cana when the wine runs out. The availability of her priests makes the Church a house with open doors, a refuge for sinners, a home for people living on the streets, a place of loving care for the sick, a camp for the young, a classroom for catechizing children about to make their First Communion… Wherever God’s people have desires or needs, there is the priest, who knows how to listen (ob-audire) and feels a loving mandate from Christ who sends him to relieve that need with mercy or to encourage those good desires with resourceful charity.

All who are called should know that genuine and complete joy does exist in this world: it is the joy of being taken from the people we love and then being sent back to them as dispensers of the gifts and counsels of Jesus, the one Good Shepherd who, with deep compassion for all the little ones and the outcasts of this earth, wearied and oppressed like sheep without a shepherd, wants to associate many others to his ministry, so as himself to remain with us and to work, in the person of his priests, for the good of his people. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Turnaround CEO

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The Economist has an article that concisely paints Pope Francis as a turn around CEO of a troubled corporation:

When Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter as CEO, just after being appointed, the world’s oldest multinational was in crisis. Pentecostal competitors were stealing market share in the emerging world, including in Latin America, where Francis ran the Argentine office. In its traditional markets, scandals were scaring off customers and demoralising the salesforce. Recruitment was difficult, despite the offer of lifetime employment in a tough economy. The firm’s finances were also a mess. Leaked documents revealed the Vatican bank as a vortex of corruption and incompetence. The board was divided and weak. Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, was the first pope to resign for 600 years, amid dark rumours that the founder and chairman, a rarely seen elderly bearded figure whose portrait adorns the Sistine boardroom, had intervened.

Operating prophet

In just a year, the business has recovered a lot of its self-confidence. The CEO is popular: 85% of American Catholics—a tough audience—approve of him. Footfall in RC Global’s retail outlets is rising again. The salesforce now talks about a “Francis effect”. How has a septuagenarian Argentine succeeded in galvanising one of the world’s stodgiest outfits? Essentially by grasping three management principles.

The first is a classic lesson in core competences. Francis has refocused his organisation on one mission: helping the poor. One of his first decisions was to forsake the papal apartments in favour of a boarding house which he shares with 50 other priests and sundry visitors. He took the name of a saint who is famous for looking after the poor and animals. He washed and kissed the feet of 12 inmates of a juvenile-detention centre. He got rid of the fur-trimmed velvet capes that popes have worn since the Renaissance, swapped Benedict’s red shoes for plain black ones and ignored his fully loaded Mercedes in favour of a battered Ford.

This new focus has allowed the company to spend fewer resources on ancillary businesses, such as engaging in doctrinal disputes or staging elaborate ceremonies. The “poor-first strategy” is also aimed squarely at emerging markets, where the potential for growth is greatest but competition fiercest. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Easter Message

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The Easter Message of Pope Francis:

 

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, a Happy and Holy Easter!

The Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s  message to the women: “Do not be afraid!  I know that you are looking  for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised…  Come, see the place where he lay” ( Mt 28:5-6).

This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good  News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen!  This event is  the basis of our faith and our hope.  If Christ were not raised,  Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the  Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew.  The message which  Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on  the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the  Lord of life and death.  In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over  death. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Abominable Crime

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Rest assured that most of the media will ignore this statement of Pope Francis:

The pope thanked the Movimento per la Vita, one of Italy’s leading political pro-life groups, for their work, urging them to continue “with courage and love” for life “in all its phases.”

“It is therefore necessary to reiterate the strongest opposition to any direct attack on life, especially innocent and defenseless, and her unborn child in the womb is the innocent par excellence,” the pope told the gathering of politicians and pro-life activists at the Vatican today.

“If you look at life as something that is consumed,” the pope said, “it will also be something that sooner or later you can throw away, with abortion to begin with.”

Human life, however, is “a gift from God” and if it is accepted as such, “then you have before you a valuable and intangible asset, to be protected by all means and not to be discarded.” 

In a different tack from previous popes, Pope Francis took the opportunity to link the pro-life message of the Church to his critique of the global economy, a major theme of this pontificate. “This economy kills. It considers the human being in himself as a commodity; a commodity that you can use and then throw away.” He added, quoting his own recent document Evangelii Gaudium, “We started the culture of ‘waste’ that, indeed, is promoted” through abortion in which “even life is discarded.”

One of the “most serious risks” of the modern world, he said, “is the divorce between economics and morality.” In a world offering “a market equipped with every technological innovation, elementary ethical standards of human nature [are] more and more neglected.”

In his brief address, Pope Francis quoted the document Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council, that says, “Life once conceived, must be protected with the utmost care; abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.” He encouraged pro-life workers to fight for life “with a style of closeness” to women so that “every woman feels regarded as a person, heard, accepted, accompanied.”

In a speech on Friday to the International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE), the pope also spoke of the need to reaffirm the rights of parents to decide “the moral and religious education of their children” and reject all forms of “educational experimentation with children and young people.” Continue reading

PopeWatch: Teleprompter

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From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:

 

VATICAN–The focus of the conversation when President Barack Obama met with Pope Francis on Thursday was expected to be the gap between the rich and the poor. Obama has called income inequality “the defining challenge of our time,” and said as much to Pope Francis before the Holy Father, mesmerized with a black teleprompter Obama was using to discuss the plight of the poor, politely asked the President to stop what he was saying and to explain what “that black thingy” was behind him.

The former community organizer and pitchman, Obama, appeared more than willing to put a halt to his discussion about the poor, and to switch topics to the benefits of his teleprompter made by Autocue, saying, “Well, I’m glad you asked. Now if you don’t mind, let me ask you a few questions.”

“The President asked Pope Francis if he had ever had that awkward moment when he was giving a talk and lost his train of thought and had to revert to off-the-cuff remarks,” a Vatican insider told EOTT. “His Holiness nodded, and then Obama asked if he [Francis] was sick and tired of being misrepresented, or for suffering attacks from some Catholics about his sometimes suspect comments about gay marriage, abortion, and the potential of divorced Catholics receiving communion. Again Francis nodded.”

“Then boy are you in for a treat,” Obama reportedly told Francis. “Behold the all-new Autocue. Autocue is the world’s leading teleprompting solutions provider, with an unmatched heritage and the largest installed base. Autocue introduced the first teleprompters in 1955 and have led innovation in the industry ever since. Quite simply, Autocue is the household name in teleprompting. Just write out what you want to say, have someone take a look at it to make sure it can’t be misrepresented, and then just read off of it. No more off-the-cuff comments that’ll lead to scrutiny by some orthodox Catholics. Simply read off the teleprompter, bless everyone, and walk away. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Down Argentine Way

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PopeWatch has long believed that one of the keys to understanding Pope Francis is that he is an Argentinian,  a very unique country whose tempestuous history has been dominated by outsized personalities.  Here is an intriguing comment about the leadership style of Pope Francis by Nicolás Tereschuk which appeared in The Buenos Aires Herald:

As a bishop in Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio pursued a conservative agenda critical of the “leftist” turn made by Néstor and Cristina Kirchner. But known for his “Peronist-style” leadership the priest’s strategy cannot be understood only in terms of the “right or left” spectrum. The question a man like Bergoglio asks himself is more like “how do I get to lead this organization?”, and not “how do I impose my own views in full to this organization?” In other words, with an institution without a real left for so many years — the last dictatorship and John Paul II views did the work — the biggest threat to Bergoglio was on the far right — an elitist conservative right. Behaving like quite a fierce challenger of the “red” Kirchners allowed Bergoglio to lead the Argentine Church and become papabile.

Now as Peter’s successor, the pendulum of power has swayed again for Bergoglio. To my own surprise — not everybody’s I must admit— it moved to the left. He does not seem that worried now about the conservative agenda he pushed in Buenos Aires, and his words sound more Latin American, younger, more progressive. Again, this should not be taken into account without noting the main fact. Bergoglio is now at the top of the organization he’s belonged to his entire life. He can neutralize his internal enemies best with this “liberal” shift than by being more conservative. It is also important to keep in mind that his former fellow cardinals gave him a task: get the Church out of a financial and political crisis, and clean its image as a first step to prepare it for the next two thousand years to come. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Friars of the Immaculate

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Rorate Caeli has a report, translated from a story by Sandro Magister, which indicates that the ordeal of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, go here to read about it, may be coming to an end.

 

 

On Sunday, April 6, Pope Francis celebrated a mass in the Roman parish church of San Gregorio Magno alla Magliana. What he did not expect was for the pastor to introduce him to a couple, last name Manelli, six of whose nine children are members of the Franciscan Friars (two of the children) and Sisters (four of the children) of the Immaculate.

PopeWatch: The Cross

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Excerpts from the Pope’s homily yesterday morning on the Cross:

 

 

“It is impossible for us to free ourselves from sin on our own. It’s impossible. These doctors of the law, these people who taught the law, didn’t have a clear idea on this. They believed, yes, in the forgiveness of God but considered themselves strong, self-sufficient and that they knew everything. And in the end they transformed religion, their adoration of God, into a culture with values, reflections, certain commandments of conduct to be polite and they believed, yes, that the Lord can pardon them, they knew this but they were far removed from all this.”

 

“Christianity is not a philosophical doctrine, it’s not a programme for life survival or education, or for peacemaking. These are consequences. Christianity is a person, a person raised on the Cross, a person who annihilated himself to save us, who became sin. Just as sin was raised up in the desert, here God who was made man and made sin for us was raised up. All our sins were there. You cannot understand Christianity without understanding this profound humiliation of the Son of God who humbled himself and became a servant unto death, even death on a cross, in order to serve us.”

“The Cross is not an ornament that we must always put in the churches, there on the altar. It is not a symbol that distinguishes us from others. The Cross is mystery, the mystery of God who humbles himself, he becomes ‘nothing.’ He becomes sin. Where is your sin? ‘I don’t know, I have so many here.’ No, your sin is there, in the Cross. Go and find it there, in the wounds of the Lord and your sins will be healed, your wounds will be healed, your sins will be forgiven. The forgiveness that God gives us is not the same as cancelling a debt that we have with Him, the forgiveness that God gives us are the wounds of his Son on the Cross, raised up on the Cross. May he draw us towards Him and may we allow ourselves to be healed by him.” Continue reading

PopeWatch: Vatican Bank

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Pope Francis is satisfied with the success of reforms he has implemented in regard to the Vatican Bank and, as a result, the Bank may remain open:

 

 

Pope Francis has given his backing to the Vatican’s scandal-plagued bank,   ending speculation that he might shut it down as part of his drive to clean   up the Vatican’s murky finances.

PopeWatch: Gay Thought Police

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Judging from this article, originally written for Foreign Policy by Michael O’Loughlin, the Gay Thought Police are disappointed that Pope Francis hasn’t cracked down on bishops in regard to the gay agenda.

But bishops, not a centralized Roman bureaucracy, are the men supporting campaigns against same-sex marriage in the United States, and they’re the ones supporting laws that imprison gays in Africa. Liberal Catholics, in other words, are seeing both the good and the bad of what they wished for.

Now, many human rights advocates say silence from the pope, regardless of internal church issues, isn’t acceptable, that human dignity should trump bureaucratic reform. In October, Human Rights Watch published a letter to Pope Francis asking the church to use its influence “to protect people in sexual and gender minorities from further abuse.” HRW wanted the pope to “[p]ublicly condemn violence against people in sexual and gender minorities” and support the “decriminalization of consensual, sexual relationships and support the repeal of other unjust criminal penalties for people in sexual and gender minorities.”

As for whether his voice would matter, it’s certainly possible for the pope — especially this pope — to use his global platform to drive a conversation, perhaps even sway opinion. He led a massive protest against Western military intervention in Syria last September, for instance, rallying Catholics for a worldwide day of prayer. He has showed the world that he knows how to mobilize believers.

What’s more, even during the hostile climate created under Pope Benedict, there were some positive rumblings at the Vatican that show Pope Francis likely wouldn’t have much to lose in speaking out against egregious violations of LGBT rights. Responding to protests against its unwillingness to back a U.N. resolution on sexual orientation, Rome said in 2008 that it would support eliminating criminal penalties for homosexuality (even while it would not support same-sex unions and some other policies). More recently, Pope Francis’s personal representative to Uganda, Archbishop Michael Blume, expressed concern about Uganda’s anti-gay bill and wrote that he hoped the Holy Spirit would give Mr. Museveni “wisdom” as the president considered signing it into law.

Given his own public comments, Archbishop Blume’s words and other signals, it’s probable that Francis is against repressive, anti-gay laws. And already, in his first year as pope, he has taken an important step toward a new dynamic around LGBT issues in the church.

Yet if he truly wants to move forward, he will have to build on his initial outreach and ask, publicly, that Catholic bishops and other leaders keep up. If the pope truly wants the Catholic Church to chart a course for social justice around the world, his leadership on this issue must demonstrate that his powerful institution is a genuine voice for the oppressed. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Secession

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From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:

Washington—Catholic Democrats voted to secede from the Catholic Church in a referendum yesterday, with final results showing that 95.5% of ballots were in favor of becoming Pagan.

Leaders from the Pagan Coalition will pass legislation allowing Catholics in the Democratic Party who follow their consciences even when they conflict with moral teachings of the Magisterium to be known as Pagans. The Vatican has welcomed the results, with the Vatican Press Office today issuing a statement of support and congratulations.

“Results of the referendum in the Democratic Party clearly showed that Catholic Democrats see their future only as part of the Pagan movement,” said Vatican Press Secretary Roberto Ansaldi. “We support their decision and hope that their transition will be seamless. ‘Transition’ isn’t the right word there is it? ‘Transition’ would imply some sort of change from one position to another.”

Continue reading

PopeWatch: The Queen

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Pope Francis met with the Queen yesterday:

According to Vatican Radio, Thursday’s audience marked the queen’s seventh encounter with a pontiff and the fifth different pope she has met. Besides trips to Rome, she also welcomed Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus, on their respective visits to Britain.

Her first papal encounter was with Pope Pius in 1951, the year before she ascended the throne, the broadcaster said.

The Queen’s latest visit to Italy, at the invitation of Napolitano, was initially planned last year but was postponed because of illness.

Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker, told Vatican Radio the Queen had decided to take advantage of the rescheduled trip to meet Pope Francis.

“If you look back in terms of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, it is extraordinary how far the relationship between Britain and the Holy See, and between the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church, has developed since 1952 when she became queen,” he said.

A key aspect of that has been her several encounters with different popes over the years, Baker said. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Libertine Atheism

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa has an interesting post examining an intellectual influence on the Pope:

 

His name is Alberto Methol Ferré. An Uruguayan from Montevideo, he often crossed the Rio de la Plata to visit his friend the archbishop in Buenos Aires. He died in 2009 at the age of eighty. A book-length interview of 2007 has been reprinted in Argentina and now also in Italy, of capital importance for understanding not only his vision of the world but also that of his friend who went on to become pope:

In presenting the first edition of this book in Buenos Aires, Bergoglio praised it as a text of “metaphysical profundity.” And in 2011, in the preface to another book by a close friend of both men – Guzmán Carriquiry Lecour, the Uruguayan secretary of the pontifical commission for Latin America, the highest ranking layman at the Vatican – Bergoglio once again offered his gratitude to the “brilliant thinker of the Rio de la Plata” for having laid bare the new dominant ideology after the fall of the Marxism-inspired forms of messianic atheism.

It is the ideology that Methol Ferrè called “libertine atheism.” And that Bergoglio describes as follows:

“Hedonistic atheism and its neo-Gnostic trappings have become the dominant culture, with global reach and diffusion. The constitute the atmosphere of the time in which we live, the new opium of the people. The ‘sole form of thought,’ in addition to being socially and politically totalitarian, has Gnostic structures: it is not human, it recycles the different forms of absolutist rationalism with which the nihilistic hedonism described by Methol Ferré expresses itself. It dominates the ‘nebulized theism,’ a diffuse theism without historical incarnation; even at its best it produces Masonic ecumenism.”

In the book-length interview that has now been republished, Methol Ferré maintains that the new atheism “has radically changed its face. It is not messianic, but libertine. It is not revolutionary in a social sense, but complicit with the status quo. It has no interest in justice, but in all that permits the cultivation of radical hedonism. It is not aristocratic, but has transformed itself into a mass phenomenon.”

But perhaps the most interesting element of Methol Ferré’s analysis is in the answer that he gives to the challenged posed by the new hegemonic thinking:

“This is what happened with the Protestant Reformation, with Enlightenment secularism, and then with messianic Marxism. An enemy is defeated by taking the best of his intuitions and pushing them further.”

And what is his judgment of libertine atheism?

“The truth of libertine atheism is the perception that existence has an intrinsic destination of enjoyment, that life itself is made for satisfaction. In other words: the deep kernel of libertine atheism is a buried need for beauty.”

Of course, libertine atheism “perverts” beauty, because “it separates it from truth and from goodness, and therefore from justice. But – Methol Ferré warns – “one cannot redeem libertine atheism’s kernel of truth with an argumentative or dialectical procedure; much less can one do so by setting up prohibitions, raising alarms, dictating abstract rules. Libertine atheism is not an ideology, it is a practice. A practice must be opposed with another practice; a self-aware practice, of course, which means one that is equipped intellectually. Historically the Church is the only subject present on the stage of the contemporary world that can confront libertine atheism. To my mind only the Church is truly post-modern.”

There is a stunning harmony between this vision of Methol Ferré and the program of his disciple Bergoglio’s pontificate, with his rejection of “the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be imposed with insistence” and with his insistence on a Church capable of “making the heart burn,” of healing every kind of illness and injury, of restoring happiness. Continue reading

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