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9/20/2018

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2018 / 05:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- All people have a responsibility to fight new forms of racism in the modern world, Pope Francis told more than 200 participants at a Rome-based conference this week.

“We are living in times in which feelings that many thought had passed are taking new life and spreading,” the pope said Sept. 20.

The international conference on “Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration” concluded Thursday. It had been promoted by the Vatican's Dicastery for Integral Human Development, the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Addressing those present, Pope Francis warned that the modern world appears to be seeing an increase in “feelings of suspicion, fear, contempt and even hatred towards individuals or groups judged for their ethnic, national or religious identity.”

These individuals are “considered not sufficiently worthy of being fully part of society's life,” and such sentiments “all too often inspire real acts of intolerance, discrimination or exclusion,” he said.

Exclusion of foreigners can also become enshrined in political policy, as some lawmakers exploit fears and misgivings for political gain, he said.

Faced with these social changes, “we are all called, in our respective roles, to cultivate and promote respect for the intrinsic dignity of every human person,” the pope said.

He emphasized the role of religious leaders, educators, and media in this endeavor to promote a culture that respects human life and dignity.

Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, secretary general of the World Council of Churches, told Vatican News that the conference was intended to show a strong ecumenical commitment to addressing the global issues of racism and xenophobia, to hear from voices across the globe about the issue, and to create common text that can be used as the basis of further efforts.

He stressed the importance of supporting politicians who are standing up for the human rights of migrants, and emphasized the role of religious leaders in upholding human dignity in public discussions surrounding migration.

“There is no easy political answer to all of this: it is a very complex political situation, but we believe that the churches, with our values but also with our networks, our communities, as human beings and as people of faith, can contribute a lot,” he said.

9/20/2018

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the Church’s ongoing sexual abuse crisis, he has grown “impatient” while awaiting a decision from the pope on a request made by U.S. bishops more than one month ago.

Speaking at a press conference Sept. 21, Cardinal Timothy Dolan called for a formal investigation- an apostolic visitation- of the Church in the United States in response to allegations that have surfaced in recent months regarding decades of sexual immorality on the part of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

“Part of my people saying ‘we're beginning to lose trust in bishops’ is their legitimate question as to how could a man continue to rise in the Church with a background like that?’ And that’s a darn good question, that I share. We have got to get to the bottom of that.”

“How [that happens] is an ongoing question. I think particularly an apostolic visitation from the Holy See that included lay professionals would be a particularly effective way to do that. We’ve proposed that to the Holy See and we wait.”

An apostolic visitation was formally proposed to the Vatican in an Aug. 16 statement from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference. It has since been reiterated by several U.S. bishops.

While DiNardo and other leaders of the bishops’ conference met with Pope Francis Sept. 13, there has not yet been any announcement from the Vatican regarding an apostolic visitation.

Within the Church, only the Vatican has the authority to order an investigation into the conduct of those bishops who stand accused of covering up the sexual coercion and assault McCarrick is alleged to have committed.

Dolan said that if an apostolic visitation “doesn’t happen, there has to be an equally effective way” to investigate the circumstances surrounding the ecclesiastical career of Archbishop McCarrick, though he did not offer particular suggestions.

Asked by a reporter why approval for an apostolic visitation had not been forthcoming, Dolan answered: “I tend to get as impatient as you obviously are, so I don’t know the answer to that.”

The cardinal was also asked if the pope is doing enough to address concerns about sexual abuse and misconduct in the Church in the United States.

“So far,” Dolan said in response.

“I mean, you won’t be surprised that I love him and trust him very much and know that he’s on our side. So I think...I mean he has a beautiful posture of reflection, of ‘let’s not act impetuously,’ you know- he’s spoken with prophetic fire in condemning this.

“I trust that he’s going to come through,” Dolan said. “But I don’t mind admitting that I get a little impatient too.”

 

9/20/2018

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- A coalition of secular and dissenting Catholic LGBT groups aims to influence the Church’s upcoming Synod on Young People by rallying the like-minded to write to the synod to contend that the “rules” of the Catholic Church are causing “damage” to those who self-identify as LGBT.

But this effort misunderstands the more profound Catholic approach to human nature and identity, commentators have said.

Ann Schneible, communications director for the Courage apostolate, said Catholic teaching insists that everyone has the fundamental identity “to be the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.”

“Seen from this perspective, it becomes clear that the Church’s approach provides the most compassionate response to people, including youth and young adults, who experience same sex attractions,” Schneible told CNA. “Far from being a misfortune or a disappointment, their identity as sons and daughters of God – who are made in his image and likeness, and have received divine grace and a call to holiness – is a profound and life-giving joy.”

Those who experience same-sex attraction deserve compassionate outreach from Catholics, she said, adding, “we do so in the belief and hope that following God's plan will always lead one to happiness and ultimate fulfillment.”

Schneible spoke in response to a messaging effort from the Equal Future website, launched Aug. 22 at an event held parallel to the World Meeting of Families in Dublin. It is soliciting Catholics and non-Catholics to send messages to their regions’ delegates to the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocations, to be held Oct. 3-28.

The default text for the message alleges that there is “damage done to children when they are given the sense that to be LGBT would be a misfortune or disappointment.”

The website instructions ask writers to “respectfully explain why you feel children are still getting that sense, and the role played by the rules of the Catholic Church and/or of other organizations in society.”

It says letters to the delegates should ask them to consider the letter-writer’s story at the synod, and should ask for a reply. The letter submission form asks whether the writer was baptized Catholic. Answers include “prefer not to say.”

Daniel Mattson, a Catholic speaker and author of “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay,” reflected on the Equal Future campaign.

“I think the Church needs to do a much better job in reaching out to those who identify as LGBT. As one who used to see myself as a gay man, I’ve come to realize how empty the promises of the LGBT movement are,” he told CNA.

According to Mattson, the Church must proclaim her teachings as “truly good news, even when we fear that truth might be offensive.” He cited Christ's encounter with the rich young man, in which Christ's  response made the young man go away sad.

“For a time, I went away sad, but I’m grateful no one in my life who truly loved me ever told me that the life I was living was morally acceptable! We never love anyone by not inviting them to live a moral life. Not all will go away sad, either.”

Mattson stressed the need for a “call to conversion” and to remember, “we can never be more compassionate than Jesus.” He also warned against “the willful refusal to speak about the health damages of living out a life of active homosexuality, particularly among men.”

“In nearly every area of both mental and physical health, the LGBT community suffers more profoundly than their heterosexual counterparts,” he said.

At least 60 groups from around the world are backing the Equal Future campaign. These include secular groups such as the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, GLSEN, Music4Children.org, and ALL OUT.

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, the U.S.-based New Ways Ministry, and Dignity USA are also named as backers of the project. Catholic authorities including the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago have rejected New Ways Ministry’s self-identification as a Catholic group.

The director of the Equal Future campaign is Tiernan Brady of Ireland, who was director of the successful referenda in Ireland and Australia to give legal recognition to gay marriage. He told the Financial Times that his campaign targeting the Catholic Church will draw on practices from the Irish and Australian campaigns.

“I think one of the things we’ve found in all these campaigns is we can talk about rights all we want, but it’s human stories that people understand and that appeal to people’s humanity,” Brady said.

He said the initial inclusion of same-sex couples’ photos in literature for the World Meeting of Families suggested that there was already sympathy for such couples at the Vatican, even though the photos were later removed. Brady argued the Church will end up campaigning “against the sons and daughters of the men and women in your pews,” and churchgoers won’t understand it.

For Schneible, it is important to let each person tell their story.

“But we do not stop there,” she said. “As Catholic Christians, we believe that we must always seek to understand our own stories in light of the Gospel, the story of salvation”

The wider discussion often ignores people who have same-sex attractions and embrace chastity, she said.

“Too often they are dismissed by members of the LGBT community as being dishonest, or self-hating, or deluded,” Schneible continued. “On the contrary, these courageous men and women testify that, as much happiness and pleasure as they seemed to have when they were pursuing same sex relationships, they have found a deeper joy, peace and freedom by embracing the call to chastity. They make many sacrifices in order to remain faithful, but many of them speak of the closeness they have found with Christ as they walk this path to holiness.”

One backer of the Equal Future campaign, Dignity USA, has taken several six figure grants from Jon Stryker’s Arcus Foundation to support the Equally Blessed Coalition, which includes New Ways Ministry. A 2014 grant targeted the Synod on the Family and World Youth Day, aiming “to support pro-LGBT faith advocates to influence and counter the narrative of the Catholic Church and its ultra-conservative affiliates.”

The foundation has given more than $390,000 to the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups for several activities, including advocacy related to the Synod on the Family. These activities include the forum’s response to “homophobic Catholic church family synod decisions” and efforts to “pursue its successful strategy of shifting traditional views.” The grants also fund the drafting, testing, and use of “a counter-narrative to traditional values,” according to the forum’s annual report and grant announcements from the U.S.-based foundation.

The foundation is also a grant maker to the Catholics United Education Fund, Catholics for Choice, and the Center for American Progress. It funded groups in ecclesial communities, including Episcopalian groups amid the breakup of the Anglican Communion over issues such as ecclesial authority and homosexuality.

The working document for the 2018 synod discusses increasing cultural instability and violent conflicts, but also that many young people, both inside and outside of the Church, are divided when it comes to topics related to sexuality, the role of women, and the need to be more welcoming to members of the LGBT community.

The document only briefly addresses the issue of homosexuality and related topics, saying that some LGBT youth who offered contributions to the synod’s general secretariat said they want to experience “greater closeness and greater care on the part of the Church.”

In their responses, bishops’ conferences also questioned how to respond to young people who have chosen to live a homosexual lifestyle, but who also want “to be close to the Church.”

Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, the Human Rights Campaign’s director of faith outreach and training, writing June 29 at the campaign’s website, has contended that aligned Catholics and LGBT activists “oscillate between hope and frustration” under Pope Francis. She said they have found some of his comments to be hurtful, such as the nature of the family as based on the union of man and woman.

At the same time, she welcomed Father James Martin, S.J.’s appearance at a workshop on LGBT bridge-building held at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, which was organized by Cardinal Kevin Farrell.

For Rivera, the addition of “LGBT” as a descriptor in the working document for the upcoming Synod on Youth was “perhaps the most important development in recent weeks.”

9/20/2018

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2018 / 09:35 am (ACI Prensa).- In newly-surfaced letters from Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus has defended his abdication, and warned that continued anger at his decision risked undermining the papal office. The private correspondence, excerpts from which were carried in a German newspaper, was reportedly addressed to Cardinal Walter Brandmüller.

According to the letters, Benedict said he understood “the deep-seated pain” the end of his papacy caused the cardinal and others. At the same time, the pope emeritus wrote, he recognized that for some people the pain had “turned into an anger that no longer merely concerns my resignation, but increasingly also my person and my papacy as a whole.”

German newspaper Bild carried the excerpts in a story published Sept. 20. The letters were originally sent in November, 2017.

Bild did not name the recipient but referred to him only as “a German cardinal” who had made critical comments about Benedict’s resignation in an interview. On the same day, The New York Times reported that it had received a copy of the two letters in their entirety from Bild, and named Cardinal Brandmüller as the recipient. 

Addressing the ongoing dissatisfaction some individuals had with both his resignation and his subsequent life as “pope emeritus” - a title not previously used - Benedict cautioned that these sentiments were undermining the effectiveness of the petrine ministry.

“In this way the pontificate itself is being devalued and conflated with the sadness about the situation of the Church today,” he wrote.

According to Bild, Benedict defended his decision, writing that if the cardinal knew “a better way” for him to have acted, “and therefore think that you can judge the one chosen by me, please tell me.”

In an interview with a German newspaper in October of last year, Brandmüller expressed dismay over the idea of a “pope emeritus,” which he said, “does not exist in the entire history of the Church.”

“The fact that a pope comes along and topples a 2,000-year-old tradition bowled over not just us cardinals,” he said.

The two private letters from Benedict have been reported to be a response to these comments. In the first, sent Nov. 9, 2017, Benedict wrote “you said that with ‘pope emeritus,’ I had created a figure that had not existed in the whole history of the Church. You know very well, of course, that popes have abdicated, albeit very rarely. What were they afterward? Pope emeritus? Or what else?”

Benedict alo cited the example of Pope Pius XII, who considered stepping down in 1944 in the event of his arrest by the Nazis authorities then occupying Italy. Pope Pius had considered returning to the rank of a cardinal in the event of his resignation.

Benedict wrote that, unlike Pius XII’s situation, “it would certainly have not been sensible” for him to return to being a cardinal as he would have been “constantly exposed to the media as a cardinal is – even more so because people would have seen in me the former pope.”

The pope emeritus added that “whether on purpose or not, this could have had difficult consequences, especially in the context of the current situation.”

Benedict explained that he was concerned with avoiding the impression that there were two popes, with his comments being sought on the ministry and decisions of his eventual successor.

“With ‘pope emeritus,’ I tried to create a situation in which I am absolutely not accessible to the media and in which it is completely clear that there is only one pope.”

In the second letter, dated Nov. 23, 2017, Benedict wrote that he was concerned by the conclusion of Cardinal Brandmüller’s interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, given the previous month. The pope emeritus said that it could promote the sort of agitation which had inspired “the Abdication,” a book by Fabrizio Grasso which argued that having emeritus popes could destroy papal authority.

Cardinal Brandmüller is one of four cardinals to have submitted five formal questions or “dubia” to Pope Francis, asking the pope to clarify some points of Church teaching in the wake of differing interpretations of Amoris laetitia, Francis’ 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

The letters from Benedict were reported by Bild two years and one day after the dubia were sent.

Brandmüller submitted the questions, together with Cardinal Raymond Burke, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, and Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, on Sept. 19, 2016.

9/19/2018

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2018 / 01:10 pm (CNA).- The moral credibility of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy is under serious scrutiny, both by the faithful and the wider world.

Something must be done - this is the consensus of cardinals, bishops, priests, and laity as the Church continues to grapple with the fallout of the sexual abuse crisis. What, exactly, will be done remains to be seen.

Calls for transparency and accountability in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals strike many of the faithful as reasonable and obvious - yet neither of those words seems easily translatable into the curial language and culture of Romanitas

Amid an impetus for urgent reform, the Church faces the challenge of taking action that is effective, rather than merely dramatic.

What has been proposed? And what effect might it have?

--

In recent months, many bishops and lay leaders have called for new canonical structures and procedures in response to the various crises erupting in the Church.

Some have suggested creating another “new” process for accusing and trying bishops in a canon law court, others have floated the idea of a network of regional or national tribunals tasked with handling the existing backlog of clerical sex-abuse cases.

Much of what has been proposed so far, however, has already been tried.

Apart from the USCCB’s own Essential Norms, adopted in the wake of the 2002 sexual abuse crisis, Pope Francis has made a number of significant canonical reforms over the last five years. Most significantly, 2016’s Come una madre amorivole created an entirely new legal mechanism for charging and trying a bishop accused of mishandling allegations of abuse, or of abusing his office in some other way.

Yet despite the publicity surrounding the announcement of those structures, they have yet to be put into action, and are unlikely even to be tried.

When asked recently about particular cases involving bishops, Pope Francis said he had decided that his own reforms were not “practical” or “convenient” and that he was instead trying to preserve their “spirit” in the way he handled individual cases.

Many canonists, including those working in the Curia, have expressed frustration at the possibility that more reforms will be promulgated on paper, while few of them take hold at the practical level. 

In the meantime, they say, cases are being handled in an increasingly ad hoc manner. In the case of McCarrick, for example, it has been hard for canonists to parse exactly what procedure is being followed.

Following the announcement by the Archdiocese of New York that it had received an allegation against McCarrick and deemed it credible, the then-cardinal was removed from public ministry.

In July, the Holy Father accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals – itself an historic event – and at the same time ordered McCarrick to live a life of prayer and penance pending the outcome of a “canonical process.” Canon lawyers have noted that this seemed to be, for good or ill, the imposition of a legal penalty before the legal process had concluded - or perhaps even begun.

There has been no announcement about what kind of “process” will be followed in resolving McCarrick’s case. Nor has the Holy See clarified what charges, exactly, he will face. It seems unclear how a new legal structure could bring clarity to that situation, rather than more confusion.

--

Another proposal made in recent months has been the establishment of regional commissions and tribunals for handling abuse cases, something which has been suggested before.

Baroness Sheila Hollins, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, has been among the most recent voices to suggest that this might serve to clear the languishing backlog of abuse cases clogging the courts at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The problem she identifies is a serious one.

Following his election in 2013, one of Pope Francis’ first curial reforms was to decree a Vatican-wide hiring freeze, which is still in effect. Since then, the pope has ordered the dismissal of three American priests working on abuse cases in the CDF, with a fourth leaving for personal reasons earlier this year.

Those working within and alongside of the CDF all report that there is simply not enough manpower to process the workload, something that Msgr. Robert Geisinger, the CDF’s in house prosecutor, has lamented more than once.

As a result, more than one U.S. bishop has resorted to flying to Rome to personally petition that cases waiting for adjudication be moved to the top of the pile.

But the proposed regional tribunals would not solve the problem of a backlog, at least not in the short term. New courts would take years to come online, and even longer to prove effective. In the meantime, the structural and procedural upheaval needed to create them could cause chaos in a system that is already badly stretched. 

Marie Collins, a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and herself a survivor of abuse, has been a critic of this proposal for a more straightforward reason. She has observed that the call for regional tribunals does not address the fact that the underlying problem is a lack of resources.

During her time on the PCPM, Collins spoke openly of her frustration at the pace of change. She specifically singled out the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles abuse cases, for criticism. Since then, she has become an outspoken skeptic of further canonical reform, and pointed to the fact that few resources are actually devoted to making the current system work.

“The argument for going to local tribunals...is because the CDF is under resourced and understaffed, and so [is] unable to cope with all the abuse cases coming in from around the world: the question should be why is the CDF under resourced and understaffed?”

One curial official who has worked with the CDF told CNA that some staffers also have the impression that there is little practical commitment to the kind of real reform that would involve the addition of more qualified personnel to handle abuse cases.

“If ‘where your treasure is there will your heart be too,’ then by that measure Rome’s heart isn’t in this,” the official told CNA.

--

Back in the United States, several ideas for reform have been floated.

One is a third-party reporting mechanism for accusations against bishops, through which people would present allegations directly to the apostolic nuncio in Washington.

But any new third-party reporting system instituted by the U.S. bishops cannot guarantee Roman action, nor does recent evidence indicate that such action could be counted upon.

In the case of Archbishop McCarrick, it has emerged that in 2000 Fr. Boniface Ramsey presented a written account of accusations of McCarrick sharing a bed with seminarians to the nuncio. A 2006 letter from the Vatican Secretariat of State confirms that some of Ramsey’s concerns made it to Rome, but no action was apparently taken until years later.

It has also been suggested that a new lay-led review board could review complaints made against bishops. This idea is not without precedent.

In 2002, the USCCB called for lay-led review boards in every diocese. The U.S. bishops also created a National Review Board comprised of lay experts, to advise the USCCB on dealing with the problem of sexual abuse. Those bodies have had considerable effect on the life and culture of the Church in the United States.

The idea of creating more lay-led boards now is, in some senses, an appealing option. But it is not clear whether new boards would actually address the current problems.

The National Review Board itself has seemed skeptical. In August, the board issued a statement denouncing “a loss of moral leadership and an abuse of power that led to a culture of silence” in the face of abuse.

Action is needed, the board said, but the “evil” which had come to light “will not be stemmed simply by the creation of new committees, policies, or procedures.”

Both U.S. proposals would also appear to effectively insulate American bishops from being required to act upon allegations made against their peers. The reticence of bishops to act in such circumstances is widely considered to have been a major contributing factor in the recent scandals, especially in the case of McCarrick.

But through systems that would largely exempt bishops from investigating or addressing claims of episcopal misconduct, U.S. Church authorities run the risk of seeming to distance themselves further from the kind of personal moral leadership called for by the National Review Board and others.

“What needs to happen is a genuine change in the Church’s culture, specifically among the bishops themselves,” the National Review Board’s August statement said.

Cultural change is more difficult than procedural reform. Absent the release of confidential files or sweeping changes in personnel, it will be hard to demonstrate in the short term. But it also seems to be the most pressing call made by ordinarily lay Catholics.

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On Sept. 13, following a meeting between Pope Francis and the leaders of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo released a statement as president of the USCCB. In it, he said that he and the other American bishops looked forward to “actively continuing our discernment together, identifying the most effective next steps.”

What these steps will be, and when the Church will take them, remain to be seen. But the bishops may find that by themselves, they are not enough to satisfy the skepticism shared by lay Catholics and a growing number of rank-and-file priests and religious.

The call has been for leadership. To satisfy it, bishops will likely need to show a commitment to change that is personal, not institutional.

9/19/2018

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2018 / 10:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- U2 front man Bono had a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican Wednesday afternoon, saying afterward the Holy Father was “incredibly gracious with his time, his concentration.”

Speaking to journalists following the just over 30-minute meeting Sept. 19, Bono said they “let the conversation go where it wanted to go,” discussing “big themes,” such as the future of commerce and how it might serve sustainable development goals.

Irishman Bono, born Paul David Hewson, also said that having just come from Ireland, they “inevitably” spoke about “the pope’s feelings about what has happened in the Church.”

He said he explained to Francis that to some it looks like “the abusers are being more protected than the victims,” and that he “could see the pain” in the pope’s face. “I felt he was sincere, and I think he’s an extraordinary man for extraordinary times,” Bono said.

Bono met Pope Francis alongside the president of the pontifical foundation Scholas Occurrentes, José María del Corral.

Scholas is an international organization founded by Pope Francis as an initiative to encourage social integration and the culture of encounter among youth through technology, arts and sports.

Bono is a co-founder of the ONE Campaign, an advocating organization that aims to combat poverty, which signed an agreement to partner with Scholas.

He said the exact way in which the two organizations will work together is yet to be decided, but he is looking forward to the partnership and really admires the work Scholas does.

This was Bono’s second papal meeting. He also had an audience with St. John Paul II in 1999.

Bono is the second U2 member to meet Pope Francis in recent years after the band’s lead guitarist, The Edge, greeted the pope during an audience as part of a Vatican conference on regenerative medicine in 2016.

9/19/2018

Vatican City, Sep 19, 2018 / 05:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- There are many saints who demonstrate that even if one comes from a difficult childhood without good parents, hope can still be found in Christ and the mission received from him, Pope Francis said Wednesday.

The commandment to honor father and mother “can be constructive for many young people who come from stories of pain and for all those who have suffered in their youth,” he said Sept. 19.

“Many saints – and many Christians – after a painful childhood lived a bright life, because, thanks to Jesus Christ, they were reconciled with life,” he said, pointing to the example of Bl. Nunzio Sulprizio, who died at 19 from bone cancer after being orphaned at a very young age.

Bl. Sulprizio will be canonized in Rome Oct. 14 during the Synod of Bishops on young people.

The pope also encouraged Catholics to learn from the witness of St. Camillus de Lellis, who, he said, “from a disordered childhood built a life of love and service; to St. Josephine Bakhita, who grew up in horrible slavery; or to the Bl. Carlo Gnocchi, an orphan and poor man; and to the very St. John Paul II, marked by the loss of his mother at an early age.”

The wounds of one’s young life have the potential to be transformed, by grace, when it is discovered “that God has prepared us for a life of his children, where every act is a mission received from him,” Francis said.

The pope’s general audience catechesis on the theme of the Ten Commandments continued today with a reflection on the commandment “to honor thy father and mother.”

Looking back on one’s childhood, especially if it was difficult, “we discover that the real mystery is no longer ‘why?’ [something happened] but ‘for whom?’ For whom did this happen to me?” Francis asked. This is when people can begin to honor their parents “with the freedom of adult children and with merciful acceptance of their limits.”

As it says in Deuteronomy, he quoted, “honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that your days may be prolonged, and you may be happy in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”

The commandment says that honoring one’s parents “leads to a long, happy life,” he noted. This acknowledges what the human sciences have said: “that the imprint of childhood marks the whole of life.”

He explained that whatever history one comes from, this commandment gives “the orientation that leads to Christ: in him, in fact, the true Father is revealed, who offers us ‘to be reborn from above’.”

The fourth commandment “does not talk about the goodness of parents, it does not require fathers and mothers to be perfect,” he said.

“It speaks of an act of the children, regardless of the merits of the parents, and says something extraordinary and liberating: even if not all parents are good and not all childhoods are sunny, all children can be happy, because the achievement of a full and happy life depends on the right gratitude to those who have placed us in the world.”

“Honoring father and mother therefore means to recognize their importance also through concrete actions, which express dedication, affection and care,” he said.

Adding comments off-the-cuff, he asked those present, if they are not currently close with their parents, if they would consider returning to a relationship with them. He also told children they should never insult their parents or the parents of others.

9/18/2018

Poznan, Poland, Sep 19, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- According to Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the pope’s recent decision to call to Rome the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world is a sign that prevention of abuse and protection of minors must be a concern for the entire Church.
 
Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of La Valletta, Malta served from 2002-2012 as Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He helped establish the Church’s first responses to the 2002 sexual abuse crisis, and his work in the field is still a landmark.
 
Pope Francis twice sent Archbishop Scicluna to Chile to investigate allegations that Bishop Juan Barros Madrid had covered up crimes against minors.
 
Speaking from Poznan, Poland, where he took part in the annual gathering of the Council of the European Bishops’ Conferences, Scicluna stressed that the pope’s decision to call to Rome presidents of the different bishops’ conferences around the world “is a clear sign that protection of minors and prevention of abuse are a top priority for the whole Church.”

“The commitment of the Church as a safe place for minors should be for the whole Church, and should be the concern of everybody in the Church,” he added.
 
Scicluna also stressed that “protection of minors is something that has to be an ongoing process in the Church, and therefore it only begins with the good screening of future priests, as St. John Paul II asked for in 1992.”
 
The archbishop referred to Pope St. John Paul II’s 1992 post-synodal exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis.  

“It was St. John Paul II’s prophetic message,” he said,”as the document, speaking of the formation of future priests, valued the issue of human formation, of psychological screening and also of a clear evaluation of the candidate from the point of view of emotional authority and eligibility to be the shepherd of the flock.”
 
The document underscored that “in the seminary, that is, in the program of formation, celibacy should be presented clearly, without any ambiguities and in a positive fashion. The seminarian should have a sufficient degree of psychological and sexual maturity as well as an assiduous and authentic life of prayer, and he should put himself under the direction of a spiritual father.”
 
Scicluna said that, beyond the screening of future priests, there must also be “an empowerment to the community, to disclose abuse when it happens and also an empowerment of the community so that together we ascertain and we guarantee that the Church is a safe place for everybody, including minors.”
 
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s former prosecutor also noted that in May 2001 the Congregation asked bishops’ conferences around the world to prepare guidelines to counter abuse.
 
 “The circular letter,” Scicluna said, “gave important indications, as it talked about formation of future priests but also talked about the protection of the community and it also mentioned cooperation with civil authorities.”
 
The letter read that “sexual abuse of minors is not just a canonical delict but also a crime prosecuted by civil law. Although relations with civil authority will differ in various countries, nevertheless it is important to cooperate with such authorities within their responsibilities.”
 
Archbishop Scicluna commented that these things “need to be implemented and constantly put in the local Church’s agenda.”
 
He also said that most bishops’ conferences have issued guidelines following the CDF’s advice, and that all existing guidelines have been now screened by the Vatican.
 
However, Scicluna added, “documents are not enough. We need to sensitize whole communities, because this sad phenomenon cannot be solved with hierarchical decisions, but must involve everyone.”
 
Speaking about the meeting convoked by Pope Francis for February 2019, Scicluna said that the meeting comes from a decision of the Council of Cardinals, but it is also “a response to people’s expectation that we move from documents to actions.”
 
He said that “people need to understand that nice words and promises are not enough, while a diffused commitment involving the whole Church and everyone in the Church is much needed.”
 
“After years,” he concluded, Church leaders must “renew our commitment to child protection in the Church.”

 

9/18/2018

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 / 05:45 pm (CNA).- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to China "in late September" for a final round of talks before an agreement on the appointment of bishops is signed.
 
Citing unnamed “sources familiar with the matter,” the Global Times, an English-language newspaper that reflects the position of Chinese authorities, said that “there are no 'disputes on issues of principle' between the two sides, and since the meeting between the two sides was previously held at the Vatican, the Vatican delegation will come to China this time for a meeting in late September, and if the meeting goes well, the agreement would be signed.”

“A Vatican source also confirmed with the Global Times last week that a prominent figure from the Holy See would probably come to China in late September,” the newspaper reported.  

The Global Times also quoted Wang Meixiu, who is presented as “an expert on Catholic Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,” saying that “China and the Vatican most likely agreed that the future bishops in China should be approved by the Chinese government and mandated by the Pope and the letter of appointment would be issued by the Pope.”

“Before signing the agreement,” according to the Communist party-run Chinese newspaper, “the Holy See would deliver an official document to acknowledge seven Chinese bishops who are regarded as 'illegitimate' by the Vatican, including some it previously had excommunicated.”

“The Chinese will receive a Vatican delegation by the 'end of September' to take one final step towards an agreement between the People's Republic of China and the Holy See, according to a source close to the Chinese Communist Party,” the newspaper added.

Wang is quoted as saying that “one should not expect to solve complicated problems the Catholic Church in China faces today with one agreement,” and that the two sides “still need further discussions on the complex situation in the different dioceses in the Episcopal selection.”

According to the Global Times, Chinese government sources have “stressed that the ongoing negotiations will stay on the religious level, and will not touch on any diplomatic issue such as the establishment of diplomatic ties between Beijing and the Vatican.”

The Vatican is one of the last 17 states in the world that recognizes the government of Taiwan, an island led by a democratically-elected government since 1949. Beijing considers Taiwan to be a renegade Chinese province.

In previous negotiations, China has insisted that the Vatican cut its ties with Taiwan and promise not to interfere with internal Chinese affairs in order to come to an agreement.

It is estimated that there are about 12 million Catholics currently living in China, half within official state churches in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the rest in the “underground Church.”

The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association is under the day-to-day direct supervision of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) due to a major change in March 2018 in which the Chinese government shifted direct control of religious affairs to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department (UFWD).

Some of the bishops appointed by the Chinese government in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association also serve as members of the Chinese Communist Party’s National People’s Congress.

“We, as citizens of the country, should first be a citizen and then have religion and beliefs,” Bishop Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan told Chinese media after he voted to eliminate presidential term limits for President Xi in March 2018. Fang was ordained a bishop in Beijing in 2000 without Vatican approval and then legitimized by the Holy See two years later.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has promoted a campaign of “Sinicization” of all religion in China, “a far-reaching strategy to control, govern, and manipulate all aspects of faith into a socialist mold infused with ‘Chinese characteristics,’” according to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom 2018 report.

New regulations on religious practice in China went into effect in February 2018 that codify the increased scrutiny and pressure on religious activities in China. On September 10, the Chinese government placed further restrictions on evangelization, making it illegal for any religious prayers, catechesis or preaching to be published online. This is being enforced via the country’s extensive internet censorship.

Last month, the United Nations voiced alarm over reports that the Chinese government is detaining up to 1 million Uyghur muslims involuntarily in re-education internment camps.

The U.S. State Department has designated China as a “Country of Particular Concern” for religious freedom every year since 1999.

 

9/18/2018

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2018 / 10:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Synod of Bishops announced Tuesday that the upcoming assembly of bishops will include a meeting of young people with Pope Francis and the Synod Fathers in the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI hall.

Taking place starting at 5:00 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, the encounter is intended to allow “young people to offer concrete experiences about their life in study and work, their feelings, their future and their vocational choice,” a press release stated.

Pope Francis will be present for the entirety of the encounter, which follows a pre-synod gathering that was held at the Vatican in March, with around 300 youth participants. The press statement noted that Pope Francis wants to meet young people again with the Synod Fathers to listen to them and to consider their proposals for the final document of the synod.

The gathering will include testimonies from young people interspersed with musical and artistic performances and will focus on three themes: the search for identity, relationships, and life as service and gift.

“Young people are particularly invited, and we hope they will be numerous in order to make their voice and their warmth heard by the Synod Assembly,” the statement read.

Called “NOI PER – Unici, solidali, creativi,” the meeting can be attended with a ticket requested from the Congregation for Catholic Education, which is organizing the event.

The Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place Oct. 3-28. According to its preparatory document, the synod’s purpose is to reflect on the Church’s call “to accompany all young people, without exception, towards the joy of love.”

9/18/2018

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2018 / 08:30 am (CNA).- In a new apostolic constitution, Pope Francis has reformed the Synod of Bishops, creating a mechanism for the assembly’s final document to be included in official Church teaching.

Episcopalis Communio, promulgated by the pope on Sept. 15, establishes that the final document of a synod assembly, drafted and approved by a special commission, can be considered part of the ordinary magisterium – that is, the official teaching of the Church – if it receives a particular level of papal approval.

The constitution does not require the publication of a post-synodal papal document to make its conclusions authoritative, though these have traditionally followed synodal sessions.

The most recent synod, which was held on the theme of the family, was followed by the 2015 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, presented the new constitution on Sept. 18.

Baldisseri told journalists Tuesday that the pope may wish to publish a document of his own following October’s synod on young people, but that the new norms allow him to forego it in favor of adopting the synod’s final document as his own.

Should Francis decide to adopt the final synodal document, it would be published with his signature and those of the members of the synod.

The norms provide for a process similar to that followed during the 2015 synod on the family – by which a commission creates the final synodal document, before it is put before the members of the synod for a vote.

This commission is composed of the relator general and general secretary of the particular session of the synod, the secretary general of the synod’s permanent secretariat - currently Cardinal Baldisseri -  and other members elected by the synod itself. To these, the pope may also add his own personal appointees

Regarding how the final document is to be approved by the membership, Episcopalis Communio refers back to the current “particular law.” Accordingly, individual provisions to be adopted in the final document will still require the approval of two-thirds of the synod’s members, while a simple majority suffices to reject an item.

The new constitution does, however, urge the synod fathers to seek “moral unanimity” whenever possible.

Once the final document has been prepared and voted on, it is presented to the Holy Father for his approval and publication. At this point, the pope can choose to grant a particular kind of approval to the document, called “in forma specifica” in canon law, by which it would become an act of the pope and part of the ordinary papal magisterium.

Speaking at a press conference in Rome, Cardinal Baldisseri said that the process of receiving this specific papal approval does not require a strictly judicial standard, or depend upon a particular margin of approval by the synod fathers. 

Quoting St. John Paul II, the new constitution says that while the synod “normally has a merely consultative function,” this “does not diminish its importance.” Rather, the vote of the synod fathers "if morally unanimous, has an ecclesial quality that overcomes the merely formal aspect of the consultative vote.” This, Baldisseri explained, is more important that a specific margin of voting.

Other sections of the constitution substantially affirm recent synodal processes and regulations, including on the synod’s composition and structure, which members have voting rights, and the three distinct synodal phases of preparation, assembly, and implementation.

In the preparatory phase, information on the announced theme of the synod is gathered through study commissions, local consultations conducted through the diocesan bishops, and a pre-synod meeting - if one is convoked. The new norms also provide the option for such pre-synodal meetings to be held at a regional level.

The second phase is the actual assembly of the synodal fathers and other members, while the third phase is the implementation of the synod’s conclusions in the particular Churches.

Episcopalis Communio underlines the importance of bishops listening to the voice of lay Catholics, saying that “the Synod of Bishops must increasingly become a privileged instrument for listening to the People of God.”

“Although in its composition [the Synod] appears as an essentially episcopal organism, the Synod does not therefore live separate from the rest of the faithful. On the contrary, it is a suitable instrument to give voice to the whole People of God precisely through the Bishops, constituted by God as ‘authentic guardians, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church,’” the document states.

This principle is recognized in the canonical norms of the constitution itself. Article 7 of Episcopalis Communio states that the right of the faithful to send their own contributions for the synod directly to the secretary general “remains integral” to the process.

The Synod of Bishops acts as a temporary and occasional advisory body to the pope on issues of pastoral importance to the Catholic Church. It was established by Bl. Pope Paul VI with the motu proprio Apostolica sollicitudo in 1965.

While the synod itself is a temporary body called into being by the pope, it has a permanent general secretariat in the Roman Curia.

There are three types of synod assemblies a pope can call: ordinary, extraordinary, and special. Next month’s meeting will be an extraordinary assembly, as was 2014’s synod on the family.

A special assembly is usually convoked to discuss an issue related to a particular geographical region, such as the upcoming special assembly on the Amazon, which will take place in October 2019.

9/17/2018

Denver, Colo., Sep 17, 2018 / 10:44 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has appointed several Americans to participate in October’s Vatican synod on young adults, the faith, and vocational discernment. They will join the bishops elected as delegated to the synod by the U.S. bishops’ conference.

In an announcement Saturday, the Vatican said that Francis had appointed Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark as delegates to the synod. They are among 29 bishops appointed personally by Pope Francis to participate in the synod, to complement those who had been elected by national and regional bishops’ conferences and those who will participate because of other roles they hold in the Church.

CNA reported Tobin’s appointment last month.

In addition to Cupich and Tobin, the bishops appointed by the pope include Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Germany, Cardinal Gerald Lacroix of Quebec, Canada, and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Pope Francis also tapped several priests to participate, among them Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of the influential Italian journal La Civilta Cattolica, and Fr. Robert Stark, director of the office of social ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu.

Several Americans were also appointed U.S. Catholics as auditors to the synod, who will be invited to participate in some of the meeting’s deliberations, but are not given a vote in its proceedings. Those Americans are Sr. Sally Marie, CSJ, superior general of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery, Jonathan Lewis, Assistant Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns in the Archdiocese of Washington, Fr. Robert Panke, rector of the St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, DC, Sr. Briana Regina Santiago, of the Apostles of the Interior Life, and Yadira Vierya, a researcher on families and immigration at the University of Chicago.

A Greek Orthodox American bishop, Metropolitan Nikitas of Dardanellia, will also attend the synod as an observer.  

Tobin will join Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop José H. Gomez, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, and Bishop Robert E. Barron, who, according to a July 23 USCCB press release, were elected by the U.S. bishops’ conference to attend the conference, after which their election was ratified by Pope Francis.

Chaput is officially listed by the Vatican among those delegates who are members of the ordinary council of the Synod of Bishops, rather than listed among those elected by the U.S. bishops’ conference, although the USCCB had previously reported that he was elected to attend. Chaput was elected in 2015 by U.S. bishops to serve on the ordinary council of the Synod of Bishops for a three year term.

Archbishop William Skurla, leader of the Ruthenian Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, will participate as an ex officio member of the synod.

The synod is scheduled Oct. 3-28. According to its preparatory document, the synod’s purpose is to reflect on the Church’s call “to accompany all young people, without exception, towards the joy of love.”

9/17/2018

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 / 08:05 am (CNA).- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement on the appointment of bishops in the country, attention has turned to the role of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick in fostering Vatican-China relations over the last two decades.

Over 20 years, Archbishop McCarrick traveled to China on at least eight occasions, sometimes staying in a state-controlled Beijing seminary, often serving as an unofficial bridge between the Vatican and Chinese government-appointed bishops until 2016.

Prior to allegations of sexual abuse and harassment becoming public this summer, the former cardinal had been an outspoken proponent of a deal between Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Church under Pope Francis, according to Chinese reports.

“I see a lot of things happening that would really open many doors because President Xi and his government are concerned about things that Pope Francis is concerned about,” McCarrick told The Global Times, in an exclusive interview in Feb. 2016.

The interview quoted McCarrick as saying that the similarities between Pope Francis and Xi Jinping could be “a special gift for the world.”

The the state-approved Chinese newspaper also reported that McCarrick traveled to China in Feb. 2016 -- “a trip in which the cardinal said he would visit some ‘old friends.’”

“His previous visits included meetings with Wang Zuo'an, head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs and late bishop Fu Tieshan, former president of Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), an organization not recognized by the Holy See,” The Global Times reported.

In June 2014, David Gibson reported in the Washington Post that McCarrick had traveled to China “in the past year” for “sensitive talks on religious freedom.”

This detail aligns, in part, with the 11-page “testimony” of former apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. Viganò recounted a meeting with McCarrick in June 2013, during which Vigano claims he was told by McCarrick, “The pope received me yesterday, tomorrow I am going to China.”

McCarrick was hosted by the Beijing seminary during at least two trips to China, according to a 2006 State Department document made available via Wikileaks.

The vice-rector of a Communist-approved seminary, Fr. Shu-Jie Chen, described twice hosting McCarrick in an account found in a cable from Christopher Sandrolini, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

Chen described himself as “king” of the seminary, saying that he “could do what he wanted within its walls.”

Sandrolini also noted that the vice rector “downplayed persecution of the underground Church,” calling the underground church “uneducated” and “elderly.”  He said that Chen seemed “unconcerned” that “evangelization was not an option for official religious personnel.

A cable from U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Francis Rooney in March 2006 noted that Archbishop Claudio Celli, who was at that time the Holy See’s principal China negotiator, insisted that McCarrick was not in a position to negotiate with China and that his visits to China were “unofficial.”

There appears to be a gap between McCarrick’s trips to China between 2006 and 2013, though McCarrick’s influence was still active.

In 2009, the archbishop had a message relayed to a friend in China through Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House of Representatives. Pelosi conveyed McCarrick’s greetings to Bishop Aloysius Jin of Shanghai, formerly a leading Chinese Jesuit.

“She [Pelosi] relayed Cardinal McCarrick's good wishes to Bishop Jin. Bishop Jin said he and Cardinal McCarrick had exchanged visits, beginning when the latter was Bishop of Newark,” the State Department cable reads.

During McCarrick’s time as Archbishop of Newark, Aloysius Jin Luxian was not recognized as a bishop by the Vatican. He was ordained a coadjutor bishop of Shanghai without papal approval in 1985, his position was not recognized by the Vatican until 2004. Bishop Jin died in 2013.

A 2007 article in The Atlantic described the close friendship between McCarrick and Jin, and how McCarrick claimed to have relayed messages from the Chinese government-appointed bishop to the pope in the 1990s.

Both the State Department and Chinese media recorded a 1998 visit to China by Archbishop McCarrick. On that trip he was one of three American clerics to visit China to discuss religious freedom, meeting with Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan, vice-chairman of the Chinese Communist Party’s Standing Committee of the Chinese National People's Congress.

Fu was made a bishop by Beijing 1979 without approval of the pope.

Chinese media reported that McCarrick paid a visit to the National Seminary in Beijing in 1998.

In Aug. 2, 2003, the South China Morning Post reported that McCarrick “spent three days in Beijing earlier this week on what was ostensibly a private visit.”

McCarrick was “the first cardinal from a western country to visit the mainland since relations between China and the Vatican turned frosty after a dispute over canonisation in October 2000,” the article continued.

In a Dec. 2003 State Department cable, U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Jim Nicholson wrote that Vatican Office Director for China Monsignor Gianfranco Rota-Graziosi “did not expect concrete improvement stemming from the informal trip last summer of Washington Cardinal McCarrick to China.”

On Sept. 14, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Holy See could be about to enter a deal with China which would include the recognition of seven illicitly consecrated bishops serving in the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association - a state-sponsored form of Catholicism whose leaders are chosen by Communist authorities.

Reports of the Holy See and Chinese government working towards a formal agreement on the appointment of bishops have been circulating since January, 2018. At the same time, China has launched an increasing crackdown on religious practice in the country, demolishing churches and harassing worshippers.

9/16/2018

Vatican City, Sep 16, 2018 / 06:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A fundamental rule of being a disciple of Christ is the necessity to make sacrifices and deny one’s self, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Sunday.

“Jesus tells us that in order to follow him, to be his disciples, one must deny oneself – that is, the claims of one’s own selfish pride – and take up one’s very cross,” the pope said Sept. 16. “Then he gives everyone a fundamental rule. And what is this rule? ‘Whoever wants to save his life will lose it.’”

To have faith, he said, must go further than mere words – it must lead to concrete actions and choices, “marked by love of God, by a great life, by a life with so much love for neighbor.”

The pope explained that for many reasons, people may end up on the wrong path, “looking for happiness only in things, or in the people we treat as things.”

“But we find happiness only when love, real [love], meets us, surprises us, changes us. Love changes everything! And love can change us too, each of us. The testimonies of the saints demonstrate this,” he said.

Francis said that the Lord wants his disciples to have a personal relationship with him and to make him the center of their lives. Like Jesus asks to his disciples in the day’s Gospel: “Who do you say that I am?”

“Everyone is called to respond, in his own heart, letting himself be illuminated by the light that the Father gives us to know his Son Jesus,” he said. And like Peter, one might confirm enthusiastically, that he is Christ.”

“But when Jesus tells us clearly what he said to the disciples, namely that his mission is accomplished not in the broad road of success, but in the arduous path of the suffering, humiliated, rejected and crucified Servant,” then it can be easy to want to protest and rebel, like Peter did, he said.

He said: In these moments, Christians deserve the same reproof Jesus gave Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

After the Angelus, in honor of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, celebrated by the Church on Sept. 14, Pope Francis distributed small metal crucifixes to those present in St. Peter’s Square.

“The crucifix is the sign of God’s love, which in Jesus gave life for us. I invite you to welcome this gift and bring it into your homes, your children’s room, or your grandparents..., in any part, but in the house,” he said.

Emphasizing that the crucifix is a religious sign for contemplation and prayer, not a merely ornamental object, he said “looking at Jesus crucified, we look at our salvation.”

He added that the cross “is a gift from the pope,” and is free, so to beware if anyone asks them to pay. The crucifixes were handed out by religious sisters, poor, homeless, and refugees. “As always, faith comes from the little ones, from the humble ones,” Francis noted, thanking them.

According to the pope’s charity office, the silver-plated crucifixes, packaged in a transparent envelope, included a card with a quote from Pope Francis in Italian, English, and Spanish. From July 2013 during World Youth Day in Brazil, it says: “In the Cross of Christ there is all the love of God, there is his immense mercy.”

After handing out the 40,000 crosses, the around 300 volunteers and needy were given a sack lunch by Pope Francis.  

 

9/14/2018

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, many have called for official Vatican files on the former cardinal to be released. While this may seem like the easiest way of assessing the truth of Viganò’s claims, many of the documents in question could be protected by the “pontifical secret.” But what is that?

The pontifical secret, also sometimes called papal secrecy, is a rule of confidentiality protecting sensitive information regarding the governance of the universal Church. It is similar to the “classified” or “confidential” status common in companies or civil governments.

While the use of the English word “secret” in relation to Church documents and processes is often invoked dramatically, the term is actually taken from the Latin word “secreto,” which simply means “confidential.”

According to the “Secreta continere,” a canonical instruction issued by the Secretariat of State in 1974, those bound by the pontifical secret take an oath at the beginning of their service in the Curia or the diplomatic corps, promising to “in no way, under any pretext, whether of greater good, or of very urgent and very grave reason,” to break the secret.

Materials covered by the pontifical secret include diplomatic communications made between the Vatican’s nunciatures around the world, but also apply to a range of other subjects. These include private dossiers and recommendations on priests and bishops being considered for promotion. Controversially, the secret also covers penal processes concerning major crimes handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, including cases involving the sexual abuse of minors.

The reasons why the secret is applied to different materials depend upon the circumstances. Private communications between what are effectively papal embassies and the Vatican’s Secretariat of State are protected by confidentiality in the same way, and for the same reasons, that other diplomatic correspondence is kept classified. Files pertaining to bishops or prospective bishops are handled in much the same manner as confidential personnel matters are treated in companies or other institutions.

In judicial cases, the secret is meant to protect the privacy of victims, the good name of the accused (at least until they are convicted), and even the confidentiality of the accusers, who might be under the authority of someone under investigation.

Concerning the case of Archbishop McCarrick, Vatican files could conceivably contain materials covering all of these categories. In addition to possible penal processes and the circumstances surrounding his various promotions - including what was known about his behavior at different times - records could also concern any work undertaken by McCarrick as a papal envoy in different places including, for example, China.

As the name “pontifical secret” implies, it is only the pope - or someone empowered by him - who can dispense from it. Those hoping for curial officials to act on their own initiative, even for the supposed good of the Church, are likely to be disappointed. If they were to do so, they could find themselves subjected to disciplinary measures in the same way that any government official might if they were to release classified documents without authorization.

The seriousness of any violation of the secret by curial officials in relation to McCarrick’s case would depend on the nature of the material disclosed.

Fr. Pablo Gefaell Chamochín, a canon lawyer and professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, told CNA that if a person is judged to have acted in violation of pontifical secrecy, he or she could be subjected to punishment.

Pointing to the Secretariat of State’s instruction, Gefaell said, “if the violation of pontifical secrecy becomes known, a penalty proportionate to the wrongdoing and the damage it causes could be inflicted by the competent dicastery.”

Canon law does not establish a specific penalty for a violation of the secret. It would be left to the discretion of the competent Vatican authority to decide what the appropriate punishment would be for a particular violation, Gefaell clarified.

Regarding the potential release of any documents relating to Archbishop McCarrick, potentially held either at the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C. or at the Congregation for Bishops in Rome, it is Pope Francis alone who could order their effective declassification.

Until the pope decides otherwise, it is unlikely that Vatican officials bound by oath to observe the secret will be making any new documents available.