Skip to content

Missionary: Married priests in Amazon wouldn't get to the root of the problem

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- A South American missionary to Angola who is participating in the Amazon Synod at the invitation of the pope has said the proposal to ordain as priests married men to solve the lack of evangelization in the Amazon is “illusory”.

“Is the lack of vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the Amazon a pastoral challenge, or rather is it the consequence of theological-pastoral options that have not yielded the expected or partial results? In my opinion, the proposal of 'viri probati' as a solution to evangelization is an illusory proposal, almost magical, which does not address the real underlying problem,” Fr. Martín Lasarte Topolanski, a Salesian priest, said in a text published by Sandro Magister Oct. 12 in his Settimo Cielo column at L'Espresso.

The Uruguayan priest and missionary in Angola is responsible for missionary efforts in Africa and Latin America for the Salesian congregation. Pope Francis included him among the 33 ecclesiastics he personally called to participate in the Synod on the Amazon.

The text published by Magister is a summary of Fr. Lasarte's Aug. 12 article “Amazonia: Are 'viri probati' a solution?” published in Settimana News.

In his text, the missionary pointed out that the argument that ordaining married men as priests because it is hard to reach remote communities with the ministry “commits the sin of major  clericalism” because it sets aside the work of lay people, believing that the Church where “the 'priest' is not there doesn't function. That's an ecclesiological and pastoral aberration. Our faith, being a Christian, is rooted in baptism, not in priestly ordination,” he said.

As examples he gave Korea, Japan, Angola, and Guatemala, where the laity were essential.

He noted  that the Church in Korea got its start thanks to layman Yi Seung-hun, who was baptized in China and baptized other Catholics. “For 51 years (1784-1835) since its foundation the Church in Korea was evangelized by lay people, with the occasional presence of some priest. This Catholic community flourished and expanded enormously despite the terrible persecutions, thanks to the leadership of the baptized,” Lasarte said.

In the case of Japan, after the martyrdom of the last priest in 1644, priests did not return until 200 years later, finding “a living Church” made up of “hidden Christians.”

Regarding his 25 years of experience in Angola, the priest said that “when the civil war was over in 2002, I had the possibility of visiting Christian communities, which for 30 years did not have the Eucharist, nor did they see a priest, but they were strong  in faith and were dynamic communities guided by the 'catechist,' an essential ministry in Africa (...) A living Church, laity with the absence of priests.”

In Latin America he gave as an example “the Quetchi from central Guatemala (Verapaz), where despite the absence of priests in some communities the lay ministers also had living communities” where the evangelicals “were little able to penetrate.” He said that despite the shortage of priests “it is a local Church rich in indigenous priestly vocations” and “men and women religious congregations of totally indigenous origin.”

In that regard, he noted that in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis pointed out that the shortage of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life is often “due to the absence of contagious apostolic fervor in communities which lack enthusiasm and thus fail to attract.”

“The Holy Father gives the key to the problem. It's not the lack of vocations but the poor proposal, the lack of apostolic fervor, the lack of fraternity and prayer; the lack of serious and profound processes of evangelization,” the Salesian priest said.

Thus with regard to the question why after 200 to 400 years of evangelization vocations are lacking in the Amazon, the priest said that “one of the pastoral problems in various parts of Latin America, and in particular in Amazonia, is the insistence on the 'old ways'. There is a great conservatism in various churches and ecclesial structures, I'm not referring just to pre-conciliar traditionalists, but to pastoral lines, mentalities, that remain stuck  in '68 and in the 1970-1980 decade,” Lasarte pointed out.

The Salesian priest indicated three kinds of “Alzheimer pastoral ministry” which affect evangelization in the Amazon.

The first is “cultural anthopologism,” which originated after the 1971 Barbados Declaration, put together by 12 anthropologists, which “claimed that the Good News of Jesus is bad news for the indigenous peoples.”

Although “from this provocation emerged in various places a fruitful dialogue between anthropologists and missionaries, which served mutual enrichment,” in other places “it fell into a self-censorship, losing 'the joy of evangelizing,” with “cases of religious that decided to not announce Jesus Christ, or give catechesis 'out of respect for the indigenous culture,'” and that “they would limit themselves to witness and service” claiming that this “substitutes for the proclamation.”

The missionary recalled that in Evangelii nuntiandi Saint Paul VI said that “the Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.”

Fr. Lasarte said that the second kind of “Alzheimer pastoral ministry” is “social moralism.” “In more than one place I have heard similar expressions from pastoral workers: 'When people require services they come to us (the Catholic Church), but when they are looking for meaning to their lives, they go to others (evangelicals, etc.)'  It is evident and observable that the church that wants to be a 'Samaritan Church' has forgotten to be  a 'Magdelene Church', a Church providing services that doesn't announce the joy of the Resurrection of the Lord,” he pointed out.

The missionary reaffirmed that the social commitment of the Church and the option for the poorest continues to be “a constitutive aspect of the evangelizing process” and a richness; but “the problem is when this kind of activity has absorbed the rest of the life and dynamism of the Church, leaving in the shadows, silencing, or taking for granted the other dimensions: kerygmatic, catechetical, liturgical, koinonia. We are in an unresolved tension of Martha and Mary.”

He said that the “great hemorrhaging” of Catholics toward evangelical communities has to do with several factors, certainly “the lack of a much 'more religious' pastoral ministry and a 'less sociologized' one has had a very great influence”.

“I visited a diocese where at the beginning of the 1980's, 95% of the population was Catholic, today they are 20%. I remember the comment of one of the European missionaries that systematically had 'de-evangelized' the region: 'We do not foster superstition but human dignity'...I think that says everything,” he said. “The Church is some places has been transformed into a grand manager of services (healthcare, educational, development, advocacy...) but little as a mother of the faith.”

Finally there is secularism. He said, “a church secularizes when its pastoral workers interiorize dynamics from a secularized mentality: the absence or a very timid, almost apologizing, manifestation of the faith.”

He said that the consequences “are reflected in vocational sterility or the lack of perseverance in the path undertaken, because of a lack of deep motivations,” since “no one leaves everything to be a social director, no one dedicates his existence to an 'opinion,' no one offers what is absolute in his life for what is relative, but only to the Absolute which is God.”

“When this theological, religious dimension is not evident, patent, and alive in the mission, there will never exist options for evangelical radicalness, which is an indicator that the evangelization touched the soul of a Christian community,” he pointed out.

To conclude his article, Lasarte said that a Christian community that “does not generate priestly and religious vocations, is a community carrying some kind of spiritual disease. We can ordain the 'viri probati, the honeste mulieribus, the pueribus bonum, but the underlying problems will remain: an evangelization without the Gospel, a Christianity without Christ, a spirituality without the Holy Spirit.”

“Logically in a horizontal vision of the dominant culture, where God is absent or reduced to a few symbolic, cultural or moral concepts, it's impossible to come to appreciate the fruitful spiritual and pastoral value of priestly celibacy as a precious gift from God and of a total and sublime disposition of love and service to the Church and to humanity.”

The Salesian missionary said that “there will only be able to be authentic priestly vocations when an authentic, demanding, free and personal relationship is established with the person of Jesus Christ. Perhaps this may be simplistic, but the way I see things, the 'new path' for the evangelization of Amazonia is the novelty of Christ.”

Newman scholar critiques Catholic universities

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- Catholic universities should try to do more than run an assembly line of information for students who never learn to think, a prominent scholar told said this week, adding that many contemporary Catholic universities are not recognizably Catholic, or living up to their mission.

“John Henry Newman famously described a Catholic University as ‘an Alma Mater, knowing her children one by one, not a foundry, or a mint, or a treadmill’,” said Professor Tracey Rowland of the University of Notre Dame, Australia, and a member of the International Theological Commission. 

“I would argue that most of our universities are what Newman would call factories, mints and treadmills, that is, places where thousands of students, known to the university only by their student numbers, pass exams to qualify for employment in a particular field,” Rowland said.

Rowland spoke at an Oct. 12 symposium in honor of Newman hosted by the Thomistic Institute at the Angelicum - the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas - on Oct 12.

There are “only a very small number of academic institutions anywhere in the world where something like Newman’s vision has any possibility of success. Most of these institutions operate at the level of liberal arts colleges that are specifically Catholic,” the professor said.

“Excluded are numerous institutions with the adjective Catholic in their title where no attempt is made to offer a specifically Christian formation of every aspect of the soul, or a specifically Christian integration of the various disciplines, but where there are merely buildings named after local Catholic worthies, a chapel, a chaplain who is a priest if you are lucky, and lots of opportunities to improve the welfare of minority groups,” she said.

“The accountants who normally run such institutions might be members of the Catholic Church but the institutions themselves, their ethos, the content of their curricula, their marketing strategies, the beliefs of their faculty members, administrators, janitors and librarians and the bureaucratic idioms found in their policies are not only not Christian but in many cases simply the outcome of corporate ideology.” 

“Newman would not recognize these institutions as in any sense consistent with his own vision.”

The conference, “Newman the Prophet: A Saint for Our Times,” was held as part of the celebrations of St. John Henry Newman,’s canonization which took place on Sunday, Oct. 13, in St. Peter’s Square. Newman was an expert in university education, and the author of “Idea of a University,” a text that Rowland said offers a compelling vision for Catholic universities.

Newman was a 19th century English theologian, author, Catholic priest and cardinal born in 1801. While holding a prestigious teaching position at Oxford University, he converted to the Catholic faith from Anglicanism in 1845. His conversion came at great social and personal cost.

He became a Catholic priest in 1847, and founded the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England. Continuing his dedication to education, Newman also founded two schools for boys and the Catholic University of Ireland, which later became University College, Dublin.

Rowland said Newman envisioned a Catholic university as a true spiritual mother, where students are known by their professors on a first-name basis and live in a Catholic community, rather than a place for Catholics to simply earn degrees for potential employment—“although this may be a happy secondary effect,” she said.

The object of such a university is not an impersonal vision of knowledge for its “own sake,” Rowland said, but it exists for the betterment of the souls of students, “with a view to their spiritual welfare and their religious influence and usefulness.”

A chief problem of Newman’s age was “an ethical atheism” which for many had become “a lived reality of which one is convinced and for which one is willing to die,” she said. Many colleges and universities today are either “factories” dispensing degrees for potential employees, or hotbeds of anti-Catholic social theories, Rowland said.

The professor argued that most elite institutions have devolved and distorted senses of the liberal arts.

“In so many of these institutions the liberal arts have morphed into social theory subjects like gender studies and the objective is no longer to produce gentlemen but to form social activists, people who act like trained assassins against the last vestiges of Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian civilization.”

This, she said, is far from Newman’s vision of a university.

“A residential university college, limited to a couple of hundred students, can thereby be an ‘alma mater’ as Newman understood it,” she said. Other models that could work today could be Catholic programs at secular universities, such as the University of Chicago’s Catholic Studies program, she said.

Rowland praised a few specific institutions: Christendom College in Virginia, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, St. Mary’s University in London, among others.

In Newman’s university, she continued, a student receives more than “knowledge of great Catholic literature and music, philosophy and theology,” but is also “someone whose soul has been nourished by the sacraments,” she said.

That kind of formation would foster an “integrated personality,” she said, “a personality that is

driven by a fully Catholic heart, intellect, memory, will and imagination, all nourished by

sacramental graces, all seeking to participate in that which is true, beautiful and good.”

A Catholic university must educate students in the Catholic intellectual tradition, she said, but must also equip them to understand modern disciplines like “feminist theory and its spin-offs, queer theory and gender theory,” in order “to understand the chaotic dictatorship of relativism into which they have been born.”

Having learned to engage various thinkers with “their memories, their intellects, their

wills, their imaginations and above all their hearts,” Rowland said, such students will be “able to

operate with equally high levels of competence across a range of social positions” when they graduate.

“In the final analysis a genuinely Catholic University” according to Newman “would be an alma mater, not a foundry, mint or treadmill, or what we today call a sausage factory, because it would dare to form the human soul with reference to all that true, beautiful and good,” Rowland said.

Pope names members of drafting committee for Amazon synod final doc

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2019 / 09:53 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Tuesday made four personal nominations of members to the group responsible for drafting the final document of the Amazon synod.

In addition to the members who will be voted to the committee by the synod, Pope Francis has nominated Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria; Argentinian Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences; missionary Archbishop Edmundo Ponciano Valenzuela of Asuncion, Paraguay; and Italian Salesian Fr. Rossano Sala.

Maltese Bishop Mario Grech, who is pro-secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, is also part of the drafting committee.

The nominations were announced by the Vatican communications chief Paolo Ruffini during a press conference on the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, an Oct. 6-27 meeting on the Church’s life and ministry in the region.

The drafting committee will meet over the next two weeks to assemble into a document the recommendations of the small groups -- called circoli minori -- from their discussions during the Amazon synod.

The final document of the synod will then be voted on by synod members, called synod fathers, on the second-to-last day of the gathering. Per synod norms, it must pass with a 2/3 majority. The document of synod recommendations will then be given to Pope Francis for him to use or not use as he desires in the writing of a post-synodal exhortation.

Speaking in the press conference Oct. 15, Bishop Eugenio Coter, apostolic vicar of Pando, Bolivia, said that in response to calls for greater accompaniment of Catholics in the Amazon, there has been during the synod the suggestion of creating not only a Church structure, but “a permanent episcopal organism.”

On the idea of creating an “Amazon rite,” Coter clarified that the synod is asking for an inculturated liturgy, not a new liturgical rite.

On giving the liturgy an “Amazonian face,” Coter proposed the creation of Church commissions to explore the topic directly.

Proposals for the inculturation of the Mass have included the translation of the Mass into the local language of the various ethnic groups, of which there are around 300.

Bishop Rafael Alfonso Escudero López-Brea of the prelature of Moyobamba, Peru, also suggested the introduction of some “symbols” or “rituals” which are ornamental and do not impact what is essential about the celebration of the Eucharist.

Escudero said his proposal to the synod was one of “profound evangelization of an explicit proclamation of Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior, through preaching, teaching, and charity, so that the peoples and cultures are imbued with salvation, which comes from Jesus Christ.”

An evangelized culture, he said, is one which will naturally produce vocations to the ordained ministries of priesthood and the diaconate, and non-ordained ministries and services. He thanked God for the many active lay men and women who are involved in serving the Church in the Amazon.

“That is a reason for hope and thanksgiving to God,” he said.

Vatican promotes 'smart rosary,' selling for $109

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2019 / 09:44 am (CNA).- The Vatican promoted the launch of a ‘smart rosary’ bracelet Tuesday compatible with an iOS and Android app, which costs over $100.

“In a world of indifference and in the face of so many injustices, poverty, elementary rights denied, praying for peace in the world means reconciling ourselves in our daily relationships, with the poorest, with the stranger, with different cultures and spiritual and religious traditions, but also with our land, our forests, our rivers and oceans,” Fr. Frédéric Fornos, SJ said in a press release sent by the Holy See Press Office Oct. 14.

“The rosary is a beautiful spiritual tradition for contemplating the Gospel with Mary, it is a simple and humble prayer,” he said.

The “eRosary” bracelet is activated by making the sign of the cross, and is synced to an app, “Click to Pray eRosary” that tracks the user’s progress and contains visual aids and audio reflections on the mysteries of the rosary.

The bluetooth and water-resistant digital rosary is currently available for pre-order sale on Amazon.it for 99 euros, roughly $109. It is sold by “Click to Pray” -- an initiative of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

Taiwan-based tech company GadgTek Inc (GTI) developed the “smart rosary” for the initiative.

Pope Francis launched the “Click to Pray” smartphone app in an Angelus address in January 2019, encouraging young people to download the app to pray the “Rosary of Peace.”

Among the “exclusive images and personalized content about the praying of the Rosary” contained in the app is a “themed” rosary option. Themes will include Laudato Si, migrants and refugees, vocations, and young people.

“Aimed at the peripheral frontiers of the digital world where the young people dwell, the Click To Pray eRosary serves as a technology-based pedagogy to teach the young how to pray the Rosary, how to pray it for peace, how to contemplate the Gospel,” the Click to Pray press release said.

Pope Francis appoints new head of Vatican security

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2019 / 04:39 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Tuesday appointed the second-in-command of Vatican security to head the City State's national police force, after the resignation of the former chief Oct. 14.

The pope named Oct. 15, Gianluca Gauzzi Broccoletti, who has worked as part of the Vatican's gendarmerie since 1995, and has been vice director and vice commander of the Vatican security and civil protection services since 2018.

Broccoletti's nomination follows the resignation of Domenico Giani, who resigned after a confidential internal memo was leaked to the press that announced the suspension of some Vatican officials and employees and restricted their access to the Vatican.

The suspended officials were connected to an Oct. 1 raid of some Vatican offices, part an unspecified investigation overseen by a prosecutor, called the “promoter of justice” in the Vatican City court system.

The Vatican press office said Giani was not personally responsible for the leak.

Giani was Commander of the Vatican Gendarmerie, and had been a part of the Vatican’s security and police force for more than 20 years. The leaked memo, issued Oct 2, was signed by Giani and published by L’Espresso.

The memo was issued after the Oct. 1 raid of offices within the offices of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Among the suspended employees is Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who oversees documentation at the Secretariat of State, along with layman Tomasso Di Ruzza, director of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority.

Two other men and one woman were also listed as suspended in the memo. During the raid, documents and devices were taken in connection to an investigation following complaints made last summer by the Institute for Religious Works - commonly called the Vatican Bank - and the Office of the Auditor General, concerning a series of financial transactions "carried out over time," an Oct. 1 Vatican statement said.

Broccoletti, 45, has worked as part of the Vatican gendarmerie and in Vatican security since 1995. Since 1999, he was responsible for the City State's cyber security and technological infrastructure. He is married with two children.

The Secretariat of State is the central governing office of the Catholic Church and the department of the Roman Curia which works most closely with the pope. It is also responsible for the governance of the Vatican City state. The Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority oversees suspicious financial transactions, and is charged with ensuring that Vatican banking policies comply with international financial standards.

The Vatican Gendarmerie collaborates with the Pontifical Swiss Guard, which is responsible for the personal protection of Pope Francis. The Gendarmerie oversee general security operations in the Vatican City State, along with criminal investigations and counterterrorism operations.

Details about the nature of the investigation at the Secretariat of State have not yet been forthcoming.

 

Bishop Byrne: Newman would be surprised to be canonized a saint

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal John Henry Newman would be surprised by his own canonization as a saint, an English bishop said Monday, adding that Newman’s life offers an important witness of holiness for contemporary Catholics.

“I am sure that no one would be more surprised than Newman to find himself a canonized saint. In his own life time it was suggested that he led a saintly life – his response was typical. ‘I have nothing of the saint about me as everyone knows and it is a severe and salutary mortification to be thought next door to one,’” Bishop Robert Byrne said Oct. 14, during a Mass of Thanksgiving for Newman’s canonization, celebrated at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

“Nonetheless the Church thinks otherwise after due deliberation and the approval of two miracles brought about by the intercession of the saint, John Henry Newman, the Londoner born in 1801 and who died a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church in Birmingham in 1890 is now raised to the honours of the altar,” Byrne added.

“He is held up to us as a model of Christian life and virtue and as our intercessor in heaven.” Newman was a 19th century theologian, poet, Catholic priest and cardinal. Born in 1801, he was before his conversion a well-known and well-respected Oxford academic, Anglican preacher, and public intellectual.

Newman’s 1845 conversion to the Catholic faith was controversial in England, and resulted in the loss of many friends, including his own sister, who never spoke to him again.

He became a priest in 1847 and founded the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England. He was particularly dedicated to education, founding two schools for boys and the Catholic University of Ireland. His “Idea is a University” became a foundational text on Catholic higher education. He was a prolific author and letter writer. Newman died in Birmingham in 1890 at 89.

Pope Francis declared Newman a saint at Sunday Mass Oct. 13 in St. Peter’s Square. 

Byrne celebrated Mass in thanksgiving for the canonization, invoking the intercession of Newman in his prayers. The Mass was attended by an international congregation of scholars, devotees, and admirers of Newman, concelebrated by priests and bishops who have been influenced by the man.

Among those in attendance at St. John Lateran were members of the Oratorian religious congregation, of which Byrne is a member, and which Newman famously brought to England. Also there were priests and sisters of the Spiritual Family of the Work, an ecclesial movement of priests and religious sisters devoted to the spirituality and intellectual legacy of Newman. Worshipping too were pilgrims who had come to Rome for Newman’s canonization, including some who had found the Catholic Church through the saint.

Byrne said that it was “the saintly Cardinal’s relentless and heroic search for truth and holiness which brings us to this morning’s celebration.”

“The pursuit of holiness and truth were for St John Henry the driving force of his life. We see throughout his long life how he championed the cause of revealed truth and was fearless in proclaiming it not only by his many writings but also by the institutions he established. He did much to promote the Christian cause in bringing the Congregation of the Oratory to England, founding a University in Ireland and a school in Edgbaston. He worked tirelessly as a Parish Priest and had a fatherly care for his Oratorian community. He guided countless people with letters of spiritual direction and counsel.”

“He gave light to those who were searching for the truth and continues to do so through his published works of theology, philosophy, sermons and prayers.”

“Newman speaks to us in different ways as preacher, writer, theologian and pastor. But however he speaks to us we are united in giving thanks that his life and legacy is now a gift to the Universal Church,” the bishop concluded.  

 

 

Amazon Synod bishop: The Gospel brings new concepts to cultures, like forgiveness

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- While the Vatican’s Synod of Bishop on the Amazon discusses the idea of “inculturating” the Gospel’s proclamation with local culture, one bishop shared that the Gospel called one tribe in southern Venezuela to a difficult cultural concept: forgiveness.

“The Gospel helps cultures maintain all the good they have and at the same time brings new things that helps them grow,” José Ángel Divassón Cilveti, former head of the apostolic vicariate of Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela, said at a Vatican press conference Oct. 14.

Cilventi, a Salesian who served as apostolic vicar of Puerto Ayacucho from 1996-2015, explained how his religious order has carried out missionary work among the Yanomami people in the Amazon rainforest along the Venezuelan-Brazilian border for more than 60 years.

He said that in the past there was much violence among the Yanomami people. “In the past, if you killed others, you were killed,” he said. “And then started the continuous fights and struggles that made their lives difficult.”

The bishop explained that Salesian missionaries who taught newly converted Yanomami Catholics “Jesus said you have to forgive,” spurred a broad cultural change within their community, while “not taking away from being Yanomami at all.”

“In that culture, forgiveness was difficult, and yet these people as they were learning this ability … realized that having the ability to forgive solved so many problems,” Cilventi said.

Another synod participant, Bishop Carlo Verzeletti of Castanhal, Brazil, spoke of the need for change at the press conference.

In particular, Verzeletti called for is a change in the church’s discipline of priestly celibacy.

“In the synod I support and continue to support the importance of being able to ordain married men for the priesthood, so the Eucharist may become a reality that is closer to people and communities, so that these married men can, in fact, accompany the lives of the peoples, the lives of their communities” Verzeletti said Oct. 14.

“I would already know who I would choose to ordain as priests,” the Bishop of Castanhal added.

The Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon is an Oct. 6-27 meeting on the Church’s life and ministry in the Pan-Amazonian region.

The working document for the synod proposed the possibility of ordaining elder married men -- viri probati -- in response to a shortage of priestly vocations in the Amazon region of South America.

Verzeletti, an Italian who served the Brazilian state of Para since 1996, said that because of colonization, the region suffered 400 years in which the values of native people were “destroyed,” and now suffers from the negative aspects of globalization.

He noted that in recent years the region’s Pentecostal churches have grown much more rapidly than the Catholic Church, saying that there are 750 Pentecostal churches and only 50 Catholic churches in his city.

179 synod fathers attended the morning assembly in the Synod Hall Oct. 14 in which the discussion included: protecting indigenous peoples’ rights, environmental protection, how to inculturate the liturgy, and how to respond better to the needs and cultures of the people, according to Fr Giacomo Costa, Secretary of the Information Commission

Cardinal Becciu at center of Vatican financial investigation

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2019 / 09:51 am (CNA).- The recent raid of Vatican offices is connected to an investigation into charges that Vatican money financed the development of luxury properties in London, and led to a windfall for the Vatican’s investment managers, according to an Oct. 14 report from Financial Times.

According to Financial Times, Vatican police and prosecutors are investigating the possibility of improprieties in a 2014 $200 million investment made through Athena Capital, a Luxembourg investment fund, which financed a stake in the development of a luxury apartment project in London. That investment, along with a nearly $50 million 2018 investment in the same property, has raised questions about the internal control of Vatican money held in international banks and investment vehicles, especially after repeated efforts to bring financial practices into line with international practices and standards.

The Financial Times reported that the Vatican’s 2014 and 2018 investments were authorized by Cardinal Giovanni Becciu, who was from 2011 until 2018 the second-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, and was in 2018 appointed to head the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

In 2016, Becciu was instrumental in bringing to a halt Vatican financial reforms initiated by Cardinal George Pell. Although Pope Francis had given the newly created Prefecture for the Economy autonomous oversight authority over Vatican finances, Becciu interfered when the prefecture planned an external audit of all Vatican departments, to be conducted by the firm PriceWaterhouseCooper.

Unilaterally, and without permission of Pope Francis, Becciu cancelled the audit and announced in a letter to all Vatican departments that it would not take place.

When Pell challenged internally the audit’s cancellation, Becciu persuaded Pope Francis to give his decision ex post facto approval, sources inside the prefecture told CNA. The audit never took place.

In 2017, Becciu was also responsible for the dismissal of the Vatican’s first-ever auditor general, Libero Milone.

Milone was fired in dramatic fashion by Becciu, who accused the auditor of “spying” on the finances of senior officials, including Becciu. The then-Archbishop Becciu threatened criminal prosecution of Milone if he did not agree to leave his Vatican office quietly.

Milone maintained that he was fired for being too good at his job, and because he and the reforming work of the Prefecture for the Economy were perceived as a threat to the autonomy and business practices of long-time Curial officials. He said that he was dismissed on trumped-up charges after he uncovered evidence of financial misconduct under Becciu’s leadership.

In May 2018, the Vatican quietly announced it had dropped all charges against Milone.

Also in 2017, Becciu was involved in a complicated chain of events with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta that ended with the Grand Master of the Order being deposed, and Becciu being installed as special papal envoy charged with running the order.

At the center of that controversy were allegations that Vatican financial authorities had siphoned off more than 30 million euros from a 120 million euro bequest held in a Swiss bank account, in order to ease liquidity problems.

On Oct 1, 2019, Vatican prosecutors authorized a raid within the Secretariat of State’s offices. Documents and devices were seized, though the Vatican did not indicate what exactly had prompted the investigation.

The next day, a confidential memo was leaked announcing the suspension of five Vatican employees, including two officials: Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who oversees documentation at the Secretariat of State, along with layman Tomasso Di Ruzza, director of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority.

On Oct. 14, the Vatican announced that Domenico Giani, head of the Vatican City State’s national police force had resigned, apparently because the leak of the confidential memo took place under his command. The Vatican press office said that Giani “bears no personal responsibility in the unfolding of events.”

Vatican officials have not yet commented on the Financial Times’ report.

Vatican City security head resigns after confidential memo was leaked

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2019 / 08:00 am (CNA).- The head of the Vatican City State’s national police force has resigned, after a confidential internal memo was leaked to the press that announced the suspension of some Vatican officials and employees and restricted their access to the Vatican.

The suspended officials were connected to an Oct. 1 raid of some Vatican offices, part an unspecified investigation overseen by a prosecutor, called the “promoter of justice” in the Vatican City court system.

The Vatican press office said that Domenico Giani, Commander of the Vatican’s Gendarmerie, was not personally responsible for the leak.

“In order to assure the proper serenity to the ongoing investigation, coordinated by the Promoter of Justice and carried out by the Gendarmerie, since the perpetrator of the external circulation of the order - reserved to the staff of the Gendarmerie and of the Pontifical Swiss Guard - remains unknown, and although the Commander bears no personal responsibility in the unfolding of the events, Domenico Giani has tendered his resignation to the Holy Father out of love for the Church and faithfulness to Peter’s Successor,” an Oct. 14 announcement from the Vatican press office said.

The memo’s leak was “prejudicial to the dignity of the people involved and to the image of the Gendarmerie,” the announcement added.

Giani was Commander of the Vatican Gendarmerie, and had been a part of the Vatican’s security and police force for more than 20 years. The memo, issued Oct 2, was signed by Giani and published by L’Espresso.

The memo was issued after the Oct. 1 raid of offices within the offices of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Among the suspended employees is Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who oversees documentation at the Secretariat of State, along with layman Tomasso Di Ruzza, director of the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority.

Two other men and one woman were also listed as suspended in the memo. During the raid, documents and devices were taken in connection to an investigation following complaints made last summer by the Institute for Religious Works - commonly called the Vatican Bank - and the Office of the Auditor General, concerning a series of financial transactions "carried out over time," an Oct. 1 Vatican statement said.

The Secretariat of State is the central governing office of the Catholic Church and the department of the Roman Curia which works most closely with the pope. It is also responsible for the governance of the Vatican City state. The Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority oversees suspicious financial transactions, and is charged with ensuring that Vatican banking policies comply with international financial standards.

Pope Francis approved new governing documents for the Vatican Bank last summer, transitioning the bank from its practice of using internal auditors to the use of an external auditor to review the bank’s finances and transactions. The bank has a long history of complex financial transactions, has faced scandals, and been criticized for a lack of financial transparency.

The pope has made reforms at the Vatican Bank a priority of his pontificate.

The Oct. 14 statement said that Pope Francis spoke “at length” with Giani when the official presented his resignation, and “expressed his appreciation to the Commander for his gesture, an expression of freedom and institutional sensitivity, which honours Commander Giani and the work he has carried out with humility and discretion in the service of the Petrine Ministry and the Holy See.”

The press office said that Giani had brought “undisputed professionalism” to the Vatican Gendarmerie, a police and security force of more than 100 officers, which Giani led since 2006.

The Vatican Gendarmerie collaborates with the Pontifical Swiss Guard, which is responsible for the personal protection of Pope Francis. The Gendarmerie oversee general security operations in the Vatican City State, along with criminal investigations and counterterrorism operations. 

Details about the nature of the investigation at the Secretariat of State have not yet been forthcoming.

 

'Lead, kindly light' - Pope Francis names Newman a saint

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2019 / 03:20 am (CNA).- Nearly two centuries ago, John Henry Newman was England’s most well-known Anglican priest, until he risked everything to become a Catholic. Today he has become a saint.

As Pope Francis named Cardinal John Henry Newman a saint Sunday, he told Catholics that the goal of life is a transforming encounter with Jesus.

“The ultimate goal is not health or wellness, but the encounter with Jesus … He alone frees us from evil and heals our hearts. Only an encounter with him can save, can make life full and beautiful,” Pope Francis said at the canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 13.

Pope Francis officially recognized John Henry Newman, Mariam Thresia, Marguerite Bays, Giuseppina Vannini, and Dulce Lopes as saints.

 

#NewmanCanonisation #NewmanCanonization pic.twitter.com/y16Q9aXXZZ

— JD Flynn (@jdflynn) October 13, 2019  

The canonization was attended by Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, along with delegates from the Church of England.

“Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession,” he said.

Pope Francis read a quote from one of  Newman’s sermons describing the holiness of daily life: “The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not... The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretence... with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing, that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man.”

 

More photos from the #NewmanCanonisation. Newman was named a saint along with four holy women:

Photos: Daniel Ibanez/CNA pic.twitter.com/0MfteCAdyL

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) October 13, 2019  

Newman was a 19th century theologian, poet, Catholic priest and cardinal. Born in 1801, he was before his conversion a well-known and well-respected Oxford academic, Anglican preacher, and public intellectual.

Newman’s 1845 conversion to the Catholic faith was controversial in England, and resulted in the loss of many friends, including his own sister who never spoke to him again.

He became a priest in 1847 and founded the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England. He was particularly dedicated to education, founding two schools for boys and the Catholic University of Ireland. His “Idea is a University” became a foundational text on Catholic higher education. He was a prolific author and letter writer. Newman died in Birmingham in 1890 at 89.

St. John Henry Newman is Britain’s first new saint since the canonization of St. John Ogilvie in 1976.

“Let us ask to be … ‘kindly lights’ amid the encircling gloom. Jesus, ‘stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest: so to shine as to be a light to others,’” Pope Francis said in his Oct. 13 homily, quoting parts of Newman’s “Meditations on Christian Doctrine.”

 

Along with Newman, Pope Francis canonized four women.

Mother Mariam Thresia (1876-1926) was an Indian mystic and founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family. The Syro-Malabar Catholic foundress received the stigmata and would sometimes levitate during prayer.

Giuseppina Vannini (1859-1911) religious sister from Rome known for founding the congregation of the Daughters of St. Camillus dedicated to serving the sick and suffering. Sister Dulce Lopes Pontes (1914-1992) founded the largest charitable organization in Brazil providing healthcare, welfare, and education service. Nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize, she is the first Brazilian-born female saint.

Pope Francis said that these three religious women saints show us that the consecrated life is “a journey of love at the existential peripheries of the world.”

“Saint Marguerite Bays, on the other hand, was a seamstress; she speaks to us of the power of simple prayer, enduring patience and silent self-giving,” the pope said. “That is how the Lord made the splendour of Easter radiate in her life.”

When Bays (1815-1879) was diagnosed with advanced cancer in 1853, she prayed to the Virgin Mary to be able to suffer with Jesus rather than to be healed. However, on the day that Bl. Pius IX proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Sept. 8, 1854, she was miraculously healed.

“On the journey of life, purification takes place along the way, a way that is often uphill since it leads to the heights,” Pope Francis said.

“Faith calls for journey, a ‘going out’ from ourselves, and it can work wonders if we abandon our comforting certainties, if we leave our safe harbours and our cosy nests. Faith increases by giving, and grows by taking risks,” he said.

The canonizations took place as the Church celebrates an “Extraordinary Missionary Month” dedicated to prayer and reflection on the missionary work of the Church, as well as the Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian Region, taking place at the Vatican Oct. 6-27.

“The Lord sets our hearts free and heals them if only we ask him, only if we say to him: ‘Lord, I believe you can heal me. Dear Jesus, heal me from being caught up in myself. Free me from evil and fear,’” Pope Francis said at the canonization.

Bishop in Brazil says he will ordain women to diaconate if pope permits it

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2019 / 09:58 am (CNA).- A bishop participating in the Vatican’s Amazon Synod said Saturday he would ordain women in his communities as deacons if the idea is recommended by the synod and permitted by Pope Francis.

Bishop Dom Adriano Ciocca Vasino of the prelature of São Félix, Brazil said Oct. 12, there are women in his community who are already trained in theology, and “they know that if this synod, with the [permission] of the pope, opens up the possibility of the diaconate for women… I will ordain them.”

Ciocca spoke at a press briefing which took place during the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian Region, an Oct. 6-27 meeting on the Church’s life and ministry in the region.

The bishop described to journalists a model of formation he uses in the prelature of São Félix, with a theology school open to both men and women.

After the completion of the four-year course, those men who wish to become priests are asked to spend several years living and working in local community, after which they are considered for ordination as deacons or priests, based in part on the recommendation of the community in which they live.

The idea that women could be ordained or commissioned in some way as deacons in the Church has been under discussion since Pope Francis appointed a commission to study the matter in 2016. The Church teaches definitively that only men can be ordained as priests or bishops, but some theologians suggest that women were ordained as deacons in the early centuries of the Church.

Other theologians suggest that ordination is a sacrament reserved to men, and that while women might be commissioned in some form of “diaconate,” a Greek word that means “service,” their commissioning would not be sacramental.

In May, Pope Francis told reporters that some on the Vatican commission have concluded that the historical “female diaconate” was different from the role of male deacons, namely becaue it did not include sacramental ordination.

“For example, the formulas of female diaconal ‘ordination’ found until now, according to the commission, are not the same for the ordination of a male deacon and are more similar to what today would be the abbatial blessing of an abbess,” he said.

The pope added that others in the commission hold that there was “a female deacon formula,” but it is not clear whether it was a sacramental ordination or not.

A permanent deacon from Brazil, Francisco Andrade de Lima, told reporters that he is not opposed to the idea of women deacons, but that he thinks the question should be thought about in terms of the issue of vocations, rather than simply as a potential solution to a problem.

According to the Oct. 12 briefing participants, the topic of formation is important for the Church in the Amazon.

Proper formation of priests and lay people is a major challenge in the region, Bishop Rafael Cob García of the vicariate of Puyo, Ecuador, said.

Cob said he thinks the key to evangelization in the Amazon is inculturation and understanding lived reality. He also pointed out that the approach to evangelization in the cities must be very different to the approach taken in more remote areas.

To have “a Church with an Amazonian face,” new paths of formation and evangelization must be found, he said. For a Church with an Amazonian face, he noted, they also need vocations to come from the local communities, but the major challenge right now is a lack of formators and good formation at a local level.

Questioned about the importance of evangelization versus the importance of protecting minority indigenous communities from outside bad actors, Cob said both are important, but that these minority communities, like everyone, have a right to know about the salvific mission of Christ.

They need to be evangelized in a direct way, he said, pointing to the Church’s missionary mandate to bring Christ to all people.

Cob also said there is a need to protect indigenous from “greedy” multinational corporations that come into a space without concern for that space’s inhabitants. Their lives are threatened by this, he stated.

 

UK's Prince Charles praises Cardinal John Henry Newman

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2019 / 06:10 am (CNA).- The Prince of Wales said Saturday that the canonization of Cardinal John Henry Newman is a cause for celebration among all Britons, those who are Catholic and those who “cherish the values by which he was inspired.”

“His faith was truly catholic in that it embraced all aspects of life. It is in that same spirit that we, whether we are Catholics or not, can, in the tradition of the Christian Church throughout the ages, embrace the unique perspective, the particular wisdom and insight, brought to our universal experience by this one individual soul,” Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, wrote in an Oct. 12 column for L’Osservatore Romano.

“Whatever our own beliefs, and no matter what our own tradition may be, we can only be grateful to Newman for the gifts, rooted in his Catholic faith, which he shared with wider society: his intense and moving spiritual autobiography and his deeply-felt poetry,” the prince wrote.

Newman will be canonized by Pope Francis Oct. 13. He was born in 1801, converted to Catholicism in 1845, and died in 1890. Before his conversion, he was a well-known and well-respected Oxford academic, Anglican preacher, and public intellectual. After his conversion, he founded the Birmingham Oratory, a religious community of priests, and was Britain’s most well-known, though sometimes controversial, Catholic. He was a prolific writer of books, poetry, and letters; an educator; an orator; and, more quietly, a minister to the poor in working-class Birmingham.

He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI during the former pope’s 2010 visit to the United Kingdom.

Prince Charles will attend Newman’s canonization in Rome.

“In the age when he lived, Newman stood for the life of the spirit against the forces that would debase human dignity and human destiny.  In the age in which he attains sainthood, his example is needed more than ever – for the manner in which, at his best, he could advocate without accusation, could disagree without disrespect and, perhaps most of all, could see differences as places of encounter rather than exclusion,” Prince Charles wrote.

“At a time when faith was being questioned as never before, Newman, one of the greatest theologians of the nineteenth century, applied his intellect to one of the most pressing questions of our era: what should be the relationship of faith to a sceptical, secular age? His engagement first with Anglican theology, and then, after his conversion, Catholic theology, impressed even his opponents with its fearless honesty, its unsparing rigour and its originality of thought,” he added.

The prince noted the anti-Catholicism Newman faced after his conversion.

“And perhaps most relevantly of all at this time, when we have witnessed too many grievous assaults by the forces of intolerance on communities and individuals, including many Catholics, because of their beliefs, he is a figure who stood for his convictions despite the disadvantages of belonging to a religion whose adherents were denied full participation in public life. Through the whole process of Catholic emancipation and the restoration of the Catholic Church hierarchy, he was the leader his people, his church and his times needed.”

Prince Charles concluded by noting Newman’s capacity for friendship, and his devotion to his friends.

“As we mark the life of this great Briton, this great churchman and, as we can will shortly say, this great saint, who bridges the divisions between traditions, it is surely right that we give thanks for the friendship which, despite the parting, has not merely endured, but has strengthened,” he wrote. 

“In the image of divine harmony which Newman expressed so eloquently, we can see how, ultimately, as we follow with sincerity and courage the different paths to which conscience calls us, all our divisions can lead to a greater understanding and all our ways can find a common home.”

 

The Amazon synod, by the numbers

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican’s Amazon synod began this week. Over 200 people are gathered in the Vatican to discuss the life and ministry of the Church in the Pan-Amazonian region, an area surrounding the Amazon River which spans nine countries.

Here are a few facts about the Amazon synod, as told by the numbers:

 

2, 260, 87,000

Pope Francis announced a meeting of the Synod of Bishops to discuss matters of importance to the Pan-Amazonian Region in 2017. The two years since that have been spent planning for this month’s gathering.

According to the head of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, around 260 events were held in the Amazon to prepare for the synod. Most of those events were listening and consultation sessions, attended by approximately 87,000 people.

 

147, 22, 2/3

The synod’s working document, or Instrumentum laboris, guides the process. The document is 147 paragraphs long. According to Baldisseri, it is the product of listening to the thoughts, questions, and concerns of people in the Amazon. He said it is a starting point for discussion.

The document is controversial, and some Church leaders have criticized its theological approach. Pope Francis himself, at the synod’s opening session, called the document a “martyr text destined to be destroyed.”

How much of the Instrumentum laboris gets incorporated into the final document depends on the work of the assembly, which will produce a final document of recommendations to give to Pope Francis.

The actual synod assembly is taking place in Vatican City over 22 days. The synod began with an opening Mass said by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica Oct. 6 and continues through Oct. 27, concluding with a closing Mass.

During those 22 days, the synod’s bishops, experts, observers, and other advisers are meeting inside the Vatican’s Synod Hall to hear presentations, and to work in small groups that discuss aspects of the assembly’s Instrumentum laboris.

The synod’s final document, essentially a set of recommendations to Pope Francis, is approved by the synod fathers toward the end the synod. It will require a 2/3 majority to pass.

 

185, 145, 34, 20

There are 185 synod fathers participating in the Amazon synod. A synod father is the name given to the bishops, or in some cases, priests and religious brothers, who make up the voting members of a synod assembly. More than 145 of the members of the 2019 synod come from, or serve in, places in South and Central America.

Women are also participating in the synod in the capacity of auditors or experts. Baldisseri said last week that the 34 women is a record number to participate in a synod. Of  the 34 women, 20 are members of religious orders.

 

50, 438,373, 134,435, 10,000, Zero

Baldisseri has proposed to make a “symbolic gesture” of commitment to ecological friendliness by buying bonds that would reforest 50 hectares (nearly 124 acres) of land in the Amazon basin.

This purchase would be, he said, to offset the CO2 emissions caused by the synod, of which it is calculated that 438,373kg is caused by the air travel of participants in the assembly, and 134,435kg by other emission-causing activities, such as the use of energy, water, and transportation in Rome.

The cost of the 50 hectares is “very low,” Baldisseri said – just 10,000 euros.

This and other initiatives, including the use of glass and metal water bottles, along with biodegradable cups instead of plastic, are intended to make it a “synod at ‘Impact Zero,’” Baldisseri said.

 

2,400,000, 34,000,000, 79+26+3

The Amazon River basin, most of which is covered by the Amazon rainforest, encompasses 2.4 million square miles, mostly in Brazil, but also in the countries of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname.

According to statistics provided by the Vatican, due to large migration from forest villages, now an estimated 70 to 80% of the Pan-Amazonian population, around 34 million people, live in cities. Because of this, many cities in the Amazon face urban crowding and lack of infrastructure and resources, making urban poverty one of the major issues facing the region, and one of the many topics to be addressed over the next three weeks.

There are 79 Catholic dioceses, 26 apostolic vicariates, and three prelatures in the Amazon basin. The apostolic vicariates and prelatures are supported financially by the Pontifical Mission Societies, which is under the jurisdiction of the Vatican's Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

$$??

As with any major international event, the synod takes a sum of money to prepare for and to conduct. Expenses include international and domestic transportation, lodging, food, personnel, and interpreters, among many others. Information about how much money has been spent has not been made public. Both the Vatican press office and the office of the Synod of Bishops declined to provide that information to CNA.

‘Useless to pretend’: Vatican official dismisses German ‘binding synodal path’

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- A senior legal official in the Vatican has dismissed the idea that a planned “synodal process” in Germany will be “binding,” noting that bishops must exercise their authority in unity and obedience to the authority of the pope.

Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said the idea that a synodal process in any particular country could change universal Church teaching and discipline is “not a possible way of thinking” in the Church.

“It is useless for anyone to pretend that the German synod is binding, because no one has given that authority to the German synod. No one can bind the faithful beyond their authority to bind or pastors beyond their authority to bind,” Arrieta said in an Oct. 11 interview.

Arrieta was one of the drafters and signatories to a legal assessment of the draft statutes for a Synodal Assembly currently being advanced by the bishops of Germany.

That assessment, which concluded that the German plans were “not ecclesiologically valid” was sent to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, on September 4 by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Congregation for Bishops.

Speaking to Alejandro Bermudez, executive director of the ACI Group, of which CNA is a part, Arrieta explained that bishops’ conferences are not autonomous bodies, but subject to the authority of the Congregation for Bishops because of their obligation of obedience to the pope.

“The bishops and their synods, and episcopal conferences, fall under the authority of the Congregation for Bishops,” Arrieta said. 

“The connection is direct; they depend upon the pope, but through the Congregation for Bishops. In a vicarious, stable, delegated way, the pope has entrusted them to the direction of the congregation.”

In March of this year, Cardinal Marx announced that the Church in Germany would embark on a "binding synodal process" to tackle what he called the “key issues” arising from the clerical abuse crisis: clerical celibacy, the Church's teaching on sexual morality, and a reduction of clerical power.

The synodal proposals call for the creation of an assembly in partnership with the Central Committee of German Catholics, a group whose leadership supports the ending of clerical celibacy, the changing of Church teaching on sexual morality to endorse homosexual unions, and the ordination of women to the priesthood.

In May, the committee’s leadership informed its members that the group would participate in the synodal process because it had received guarantees that the synod assembly could and would treat issues of universal teaching and discipline and pass “binding” resolutions, something Arrieta said went far beyond the authority of any country’s bishops to do.

“The philosophy of legal positivism is not the way of the Church,” Arrieta said. “For the Church it is not a possible way of thinking. What truly links the Church, and the faithful, are the sacraments, the word of Christ. No authority is binding that rejects the sacraments; that is not possible, acting that way would not be possible, even if some say that it could be so.”

“Pastors depend upon the pope, and only the pope can give the authority by which a synod would be binding,” Arrieta added. “Without that, saying ‘this is binding,’ or ‘I accept that this is binding’ does not make it so; no one would be bound. It is not useful for anyone to say that it is, or for someone to pretend that it is, or write a norm about it, because the norm itself would not have authority.”

In response to Ouellet’s September letter and the PCLT assessment, Marx flew to Rome and met with both Pope Francis and Cardinal Ouellet last month. Officials in the Congregation for Bishops told CNA that Marx had used the meetings to attempt to “minimize” the significance of the synodal plans, and to insist that Vatican criticisms are unfounded.

Before Marx arrived in Rome, Matthias Kopp, a spokesman for the German bishops’ conference told Catholic News Service that the term “binding” was not meant to imply any Church figure would be bound by the synodal conclusions. “Binding means it is a vote,” not simply a discussion, Kopp said.

The German bishops’ conference subsequently voted to adopt the statutes by a margin of 51-12 with 1 abstention during their plenary session on Sept. 25. At that time, Bishop Rudolph Voderholzer of Regesburg said that there was “a dishonesty at the beginning of the Synodal Process.” 

The statutes are now with the Central Committee of German Catholics, the leaders of which will agree on an amended version with Cardinal Marx.

The synodal process in Germany is due to begin on the first day of Advent.

These are the four women being canonized with John Henry Newman

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Pope Francis will canonize four women alongside John Henry Newman this Sunday. These women -- a stigmatist, a mystic, a Roman orphan, and Nobel Peace prize nominee -- also proclaimed Christ through their lives and their miracles in a unique way.

Mother Mariam Thresia

Mother Mariam Thresia (1876-1926) was an Indian mystic and founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family. Her prayer life was characterized by frequent ecstasies in which she would sometimes levitate above the ground. In 1909, Thresia received the stigmata, after which she also suffered from demonic attacks.

Mother Thresia cared for the poor, sick, and dying in Kerala, visiting those with leprosy and measles. She also preached to the poor and the rich alike the importance of happy, healthy families to uplift all of society.  In 1914 Thresia founded the Congregation of the Holy Family, which has grown to have 176 houses around the world with 1,500 professed sisters.

“Our main charisma is family apostolate. We have schools, hospitals and counseling centers etc. But our main focus is the family apostolate. Making the families like a Holy Family of Nazareth,” Sister Dr. Vinaya of the Congregation of the Holy Family said.

Pope Francis recognized the second miracle attributed Mother Thresia in February. A grandmother of a dying child had a relic of Mariam Thresia and asked the nurse -- a sister belonging to the Congregation of the Holy Family -- to place the relic on the child’s heart and pray. From that moment forward, the young boy began to breathe normally and was cured.

Marguerite Bays

This 19th century Swiss laywoman and stigmatist dedicated her life to prayer and service to her parish community without marrying or entering a religious community. As a Third Order Franciscan, she lived a simple life as a dressmaker and carried out a lay apostolate as a catechist.

When Bays was diagnosed with advanced cancer in 1853, she prayed to the Virgin Mary to be able to suffer with Jesus rather than to be healed. However, on the day that Bl. Pius IX proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Sept. 8, 1854, she was miraculously healed. Pius made the proclamation on Marguerite’s 39th birthday.

“From that moment on, after Marguerite was healed of her illness in a completely inexplicable way, she proclaimed the Passion of the Lord, because every Friday she had these moments of suffering in which there was blood and the stigmata, the very pain of the Passion,” Fr. Carlo Calloni, the postulator for Bays’ canonization cause, told EWTN’s Vaticano.

Blessed Marguerite died on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1879 at the age of 63. After her death the Vatican approved a miracle attributed to her intercession in which a 2 year old child was completely healed after being run over by a 1,800 lb tractor wheel. She was beatified by St. John Paul II in 1995.

Mother Giuseppina Vannini

Giuseppina Vannini is a 19th century religious sister from Rome known for founding the congregation of the Daughters of St. Camillus dedicated to serving the sick and suffering. She is the first Roman woman to be canonized in more than 400 years, according to ACI Stampa.

Vannini spent much of her childhood in an orphanage near St. Peter’s Square after losing her father when she was four, and her mother when she was seven. She grew up among the Daughters of Charity sisters, who ran the orphanage. On the day of her first communion, young Giuseppina felt that she was called to a religious vocation.

This desire was not realized until 1892 when she was 33 because she was rejected by the Daughters of Charity after her novitiate due to her poor health.

Despite her own health problems, Vannini went on to found the Daughters of St. Camillus, whose charism is to serve the sick, even at the risk of their own lives. However she did not live to see the congregation fully recognized by the Vatican. She died at the age of 51 in 1911.

Today the Daughters of St. Camillus have grown to 800 sisters in 22 countries. The Giuseppina Vannini Hospital in Rome is named in her honor.

Sister Dulce Lopes

This Brazilian sister was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize. Born as Maria Rita Lopes in 1914 in Salvador de Bahia, Lopes began inviting the elderly and those in need into her home at the age of 16. Two years later she joined the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God.

In 1959, she founded the Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce, which grew into largest charitable organization in Brazil providing healthcare, welfare, and education services. Today the foundation includes Roma teaching hospital in Bahia and the Santo Antonio Educational Center which provides free education to 800 children living in extreme poverty.

Sister Dulce died in 1992 after 30 years of respiratory illness. After her body was found to be incorrupt, Sister Dulce was beatified in 2011 and was selected as one of the patrons of World Youth Day in Krakow as a model of charity.

She will be the first Brazilian-born female saint.