Rome, Italy, Sep 22, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).
The Vatican’s Secretary of State commented Wednesday on the new security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to deploy nuclear-powered submarines in the Indo-Pacific region.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin told journalists at the sidelines of a Sept. 22 event that “the Holy See is opposed to rearmament.”
“All the efforts that have been made and are being made” by the Vatican are “to eliminate nuclear weapons, because they are not the way to maintain peace and security in the world, but they create even more dangers for peace and even more conflict,” Parolin said. “Within this vision, one cannot but be worried.”
The AUKUS trilateral security pact, announced Sept. 15, will add to the Western military presence in the Pacific amid concerns about China.
The pact’s first initiative will be to help Australia’s navy procure a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.
Cardinal Parolin responded to a question about AUKUS after giving a speech during a meeting of the Bureau of the European People’s Party (EPP) Group in Rome.
The EPP Group is a European political group with Christian democratic, conservative, and liberal-conservative member parties. It is the largest political group in the European Parliament, the European Union’s law-making body.
Cardinal Jean Claude Hollerich, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), and Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, were also present at Wednesday’s session.
“Today is dedicated to listening to the Church. The presence of representatives of the Holy See and COMECE is placed in this perspective: the fact that [the EPP Group] want to hear what the Church is proposing and what she is asking of them,” Parolin told journalists.
Parolin also highlighted the risk of exploiting religion “for political purposes.”
“It is important to make a global choice: in Christianity, you do not choose what you like best or what suits you best. In Christianity, you have to accept everything,” he said.
“And therefore,” Parolin said, “both the defense of life is part of Christianity — in all its phases from the beginning of natural conception to natural death — but love of neighbor is also part of it, which manifests itself as attention to the phenomenon of migration, according to those four verbs that the pope has always indicated to us: to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate.”
“At the level of principle, for me the thing is very clear,” he added. “Christianity is all this, you cannot go to the supermarket and take this, this other, this other again…”
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By Lisa Zengarini
The Holy See commends the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for its dedicated work to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and to make peaceful nuclear technology available for the benefit of all humankind.
Speaking on Monday at the 65th IAEA General Conference, Mrs Francesca Di Giovanni, Vatican Under-Secretary for the Multilateral Affairs Section for Relations with States, said the Holy See acknowledges the “unique role” of IAEA with regard to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through its programme of safeguards, verifying that nuclear materials are not diverted from peaceful purposes.
By doing so, the Agency “contributes significantly to creating a world free of nuclear weapons,” she remarked, recalling that Pope Francis has repeatedly condemned their possession as “immoral” and has called for the establishment of a nuclear weapon-free world.
Mrs Di Giovanni also commended the Agency’s successful efforts to continue to provide its important services despite the considerable disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
She referred in particular to the new IAEA Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action project (ZODIAC). The initiative was established in June 2020 with the aim of helping countries prevent pandemics caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses that originate in animals and can be transmitted to humans.
To this end, it will it will assist their research and development activities and provide expert guidance, as well as technical, scientific and laboratory support.
The Vatican representative further underscored the “unique work” of IAEA in helping developing countries to use nuclear technology to treat cancer, grow more food, and to manage and protect their water supplies.
She also emphasized the ongoing “relevant contributions” made by the Agency in the area of climate change, monitoring pollution of the ocean and eco-systems, and help countries adapt to new climate realities, including food and water shortages.
Reminding the Holy See’s ongoing commitment to integral ecology and to promoting political and technical measures that favour a sustainable development based on fraternity, Mrs Di Giovanni finally reiterated Pope Francis’ call on world leaders to take the courageous decision “to use money spent on weapons for a global fund to eliminate hunger and contribute to the development of poorer countries”.
The 65th IAEA General Conference is taking place in Vienna, Austria, and will run to September 24.
By Vatican News staff reporter
Pope Francis joined the Council of Cardinals for their online meeting on Monday afternoon, according to a communique from the Holy See Press Office released on Tuesday.
“After a brief introduction to the work by Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, Pope Francis offered a reflection on the opening of the work of the next Synod on synodality,” said the statement.
The Pope reviewed two of his speeches “identified as central to his thinking” on the next Synod: “his 2015 speech for the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops; and his discourse to the faithful of the Diocese of Rome last Saturday.”
The statement said the Pope “made it clear that at the heart of the reflection is not so much the deepening of a specific theme as learning a way of living the Church, marked at all levels by mutual listening and a pastoral attitude, particularly in the face of the temptations of clericalism and rigidity.”
The Cardinals present then shared their own reflections on various aspects of the synodal path and the need to overcome “sectarianism and partisan interests.”
The next meeting was scheduled for December, when the Cardinals hope to meet in person.
Those participating in Monday’s online meeting included Cardinals Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga; Reinhard Marx; Sean Patrick O’Malley; Oswald Gracias; Fridolin Ambongo Besungu; Pietro Parolin; and, Giuseppe Bertello, along with the Secretary of the Council, Bishop Marco Mellino.
By James Blears
Mexico’s president unfolds hopes and plans to US president Joe Biden, seeking funds to create three hundred and thirty thousand jobs in southern Mexico and Central America via a huge tree-planting program and workshop apprenticeships.
The letter from Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to President Biden urges an injection of money from the US to create and sustain two major employment programs, specifically encompassing Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Part of the plan involves issuing temporary work visas.
Lopez Obrador is asking Biden to contemplate and consider a fresh and new approach towards the issue of migration, which he says now needs a comprehensively different treatment. He says, “We must not limit ourselves to the concentration and application of measures… especially coercive ones.” The two neighbouring nations have already agreed to team up on work plans.
The Mexican president, nicknamed AMLO for his initials, proposes support for a government tree-planting program and a “youths building towards the future” scheme that would encompass Central America. Widespread tree planting is already underway in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas and is available to a quarter of a million farmers; there is also a workshop program for thirty thousand apprentices. This could be extended to 90,000 more young people in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
AMLO is also appealing for Washington to assess a temporary work visa initiative to the United States, tempered, tailored, and channelled in a master plan, to accommodate workforce needs throughout the United States, boosting economic growth, while humanizing orderly migratory flows.
By Devin Watkins
The Warsaw conference concluded its work on Wednesday, with Church leaders in Central and Eastern Europe returning to their dioceses to continue efforts to root out sexual abuse by members of the clergy.
Taking place under the theme, “Our Common Mission of Safeguarding God’s Children”, the conference was organized by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM).
Professor Myriam Wijlens, a member of the PCPM, spoke to Vatican News’ Johana Bronkova about how the Church is moving forward in addressing the scourge of sexual abuse.
The Dutch-born theologian, who teaches canon law at the University of Erfurt in Germany, said the Warsaw conference showed that “the Church has learned to listen, and is learning increasingly to listen better.”
Prof. Wijlens said Bishops, and the entire Church community, are growing in the awareness that survivors of clerical sexual abuse must be listened to.
“The next step, however,” she added, “will be to administer justice.”
Administering justice, said Prof. Wijlens, is a challenge, because it requires specific training on the part of canon lawyers and those who investigate abuse cases.
“You have to learn how to gather the data and proof, and ask the right questions. We are not trained to do that,” she noted, saying neither she as a canon lawyer nor priests and lay people have received proper training in order to assist in the administration of justice.
Prof. Wijlens also referred to what she perceives as a fear among bishops to set out clear consequences for offenders, which has consequences since sexual abuse is especially an “abuse of trust.”
“If the bishops do not step up and see to it that justice is administered, the community as such cannot trust the judgement of the bishop, which affects the whole community.”
Prof. Wijlens recounted that she has been involved in prosecuting abuse cases since 1987, saying that her experience has shown her that the Church is “on the way” regarding the issue.
She now lives in what was once East Germany, and admitted that she had to learn very quickly how things used to work when the region was under communist rule.
“There would have been the danger of false allegations [of sexual misconduct], which would have put the priest under suspicion,” she said. “But it was also possible that if priests were engaging in [sexual abuse] they would have been caught by the Stasi (East German secret police)—institutions that existed in Eastern Europe—and then have been forced to cooperate with them. So, in a way, there was a double system.”
At the same time, warned Prof. Wijlens, Church leaders should not fall into the opposite trap and merely dismiss allegations outright as false. “It requires a very careful analysis of what is brought forward,” she added. “It’s a painful process.”
When asked about her thoughts on the challenges facing the Church regarding clerical sexual abuse, Prof. Wijlens mentioned both the particular difficulties of rebuilding trust in Central and Eastern Europe, and the universal aspect of revising the Church’s procedures for abuse cases.
“Bishops have a very complicated role: they have to look into allegations, and inform people of them,” she said, adding that transparency is important to the faith community.
On a more general level, the Church faces the task of revising canonical norms for cases of sexual abuse, while balancing confidentiality and transparency.
“The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has this on its agenda, is very much aware of it, and will be attending to this issue, hopefully, in the coming months,” concluded Prof. Wijlens. “At the same time, the revision of laws and procedures is a long and complicated process, so we are taking steps there, but that doesn’t mean we’ll have results within a short time frame.”
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Over the past few days, participants at a safeguarding conference organized by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors from 19 – 22 September have reflected on the crisis of sexual abuse in the Church, in order to help her move forward in efforts to protect her most vulnerable members.
The four-day conference themed, “Our Common Mission of Safeguarding God’s Children,” was held in the Polish Capital of Warsaw, and saw the participation of Church representatives from about 20 different countries across Central and Eastern Europe, as well as experts in the field of safeguarding.
Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and Archbishop of Boston in the US, has been a key presence in the discussions at the conference.
He spoke to Vatican News’ Johana Bronkova about his personal experience of witnessing the devastating effects of this crisis during his episcopal ministry and the Church’s ongoing efforts to respond to the situation.
Reflecting on his experience of being a bishop in four dioceses – three of which were facing serious challenges – Cardinal O’Malley said that confronting those situations, as frightening and unpleasant as they were, helped him in first steps towards his own pastoral conversion and have brought to the fore the importance of safeguarding.
He recalls meeting with the victims of abuse and their family members in the dioceses he has served and also when he was sent as a visitator to Dublin, Ireland, by Pope Benedict XVI. He remarks the devastating effect of the sexual abuse crisis on people’s “trust and faith in the Church”, which further emphasizes the importance of listening to the victims as part of the efforts to help them on their path toward healing.
He notes that several people are angry because they have been wronged, and they seek justice and healing. Many, he points out, are looking for a path back but they feel rejected and fear that they would not be believed or they would be considered trouble-makers. For this reason, many have lost their faith in the Church.
Highlighting that Jesus’s first priority was healing before announcing the Gospel, Cardinal O’Malley said the Church needs a pastoral conversion among priests and bishops that involves bringing healing and listening so that people may who have been hurt may be able to return to the Church.
“People are not going to believe the Gospel if they think we do not care about their children, if they think we are going to allow pedophile priests to be transferred from one place to another, endangering children,” the Cardinal said.
In the face of the situation, Cardinal O’Malley highlights the Church’s efforts geared towards ensuring the protection of God’s people, including the 4-day conference, which brings together Church leadership from different countries and shows that “there is a great desire to learn more to be able to respond to the needs of survivors.”
He says he has had the privilege of asking Pope Francis and his predecessor, Benedict XVI, to meet with victims of abuse and both of them found it to be “a this a very profound experience that marked their pontificates.” In fact, Pope Francis, since then, has met with many victims and corresponded with them, he added.
As part of further efforts geared toward safeguarding, the Cardinal notes that, today, there are what he refers to as “Montessori classes” for new bishops to prepare them for their ministry. As part of that process, he explains, the Pontifical Commission gives talks, often accompanied with the first-hand testimony of a survivor of abuse, to further impress upon the bishops the importance of ensuring the protection of minors and vulnerable persons.
Cardinal O’Malley goes on to stress the importance of this formation for bishops, noting that if this formation was available in the past, “the history of the Church would have been different,” because a lot of the poor decisions by bishops and cover-ups in the past years would not have happened.
He adds that bishops are encouraged to lead efforts on safeguarding starting with prevention: to explore ways of making our schools, churches and communties the safest places for children and young people; as well as directing efforts toward “correcting the injustices and crimes of the past.”
Finally, Cardinal O’Malley reiterates the importance of the 4-day safeguarding conference, noting that it is a positive event that he is happy to be a part of.
By Marta Titaniec and Father Piotr Studnicki
The Church in Poland entered the 21st century feeling proud of itself, enjoying the success it had achieved. These sentiments were motivated by Poland’s past and more recent history. Up until 1918, the Polish state had vanished, being divided up by neighboring powers for a good 123 years. For the Polish people, the Catholic Church had been a bulwark of freedom and had contributed toward the survival of the nation’s language, culture, and even its hope for independence. Heroic deeds performed by many Catholic priests and lay faithful were not lacking in the period following the Second World War. After 1945, when Poland fell under the Soviet Union’s influence, the Church was near to the people, seeking to preserve their autonomy and fighting for human dignity and rights.
It was in this context that Karol Wojtyła – Pope Saint John Paul II – was raised. His pilgrimages to Poland contributed to the spiritual reawakening of his compatriots, stimulating the growth of a sense of national unity and reinforcing the Church’s role in the life of Polish society. In Europe, a process of secularization had been in act for many decades. Yet, Poland remained a country in which the number of baptized constituted more than 90% of the population. Half of them were practicing Catholics, and the seminaries were filled with candidates for the priesthood. The moral authority of the priest was unquestionable in Polish society.
This legitimate sense of success and pride made it difficult to truthfully face the abuse of minors committed by members of the clergy. In fact, it was difficult to admit, to grasp that such terrible crimes against minors could have happened in the same Church. Therefore, the first reports about the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy produced an instinctive defensive reaction among both priests and laity in Poland. It was interpreted as an attack by the enemy – the media – and the umpteenth expression of a battle against the Church, all too well-known under Communism.
News reports of the two Polish priests working in the Dominican Republic (the Apostolic Nuncio and a missionary, accused of sexually molesting a minor in 2013) dealt a tremendous blow. The documentaries published on YouTube by the Sekielski brothers, on the other hand, were truly an earthquake (“Tell no One”, 2019; “Playing Hide and Seek”, 2020). Today, it must honestly be acknowledged that journalists contributed a fundamental element that mobilized the Church in Poland to deal with the issue.
No less important were the actions taken by the Holy See and other transformations taking place throughout the Catholic Church that influenced the Church in Poland’s approach to the sexual abuse of minors. One example is the history of the publication of the document defining the rules governing the diocesan process to be followed in Poland when priests were accused of sexual abuse. The first edition of the document was approved by the Polish Bishops’ Conference back in 2009. However, it was kept confidential and not made public. It was only in response to the recommendation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011 that the Polish Bishops’ Conference adopted and published two documents in 2014 that to this day outline the course of action for the Church in Poland.
A second example concerns those persons responsible for the protection of minors tasked to receive reports. Even though people had been appointed to these positions by the bishops and superiors general of religious institutes by the end of 2014, in the following years, the information regarding how to contact them still had yet to be published on the official websites of many dioceses and religious institutes. The publication of this information became a general practice only in 2019 with the publication of Pope Francis’ Motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi.
Toward the end of 2018, the Polish Bishops’ Conference (KEP) decided to complete the first statistical analysis begun in 2014. The report, covering the period from 1 January 1990 to 30 June 2018, published in March 2019 that 382 diocesan and religious priests had been accused of sexual abuse against children under the age of 18. It also revealed that from 1950 to mid 2018, the Church knew that at least 661 minors had been sexually abused. Furthermore, the report demonstrated that the number of cases being reported had increased over the years. But, the real wave of revelations came to the fore in a successive report published in June 2021. During the 2 ½ period under review (1 July 2018 – 31 December 2020) 368 reports had been received against 292 diocesan and religious priests regarding events that took place between 1958-2020.
Presenting the report, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, Primate of Poland and the Episcopal Conference’s Delegate for the protection of minors, spoke directly to the victims and the scandalized public regarding the evils that had been perpetrated in the Church, once again begging their forgiveness. One of the things he said was: “Listening to the stories of people who have been traumatized by the sexual abuse perpetrated by religious and diocesan priests, on the one hand we feel tremendous shame, immense pain and compassion. On the other, we are grateful and we express our respect for those who have decided to report the evil they underwent by revealing their own traumatic stories, often after many years”.
“The investigation carried out also demonstrates that the Church, in which these evils once took place, has now become a place of listening and support, one that seeks the truth and justice”, the Polish archbishop added.
The Polish Bishops’ Conference established an office for the protection of minors in 2013 and appointed of Father Adam Żak SJ, as its first coordinator. Thanks to the projects he initiated, the Church succeeded in developing a structure, both at the local and national levels, for the protection of minors and to provide help to the sexual abuse victims. Structures at the local level are key because they are active in the dioceses and in the provinces of religious institutes. These structures include:
(1) 116 delegates authorized to receive reports regarding abuse, to initiate those processes required by Church and civil law, to help the victims receive psychological, legal and pastoral aid;
(2) 70 pastors whose duty it is to offer pastoral aid and spiritual support to the victims, their families and the communities affected by the scandal, and to collaborate in the preparation of the annual day of prayer and penance for the sin of the sexual abuse of minors;
(3) 86 curators who accompany the accused priest so that he understands and observes the prescribed restrictions and, in the case of an eventual conviction, they help him toward a change in life style so that he does not hurt anyone else;
(4) Others responsbile for prevention.
These local structures are supported by, reinforced, monitored and developed at the national level, composed of:
(1) Episcopal Conference Delegate for the protection of minors (as of March 2019, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, Primate of Poland), responsible for the canonical, legal, organizational and communication aspects;
(2) Episcopal Conference Coordinator for the protection of minors (as of June 2013, Father Adam Żak SJ), who oversees the above-mentioned structures in place;
(3) The Saint Joseph Foundation, established in October 2019, and financed with the annual contributions of priests and bishops so as to provide monetary aid to victims of sexual abuse, as well as supporting the structures in place;
(4) The Child Protection Center, founded in March 2014 at the Ignatianum Academy in Krakow, supports the structures in place for the protection of minors through educational, scientific and preventive activities with the aim of creating safe environments for minors.
Recently, the Church in Poland has begun to implement the Motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi, promulgated by Pope Francis. From the time it entered into force, over 12 processes have been initiated, reviewing the response of various Polish Bishops to reports their received of sexual abuse. Twelve of these processes have already been closed, 11 of which resulted in the confirmation that the bishop was negligent, with the bishops received penal sanctions. The charges in one case were dismissed, while other processes are still in course.
However painful and difficult for the Church in Poland, the process of purification is moving forward. Many people feel offended, not only because of the evil that has been done, but – often even more – because of the approach taken by Church leaders. Only by affirming the truth, seeking justice and taking responsibility for all the crimes and negligence in the Church’s response, can the Church in Poland halt the process through which its trust and credibility has been lost.
Biographies: Marta Titaniec – President of the Board of Administrators of the St Joseph Foundation of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, co-foundress of the “Hurt in the Church” initiative [Zranieni w Kościele], a helpline for persons affected by sexual violence in the Church.
Dr. Piotr Studnicki, priest – Director of the Office for the Delegate of the Polish Bishops’ Conference for the Protection of Children, professor of the Pontifical John Paul II University in Krakow and the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.
By Vatican News staff reporter
Offices, supermarkets, and even TV presenters live on air felt the tremors of a 5.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Wednesday near Melbourne.
Images and video footage showed rubble on one of the city’s main streets while many residents were evacuated from buildings.
According to Geoscience Australia, this was one of the country’s biggest quakes on record, and it could be felt as far as Adelaide, 500 miles away.
It was followed by two aftershocks of 4.0 and 3.1 magnitudes.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there were no reports of serious injuries, adding, “It can be a very disturbing event, an earthquake of this nature. They are very rare events in Australia and as a result, I am sure people would have been quite distressed and disturbed.”
The quake’s epicentre was near the rural town of Mansfield in the state of Victoria, about 124 miles northeast of Melbourne.
More than half of Australia’s 25 million population lives in the southeast of the country from Adelaide to Sydney and earthquakes in this area are a rare occurrence.
In 1989 the country’s deadliest quake, a 5.6 in Newcastle, claimed the lives of 13 people.
The country’s Bureau of Meteorology said in a statement that no tsunami threat was issued to the Australian mainland, islands, or territories.
Melbourne is currently in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vatican City, Sep 22, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).
Pope Francis said Wednesday that the Christian faith in Europe is being diluted by consumerism and ideologies, making prayer and the witness of humble love especially needed today.
“Pray, because this is what the People of God are called to above all: to worship, to pray, to journey, to wander, to do penance, and in this to feel the peace and the joy that the Lord gives us,” the pope said in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Sept. 22.
“And this is of particular importance on the European continent, where the presence of God … is being diluted by consumerism and in the ‘vapors’ of a unitary way of thinking … that is the fruit of the mixture of old and new ideologies,” he said.
Pope Francis said that his apostolic journey on Sept. 12-15 began in Budapest with adoration of the Eucharist and ended with “popular piety” in Slovakia as he celebrated the country’s national feast of Our Lady of Sorrows at the Shrine of the Virgin of Seven Sorrows in Šaštín.
Pope Francis said that the answer to Europe’s watered-down faith was the “healing that comes from prayer, witness, and humble love.”
“This is what I saw in the encounter with the holy people of God. What did I see? A faithful people that has suffered atheist persecution. I also saw it in the faces of our Jewish brothers and sisters, with whom we remembered the Holocaust. Because there is no prayer without remembrance,” he said.
“There is no prayer without memory. Prayer, the memory of one’s own life, of the life of one’s people, of one’s own history: making memories and remembering. This is good and helps to pray,” he said.
Pope Francis said that in his meetings with Catholic bishops in Budapest and Bratislava, he encountered directly the grateful remembrance of the deep roots of the Christian faith in Central Europe.
“Many times I have insisted that these roots are always alive, full of the lifeblood that is the Holy Spirit, and must be preserved as such: not like museum exhibits, not ideologized and exploited for the sake of prestige and power, to consolidate a closed identity,” Francis said.
“No. This would mean betraying them and making them barren,” he added.
Pope Francis’ European trip began with a seven-hour visit to Budapest, where he met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
The pope told journalists during a press conference on his return flight that he had discussed ecology and his concerns about a “demographic winter” in Europe with Orbán, but did not touch on immigration, a topic on which they diverge sharply.
“During this journey to the heart of Europe, I often thought of the fathers of the European Union, as they imagined it, not as an agency for distributing fashionable ideological colonizations … Understood and experienced in this way, the roots are a guarantee of the future: from them, thriving branches of hope can grow,” the pope said at his general audience.
“You can grow to the extent that you are united to the roots: strength comes to you from there. If you cut off the roots with everything new, new ideologies, this will get you nowhere. It will not make you grow. You will end up badly,” he said.
A group of refugees assisted by the Centro Mondo Migliore (Better World Center) was present at the pope’s weekly audience. They could be seen cheering and throwing their hats into the air as the pope gave them a special greeting and assured them of his prayers.
In his address, Pope Francis said that Sts. Cyril and Methodius, co-patrons of Europe, were not “figures to commemorate, but rather models to imitate.”
He described the ninth-century saints who spread the Gospel in Eastern Europe as “masters from whom we can always learn the spirit and method of evangelization, as well as civil commitment.”
In Budapest, Pope Francis became the first pope to visit the International Eucharistic Congress since the year 2000.
The pope noted that there was “great participation” in the concluding Mass of the week-long congress, which drew an estimated 100,000 people, according to local authorities.
“The holy people of God, on the Lord’s Day, gathered before the mystery of the Eucharist, by which they are continually generated and regenerated,” the pope said.
“They were embraced by the Cross that stood above the altar, showing the same direction indicated by the Eucharist, namely the path of humble and selfless love, of generous and respectful love towards all, of faith that purifies from worldliness and leads to simplicity.”
Pope Francis said: “Let us take up this idea again: that to be a Christian is to serve.”
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By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis spoke about the meaning of his Apostolic Visit to Slovakia and Budapest in the catechesis portion of the Wednesday General Audience.
The papal journey, which took place on 12-15 September, was characterized by the word “together”, said the Pope, since it showed that the Church breathes with “two lungs”—the Latin and Greek rites—while walking together with the Jewish community, other Christians, and the faithful of other religions.
“I would summarize it as follows: it was a pilgrimage of prayer, a pilgrimage to the roots, a pilgrimage of hope,” said the Pope.
The first stage of the journey, which took him to Budapest, Hungary, saw the universal Church gathered around the Lord’s sacrifice.
“The holy people of God, on the Lord’s Day, gathered before the mystery of the Eucharist, by which they are continually generated and regenerated,” he said. “They were embraced by the Cross that stood above the altar, showing the same direction indicated by the Eucharist, namely the path of humble and selfless love, of generous and respectful love towards all, of faith that purifies from worldliness and leads to essentiality.”
Pope Francis added that his pilgrimage of prayer concluded on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, framing the visit with adoration and popular piety.
“Because this is what the People of God are called to, above all: to worship, to pray, to journey, to wander, to do penance, and in this to feel the peace and the joy that the Lord gives us,” he said.
Pope Francis went on to say that his pilgrimage was one which took him “to the roots”.
The encounter with the Bishops of Hungary and Slovakia, he said, allowed him to touch the roots of Christian faith and life in the region, which reach back to the 9th century.
“On several occasions I insisted on the fact that these roots are always living, full of the vital lymph that is the Holy Spirit, and that as such must be conserved: not like museum exhibits, not ideologized and exploited out of interests of prestige and power, to consolidate a closed identity.”
The third aspect of his Apostolic Journey, said the Pope, was that it was a pilgrimage of hope.
He expressed his joy at seeing the hope in the eyes of young people in Košice, where many young couples with children joined the Pope for a youth encounter.
“I saw hope in many people who silently care for and are concerned about their neighbour,” said Pope Francis, mentioning especially the Missionary Sisters of Charity who care for homeless people in Bratislava.
Pope Francis concluded his catechetical reflections offering his heartfelt gratitude to the Bishops and civil authorities of Slovakia and Hungary, and to the many faithful who took part in his papal journey.
By Devin Watkins
Participants in the 4-day conference continued their work on Tuesday, seeking to better understand the impact that sexual abuse by members of the clergy has on survivors and how the Church can move forward in protecting her most vulnerable members.
The event is being held in the Polish capital of Warsaw on 19-22 September, and sees around 80 representatives from nearly 20 nations in Central and Eastern Europe taking part.
Tuesday morning’s session began with a keynote by Fr. Grzegorz Strzelczyk, a Polish professor of dogmatic theology and member of the Saint Joseph Foundation, which has helped organize the event.
His speech focused on the “theological dimension of the consequences of sexual abuse of minors”.
Fr. Strzelczyk admitted that much of the Church’s response to abuse cases centers on the legal, psychological, and spiritual aspects, while theological reflection gets pushed to the background.
However, he added, theology must enter into the discussion in order to fully understand the scourge of clerical sexual abuse.
The act of faith, along with its transmission, said Fr. Strzelczyk, has a direct impact on the spiritual and psychological effects experienced by those who have been hurt.
“Faith, since it is mediated,” he said, “is dragged into crisis by the collapse of the credibility of the witness. Scandal leads to distrust.”
At the same time, theology plays another important role, said Fr. Strzelczyk, since abuse implies the presence of unhealthy elements of theology, especially regarding the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
Bishops who covered up abuse by priests served only to aggravate the pain of abuse survivors and wound the Church’s credibility.
“If the failure of a pastor’s personal witness could have been somewhat filled by institutional or community witness,” said the Polish priest, “the collapse of institutional authority left only a desert.”
Fr. Strzelczyk concluded his keynote address with a reminder that the Church—by her very nature—is a community journeying along a path of conversion.
An essential element of that path, he said, is the proper celebration of penitence in order to effect an authentic transformation in the Church’s ministers and structures.
By Lisa Zengarini
German bishops are holding their Fall Plenary Assembly running until September 23 in Fulda. The meeting is focused on the clerical sexual abuse crisis, the ongoing German Synodal Path (Synodaler Weg), and a discussion of reform in the Church, including the place of women.
The synodal process was launched in late 2019 to discuss a range of contemporary theological and organizational questions, as well as possible reactions to the abuse crisis which has rocked the German Catholic Church over the past years.
Bishops will also discuss the Synodal process starting in October this year, which will lead to the 2023 General Synod of Bishops on synodality in Rome.
In the opening Mass on Monday, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, President of the German Catholic Bishops Conference (DBK), emphasized the urgent need for repentance. He noted that the Church too has its part of responsibility in the growing distance between the Gospel and contemporary culture and “the ever deeper gap that makes its understanding difficult” in modern society.
“Indisputably, we ourselves have contributed to this confusion and therefore to the failure in communicating the Gospel,” he said in his homily, referring to the bishops’ share of responsibility in the abuse scandal.
The bishop added that the vocation to the episcopal ministry “basically requires that we leave behind what is impious, sinful, not spiritual and basically damaging for the community.”
At the same time, he emphasized the healing and renewing power of Jesus from injustice and shame.
“One word and everything becomes new: only God can do it, only with him nothing is impossible,” he said. Bishop Bätzing therefore called upon German bishops to “tell how Jesus touched and called us and how we get together, we deliberate and discuss, we plan and decide in order to make the Lord shine, because He is the light of nations.”
In his opening remarks, the Apostolic Nuncio to Germany, Archbishop Nikola Eterović, focused on the Syodal process, recalling that “the goal of every reform and renewal in the Church is the holiness of its members”.
“The Lord Jesus,” he said, “calls on us constantly to follow the path of ecclesial communion, Catholic faith and holiness in our times, especially among pressing ecclesial and social challenges.”
Sixty-eight bishops are taking part in the assembly. During the meeting they will also elect the member, presidents, and vice-presidents of the 14 Committees of the DBK e and of its sub-commissions.
By Devin Watkins
“When we don’t believe survivors, when we don’t have agile processes, and deal with it with justice, people are really traumatized, and people are dying because of this.”
Juan Carlos Cruz, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), offered that wake-up call in an interview with Vatican News.
Mr. Cruz is a well-known survivor of clerical sexual abuse of minors from Chile who suffered at the hands of the late Fernando Karadima (the Chilean priest was defrocked in September 2018 and died in July 2021).
Pope Francis appointed Mr. Cruz as a member of the PCPM in March of this year.
One of his first tasks in this new role has been to bring an abuse survivor’s perspective to Church representatives in Central and Eastern Europe, as part of the safeguarding conference in the Polish capital of Warsaw.
The event has brought together Church leaders from across the region to discuss how to protect the Church’s most vulnerable members.
As his comment above shows, Mr. Cruz has no doubt about the need for urgency in dealing with the clerical sexual abuse crisis.
In all parts of the world, bringing forward allegations of sexual abuse can be an extremely difficult experience. “I think that survivors need extra courage everywhere,” according to Mr. Cruz.
Yet, in other regions, making allegations of clerical sexual abuse can turn into a life-altering action.
Mr. Cruz offered an example to illustrate the difficulty of speaking out about abuse.
“Think of survivors in Uganda, for example, where homosexuality is penalized and one can either die or go to jail,” said Mr. Cruz. “I’ve met with survivors who are not homosexual but are scared of saying they were abused by a priest because they’re going to say, ‘Well, you’re homosexual, then.’ And they can die.”
Mr. Cruz added that Central and Eastern Europe has its own specific situation due to its decades-long history of communist repression.
This is not his first time addressing the topic of sexual abuse in Warsaw. He said that many years ago he spoke to a group of survivors in the Polish capital during a meeting not organized by the Church which took place in what he described as a “confidential” place.
“We thought that no survivors would come,” said Mr. Cruz. “And around a hundred came, and some were very, very scared, because there was a lot of repression against survivors. And there still is.”
Mr. Cruz said he hopes the current Warsaw conference will give visibility to abuse survivors and convince Bishops in the region that clerical sexual abuse is a problem that must be dealt with.
“It happens everywhere,” he said. “We need to help survivors; we need to believe them; we need to look after them; we need to have diligent processes to seek justice for them.”
Mr. Cruz also spoke about his appointment to the PCPM and his extensive connections with groups of abuse survivors.
“I feel that my job after this appointment is to bring the view [of abuse survivors] to very smart and good people with great hearts,” he said. “I think a survivor’s view is very important.”
The perspective of a survivor, he added, can help “instill urgency, accountability, and hopefully consequences to organizations in the Vatican and in the local churches”.
Pope Francis, concluded Mr. Cruz, “has been to me someone who really cares about this.”
The goal, he said, will be to get everyone in the Roman Curia and in local churches on board in the urgency to deal with what Mr. Cruz calls “the cancer” of clerical sexual abuse.
“If we don’t remove this tumor once and for all,” he said, “it will continue to remain a constant problem.”
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
A 4-day conference organized by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors aims to help the Church in her reflections and response to the crisis of the abuse of minors and vulnerable persons.
The event, themed “Our Common Mission of Safeguarding God’s Children”, is being held on 19 – 22 September in the Polish capital of Warsaw. It gathers Catholic representatives from across Central and Eastern Europe, as well as experts who work in the field of child and youth protection.
Prof. Paweł Wiliński is one of the participants at the safeguarding conference. He is a professor of criminal procedure at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland and a Judge at the Supreme Court of Poland, adjudicating in the criminal chambers.
In an interview with Vatican News, he spoke about the conference and some of the key points from the discussions, highlighting the need for a system of protection for the victims of abuse that takes their basic rights into account.
He acknowledged that many steps have already been taken in the past years to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable persons. However, he added, a lot more things still need to be put in place when it comes to the victims at the center of the situation “to make them feel that they are still members of the Church.”
Among the many points of discussion during the conference, Prof. Wiliński noted the emphasis on ensuring the rights of the victims of sexual abuse to information, representation, protection, and compensation.
He explained that the right to information is understood as “the right to give information about their situation, and the right to receive information from the Church” about the procedure and the verdict.
The right to representation, he continued, includes legal representation by someone who will be concerned about the position of the victim.
He also spoke about the right to protection, which involves protecting the person from a “second victimization” and the protection of their personal data, including finding special ways for them to participate in the proceedings.
Finally, Prof Wiliński stressed that the right to compensation is inevitable if the Church wants victims of abuse to continue to be and to feel that they are still members of the Church.
He concluded the interview expressing his hopes that these issues will be further discussed and elaborated in the future.
By Adam Żak, SJ
To present the Church’s response to the challenge of sexual abuse in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which up to three decades ago were either part of the Soviet Union or were under Communist regimes, I must refer more to direct experience rather than to written texts that deal with the topic. On various occasions, I have had direct contact including with those who were responsible for some of the Churches. The first occasion was during my service as regional assistant for Central and Eastern Europe and as councilor to two superiors general of the Society of Jesus (2003-2012). This service often involved visiting the countries of that region. Between 2014-2018, I participated regularly in workshops for representatives of the Roman and Greek Catholics of Central and Eastern Europe organized in Warsaw by the United States Bishops’ Conference Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. These workshops offered tools to Bishops and their collaborators to respond to the sexual abuse crisis. During these workshops, I was in contact with and shared experiences with participants from Albania, Belarus, Croatia, Kosovo, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Hungary. These, and other direct experiences in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Albania, reinforced my conviction that the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is in need of particular attention to deal with a crisis that, while not beginning there, nevertheless has been impacted by it because of the globalized world. Its involvement is independent of the number of cases that have come to light around the world. Whether we like it or not, this crisis that occurs in other parts of the world tests the faith of the people in this part of the world and threatens to undermine their trust in their pastors.
It is impossible to understand the reaction of the Church in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to the crisis connected with the sexual abuse of minors and other vulnerable persons committed by members of the Catholic clergy without considering the socio-political and cultural situation after the October Revolution was exported or even imported into societies already wounded by the two World Wars. The pastoral ministry of the Christian Churches and communities of every denomination were often subjected to cruel repression and severe limitations. Christian educational institutions and associations were suppressed everywhere and the religious formation of the young was prohibited or limited. Every Christian religious influence on the young had to be gradually eliminated. The culture promoted through every means toward the young was not neutral. It was not only secular, it was atheistic and anti-Christian. Simultaneously, the style of life fostered by the regime consciously sought to distance itself from the Western model that was presented in every possible way as hedonistic and dissolute – in short, decadent.
It goes without saying that such a policy in practice for decades strongly influenced the self-awareness of Christians in this part of Europe vis-à-vis their brothers and sisters in the faith on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Particularly when the media brought the horrible news regarding the scandals of the Church in the West, a sense of moral superiority rose up in many hearts that at the same time eliminated or at least weakened the perception of the risk factors that similar misdeeds could happen in their own surroundings. The Greek and Roman Churches, especially those that emerged from hiding in Czechoslovakia or Romania, in ex-Soviet Republics such as Belarus, Lithuania or Ukraine, were rightly proud of their martyrs, their Bishops and priests, (not a few of whom had been ordained secretly), men and women religious who risked everything to sustain the faith of the adults and to transmit it to the young. There were no schools or reformatories run by men or women religious. In some areas, it was lay men and women who ran the Church. Religious orders were prohibited. The exceptions were the Church in Poland and Croatia where the seminaries and novitiates that were open, only served to confirm the rule.
There was an unwritten but real rule within Catholic communities that “forbade” any criticism of the Church. This rule even imposed silence on eventual scandals. Behind this attitude there was also the painful experience of the exploitation of the scandalous behavior of some members of the clergy connected with the practice of recruiting secret collaborators for state intelligence entities. In the Catholic communities, priests enjoyed tremendous authority. In a society deprived of transparency and subjected to censure, secrecy was a mechanism adopted spontaneously without having been decreed by anyone, not to defend corrupt priests, but to assure a minimum of autonomy in a community of such vital importance even in view of the future rebirth of civil society.
In a society subjected to dictatorship, such types of behavior and self-defensive ways of reacting became habitual, or rather developed a mentality, that did not disappear with the fall of communism. There are still consequences that include the difficulties connected with dealing responsibly and transparently with the crisis related to the sexual abuse of minors. Such a mentality is also a risk factor in that it makes possible perpetrators feel more secure because they are protected by the silence that surrounds them. This mentality – nobly justified under the dictatorship – is none other than that of clericalism pointed out by Popes Benedict XVI and Francis. While on the one hand, the exclusion or the forceful limitation of the institutional presence of the Church in those sectors where minors were involved, such as schools or reformatories, excluded certain places where possible sexual abuse by men and women in the Church could have occurred, on the other hand, it generated or reinforced other risk factors such as the protection of members of the clergy from the oversight of any authority through the practice of secrecy even when they were responsible for crimes against minors. Distrust of state institutions is also something inherited from the dictatorship. Under a democracy, this in fact, protects perpetrators because it obstructs or makes collaboration more difficult in areas such as the reporting and investigation of alleged crimes committed by members of the clergy. In this situation, it is easier to do anything to defend the Church’s public image than to respond transparently.
Since the fall of Communism, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have undergone complex transformative processes that also influence the style of life and the entire area of moral and social values related to sexuality, the family, politics, etc. Simply put, for the most part it can be said that, beginning with the early ’90s, the societies of Central and Eastern Europe have been experiencing the changes that the United States and the West in general lived through during the ’60s and ’70s. Sexuality under the Communist regime was taboo. Socialist morality was portrayed as progressive, but the “progress” connected with it was limited to very few things – limited access to abortion was probably the emblematic sign of this “progress”.
The sexual abuse of minors began to be scientifically studied in the United States beginning in the second half of the ’70s. Public opinion slowly began to consider it a social problem that needed to be addressed in its complexity as a phenomenon increasingly perceived as very serious, requiring a commitment to prevention in addition to legal action against criminals. Countries under Communist rule were focusing their attention on the aspirations of liberty and democracy, on the respect for the human rights of citizens and workers. Between the West and societies governed by the Communists, a gap had opened regarding priorities they needed to face. This does not mean that minors were not sexually abused in Central and Eastern Europe, or that they were not subject to various forms of violence. But it was not a topic of public discussion. Neither was it perceived as a social problem. It was completely hidden.
Violence, on the other hand, was present everywhere, beginning in state institutions, in families affected by the plague of alcoholism which – as we know – is one of the factors that increases the risk of the sexual abuse of minors and other vulnerable persons. In such a situation, it was not surprising that society and, unfortunately individual Churches, did not consider the sexual abuse of minors as a priority. Even where the problem surfaced and the Church had to face it, it was unfortunately considered as if it were primarily a problem regarding the Catholic Church rather than society. It seems none of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe considered the sexual abuse of minors to be a social problem. Therefore, there were no strategies for various types of prevention promoted by the state or special agencies responsible for the protection of minors. Criminal law seems to have been the only reference.
This is the reason why the Church, which is committed to provide safe environments and to help those who have been wounded in the delicate area of their sexuality, can become a credible pioneer in the protection of minors and become a spokesperson for their rights. This opportunity has not yet been lost.
The political transformation marked the beginning or accelerated a complex process of transformation. This process, which is still unfolding, began to touch individual Churches in different ways and moments. The crisis caused by sexual abuse has particularly affected those countries with a Catholic majority, as can be seen in Poland, for example. If we do not learn from the errors made by other Churches, before an avalanche of cases come our way in the aftermath of media coverage, we must at least learn from the best practices adopted elsewhere and that are bearing good fruit in making the Church a safer place for children.
It is true that after the fall of Communism, the challenges facing civil society and the Churches have been and are still enormous. These must be measured against the changes and challenges in every area of life, the moral sphere included, that have been taking place very quickly and for which we were not prepared. The Churches in this region that emerged from hiding, with very limited human resources in as far as clergy are concerned, have received help from Churches near and far. Sometimes those who volunteered for these missions and – unfortunately were accepted – had human maturity issues, because the elaborate procedure applied on other continents for similar situations was not applied. It seems that we seldom learn anything from the experiences of others.
Therefore, this conference can be of great help in making the process of exchange and learning more effective and systematic.
Biography: Father Adam Żak is the current Director of the Child Protection Center at the Jesuit University “Ignatianum” in Krakow and Coordinator for Child and Youth Protection with the Polish Bishops’ Conference.
By Robin Gomes
The theme of the September 21 International Day of Peace this year is, “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world.” The annual observance was established by the UN General Assembly in 1981. In 2001, it unanimously voted to designate the Day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire.
In a message for the occasion, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres notes that “Covid-19 has turned our world upside-down”. “Conflicts are spinning out of control. The climate emergency is worsening. Inequality and poverty are deepening. And mistrust and division are driving people apart at a time when solidarity and collaboration are needed more than ever.”
The human family, he says, is faced with a stark choice: peace or peril. “We must choose peace,” he urges, saying this is why he called for a 24-hour ceasefire to mark International Day of Peace.
“By working in solidarity for a lasting, sustainable peace every day,” Guterres says, “we can tackle the issues facing us.” Some of these emergencies, he said, are delivering lifesaving vaccines and treatment for Covid-19, recovering from the pandemic and re-building shattered systems and lives, reducing inequalities, trusting one another, and having faith in facts and science.
The UN chief stresses that humanity also needs to make peace with nature, to heal our planet, build a green economy, and achieve our net-zero targets.
In a move in this direction, Guterres and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson held an Informal Climate Leaders Roundtable on Climate Action on the eve of International Day of Peace, as a high-level week of the General Assembly begins at the UN in New York. Calling on world leaders for “decisive action now to avert climate catastrophe,” the two leaders pressed for more action on climate finance and other measures ahead of the watershed UN COP26 climate conference, end of next month in Scotland.
In his message for International Day of Peace, UN secretary-general stresses, “Peace is not a naïve dream.” “It’s a light in the darkness… guiding us to the only pathway to a better future for humanity.” He urges all to “walk the pathway of peace”, saying our lives really depend on it.
The UN chief had made a similar appeal earlier in a message for the 100-day countdown to the September 21 International Day of Peace. Peace is needed to heal from the pandemic and reimagine a better future for people and the planet. He pointed out that peace is the foundation of that recovery, as the global vaccination effort cannot advance amidst armed conflict and violence.
The pandemic is known for hitting the underprivileged and marginalized groups the hardest. By April 2021, over 687 million Covid-19 vaccine doses had been administered globally, but over 100 countries had not received a single dose. People caught in conflict are especially vulnerable in terms of lack of access to healthcare and life-saving vaccinations.
Guterres said we can not build a sustainable, resilient, peaceful world while we are at war with nature. Recovery efforts offer an opportunity to transform our relationship with our planet and our environment, Guterres said.
He thus called on all people to be part of a transformation for peace, by standing up against hatred and discrimination, by caring for the planet, and by showing global solidarity.
On September 17, the UN organized an online International Day of Peace event for young people. Guterres, Messengers of Peace, and students from around the world took part in the observance. Later in the afternoon, a Peace Bell Ceremony was held in the Peace Garden at UN Headquarters in New York. The UN chief and the President of the 76th UN General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, marked International Day of Peace by ringing the Peace Bell and observing a minute of silence.
Vatican City, Sep 21, 2021 / 05:20 am (CNA).
In a private meeting with Jesuits in Slovakia on Sept. 12, Pope Francis said that there were people who wanted him to die after he underwent colon surgery in July.
During the encounter, a Jesuit priest asked the pope how he was doing, to which he replied: “Still alive, even though some people wanted me to die.”
“I know there were even meetings between prelates who thought the pope’s condition was more serious than the official version. They were preparing for the conclave,” he added. “Patience! Thank God, I’m all right.”
Pope Francis answered questions from fellow Jesuits at a closed-door meeting in Slovakia’s capital city, Bratislava, during his Sept. 12-15 visit to the country.
The trip was his first since being hospitalized on July 4 for an operation to relieve severe stricture of the colon caused by diverticulitis. The three-hour surgery included a left hemicolectomy, the removal of one side of the colon.
After the operation, false rumors began to circulate on social media and in online posts that Pope Francis might soon resign, based in part on other unsubstantiated claims that the pope was possibly suffering from a “degenerative” and “chronic” disease.
The text of the pope’s private Sept. 12 meeting with Jesuits in Slovakia was published by the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica on Sept. 21.
During the encounter, one priest spoke with Pope Francis about tension in the Catholic Church in Slovakia, saying that some people saw Francis as “heterodox,” while others “idealize you.”
“We Jesuits try to overcome this division,” he said, asking: “How do you deal with people who look at you with suspicion?”
Pope Francis noted that “there is, for example, a large Catholic television channel that has no hesitation in continually speaking ill of the pope.”
“I personally deserve attacks and insults because I am a sinner, but the Church does not deserve them. They are the work of the devil,” he said.
The pope added that there were also clerics who had made “nasty comments about me.”
“I sometimes lose patience, especially when they make judgments without entering into a real dialogue. I can’t do anything there. However, I go on without entering their world of ideas and fantasies. I don’t want to enter it and that’s why I prefer to preach, preach…” he said.
“Some people accuse me of not talking about holiness,” he continued. “They say I always talk about social issues and that I’m a communist. Yet I wrote an entire apostolic exhortation on holiness, Gaudete et exsultate.”
“Now I hope that with the decision to stop the automatism of the ancient rite we can return to the true intentions of Benedict XVI and John Paul II,” he said. “From now on, those who want to celebrate with the Vetus Ordo [Traditional Latin Mass] must ask permission from Rome as is done with biritualism.”
Biritualism is the temporary or permanent privilege of a priest to celebrate the liturgy and administer the sacraments in more than one rite, such as the Latin Rite and one of the Eastern rites.
Pope Francis described reports that some young priests had asked for permission to offer the Traditional Latin Mass from their bishop a month after ordination as “a phenomenon that indicates that we are going backward.”
In an earlier part of the meeting, Francis had lamented an “ideology of going backward,” which he said was not a universal problem in the Church, but affected some countries.
“The temptation to go backward. We are suffering this today in the Church,” he said.
Francis recounted an anecdote told to him by a cardinal about two of his newly ordained priests who asked for permission to study Latin to be able to celebrate the Mass well.
According to the pope, the cardinal responded “with a sense of humor,” telling the priests: “But there are many Hispanics in the diocese! Study Spanish to be able to preach. Then, when you have studied Spanish, come back to me and I’ll tell you how many Vietnamese there are in the diocese, and I’ll ask you to study Vietnamese. Then, when you have learned Vietnamese, I will give you permission to study Latin.”
The cardinal made the priests “‘land,’ he made them return to earth,” the pope commented.
“I go ahead, not because I want to start a revolution,” Pope Francis said. “I do what I feel I must do. It takes a lot of patience, prayer and a lot of charity.”
This report was updated at 5:45 a.m. MDT to include the pope’s comments on the Traditional Latin Mass.
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By Lisa Zengarini
During Climate Fringe Week, a virtual event taking place in Scotland from 18 to 26 September ahead of COP26, over 50 faith leaders signed a joint declaration urging those in power to take forward the Paris Agreement.
The Agreement was adopted at COP21 in 2015 by the 196 attending parties, committing them to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Reminding governments of their commitments and of Article 17 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights to protect the environment, the biosphere and biodiversity, signed in 2005, the “Glasgow Multi-Faith Declaration” calls upon them to take the “urgent action needed to avert the loss, damage, and forced migration threatened by climate change.”
The signatories point out that “the burden of loss and damage falls most heavily on people living in poverty, especially women and children.”
They therefore ask governments “to work together and with others to create a positive vision for 2050.”
“Addressing climate change,” say the religious leaders, “is not just an opportunity to stop burning fossil fuels, but also: to achieve cleaner air and water; to reduce food wastage; to ensure a just and equitable sharing of the earth’s resources; and to protect the habitats we share with all other life on whose health we also depend.”
On their part, the UK faith leaders reiterate their commitment to respond to this challenge by reflecting deeply in prayer “to discern how to care for the earth and each other.”
This care, they say, includes making “transformational change” in their own lives and in the lives of their communities, being “advocates for justice” and calling on those who exercise power and influence “to make the transition to a just and green economy a priority and to commit to science-based targets that are aligned with a healthy, resilient, zero-emissions future”.
“Across our doctrinal and political differences, we know that we must change our ways to ensure a quality of life which all can share, and we need to provide hope for people of all ages, everywhere, including future generations,” the religious leaders add, emphasizing the need for those in power to “understand the vital role they have to play at the Glasgow COP26.”
“Our collective energy and prayers will be with those working for a successful outcome,” concludes the Declaration.
Signatories of the Glasgow Declaration include Bishop Brian McGee, President of the Catholic Scottish Bishops’ Committee for Interreligious dialogue, and Bishop John Arnold, lead on the Environment for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW).
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
During his recently-concluded 34th Apostolic Journey (12 – 15 September), Pope Francis visited Hungary for the closing Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress, before flying to Slovakia where he visited Bratislava, Šaštín, Presov and Košice.
In Slovakia, the Holy Father met with a group of about 53 Jesuits on Sunday, 12 September, the evening of his arrival in the country. The official transcript of his words to Slovak Jesuits was released on Tuesday by the Jesuit review “La Civiltà Cattolica”.
After a few words of welcome from the provincial of the Slovak Province, Pope Francis engaged with them in conversation, responding to questions directed at him.
The questions covered a wide variety of topics: from the Holy Father’s health after his surgery in July, the mission of the Society of Jesus in Slovakia, and the challenges faced by the Church in the country.
Pope Francis urged the members of the Jesuit order engaged in pastoral work in Slovakia to serve God’s people inspired by one word: closeness.
First, he told them, “closeness with God.” He stressed the importance of prayer – not the formal prayer that does not touch the heart – but one that struggles with God and draws us closer to Him. He also warned against falling into the temptation of being too busy to pray. The Pope then stressed the importance of closeness among themselves – a charitable love among brothers which helps to build community life.
The Holy Father also emphasized closeness to the Bishop, including the Pope, and finally, closeness with the People of God. He encouraged the Jesuits to meditate on Pope Paul VI’s words to the Society of Jesus during the 32nd General Congregation, and urged them to go the peripheries and the crossroads while keeping a spirit of obedience to their provincials.
He reminded them that being close to God’s people is important because it ‘frames’ us, helping us never to forget where we are drawn from and where we come from – our people. However, he warned, “if we detach ourselves and move toward an ethereal universality, then we lose our roots. Our roots are in the Church, which is the people of God.”
Responding to a separate question about how he sees the Society of Jesus today, Pope Francis highlighted the importance of discernment and prayer, especially in times when fervor is lacking or in times of desolation. He also held up the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola – the founder of the Society of Jesus – as a real treasure that contains rules of discernment that need to be better known.
Pope Francis spoke about the challenges of the Church in the face of the “temptation to go backwards” in search of security, noting that this is not really a universal problem, but rather specific to the Churches of certain countries.
He explained that in a world that is so conditioned by dependencies and virtuality, “it frightens us to be free.” He recalled the example of Dostoevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor” who reproaches Jesus for giving us freedom. “We are afraid to move forward in pastoral experiences,” he said, thinking of the work done during the synod on the family “to make it understood that couples in second unions are no longer condemned to hell.” “We are afraid to accompany people with sexual diversity. We are afraid of the crossroads of which Paul VI spoke”.
The Pope went on to warn against seeking the way out in rigidity and clericalism. “Today I believe that the Lord is asking the Society to be free, with prayer and discernment,” the Pope said, adding that it is “beautiful to bring forward the freedom of the Gospel.”
He however cautioned against imprudence, stressing that we need to be attentive and vigilant. He said that turning back is not the right way, instead, moving forward “in discernment and obedience.”
To another question about the challenges of the Church in Slovakia and the opinion of critics, the Pope stressed the importance of real dialogue before making judgments. He added that he personally “may deserve attacks and insults because I am a sinner, but the Church does not deserve this: it is the work of the devil. I have even said this to some of them,” he said.
The Holy Father also spoke about the decision – the result of consultation with bishops across the world – to redefine celebrations with the pre-conciliar liturgy (vetus ordo), so as to return “to the true intentions of Benedict XVI and John Paul II.” He restated that permission from Rome must be sought as it is done with biritualism.
“I go forward,” Pope Francis said, “not because I want to make a revolution. I do what I feel I must do. It takes a lot of patience, prayer and a lot of charity.”
Pope Francis then responded to a question on the growing global concern for migrants and refugees. He reiterated his call that migrants need to be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated, keeping in mind the capacities of their host countries. “Leaving migrants without integration is leaving them in misery,” he said, “it is equivalent to not welcoming them.”
The Holy Father concluded his meeting with Slovak Jesuits by stressing the importance of studying the phenomenon of migration to understand its causes and consequences, particularly situations of migration caused by geopolitical factors.
By Stefanie Stahlhofen
Judith Samson is a Benedictine novice and a “Laudato sí” animator. She tells Vatican Radio all about how the Benedictine nuns at the monastery try to live sustainably. Each of us, she says, can make a difference.
43-year-old Judith was born in Münsterland, Germany and she has been a novice at the Fahr monastery in Switzerland for just over a year. The Benedictine nuns’ monastery is located near Zurich, and because of the pandemic, she had to self-quarantine. It was precisely at that time – she explains in our interview – that the idea was born to transform the popular monastery garden, which is open to the public free of charge, into a “Laudato sí” garden.
Judith Samson: Pope Francis published the encyclical Laudato sí six years ago in which he urgently called each of us to action. The garden is very important to Benedictines here as it is to Benedictines in general. It has always been important: first as the provost’s garden, then as a teaching garden – until 2013 there was a farm school. For Sister Beatrice, sustainability has always been a very important factor – protecting native varieties and insects, creating pastures… Here we are in an oasis for tourists who come to the Limmat Valley in large numbers, especially on weekends. People of all ages come: couples, families, singles.
When I started my novitiate, we were in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. So I had to quarantine and my room looked out right onto the garden. I would watch the crowds of people visiting the garden and I thought – or rather the Holy Spirit spoke in me – saying “this is the perfect place to bring Pope Francis’ message to the people.”
“This is the perfect place to bring Pope Francis’ message to the people.”
Vatican Radio: Then how did you pursue this idea?
Judith Samson: I was already a “Laudato sí” animator, that is, I had training from the Global Catholic Climate Movement, which is now called the Laudato Sí Movement. They offer in-depth training that allows for a deeper knowledge of the encyclical to all those who want to be particularly committed to the dissemination of the text so that they can act as multipliers in their own environment and with the means that they have available. Obviously, one is committed to prayer, but also to action for the care and conservation of creation.
You had an idea for concrete action: Transforming the garden of the Fahr monastery into a “Laudato sí” garden. How did you go about that concretely?
Judith Samson: I suggested to the Prioress and to the community that we put quotes from the encyclical in various places in the garden so that people would have the opportunity not only to admire nature, but also to get back in touch with the Creator. Everyone thought it was a good idea, so we started implementing it.
There was a very well-known poetess in our convent, Silja Walter, who lived here under the name Sister Maria Hedwig. She was very inspired by the creation that surrounded her in this environment. Her verses and thoughts fit incredibly well with “Laudato sí”. So the Prioress thought it would be a nice idea to see if there were any quotes from Silja Walter that matched those of Pope Francis. And so we came up with the idea of “putting Pope Francis’ encyclical in dialogue” with Silja Walter’s verses.
Could you give us a concrete example of that dialogue between the poetess and the encyclical? Do you remember any verse or theme where Silja Walter had similar thoughts to Pope Francis’ in “Laudato sí”?
Judith Samson: Well, at the time, in the 1970s, environmental protection and the preservation of creation was already a major theme. She wrote a lot on this issue. For example, “Fastenopfer,” a large international aid organization here in Switzerland, commissioned Silja Walter to write a song to promote relations with churches and international partners, even in developing countries, and at the same time to promote the preservation of creation. She wrote a song that said: “Gott gib, dass die Lauen, Lahmen, die wir doch Salz der Erde heißen, diese Welt dem Zerfall entreißen”, that is: “God grant us, who are lukewarm and limp, despite the fact that we are supposed to be the salt of the earth, the grace to be able to save this world from decay”.
I find very much in tune with the concern that is in Pope Francis’ heart today.
What are the reactions of visitors, how is the project being received?
Judith Samson: It’s still a very new project. We opened the garden on Friday before Pentecost, during “Laudato sí” Week, which intentionally ended with the Pentecost event, so that the Holy Spirit can continue to work and inspire us. So far we have seen that people are very interested in reading the texts. Meanwhile, we have had positive feedback from our sister monastery in Einsiedeln.
You just said that with the end of the “Laudato sí” year and the “Laudato sí” week, not everything is over. The idea developed by Pope Francis in “Laudato sí” must be carried forward and we must continue to actively implement this document. To this end, the Vatican has recently launched a new platform for action on the Internet. Do you have any thoughts on how to contribute?
Judith Samson: We are already on the way, for example, we are committed to the cry of the earth and to the protection of biodiversity. We consciously grow indigenous herbs and medicinal plants, not exotic ones. We have rented our farm and are converting it according to organic farming criteria. We have printed the texts of the “Laudato sí” garden on postcards, which we sell in our monastery store. Most of the proceeds go to support a “Fastenopfer” project for the reforestation of mangrove forests in the Philippines, which are particularly important for the livelihood of local fishing families.
“As Benedictine nuns, we generally have a sustainable lifestyle: all twenty nuns in the convent share one car.”
The 20 nuns of the convent share a car, we recycle as much as possible, we sort our waste, we also do a lot of “upcycling” (reuse of waste materials) with creative ideas and we generally try to reduce our waste as much as possible. Milk, for example, is delivered fresh from a local farmer. We also try to eat according to the season: we pretty much only eat fruit from our own garden and maybe buy an apple once in a while. Some of the vegetables we eat also come from the “Laudato sí” garden, as do the herbs.
“Starting in late June, there will be visits to the “Laudato sí” garden on the themes of spirituality and creation.”
Of course, as Benedictines, ecological spirituality is one of our central themes. We included the protection of creation as early as 2020, for example, in the Season of Creation in October, in the Liturgy of the Hours, in Eucharistic celebrations. From the end of June there will be guided tours of the “Laudato sí” garden on the themes of spirituality and creation, and we have joined the network of contemplative communities for the care of creation.
What can ordinary people do in their daily lives to live more consciously and sustainably? Do you have any concrete suggestions?
Judith Samson: What I particularly like in the encyclical is what the Pope says, also in reference to Therese of Lisieux, about taking small steps: everyone can do something in their environment. He says that we should simply be careful and be open. For example, in our workplace, in our family, with our friends… If we recycle something, or if we turn down the heat a bit and dress more warmly, if we consciously save water… All of these things help. They’re small things to us, but overall, they make a difference. Or if we take care to buy sustainable goods from regional producers at the market or the fair trade chain of production – within our means, of course.
“Lots of little things create change.”
I think a lot of small things bring a change in consciousness, then gradually it becomes more and more automatic. If we live our lives with a keen mind, we will notice where it is possible for us to do something more, without putting pressure on ourselves. It is enough, in my opinion, to become aware of the situation, start with the small things, and then remain open, because the things we can do will then come by themselves, I am convinced of this.
Opening hours and guided tours in the Laudato si’ Garden of the Fahr Monastery
The “Laudato sí” Garden of the Fahr Monastery near Zurich is open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to about 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. The Fahr Monastery offers guided tours of the garden with Sister Beatrice Beerli and, since the end of June, also guided tours on spirituality and creation with Novice Judith Samson. Groups of max. 14 persons, fee CHF 150. Registration 043 455 10 40 (Mon-Thurs) or email@example.com.
Cards with quotes from the encyclical are available for purchase in the monastery store. Proceeds will be donated to Fastenopfer to support a mangrove tree reforestation project in the Philippines.
For more information visit the Fahr Monastery website (in German): https://www.kloster-fahr.ch/?page_id=21136
The video about the Garden “Laudato sí” was produced by kath.ch
By Lisa Zengarini
US bishops have once again called on lawmakers not to expand taxpayer funding of abortion, reiterating the position expressed in a letter sent to the Congress on 7 September on the forthcoming Budget Reconciliation bill.
The letter, among other things, urged Senators and Representatives not to pass “provisions facilitating and funding the destruction of unborn human life,” saying that, should these provisions be included in the bill, they would oppose it.
However, on 15 September, the House Committees on Ways and Means and on Energy and Commerce advanced legislation containing the tax elements of the “Build Back Better Act” – President Biden’s recovery package – without removing abortion funding provisions or including the Hyde Amendment.
For nearly 40 years, this bipartisan legislative provision has barred the use of federal funds to pay for abortion, with some exceptions, including rape.
US Bishops have reacted to the move with a statement calling on Congress to “turn back from including taxpayer funding of abortion in the Build Back Better Act”.
While reiterating their support for other measures contained in the “Build Back Better Act”, aimed at improving healthcare coverage for those in need in the United States, the statement insists that abortion funding provisions should be removed from the proposed bill.
They therefore urge all members of Congress and the Administration “to work in good faith to advance important and life-saving healthcare provisions without forcing Americans to pay for the deliberate destruction of unborn human life.”
The statement is signed by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman Committee on Pro-Life Activities the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB), and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, head of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis has penned a letter to Father Joachim Rego, the Superior General of the Passionist order, on the occasion of an International Theological Congress on “The Wisdom of the Cross in a pluralistic World.”
The Congress, sponsored by the Gloria Crucis chair of the Pontifical Lateran University, “is one of the initiatives of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ (Passionists) to celebrate the Third Centenary of its foundation.”
In his letter, the Holy Father says the Congress corresponds to the desire of St Paul of the Cross – the founder of the Passionists – “to ensure that the Paschal Mystery, the centre of the Christian faith and the charism of the Passionist religious family, is proclaimed and disseminated in response to divine charity, and that it addresses the expectations and hopes of the world.”
He says that in contemplating Jesus on the Cross, “we see every human dimension embraced by God’s mercy.” God’s love, he continues, extends to every human person, and “reaches the extremes of the human condition,” joining our vertical relationship with God to the horizontal relationship among all human beings.
The Cross, says Pope Francis, shows us the importance of uniting reason with humility of heart. Theology, therefore, is invited “to address the most fragile and concrete conditions of men and women,” avoiding polemics and agendas to “confidently” seek “the precious seeds that the Word scatters amidst the jagged and sometimes contradictory plurality of cultures.”
The Pope insists that the Cross is “a source of salvation for people of every place and every time,” and especially at times, like our own, when humanity is at a crossroads.
Finally, Pope Francis expresses his hope that the Theological Congress “will contribute to a renewed understanding of contemporary challenges in light of the Wisdom of the Cross, in order to foster evangelization faithful to God’s design and attentive to humanity.”
By Devin Watkins
Participants from across Central and Eastern Europe on Monday took part in the second day of a safeguarding conference being held in Warsaw, Poland.
The event, organized by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), is focused the theme “Our Common Mission of Safeguarding God’s Children”.
Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, OFMCap, opened the day with the celebration of the Eucharist, and recalled the reason Church leaders from across Central and Eastern Europe are participating in the conference.
“We are gathered here because so many of our brothers and sisters have suffered at the hands of abusive clergy who have perpetrated evil acts by using their office to abuse others or to cover up such abuse,” said the Cardinal in his brief homily at Mass.
He lamented the many times that survivors of clerical sexual abuse have been “rejected in their suffering when they spoke out.”
However, the American Cardinal praised the courage of survivors and their families to allow their pain to help the Church better safeguard others.
“We pray to God so that, in God’s own wise ways, these sufferings may be the seeds of a more resilient, a more loving and a more faithful Church, humbly recognizing its faults and steadfastly committed to seeking justice and reconciliation with those who have been harmed,” prayed Cardinal O’Malley.
The first keynote address of Day Two was given by Czech-born Msgr. Tomáš Halík, who served in the “underground church” during the long decades of communist oppression.
He spoke to the 80-odd participants about the “phenomenon of abuse in a wider context”.
Msgr. Halík said the Church in post-communist countries has not yet fully overcome the “clericalism” and “triumphalism” which often results in sexual abuse, as well as psychological and spiritual abuse. He added that the abuse of power and authority by members of the clergy is “a disease of the system” and not of mere individuals.
“It needs to be seen in a broader context and can only be overcome by courage to reform the many related problems concerning the level of the theological, pastoral and spiritual understanding of the Church and the priesthood,” he said. “Disciplinary measures alone will not solve the problem.”
Rather, said Msgr. Halík, the Church can only overcome the “crisis of the clergy” by embracing a new understanding of its role in contemporary society.
Models to go by, he concluded, include “the Church as the ‘pilgrim people of God’ (communio viatorum), the Church as a ‘school of Christian wisdom’, the Church as a ‘field hospital’, and the Church as a place of encounter, sharing and reconciliation.”
The afternoon panel of the second day—which covered “Transparency, Accountability, Responsibility”—included Prof. Myriam Wijlens, Justice Neville Owen, and Prof. Paweł Wiliński.
Prof. Wijlens, a professor of canon law and member of the PCPM, called for a theological and canonical reflection on the diocesan bishop’s responsibility to provide prevention, intervention, justice, and healing” for abuse survivors.
She said clerical sexual abuse deprives children of their dignity and sexual integrity, as well as wounding their Christian faith.
Justice Owen, former chairman of “The Truth, Justice and Healing Council” of the Australian Bishops’ Conference and also a member of the PCPM, offered the second afternoon keynote speech.
He explored how secular authorities are ready to step in when the Church insufficiently protects the most vulnerable and when abuse is covered up.
Pointing to 4-year Royal Commission investigation into abuse in the Church in Australia, Justice Owen said the Church in many other nations can learn from the government inquiry, and work toward better responsibility, accountability, and transparency.
Prof. Wiliński, a Polish Supreme Court judge, rounded off the afternoon session with a call for the Church to put in place legislation to protect the rights of abuse survivors.
He said effective systems of procedural protection must always seek to keep from worsening their already-painful wounds received at the hands of clergy.
By Vatican News staff writer
From 1 October, entry into Vatican City State will only be permitted to persons who are in possession of a Vatican “Green Pass”, a “European Green Pass,” or a foreign Covid-19 green pass attesting to vaccination or recovery from SARS-COV-2. Entry will also be granted to those who have a negative molecular or antigenic test for the SARS-COV-2 virus.
The new measures come in the form of a decree from the office of the President of the Pontifical Commission of Vatican City State on the subject of Public Health emergencies, issued in response to a request made by Pope Francis during an audience on 7 September.
The Pope affirmed the necessity of ensuring “the health and well-being of the working community while respecting the dignity, rights and fundamental freedoms of each of its members,” and requested the Governorate to “adopt every suitable measure to prevent, control and counteract the health emergency.”
The control of access to the State is the responsibility of the Gendarmerie Corps, the Decree notes, and its provisions “apply to citizens, residents of the State, personnel serving in any capacity in the Governorate of Vatican City State, in the various bodies of the Roman Curia and related institutions, and to all visitors and users of services.”
An exception to the Decree is granted for those participating in liturgical celebrations, but only “for the time strictly necessary for the celebration,” during which health regulations regarding distancing, the use of personal protective equipment, limitation of movement and the assembly of people, and the adoption of specific hygiene norms must be respected.
Verification of compliance with the new norms will be carried out by the Service for the Health and Safety of Workers in the workplaces of the Directorate of Health and Hygiene.
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