Pre-synod jostling points to dynamism of Rome meeting on family

Cardinal Pell

Cardinal Pell

The Australian cardinal whom Pope Francis earlier this year put in charge of Vatican finances has added his voice to a large number of senior church figures warning against expecting changes to come from next month’s historic of bishops in Rome.

The “extraordinary” Synod of bishops on 5-19 October will be the first in a year-long series of meetings focussing on the challenges to the family, concluding with a second, “ordinary” synod of bishops in October 2015 which will make concrete proposals.

George Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney, is one of five cardinals brought together in a book that rejects calls by Cardinal Walter Kasper made in February in his address to the College of Cardinals.

Cardinal Kasper

Cardinal Kasper

Kasper called for the Church to look at ways of allowing Catholics who have divorced and remarried a way of being readmitted to the Eucharist under certain limited conditions which parish priests should consider on a case by case basis, arguing that “there is no human situation absolutely without hope of solution”.

The German cardinal, who believes that the indissolubility of marriage is not threatened by this proposal, did not suggest that second unions should receive public recognition as they are  in the Orthodox Church, but that a period of penitence could be followed by a readmission. His speech was later published as a book called The Gospel of the Family.

The riposte by the five cardinals, to be published on 1 October, is also entitled The Gospel of the Family, but subtitled Going Beyond Cardinal Kasper’s Proposal in the Debate on Marriage, Civil Re-Marriage and Communion in the Church

In it Cardinal Pell writes that the attention given to Cardinal Kasper’s proposal is a “counterproductive and futile search for short-term consolations” over what is essentially a “peripheral” issue.

“Healthy communities do not spend most of their energies on peripheral issues,” he writes, “and unfortunately, the number of divorced and remarried Catholics who feel they should be allowed to receive holy Communion is very small indeed.”

He adds: “The pressures for this change are centered mainly in some European churches, where churchgoing is low and an increasing number of divorcees are choosing not to remarry.”

Cardinal Müller

Cardinal Müller

The other contributors are Walter Brandmüller, a retired Vatican official who is close to Benedict XVI; Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican’s supreme court, the Roman Rota; Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna; Velasio De Paolis, president emeritus of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See; and Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Quite a few cardinals have recently been keen to downplay expectations of shifts in church teaching and practice. Cardinal Dolan of New York, said he couldn’t see how there could be a a dramatic change “without running up against the teaching of the Church”.

Cardinal O'Malley

Cardinal O’Malley

Another member (with Pell) of the so-called “C9″ council of cardinals close to Francis, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, has also cautioned against expecting too much change. “I think that the Holy Father’s concerns for the Catholics who are divorced and remarried will find a lot of support from the bishops,” he said, adding: “The pastoral practice must always follow our theology and doctrine.”

Similarly Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, head of the Vatican’s Council for the Family, said the 5-19 October synod wouldn’t change doctrine, but that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be changes. “I do believe bishops will find real pastoral alternatives: profound human problems deserve profound solutions,” he told Crux.

Many are stressing both that the synod is a year-long discernment that will not make concrete proposals until October 2015, and that the biggest issue was how to bolster marriage in a society which increasingly fails to understand and recognize its nature and significance.

Cardinal Nichols

Cardinal Nichols

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, has picked out the importance of marriage preparation, and the support which the Church can give to families experiencing marital breakdown, as major priorities of the synod.

The French Catholic daily La Croix reports that Pope Francis is said to be “irritated” by the publication of the book on the eve of the synod, and has told Cardinal Müller not to be involved in its promotion.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the synod’s secretary general, has spoken of how this reformed synod process will be dynamic and informal. He says Pope Francis wants it to generate authentic discussion.

Cardinal Baldisseri

Cardinal Baldisseri

If Francis’s disapproval of the book by the five cardinals is true, it suggests not that that he fears disagreement, but that too much of the discussion through the media, with participants staking out positions in advance, will politicize the debate and make an authentic discernment harder.

Some believe that, rather than exploring the so-called “Orthodox” solution to the pastoral challenges presented by the large number of divorced and remarried, the Church should look at reforming the annulment system. One leading  commentator sees annulment reform as one of the synod’s most likely outcome.

At this stage, however, it is only possible to guess at some of the outcomes once the synod agrees what should the principal focus of discussion.

The meeting won’t be short of views and perspectives. In addition to the evidence gathered in last year’s consultation of the local Church, there will be plenty of expertise and testimony present in next month’s meeting.

Among the 253 synod participants (full list here) are 38 observers and 16 experts, who are nonvoting members invited by the Pope. Most are laymen and laywomen, including 14 married couples from across the world.

The voting delegates include 114 presidents of national bishops’ conferences, 13 heads of Eastern Catholic churches and 25 heads of Vatican congregations and councils.

(Join Austen Ivereigh on 1 October in central London for a Catholic Voices briefing on the synod: details here)

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Why gay people don’t feel much like exercising their ‘right’ to marry

HoFGayMarriage-20140819013326247The notion that allowing same-sex couples to marry constituted the recognition of a long-suppressed human right was a key plank of the Government’s case for it. Introducing gay marriage, we were led to believe, would be a civil rights milestone, like black South Africans voting for the first time.

The analogy was a powerful one, but not convincing. Almost no one thought of a right to same-sex marriage before the year 2000, and it exists in no treaty of international law. As recently pointed out here, the European human rights court at Strasbourg continues to dismiss the idea of any such right, and to uphold the right of states to uphold conjugal marriage in law for the sake of children and the common good.

Prior to Parliament’s decision last year to reduce marriage to a mere partnership, between any two people, we pointed to statistics abroad (e.g. Spain) as well as our own polling in the UK to show that in practice, very few gay people were interested in marrying (and when they did, were far more likely to divorce than the average). The independent survey we commissioned also showed that most gay people simply didn’t accept Stonewall’s argument that a distinction in law between civil partnership and marriage constituted discrimination, and that most had no intention of ever marrying — especially if they were already in a civil partnership.

When the first gay weddings took place in March this year, we wrote:

What is at stake is that, in order to accommodate one group’s desire to have their love legitimated by the state — a dubious idea in itself — the state has emptied marriage of its essential meaning. It has changed marriage from an understandable, recognizable, conjugal institution, one hallowed by faith and civil society, to an ersatz, hollowed-out arrangement that cannot be called an institution at all. That matters because it makes marriage less interesting, less attractive and less important. People — gay or straight — will increasingly come to ask: why do I need a piece of paper from the state to prove I love someone? If marriage is simply “about” the love between any two people, what has the state got to do with it anyway?

It turns out that the widespread indifference among same-sex couples to the possibility of marrying was even greater than we foresaw.

The Office for National Statistics’s first figures on the take-up of same-sex weddings were recently published. According to the ONS:

Over the three day period from 29 March to 31 March 2014 there were 95 marriages of same sex couples. There were 351 marriages in April, 465 in May and 498 in June.

The ONS compares this low take-up with civil partnerships after they were introduced for same-sex couples in 2005.

Between 21 December and 23 December 2005, 1,227 civil partnerships were formed, as couples in long-standing relationships formalised their relationship as soon as possible. In comparison 95 marriages of same sex couples took place in the first 3 days.

The contrast is remarkable: 1,227 civil partnerships versus 95 gay marriages in the first three days after each became law. A sociologist at Kent University asks why, and suggests two reasons:

So why have relatively few lesbian and gay couples decided to tie the knot this year? First, civil partnerships got there first and offer pretty much all of the rights and entitlements that go with marriage. A significant proportion of couples that might have chosen to get married are already in civil partnerships so many might not feel the need … Equally, the government’s decision to keep civil partnership as an option for same-sex couples alongside marriage means that some gay and lesbian couples are opting for civil partnerships rather than marriage…

But surely same-sex marriage was about ending the heinous discrimination imposed on gay people by the law’s distinction between marriage and civil partnership?

As both the ONS and Mike Thomas point out, these statistics do not tell the whole story. In December, the law will allow couples in civil partnerships to “upgrade” their status to marriage, and some will no doubt choose to do so.

But in reality, why bother? What difference will it make? As the tiny take-up of gay marriage shows so far, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between a civil partnership — a contract between two cohabiting individuals for the sake of property and tax — and a same-sex marriage.

Some will use these statistics to prove that the fears about marriage redefinition are overblown, and that same-sex marriage can co-exist alongside conjugal marriage without affecting it.

But that doesn’t wash. Now that civil marriage has been gutted and stripped of its intrinsic meaning  for everyone — gay or straight — heterosexual couples are  more and more likely to reach the same conclusion as gay people.

Alternatively they will ask, as does a columnist in the Canadian Globe and Mail (same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005) why there should not be a broader selection of options, including a temporary, three-year “suck-it-and-see” version?

Hers is the same logic behind same-sex marriage: a malleable institution without intrinsic meaning. Rather than an institution to whose norms (fidelity, permanence, sexual exclusivity) we are invited to conform, it has become an institution that can and should be adapted to suit the lifestyles and desires of contracting individuals.

In other words, redefined civil marriage has become an institution of no importance — as the Catholic bishops warned, and as gay people have been quick to grasp.

[Austen Ivereigh]

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Catholic bishops urge Scots to vote in independence referendum

As the debate on the Scottish independence referendum enters its final stretch before the poll on 18 September, the country’s two leading archbishops have urged voters to engage with the issues and make their views heard, while making clear that the Catholic Church has no position on the issue.

In pastoral messages to be read at Masses this weekend, Archbishops Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow and Leo Cushley of Edinburgh & St Andrews have stressed both the freedom of conscience of those voting, the need for prayerful discernment in the light of Catholic social teaching of what is right for Scotland, as well as the civic duty to engage in the referendum.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia

Archbishop Tartaglia writes:

The Scottish Independence Referendum is now just a short time away. Along with the Bishops of Scotland, who are deeply conscious of the importance of this referendum, I encourage and urge all those eligible to vote to do so with complete freedom of choice and in accordance with their prayerful judgment of what is best for the future. May God guide us and bless us in whatever choice we make in good conscience.

Archbishop Cushley writes:

On the occasion of the referendum on Scottish independence, I have been approached several times now by some who would like to know where Scots Catholics, or where I personally, may stand on the matter.  To those of you who wish a word from me in this regard, I would say the following.

Archbishop Leo Cushley

Archbishop Leo Cushley

Like everyone else, Catholics are a part of the world.  Urged by the love of Christ, we are called, to be citizens who contribute positively to the common good and who strive always to consider others and their good before our own. We are called to promote peace, integral human development and authentic human rights, and to have a special care for the poorest and the weakest in society.

We are also concerned for the rights of all people, to freedom of conscience and to the right to believe and to practise their faith.  These freedoms are as important as they are fragile, as has been proven all too often, to the dismay and death of many millions. These freedoms are absolutely essential to a modern democratic society and we should always be vigilant of those who would seek to limit them.

Since all of us are made in the image and likeness of God, no matter our race, our beliefs or the way we live, we also have a concern for moral values based upon our common humanity.

The promotion, therefore, of laws which allow us to believe, teach and live our faith and morals is and will always be of concern to us, whether at the Scottish, UK or European levels. So I encourage you, in the light of Catholic social teaching, carefully to consider the issues and to do your civic duty on the day itself.

No matter the result of the Referendum, I would hope that all Catholics will continue to engage positively in public discourse, and ensure that the Christian message and its values are better expressed and understood, to the benefit of the whole community.  By doing so, our beloved land will be a more just, peaceful and prosperous place for all its citizens.

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Ex-nuncio abuser faces full force of law in three jurisdictions

The Holy See's former representative to the Dominican Republic, Josef Weselowski.

The Holy See’s former representative to the Dominican Republic, Josef Weselowski.

The Vatican yesterday scotched accusations that by bringing charges in Rome against a former nuncio to the Dominican Republic it was in some way “covering up” his sex abuse crimes against children there. After church procedures have run their course, the Vatican said, he could face trial in other countries.

On 27 June this year Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican’s former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, was laicized or “reduced to the lay state” — stripped of his priesthood — by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), following a canonical trial.

In church law, laicization is the highest penalty that can be imposed on a priest guilty of sex abuse of minors. Dismissal from the “clerical state” deprives him of all rights and duties associated with being a priest except the obligation of celibacy.

The Vatican on that occasion said Wesolowski had two months to appeal that judgment  following which there would be criminal proceedings brought against him under Vatican civil law.

Giuseppe Dalla Torre, presiding judge of the Vatican City State court, during a July 11 Vatican news conference announcing Pope Francis' moth proprio expanding Vatican criminal law.

Giuseppe Dalla Torre, presiding judge of the Vatican City State court, during a July 2013 Vatican news conference announcing Pope Francis’ motu proprio expanding Vatican criminal law.

Vatican civil law can be applied to Wesolowski because, as a diplomatic representative of the Holy See, he is a citizen of Vatican City state. Last year, Pope Francis expanded church law to make it possible for any citizen of the Vatican anywhere in the world to be tried under Vatican civil law for sex abuse and terrorism offenses. Wesolowski could face a maximum of 12 years in prison and a fine of nearly US$200,000.

Yesterday, the Vatican said Wesolowski had decided to appeal the canonical ruling, and that a hearing to consider his appeal would be scheduled as soon as possible, probably October.

Criminal proceedings by judicial authorities at the Vatican would take place as soon as the canonical sentence is confirmed, said the Vatican’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.

Despite Wesolowski facing the full force of both canon and Vatican civil law, some have accused the Vatican of preventing him facing justice in the Dominican Republic, where the crimes were committed.

A powerful front-page article by Laurie Goodstein in Sunday’s New York Times  documents the Polish cleric’s cynical sexual exploitation of boys, and claims that

…. far from settling the matter, the Vatican has stirred an outcry because it helped Mr. Wesolowski avoid criminal prosecution and a possible jail sentence in the Dominican Republic. Acting against its own guidelines for handling abuse cases, the church failed to inform the local authorities of the evidence against him, secretly recalled him to Rome last year before he could be investigated, and then invoked diplomatic immunity for Mr. Wesolowski so that he could not face trial in the Dominican Republic.

The Vatican’s handling of the case shows both the changes the church has made in dealing with sexual abuse, and what many critics call its failures. When it comes to removing paedophiles from the priesthood, the Vatican is moving more assertively and swiftly than before. But as Mr. Wesolowski’s case suggests, the church continues to be reluctant to report people suspected of abuse to the local authorities and allow them to face justice in secular courts.

Father Lombardi

Father Lombardi

But yesterday Father Lombardi said that, far from there being any cover-up or attempt to evade justice, the Vatican had acted entirely properly in recalling to Rome a man who at the time had diplomatic immunity. He added that, now that Wesolowski is no longer a diplomat and no longer has immunity, he could face extradition and prosecution in the Dominican Republic. Father Lombardi said:

It is important to note that former nuncio Wesolowski has ceased functioning as a diplomat of the Holy See and has therefore lost his related diplomatic immunity, and has been previously stated, the punitive procedure of the Vatican’s civil judiciary departments will continue as soon as the canonical sentence becomes definitive. Regarding stories that have appeared over the past few days in various media, it is important to note that the Authorities of the Holy See, from the very first moments that this case was made known to them, moved without delay and correctly in light of the fact that former nuncio Wesolowski held the position of a diplomatic representative of the Holy See.

This action relates to his recall to Rome and in the treatment of the case in relation to Authorities of the Dominican Republic. Far from any intention of a cover-up, this action demonstrates the full and direct undertaking of the Holy See’s responsibility even in such a serious and delicate case, about which Pope Francis is duly and carefully informed and one which the Pope wishes to address justly and rigorously. We must finally state that since former nuncio Wesolowski has ended all diplomatic activity and its related immunity, he might also be subjected to judicial procedures from the courts that could have specific jurisdiction over him.

Vatican gendarmes

Vatican gendarmes

Should he be found guilty under Vatican civil and Dominican civil law, Wesolowski will have faced prosecution in three different jurisdictions – which would be hardly an evasion of justice.

In May, Pope Francis said three bishops were under investigation for misdeeds related to the sexual abuse of minors, one of whom — understood to be Wesolowski — had “already been condemned.” He spoke to reporters on that occasion that abusers would face “zero tolerance”.

Wesolowski, 66, was ordained in Krakow by its then archbishop, Karol Józef Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II. In 1999, Wesolowski was appointed papal nuncio to Bolivia, and in 2002 he was reassigned to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. In 2008, he was sent to the Dominican Republic. He was recalled to the Vatican in September last year, after allegations surfaced of his having paid boys on the seafront to perform sexual acts.

[Austen Ivereigh]

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Pope Francis press conference on papal plane from Seoul: full transcript

Francis papal plane KoreaOn his flight back from Korea yesterday Pope Francis held another lengthy press conference, generating a series of stories today:

  • He approved the idea of military intervention in Iraq to prevent the genocide now taking place at the hands of jihadists, saying there was a clear “unjust aggressor who “must be stopped”. But  he said no one state can decide to intervene by itself, and that the UN should decide on the best means to stop the aggressor. John Allen describes it as a “cautious yellow light”. See his backgrounder here.
  • He said that the beatification process of Archbishop Oscar Romero, gunned down at the altar in 1980, has now been “unblocked”, having been “blocked” before. This is not, in fact, news: the promoters of his cause said it had been unblocked and was moving apace a year ago, but it is being reported by the BBC now.
  • He confirmed his visit to the United States in September 2015, and strongly suggested that he would go to New York and Washington as well. He also said he would visit China tomorrow if he could, and hoped for good relations with Beijing.
  • He rejected the suggestion that the Prayer for Peace in the Holy Land on June 8 was a failure, and emphasized that “it has opened a door” that still remains open.
  • He talked about his papacy lasting two or three more years and then retiring. (See The Guardian here.)

What follows is an unofficial translation and transcript by one of the journalists on the papal plane, Gerry O’Connell, Vatican correspondent of America magazine.

Q. During the visit to Korea, you reached out to the families of the Sewol ferry disaster and consoled them. Two questions: What did you feel when you met them? And were you not concerned that your action could be misinterpreted politically?

A.  When you find yourself in front of human suffering, you have to do what your heart brings you to do. Then later they might say, he did this because he had a political intention, or something else They can say everything. But when you think of these men, these women, fathers and mothers who have lost their children, brothers and sisters who have lost brothers and sisters, and the very great pain of such a catastrophe.. my heart.   I am a priest, I feel that I have to come close to them,  I feel that way. That’s first.  I know that the consolation that I can give, my words, are not a remedy. I cannot give new life to those that are dead. But human closeness in these moments gives us strength, solidarity.

korea 3I remember when I was archbishop of Buenos Aires, I experienced two catastrophes of this kind. One was a fire in a dance hall, a pop-music concert, and 194 people died in it.  That was in 1993. And then there was another catastrophe with trains, and I think 120 died in that. At those times I felt the same thing, to draw close to them.  Human pain is strong and if we draw close in those sad moments we help a lot.

And I want to say something more.  I took this ribbon (from relatives of the Sewold ferry disaster, which I am wearing) out of solidarity with them, and after half a day someone came close to me and said “it is better remove it,  you should be neutral. But listen, one cannot be neutral about human pain.  I responded in that way.  That’s how I felt.

Q.  You know that recently the US forces have started bombing the terrorists in Iraq, to prevent a genocide, to protect minorities, including Catholics who are under your guidance. My question is this:  do you approve the American bombing?

A. Thanks for such a clear question.  In these cases where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say this: it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underline the verb: stop.  I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means. With what means can they be stopped?  These have to be evaluated.  To stop the unjust aggressor is licit.

But we must also have memory.  How many times under this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor the powers (that intervened)  have taken control of peoples, and have made a true war of conquest.

One nation alone cannot judge how to stop an unjust aggressor.  After the Second World War there was the idea of the United Nations.  It is there that this should be discussed.  Is there an unjust aggressor?  It would seem there is. How do we stop him? Only that, nothing more.

korea 2Secondly (you mentioned the minorities. Thanks for that word because they talk to me about the Christians, the poor Christians.  It’s true, they suffer.  The martyrs, there are many martyrs. But here there are men and women, religious minorities, not all of them Christian, and they are all equal before God.

To stop the unjust aggressor is a right that humanity has, but it is also a right that the aggressor has to be stopped so that he does not do evil.

Q.  To return to Iraq. Like Cardinal Filoni and the head of the Dominicans, would you be ready to support a military intervention in Iraq to stop the Jihadists? And I have another question: do you think of going one day to Iraq, perhaps to Kurdistan to sustain the Christian refugees who wait for you, and to pray with them in this land where they have lived for 2000 years?

A.  Not long ago I was with the Governor Barzani of Kurdistan.  He had very clear ideas about the situation and how to find solutions,  but that was before this unjust aggression.

I have responded to the first question.  I am only in the agreement in the fact that when there is an unjust aggressor he is to be stopped.

Yes, I am willing (to go there).  But I think I can say this, when we heard with my collaborators about the killings of the religious minorities, the problem at that moment in Kurdistan was that they could not receive so many people.  It’s a problem that one can understand. What can be done?  We thought about many things. First  of all a communique was issued by Fr Lombardi in my name.  Afterwards that communique was sent to all the nunciatures so that it be communicated to governments.  Then we wrote a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations..  Many things …. And at the end we decided to send our personal envoy – Cardinal Filoni,  and I said if it were necessary when we return from Korea we can go there. It was one of the possibilities. This is my answer.  I am willing (to go there). At the moment it is not the best thing to do, but I am ready for this.

Q. My question is about China.  China allowed you to fly over its airspace. The telegram that you sent (en route to Korea) was received without negative comments.  Do you think these are step forward towards a possible dialogue? And have you a desire to go to China?
[Father Lombardi intervenes.]  I can inform you that we are now flying in the airspace over China at this moment. So the question is pertinent.

Korea 1A.   When we were about to enter into the Chinese airspace (en route to Korea), I was in the cockpit with the pilots, and one of them showed me a register and said, we’re only ten minutes away from entering the Chinese airspace, we must ask authorization.  One always asks for this.  It’s a normal thing, one asks for it from each country. And I heard how they asked for the authorization, how they responded.  I was a witness to this.  The pilot then said we send a telegram, but I don’t know how they did it.

Then I left them and I returned to my place and I prayed a lot for that beautiful and noble Chinese people, a wise people.  I think of the great wise men of China, I think of the history of science and wisdom.  And we Jesuits have a history there with Father Ricci.  All these things came into my mind.

If I want to go to China?  For sure! To-morrow!

We respect the Chinese people.  The Church only asks for liberty  for its task, for its work.  There’s no other condition.

Then we should not forget that fundamental letter for the Chinese problems which was the one sent to the Chinese by Pope Benedict XVI. This letter is actual (relevant) today. It is actual. It’s good to re-read it.

The Holy See is always open to contacts Always. Because it has a true esteem for the Chinese people.

Q. Your next journey will be to Albania and perhaps Iraq.  After the Philippines and Sri Lanka, where will you go in 2015?  And can I say that in Avila,   there is great hope (that you will come),  can they still hope?

Korea 4A. Yes!  The woman President of the Korea said to me, in perfect Spanish!, hope is the last thing one loses. She said that to me referring to the unification of Korea.  One can always hope, but is not decided.  Let me explain.

This year Albania is envisaged. Some have begun to say that the Pope is starting everything from the periphery.  But I am going to Albania for two important motives. First, because they have been able to form a government  – just think of the Balkans, they have been able to form a government of national unity with Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics, with an interreligious council that helps a lot and is balanced.  This is good, and harmonious.  The presence of the Pope wishes to say to all the peoples (of the world) that it’s possible to work together. I felt it as a real help to that noble people.

And there’s another thing, if we think about the history of Albania, in terms of religion is was the only country in the communist world to have in its constitution practical atheism. So if you went to mass it was against the constitution. And then, one of the ministers told me that 1820 churches were destroyed, both Orthodox and Catholic, at that time. Then other churches were transformed into theatres, cinemas, dance halls. So I just felt that I had to go.  It’s close, just one day.

Next year I would like to go to Philadelphia, for the meeting of the families. Then, I have been invited by the President of the United States to the American Congress. And also the Secretary General of the  United Nations has also invited me to the Secretariat of the UN in New York.  So maybe the three cities together.

Then there’s Mexico.  The Mexicans want me to go to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, so we could take advantage of that too (during the US visit), but it’s not certain.

And lastly Spain. The Spanish Royals have invited me. The bishops have invited me, but there is a shower of invitations to go to Spain, and maybe it is possible, but there is nothing sure, so I’ll just say that maybe to go to Avila in the morning and return in the afternoon if it were possible, but nothing is decided. So one  can still hope.

Korea 5Q. What kind of relationship is there between you and Benedict XVI?  Do you have a regular exchange of opinions? Is there a common project after the encyclical (Light of Faith)?

A. We see each other.  Before I departed (for Korea) I went to visit him.  Two weeks earlier he sent me an interesting written text and he asked my opinion on it.  We have a normal relationship. 

I return to this idea, which may not be liked by some theologian, I am not a theologian, but I think that the emeritus-pope is not an exception. But after many centuries he is the first emeritus.  Let us think about what he said, I have got old, I do not have the strength.  It was a beautiful gesture of nobility, of humility and courage.

But if one thinks that 70 years ago emeritus bishops also were an exception. They did not exist, but today emeritus bishops are an institution.

I think that the emeritus pope is already an institution because our life gets longer and at a certain age there isn’t the capacity to govern well because the body gets tired, and maybe one’s health is good but there isn’t the capacity to carry forward all the problems of  a government like that of the Church.  I think that Pope Benedict made this gesture of emeritus popes.  May, as I said before, some theologian may say this is not right, but I think this way.  The centuries will tell us if this so or not. Let’s see.

But you could say to me, if you at some time felt you could not go forward, I would do the same!  I would do the same.  I would pray, but I would do the same. He (Benedict) opened a door that is institutional, not exceptional.

Our relationship is truly that of brothers. But I also said that I felt as if I have a grandfather at home because of his wisdom.  He is a man of wisdom, of nuance that is good for me to hear him. And he encourages me sufficiently too. That’s the relationship I have with him.

Q. You have met the people who suffered. What did you feel when you greeted the comfort women at mass this morning?  And as regards the suffering of people in Korea there were also Christians hidden in Japan, and next year will the 150th anniversary of their era of Nero. Would it be possible to pray for them together with you at Nagasaki?

A. It would be most beautiful. I have been invited both by the Government and by the Bishops.  I have been invited.

As for the suffering, you return to one of the first questions. The Korean people are a people who did not lose their dignity.  It was a people that was invaded, humiliated.  It suffered wars and now it is divided. Yesterday, when I went to the meeting with young people (at Haemi),  I visited the museum of the martyrs there. It was terrible the sufferings of these people, just for not standing on a cross.   It’s a historical suffering.  This people has the capacity to suffer, and it is part of their dignity.

Also today, when those elderly women were in front of me at mass, I thought that in that invasion there were young girls taken away to the barracks for to use them but they did not lose their dignity then. They were there today showing their faces, elderly, the last ones remaining.  It’s a people strong in its dignity.

But returning to the question about the martyrs, the suffering and also these women, these are the fruits of war!  Today we are in a world at war, everywhere. Someone  said to me, Father do you know that we are in the Third World War, but bit by bit. He understood!   It’s a world at war in which these cruelties are done.

I’d like to focus on two words.  First, cruelty. Today children do not count.  Once they spoke about a conventional war, today that does not count. I’m not saying that conventional wars were good things, but today a bomb is sent and it kills the innocent, the guilty, children, women they kill everybody. No!  We must stop and think a little about the level of cruelty at which we have arrived.   This should frighten us, and this is not to create fear.  An empirical study could be done on the level of cruelty of humanity at this moment should frighten us a little.

The other word on which I would like to say something is torture.  Today torture is one of the means, I would say, almost ordinary in the behavior of the forces of intelligence, in judicial processes and so on. Torture is a sin against humanity, is a crime against humanity. And I tell Catholics  that to torture a person is a mortal sin, it’s a grave sin.   But it’s more, it’s a sin against humanity.

Cruelty and torture!  I would like very much if you, in your media, make a reflection: How do you see these things today? How do you see the cruelty of humanity, and what do you think of torture. I think it would do us all good to reflect on this.

Q.  You have a very demanding rhythm, full of commitments and take little rest, and no holidays, and you do these trips that are massacring. And in these last months we see that you have also had to cancel some of these engagements, even at the last moment  Is there something to be concerned about in the life you lead?

A.  Yes, some people told me this.  I have just taken holidays, at home, as I usually do
 Once I read a book.  It was quite interesting, it’s title was: “Rejoice that you are neurotic”.  I too have some neuroses. But one should treat the neuroses well. Give them some mate (herbal drink) every day.  One of the neurosis is that I am too attached to life. 

The last time I took a holiday outside Buenos Aires was with the Jesuit community in 1975.  But I always take holidays.  It’s true. I change rhythm.  I sleep more,  I read the things I like.  I listen to music. That way I rest.   In July and part of August I did that.

The other question. Yes, it is true, I had to cancel (engagements).  The day I should have gone to the Gemelli (Hospital), up to 10 minutes before I was there, but I could not do it. It is true, they were seven very demanding days then, full of engagements.  Now I have to be a little more prudent.

Q.  In Rio when the crowds chanted Francesco, Francesco, you told them to shout Christ, Christ. How do you cope with this immense popularity? How do you live it?

A.  I don’t know how to respond. I live it thanking the Lord that his people are happy.  Truly, I do this. And I wish the People of God the best .  I live it as generosity on the part of the people.  Interiorly,  I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, so as not to think that I am somebody.  Because I know this will last a short time, two or three years, and then to the house of the Father. And then it’s not wise to believe in this. I live it as  the presence of the Lord in his people who use the bishop, the pastor of the people, to show many things.  I live it a little more naturally than before, at the beginning I was a little frightened.  But I do these thing, it comes into my mind that I must not make a mistake so as not to do wrong to the people in these things. A little that way.

Q. The Pope has come from the end of the world and lives in the Vatican. Beyond Santa Marta about which you have talked to us, about your life and your choices. How does the Pope live in the Vatican?   They’re always asking us: “What does he do?  How does he move about? Does he go for a walk?   They have seen that you went to the canteen and surprise us.   What kind of life do you lead in Santa Marta, besides work?

A.  I try to be free.  There are work and office appointments, but then life for me, the most normal life I can do.  Really,  I’d like to go out but it’s not possible, it’s not possible, because if you go out people will come to you.  That’s the reality. Inside Santa Marta I lead the normal life of work, of rest, chatting and so on.

Q.  Don’t you feel like a prisoner?

A. At the beginning yes, but now some walls have fallen. For example, before it was said but the Pope can’t do this or this.  I’ll give you an example to make you laugh.  When I would go into the lift, someone  would come in there suddenly because the Pope cannot go in the lift alone. So I said, you go to your place and I’ll go in the lift by myself. It’s normality.

Q.  I’m sorry Father, but I have to ask you this question as a member of the Spanish language group of which Argentina is a part.   Your team – San Lorenzo, won the championship of America for the first time this week. I want to know how you are living this, how you are celebrating.  I hear that a delegation are bringing the cup to the public audience on Wednesday, and that you will receive them in the public audience.

A. After Brazil got the second place, it’s good news. I learned about it here. They told me in Seoul. And they told me, they’re coming on Wednesday. It’s a public audience and they will be there. For me San Lorenzo is the team, all my family were supporters of it.  My Dad played basketball at San Lorenzo; he was a player in the basketball team. And as children we went with him, and Mama also came with us to the Gazometer.  Today the team of ’46 was a great team and won the championship. I live it  with joy.  Not a miracle, no!

Q.   There’s been talk for a long time about an enc cyclical on ecology. Could you tell us when it will be published, and what are the key points?

A.  I have talked a lot about this encyclical with Cardinal Turkson, and also with other people. And I asked Cardinal Turkson to gather all the input that have arrived, and four days before the trip, Cardinal Turkson brought me the first draft. It’s as thick as this. I’d say it’s about a third longer than Evangelii Gaudium.  It’s the first draft.  It’s not an easy question because  on the custody of creation, and ecology, also human ecology,one can talk with a certain security up to a certain point, but then the scientific hypotheses come, some sufficiently secure, others not. And in an encyclical like this, which has to be magisterial,  one can only go forward on the things that are sure, the things that are secure. If the Pope says the centre of the universe is the earth and not the sun, he’s wrong because he says a thing that is scientifically not right. That’s what happens now. So we have to do the study now, number by number, and I believe it will become smaller. But going to the essentials, to that which one can affirm with security.  One can say, in footnotes, that on this there is this and that hypothesis,  to say it as information but not in the body of an encyclical that is doctrinal. It has to be secure.

Q. Thank you so much on your visit to South Korea. I’m going to ask you two questions. The first one is this: just before the final mass at the cathedral you consoled some comfort women there, what thought occurred to you? And my second question , Pyongyang sees Christianity as a direct threat to its regime and its leadership and we know that some terrible thing happened to North Korean Christianity but we don’t know exactly what happened.  Is there any special approach in your mind to change North Korea’s approach to North Korea’s Christianity?

A. On the first question I repeat this. Today, the women were  there  and despite all they suffered they have dignity, they showed their face.  I think, as  I said a short time ago, of the suffering of the war, of the cruelty of the one who wages war.  These women were exploited, the were enslaved, all this is cruelty.  I thought of all this, and of the dignity that they have and also how much they suffered.  And suffering is an inheritance.  The early fathers of the Church said the blood of the martyrs if the seed of Christians. You Koreans have sown much, much,  and out of coherence one now sees the fruit of that seed of the martyrs.

About North Korea, I know it is a suffering, and one I know for sure, there are many relatives that cannot come together, that’s a suffering, but it a suffering of that division of the country.   Today in the cathedral when I put on the vestments for mass there was a gift that they gave me, it was a crown of the thorns of Christ made from the iron wire that divides the two parts of the one Korea. We are now taking it with us on the plane, it’s a gift that I take, the suffering of division, of a divided family,  but as I said yesterday, I can’t remember exactly, but talking to the bishops, I said we have  a hope: the two Koreas are brothers, and they speak the same language. They speak the same language because they have the same mother, and that gives us hope.   The suffering of the division is great, I understand that and I pray that it ends.

Q.  As an Italo American I want to compliment you for your English, you should have no fear, and if you wish to do some practice before you go to America, my second homeland, I am willing to help. My question is this: You have spoken about martyrdom. At what stage is the process for the cause of Archbishop Romero.   And what would you like to come out of this process?

A.  The process was blocked in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “ for prudence”, it was said.  Now it is unblocked and it is in the Congregation for Saints and follows the normal path of a process. It depends on how the postulators move, it’s very important to move in haste.

What I would like is to have clarified when there is martyrdom in ‘odium fidei’ (out of hate for the faith),  whether it is for confessing the credo or  for performing the works that Jesus commands us to do  for our neighbor. This is a work of theologians that is being studied.  Because behind him (Romero), there is Rutillio Grande and there are others.  There are other that were also killed but are not at the same height as Romero. This has to be distinguished theologically. For me, Romero is a man of God.   He was a man of God but there has to be the process, and the Lord will have to give his sign (of approval). But if He wishes, He will do so!   The postulators must move now because there are no impediments.

Q.  Given what has happened in Gaza, was the Prayer for Peace held in the Vatican on June 8 a failure?

A.   That prayer for peace was absolutely not a failure.  First of all, the initiative did not come from me. The initiative to pray together came from two presidents: the President of the State of Israel and the President of the State of Palestine. They make known to me this unease, then we wanted to hold it there (in the Holy Land),  but we couldn’t find the right place because the political cost for each one was very high if they went to the other side. The Nunciature was a neutral place, but to arrive at the nunciature the President of Palestine would have had to enter in Israel, so the thing was not easy.  Then they said to me, let us do it in the Vatican, we will come.  These two men are men of peace, they are men who believe in God, and they have lived through many ugly things, they are convinced that they only way to resolve the situation there is through dialogue, negotiation, and peace.

You ask me, was it a failure?  No, the door remains open.  All four, the two Presidents and Bartholomew 1,  I wanted him here as the ecumenical patriarch of Orthodoxy,  it was good that he was with us, the door of prayer was opened. And it was said we must pray, peace is a gift of God,. It is a gift but we merit it with our work. And to say to humanity that the path of dialogue is important, negotiation is important, but there is also that of prayer.  Then after that, we saw what happened. But it was just a matter of coincidence. That encounter for prayer was not conjuncture. It is a fundamental step of the human attitude, now the smoke of the bombs and the war do not let one see the door, but the door was left open from that moment.  And as I believe in God, I look at that door and the many who pray and who ask that He helps us. I liked that question.  Thank you!

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Catholic Church urges global action to assist victims of Iraq ‘catastrophe’

Catholic Church leaders in London, Brussels and Rome have spoken out in stark terms to condemn the brutal extermination of religious minorities in northern Iraq by the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIL), and to call for international action to assist those fleeing the jihadists who face death from starvation and thirst.

Tens of thousands of refugees are trapped on Mount Sinjar in temperatures of up to 50 degrees and surrounded by ISIS extremists.

In a letter (PDF here) to the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond,  Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, describes the “catastrophe” facing tens of thousands of Christians and Yazidis, thanks the Government for its humanitarian efforts, and urges the Foreign Office to help restore pluralism and peace in Iraq.

Cardinal Nichols attaches a letter (PDF here) to the United Nations Security Council which is signed by the presidents of European bishops’ conferences (CCEE) calling on the international community “to put a stop to this tragedy with every possible, legitimate means”. They ask the Security Council of the United Nations to “take those decisions that would stop these acts of atrocity” while urging “concrete humanitarian measures to answer the plight of children, of women, of elderly and of many persons who have lost everything to escape death and who now risk dying of thirst and hunger”.

Meanwhile, the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue has issued a powerful call to religious leaders to act to condemn and stop all violence committed in the name of religion.

The whole world has witnessed with incredulity what is now called the “Restoration of the Caliphate,” which had been abolished on October 29, 1923 by Kamal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey. Opposition to this “restoration” by the majority of religious institutions and Muslim politicians has not prevented the “Islamic State” jihadists from committing and continuing to commit unspeakable criminal acts.

This Pontifical Council, together with all those engaged in interreligious dialogue, followers of all religions, and all men and women of good will, can only unambiguously denounce and condemn these practices which bring shame on humanity:

-the massacre of people on the sole basis of their religious affiliation;

-the despicable practice of beheading, crucifying and hanging bodies in public places;

-the choice imposed on Christians and Yezidis between conversion to Islam, payment of a tax (jizya) or forced exile;

-the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of people, including children, elderly, pregnant women and the sick;

-the abduction of girls and women belonging to the Yezidi and Christian communities as spoils of war (sabaya);

-the imposition of the barbaric practice of infibulation;

-the destruction of places of worship and Christian and Muslim burial places;

-the forced occupation or desecration of churches and monasteries;

-the removal of crucifixes and other Christian religious symbols as well as those of other religious communities;

-the destruction of a priceless Christian religious and cultural heritage;

-indiscriminate violence aimed at terrorizing people to force them to surrender or flee.

No cause, and certainly no religion, can justify such barbarity. This constitutes an extremely serious offense to humanity and to God who is the Creator, as Pope Francis has often reminded us. We cannot forget, however, that Christians and Muslims have lived together – it is true with ups and downs – over the centuries, building a culture of peaceful coexistence and civilization of which they are proud. Moreover, it is on this basis that, in recent years, dialogue between Christians and Muslims has continued and intensified.

The dramatic plight of Christians, Yezidis and other religious communities and ethnic minorities in Iraq requires a clear and courageous stance on the part of religious leaders, especially Muslims, as well as those engaged in interreligious dialogue and all people of good will. All must be unanimous in condemning unequivocally these crimes and in denouncing the use of religion to justify them. If not, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders have? What credibility can the interreligious dialogue that we have patiently pursued over recent years have?

Religious leaders are also called to exercise their influence with the authorities to end these crimes, to punish those who commit them and to reestablish the rule of law throughout the land, ensuring the return home of those who have been displaced. While recalling the need for an ethical management of human societies, these same religious leaders must not fail to stress that the support, funding and arming of terrorism is morally reprehensible.

That said, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is grateful to all those who have already raised their voices to denounce terrorism, especially that which uses religion to justify it.

Let us therefore unite our voices with that of Pope Francis: “May the God of peace stir up in each one of us a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated by violence. Violence is defeated by peace. “

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The key to tolerant schools is not state-imposed values but a mature faith

The Department for Education has published proposals calling for “British values” such as “mutual respect and tolerance” to be promoted among independent schools and academies. The Government intervention follows a July report into Birmingham schools that found a concerted effort to introduce “an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham”.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan says toddlers should be taught "fundamental British values"

Education secretary Nicky Morgan says toddlers should be taught “fundamental British values”

In response to the controversy in Birmingham, the Government wants schools actively to promote “fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs”. Some school heads among others are warning that there could be unintended consequences.

But this is potentially a good opportunity for the expertise of mature religious believers to be shared widely. It could mark the beginning of an important dialogue. It is questionable to what extent the state can and should be the arbiter of British values. Values are the wellspring of a society rich in traditions, including mature religious belief, which is at the forefront of the fight against extremism. Faith schools which reflect that mature religion are not the problem, and should be a major part of the solution.

Religious schools are popular and generally offer a high-quality education. They support the freedom of parents to choose where their children are educated, and because they are rooted in particular communities foster the dialogue of cultures in pluralist society. Religious traditions build up not only children and their families, but the common good; they foster good citizenship. To confuse the public profession of faith, per se, with sectarianism, as some contributions to the debate such as the National Secular Society have done, is a basic category error. Almost all faith schools are forces of integration, not exclusion; they are the strongest vaccine against fundamentalism of all kinds – religious or ideological.

Colin Hart of the Christian Institute says the proposals are a “rushed” response to the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal in Birmingham, where certain state schools were taken over by governors seeking to impose harsh Islamic practices.

Colin Hart of the Christian Institute says the proposals are a “rushed” response to the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal in Birmingham, where certain state schools were taken over by governors seeking to impose harsh Islamic practices.

The Church has long argued that parents, not the state, are the primary educators of children. The state can and should facilitate and regulate education as a matter for the common good, ensuring access for all and minimum standards; but the state cannot be the source of the values taught in schools – an idea which belongs to totalitarian regimes. The Department of Education proposes that it have increased powers to intervene when it is thought that a school does not promote British values – an idea which assigns a definition of the “right” values to the government of the day. State support for a variety of educational approaches within a pluralist civil society allows parents to choose the parameters of the schooling they seek for their children, on the basis not just of academic results but of spiritual, moral and social factors.

For religious believers, ties with their own religion are necessary and vital. Religion presents itself as the meaningful answer to the fundamental questions posed by men and women; provided it is shared with respect for consciences, it plays a vital role in a society where young people especially struggle to find their role and identity in life. In my own native Scotland, Catholic schools have a strong ethos which regards the whole person, an ethos that attracts both Catholic and non-Catholic parents. They were set up because the state did not provide this kind of education.

Faith schools offer children the possibility of knowing their religious inheritance. No child should ever feel compelled to believe. Compulsion plays no role in genuine conversion. When children are exposed to radicalisation and compulsion in matters of conscience, therefore, a key principle of faith schools is undermined. The right and freedom of a religious community to educate the offspring of its adherents must always be balanced against other rights, and the common good of society.

Catholic schools: nurseries of good citizens for a pluralist society

Catholic schools: nurseries of good citizens for a pluralist society

Religious and secular figures need to work together to build a culture supporting pluralism, good citizenship and against extremism. In this dialogue the Catholic Church presents a blueprint for the social question of religious tolerance and cohesion. Its teaching on education has moved closer to the vision of the Catholic school as a place for cultural dialogue. The recent document of the Holy See on Catholic education, “Educating to Intercultural Dialogue in Catholic Schools: Living in Harmony for a Civilisation in Love”, published in October 2013, recognises the theological principle of unity in the Catholic faith as a basis for a practical philosophical contribution to encounters between different cultures, in order to bring about a more peaceful society.

The answer to extremism and sectarianism is not secularism, which is a state-imposed attempt to flatten society and shape it in the image of a minority belief. The national educational vision needs to challenge and sift faith traditions; intolerance and violence are distortions and perversions of true religion. This endeavour eschews “top down” solutions to defining the correct values. The challenge requires hard work, listening, and crucially the expertise held within religious traditions. Our values are important, but values do not proceed from the state – they are supported by the state as manifestations of a pluralistic society. Where extremism is an issue, the criticism of a religion lived in a pluralist society is the best, and only coherent, response.

[Jane Mycock]

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