Vatican City, Jul 22, 2018 / 06:17 am ().- A Christian can stay on the right path to Heaven, and grow in love for God and his neighbor, only by keeping close to Christ and his love, Pope Francis said Sunday.
“When one moves away from Jesus and his love, one loses oneself and existence turns into disappointment and dissatisfaction,” the pope said July 22. “With Jesus at [our] side we can proceed with security, we can overcome trials, we progress in love for God and for our neighbor.”
“To find the right orientation of life,” everyone needs the truth – which is Christ – to guide and enlighten their path, he continued.
Speaking before the Angelus, Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from Mark, which tells of Jesus’ pity on the crowd of people, who “were like sheep without a shepherd.” In this passage, Jesus is “the realization of God’s concern and care for his people,” he said.
Jesus is moved with compassion for the people in need of guidance, but he does not perform a miracle, the pope noted. Instead, he teaches them. “Here is the first bread that the Messiah offers to the hungry and lost crowd: the bread of the Word.”
Pointing to how Jesus and his disciples had been searching for a place to rest, but the crowd had followed them, Francis said, the same thing can happen to today. “Sometimes we fail to realize our projects, because an unexpected emergency occurs that messes up our programs and requires flexibility and availability to the needs of others.”
He said when this happens, “we are called to imitate Christ.” As it shows in the Gospel, Jesus did not ignore the people. He had compassion on them, came down to them, and “began to teach them many things,” something Christians can learn from.
“The gaze of Jesus is not a neutral or, worse, cold and detached look, because Jesus always looks with the eyes of the heart,” the pope said. Jesus’ heart “is so tender and full of compassion, that he knows how to grasp the even more hidden needs of people.”
Jesus’ compassion on the people is not “an emotional reaction of unease,” it is much more, he continued: “it is the attitude and predisposition of God towards man and his history.”
In this example of Jesus, Christians find a model of love and service toward others, he said.
After the Angelus, Pope Francis added a note about recent reports of the shipwrecking of boats filled with migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. “I express my sorrow in the face of these tragedies and assure my memory and my prayer for the missing people and their families,” he said.
He also made an appeal to the international community to act promptly to prevent the reoccurrence of such tragedies and to guarantee safety and respect for the rights and dignity of all people.
Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2018 / 12:00 pm ().- The Church has consistently taught that the state has the authority to use the death penalty. But, in recent years, popes and bishops have become more vocal in calling for an end to its use. Many Catholics instinctively favor life over death, even after the worst crimes, and some are left wondering if the Church’s mind is changing.
Two recent cases highlighted an apparent tension between traditional teaching and modern circumstances.
On July 13, the bishops of Tennessee wrote to Governor Bill Haslam asking him to halt a slate of planned executions. In their letter, Bishops Mark Spalding of Nashville, Richard Stika of Knoxville, and Martin Holley of Memphis emphasized the value and dignity of every human life, even those who have committed the worst possible crimes.
One day earlier, on July 12, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, expressed his “support” for the Sri Lankan government’s decision to introduce the death penalty for drug traffickers and organized crimes bosses.
“We will support [Sri Lankan] President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to subject those who organize crime while being in the prison to [the] death sentence,” he told local media. The cardinal went on to add that more needed to be done to prevent drug traffickers and crime bosses from operating with impunity while in jail.
The state’s authority to execute criminals is explicitly sanctioned in the Bible, including by St. Paul. Historically, the Church has recognized the use of the death penalty in a practical way: executions were carried out in the Papal States well into the nineteenth century, with the last official executioner retiring in 1865.
For much the twentieth century, attempted assassination of the pope was a capital crime in Vatican City; Pope Paul VI only removed the death penalty from the law in 1969.
Today, the Church still officially teaches that the death penalty is a legitimate option for states to employ.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches this: “Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.”
This formulation contains a heavy qualification. When exactly is the death penalty the only effective means of defending human life? That’s a thorny question.
St. John Paul II was outspoken in his opposition to the use of capital punishment. In an address in the United States, in 1999, he called for Christians to be “unconditionally pro-life” and said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.” He also spoke of his desire for a consensus to end the death penalty, which he called “cruel and unnecessary.”
That address, given in St. Louis, was credited with helping persuade to Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan to commute the death sentence of inmate Darrell Mease to life in prison.
More recently, Pope Francis has denounced capital punishment in even stronger terms. Speaking in October 2017, he called it “contrary to the Gospel” because “it is freely decided to suppress a human life that is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator, and of which, in the final analysis, God alone is the true judge and guarantor.” He has, however, stopped short of revising the official teaching contained in the Catechism.
There is a broad sentiment among American Catholics against the death penalty. It is a point of unusually strong consensus, even among those who normally disagree. In 2015, four Catholic publications with often-divergent viewpoints issued a joint editorial calling for an end to capital punishment.
But Catholic thinkers do not unanimously agree that a total renunciation of the death penalty is appropriate, or even possible.
Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, in his famous “Consistent Ethic of Life” speech delivered at Fordham University in 1983, explicitly recognized the legitimate authority of the state to resort to capital punishment. Cardinal Avery Dulles, writing in 2001, observed that “the Catholic magisterium does not, and never has, advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty.”
While there is real scope for debate about when and how sparingly capital punishment should be used, Dulles concluded that “the death penalty is not in itself a violation of the right to life.”
His conclusion was informed by the constant teaching of the Church that judicial executions are licit, even if regrettable and to be avoided whenever possible.
In the City of God, St. Augustine wrote that the state administers justice under divine concession. “Since the agent of authority is but a sword in the hand, and is not responsible for the killing, it is in no way contrary to the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”… for the representatives of the State’s authority to put criminals to death, according to law or the rule of rational justice.”
While the trend of recent papal statements has been towards a relegation of the death penalty to, at most, a theoretical possibility, scholars have urged caution about going too far.
Dr. Chad Pecknold, associate professor of systematic theology at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that it was important distinguish between changing circumstances and a change in what the Church has always taught.
“The Church has always held that the death penalty is a just option available to the state, even if we do not welcome its use. St. Augustine says that the death penalty is just, but the Church should plead for mercy.”
Pecknold stressed that relationship between mercy and justice is a live concern. In seeking mercy, he said, we must implicitly recognize the validity of justice.
“Mercy isn’t calling something that is just ‘unjust.’ Mercy relieves the punishment properly due to the guilty. As the Catechism recognizes, there can be circumstances in which the death penalty is a legitimate service to justice. This is qualified by a preferential option for other means, whenever they can serve the same ends.”
These alternative means have not been always and everywhere available. “The common and constant teaching of the Church can be applied to different circumstances. Alternatives available to us in modern western countries simply have not been present at other times, or may not be now in other places.”
There is a crucial difference between applying a consistent teaching to changed circumstances and appearing to suggest humanity has evolved beyond a previously valid doctrine, Pecknold said.
“The death penalty is not, and has never been a positive end in itself. It is a means towards serving justice. If we find we can now serve the same ends and express a preferential option for life, this is doubly good.”
“But we should not fall into a false understanding that what was once ‘good' is now ‘bad.’ The Church doesn’t evolve out of a true teaching, nor does humanity progress beyond natural law.”
“We should prize our increasing opportunities to serve mercy and justice together, but be wary of giving ourselves too much credit, we have not progressed to a new, higher level of justice."
Cardinal Dulles agreed. He considered the argument that Church sanctioning of capital punishment was an “outmoded” concession to past ages of “violence” and “barbarity,” one which could yield to “the signs of the times” and “a new recognition of the dignity and inalienable rights of the human person.” He dismissed this as “a tempting simplicity” which found “no echo” among Catholic theologians of the past.
The consensus against capital punishment in modern western nations, it must be observed, has grown in line with increased prosperity, political stability, and states’ ability to deploy credibly effective alternatives to execution.
In the recent Sri Lankan case, the government acted in response to the ineffectiveness of prison sentences, with drug traffickers and crime bosses seeming to continue operating with impunity, even behind bars. Following local complaints at his expression of support, Cardinal Ranjith issued a clarification, making clear his support for the government announcement was not a “carte blanche” advocacy for the death penalty, but noting that he could not “close my eyes and do nothing before this terrible phenomenon our country is faced with.”
“[The drug trade] causes death and violence in the streets and the destruction of the cream of our youth, who become drug addicts at an age as early as their adolescence, being exposed to drugs even in their schools. This is being done by drug cartels operated at times from the prisons,” he said.
For Ranjith, such a context seems to find a place within the Catechism’s criteria that capital punishment be reserved for the final defense of innocent life when other options fail.
In the West, conditions seem to be narrowing the scope for the death penalty’s use, and bishops are responding, which has led to a sense, especially after Pope Francis’ comments last year, that the Church might declare the death penalty absolutely unjust. Yet, as was recently seen in Sri Lanka and Tennessee, things are not yet the same everywhere.
That serves as a good reminder about the importance of understanding the Church’s global perspective, and the importance of distinguishing between teachings which supply criteria through which Catholics must make moral judgments, and teachings which declare that certain actions are, in fact, immoral everywhere and always.
The Church’s teaching on the death penalty expresses, essentially, a criteria by which state authorities should make judgments about the just use of the death penalty. While in the developed West, use of the death penalty may, in fact, be almost completely unnecessary, not all parts of the world are as developed.
The divergence of views from bishops around the world on this issue reflects the role that the circumstances of time and place can play in moral reasoning. That is instructive, and a reminder about the complex richness, and importance, of Catholic moral teaching.
Vatican City, Jul 20, 2018 / 06:03 am ().- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Juan José Pineda, auxiliary bishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, following a Vatican investigation into accusations of financial mismanagement and sexual misconduct against seminarians.
The bishop, 57, has long been the subject of accusations of financial misdealings, as well as rumors that he offered support to a male companion using archdiocesan funds. He serves under papal advisor and archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga, who has also been accused of financial misconduct.
In March, the National Catholic Register reported that two former seminarians had also submitted personal testimonies to the Vatican accusing Pineda of serious sexual misconduct and of attempting unwanted sexual relations.
The July 20 announcement of Pineda’s resignation provided no explanation, stating only that it had been accepted by Pope Francis.
At the pope’s request, in May 2017, the Vatican carried out an investigation into the allegations of financial mismanagement within the archdiocese and the sexual misconduct allegations involving Bishop Pineda.
In an email interview with CNA in December 2017, Maradiaga confirmed there was an apostolic visit made to Pineda but defended the bishop, saying Pineda himself “asked the Holy Father for an apostolic visit, in order to clear his name.”
Maradiaga, who is head of the pope’s Council of Cardinals and one of Francis’ closest advisors, also denied any financial wrongdoing on his own part, calling a report by Italian weekly L’Espresso published Dec. 21, 2017, “defamatory” and “half-truths, that are in the end the worse lies.”
The L’Espresso article said Maradiaga was accused of receiving $600,000 from the University of Tegucigalpa in 2015, as a sort of “salary” for being the chancellor of the University - an unusual although not forbidden practice - and that the cardinal had lost nearly $1.2 million of Church funds through investments in some London financial companies.
The papal investigation was carried out by Argentine Bishop Alcides Jorge Pedro Casaretto, who, according to L’Espresso, interviewed staff of the archdiocese and university, as well as seminarians, priests and the cardinal’s driver and secretary.
Allegations against Pineda include the building of an apartment on the campus of the Catholic University of Honduras to house a male companion. According to the Register, the two seminarians who accused Pineda of unwanted sexual advances also claimed that he took punitive action against them after his advances were not accepted.
Pineda, who was auxiliary bishop of Tegucigalpa since 2005, had been overseeing the archdiocese since January, while Maradiaga is in the U.S. to receive treatment for prostate cancer.
Born in Tegucigalpa in 1960, Pineda is a member of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary religious order. He was ordained a priest in 1988.
Vatican City, Jul 20, 2018 / 12:00 am ().- After publishing a highly controversial essay in July 2017 alleging the existence of an “ecumenism of hate” between Catholics and Evangelicals in the U.S., close papal confidantes Fr. Antonio Spadaro SJ and Marcelo Figueroa in a new article issue a scathing critique of the “prosperity gospel,” which they say is based on a reductionist view of the American Dream.
In the new essay, run July 18 in the Jesuit-run magazine “La Civilta Cattolica,” which is directed by Spadaro, the authors argue that the prosperity gospel, rooted in late 19th century America, is closely tied to the Protestant Evangelical movement in the U.S., and sees power, wealth and success as the result of one's faith, while poverty and misfortune are signs of a lack of faith.
“The risk of this form of religious anthropocentrism, which puts humans and their well-being at the center, is that it transforms God into a power at our service, the Church into a supermarket of faith, and religion into a utilitarian phenomenon that is eminently sensationalist and pragmatic,” they said.
Spadaro and Figueroa, a Protestant who heads the Argentine section of Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, said the prosperity gospel is “a reductive interpretation” of the American Dream.
Though historically this dream saw the United States as a heaven for economic migrants seeking better opportunities than were available in their homeland, Spadaro and Figueroa argue that this vision has turned into a distorted religious belief being put forward by big-name Evangelical televangelists.
The authors cited U.S. President Donald Trump's Jan. 30 State of the Union address, in which the president pointed to popular American motto “in God we trust” and spoke of importance of family and the military, a clear indication that they see Trump as an example of this “neo-Pentecostal” brand of theology.
Spadaro and Figueroa said the two main “pillars” of the prosperity gospel are health and economic success – a mentality they said stems from “a literalist exegesis of some biblical texts that are taken within a reductionist hermeneutic.”
Popular televangelist personalities such as Joel Osteen, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn, Robert Tilton and Joyce Meyer, who are often considered to be key prosperity gospel figures in the United States, were dubbed by Spadaro and Figueroa as “evangelicals of the American Dream.”
“Their growth is exponential and directly proportional to the economic, physical and spiritual benefits they promise their followers,” the authors said, adding that “all these blessings are far removed from the life of conversion usually taught by the traditional evangelical movements.”
Spadaro and Figueroa argued that these preachers take scripture out of context, diffusing a message that God is at the service of humanity, and that one can obtain blessings and prosperity, whether physical or economic, simply through religious conviction.
There is a “lack of empathy and solidarity” on issues like migration from adherents to the prosperity gospel approach, they argued.
In this movement, “there can be no compassion for those who are not prosperous, for clearly they have not followed the rules and thus live in failure and are not loved by God,” Spadaro and Figueroa argued.
Biblical teachings such as “you reap what you sow” or that one will receive “a hundredfold” for their good works have been reduced to a “contract” in which the more one gives, the more they expect to get in return, the authors said.
Under this approach, God is made in the image of man, they said, and people believe that they can earn their own success through their actions, making the thought of poverty “unbearable,” because “first, the person thinks their faith is unable to move the providential hands of God; second, their miserable situation is a divine imposition, a relentless punishment to be accepted in submission.”
When it comes to the prosperity gospel and the American Dream, Spadaro and Figueroa said the problem is that the financial success of the United States has been seen as a direct result of America's faith in God.
“It leads to the conclusion that the United States has grown as a nation under the blessing of the providential God of the Evangelical movement,” they said. “Meanwhile, those who dwell south of the Rio Grande are sinking in poverty because the Catholic Church has a different, opposed vision exalting poverty.”
This view not only “exasperates individualism and knocks down the sense of solidarity,” they said, but it also “pushes people to adopt a miracle-centered outlook, because faith alone – not social or political commitment – can procure prosperity.”
And the risk in this is that “the poor who are fascinated by this pseudo-Gospel remain dazzled in a socio-political emptiness that easily allows other forces to shape their world, making them innocuous and defenseless,” Spadaro and Figueroa said, adding that “the prosperity gospel is not a cause of real change, a fundamental aspect of the vision that is innate to the social doctrine of the Church.”
The two closed their essay saying the prosperity gospel is product of two ancient heresies – Pelagianism and Gnosticism – which Pope Francis, who has consistently spoken out against the prosperity gospel mentality, warned of in his recent apostolic exhortation on holiness, Gaudete et Exsultate.
The prosperity gospel, they said, is “a far cry” from the original American Dream, which they described as a “positive and enlightening prophecy” that has inspired many, and which is embodied in civil rights defender Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's legendary “I Have a Dream” speech.
Vatican City, Jul 19, 2018 / 10:01 am ().- Bl. Nunzio Sulprizio, who died at the age of 19 from bone cancer, will be declared a saint Oct. 14 during the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith, and vocational discernment, Pope Francis announced Thursday.
The pope announced the date of the young Italian’s canonization during an ordinary public consistory at the Vatican July 19. The canonization will take place alongside six others, including that of Bl. Oscar Romero and Bl. Pope Paul VI, who presided over Sulprizio’s beatification.
At the beatification Dec. 1, 1963, Paul VI said that Bl. Nunzio Sulprizio teaches us that “the period of youth should not be considered the age of free passions, of inevitable falls, of invincible crises, of decadent pessimism, of harmful selfishness. Rather, he will tell you how being young is a grace…”
“He will tell you that no other age than yours, young people, is as suitable for great ideals, for generous heroism, for the coherent demands of thought and action,” the pope continued. “He will teach you how you, young people, can regenerate the world in which Providence has called you to live, and how it is up to you first to consecrate yourselves for the salvation of a society that needs strong and fearless souls.”
Sulprizio said it was “God’s Providence” that cared for him during his short life, and would say, “Jesus endured so much for us and by his merits eternal life awaits us. If we suffer a little bit, we will taste the joy of paradise” and “Jesus suffered a lot for me. Why should I not suffer for him?”
Born in the Italian region of Abruzzo in 1817, Sulprizio learned the faith from a priest at the local school he attended and from his maternal grandmother.
He was orphaned before the age of six, and after the death of his grandmother three years later, went to live with an uncle, who took him on as an apprentice blacksmith, not permitting him to attend school anymore.
His uncle also mistreated him, sending him on long errands, beating him, and withholding meals if he thought things were not done correctly or the boy needed discipline. The young Sulprizio would take consolation in Eucharistic adoration and in praying the rosary.
While still very young, he contracted an infection in one of his legs, causing intense and constant pain, with a puss-oozing sore. Due to a lack of proper medical care, the boy developed gangrene, and was sent to a hospital in Naples. There he would unite his pain with Christ’s suffering on the cross, also helping his fellow patients.
During this time, Sulprizio was introduced to a colonel who treated him like a son and helped pay for his medical treatments. While in the hospital, the young man was visited by a priest who prepared him for his first confession and Holy Communion.
He also met St. Gaetano Errico, an Italian priest and founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who promised him he could enter the religious order when he was old enough.
Though he experienced periods of increasing health, Sulprizio contracted bone cancer. His leg was amputated, but it did not help, and he died from the illness shortly after his 19th birthday in 1836. One of the last things he told his friend, the colonel, was, “be cheerful. From heaven I will always be helping you.”
Besides Bl. Pope Paul VI and Bl. Oscar Romero, the other canonizations to take place Oct. 14 are Bl. Francesco Spinelli, a diocesan priest and founder of the Institute of the Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament; Bl. Vincenzo Romano, a diocesan priest from Torre de Greco in Italy; Bl. Maria Caterina Kasper, a German nun and founder of the Institute of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ; and Nazaria Ignazia of Saint Teresa of Jesus, founder of the Congregation of the Misioneras Cruzadas de la Iglesia Sisters.
The 2018 Synod of Bishops, a gathering of bishops from around the world, will take place Oct. 3-28 in Rome on the topic of young people, the faith and vocational discernment.
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Vatican City, Jul 17, 2018 / 12:53 pm ().- With the July 5 death of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the office of camerlengo is now vacant. A sensitive position, above all in the period between the death of a pope and the election of his successor, the Church awaits Pope Francis’ nomination of a new camerlengo.
The camerlengo is one of two head officials of the Roman Curia who do not lose their office while the papacy is vacant. The camerlengo administers Church finances and property during the interregnum.
However, Francis could choose to do as did Ven. Pius XII in 1941 and not nominate a new camerlengo. At the death of Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri, Ven. Pius XII did not nominate a successor, and at his death in 1958, the cardinals elected, at the beginning of the sede vacante, Cardinal Benedetto Aloisi Masella.
The position of the camerlengo is regulated by the apostolic constitutions Pastor bonus and Universi dominici gregis.
Paragraph 17 of Universi dominici gregis establishes that “the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church must officially ascertain the Pope’s death and “must also place seals on the Pope’s study and bedroom”, and later “the entire papal apartment.”
The camerlengo is also responsible for notifying the cardinal vicar for Rome of the pope’s death, who then notifies the people of Rome by special announcement. He takes possession of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican and Palaces of the Lateran and of Castel Gandolfo and manages their administration.
“During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church has the duty of safeguarding and administering the goods and temporal rights of the Holy See, with the help of the three Cardinal Assistants, having sought the views of the College of Cardinals, once only for less important matters, and on each occasion when more serious matters arise,” the constitution states.
After being appointed, the new camerlengo will swear before the pope, who will give him a scepter, a symbol of the authority of the camerlengo. The current scepter, covered in red velvet, dates to the papacy of Benedict XV.
Rome, Italy, Jul 17, 2018 / 12:14 pm ().- The Vatican's former top advisor on canon law has made a public call to insert legal obligations for the care of creation into the Church’s universal canon law - making it a legal duty for Catholics not only “not to harm” the environment, but to improve it.
According to veteran Vatican watcher Andrea Tornielli, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, former head of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, made the proposal during a July 12 event in Rome titled “Dialogue on Catholic Investments for the Energy Transition.”
During the closed-door discussion, representatives from the Vatican and Catholic organizations spoke about how to invest responsibly towards a transition to renewable energies.
In an interview with Vatican Insider, Coccopalmerio discussed canons 208-221 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law, which enumerate “Obligations and rights of all the faithful.”
This section “outlines an ‘identikit’ of the faithful and of their life as a Christian,” the cardinal said, but noted that nothing is mentioned “about one of the most serious duties: that of protecting and promoting the natural environment in which the faithful live.”
The proposal he outlined, which he suggested could be submitted to the pope but considered by his former department, would be to ask for a new canon to be added to the obligations of the all faithful, specifically treating environmental responsibility.
Coccopalmerio, whose resignation was accepted by Pope Francis in April this year,went on to give his own ideas of how it might be worded: “Every faithful Christian, mindful that creation is the common house, has the grave duty not only not to damage, but also to improve, both through everyday behavior, and through specific initiatives, the natural environment in which each person is called to live.”
The canons Coccopalmerio referenced address general obligations for Catholics relating to the practice of the faith and maintaining communion with the Church. They do not address specific moral obligations or particular doctrinal teachings. Those canons do not, for example, include the Church’s prohibition of artificial contraception or the obligation to observe just labor practices.
Drawing inspiration from Laudato si', Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical on the environment, participants at the event agreed on the Catholic Program of Disinvestment, sponsored by the Catholic Climate Movement, which urges ecclesial institutions to make a public commitment to move away from financial investments in fossil fuels.
Participants also highlighted the importance of pursuing ethical investment strategies in line with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, according to Tornielli.
Pope Francis has often expressed his environmental concerns and, in his message on the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in 2016, he said maintaining our common home ought to be considered a work of mercy.
“We usually think of the works of mercy individually and in relation to a specific initiative: hospitals for the sick, soup kitchens for the hungry, shelters for the homeless, schools for those to be educated, the confessional and spiritual direction for those needing counsel and forgiveness,” the pope said in that message.
Looking at the concept of works of mercy, “we see that the object of mercy is human life itself and everything it embraces,” he said. Francis proposed caring for creation as “a complement” to the two traditional sets of seven corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
“May the works of mercy also include care for our common home,” he said, explaining that as a spiritual work, care for creation “calls for a grateful contemplation of God’s world which allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us.”
In a conference held earlier this month to mark the third anniversary of the publication of Laudato si', Pope Francis said a change of heart is needed when it comes to issues related to the environment.
Future actions which promote the care of creation, “presuppose a transformation on a deeper level, namely a change of hearts and minds,” he said, adding that while this obligation binds all religious communities, Christians have a special role to play.
New York City, N.Y., Jul 17, 2018 / 12:00 am ().- The Vatican’s representative at the United Nations expressed hope that a new UN agreement on best practices for international migration will guarantee respect for the human dignity of all migrants.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the UN, spoke July 13 at the concluding session of intergovernmental negotiations on migration, the culmination of a nearly two-year process.
“This first-ever comprehensive framework on migration will serve as the international reference point for best practices and international cooperation in the global management of migration, not only for Governments, but also for non-governmental entities among which are the faith-based organizations, who are truly the hands and feet on the ground to assist migrants in difficulty,” said Auza.
The agreement -- the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration -- details 23 international objectives, including the eradication of human trafficking and “use of migration detention only as a measure of last resort.”
Since 2000, more than 60,000 people have died in their attempt to migrate, according to the International Organization of Migration's research on migrant deaths and disappearances.
The Vatican representative told the UN that “Pope Francis encapsulates these shared responsibilities and solidarity in four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.”
“This Global Compact will make it more difficult for anyone — States, civil society or anyone of us — to be unaware of the challenges that people on the move face and to fail to meet our shared responsibilities towards them, in particular toward those most in need of our solidarity,” continued Auza.
Auza quoted Pope Francis’ Mass for Migrants homily on July 6. “Before the challenges of contemporary movements of migration, the only reasonable response is one of solidarity and mercy . . . A just policy is one at the service of the person, of every person involved; a policy that provides for solutions that can ensure security, respect for the rights and dignity of all; a policy concerned for the good of one’s own country, while taking into account that of others in an ever more interconnected world.”
The archbishop added that the Catholic Church “will continue to commit itself fully to the benefit of migrants, always respecting their rights and human dignity.”
The global compact on migration will be formally adopted at a UN meeting in Marrakech, Morocco on Dec. 10-11. Following a decision by the Trump administration, the United States withdrew from the negotiations in December 2017.
“The Holy See nurtures the hope that the Global Compact will not only be a matter of good migration management, but truly be, as is its ultimate purpose, a significant step forward in the service of the person, not only of every migrant, but for all of humanity,” concluded the archbishop.
Vatican City, Jul 16, 2018 / 04:22 pm ().- Pope Francis surprised wedding guests Saturday when he unexpectedly celebrated a marriage being held at a small chapel in the Vatican Gardens.
“Look who came as a surprise! Pope Francis is always surprising!” said Brazilian Fr. Omar Reposo on his Instagram account.
The wedding - between Luca Schafer, a member of the Swiss Guard, and Letícia Vera, a former employee of the Vatican Museums, took place in the Church of St. Stephen of the Abyssinians, just outside St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
Sources close to the couple told ACI Digital, CNA’s Portuguese language sister agency, that only the bride and groom know that Pope Francis was going to preside over the wedding. The pope’s arrival surprised the wedding guests, and the priests who concelebrated the wedding.
According to Vatican Media, the pope preached about three verbs that can help couples to experience the fullness of marriage: “to begin,” “to stop,” and “to resume the journey.”
This was not the first time that Pope Francis celebrated a wedding at the Vatican. In September 2014, the pope presided over the marriage of 20 couples in St. Peter’s Basilica and in July 2016 he did the same for a deaf couple in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta.
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Washington D.C., Jul 16, 2018 / 01:56 pm ().- A new Vatican instruction on the role of consecrated virginity has drawn criticism from an American group, which says that a key paragraph of the document could lead to confusion. At issue is whether entering the Church’s “order of virgins” requires that women actually be virgins.
On July 4, the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life made public Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago, an instruction about consecrated virginity in the Church.
The instruction drew criticism from the Lansing, Mich.-based U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins, which put out a statement that criticized the document, calling it “intentionally convoluted and confusing.”
The group said the document seems to say that “physical virginity may no longer be considered an essential prerequisite for consecration to a life of virginity,” and called this implication “shocking.”
The association is a voluntary organization of consecrated virgins in the U.S. According to its 2015 statistics, it has 97 voting members and another 34 associate members.
“There are some egregious violations of chastity that, even if not strictly violating virginity, would disqualify a woman from receiving the consecration of virgins,” the association said.
“The entire tradition of the Church has firmly upheld that a woman must have received the gift of virginity – that is, both material and formal (physical and spiritual) – in order to receive the consecration of virgins,” the statement added.
The controversial paragraph of the document, #88, instructs that: “it should be kept in mind that the call to give witness to the Church’s virginal, spousal and fruitful love for Christ is not reducible to the symbol of physical integrity. Thus to have kept her body in perfect continence or to have practiced the virtue of chastity in an exemplary way, while of great importance with regard to the discernment, are not essential prerequisites in the absence of which admittance to consecration is not possible.”
It continues: “The discernment therefore requires good judgement and insight, and it must be carried out individually. Each aspirant and candidate is called to examine her own vocation with regard to her own personal history, in honesty and authenticity before God, and with the help of spiritual accompaniment.”
Jenna Cooper, a Minnesota-based canon lawyer who has been a consecrated virgin of the Archdiocese of New York since 2009, told CNA that the Vatican’s instruction must be read carefully to be understood.
“I don’t see this as saying non-virgins can be virgins. I see this as saying in cases where there is a real question, it errs on the side of walking with women in individual cases for further discernment, as opposed to having a hard-dividing line to exclude women from this vocation,” Cooper told CNA.
“The presumption of the document is that these are virgins who are doing this (consecration),” she said.
“An important thing to do though is to read the questionable paragraph in context with the rest of the document,” she continued. “The instruction talks a lot about the value of virginity, Christian virginity, the spirituality of virginity.”
Cooper also said that the document can’t be understood as a change in Vatican policy. “The nature of this kind of document as an instruction doesn’t change the law that it’s intended to explain,” she said.
The rite of consecration itself is the law, while the instruction is meant as “an elaboration for certain disputed points,” Cooper said, adding “It’s just giving you further guidance in places where existing law is vague.”
In Cooper’s view, the document’s “more generous description” of the prerequisite of virginity is “allowing for people in difficult situations to continue some serious discernment.” One disputed paragraph, she thinks, was meant to apply to “difficult cases” where a woman cannot answer whether she is a virgin according to a strict standard. She cited cases where women might have lost their virginity without willing it or against their will, or out of ignorance. Women might have “committed grave sins against chastity but not actually lost their virginity in their minds”
Judith Stegman, president of the U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins, praised the document, saying it “responds well to many questions” about consecrated virginity in the Church. She lauded its emphasis on the consecrated virgin’s “mystical espousal to Christ as key to this bridal vocation of love that images the relationship between Christ and the Church.”
However, she reiterated that paragraph 88 was a “confusing statement.” Immediately after the document was published, she said, “we began to receive comments from readers stating, ‘Whoa! Physical virginity is no longer required for the consecration of virgins!’”
As for difficult cases, Stegman said, “If a woman has been violated against her will and has not knowingly and willingly given up her virginity, most would hold that she would remain eligible for consecration as a virgin. Such a case would require depth of good judgment and insight carried out in individual discernment with the bishop, as is discussed in paragraph 88.”
“It is not such cases, however, that are most common, and if the intention of paragraph 88 was to address situations such as rape, it could have done so directly, without compromising the essential and natural requirement of physical virginity for the consecration of a virgin.”
“In our society, questions of eligibility for the consecration of virgins are raised by those who have given up their virginity, perhaps only one time, and who have later begun again to live an exemplary chaste life.” she said, saying the document “should have indicated that these women do not have the gift of virginity to offer to Christ.”
“They may make a private vow of chastity, or enter another form of consecrated life, but the consecration of virgins is not open to them.”
The association cited the introduction to the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, which consecrates a virgin as “bride of Christ” so that she might be “an eschatological image of the world to come and the heavenly Bride of Christ.”
The association’s statement also acknowledged that the prerequisites for consecration are not changed by the instruction.
Cooper also praised the instruction as “a very positive development for this vocation.”
“One thing I’m particularly happy about is I think it does an excellent job articulating the values of this vocation for the wider Church,” she said.
The Vatican estimates there are now more than 5,000 consecrated virgins worldwide.