Pope Francis on Monday met a delegation of young boys and girls Children’s Catholic Action, a wing of Italy’s lay Catholic organization, Azione Cattolica.
By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis is inviting children to look to the Child Jesus with amazement and, like Him, be little “bridges” where they live.
He made the invitation to a group of some 64 boys and girls of the Italian organization called Azione Cattolicadei Ragazzi (ACR), or Children’s Catholic Action.
50 years of ACR
Comprising youngsters between 4 and 14 years of age, ACR is the children’s wing of the Catholic Action of Italy (AC), a lay organization founded in 1922 for the spiritual and moral renewal of society through the education and formation of young people.
The children’s wing was started in 1969.
Pope Francis expressed appreciation for the various initiatives that ACR has carried out marking its 50th anniversary this year. “Your formation programme,” the Pope said, “outlines a path that helps you to become aware of your vocation as missionary disciples.”
Marking their 50 years, some 1,000 boys and girls from all over Italy gathered together in Rome from October 31 to November 2, in what they called, “Children in Synod”. Expressing appreciation for this initiative, the Pope said he was curious to know about their observations and resolutions.
However, he gave the boys and girls homework to do. “On Christmas Day, gather together in prayer and, with the same amazement of the shepherds, look at the Child Jesus, who came into the world to bring the love of God, who makes all things new,” the Pope said.
“With His birth,” he explained, “Jesus made Himself a bridge between God and mankind, reconciled earth and sky, recomposed the whole human race into unity.” Today, the Pope said, the Child Jesus also asks them to be little “bridges” where they live.
When the Pope asked them whether it is better to build bridges or walls, the youngsters together answered “Bridges”. He noted they must have already realized the need for it. At times, he pointed out, it is not easy “but if we are united with Jesus we can do it”.
In conclusion, the Holy Father urged the children to learn the true meaning of Christmas from Mary. “She and Saint Joseph”, he said, “can truly teach us how to accept Jesus, how to adore him and how to follow Him day by day.”
Pope Francis on Thursday met some 400 members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Vatican Dicastery. In a discourse, the Pope exhorted them in the spirit with which the Congregation is asked to carry out its activities in examining the lives of candidates to beatification and canonization.
By Robin Gomes
The tasks of what are today called the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Congregation for Divine Worship, had been carried out earlier by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, instituted over 4 centuries ago in 1588. Pope Saint Paul VI in 1969, Pope Francis said, split the Congregation into two dicasteries that have “two large areas that are clearly distinct”.
In the latest development, Pope Francis on Wednesday authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate 10 decrees regarding 33 candidates for beatification.
Holiness next door
Addressing the members of the congregation, Pope Francis said that the many beatifications and canonizations that have been celebrated in recent decades mean that saints are models and guides of Christian life, but they are not unreachable human beings.
In fact, he said, “they are people who have experienced the daily toil of existence with its successes and failures, finding in the Lord the strength to always get up and continue the journey.” He stressed the importance of measuring “our evangelical coherence with different types of holiness, since ‘each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel’”.
The witness of the Blesseds and Saints, the Pope said, enlightens, attracts and also questions us because it is the “Word of God” embodied in history and close to us. However, we must learn to “see holiness in the patient people of God”, because it is often hidden and almost imperceptible. In this regard, he spoke about parents who bring up their children with so much love, in the men and women who work to bring bread home, in the sick, in the elderly religious who continue to smile. “This is so often the holiness ‘of the next door’, of those who live close to us and are a reflection of the presence of God.”
The Pope exhorted the Congregation in its task of carrying out with scrupulousness and accuracy its investigative research into the martyrdom, heroic virtues, the offering of life and miracles of men and women candidates, in order clear the field of any ambiguity or doubt and achieve full certainty in the proclamation of their holiness.
Consultors, in the historical, theological and medical fields, are called to carry out their work with the full freedom of conscience and formulate the relevant judgments with mature reflection, impartially and without taking into account any conditioning, from whatever side they may come from. The Pope reminded them that the specific aims of the Causes are the glory of God and the spiritual good of the Church, which are closely linked to the search for truth and evangelical perfection.
Regarding postulators (promoters of candidates), the Pope said, they should not allow themselves to be guided by material visions and economic interests. They should not seek their personal affirmation and, above all, should avoid all that which is in contradiction with the meaning of the ecclesial work which they carry out. The postulators, he said, should never fail to be aware that the Causes of beatification and canonization are realities of a spiritual nature and not just procedural. “Therefore, they must be treated with great evangelical sensitivity and moral rigor,” the Pope said.
ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM JAPAN — Questions about Vatican finances, especially those involving a real estate deal in London, are serious, but they also are a sign that reforms begun by Pope Benedict XVI are working, Pope Francis said.
“This is the first time the lids have been taken off the pots by someone inside and not outside” the Vatican, the pope told reporters on his return flight to Rome Nov. 26.
Francis spent about an hour with reporters at the end of his weeklong trip to Thailand and Japan. He spoke in general about the two countries and answered eight questions, including two about the recent Vatican finance scandal involving a large loan to develop a London property.
The pope also spoke about nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, nonviolence and the just-war theory and about political unrest in Hong Kong, Chile and several other Latin American countries.
Francis said no one should be bothered by the fact that the Vatican invests the money it collects from Catholics around the world. “The sum of Peter’s Pence arrives and what do I do? Put it in a drawer? No, that’s bad administration. I try to make an investment.”
Peter’s Pence is a papal fund used for charity, but also to support the running of the Roman Curia and Vatican embassies around the world. The collection for the fund occurs each year around June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
When handling Vatican funds, the pope said it is best to follow what some people describe as a “widow’s investment,” which is putting money into a variety of investments, so that if one fails, the entire amount is not lost. And, of course, he said, all of the investments must be moral.
“If you make an investment with Peter’s Pence in a weapons factory, the offering is no longer an offering,” he said.
“And, yes, you can buy a building and rent it and then sell it,” but only when the investment is sound and one is certain that the people who will benefit from it are those Peter’s Pence is intended to help, the pope said.
The London deal, though, seems to have involved “things that don’t seem ‘clean,’ but the report did not come from outside.” Instead, under finance reform procedures begun by Pope Benedict XVI and continuing under Pope Francis, “it was the internal auditor general, who said, ‘Look, here is something that doesn’t add up.’ He came to me.”
When the auditor asked the pope what he should do, the pope said that he told him to go to the Vatican prosecutor with the information. “For that, I am content, because it shows the Vatican administration has the resources” to report and investigate suspicious activity.
The Vatican prosecutor, the pope continued, did a preliminary study and thought some form of “corruption” might be involved, so he asked permission to search several Vatican offices, including in the Vatican Secretariat of State.
“I signed the authorizations myself,” Francis told reporters.
One thing he has not signed or even begun to work on, he said, is a proposed encyclical letter on nonviolence.
Asked about the idea of such a letter, Francis said, “The plan exists, but the next pope will do it.”
The encyclical is one of many “projects in the drawer” that are “maturing there,” waiting until the time is right, he said.
Francis was asked specifically if believed there could be such a thing as a “just war.” Catholic tradition has long held that a nation attacked by an enemy could respond morally to that attack under certain conditions, including that the measures taken were proportionate to the damage inflicted and that civilians were not targeted.
“The hypothesis of legitimate defense remains always,” the pope said. But in Catholic moral teaching, responding with violence must be “the last resort; the last resort is with weapons.” First a nation must try “legitimate defense with diplomacy, with mediation.”
As an aside, Francis said he likes the fact that Catholic moral teaching continues to develop. “We are making progress in ethics and I like questioning all these things. It means that humanity is moving forward positively and not only negatively.”
Speaking of diplomacy and mediation, the pope praised the United Nations for its peacemaking efforts, but he raised questions about the U.N. Security Council giving a veto power to its permanent members: United States, Russia, China, France and Great Britain.
For example, he said, if “there is a problem with weapons and everyone agrees on resolving the problem” to avoid war, “one with veto power can say no and everything stops.”
Francis said he was not an expert on the United Nations, but he thought it would be a good idea if all the members were equal.
He also noted existence of “armaments hypocrisy,” which involves “Christian countries, or at least countries with a Christian culture (and) European countries that speak of peace and live by (selling) weapons. This is called hypocrisy.”
As for nuclear weapons, the pope reminded reporters that visiting Nagasaki and Hiroshima Nov. 24, “I said again that the use of nuclear weapons is immoral; this must go in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And not only the use, but also the possession, because if there is an accident or a crazed government, one’s madness can destroy humanity. Think about what Einstein said: the fourth World War will be fought with sticks and stones.”
As for nuclear power plants, the pope in Tokyo simply pointed out that the country’s bishops have called for the abolition of the plants after the meltdown and radiation release in 2011 at the power plant in Fukushima.
Reporters asked for more.
“This is my personal opinion,” he said: “I would not use nuclear energy until it is totally safe.”
As the pope’s plane flew from Thailand to Japan Nov. 23, it crossed the airspace of China and Hong Kong. The pope sent telegrams to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, wishing their people peace.
Given the ongoing political unrest in Hong Kong, the pope was asked the meaning of the telegrams. Sending the telegrams is “automatic,” he said. It is “a courteous way to ask permission to fly over their territory.”
“This has no value in the sense of your question,” he told the reporter. “It has only a value of courtesy.”
As for the unrest in Hong Kong, Francis said he does not know enough about the situation to comment in detail, but he noted that Hong Kong is not the only country with political tensions leading to large-scale demonstrations. Chile, France, Nicaragua, Brazil and other countries of Latin America also are in turmoil.
“What does the Holy See do with this?” he asked. “It calls for dialogue, for peace.”
Asked when a papal plane might fly to Beijing, Francis responded, “I’d like to go to Beijing; I love China.”
A Roman Catholic bishop named by Pope Francis to investigate the church’s response to clergy sexual abuse in Buffalo, New York, has himself been accused of sexual abuse of a child, an attorney for the alleged victim notified the church this week.
The attorney informed Catholic officials in New Jersey that he is preparing a lawsuit on behalf of a client who says he was molested by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio in the mid-1970s, when DiMarzio was a parish priest in Jersey City.
DiMarzio said there is no truth to the accusation.
“I am just learning about this allegation,” he said in a statement Tuesday to The Associated Press. “In my nearly 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never engaged in unlawful or inappropriate behaviour and I emphatically deny this allegation. I am confident I will be fully vindicated.”
In a letter sent Monday to the church’s Newark, New Jersey, archdiocese, Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian said 56-year-old Mark Matzek alleges he was repeatedly abused by DiMarzio and a second priest, the late Rev. Albert Mark, when he was an altar boy at St. Nicholas Church and a student at St. Nicholas School.
Last month, Pope Francis tapped DiMarzio to investigate the church’s Buffalo Diocese, where Bishop Joseph Malone has come under fire for his handling of a burgeoning clergy abuse scandal that has roiled the diocese and prompted calls for his resignation.
“The investigation of the diocese of Buffalo by Bishop DiMarzio is tainted because of these allegations,” Garabedian said in an interview with the AP. “There needs to be a truly neutral investigator to determine whether Bishop Malone should resign,” adding that the investigation should be led by a law enforcement agency.
Adriana Rodriguez, press secretary for the Brooklyn Diocese, said DiMarzio has completed his report on the Buffalo Diocese and has submitted it to the Vatican. DiMarzio and Malone are in Rome this week for a previously scheduled visit of New York bishops to the Holy See.
Garabedian said the notice he sent to the Newark Archdiocese briefly describes Matzek’s allegations and the damage he has allegedly suffered, while demanding $20 million in compensation.
Maria Margiotta, the spokeswoman for the Newark Archdiocese, said it has received Garabedian’s letter and reported Matzek’s allegations to law enforcement.
Garabedian told the AP he plans to file the lawsuit on Matzek’s behalf next month, after New Jersey opens a two-year “look back” period in which sex abuse victims will be permitted to file lawsuits without regard to the statute of limitations, which typically limits the amount of time in which an alleged victim may file suit.
DiMarzio completed his review of the Buffalo Diocese, known as an “apostolic visitation,” last month. He said he made three trips to the diocese over seven days and interviewed nearly 80 clergymen and parishioners.
Vatican City — Jesus invites everyone to always go to him, which, Pope Francis said, also means no longer making life revolve around oneself.
“What direction is my journey going? Do I only try to make a good impression, to protect my position, my time and my space or do I go to the Lord?” he asked during a memorial Mass for the 13 cardinals and 147 bishops who died over the preceding year.
Celebrating Mass Nov. 4 in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope reflected in his homily on God’s will that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life and be raised on their last day.
In the day’s Gospel reading, Jesus says, “I will not reject anyone who comes to me.”
Jesus extends this invitation — “Come to me,” so people may be “inoculated against death, against the fear that everything ends,” the pope said.
Going to Jesus means living each moment of the day in ways that put him at the center — with one’s thoughts, one’s prayers and one’s actions, particularly by helping someone in need.
He said people must ask themselves, “Do I live going to the Lord or do I revolve around myself,” only being happy when things go well for oneself and complaining when they do not.
“You cannot belong to Jesus and revolve around yourself. Whoever belongs to Jesus lives going outward toward him,” he said.
“Today, while we pray for our brother cardinals and bishops who have left this life to go encounter the Risen One, we cannot forget the most important and difficult way out, which gives meaning to all the others, is (going out) of ourselves,” he said.
The bridge between life on earth and eternal life in heaven, he said, is to show compassion and “to kneel before those in need to serve them.”
“It is not (having) a bleeding heart, it is not cheap charity; these are questions of life, matters of resurrection,” he said.
It would do people well, he added, to think about what the Lord will see in them on judgment day.
People can find guidance when making an important decision in life by seeing things from the Lord’s perspective — what fruits resulted from which seeds or choices made today.
“Among the many voices of the world that make us lose the meaning of existence, let us tune in to the will of Jesus, resurrected and alive.”
If Pope Francis agrees with the bishops’ recommendation, it could mean a landmark change in the Catholic Church’s centuries-old discipline of celibacy.
An assembly of Roman Catholic bishops from the Amazon on Saturday proposed that married men in the remote area be allowed to be ordained priests, which could lead to a landmark change in the Church’s centuries-old discipline of celibacy.
The proposal, made in a final document from a three-week assembly, known as a synod, passed by 128 votes in favour to 41 against.
Pope Francis will consider it, along with many other proposals on issues including the environment and the role of women, in a future document of his own, known as an Apostolic Exhortation.
Separately, when he closed the synod’s final working session earlier on Saturday, Francis announced that he would reconvene a commission to study the history of women deacons in the early centuries of the Catholic Church, responding to calls by women that they be allowed to take up the role today.
But the issue of a married priesthood for the Amazon region was by far the most contentious item in the 120-paragraph final document.
The proposal calls for married men who are already deacons in the Church, have a stable family relationship, and are proven leaders in their communities to be ordained as priests.
It said the ordination to the priesthood would have to be preceded by an “adequate formation”.
This solution to the shortage of priests, backed by many South American bishops, would allow Catholics in isolated areas to attend Mass and receive the sacraments more regularly.
At least 85% of Amazon villages cannot attend Mass every week and some cannot do so for years.
Conservatives oppose the change, fearing it would be a slippery slope leading to a married priesthood throughout the 1.3 billion member Church.
They fear that if one part of the Church was allowed to ordain married men as an exception, there would be nothing to stop other areas with a shortage of priests doing the same, even in developed countries.
A CBS News poll last year said nearly 70% of American Catholics favour letting priests marry.
The document said that some bishops in the synod thought the issue should be discussed on a universal basis.
Conservatives are also opposed to women deacons, saying the deaconate is linked with the male priesthood.
Many deacons in the Church around the world today are married men.
Deacons, like priests, are ordained ministers. They may not celebrate Mass, but they may preach, teach in the name of the Church, baptize and conduct wedding, wake and funeral services and even run a parish with the permission of a bishop.
In his closing comments to the synod, Francis said: “We still have not grasped the significance of women in the Church.”
Scholars have debated the precise role of women deacons in the early Church.
Some say they ministered only to other women, such as at immersion rites at baptism and to inspect the bodies of women in cases where Christian men were accused of domestic violence and brought before Church tribunals.
Others believe women deacons in the early Church were fully ordained and on a par with the male deacons at the time. The Church did away with female deacons altogether in later centuries.
A commission that handed its report to the pope this year was inconclusive. Francis, who ends the synod ceremoniously with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, gave no details on when the new commission would start its work.
Francis and his predecessors have ruled out allowing women to become priests.
But advocates of women priests see a female deaconate might eventually make it easier for a future pope to study the possibility of women priests.