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« Reply #45 on: Jul 05, 2013, 06:57 AM »

Popes John Paul II and John XXIII to be made saints, Vatican says

By Reuters
Friday, July 5, 2013 7:11 EDT

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The late Pope John Paul II will be made a saint, the Vatican said on Friday, announcing that Pope Francis had approved a second miracle attributed to the Polish pontiff, who led the Roman Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005.

The Vatican said Pope John XXIII, who reigned from 1958 to 1963 and called the Second Vatican Council – which enacted sweeping reforms to modernize the Church – would also be made a saint.

No dates for the canonization ceremonies were immediately given but the Vatican said they were expected by the end of the year.

John Paul had already been credited with asking God to cure French nun Marie Simon-Pierre Normand of Parkinson’s disease, which helped lead to his beatification in 2011, when he was declared a “blessed” of the Church.

Two confirmed miracles are usually required under Vatican rules for the declaration of a saint.

The second miracle attributed to John Paul‘s intercession is the inexplicable curing of a woman from Costa Rica who prayed to him for help with her medical condition on the day of his beatification. Details of that miracle were due to be announced in Costa Rica on Friday.

In the case of Pope John XXIII, who was known as the “good pope”, Francis waved the customary rules which require a second miracle after beatification, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said. John XXIII was beatified in 2000.

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« Reply #46 on: Jul 06, 2013, 06:17 AM »

Pope Francis to make John Paul II a saint

Pope approves second miracle to allow canonisation of John Paul, but John XXIII will become saint without requirement

Lizzy Davies in Rome, Friday 5 July 2013 14.14 BST   

Mourners who cried "santo subito" ("saint immediately") at the funeral of Pope John Paul II are likely to have their wish fulfilled, after Pope Francis cleared his long-reigning Polish predecessor for canonisation with record speed.

Just eight years after his death and little more than two since his beatification, John Paul will be made a saint following the pope's approval of a second miracle attributed to his intercession.

The Vatican said the Argentinian pontiff had decided that the late Pope John XXIII, who opened the landmark Second Vatican Council in 1962, should also be canonised, despite no second miracle having been approved in his case.

The ceremonies are expected to take place by the end of the year. John Paul's could be on 22 October, his feast day and the anniversary of the liturgical inauguration of his 27-year-long papacy in 1978. But 8 December – the feast of the immaculate conception – has also been suggested as a fitting date. The rapid process by which Karol Wojtyła has been propelled towards sainthood will be welcomed by many of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, who regard him as a towering figure who hastened the collapse of communism, encouraged interfaith dialogue and brought charisma to the church.

But it is likely to be met with anger among his critics, including those who cite his record in handling the clerical sex abuse scandal. Some believe he should never be made a saint, let alone less than a decade after his death.

When his successor, Benedict XVI, began John Paul's beatification process in May 2005, the month after he died, the Vatican said the usual five-year waiting period was to be waived because of "exceptional circumstances".

In 2011, after a first miracle had been attributed to John Paul, he was beatified by Pope Benedict in a ceremony attended by several hundred thousand people in St Peter's Square and the surrounding streets.

According to t he Vatican, that first miracle concerned the inexplicable recovery of a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Normand, who was apparently dying of Parkinson's disease but was cured after she and her fellow nuns prayed for the intercession of the late pope. He himself died of the disease in April 2005.

For John Paul's canonisation to take place a second recovery deemed by the Vatican to be a miracle has also been approved. On Friday the Catholic Church in Costa Rica presented 50-year-old Floribeth Mora and her doctor to reporters.

With tears in her eyes, Mora described how she was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm in 2011 and sent home with pain medicine but no apparent hope for treatment, thinking she was going to die.

She said a photograph of the pope seemed to speak to her during the deceased pontiff's beatification, and her doctor Alejandro Vargas said the aneurysm disappeared for no apparent reason.

The highly unusual decision by Francis to canonise John XXIII, who reigned from 1958 to 1963, without a second miracle will raise eyebrows.

Observers suggested the current pope – who has made the common touch the trademark of his fledgling papacy – felt an affinity with the Italian known to many Catholics as "Good Pope John". Like Francis, he enjoyed making pastoral visits, visiting children in hospital and inmates in prison.

And, like Francis, he also valued spontaneity and the freedom to liberally interpret security arrangements, taking late-night strolls around Rome.

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« Reply #47 on: Jul 07, 2013, 05:47 AM »

Costa Rican woman: Pope John Paul II cured my brain aneurysm

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, July 6, 2013 17:30 EDT

With a portrait of John Paul II on the wall behind her and a rosary around her neck, Floribeth Mora faced a roomful of reporters to explain how her brain aneurism was cured by praying to the late pope.

“Rise, don’t be afraid!” Mora said John Paul told her.

The cure — deemed a miracle by the Catholic Church — was the key second event required for John Paul’s eventual sainthood.

Sitting next to her husband Edwin Arce and local Catholic Church clerics, Mora, 50, could not hold back the tears as she recounted how she was cured on the night that John Paul II was beatified in 2011.

John Paul II (1978-2005) was hugely popular among Catholics through his 27-year papacy. His successor, Benedict XVI, put him on the fast track to sainthood — but that long road normally requires two “confirmed” miracles, the first of which is necessary for beatification, the first step in the process.

Six months after his death a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, was cured from Parkinson’s disease after praying for John Paul’s intercession.

Mora kissed her rosary, crossed herself, and spoke about what the Church considers the second miracle.

“The Lord had compassion on me, and through the intercession of John Paul II, he gazed upon this unworthy woman and healed me,” she said.

Mora had been suffering from an unknown illness, and following a battery of tests and consultations with colleagues abroad, on April 13, 2011 neurosurgeon Alejandro Vargas delivered the chilling diagnosis: she had a brain aneurism, a crippling, often fatal abnormal bulge in the artery of the brain.

Vargas advised against high-risk surgery.

“I was scared,” said Mora, “but that was my human side, because I’ve always had faith. I was terribly afraid of dying and leaving my children and my husband. But I’ve always been a firm believer, and I have a deep love for God.”

At home, her simple treatment included rest and sleeping pills.

Mora fervently prayed to John Paul II for his intercession to help cure here malady. But her health deteriorated.

A few weeks later, when Pope Benedict beatified John Paul in early May, Mora was too weak to go to the National Stadium, where she planned to join a crowd of faithful to watch the ceremony broadcast on a giant screen. Instead she watched it on television from her bed.

“The next morning I woke up, and heard a voice that told me: ‘Rise! Don’t be afraid!’ And I said, ‘Yes my Lord,’” Mora said. “Since that day, I got up from that bed, and I’m here and well.”

Her doctor was skeptical. Vargas, who was at the press conference, said he ran another battery of tests in November — and was astounded by the outcome.

“I was surprised: the aneurism did not exist,” said Vargas, who said her brain arteries appeared “totally normal.”

To confirm the miracle, Vatican experts extensively interviewed Vargas, then flew Mora to Rome for another battery of tests to confirm that she was fully cured.

“God exists, there are many miracles, and I’m one of them,” Mora said.

Mora was not allowed to speak about the event until Benedict’s successor as pontiff, Pope Francis, on Friday signed a decree recognizing her cure as a miracle.

The move clears the way to John Paul’s canonization, the step preceding sainthood.

“God directed his compassion towards such a tiny country and blessed us with a miracle! This is also a message that he wants Costa Rica to continue being Catholic,” said San Jose Archbishop Hugo Barrantes, also at the press conference.

The reference was to the inroads that evangelical Protestant churches have been making in central America in the past years.

Mora was born in a working-class neighborhood of San Jose, and lives today in Dulce Nombre de La Union, a hillside town 25 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of the capital. She will travel to the Vatican when Pope Francis formally announces the late pope’s canonization, which could happen late this year.

Back home, the neighbors are waiting for her to pray together at an altar that Mora built at the entrance of her house. The altar features a portrait of John Paul II surrounded by flowers and candles.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #48 on: Jul 08, 2013, 06:06 AM »

Pope Francis condemns global indifference to refugees

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, July 8, 2013 5:55 EDT

Pope Francis called for an end to “indifference” to the plight of refugees on Monday on a visit to an Italian island where tens of thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East first reach Europe.

“We ask forgiveness for the indifference towards so many brothers and sisters,” Francis said at a mass near the port on his first trip outside of Rome since his election in March.

Speaking within sight of dozens of the abandoned boats used by the migrants, he paid tribute to the hundreds who drown every year trying to reach Europe and said he had come to Lampedusa “to reawaken consciences”.

“The culture of well-being makes us think about ourselves, renders us insensitive to the cries of others,” he said, urging “brotherly responsibility” and condemning a “globalisation of indifference”.

Later he also met Muslim migrants on the start of their Ramadan period of fasting and prayers and said the Catholic Church was close to them “in your search for a more dignified life”.

The pope celebrated mass with a cross and a chalice made from the wood of rickety fishing boats that migrants typically arrive on, mainly from Libya and Tunisia, dozens of which lay discarded nearby.

The altar for the mass was also fashioned from a fishing boat.

The Catholic leader earlier boarded a coast guard boat and cast a wreath of flowers at sea.

Surrounded by dozens of fishing boats and yachts, the pope solemnly made the sign of the cross over the sea in a spot where one of many drownings occurred.

Francis also met with a group of around 50 recent arrivals, many of them young Eritreans, telling them: “We will pray for those who are no longer with us.”

One young man told him: “We suffered a lot reaching this calm place but now we have to stay in Italy. We would like other European countries to help us.”

Under European Union rules, asylum-seekers have to stay in the country they first arrive in and unaccompanied minors are often stuck on Lampedusa for months at a time awaiting relocation.

– ‘Inhuman and unacceptable’ –

In tune with the new pope’s informal style, the visit had less of the pomp customary for papal visits.

There were no meetings with politicians or high-ranking clergy, and the pope used a Fiat car on loan from a local inhabitant as a “popemobile”.

The visit was announced only last week, contrasting with past papal trips which are usually arranged months in advance.

Just hours before he touched down, the latest boat carrying 166 migrants landed on Lampedusa, joining the waves of others who have fled northern Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions that began in 2011.

Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, head of the Vatican’s migrant department, said he hoped the visit would prompt “concrete concern and solidarity to improve situations that have become inhuman and unacceptable”.

The pope also paid tribute to the local population — a fishing community of 6,000 on an island of 20 square kilometres (eight square miles) — for the assistance and tolerance they had shown to the boat people.

Lampedusa has seen an increase in arrivals in recent weeks because of improved weather conditions, with around 4,000 arriving so far this year — three times more than during the same period in 2012.

But the numbers are still far from the peaks reached in 2011 when tens of thousands arrived in just a few months as maritime border controls disintegrated during the Arab Spring revolts in north Africa.

Since 1999, more than 200,000 people have arrived on Lampedusa — making the island one of biggest gateways for undocumented migration into Europe.

Laura Boldrini, speaker of the Italian parliament and a former UN official on refugee issues, said coordination of rescues at sea “should be improved”.

“Laws need to be clearer that they need to be helped. Rescuing them is a legal and ethical duty,” she said in an interview with Rai public television.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 40 people have died so far in 2013 — most by drowning — trying to cross from north Africa, while around 500 were reported dead or missing in 2012.
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« Reply #49 on: Jul 09, 2013, 06:06 AM »

July 8, 2013

Pope Offers Mass on Island Beacon for Refugees


ROME — Pope Francis traveled on Monday to Lampedusa, the tiny Mediterranean island that has become a gateway to Europe for thousands of desperate asylum seekers and migrants, as well as an unknown number of others who have died during the perilous crossing from North Africa.

It was the pope’s first official trip outside Rome, and he used it to draw attention to a continuing humanitarian problem while chiding the world for its indifference.

“These brothers and sisters of ours were trying to leave difficult situations to find a little serenity and peace; they sought a better place for themselves and their families, but instead they found death,” the pope said in the homily at a Mass attended by some 10,000 people in a large sports field. “How many times do those who seek this not find understanding, reception or solidarity?”

Upon arriving at the island, Francis threw a wreath of white and yellow flowers into the sea to commemorate the victims of a crossing that in recent years has been attempted by tens of thousands, usually at the hand of unscrupulous traffickers, traveling in overcrowded and unseaworthy fishing vessels. After the pope prayed for the dead, dozens of fishing boats that had accompanied his ship to the island’s main port sounded their horns.

“Welcome among the last,” proclaimed one banner to the pope affixed on a water tower.

New arrivals on the island, about 75 miles north of Tunisia, are fed and fingerprinted and then separated into three groups: economic migrants, who could be repatriated after their cases are reviewed, and asylum seekers and minors, who after a few days are sent to detention centers on Italy’s mainland.

Human rights organizations say that at least 1,500 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean in 2011 alone. Last year, about 500 people were reported dead or missing at sea, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

While praising volunteer associations, law enforcement officials and residents of the island for the assistance they have provided to the migrants, the pope criticized the “globalization of indifference” that he said was widespread among too many others. We “have forgotten how to cry” for migrants lost at sea and “take care of each other,” the pope said in his homily.

Officials in Lampedusa said they hoped the pope’s visit would bring attention to what they saw as a humanitarian disaster.

“This island is the setting of one of the most epochal dramas of our time, but it is ignored,” said Giuseppina Nicolini, the mayor of Lampedusa. “The numbers of those lost at sea are those of a war, but a silent war that no one speaks of, except a few blogs that no one reads.”

“No one speaks of the heartache that is acted out here,” she said.

In a telephone interview, Ms. Nicolini spoke of fishing boats crammed with 500 people, or rubber dinghies built for 20 carrying five times as many people. “Many of the landings are because of rescue operations,” she said.

Last week, the United Nations refugee agency said an estimated 7,800 migrants and asylum seekers had landed on the coast of Italy in the first six months of this year, mostly from Libya. Based on interviews with those who reached Europe, the agency has recorded some 40 deaths in the Mediterranean this year, though the peak season for crossings, typically from May to September, is far from over.

In his first four months as pope, Francis has shown that he is willing to make significant changes, shaking up institutions like the scandal-plagued Vatican bank. This trip, too, caught many by surprise, an unexpected decision made after the pope was “profoundly moved by the recent wreck involving a boat transporting migrants from Africa,” the Vatican said in a statement on July 1.

The pope has also said he wants a simpler church that shuns worldliness and instead ministers to the poor and dispossessed.

At the end of the Mass, Archbishop Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento, Sicily, described Lampedusa as the island of “hope and death,” a “reef and a lighthouse” that for too many has become a tomb. It should be a constant reminder to all people that “justice and dignity should not be suppressed.”

Before the final benediction, Pope Francis said that Lampedusa should be “a lighthouse in all the world, to have the courage to receive those who are looking for a better life.”

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« Reply #50 on: Jul 10, 2013, 04:49 AM »

07/09/2013 02:03 PM

World from Berlin: The Pope 'Embraced the Lepers of Today'

On a visit to the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, Pope Francis has called on Europe to show greater compassion to the refugees seeking a better life there. It's a message European leaders should take to heart, German commentators say on Tuesday.

On the first pastoral visit of his papacy, Pope Francis traveled to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa on Monday to draw attention to the struggles of the African refugees who end up stranded there in their quest to reach Europe.

In keeping with his aim to lead the Catholic Church with modesty and a focus on evangelism and missionary work, Francis greeted recently arrived migrants with little fanfare, refusing to use the bullet-proof Popemobile usually brought on trips outside the Vatican.

The rocky, four-mile-long island between the northern African coast and Italy is the main port of European entry for refugees on boats making the treacherous crossing, often from Libya or Tunisia. Even as Francis arrived, a boat carrying 162 Eritreans was brought to shore. According to officials, the refugees were in good health, just cold after the journey.

But many migrants trying to reach the island aren't so lucky. Between 1994 and 2012, some 6,450 people have died crossing the Canal of Sicily, according to Fortress Europe, an Italian agency that registers migrant deaths. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) believes some 500 died making the journey in 2012 alone, and some 40 have already died this year.

Behind an altar constructed of wood from shipwrecked migrant boats, Francis prayed for the dead and called on Europe to show compassion to the people trying to make a better life for themselves there. "The culture of our own well-being makes us insensitive to the cries of others," he said. "It brings us to feeling indifferent to others, to the globalization of indifference."

He also thanked the island's residents and volunteers who help care for the refugees on shore, and criticized smugglers who take advantage of their misery.

On Tuesday, German commentators praised the message sent by the pope's visit, agreeing that Europe must reform its approach to handling refugees.

Conservative daily Die Welt writes:

"Francis has now shown that he does not intend to stop criticizing what he called the 'globalization of indifference.' On the contrary, he made symbolic marks in Lampedusa that no one can ignore unless they are completely jaded."

"First, he made a show of sincere mourning when he threw a wreath into the sea in memory of those who have drowned. Second, he warned of God's judgement upon the indifferent, and in a place where guilt for this is apparent, also prayed for it to be forgiven. Third, he made this place and the horror associated with it unavoidable through liturgical sacralization … Fourth, he called on European politicians to show determination in alleviating the suffering. But Francis avoided the presumption that he might know how to solve it all. He's not responsible for that. That job goes to the politicians and to all Europeans. They should be thankful that Christians won't stop criticizing them."

Left-leaning daily Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"Europe will still build new walls to deter these people … But the fact that Pope Francis' first trip was to a refugee camp outside the border of prosperity does change things. Jorge Mario Bergoglio is breaking through what he called the 'globalization of indifference,' which he said has caused the displacement of shock and forgetting of tears. He has directed the world's attention to those who exist on the fringes, and are thus at the center of humanity. Politicians and citizens, as seriously as they take their Christianity, will no longer be able to keep the plight of refugees irrelevant."

"Last Friday, Francis published a well-formulated encyclical over the 'light of faith.' On Monday, he showed how to put the theology into practice. Jesus once did something unprecedented: He touched the lepers who came to him, those who people took to be physically and morally unclean, and therefore disgusting. Pope Francis has embraced the lepers of today."

Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel writes:

"Francis' demonstrative first trip to the island, which has become the epitome of refugees dying in the Mediterranean, has for the first time shifted the focus away from the European Union's policy of 'asylum crisis,' and on to those who, in an attempt to save their lives, or live lives that are just a little less miserable, are often killed in the process. But Pope Francis has drawn attention to this knowledge with a gesture that gets more attention than all the necessary protests from his charity or from NGOs."

"Still, Francis will need to work a miracle to get European capitals to see the issue from the perspective of those drowned and barely surviving refugees. Because phantom fears are being cultivated among Western citizens about how they can't be expected to take on the misery of the world, and of refugees' limited willingness to integrate ... But more realism in immigration policy would mean taking a closer look."

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« Reply #51 on: Jul 10, 2013, 05:30 AM »

Vatican to be pressed for confidential records on clerical child sex abuse

UN committee's 'list of issues' will present Pope Francis with direct challenge to disclose whether secret deals were made to preserve church's reputation

Owen Bowcott, Tuesday 9 July 2013 19.12 BST   

The Vatican is to face tough questioning by a United Nations committee over the Catholic church's record in tackling child sexual abuse by its clergy around the world.

A detailed "list of issues" has been released by the Geneva-based Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) before the appearance of officials from the Holy See. The session is expected early next year.

The decision to ask senior Roman Catholic clerics to hand over confidential internal documents to such a high-profile inquiry marks a fresh initiative in the global debate over clerical abuse. It will present the new pontiff, Pope Francis, with a direct challenge to provide records of financial compensation given to victims of sexual abuse and disclose whether secret deals were made to preserve the church's reputation.

The UN committee's document is headed: "List of issues to be taken up in connection with the consideration of the second periodic report of the Holy See." Paragraph 11 of the CRC's document states: "In the light of the recognition by the Holy See of sexual violence against children committed by members of the clergy, brothers and nuns in numerous countries around the world, and given the scale of the abuses, please provide detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, brothers and nuns or brought to the attention of the Holy See."

The information sought includes cases where priests were transferred to other parishes, "where instructions were given not to report such offences, and at which level of the clergy", and "where children were silenced in order to minimise the risk of public disclosure". The CRC has also asked for "the investigations and legal proceedings conducted under penal canon law against perpetrators of sexual crimes" and "the number of child victims who have been given assistance for recovery, including psychological support and social reintegration and have received financial compensation".

The committee has been lobbied by international victims' groups as well as the UK-based National Secular Society. Keith Porteous Wood, the society's director who gave evidence in Geneva, told the Guardian: "Pope Francis will be judged on his ability to clean up child abuse and the Vatican bank's money laundering and tax evasion. He cannot rely on regulators' patience lasting much longer on either."

The Vatican has replied to past UN requests to respond to general concerns about sex abuse by Catholic clergy. The list of questions demands far more details.

Shortly after becoming pope, Francis announced that he had urged the Vatican to deal with the problem. A spokesman said in April that the church would "act decisively in sex abuse cases, above all promoting measures to protect minors, assistance for all those who in the past suffered such violence, [and] necessary measures against the guilty".

The CRC has been pressing the Vatican for greater disclosure over the issue of clerical abuse for years. Barbara Blaine of the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests said last month: "The fact that a UN committee has called the Vatican to account for its record on children's rights, including the right to be free from sexual violence and exploitation, is giving survivors all over the world hope."
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« Reply #52 on: Jul 13, 2013, 07:02 AM »

Vatican freezes Italian cleric’s assets in money laundering probe

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, July 12, 2013 12:42 EDT

The Vatican has frozen assets belonging to a senior Italian cleric suspected of money laundering and corruption as part of a probe which may extend to other account holders at the Vatican bank.

The Vatican’s chief prosecutor has seized funds held at the bank by Nunzio Scarano, who was arrested last month along with a former Italian spy on suspicion of using its bank accounts to make transfers for his friends, spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement on Friday.

The probe into the cleric, a former senior accountant for the Vatican’s financial administration, “was triggered by several suspicious transaction reports… and could be extended to additional individuals,” he said.

The scandal-ridden bank, officially known as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), is itself being investigated for allegedly failing to carry out enough checks on account holders and turning a blind eye to money laundering.

The Vatican is attempting to reform its finances to get onto a “white list” of states that respect international fraud rules, and six suspicious transaction reports were filed with its Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF) last year.

Pope Francis has pledged to clean up the murky institution and has set up a special investigation committee, with reforms so far including the ousting of two top managers and the creation of a “chief risk officer” position.

A US consultancy firm, Promontory Financial Group, has also been tasked with conducting an external review of the bank’s rules on money laundering.

“The IOR is systematically identifying and will have zero tolerance for any activity, whether conducted by laity or clergy, that is illegal or outside the Statutes of the Institute,” Lombardi said.

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« Reply #53 on: Jul 18, 2013, 06:57 AM »

Pope Francis ditches bullet-proof ‘popemobile’ for Brazil trip

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 17:23 EDT

Pope Francis will ditch the bullet-proof “popemobile” used by his predecessors on his visit to Brazil this month and travel in an open-top jeep, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi also dismissed concerns ahead of the July 22-28 trip about the demonstrations that have recently been rocking Brazil.

“We are going to Brazil with confidence in the authorities’ ability to manage the situation,” he said at a briefing on the upcoming visit — the pope’s first foreign trip since being elected in March.

“We know the demonstrations are not at all aimed at the pope or the Church,” Lombardi said.

More than a million young people from 170 countries are expected for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil was shaken by a series of demonstrations in June, mainly over the cost of public transport, spending on 2014 World Cup and corruption.

“We are not currently expecting any inconveniences for World Youth Day. Everyone will understand the pope’s message is a message of solidarity,” Lombardi said.

He also pointed out that the bullet-proof “popemobile” of years past will be left in the Vatican and Francis will instead use one of two open-top jeeps — one white, one green — that have already been shipped out to Rio.

“This is the pope’s choice, in continuity with what he is doing here. He feels better when there is contact” with the crowd, Lombardi said.

The spokesman also gave further details about the pope’s programme including a helicopter trip to the Marian sanctuary of Aparecida and his visit to the Varginha favela in Rio where he will visit a family.
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« Reply #54 on: Jul 19, 2013, 05:35 AM »

July 19, 2013

Pope Sets Up Commission to Reform Vatican


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, moving to overcome major crises in the Holy See, on Friday set up a special commission to reform its economic and administrative departments, the Vatican said.

The commission, which is made up of seven lay experts and one cleric, will report directly to the pope and advise him on economic affairs, how to improve transparency and ensure correct application of accounting principles, the Vatican said.

Francis had already established a separate commission on how to reform the Vatican bank. Both the bank and the Vatican's internal administration were hit by major scandals under Francis's predecessor Benedict XVI.

The commission will "draft reforms of the institutions of the Holy See, with the aim of a simplification and rationalization of the existing bodies and more careful planning of the economic activities of all the Vatican administrations," a statement said.

It will also "offer the technical support of specialist advice and develop strategic solutions for improvement, so as to avoid the misuse of economic resources, to improve transparency in the processes of purchasing goods and services".

The Vatican was rocked by a major scandal last year in which documents alleging corruption in its administration were leaked to the media. Cardinals who elected Francis in a conclave in March urged him to clean up the Vatican's administration.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by Barry Moody)
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« Reply #55 on: Jul 20, 2013, 06:30 AM »

Pope Francis: reforming, pragmatic, popular – but doctrinally conservative

His gesture politics go down well among Catholics but as pontiff jets off to tour South America can he really change the Vatican?

Lizzy Davies in Vatican City, Friday 19 July 2013 18.39 BST    

A Brazilian holds a portrait of Pope Francis after a mass in Rio de Janeiro's Rocinha shantytown
A woman holds a portrait of Pope Francis after a mass in Rio de Janeiro's Rocinha shantytown, which the pope will visit on Monday. Photo: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFPGetty

The trinket-sellers of St Peter's Square are big fans of Pope Francis – and not because of his theology. After two years in which business was killed off by a dysfunctional pontificate and an economic crisis, the man from Argentina has brought the crowds back again.

"Francesco has shown himself to be a very good person, who says things which not only are right but he says them in a language people understand," said Manuel, a stallholder who does a brisk trade in Francis fridge magnets. "When the pope comes out, the people stop, they listen to what he says, and then they want to buy something because they love him." Manuel, a Jew whose grandfather set up the stall after the second world war, likes to listen himself sometimes, in case he hears a snatch of the Old Testament. He likes Francis, he says, "because he has shown an openness to other faiths".

Ever since he first appeared on the Loggia of the Blessings balcony in mid-March, the former cardinal Jorge Bergoglio has introduced himself loud and clear to the world in a series of eye-catching moves that have made a break with the past and endeared him to many in the faithful and secular worlds alike. He has drastically downsized the papal living arrangements; ditched the finery in which his predecessors bedecked themselves; and sent Vatican officials into regular spins with impromptu jokes and ad-libbed speeches.

The Catholic world has revelled in the sight of a pope picking up his own luggage and touring in a 20-year-old Fiat Campagnola. Pilgrims cheer in delight when he ends his Sunday blessings with the prosaic exhortation: "Have a good lunch."

On Monday, the Catholic church's first non-European leader will fly to his native Latin America for his inaugural papal trip overseas, and instead of touring Brazil's volatile second city in a standard bullet-proof "pope-mobile", he has chosen an open-top 4x4, which he can easily get out of to meet people. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take part in the World Youth Day festival in Rio de Janeiro.

Lest they feel left out, "penitent and contrite" Catholics who follow his tweets will be offered indulgences from afar, the Vatican announced this week.With all this focus on image, it might be tempting to dismiss much of the so-called "Francis effect" as all style and no substance.

Such is the wide-ranging impact of his image that, far from the Vatican, the fashion writer Suzy Menkes pondered in the International Herald Tribune this week whether his "humility and abstention" had influenced the newly ascetic "fashion message coming out of Italy". The idea earned the pope a reference in Vogue, complete with a photo in which his plain white cassock and iron cross stood out starkly beside a gaudy Swiss guard.
Medium is the message

Many observers say a new style is no bad thing. Moreover, with Francis, the medium is the message. "He is someone of gesture rather than eloquent speeches," said Tina Beattie, professor of Catholic studies at the University of Roehampton and a prominent liberal theologian. "The papacy is very much about style. It is the public face that the Catholic church presents to the world, and so I think a fundamental change in style means something very deep."

So far, the most arresting features of Francis's papacy – from the abandonment of Benedict XVI's ermine stoles and red shoes to his decision to live in a guesthouse rather than the apostolic palace – have seen him embodying a commitment to the poor.

As a man who has seen poverty up close since his childhood, the Argentinian, now 76, has very clearly placed those at the bottom of the social hierarchy at the top of his agenda. It was not by chance that he made his first trip outside Rome last week to Lampedusa, the Italian island where thousands of African migrants arrive after a perilous sea crossing each year. On another occasion, in one of his strongest speeches he railed against the "cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal".

The new pontiff's sense of solidarity with the poor, and powerful championing of ethical financial reform, have been enough to make many people who would not necessarily warm to an otherwise conservative pope warm to Francis. Where Benedict, a lofty intellectual, often alienated people, his successor – a shrewd communicator – seems to have charmed many people who had despaired at a church they see as hopelessly out of touch.

And yet, on doctrinal issues, the 265th successor to St Peter is no liberal. He is staunchly anti-abortion, anti-women's ordination, pro-priestly celibacy and anti-gay marriage. In April, he reaffirmed Vatican criticism of the largest organisation representing nuns in the United States, which it said had been harmed by a "radical" feminist approach and a soft line on issues such as birth control and homosexuality.

Despite this, however, what gives some liberals hope is that, in contrast to Benedict's unrelenting devotion to doctrinal purity, Francis has in the past shown himself to be open to dialogue; a conservative, but a pragmatic one. During the gay marriage showdown between church and state in his native country he shocked bishops in 2010 by suggesting they gave their support to civil unions as a means of trying to bargain with the government.

"I think there does seem to be hope that, whether or not he himself is conservative doctrinally, he's (a): not as interested in academic theology as pope Benedict was, and (b): he does seem willing to allow for greater dialogue in the church around some of the more difficult doctrinal issues," said Beattie.

"I'm hoping that he'll be more open to dialogue with women on issues of sexuality and maybe not think that he really does have all the answers, which sometimes it felt as if Benedict did … Because he is willing to really listen to what poverty means for people, I wouldn't be surprised if he's more willing to reflect on what the lack of contraception does for women."

All of this, of course, is the external part of Francis's job description. And, as tricky as it will no doubt be, it may have nothing on the internal element: reform of the Roman curia, the Vatican's disorganised and, lately, scandal-beset bureaucracy. In the aftermath of the deeply damaging "Vatileaks" affair, problems within the curia were a hot topic at the meetings before the conclave that elected Francis. Cardinals who had flown in from all corners of the world wanted to know how the scandal had happened.

A month after he became pope, Francis announced a revolution in church governance, appointing eight cardinals from across the world to an advisory panel on Vatican reform. It was a bold step, and one that made it clear – if anyone had been in any doubt – that change was afoot.

Francis had already made clear his intention to distance himself from the curia by refusing to move into the apostolic palace, said John Thavis, a long-time papal observer and author of The Vatican Diaries, a recent bestseller.

Strongest signal

"The day he announced he was staying in the Domus Sanctae Marthae … sent the strongest signal at a very early point that this was going to be a very different papacy. I'm sure the Roman curia officials immediately understood: 'This pope is going to be much less controlled by us.'" he said.

Can this pope possibly succeed where others have failed? The key will be to appoint the right people to help him "navigate the waters", Thavis said. Francis has yet to make the most important appointment – that of his secretary of state – but he is understood to be moving, gradually, forward. On Friday he announced the establishment of a commission of seven laypeople and one cleric to reform the Holy See's economic and administrative departments. The new body will look at ways of avoiding "the misuse of economic resources" and improve transparency, a statement said.

"We've seen a whole string of popes who have wanted to change things at the Vatican but either didn't have the patience or didn't have the energy," said Thavis. "Now here you have a pope who not only feels he has a mandate to change because that's what the cardinals wanted, but who seems to realise that he is, after all, pope and can make those changes."

Back on Via della Conciliazione, the broad avenue that leads from St Peter's Square to the banks of the Tiber, the stalls selling Francis rosaries, Francis badges and Francis postcards attract people keen for a keepsake.

Antonio Cardone, who has had his stall for 30 years and over three pontificates, admits that not all pilgrims buy, but doesn't seem unduly upset. "There's not much work but there's a lot of enthusiasm," he said. "Francis is of the people. He's likeable. I don't know why, but Benedict was not well-liked. With this one, it's different."

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« Reply #56 on: Jul 20, 2013, 06:31 AM »

Pope’s ‘personal representative’ at Vatican bank once expelled from Uruguay after gay life revealed: report

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, July 19, 2013 13:57 EDT

The Vatican’s “gay lobby” was back in the headlines on Friday after the alleged exposure of a homosexual prelate appointed by Pope Francis to a key position at the Vatican bank.

The Italian weekly L’Espresso said prelate Battista Ricca had gay relationships during his time at the Vatican embassy of Montevideo in Uruguay as well as an affair with a Swiss guard which ultimately saw him sent back to Rome in disgrace.

Vatican expert for L’Espresso Sandro Magister said Ricca provided lodgings and a pay check for captain Patrick Haari in 1999 and was once left badly beaten after trawling notorious gay hangouts before his behaviour saw him transferred out of Montevideo in 2000.

An internal bid to protect him and cover up the scandal meant Francis apparently had no idea about Ricca’s past before he appointed him as his personal representative at the scandal-hit bank this year.

Ricca went on to hold several prestigious positions in Rome, including the director of the Santa Martha residence where the pope lives.

Magister said the wiping of Ricca’s records was an example of a “gay lobby” at work in the Vatican.

Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi brushed off the story as “not credible” but the magazine insisted the allegations were confirmed by primary sources. It said “numerous bishops, priests, religious and laity” in Uruguay had testified against Ricca.

Religious watchers said the leaks about Ricca’s past may be an internal attempt to block the prelate from carrying out reforms.

In June, Francis admitted the existence of a “gay lobby” inside the Vatican’s secretive administration, the Roman Curia.

“In the Curia, there are truly some saints, but there is also a current of corruption… There is talk of a ‘gay lobby’ and it’s true, it exists,” he was quoted as having said during an audience with CLAR (the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious Men and Women).

The admission followed Italian media reports in February which claimed that a secret report by cardinals investigating leaks from within the Vatican included allegations of corruption and blackmail attempts against gay clergymen, and on the other hand, favouritism based on gay relationships.

If the allegations are proven to be true, it would be a blow to Francis’s attempts to clean up the scandal-hit Vatican.
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« Reply #57 on: Jul 21, 2013, 07:24 AM »

July 20, 2013

Pope, in an Angered Brazil, to Focus on Social Justice


RIO DE JANEIRO — A month ago, hundreds of thousands of young people took to the streets of Brazil to protest corruption, wasteful government spending, bad schools and hospitals, police brutality, and other abuses of power. On Monday, Pope Francis, in his first venture abroad, will dive into the middle of that ferment when he begins a weeklong visit to the world’s largest Roman Catholic country.

“This is a crucial moment for the church, the nation, society and the people, heightened by the fact this is Francis’ first trip,” said Fernando Altemeyer Jr., a theologian and philosopher at the Pontifical Catholic University in São Paulo. “Brazil has changed and things are bubbling, but there is no clarity. Everything is new and unknown, in the country and the church, even for the bishops.”

Francis has endorsed the protests in general terms, and, according to European news reports, will do so again more emphatically and specifically this week. Church officials here declined to confirm those reports, but they said that two Brazilian cardinals, Cláudio Hummes and Raymundo Damasceno Assis, have been working closely with the Vatican to assure that Francis’ declarations on social justice here will convey sympathy both for the protest demands and those involved in the movement.

“The pope will certainly have words about the issues the young people have raised, their dissatisfaction or searches but also their great desire to participate in change,” Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, the archbishop of São Paulo, said last week. “They can expect from Pope Francis words that will orient and aid them.”

The trip, whose nominal purpose is to have the pope meet with and speak to participants at the World Youth Day, a conference of Catholic youth here, was originally planned for Benedict XVI, Francis’ predecessor. Initially there was speculation that the new pope might cancel because of the scandals he is confronting at the Vatican. But the Argentine-born Francis seems to see a visit here as a way to direct attention on the gospel of social justice that he has said he wants to make the focus of his papacy.

“If he is to do what he wants to do, he needs to keep media attention focused on what he is doing and saying,” said John Thavis, author of “The Vatican Diaries” and a former Rome bureau chief for the Catholic News Service. “This puts him back in the world spotlight, and I suspect we are going to hear a lot not just about the Brazilian situation, but the world situation, the divide between the rich and poor and the church’s social teaching.”

Previous papal visits, by Pope John Paul II and Benedict, were marked by doctrinal disputes and veiled verbal skirmishes between advocates of the theology of liberation, which mixes the gospel and political activism on behalf of the poor and persecuted, and the Vatican hierarchy, which sees the movement as tainted by Marxism. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis never showed much sympathy for liberation theology, but since he assumed the papacy, signs abound that a truce is now in effect, at least temporarily.

“These are different times, times that are not as obstinate or intransigent,” said the Rev. José Oscar Beozzo, a historian of the Catholic church in Latin America and a supporter of liberation theology. “The era of military dictatorships, of the pope wagging a finger at a priest in Nicaragua, those are over. We live now in times that permit one to see things with less ideological distortion.”

Barely a month after becoming pope, Francis took a symbolically important step that liberation theologians here and elsewhere in Latin America interpreted as a peace offering. The beatification of Bishop Óscar Romero, a Salvadoran who was killed by a right-wing death squad in 1980 and is considered a martyr by many disciples of liberation theology, had been frozen since 2005, the year Benedict assumed the papacy, but Francis almost immediately ordered it reopened.

Liberation theologians often critical of Vatican policies have responded in kind, led by Leonardo Boff, a former Franciscan priest who in 1985 was ordered not to write or speak publicly for a year because of his positions by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed at the time by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Benedict. Now an emeritus professor of the philosophy of religion at the state university here in Rio, Mr. Boff just last week published a laudatory biography of the pope.

“It doesn’t matter that Pope Francis doesn’t use the expression ‘theology of liberation,’ ” Mr. Boff said recently. “What is important is that he speak and act on behalf of the liberation of the poor, the oppressed and those who have suffered injustice. And that is what he has done, with indubitable clarity.”

One of the principal complaints of the protests that have swept Brazil is excessive official spending in the face of pressing social needs, mainly the billions being spent on sporting events — but the $52 million the government is contributing to the youth conference and papal visit has also been sucked into the fray. Cardinal Scherer defended the expenditure, which accounts for about a third of the visit’s total cost, as good for Brazil.

“This money is being spent in Brazil, and as such it is welcome,” he said at a news conference in São Paulo. “These are not expenses paid to someone who is going to leave with the money. It’s generating taxes, jobs and so on. It is, without a doubt, an injection of blood in the economy.”

At Francis’ request, the original itinerary prepared for Benedict has been expanded to include a visit to Aparecida, site of Brazil’s biggest shrine to the Virgin Mary. It was also there, during a visit by Benedict in 2007, that Francis, then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, scored a personal triumph by presiding over the writing of an important policy document that was presented to the pope on behalf of the Latin American Episcopal Conference.

The document emphasized social justice and evangelization, an issue that remains critical to the Brazilian church, even more than in the rest of Latin America. When John Paul made the first visit by a pope to Brazil, in 1980, nearly 90 percent of the population considered itself Catholic; by the 2010 census, that had fallen to under two-thirds, with the number of Brazilians calling themselves Protestants rising to 22 percent from 6 percent during the same period.

The situation here in Rio underscores the growing challenge to the Catholic church. According to census data, the growth of evangelical Protestantism, secularism and African-Brazilian faiths like candomblé has been so pronounced that Catholics no longer constitute a majority of the population in Rio de Janeiro State.

“No one in the Catholic leadership is going to say there is competition with the evangelicals, but that’s clearly a motivation for this event,” said Clemir Fernandes, a researcher at the Institute for the Study of Religion here. “The evangelicals have a lot of TV and radio exposure in Brazil, but a pope’s visit gets a lot of positive media coverage. That’s good for the church and, by strengthening belief among those already belonging to the faith, can perhaps help stem the erosion.”

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« Reply #58 on: Jul 22, 2013, 06:01 AM »

Pope Francis leaves for Brazil visit – carrying his own bag

Catholic church's first Latin American leader boards Alitalia flight at Rome airport bound for Rio de Janeiro

Lizzy Davies in Rome, Monday 22 July 2013 12.01 BST   

Pope Francis has embarked on his first overseas voyage as head of the Roman Catholic church, carrying his own bag on to the Alitalia aircraft that will take him to his home continent for a week-long visit to Brazil.

After greeting the Italian prime minister, Enrico Letta, on the tarmac at Rome's Fiumicino airport, the 76-year-old Argentinian boarded the A330 Airbus shortly before 9am local time, shaking hands with flight attendants and appearing to wave goodbye from inside the plane.

In keeping with his trademark style, he wore a plain white cassock and carried his hand luggage – a black leather briefcase – with him up the steps and into the plane.

The papal aircraft, carrying both Vatican officials and journalists, is due to touch down in Rio de Janeiro at 4pm local time. The Catholic church's first Latin American leader is expected to speak at a welcome ceremony at around 5pm, and then meet Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff.

He will spend the week visiting various sights in the world's most populous Catholic country as part of the World Youth Day (WYD) celebrations.

Appointments include celebrating mass at Aparecida, a religious shrine in Sao Paulo state, a visit to a favela in Rio that was recently "pacified" by police, and speaking to huge crowds on Copacabana beach.

High security will be in place throughout in Brazil, which has recently seen a wave of protests against creaking public services and political corruption. Officials have had to respond to Francis's desire not to ride in a bulletproof "pope-mobile" but in two open-top jeeps from which he can easily descend to meet the faithful.

On Monday morning, Francis posted a message on his @pontifex Twitter accounts that read: "I am arriving in Brazil in a few hours and my heart is already full of joy because soon I will be with you to celebrate the 28th WYD."

In a message to the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, prior to his departure, the pope said he said he was going to encourage the young people at the WYD "to be witnesses of hope and makers of peace".


Pope Francis to visit favela indicative of Catholicism on the wane in Brazil

Tour comes amid division over how to stem flow of believers, particularly from poor communities, towards evangelism

Jonathan Watts in Varginha, Sunday 21 July 2013 16.42 BST   

When Pope Francis returns to his home continent on Monday as the first Latin American pontiff, the world's attention is likely to focus on the adoration of more than a million worshippers expected at a giant open-air mass on Copacobana beach.

But it is during a lower-key visit to a small favela community on Thursday in the north of Rio de Janeiro that he will address the biggest threat to the pre-eminence of the Catholic church in the region: the exodus of believers to US-style evangelical preachers.

Varginha is a favela of 2,500 residents which was once so notorious for violence that is was nicknamed the Gaza Strip. Although it has now been "pacified" by heavily armed police, the drug dealers never left and gang graffiti are still daubed on the walls.

Along with visits to a prison and a drug rehabilitation centre, this area has been included in Francis's week-long trip to Brazil to highlight the new pope's emphasis on working with poor communities.

Amid a wave of protests in Brazil at social inequality and poor public services, locals say this is a timely shift in style from his bookish and seemingly aloof predecessor, Pope Benedict.

"He is coming here to see the reality in Brazil," said Everaldo Oliveira, who is organising the welcome reception at the San Jerónimo Emiliani chapel, a simple space of eight rows of pews and a wooden altar with a cross and two candles.

Part of that reality, however, is that Catholicism is on the wane. The weekly Catholic mass at the chapel attracts about 70 people. But there are four Pentecostal halls, which draw growing crowds. Oliveira says a once staunchly Catholic community is now divided 50/50.

This is part of a wider trend. Though Brazil is the most populous Catholic country in the world, and Latin America accounts for 40% of the church's believers, the pre-eminence of the Vatican is slipping.

In the 1980s, nearly 90% of Brazilians identified themselves as Catholic. Today, however, census data suggests only 65% do so, while 22% describe themselves as evangelical, and 10% say they are not religious.

The Pentecostalists are gaining so much ground that Brazil will soon rival the US as the most Protestant nation on Earth, and the number of followers could overtake those of the Catholic church by 2030.

They are increasingly visible, active and influential. In São Paulo, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God has spent £130m on the construction of a 10,000-seat replica of Solomon's temple. The country's second biggest broadcaster is run by Pentecostal church groups. In the capital, Brasilia, last month, televangelist Silas Malafaia gathered 40,000 followers outside the Congress building to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage. A short time later, 2 million people shut down much of São Paulo during a "March for Jesus" organised by Pastor Estevam Hernandes of the Reborn in Christ Church.

This has translated into political clout. In last year's congressional elections, evangelical parties increased their seats by 50%. President Dilma Rousseff is now so reliant on them for support that the Workers party head has had to appoint several arch-conservative evangelicals to prominent political positions. Among them is Marco Feliciano, who heads the legislative body's human rights committee even though he is accused of homophobia and racism.

Support is strongest in poor communities like Varginha, where the evangelical "theology of prosperity" promises rewards in the here and now, which has a strong appeal compared with a Catholic emphasis on life after death.

Paulo Raimundo, of the Varginha residents' association, says the preachers have a particularly strong appeal among the young, who are seeking an escape from violence, drugs and inequality.

"When people want to leave drug trafficking, they turn to evangelism. Their approach is more flexible and popular, while the Catholic church seems very traditional," he says.

Local Catholics claim their religion is as strong as ever. "The only people who converted were not religious in the first place. The evangelicals offer them short-term rewards," says Oliveira.

But several young Catholic priests are emulating the animated preaching and media-savvy style of the evangelicals by adding music, dance and audience participation to their services. One member of this so-called Charismatic Catholic Renewal movement, Marcelo Rossi, attracts 25,000 worshippers to mass and has put out million-selling DVDs.

The Vatican has reacted with a mix of encouragement and caution. On the one hand, Rome has been glad to see more bottoms on pews in once half-empty churches. But it has also warned priests against overstepping the line in their efforts to find a more upbeat, Latin style of worship.
World Youth Day cross People carry the World Youth Day cross on their way to a Mass at Sugar Loaf mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photograph: Felipe Dana/AP

The cardinals in Rome have also given mixed signals on how to address inequality and other social issues. While many Latin American priests have advocated a push into poor communities and greater defence of human rights and indigenous groups, the church's traditionalists – including the last pope – have accused this "liberation theology" movement of flirting with Marxism.

Catholics in Varginha hope Francis can heal these divisions by focusing more on the poor and stripping away the ostentatious trappings of the Vatican.

Shirleis Curato, a lay member of the Catholic congregation, said she hoped the papal visit would see a swing in the pendulum. "I think the pope will encourage people to come back to Catholicism. I'm hoping we will have to build a new church."

The chapel's priest, Marcio Queiroz, said: "The theme of this visit is youth. We will tell the story of Christ's suffering in a way that makes it relevant to young people who face difficulties today. It will be a message of solidarity."

But the difference may prove one of style rather than substance. Nobody expects Francis to declare a more liberal approach on issues such as contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage, though there is wide acknowledgement that the conservative Catholic line on sex has driven many young people from the church.

A Datafolha survey in March found 58% of Brazilians believe the church should allow divorce and 83% support the use of condoms – two issues that evangelical churches say followers can decide for themselves.

Padre Jesus Hortal, from the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, says Pope Francis – an Argentinian who worked in the slums of Buenos Aires – offers a clearer view of the struggles of the poor. But while the papal visit may provide a short-term fillip to the Catholic church in Brazil, he cautioned that the long-term decline in the number of believers is likely to continue because urbanisation and consumerism are driving more people to evangelicalism and secularisation.

Those who have already made the shift from Catholicism say they will be curious onlookers during the pope's visit to Varginha.

Outside the Assembly of God pentecostal hall – which Francis will pass – all the worshippers over 30 said they had been raised Catholics and had converted.

"It's hard to say why I changed," said Eva Reis, there with her 15-year-old son, Sanderson – one of a generation increasingly growing up in the evangelical tradition. "But we welcome the pope's visit here. It's good for our community and nice for our Catholic friends. We'll wave as he passes."


Pope Francis's judgment in question after priest named in gay sex scandal

Papal nunciate who lived openly with his male lover in Uruguay appointed by pope to senior job in the Vatican

John Hooper in Rome, Sunday 21 July 2013 18.45 BST   

Pope Francis will fly out of Rome on Monday, leaving behind the latest controversy to engulf the Holy See – a slew of gay sex claims, denied by the pope's spokesman, against the man Francis chose to be his representative at the Vatican "bank".

On 15 June, the pope appointed Monsignor Battista Ricca, an Italian cleric and former Vatican diplomat, to be "prelate" of the bank, formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR). As such, Ricca is entitled to attend meetings of both the bodies that oversee the scandal-ridden IOR's operations – its board and a five-strong commission of cardinals. The prelate can also demand to see any document he cares to inspect.

According to the latest edition of the weekly news magazine L'Espresso, Ricca has a past punctuated with scandal. Its report, which the pope's spokesman branded as "not trustworthy", claimed Ricca lived more or less openly with a Swiss army officer while at the Holy See's nunciature (embassy) in Uruguay. It said he arrived with his lover and, while running the post between nuncios, provided him with both accommodation and a job.

The weekly magazine said Ricca was once beaten up in a gay bar in Montevideo and that, when the lift at the nunciature broke down in the night, firefighters called to deal with the emergency found him inside with a local rent boy known to police. It said that, after he was transferred to Trinidad and Tobago, that his alleged lover left trunks behind in Uruguay containing his effects. When they were opened later, they were found to contain a pistol, large numbers of prophylactics and sizeable quantities of pornography, the magazine said. Ricca has not made any comment on the allegations.

Catholic teaching regards homosexuality as "objectively disordered" and homosexual acts as "contrary to natural law". It condemns discrimination against gay men and women on the grounds of their sexual orientation, but says they are "called to chastity".

L'Espresso responded to the papal spokesman's partial denial with a statement in which it stood by its Vatican expert's report. It called on the Holy See to "check the trustworthiness of what L'Espresso published simply by consulting the exhaustive documentation on the case in its possession".

That points to the key questions in the affair: whether Pope Francis knew of the claims against Ricca before he handed him one of the most sensitive jobs in the Vatican. And if not, why not? After he was recalled to Rome, Ricca served in the Vatican's secretariat of state before being given charge of first one, and eventually three, of the guest houses that the Holy See uses to accommodate church dignitaries on visits to Rome.

It was at one of these that the future pope met the Italian cleric. Their friendship was cemented after the pope's election when Francis decided not to occupy the lavish papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace, but to remain at the guest house, run by Ricca, in which he stayed during the election.

It would have been standard procedure for him to call in Ricca's personal file before making the appointment and – whatever the truth or otherwise of the claims against him – it is inconceivable that he would have gone ahead had he known about them. It is hard to imagine a more dangerous official for the pope than one charged with shaking up the IOR, yet acutely vulnerable to blackmail.

What remains unclear is whether Vatican allies wiped Ricca's file clean of allegations after his return to Rome, or whether enemies of the pope's reform programme stripped them out before handing the dossier to Francis in an attempt to discredit both him and the programme. The IOR is already caught up in a separate scandal over an alleged plot to use it for the return to Italy of €2m (£1.7m) of evaded taxes.

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« Reply #59 on: Jul 23, 2013, 05:55 AM »

Pope Francis greeted by ecstatic crowds following arrival in Brazil

Worshippers flock round pope's car on drive from airport while protests break out elsewhere in response to presidential meeting

Dom Phillips and agencies in Rio de Janeiro
The Guardian, Tuesday 23 July 2013   

Pope Francis was greeted by enthusiastic crowds in Rio de Janeiro as he returned to his native continent for the first time as pontiff, but was involved in a security scare as his car took a wrong turn on the way from the airport.

Later petrol bombs were thrown and protesters accused riot police of an unprovoked attack in clashes outside the state governor's palace.

The pope landed in Rio at 4pm local time and toured streets in the city centre. During his first minutes in Brazil, believers swarmed around the closed Fiat several times when it was forced to stop by heavy traffic on the drive from the airport to an official ceremony in Rio's centre.

A few security guards struggled to push the crowd back. Church and city officials said the pope's driver turned into the wrong part of a boulevard and missed lanes that had been cleared.

Other parts of the pope's route to the city centre were not lined with fencing, giving the throngs more chances to get close, with uniformed police nowhere in sight to act as crowd control.

Francis looked calm during the frenzy. He rolled down the window on the car where he was sitting, waving to the crowd and touching those who reached inside. At one point, a woman handed the pontiff a dark-haired baby, whom he kissed before handing it back.

"His secretary was afraid," papal spokesman the Rev Federico Lombardi said. "But the pope was happy."

The Vatican insisted they had no concern for the pope's safety as his vehicles eased through the masses, but Lombardi acknowledged that there might have been some "errors" that need correcting. "This is something new, maybe also a lesson for the coming days," Lombardi said.
The pope's car is mobbed by well-wishers after taking a wrong turn on the road from the airport. The pope's car is mobbed by well-wishers after taking a wrong turn on the road from the airport. Photograph: Reuters

After finally making it past crowds and blocked traffic, Francis switched to an open-air popemobile as he toured around the main streets in downtown Rio through mobs of people who screamed wildly as he waved and smiled. Many in the crowd looked stunned, with some standing still and others sobbing loudly.

"This is the youth of the pope!" chanted young pilgrims outside Rio's Metropolitan Cathedral. Others sang "I'm Brazilian, with much pride, with much love," while helicopters hovered overhead and troops and armed police lined the streets.

"He is a person of faith and he has shown his greatness in a very short time," said Diego Moreno, who had travelled with two friends from Mendoza in Argentina. "We are very proud of him."

Up to 2.5m pilgrims are expected to crowd events such as another parade down Copacabana beach front and a two-day prayer vigil and mass in the so-called "Field of Faith" at Pedra de Guaratiba.

In a speech beside President Dilma Rousseff at the state government seat, Laranjeiras Palace, Pope Francis charmed his Brazilian hosts with his humility.

"I learnt that to have access to the Brazilian people, it is necessary to enter through the door of their immense heart. Permit me at this time to knock delicately at this door," he told his audience.

"I have neither silver nor gold, but I bring with me the most precious thing given to me: Jesus Christ."

Violence broke out around 7.30pm outside the Guanabara Palace just after the pope had left a reception with President Dilma Rousseff.

A number of demonstrations, including a gay rights march, had joined together into a crowd of some 2,000. The march come to a halt in front of massed ranks of riot police and an armoured vehicle outside the palace.

About an hour after the pontiff concluded his short speech, police began cracking down on the protests, firing rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon in an effort to disperse the crowd. Both sides accused the other of provoking violence.

Police said they seized 20 home-made petrol bombs from one arrested demonstrator and released a video showing what they said were protesters throwing a petrol bomb at the police line. News agency photos published on Globo's G1 news site showed a petrol bomb hitting a policeman.

Demonstrators said the police reaction was overwhelmingly aggressive. "Police attacked. People were overcome with despair. There was no way out. They wanted people to suffer terror," said protestor Luiza Dreyer.

Daniela da Sousa, who described herself as Catholic and said she was taking part in World Youth Day, said she saw the pope and other dignitaries leaving the palace and that police began attacking protesters as soon as they had gone.

"The authorities left, and the bombs started. They attacked people," da Sousa said. "I am Catholic. I saw this cowardice. I wanted to rip up this T-shirt," she added, pointing to the World Youth Day T-shirt she was wearing. "It is disgusting."

As the violence abated, about 500 protesters marched to a police station in nearby Catete to demand the release of reporters from the Midia Ninja internet television station who were among 10 who had been arrested.

With TV Globo increasingly under attack by protestors, Midia Ninja has rapidly become a trusted source of information for many involved in the protest movement and has broadcast live from protests all over Brazil.

There was a tense stand-off as a line of riot police stood in front of the police station while the crowd shouted for the release of the reporters. When one of them, Felipe Peçanha, was released he was mobbed by the crowd who chanted: "Ninja! Ninja!"

Peçanha told the Guardian he had been arrested by plain clothes police as he was broadcasting live in the midst of the confusion and put into a police car.

"They put me with force in the police car," he said. "They asked me to stop recording, they said recording was forbidden there, and that I had to stop the transmission. I said I would not disconnect and they took the cellphones from my hand by force."

Rio newspaper O Globo reported that two police, a Japanese photographer, and Globo photographer Marcelo Carnival were injured during the conflict. Four people were treated in hospital, two for rubber bullet wounds.


Pope Francis: economic crisis creating a generation of isolated youth

Catholic church's first Latin American pontiff calls for inclusivity on his way to World Youth Day celebrations in Brazil

Lizzy Davies in Rome, Monday 22 July 2013 17.13 BST   

Pope Francis warned that the global economic crisis risked creating a generation blighted by youth unemployment as he flew to Brazil for his first overseas trip as head of the Roman Catholic church.

On board the aircraft taking him directly from Rome to Rio de Janeiro on Monday for week-long World Youth Day celebrations, the pontiff said society needed to become more inclusive in order to avoid young people becoming isolated.

"The world crisis is not treating young people well … We are running the risk of having a generation that does not work. From work … comes a person's dignity," he told reporters. "When we isolate the young … we strip them of the possibility of belonging and the young have to belong."

As he headed to a country which has recently been convulsed by protests against creaking public services and political corruption, Francis said the message he wanted to convey during his trip was a need for inclusivity. "We need to make an effort to bring everyone into society," he said, also highlighting the damage done to elderly people by what he labelled "a disposable culture".

Earlier, the Argentinian pontiff carried his own bag on to the Alitalia flight which will ferry him to his home continent.

After greeting the Italian prime minister, Enrico Letta, on the tarmac at Rome's Fiumicino airport, the 76-year-old boarded the A330 Airbus shortly before 9am local time (0700 GMT), shaking hands with flight attendants and appearing to wave goodbye from inside the plane.

In keeping with his trademark style, he wore a plain white cassock and carried his hand luggage – a black leather briefcase – with him up the steps and into the plane.

The papal aircraft, carrying both Vatican officials and journalists, is due to touch down in Rio de Janeiro at 4pm local time (1900 GMT). The Catholic church's first Latin American leader is expected to speak at a welcome ceremony at around 5pm, and then meet Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff.

He will spend the week visiting various sights in the world's most populous Catholic country as part of the World Youth Day (WYD) celebrations.

Appointments include celebrating mass at Aparecida, a religious shrine in São Paulo state, a visit to a favela in Rio that was recently "pacified" by police, and speaking to huge crowds on Copacabana beach.

High security will be in place throughout in Brazil. Officials have had to comply with Francis's desire not to ride in a bulletproof popemobile but in two open-top Jeeps from which he can easily descend to meet the faithful.

On Monday morning, Francis posted a message on his @pontifex Twitter accounts that read: "I am arriving in Brazil in a few hours and my heart is already full of joy because soon I will be with you to celebrate the 28th WYD."

In a message to the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, prior to his departure, the pope said he was going to encourage the young people at the WYD "to be witnesses of hope and makers of peace".

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