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« Reply #75 on: Aug 31, 2013, 05:38 AM »

Romanian Prince Who Died in Jail Is Beatified


BUCHAREST, Romania — Thousands have gathered for the beatification of a Romanian prince who spent decades traveling around the world helping the sick and the poor and died after being tortured in a Communist prison.

Pope Francis approved the beatification in March of Monsignor Vladimir Ghika who was declared a martyr for his Christian faith.

Born into a family of Moldovan nobles in 1873, Ghika converted to Catholicism in 1902. He spent his life helping victims of cholera, tuberculosis and earthquakes.

When the communists came to power, Ghika refused to leave Romania. He was convicted of treason, denounced as "a spy for the Vatican" and died in prison in 1954.

Thousands attended a service Saturday and Prime Minister Victor Ponta called Ghika "a great European spirit who refused to compromise with totalitarianism."
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« Reply #76 on: Sep 01, 2013, 06:40 AM »

Pope replaces divisive Vatican figure with top diplomat

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, August 31, 2013 9:21 EDT

Pope Francis on Saturday appointed a senior Vatican diplomat as his new Secretary of State, ousting divisive cardinal Tarcisio Bertone as he looks to overhaul the Church’s scandal-ridden administration.

His replacement for the “number two” position at the Vatican, Italian cleric Pietro Parolin, is currently the Catholic Church’s envoy to Venezuela and has worked on improving ties with communist China.

“The Holy Father has accepted… the resignation of His Eminence Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone,” the Vatican said in a widely-expected announcement, adding that the changeover would formally take place on October 15.

At 58, Parolin is seen as relatively young for top Vatican office and observers say he could help a process of renewal within the Church, as well as making it more influential on the world stage.

The Argentine pope has shown a strong reformist drive in his first few months in office and has set up a series of committees aimed at reforming the Vatican hierarchy, its economic affairs and its bank.

“I feel the full weight of the responsibility placed upon me: this call entrusts to me a difficult and challenging mission, before which my powers are weak and my abilities poor,” Parolin said in a statement.

He was previously a Vatican envoy to Mexico and Nigeria and has worked on sensitive issues for the Church, including diplomatic relations with Israel.

Religious affairs expert Gianni Valente, writing for the Vatican Insider website, said Parolin was cast “in the true spirit of Vatican diplomacy”.

Valente said Parolin would ensure that the Church “will once again be well placed to offer its wisdom and foresight in order to promote peace” in the world.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said Parolin’s appointment would help “enrich” relations between Italy and the Vatican and promote joint work between the two “to protect peace and justice”.

Bertone has held the post since 2006 when he was named by the pope’s predecessor Benedict XVI and has proved a highly controversial figure in the hierarchy.

Leaks by Benedict XVI’s butler last year revealed infighting between pro- and anti-Bertone factions inside the Vatican corridors of power.

Critics say he has made poor choices in a series of key Vatican appointments and has shown favouritism.

He was at Benedict’s side during an extremely difficult period for the Vatican, shaken by revelations of widespread child abuse by priests and several scandals involving its finances.

Francis has circumvented the Secretariat of State, effectively the central administration of the Roman Catholic Church, on key decisions in recent months.

However, it is also traditional for new popes to replace some top officials appointed by their predecessor and Bertone was already over the usual age of retirement of 75 for senior Church figures.

Parolin was ordained in 1980 and his first foreign posting for the Vatican was in Nigeria in 1986, followed by Mexico in 1989 where he fought to gain legal recognition for the Catholic Church.

In 1992, he was called back to Rome to work for the Secretariat of State and was appointed to a position equivalent to a deputy foreign minister in 2002.

In 2009, he was appointed papal nuncio to Caracas.

The Vatican also on Saturday said it was confirming some top Secretariat of State officials named by Benedict, as well as the previous pope’s close aide Georg Gaenswein who will remain as head of the pontifical household.

Gaenswein is still secretary to Benedict, who lives in retirement in a former monastery inside the Vatican walls, and will therefore continue in an unprecedented dual role serving both the pope emeritus and the pope.

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« Reply #77 on: Sep 02, 2013, 07:25 AM »

Pope Benedict's righthand man turns on 'vipers' within Catholic church

Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican's 'prime minister' under last pontiff, defends his record during papacy overshadowed by scandal

Lizzy Davies in Rome, Monday 2 September 2013 13.48 BST

The Italian prelate who was Pope Benedict's righthand man in the Vatican during his scandal-dogged papacy has defended his much-criticised record, insisting he "gave everything" to the job despite the activities of "vipers" in the Roman curia.

Speaking a day after Pope Francis named a Vatican diplomat as his new secretary of state, Tarcisio Bertone appeared defiant as he was asked about his time in office.

"I see the record of the past seven years as positive. Of course, there were a lot of problems, especially in the last two years," he said, according to the Ansa news agency, hitting out at "a combination of crows and vipers".

"But this should not cloud what I consider to be a positive record," he added. The Italian word corvo (crow) is used pejoratively to describe informants or people who leak secrets.

The final years of Benedict's papacy were overshadowed by scandal, most prominently the so-called "Vatileaks" affair that depicted the Vatican's swollen bureaucracy as a hotbed of conspiracy and cronyism.

Bertone, who was appointed by Benedict in 2006 to occupy a role often described as the Vatican's prime minister, was blamed for much of the papacy's disfunction and poor decision-making. The German pontiff came under pressure from some senior clerics to fire Bertone, but refused.

"I always gave everything but certainly I had my shortcomings," said Bertone, 78, on Sunday. "But this does not mean that I did not try to serve the church."

He said it was not true that the secretary of state "decides and controls everything" within the Vatican.

Announced on Saturday, the move to replace Bertone – which had been widely expected – has been greeted as a vital step forward in Francis's agenda for reforming the Vatican.

However, observers said the appointment of Pietro Parolin, a career diplomat who will return from his posting as nuncio in Venezuela to start the job on 15 October, signalled less a desire for wholesale reform than the wish to revive the old-style Vatican system that flourished under John Paul II.

Bertone had no diplomatic background when he was appointed, while Parolin served as Vatican undersecretary for relations with states – effectively deputy foreign minister – from 2002 to 2009.

He has worked in Nigeria and Mexico, and is known as a pragmatist rather than an ideologue who stayed out of the tense exchanges between the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and the Catholic church.

"A veteran Vatican diplomat, Parolin … has been on the front lines of shaping the Vatican's response to virtually every geopolitical challenge of the past two decades," wrote John L Allen, of National Catholic Reporter, on his blog.

"By naming a consummate insider, Francis appears to want to 'reboot' the Vatican's operating system back to a point when it was perceived to operate efficiently, rather than scrapping it entirely."

Parolin, a 58-year-old Italian archbishop, said in a statement he would give Francis "complete availability to work with him and under his guidance for the greater glory of God, the good of the holy church and the progress and peace of humanity, that humanity might find reasons to live and to hope".

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« Reply #78 on: Sep 03, 2013, 06:59 AM »

Pope Francis and the Vatican's 'crows and vipers'

Cardinal Bertone's sacking was a small step towards reform after the Vatileaks scandal. It prompted a remarkable outburst

Andrew Brown   
Tuesday 3 September 2013 11.53 BST   

One of the most striking things about the Vatican is just how disconnected it can be from the world around it. Another is that it is at the same time fantastically well connected. Upwards of 150 states have diplomatic relations with the pope and it is represented in all international bodies of any significance. The paradox of extreme connectedness and extreme distance was nicely exemplified by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, whom Pope Francis has just sacked.

Bertone was 78, so his departure was hardly unexpected. But for the last seven years he has been the pope's number two, or secretary of state, among other things in charge of the papacy's relations with the outside world. And he held this position although he lacks one of the crucial qualifications of a modern diplomat: he cannot speak English. No doubt his defenders would retort that it's been years since Washington had a secretary of state who was fluent in Latin.

Rightly or wrongly, Bertone had come to symbolise everything that has gone wrong with the Vatican since Pope John Paul II became ill with Parkinson's disease. He couldn't see the problem himself. In a remarkable outburst on Sunday he said that "On balance, I consider these seven years to have been positive. There were matters that got out of control because they were problems which were sealed within the management of certain people who did not contact the secretary of state. Naturally there were problems, particularly in the last two years, they have made many accusations against me … A mix of crows and vipers."

This wonderful last phrase combines Italian distaste for informers ("crows") with a long-standing Christian suspicion of snakes. It is his way of claiming that he was not responsible for the Vatileaks fiasco, which ended up in the sentencing of Pope Benedict's butler for hoarding and then passing papers to journalists that showed the Vatican under Bertone was riven with faction and intrigue.

One version of these intrigues has it that Bertone was in fact to some extent the fall guy in the Vatileaks scandal, and that its real target was Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Pope Benedict's private secretary. Gänswein was himself regarded as one of the most powerful men in the Vatican when Benedict resigned, but his star has fallen since then. Although he has been confirmed in his post by Francis, he no longer controls who sees the pope, which was the root of his power.

Bertone's replacement, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, is a career diplomat with a reputation for competence and hard work. He was even mentioned as an outsider candidate for pope in the speculation in spring. He is only 58, the youngest man to hold the office for decade, and his promotion makes him a very strong candidate to be the next Italian pope in five or 10 years' time.

His career in the Vatican's diplomatic service has included dealing with some of its trickiest relationships, with Israel and China. He was most recently sent to Venezuela, where the country's bishops were locked in noisy hostility with the Chávez government but he himself kept up a much more moderate tone. Nonetheless, he comes in clearly as a reformer. He said recently that the church under Benedict was "a church under siege with thousands of problems, a church that seemed, let's say, a little sick."

The best-informed Vatican watchers see Parolin's appointment as a sign that Francis wants the curia to be less powerful and more efficient than it was under Benedict, but by no means humiliated, the way that some reformers would have liked it to be. The removal of Bertone was in some ways the smallest step he could have taken towards reform, especially as he confirmed the other four most senior officials in the secretariat of state in their posts. Speculation now will concentrate on the feast of St Francis, on 4 October, when Pope Francis is expected to announce the deliberations of the commission of eight cardinals, all known to be hostile to the curia, which he appointed as one of his first acts in office.

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« Reply #79 on: Sep 06, 2013, 07:30 AM »

Pope Francis quietly removes Vatican envoy to the Dominican Republic after accusation of child prostitution surface

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, September 5, 2013 10:29 EDT

Pope Francis came under fire from victims groups on Thursday following news that he had quietly sacked the Vatican’s envoy to the Dominican Republic over allegations of paedophilia.

“Like all of his predecessors, Pope Francis is acting belatedly, secretively and recklessly,” said Barbara Dorris, outreach director for the US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

“Catholic officials act only when forced to do so by media pressure,” she said in a statement received by AFP.

“When they do act, they act secretively — in this case, by not disclosing the allegations, the suspension or the reason for the suspension.”

On August 21 Monsignor Josef Wesolowski, the papal nuncio in Santo Domingo, was sacked without the Vatican sharing the news with the public.

On Wednesday, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told the I.Media news agency on Vatican affairs that an investigation was under way in Rome into allegations of child sex abuse against him.

The Dominican press said the diplomat had sex for money with underage boys in the “Zona colonial”, the historic centre of Santo Domingo.

Wesolowski, a 65-year-old Pole who has been the papal envoy in Santo Domingo for five years, was ordained in 1972 by the then Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II.

John Paul II appointed him nuncio to Bolivia, his first posting. Wesolowski also worked in several countries in Central Asia and was appointed to the Dominican Republic by Pope Benedict in 2008.

Pope Francis has vowed to crack down against abuse in the Catholic Church, reiterating the zero-tolerance approach eventually taken up by his predecessor Benedict following a wave of revelations.

In July, Francis bolstered criminal legislation against child abuse in the Vatican, issuing a decree that included “a broader definition of the category of crimes against minors” including child prostitution, sexual acts with children and child pornography.”

The new laws introduce specific forms of crime that are indicated in international conventions that the Vatican has already ratified including against racism and war crimes and on children’s rights.

“The Holy See is finally making up for a serious lag,” the international children’s rights organisation Terre des Hommes said in a statement hailing the changes.

The legislation applies to a few thousand people who are directly employed by the Vatican in Rome and abroad. Sex abuse cases which take place in other countries are dealt with under national legislations.

Although some observers welcomed the legislation as proof of Francis’s commitment to tackling the paedophilia crisis that has plagued the Church over the past several years, the SNAP victims group criticised it as window dressing, slamming the decree as “tweaking often-ignored and ineffective internal church abuse guidelines to generate positive headlines but nothing more.”

[Image via Las Sociales y Espectaculos/ Angela Mieses Santos, faces blurred by Raw Story]

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« Reply #80 on: Sep 07, 2013, 05:03 PM »

Vatican: 100,000 answer pope’s call, fill St. Peter’s Square for Syria peace vigil

VATICAN CITY — Tens of thousands of people filled St. Peter’s Square for a four-hour Syria peace vigil late Saturday, answering Pope Francis’ call for a grassroots cry for peace that was echoed by Christians and non-Christians alike in Syria and in vigils around the world.

The Vatican estimated about 100,000 took part in the Rome event, making it one of the largest rallies in the West against proposed U.S.-led military action against the Syrian regime following the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus.

Francis spent most of the vigil in silent prayer, but during his speech he issued a heartfelt plea for peace, denouncing those who are “captivated by the idols of dominion and power” and destroy God’s creation through war.

“This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: Violence and war are never the way to peace!” he said.

“May the noise of weapons cease!” he said. “War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity.”

In Damascus, a few dozen Syrian Christians attended a service in the al-Zaytoun Church, joining Francis’ invitation for a global participation in the day of fasting and prayer and to oppose outside military intervention in the conflict.

Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Antioch and All East presided, saying most countries supported a political solution to the crisis in Syria and few wanted military action. “This is the start of the victory,” he told the Damascus faithful. “No to war. Yes for peace.”

Francis announced the day of fasting and prayer Sept. 1, alarmed at the acceleration of U.S. threats to strike Syria after the chemical weapons attack.

Since then, the Vatican has ramped up its peace message, summoning ambassadors for a briefing by the Holy See foreign minister this week. Francis appealed directly to world powers at the Group of 20 meeting in Russia, urging them to abandon the “futile pursuit” of a military solution in Syria and work instead for a negotiated settlement.

Bishops around the world joined Francis in the daylong fast and organized similar vigils in their home dioceses. In Francis’ native Argentina, human rights and religious groups held a vigil in Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo and in cities across the country. Vatican Radio reported similar initiatives were taking place throughout Italy, in Cuba and elsewhere. Even the grand mufti of Damascus, who thanked the pope for his initiative in a letter earlier this week, invited Muslims to join the fast in solidarity.

Vatican officials have stressed that Saturday’s event was religious, not political. But the gathering nevertheless took on the air of an anti-war rally, with protesters holding up Syrian flags and banners in the square reading “Don’t attack Syria” and “Obama you don’t have a dream, you have a nightmare.” A few rainbow “Peace” flags fluttered in the breeze.

But by the time the vigil got underway, the posters and flags had mainly disappeared as a more religious tone took over, with leaders from a variety of Christian and non-Christian denominations joining cardinals, politicians and ordinary folk for the evening of prayer, hymns and meditation.

“This is already a success, the fact that all of us are here, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, atheists,” a Hindu believer named Anata said. Pilgrims “made an effort to fast, not to do many things, and come here from all over Italy and Europe. This is already a success.”

The pope entered the square from the basilica steps, foregoing his usual high-spirited drive through in his open car — an indication of the sobriety of the evening, which capped a day of fasting for the pontiff.

The 76-year-old pope held up well throughout the four hours — lasting longer than many who by the vigil’s 11 p.m. conclusion had already gone home. He thanked those who had stayed to the end for their company, and wished them a good night’s sleep.

The peace vigil marked something of a novelty for the Vatican: Nothing of its kind has ever taken place in St. Peter’s Square, though popes past have participated in daylong peace prayers in places like Assisi, known for its peace-loving native son and the pope’s namesake, St. Francis.

That’s not to say popes haven’t taken vigorous anti-war positions in the past: Pope Paul VI famously uttered the words “War never again, never again war” at the United Nations in 1965 as the Vietnam War raged, a refrain that has been repeated by every pope since. Pope John Paul II sent an envoy to President George W. Bush on the eve of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq urging him to stand down — to no avail.

Francis has condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but has been careful not to lay blame on any one side, exhorting world leaders instead to focus on the plight of Syrian civilians and the need in general to end the violence.

Other church officials, both at the Vatican and in dioceses, have been more pointed in their criticism of any internationalization of the conflict, saying U.S.-French military strikes will only exacerbate the situation for civilians, particularly Christian minorities.
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« Reply #81 on: Sep 10, 2013, 07:25 AM »

September 9, 2013

The Pope Gets on the Line, and Everyone Is Talking


ROME — Pope Francis already has distinguished himself from his predecessor with a more down-to-earth style. Now he is both unnerving the Vatican and delighting the faithful by picking up the telephone and spontaneously calling people, earning the nickname “the Cold Call Pope.”

This month, he called to comfort a pregnant Italian woman whose married boyfriend had unsuccessfully pressured her to have an abortion. The woman, who is divorced and will be a single mother, wrote to the pope, fearing she had fallen afoul of the church. Not knowing the correct address, she marked the envelope “Holy Father Pope Francis, Vatican City, Rome.” The pope offered to personally baptize the baby when it is born next year, according to an account in La Stampa, a newspaper in Turin.

In August, Francis phoned a woman in Argentina who had been raped by a police officer. The pope told her that she was not alone and that she should have faith in the justice system, according to an Argentine television news report rebroadcast in Italy.

On Aug. 7, Michele Ferri of Pesaro, Italy, answered his phone and was startled to hear, “Hello, Michele, it’s Pope Francis.” Mr. Ferri said in a telephone interview he had thought it was a joke. “But then he spoke about the letter that I’d written, a letter I hadn’t told anyone about, not even my mother or my wife, and I knew that it was him,” he said.

Mr. Ferri had written the pope, he said, after a “series of tragedies in the family,” most recently the killing of his brother in a gas station robbery in early June. “The pope said that the letter had made him cry,” he said.

The 10-minute phone call “offered comfort and hope, to better face life without my brother,” he said. “Of course the pain remains, but it was a great emotion to hear his voice.” Later in August, Mr. Ferri said, the pope also called his mother to offer words of support.

While the papal phoning has been widely greeted with delight, it is also proving somewhat perilous, with unsubstantiated news reports of calls supposedly made by Francis — including one last week to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and another to a young distraught French gay man. The Vatican denied that the pope had made those calls. Some Vatican officials are expressing concern that individuals are impersonating Francis to advance political or ideological agendas.

Other Vatican analysts fear that the advent of papal phone calls could spawn disillusion among those not receiving a call.

“There’s an innumerable number of people who have suffered violence or injustice who might write to the pope for a word of comfort, and it’s clear that he can’t answer all of them,” said Alberto Melloni, a Vatican historian and the director of the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies in Bologna, a liberal Catholic research institute. “They could think, ‘See, I’m feeling awful and the pope didn’t even call.’ ”

On Thursday the Argentine newspaper Clarín reported that Francis had spoken by phone with Mr. Assad in an effort to prevent a military confrontation with the United States. The Vatican’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, emphatically denied the report.

Then on Friday, Mr. Lombardi denied newspaper reports in France that the pope had called a young Catholic gay man in Toulouse to reassure him. The man, Christopher Trutino, a 25-year-old salesclerk, had told a local paper, La Dépêche du Midi, that after he wrote a letter to the pope explaining his struggles to reconcile his sexuality and faith, Francis phoned him to counsel him. “Your homosexuality, it doesn’t matter,” he recalled the pope saying. “One way or another, we are all children of God.”

Some on Twitter and elsewhere on the Internet greeted reports of the call as a welcome change in the doctrinal rigidity of the church on the issue of homosexuality. But the Vatican’s denial of the reports fanned speculation that the call had been a hoax, while also prompting some to question whether the Vatican was dissembling to distance itself from a delicate topic.

Mr. Trutino is avoiding the media, and could not be reached for comment on Monday. But Cyril Doumergue, the journalist from La Dépêche du Midi who interviewed him, said he had sounded authentic and genuinely moved. But he said he believed Mr. Trutino may have been deceived. He said the young man told the newspaper that during the call — which he said began at 2 p.m. — the pope explained that he would later be receiving King Abdullah II of Jordan. But Ansa, the Italian news agency, said the king arrived at 11 a.m. and the meeting was over by 12:06 p.m.

“Christopher did not record the conversation, so it is impossible to know 100 percent what happened,” Mr. Doumergue said.

Father Lombardi said that it was the pope’s prerogative to phone whomever he chose and that the Vatican would not comment on every reported phone call. But he said he would intervene when rumors or hoax calls dealt with issues of international relevance like Syria or could have important doctrinal implications.

Elisabetta Povoledo reported from Rome, and Dan Bilefsky from Paris. Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting from Rome.

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« Reply #82 on: Sep 12, 2013, 09:30 AM »

September 12, 2013 07:00 AM

I'm Starting To Like Pope Francis

By John Amato

I'm starting to really like Pope Francis. I know the story of the day was about his new/old car:

    Pope Francis now has his own mini-popemobile after getting a good deal on a used car that he plans to drive himself.

    A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, says Francis accepted the 1984 Renault 4, donated for free by a priest in northern Italy who used it to visit poor parishioners. The four-door car, in papal white, has a manual shift and a new engine. Benedettini told the Associated Press on Wednesday: "The pope intends to drive it."

    The donor, the 79-year-old Rev. Renzo Zocca, says he took Francis for a short drive in the car at the Vatican on Saturday and that Francis told him he knows how to drive it.

    Zocca said he thinks Francis will use it for short commutes on Vatican grounds.

But for me there's a couple of things to discuss. First, he's allowing liberation theology back into the church--which was caught by Charles Pierce:

    And, seriously, this is good news.

        Francis, who has called for "a poor church for the poor," will meet in the next few days with the Rev. Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian theologian and scholar who is considered the founder of liberation theology. The meeting was announced on Sunday (Sept. Cool by Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, during the launch of a book he co-authored with Gutierrez. It's a remarkable about-face for a movement that swelled in popularity but was later stamped out by the conservative pontificates of John Paul II and his longtime doctrinal czar, Benedict XVI.


    One of the great disservices that JP The Deuce did to HMC was to squash the liberation theologians, some of whom were actually martyred, not that it mattered to the bureaucrats in the Holy Office. If this pope is willing to let them back into the general theological life of the church, that's nothing but a good thing, if only because it will piss off all the right people.

Conservatives, even in religious matters, seem to always stamp out progress in all forms and Pope John Paul was like all the rest of conservative power brokers.


    Liberation theology proposes to fight poverty by addressing its alleged source: sin. In so doing, it explores the relationship between Christian theology — especially Roman Catholic theology — and political activism, especially in relation to social justice, poverty, and human rights.

    The principal methodological innovation is seeing theology from the perspective of the poor and the oppressed. For example Jon Sobrino, S.J., argues that the poor are a privileged channel of God's on

And secondly, his Number 2, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, said clerical celibacy is open for discussion:

    The Vatican’s new secretary of state has said that priestly celibacy is not church dogma and therefore open to discussion, marking a significant change in approach towards one of the thorniest issues facing the Roman Catholic Church."Celibacy is not an institution but look, it is also true that you can discuss (it) because as you say this is not a dogma, a dogma of the church," Archbishop Pietro Parolin said in response to a question during an interview with Venezuelan newspaper El Universal.

    He added that while it was not dogma, clerical celibacy was a deeply entrenched Catholic tradition. "The efforts that the church made to keep ecclesiastical celibacy, to impose ecclesiastical celibacy, have to be taken into consideration," Parolin said. "One cannot say simply that this belongs in the past."

This is really huge. I know the church will resist this because of the money involved that could end up in an ex-wife's possession from the church, but Pope Francis seems to be putting a lot of things on the table. The Catholic Church needs it badly.
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« Reply #83 on: Sep 18, 2013, 06:12 AM »

Holy water contaminated with human waste, says report

Water at religious sites and chapels in Austria polluted with faecal matter and bacteria and could be harmful to health

Reuters in Vienna, Wednesday 18 September 2013 11.21 BST   
Holy water at religious shrines and churches in Austria is often contaminated with faecal matter and bacteria, researchers have found, advising the faithful not to drink it, especially in hospital chapels.

Scientists at Vienna University medical school's institute of hygiene and applied immunology came to the conclusion after analysing the water quality at 21 "holy" springs and 18 fonts at churches and chapels at various times of year.

Only 14% of the water samples from holy sources showed no faecal contamination, and none of the springs could be recommended as a source of drinking water, the study presented to a conference in Vienna this week found.

The springs held not only faecal contamination – likely the result of poor hygiene – but many also had agricultural nitrates and bugs that can cause inflammatory diarrhoea.

"We need to warn people against drinking from these sources," microbiologist Alexander Kirschner said in the study.

Kirschner said the healing effects ascribed to holy sources arose from the hygienic conditions of the Middle Ages, when water quality in urban areas was generally so poor that people often contracted diarrhoea or similar illnesses.

"If they then came across a protected spring in the forest that was not as polluted and drank from it for several days, their symptoms would disappear. So although in those days they were drinking healthier water, given the excellent quality of our drinking water today, the situation is now completely reversed."

The warning is reminiscent of the Henrik Ibsen play An Enemy of the People, in which a Norwegian mayor and his doctor brother clash over the medicinal properties of their town's famous healing baths. However, the report's authors are unlikely to face a backlash from the Viennese church or city elders.

The study noted some ways to help address the problem, including regularly replacing holy water in church fonts.

One Italian priest has invented a holy water dispenser that dispenses drops of holy water rather than having the faithful dip a hand in, it noted.

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« Reply #84 on: Sep 20, 2013, 08:32 AM »

September 20, 2013 07:00 AM

Pope Francis: Too Much Emphasis on Culture War Instead of Love

By John Amato

I wrote a post a week ago about Pope Francis and how much I've started to like him. Well, the more Pope Francis talks about the church of today, the more my fondness grows.

Pope Bluntly Faults Church’s Focus on Gays and Abortion

    Pope Francis, in the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, said that the Roman Catholic Church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics.

    In remarkably blunt language, Francis sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.

    “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican.

    “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

    “We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

I grew up Catholic, as you guys know, and today's church looks and teaches nothing like what I learned as a child. It jumped on the wingnut anti-abortion platform with all the extra trimmings and never got off. I never understood how they could only focus on matters of the icky sex thing and drop everything else. I imagine it was very lucrative financially (because we've seen how wealthy these supposed men of God in America have become by fundraising on this issue), but it appears that's changing under Pope Francis. They aren't going to change their doctrine into now becoming pro-choice, but they may become more human and relevant in the world to those that have faith in Catholicism if the rest of the church heeds his words.

There will be those who object, but they will lose out to Francis in the end.

    The admonition is likely to have sharp reverberations in the United States, where some bishops have already publicly voiced dismay that Francis hasn't hammered home church teaching on abortion, contraception and homosexuality — areas of the culture wars where U.S. bishops often put themselves on the front lines.


    As a non-religious outsider, the extreme focus on issues related to sex and sexuality by the catholic church (and other denominations) has just been weird, especially given the lack of support in scripture for some of it. It's as if morality had been reduced to some concept of sexual morality.

    Now I know that isn't true in every church and doesn't come from every priest, but it has been the public face of religion in this country for most of my life.
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« Reply #85 on: Sep 21, 2013, 06:29 AM »

September 20, 2013

With His Remarks on Sexual Morality, a Surprise Pope Keeps on Surprising


ROME — From the moment he was introduced to the huge crowds waiting for a new pope in the rain at St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis has been a surprise. People gasped when his name was called out. He was 76, seemingly another rigid conservative, not the younger, dynamic figure many Catholics had hoped for.

Now six months later, the surprises keep coming, including the pope’s new remarks that the church risked becoming a “small chapel” overly fixated on sexual morality and should instead offer a broader, more inclusive message.

Francis is challenging the status quo of the Roman Catholic Church so determinedly and so unexpectedly that Vatican watchers are debating whether this is merely a change of tone, as many had thought at first. Some now think the pope may be making a deliberate effort to shake up the Vatican governing hierarchy, known as the Curia, and prepare the ground for a more fundamental shift in the direction of the church.

“I think we are looking at major changes,” said John Thavis, a longtime Vatican observer and author of “The Vatican Diaries.” “There is a lot of disorientation inside the Roman Curia. They used to feel they were in charge. Right now, they know they are not in charge.”

The latest unexpected jolt from Pope Francis came in an interview conducted with a Jesuit journalist and released Thursday in Jesuit publications around the world. Francis, himself a Jesuit, chastised the church’s narrow focus on controversial social issues and called instead for a more merciful and less judgmental church. He had already sent out earlier signals, declining to live in the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace, chiding prelates for driving fancy cars and announcing that church properties should be used as shelters for refugees.

Francis did try to temper the impact of his remarks on Friday, telling an audience of Catholic gynecologists that abortion was a symptom of our “throwaway culture” and urging them to refuse to perform the procedure.

But there seems little question that Francis wants to change the papal conversation. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, often seemed engaged in an angry verbal jousting match with secularism and modernity, usually delivered through formal encyclicals or speeches that, to many Catholics, felt like a personal rebuke. The church seemed like “a rigid institution dictating impossible norms to follow, an overly severe mother,” said Lucetta Scaraffia, a scholar of Catholicism in Rome.

By contrast, Pope Francis has made impromptu telephone calls to people who have written him letters seeking help, while also thriving on socializing with other priests and laypeople. He is assuming the tone of the parish priest, many analysts say, recognizing that people struggle daily with issues of conscience and that the church, rather than shake a finger, must offer a broader message of comfort and healing. Many analysts have seized on an analogy cited by Francis in his interview: the church as a hospital in a battlefield.

“People have been wounded in a war over secularization,” said Ms. Scaraffia, a history professor at the University of Rome La Sapienza. “He’s saying: ‘Let’s look after the wounds. That’s more important than winning the war.’ ”

The deep challenges confronting the church became evident after Benedict’s stunning decision to resign early this year. Allegations of mismanagement were erupting in the Vatican, and accusations of impropriety shook the Vatican bank. Many cardinals blamed the problems on the secretive administrative body, the Roman Curia, and wanted Benedict’s successor to usher in major reforms that would decentralize power.

Pope Francis has already signaled his independence from some of the Vatican’s traditional channels, and his biggest governance move, as yet, has been the creation of an advisory group of eight outside cardinals to help him usher in Curial reform. But in his interview, he hinted that bigger changes could be coming, including possible structural changes to the conferences of bishops, known as synods. He also pointedly warned that certain departments in the Curia, when functioning poorly, risk “becoming institutions of censorship.”

Analysts also noted how Francis specifically stated that the Curia should be at the service of the church, the bishops and the pope — not vice versa. But rather than first outlining specific governance reforms and instituting major personnel shifts, Francis instead seems intent on articulating his vision for the church to build public support for changes yet to come.

“First, you have to get consensus based on the force of the vision, and then you find the men,” said the Reverend Pierangelo Sequeri, dean of the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy. “I don’t think the cardinals expected him to act in that way.”

Francis, who previously had been Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina, was selected by a peer group of cardinals widely regarded as theological conservatives. Many analysts, as well as conservative Catholics, have noted that despite the striking differences in his young papacy, Francis remains a theological conservative who is not advocating doctrinal change.

Indeed, Francis on Friday offered a strong anti-abortion message during a meeting with Catholic gynecologists. “Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord,” he said.

But the pope seems intent on not being ideologically pigeonholed. In his Jesuit interview, Francis said that in his younger days, while overseeing the Jesuit order in Argentina, he was often quick-tempered and came under legitimate criticism. “My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative,” he said.

But later, when he became archbishop of Buenos Aires, he changed his style, he recalled. He consulted regularly with bishops and met several times a year with councils of priests, inviting discussion and debate. “But now I hear some people tell me, ‘Do not consult too much, and decide by yourself,’ “ he said in the interview. “Instead, I believe that consultation is very important.”

Indeed, some analysts believe Francis’ desire to broaden the appeal and message of the church reflects his background in Latin America, where the Roman Catholic Church is competing for followers with evangelical Protestant movements. Appealing to the global south was considered an important factor in selecting a new pope, while several cardinals spoke publicly about the need for a change agent to fix the problems inside the Vatican.

Alberto Melloni, a prominent Vatican historian, said he thought that the cardinals, despite their conservatism, were aware that Francis would make big changes — especially since most of those same cardinals had previously elected Benedict and bore some responsibility for the shortcomings of his papacy.

But Mr. Melloni added that even if Francis remained a doctrinaire conservative, the decision to stop speaking in terms of doctrine and “nonnegotiable values” was very significant, given tight alignment in many countries between the church and political conservatives.

“The political consequences of these changes are very strong and serious,” said Mr. Melloni, director of the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies in Bologna, a liberal Catholic research institute. “The Holy Father has offered a sort of new freedom to the church in the political scene.”

Sister Carol Zinn, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the umbrella group of American nuns that came under harsh doctrinal scrutiny under Pope Benedict, said Francis’ approach to the papacy — listening to laypeople and practicing the Jesuit discipline of gradually discerning direction — indicated that he intended to make more than tonal changes.

“What we’re seeing is an incredible change in the atmosphere,” she said in an interview. “And when you have change in the atmosphere, it’s amazing what kinds of things can unfold. Because of the commitment he has to a discerning way of life, I think we are going to see changes, because discernment brings changes.”

Laurie Goodstein contributed reporting from New York.

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« Reply #86 on: Sep 23, 2013, 06:19 AM »

Pope Francis lashes out at world economic system for worshiping a ‘god called money’

By Scott Kaufman
Sunday, September 22, 2013 11:12 EDT

On Sunday, Pope Francis discarded his prepared remarks for Mass after speaking with an unemployed father-of-three who, according to Reuters, told him that unemployment “oppresses you and wears you out to the depths of your soul.”

The pope improvised on this theme for over twenty minutes, saying “I find suffering here … It weakens you and robs you of hope. Excuse me if I use strong words, but where there is no work there is no dignity.”

“We don’t want this globalized economic system which does us so much harm,” he reportedly continued. “Men and women have to be at the center [of economic systems] as God wants, not money.”

“The world has become an idolator of this god called money.”

The pope laid blame for the Italian economic downturn at the feet of the world economy, saying “It is not a problem of Italy and Europe … It is the consequence of a world choice, of an economic system that brings about this tragedy, an economic system that has at its center an idol which is called money.”

He later spoke of the “hidden euthanasia” of neglect that afflicts those the economy considers unproductive: “To defend this economic culture, a throwaway culture has been installed. We throw away grandparents, and we throw away young people. We have to say no to his throwaway culture. We want a just system that helps everyone.”

Francis concluded with a prayer for what he called “work, work, work,” and the 20,000 gathered to hear him speak cheered along with each iteration of the ways in which “unemployment robs workers of their dignity.”

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« Reply #87 on: Sep 25, 2013, 07:15 AM »

Ex-Pope Benedict denies covering up sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests

Excerpts of letter to author published in newspaper are first to address the subject since his retirement

Reuters in Vatican City, Tuesday 24 September 2013 16.39 BST   

Former Pope Benedict has denied that he tried to cover up sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests, in his first direct published comments since he stepped down.

The comments came in an 11-page letter to Italian author and mathematician Piergiorgio Odifreddi, who wrote a book about the problems facing the Roman Catholic church before the pope resigned in February.

"As far as you mentioning the moral abuse of minors by priests I can only, as you know, acknowledge it with profound consternation. But I never tried to cover up these things," Benedict, who now has the title emeritus pope, said.

Excerpts of Benedict's letter were published in La Repubblica on Tuesday with the former pope's permission.

It was believed to be the first time Benedict has responded to the sexual abuse accusations in the first person, although the Vatican has always said he did much to put an end to sexual abuse of minors by priests and never tried to cover it up.

It was also the first time since Benedict resigned on 26 February that anything precise that he has written or said was published, although some people who have visited him in the Vatican house where he is living out retirement have indirectly reported to outsiders some of his comments to them.

Victims' groups have accused Benedict of not doing enough to stop the abuse of children by priests while he was pope and before when he was head of the Vatican's doctrinal office.

The rest of the letter from Benedict to Odifreddi referred to other aspects of the author's book, called Dear Pope, I Am Writing You, such as the conflict between good and evil.

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« Reply #88 on: Sep 25, 2013, 08:17 AM »

Pope Francis condemns the mistreatment of immigrants

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, September 24, 2013 11:41 EDT

Pope Francis on Tuesday called on countries to protect migrants, condemning the treatment of refugees as mere “pawns on the chessboard of humanity”.

Countries should cooperate on “the broad adoption of policies and rules aimed at protecting and promoting the human person”, he said in a message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

“Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity,” he said in the message titled “Towards a Better World”.

“They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes.”

He slammed situations in which migration is propelled by human trafficking and enslavement, warning: “Nowadays, ‘slave labour’ is common coin.”

The Argentine pontiff has made defence of the poor and vulnerable a keystone of his papacy.

His first trip outside of Rome earlier this year was to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, where thousands of migrants regularly wash up in pitiful states after hazardous crossings from Africa.

Some are then coerced into the sex trade or forced labour by criminal gangs.

A recent UN report found that Italy must do more to tackle the problem of human trafficking, saying the situation in the country was worsening.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that some 800,000 people may be trafficked across international borders annually, with many more trafficked within the borders of their own countries.

The next World Day of Migrants and Refugees is not until January 19, but the Vatican sends out papal messages on such subjects well in advance to provide guidance to pastors around the world.

In the message, the pontiff also urged government leaders to “confront socioeconomic imbalances and an unregulated globalisation, which are among some of the causes of migration movements in which individuals are more victims than protagonists.”

“No country can single-handedly face the difficulties associated with this phenomenon, which is now so widespread that it affects every continent in the twofold movement of immigration and emigration,” he said.

Fleeing “situations of extreme poverty or persecution… millions of persons choose to migrate.”

“Despite their hopes and expectations, they often encounter mistrust, rejection and exclusion, to say nothing of tragedies and disasters which offend their human dignity,” he added.
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« Reply #89 on: Sep 26, 2013, 05:33 AM »

09/26/2013 12:21 PM

Austere Example: Pope's Message at Odds with Bishops' Lifestyle

By Peter Wensierski

At the Vatican, a down-to-earth Pope Francis has been preaching humility and modesty. Many bishops in Germany, however, are having a hard time embracing a more austere lifestyle.

Last week Rudolf Voderholzer, 54, the bishop of the Bavarian city of Regensburg and one of Germany's younger church leaders, was taken to task at the Vatican by the pope himself. In an admonishment to the German bishop and others attending a seminar for new bishops in Rome, Francis said: "Be close to the people and live as you preach. Always be with your flock, do not succumb to careerism and ask yourselves whether you are truly living as you preach."

This is a new message for German princes of the church. Many of them have long cultivated a lifestyle oriented toward strict dogmas, prestige and a career within the church, much like former Pope Benedict XVI. But now that his successor arrives at meetings in an old car, there has been a fundamental shift. Loyalty to the pope is being completely redefined, and not just in Regensburg, where Voderholzer's predecessor Gerhard Ludwig Müller, a fervent devotee of former Pope Benedict, alienated many Roman Catholics.

This week, German bishops have a chance to discuss what the change at the Vatican means for them, as they meet for their annual Bishops' Conference in the central German city of Fulda. There hasn't been this much uncertainty within their ranks in a long time.

Conservative Benedict fans, led by Cologne Cardinal Joachim Meisner, see their influence waning, as much of what had been valuable and important to them is now frowned upon. On the other hand the reformist camp, weakened for years, has yet to gather its forces. Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, systematically suppressed open-minded voices within the German clergy. Now the remaining liberal priests are only gradually coming out of the woods.

An Old Fiat as a Popemobile

For now, the major theological issues are not open to debate. Under Francis, change begins in everyday life. "It hurts me when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car. You can't do this," he told the young priests and nuns. "Cars are necessary. But take a more humble one. Think of how many children die of hunger and dedicate the savings to them."

While the new pope travelled in an old Fiat to visit African refugees on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, Meisner is chauffeured around his Cologne archdiocese, which has a worldwide reputation for being especially affluent, in a BMW 7 Series. Most German bishops, from Munich to Würzburg to Osnabrück in the north, drive luxury sedans, preferably made by Audi, BMW or Mercedes.

This has prompted the organization German Environmental Aid to criticize the country's Catholic Church leaders for being "over-motorized" and thus responsible for high pollutant emissions. Even the car magazine Auto Bild opined that by driving these vehicles, the bishops help to "bolster social acceptance of luxury cars."

And Francis is not stopping at expensive cars. Church dignitaries were also forced to acknowledge another message from Rome, namely that for a Christian, happiness does not hinge on owning the latest smartphone, or living in luxury. Instead of residing in the Apostolic Palace, the pope has permanently moved into an ordinary room at the Santa Marta guesthouse in Rome.

In Germany, on the other hand, many bishops apparently haven't come to terms with Francis's insistence that they set a credible example of poverty. The costly new residence of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the bishop of Limburg in western Germany, is only one especially conspicuous example of the pomposity, or at least the pronounced attachment to prestige, of the country's Catholic Church leaders.

Testifying to Historic Power

Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx, for example, lives in three private rooms at Holnstein Palace, the rococo-style traditional residence of the Archbishop of Munich in the city center that has just undergone a renovation costing millions. The church spent about €2 million ($2.7 million) on the palace, and the owner, the State of Bavaria, donated another €6.5 million. One of the paintings hanging in rooms adorned with exquisite frescoes and chandeliers is of Marx himself. As if that weren't enough, the archdiocese also spent about €10 million on a villa in Rome that now serves as a "guesthouse." In other German cities, such as Regensburg, Bamberg and Fulda, the Episcopal residences still testify to the historical power of their residents.

Counterexamples are rare. Berlin Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki came into office with the reputation of being an archconservative, but then he sought dialogue with gays and lesbians and met with asylum seekers. He lives in an attic apartment in Berlin's Wedding neighborhood, which has a large immigrant population. He celebrated Christmas at the Franciscans' soup kitchen, and he often chooses his bicycle over his official car, a BMW. His counterpart in the southwestern city of Freiburg, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, lives in a modest row house.

This week Zollitsch, 75, is chairing the German Bishops' Conference in Fulda for the second to last time. A new chairman will be elected at the next conference, in February 2014, when the cities of Cologne, Freiburg, Erfurt and Passau will also likely receive new bishops. A change of generations is in the offing, but there are few choices.

The change of course in Rome could confound the rankings among top Catholics. For instance, Marx, as the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, a man with moderate views and a powerful organization, had been considered a frontrunner to succeed Zollitsch. But now the more modest Woelki, from the impoverished Berlin archdiocese, is seen as a more likely candidate for the important office.

Touching People's Hearts

Francis is constantly doling out advice to bishops old and new. "The first reform must be the attitudes," the pope said in an interview with the Jesuit journal, Civiltà Cattolica. The Holy Father wants bishops to shift their focus away from themselves and toward the Catholic faithful. He wants them to take risks by breaking the rules, get out of their "comfort zones," and go directly to the people and touch their hearts, be it in parishes, prisons or dormitories for asylum seekers. All of these things are difficult to do in splendid robes and BMW sedans, or from behind the walls of palatial residences.

In general, Pope Francis is warning priests against withdrawing to their ivory towers, a very real danger under Benedict XVI. "This church … is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people," he said. "We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity."

In recent years, the tendency in many parts of Germany has been in the opposite direction. Joseph Ratzinger's constant warnings against the "relativism" of modern life encouraged a withdrawal into devout niches and promoted a Catholic Church that was small, pure and refined, a delight for fundamentalists.

The controversial Society of St. Pius X was to be readmitted, and archconservative Benedict devotees celebrated the Latin mass, mumbled by the priest with his back turned to the congregation, as a beneficial "scandal of faith." Critics and reformers, on the other hand, were ignored, pushed aside or ejected.

Disappointed by the official church in Germany, many laymen are now pinning their hopes on the new man in Rome. Alois Glück, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics, would like to see Francis exert more influence on German bishops. He is calling for more courage and an end to silence, especially "on questions of sexual ethics." According to Glück, the overwhelming majority of Catholics strongly favor necessary changes. "No one can claim anymore that the pressing issues are merely of interest to fringe groups," says Glück. "They have arrived at the center of the church."

Changing the Nature of Discourse

The spirit of optimism among ordinary churchgoers has grown with virtually every gesture coming from the new pope. In his interview with Civiltà Cattolica, published last week, Francis made it clear that he is fundamentally changing the nature of discourse in the Catholic Church. According to Francis, the church should not constantly focus on controversies surrounding gays, women and celibacy. "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible," he said. "The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently."

For Jesuit priest Klaus Mertes, who, as principal of Berlin's Canisius School, unleashed the abuse scandal in Germany, the position of his fellow Jesuit and now pope is still revolutionary, even if Francis hasn't abandoned any of the church's strict principles. "If there is a change in the church's practices, as well as in the way we interact with each other and with parishioners, the theory will also change in the end, and not the other way around." Many others share his hope.

In their sermons, German bishops have repeatedly called upon pastors and parishioners alike to accept the church's doctrine without question. "Obedience is love and not compulsion," Limburg Bishop Tebartz-van Elst said at an ordination ceremony for new priests.

Ironically Francis who, as a Jesuit, was taught to be obedient and who, as pope, is entitled to demand obedience from every Catholic, is now breaking with this doctrine. "People get tired of authoritarianism," he said in his historic interview last week. "I lived a time of great interior crisis," he noted, only to recognize that "my authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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