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« Reply #165 on: Jan 16, 2014, 06:28 AM »

Vatican wants to make it easier for the poor to gain sainthood

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, January 15, 2014 12:58 EST

The Vatican has said it is cutting the costs of sainthood applications, which can reportedly spiral up to a million dollars (735,000 euros), in a move that could boost candidatures from the developing world.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, who heads up the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, was quoted by the Vatican’s official Osservatore Romano daily on Wednesday as saying the change is aimed at removing “inequality”.

Applications for sainthood can take years and costs include legal fees and travel bills for medical experts from around the world who are often called on to verify supposed medical miracles attributed to would-be saints.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis was cited by the Huffington Post as saying the price of canonisation campaigns range between $250,000 and $1 million — with a lot of money coming from ordinary parishioners.

The price-tag means bids for candidates from the developing world have until now had less chance of success but the Vatican is now introducing a “fixed tariff” aimed at cutting costs, Osservatore Romano said.

Amato said he was also encouraging private donations to help finance the Vatican’s investigations into applications in cases where the applicant’s cause lacks wealthy allies who can sponsor the process.

Pope Francis has called for a less “Vatican-centric” Catholic Church that reaches out to the “peripheries of the world” and is planning a major overhaul of the scandal-hit Vatican bureaucracy and finances.

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Vatican tells UN committee: no excuse for clerical sex abuse

UN committee on the rights of the child hearing allegations that Holy See enabled rape of thousands of children by protecting paedophile priests

Associated Press in Geneva
theguardian.com, Thursday 16 January 2014 11.13 GMT   

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi preparing for a hearing at the UN committee on the rights of the child
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi (left), the Vatican's ambassador to the UN, preparing for a hearing at the UN committee on the rights of the child. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The Vatican has acknowledged there can be "no excuse" after being confronted for the first time at length and in public over the global clerical sex abuse scandal.

At a UN hearing, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's representative in Geneva, said "such crimes can never be justified" whether committed at home, school, sports activities or in religious organisations and structures.

Tomasi told the UN committee on the rights of the child on Thursday that the Holy See welcomed any suggestions that could help it in promoting and encouraging respect for the rights of the child.

He spoke at the beginning of a hearing at which the Vatican is being challenged with allegations that it enabled the rape of thousands of children by protecting paedophile priests and its own reputation at the expense of victims.

The Holy See is being asked about its implementation of the UN convention on the rights of the child. Among other things, the treaty calls for signatories to take all appropriate measures to protect children from harm and to put children's interests above all else.

The Holy See ratified the convention in 1990 and submitted a first implementation report in 1994. But it did not provide progress reports for nearly a decade, and only submitted one in 2012 after coming under criticism following the 2010 explosion of child sex abuse cases in Europe and beyond

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« Reply #166 on: Jan 17, 2014, 05:09 AM »

UN’s child rights watchdog grills the Vatican over sex abuse by the clergy

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, January 16, 2014 12:00 EST

The Vatican insisted on Thursday that it is committed to stamping out sexual abuse by the clergy, as top Church officials were grilled before the UN’s child rights watchdog.

The hearing came as Pope Francis said all Catholics should feel “shame”, in an apparent reference to the scandals that have rocked the Church for more than a decade.

Under the spotlight at the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, the Vatican delegation insisted it understood what it had to do to root out sexual crimes.

“The Holy See gets it, that certain things have to be done differently,” said Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former top prosecutor.

“It’s not words, it has to be commitment on the ground, on the level of the local churches,” he told the committee.

The Roman Catholic Church has faced a cascade of scandals involving child sexual abuse by priests and Catholic lay officials, from Ireland to the United States and from Australia to Germany.

Pope Francis, who has vowed zero tolerance of abuse since he was elected last March, said the scandals “are the shame of the Church.”

“Do we feel shame? There are so many scandals that I do not want to name them individually but everyone knows about them!” the pope said in a homily on Thursday.

Like other signatories of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Vatican agrees to submit regular reports on its respect for the rules, and to be scrutinised by an 18-member watchdog panel.

Thursday’s session — a regular review of the Holy See’s rights record, and not exclusively focused on the abuse issue — marked the Vatican’s second appearance before the committee.

The first was in 1995, before the abuse cases burst into the spotlight.

UN committee member Hiranthi Wijemanne charged that perpetrators were too often shielded by the Church hierarchy.

“Why is there no mandatory reporting to a country’s judicial authorities when crimes occur? Taking actions against perpetrators is part of justice,” she asked the Vatican’s delegation.

Past cases of abuse were often covered up by priests’ superiors, who typically transferred offenders to new parishes, rather than turn them over to police.

Scicluna insisted this was not Church policy.

“It is not a policy of the Holy See to encourage cover-ups,” he said. “Our guideline has always been that domestic law of the countries where the churches operate needs to be followed,” he added.

The Vatican’s UN ambassador, Monsignor Silvano Tomasi, said the Holy See was legally responsible only for implementing the UN Convention on the tiny territory of Vatican City — a position long criticised by campaigners.

But he said that as the central body of the Church the Vatican was working with its local branches to develop measures to stem sexual abuse.

It was up to nations to crack down, Tomasi insisted.

“Priests are not functionaries of the Vatican. Priests are citizens of their own state and fall under its jurisdiction,” he underlined.

‘Such crimes can never be justified’

Benedict XVI, pontiff from 2005 to 2013, was the first pope to apologise to victims and call for zero tolerance of abuse, though critics say that his rhetoric outstripped action.

Pope Francis has vowed to take things further by setting up a special committee to investigate crimes, enforce prevention measures and care for the victims.

Pressed for details of the Vatican committee, Tomasi said the ground rules and membership were still being established.

UN committee member Sara Oviedo questioned the Vatican’s efforts.

“The Holy See has not established any mechanism to investigate those accused of perpetrating sexual abuse, nor to prosecute them,” she said, calling for a “new approach”.

Oviedo also demanded to know what the Vatican was doing in case of Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, a papal envoy from deeply Catholic Poland recalled from the Dominican Republic amid claims of sexual abuse there.

“Abusers are found among members of the world’s most respected professions, most regrettably, including members of the clergy and other church personnel,” Tomasi said.

“Confronted with this reality, the Holy See has carefully delineated policies and procedures designed to help eliminate such abuse and to collaborate with respective state authorities to fight against this crime,” he added.

“Such crimes can never be justified, whether committed in the home, in community and sports programmes, in religious organisations and structures. This is the long-standing policy of the Holy See,” he insisted

The Vatican says it continues to receive around 600 claims against abusive priests every year, many dating back to the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Victims’ groups say the issue is far from settled with cases of ongoing abuse emerging regularly and the total tally potentially in the hundreds of thousands.

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« Reply #167 on: Jan 18, 2014, 06:52 AM »

Salvadorean nun gives birth in Italy and names the baby Francis</v>

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, January 17, 2014 14:35 EST

A Salvadorean nun who said she had no idea she was pregnant gave birth in Italy this week after she felt stomach cramps in her convent and was rushed to hospital, Italian media reported on Friday.

The 31-year-old mother and her baby boy, who weighs 3.5 kilogrammes (nine pounds), are doing well and other new mothers in Rieti hospital have begun collecting clothes and donations for her, the reports said.

“I did not know I was pregnant. I only felt a stomach pain,” the nun was quoted as saying at the hospital, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

La Repubblica said she gave birth on Wednesday.

ANSA said the nun had named her baby Francesco (Francis) — also the pope’s chosen title and one of the most popular names in Italy, where St Francis of Assisi is the much-loved national patron saint.

The hospital could not be reached for comment.

The nun belongs to the “Little Disciples of Jesus” convent in Campomoro near Rieti, which manages an old people’s home and reports said she would keep the baby.

Her fellow nuns were quoted saying they were “very surprised”.
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« Reply #168 on: Jan 18, 2014, 06:54 AM »


Pope Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests for child abuse

• Priests were defrocked over two years for molesting children
• Vatican's UN ambassador faces questioning in Geneva

Associated Press in Vatican City
theguardian.com, Friday 17 January 2014 19.53 GMT   
   
Pope Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests in just two years, for molesting children, according to a document obtained by the Associated Press.

The statistics for 2011 and 2012 show a dramatic increase over the 171 priests removed in 2008 and 2009, when the Vatican first provided details on the number of priests who have been defrocked. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi confirmed that the figures were accurate.

Prior to that, the Vatican had only publicly revealed the number of alleged cases of sexual abuse it had received and the number of trials it had authorized.

While it's not clear why the numbers spiked in 2011, it could be because 2010 saw a new explosion in the number of cases reported in the media in Europe and beyond.

The document was prepared from data the Vatican had been collecting and was compiled to help the Holy See defend itself before a UN committee this week in Geneva.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's UN ambassador in Geneva, referred to just one of the statistics in the course of eight hours of sometimes pointed criticism and questioning from the UN human rights committee.

The statistics were compiled from the Vatican's own annual reports about the activities of its various offices, including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles sex abuse cases. Although public, the annual reports are not readily available or sold outside Rome and are usually found in Vatican offices or Catholic university libraries.

An AP review of the reference books shows a remarkable evolution in the Holy See's in-house procedures to discipline pedophiles since 2001, when the Vatican ordered bishops to send cases of all credibly accused priests to Rome for review.

Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger took action after determining that bishops around the world weren't following church law to put accused clerics on trial in church tribunals. Bishops routinely moved problem priests from parish to parish rather than subject them to canonical trials or turn them into police.

For centuries, the church has had its own in-house procedures to deal with priests who sexually abuse children. One of the chief accusations from victims is that bishops put the church's own procedures ahead of civil law enforcement by often suggesting victims keep accusations quiet while they are dealt with internally.

The maximum penalty for a priest convicted by a church tribunal is essentially losing his job: being defrocked, or removed from the clerical state. There are no jail terms and nothing to prevent an offender from raping again.

According to the 2001 norms Ratzinger pushed through and subsequent updates, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reviews each case sent to Rome and then instructs bishops how to proceed, either by launching an administrative process against the priest if the evidence is overwhelming or a church trial. At every step of the way the priest is allowed to defend himself.

The Congregation started reporting numbers only in 2005, which is where Tomasi's spreadsheet begins. UN officials said on Friday that the committee has not received the document


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« Reply #169 on: Jan 18, 2014, 12:59 PM »

Pope Francis - Political Genius

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/01/pope-francis-political-genius-102301.html?hp=pm_1#.UtrNeNUo7nC

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The Political Genius of Pope Francis

This guy could teach President Obama a thing or two.

By CANDIDA MOSS
January 17, 2014 

Late last year, when President Obama reviewed the draft of a speech he was scheduled to give on economic inequality, he sent it back with a request: He wanted his speechwriter to add a quote from Pope Francis’s recent letter to the Catholic church.

“Across the developed world, inequality has increased,” Obama said in the Dec. 4 speech. “Some of you may have seen just last week, the pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length. ‘How could it be,’ he wrote, ‘that it’s not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?’”

The rhetoric of quotation is subtle, but in this particular round of political name-checking, Francis is the authority brought in to lend credibility to Obama’s policies.

Compare this to Obama’s relationship with Pope Benedict XVI. At the conclusion of his visit to the Vatican in 2009, Obama reportedly said that he looked forward to “a very strong relationship between our two countries.” Our countries. While it’s true that the pope is the head of the Vatican state, that’s hardly his primary role. In Benedict’s case, Obama acknowledged only political parity, not moral authority.

With Francis, though, things are clearly different. By quoting him in that December address, Obama deferred to Francis as a moral exemplar—and a model for action of a decidedly temporal nature. This only 50 years after John F. Kennedy, soon to be America’s first and only Catholic president, declared that he wouldn’t take orders from the pope.

Herein lies the genius of Pope Francis’s papacy: He has persuaded the world he isn’t a politician and, in doing so, has become arguably the most politically influential man in the world.

Earlier this week, when Secretary of State John Kerry, a Catholic, visited the Vatican, he remarked, “I know that the Holy Father is anticipating the visit of President Obama here, and the president is looking forward to coming here to meet with him.” The two leaders have much in common. Their elections were both historic firsts—Obama as the first black U.S. president, Francis as the first pope from Latin America and the first Jesuit to occupy the throne of St. Peter. Both preside over deeply divided constituencies and institutions that have been plagued by scandal and bureaucratic incompetence. Both were initially media darlings who charted an unlikely path to power, and whose ascension was heralded as ushering in a hopeful new era.

And yet Pope Francis’s approval rating is more than double that of Obama’s.

Whenever they do meet—no date has yet been announced—President Obama would be wise to talk politics with Francis. He might be able to pick up a few pointers.

***

Just as Obama began his presidency amid the global financial meltdown, when Francis was elected pope last March, he took the reins during a time of crisis. His predecessor, Benedict, had stepped down after only eight years, becoming the first pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415.

Francis "has persuaded the world he isn’t a politician and, in doing so, has become arguably the most politically influential man in the world," writes Moss. | AP Photo

The challenges facing Francis were manifold: dwindling church attendance in Europe and North America; in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, pressing issues like hunger and persecution; and across the globe, a laity reeling from the pedophilia scandals and deeply divided over the relative importance of moral issues like gay marriage and abortion versus social issues like poverty and the vast gulf separating the rich world from the rest.

Francis began his papacy by shrugging off the trappings of wealth and privilege. He refuses to live in the luxurious papal apartments, declines to wear the more ornate papal vestments and drives a Ford Focus where Benedict favored a custom-made Renault, a Mercedes and a BMW X5. He instantly became the “People’s Pope,” or, as Obama would put it, “someone who walks the walk.”

Perhaps even more disruptively, Francis declared himself a sinner—an acknowledgement in keeping with Catholic theology but rarely put so honestly by the church’s leaders—and refused to acknowledge that he even had power over the millions in his flock, much less tried to wield it. His utter lack of conceit has won him a legion of fans.

There’s power in humility. In The Ritual Process, the cultural anthropologist Victor Turner describes how rituals of self-abasement serve to elevate the participant. Whether through virtue or action, humility requires a modicum of social power to be effective. Just as only those who have enough to eat can celebrate fasting, only those with a strong sense of self can idealize giving it up.

So it is with Francis. While utterly without guile, his avoidance of the trappings of office bolsters his credibility on political issues. When Francis weighed in on the possibility of war in Syria—calling on world leaders “to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution”—people listened. He transmitted his views on Twitter with the hashtag #prayforpeace, and when he called for an international day of fasting and prayer, tens of thousands participated.

It was a resounding success because it was believable. Sincere. And yet political. In Francis’s case, power unexercised is power preserved.

***

In an interview with America magazine published in September, Francis said the church did not have to talk about gay marriage and abortion all the time. His statements, wildly and widely reported, fanned the flames of the love affair between Francis and the wider world and raised the hackles of already irked traditional Catholics who had dedicated so much time to these issues.

But traditional Catholics couldn’t stay angry for long, as the very next day Francis condemned abortion as “unjust.” He has since described it as “horrible.” His language may be softer than that used by U.S. bishops in the last election, but it is still very much a restatement of traditional church teaching on the sanctity of life.

The effect of Francis’s well-timed sequence of statements on contemporary moral theology’s most divisive subject? According to a recently released CNN poll, Francis enjoys a healthy approval rating of 88 percent among American Catholics, with 85 percent saying he is neither too liberal nor too conservative.

It’s not that Francis is a centrist or that he lacks a core message; it’s that his core message is the exercise of charity. And in his case, the medium really is the message.

Rarely, in fact, does a news cycle pass without an example of Francis’s personal humility. Rather than celebrating morning mass privately in the Apostolic Palace, Francis celebrates it in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, the no-frills guesthouse where he has taken up residence. Every day he gives an off-the-cuff homily to 50 people. And even in more auspicious surroundings, he remains down to earth; just this week he invited nursing mothers to breastfeed in the Sistine Chapel. The personal touch comes naturally.

Speeches made by popes—like those made by presidents—are usually carefully prepared and scrutinized by aides for potential misinterpretation. But Francis has become known for putting aside his notes and speaking without a script; the fact that what he says hasn’t always been vetted by Vatican aides gives his words an additional layer of sincerity.

Surprising as it may seem, Benedict said many of the same things as Francis, but his language was both more reserved and more dogmatic. Like Obama, Benedict was an introverted former academic who could come across as stiff and aloof, and whose reaction to leading an organization under siege was to circle the wagons and hunker down.

By contrast, Francis—who has more than a bit of what an American pundit might call Clintonian charm—is famous for hugging children and taking selfies with young people. He’s earned the nickname the Photo-Op Pope, and the most famous images of him—going out of his way to embrace a child with cerebral palsy last Easter, blessing a man whose medical condition leaves him with boils and delivering a speech with a small child clasping his legs—communicate his embrace of the marginalized. This is a pope with a knack for politics as well as people.

***

Francis has a habit of breaking security protocols and wading out into crowds. There are even rumors that he sneaks out of the Vatican at night to minister to the homeless. One of the reasons popes stopped doing things like this is because of the attempt on John Paul II’s life in 1981. (This was what led to the introduction of the Popemobile.) Francis’s eagerness to engage people proves not just that he’s a man of the people, but that he’s willing to do this despite the risk to his personal safety.

President Obama doesn’t have that option, of course—it would be much harder for him to skirt the Secret Service than it is for Francis to elude the Swiss Guard. Nor could Obama opt to live in a modest apartment somewhere in Washington, D.C., instead of taking up residence in the White House, or drive his own economy car rather than ride in the presidential limo.

And yet there is much that Obama—who has never lacked for confidence and whose White House is notoriously insular and on-message—could do to emulate Pope Francis’s humility and accessibility. Inviting Senate Democrats to join him for a drink, as he did this week, was a nice gesture of outreach, but the fact that it was newsworthy indicates how rare a step it was.

And as clichéd as it sounds to say that the president needs to lead by example, this is in fact how Francis does it. What other world leader has such clarity of message? The pope’s words are supported by impeccable conduct, not bloodless argument. When Francis puts his notes aside on the balcony at St. Peter’s or stays for a few more handshakes with the crowds, there’s something there for Obama to think about.

Francis has been known to greet parishioners after mass at the small Vatican church of St. Anna just like any ordinary pastor. And from this stance as simple pastor who speaks truth to power, he can make religious statements that would normally push political buttons. He can, for example, condemn wealthy Westerners for being complicit in the deaths of the poor. And it doesn’t even sound too preachy.

AP Photo

Francis, of course, has the benefit of experience and having cut his teeth on the margins of the world stage. Prior to his election as pope, Cardinal Bergoglio was hardly the quasi-saint that he is today. Although the charges have not borne out, some have accused him of collaborating with the architects of Argentina’s “Dirty Wars.” And politically, Bergoglio fared poorly as well: While liberals in Buenos Aires accused him of abandoning liberation theology—a religious movement grounded in Marxism—conservatives complained that he focused too much on social ministry and not enough on preaching the Gospel. That Cardinal Bergoglio weathered the storm and ultimately transformed into the universally loved Pope Francis can only be encouraging to a president with dwindling approval ratings.

Francis, who saw firsthand how violent politics can become, knows when and how to use power. And his example shows that even in the informational deluge of the modern age, it’s possible to hold to and embody a few big ideas and persuade people to rally around them. What American president couldn’t benefit from a reminder of that?

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Pope Francis is the first non-European pope. He is the first pope from Latin American and the first non-European pope in modern times.

Candida Moss is professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame.


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« Last Edit: Jan 19, 2014, 07:17 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #170 on: Jan 19, 2014, 07:14 AM »


Pope will be tough on paedophile priests, says sex abuse crisis authority

Monsignor Charles Scicluna says Pope Francis will not be lenient because justice matters more than protecting the church

Reuters
theguardian.com, Saturday 18 January 2014 16.13 GMT   

Pope Francis will not show leniency towards paedophile priests as truth and justice are more important than protecting the church, the Vatican's former sex crimes prosecutor has pledged.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the most authoritative Catholic official on the church's abuse crisis, said on Saturday that the number of clerics defrocked by the Vatican was likely to have fallen to about 100 in 2013 from about 125 in 2012 and a peak of 260 in 2011.

Scicluna said Francis would, despite his merciful nature, be very tough on paedophile priests after an abuse crisis that the pope on Thursday called "the shame of the church".

"I have met with Francis and he has expressed great determination to continue on the line of his predecessors," said Scicluna, who served in the Vatican for 17 years before he was named an auxiliary bishop in his native Malta in 2012.

"His gospel of mercy is very important but it is not cheap mercy. It has to respect the truth and the demands of justice," Scicluna said.

The pope, who was elected last March, set up a commission of experts last month to address the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church, in his first major step to tackle a crisis that has plagued it for two decades.

The group will consider ways to better screen priests, protect minors and help victims in the face of accusations that the Vatican has not done enough to guard the vulnerable or make amends.

Scicluna, who served in Rome for 17 years, was the Vatican's expert last Thursday in Geneva when UN child protection experts pushed Holy See delegates to reveal the scope of the decades-long sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests.

Despite the unprecedented grilling of Vatican delegation, he said the experience was very helpful for the church.

"We have a great responsibility to our people … I think it was a blessing that we had this meeting before the commission is set up," he said. The commission is still in the process of being formed and its members chosen.

He said the rise was due to "contingent backlog problems with some historical cases" and that he expected the numbers were stabilising at about 100 in 2013.

Scicluna said the numbers for most years are made up of about 50% by priests who were actively defrocked and the rest by those who had asked to leave the priesthood after they admit their crimes.

"Dismissal is imposed and dispensation presupposes the request of the priest but the effect is the same," he said.

In 2012, while he was still in his previous job at the Vatican, he created a stir when he uttered the word "omerta" – usually used to describe the Sicilian mafia's code of silence – in relation to the sexual abuse crisis in the church.

He used it again on Saturday in response to a question.

"I think there is a clear signal that 'omerta' is not the way the Church should respond," he said. "I am convinced that the best thing for the institution is to own up to the truth whatever it is."

The church has had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation in sexual abuse cases worldwide, bankrupting a string of dioceses. Last Thursday the pope said it was right to pay damages to victims.

Victim groups have said more has to be done to protect children and that bishops who have been accused of covering up crimes by shuttling priests from parish to parish should be held accountable.


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« Reply #171 on: Jan 21, 2014, 06:47 AM »


Swiss Guard veteran claims existence of 'gay network' at the Vatican

Former commandant Elmar Mäder says there is a 'secret society of homosexuals' at Holy See, and that it imperils pope's security

Lizzy Davies in Rome
The Guardian, Monday 20 January 2014 17.55 GMT   

A former commander of the Swiss Guard, the small force of men whose job it is to protect the pope, has said there is "a network of homosexuals" within the Vatican, the latest in a series of claims about gay priests working at the heart of the Roman Catholic church.

Elmar Mäder, who was commandant of the Guard from 2002 until 2008, said his time at the heart of the Vatican had given him an insight into certain aspects of life there. "I cannot refute the claim that there is a network of homosexuals. My experiences would indicate the existence of such a thing," he told the Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag.

Famed for their striking uniforms of blue, red and orange, recruits to the Guard swear to protect the pope and his successors with their lives.

Mäder, 50, from the canton of St Gallen, refused to comment on speculation that he had warned guardsmen about the behaviour of certain priests.

Earlier this month, the same newspaper reported the claims of a former, unnamed member of the Guard that he had been the target of more than 20 "unambiguous sexual requests" from clergy while serving in the force.

Recounting a dinner in a Rome restaurant, the man was quoted as saying: "As the spinach and steak were served, the priest said to me: 'And you are the dessert'."

At the time, spokesman Urs Breitenmoser said the rumoured gay network did not pose a problem to the Swiss Guard, whose members he said were motivated by entirely different interests.

Asked about the claims, Mäder reportedly said stories of this kind "obviously lacking in factual basis" were sometimes told. But the facts remained clear, he added. "

A working environment in which the great majority of men are unmarried is per se a draw for homosexuals, whether they consciously seek it out or unconsciously follow an urge," he said.

"The Roman Curia [the Vatican's bureaucracy] is exactly this kind of environment."

Though it does not condemn gay people, whom it says should be "accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity," the catechism of the Catholic church teaches that homosexual acts are "objectively disordered" and calls gay people to abstinence.Mäder, while he said he did not have a problem with homosexuality, said he feared that a network or secret society of gay people within the Vatican could pose security problems. He added that he would not have promoted a gay man in the Guard – not because of his sexuality but because "the risk of disloyalty would have been too high".

Mäder said: "I also learned that many homosexuals are inclined to be more loyal to each other than to other people or institutions," he said.

"If this loyalty were to go as far as to become a network or even a kind of secret society, I would not tolerate it in my sphere of decision making. Key people in the Vatican now seem to think similarly."

The comments appeared to be referring to a remark made by Pope Francis on the flight home from Brazil last summer. "They say there are some gay people here. I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good," the pontiff told journalists, while at the same time joking that, while there was a lot of talk about a gay lobby, he had never seen it stamped on a Vatican identity card.

While Francis signalled a clear conciliatory tone on the issue, he added: "If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?" Mäder's comments about the supposed threat posed by gay guards and priests drew criticism among rights advocates in Italy.

"Along with all gay people in the armed forces, I would advise Mäder to become better informed," said Aurelio Mancuso, chairman of Equality.

Franco Grillini, chairman of Gaynet, added: "Statistically, gays are the least violent group in human society so if the pope were really surrounded by homosexuals, he could sleep easy."


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« Reply #172 on: Jan 21, 2014, 08:30 AM »

Obama to meet Pope Francis in March to discuss fighting poverty and inequality

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 9:02 EST

President Barack Obama will visit Vatican City in March to meet Pope Francis, whom he has praised as an “eloquent” spokesman on the scourge of inequality — a key issue in his own political agenda.

The White House said Obama would travel to see the pontiff on March 27, following stops in the Netherlands for a nuclear security summit and talks with European Union leaders in Brussels.

“The President looks forward to discussing with Pope Francis their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality,” the White House said in a statement Tuesday.

A meeting between Obama and the pontiff, who has refashioned the image of the Roman Catholic Church since his installation last year, has long been rumored following the president’s approving comments about Francis.

In a speech in December, Obama praised an argument advanced by Pope Francis on rising inequality in societies split between the very poor and the super rich.

Obama referred to the pontiff’s remarks in his first Apostolic Exhortation as part of his own prolonged meditation on poverty in a speech on inequality and politics in America.

“The pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length,” Obama said at the time.

“How could it be, he wrote, that it’s not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

Pope Francis argued in the exhortation, that such conflicted values marked a “case of exclusion” in an unequal society and wrote that “masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

It was not the first time that Obama had praised Pope Francis, who was elected last March and has caused a stir with his austere style and pronouncements on poverty.

In October, the president told CNBC that he was “hugely impressed” with the pope’s humility and empathy to the poor.

Obama was last in Vatican City in 2009, when he met Pope Benedict.

Obama has made rising inequality and the struggles of America’s middle classes the signature domestic issue of his second term.

The theme is likely to underpin his State of the Union address next week.

The president’s trip to the Netherlands, for the nuclear security summit in the Hague, did not come as a surprise as the event is his brainchild.

He has been the leading figure in the previous two nuclear security summits in Washington DC and Seoul.

The White House statement said the meeting would “highlight progress made to secure nuclear materials and commit to future steps to prevent nuclear terrorism.”

Obama will also meet Dutch officials during his trip.

European Union sources first said last week that the president would also attend an EU-US summit in Brussels.

His visit, his first to EU institutions as president, will be seen as an effort to mend relations with Europe, following revelations by Edward Snowden about National Security Agency spying which soured relations with Washington.

The president will also be keen to push talks on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) designed to create the world’s largest free trade area.

Obama will also meet Belgian government officials and NATO’s top brass.

The European tour will take place between March 24-27.

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Wealth of 85 people equals that of billions of poor, charity says

The charity Oxfam also reports that the recent financial crisis was an enormous burden on the world’s poor but hugely beneficial to the rich elite, who collected 95 percent of the post-crisis growth.

By Jim Puzzanghera
LA Times

BERLIN — As business and political leaders gather in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the improving world economy, new evidence emerged about how much the rich have become richer — and how much further the poor are falling behind.

The 85 richest people on Earth now have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the global population, according to a report released Monday by the British humanitarian group Oxfam International.

The findings highlight the widening gap between rich and poor ahead of the annual World Economic Forum this week. The report, and others recently on the issue, could boost efforts in Washington to increase the federal minimum wage, which President Obama has made a priority.

“It is staggering that in the 21st century, half of the world’s population own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all sit comfortably in a single train carriage,” said Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam’s executive director.

“Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table,” Byanyima said.

The bottom half of the population — about 3.5 billion people — account for about $1.7 trillion, or about 0.7 percent of the world’s wealth, according to the Oxfam report, titled “Working for the Few.” That’s the same amount of wealth attributed to the world’s 85 richest people.

Those wealthy elite are a small part of the richest 1 percent of the world’s population, which combined has amassed about 46 percent of the world’s wealth, or $110 trillion, according to the report. The top 1 percent had 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the population.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, said the Oxfam findings and others should help build support for an increase in the federal minimum wage.

In a report last week, the World Economic Forum said widening income inequality was the risk most likely to cause serious damage in the next decade. President Obama recently called the expanding gap between rich and poor a bigger threat to the U.S. economy than the budget deficit. A Gallup poll released Monday found two-thirds of Americans were dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are distributed in the nation.

The percentage of income held by the richest 1 percent in the U.S. has grown nearly 150 percent from 1980 through 2012. That small elite has received 95 percent of wealth created since 2009, after the financial crisis, while the bottom 90 percent of Americans have become poorer, Oxfam said.


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« Reply #173 on: Jan 22, 2014, 06:31 AM »

Pope Francis tells the business elite gathered in Davos to help those ‘still living in dire poverty’

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 14:59 EST

Pope Francis on Tuesday called on the world’s political and business elite gathered in Davos to use their spirit of entrepreneurship to alleviate crushing global poverty.

In a message read out at the opening ceremony of the annual World Economic Forum, Francis said: “Those who have demonstrated their ability to be innovative and for improving the lives of many people by their ingenuity and professional expertise can further contribute by putting their skills at the service of those who are still living in dire poverty.”

It is “intolerable” that hunger continues to stalk the world even though “substantial quantities” of food are wasted, the pontiff added.

Ahead of the annual meeting of the global elite that ends Saturday, the charity Oxfam issued a report that said inequality had run so out of control, that the 85 richest people on the planet “own the wealth of half the world’s population.”

The pope alluded to this when he told delegates: “The majority of men and women of our time still continue to experience daily insecurity, often with dramatic consequences.”

The Davos forum this year brings together 2,500 of the world’s top movers and shakers, with about 40 leaders, a raft of ministers and business chiefs as well as celebrities, Nobel prize-winners and artists.
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« Reply #174 on: Jan 23, 2014, 06:38 AM »


Pope John Paul II's notes to be printed after aide saved them from burning

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz says he was ordered to burn notes by late pope but kept them, motivated by 'despair of historians'

Associated Press in Warsaw
theguardian.com, Wednesday 22 January 2014 19.04 GMT   

Pope John Paul II's secretary "did not have the courage" to burn all of the pontiff's notes after his death, and is now having some of them published, he has said.

The book, Very Much in God's Hands: Personal Notes 1962-2003, comes out on 5 February in Poland, where the pope is still a much-loved authority. It contains religious meditations that Karol Wojtyla recorded between July 1962, when he was a bishop in Poland, and March 2003, when he was pope.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz told a news conference that in preserving some of the notes he was motivated by the "despair of historians" when the letters of Pope Pius XII were burned after his death, as he had wished.

In his last will, John Paul commissioned Dziwisz, his personal secretary and closest aide of almost 40 years, to burn his personal notes. Instead, Dziwisz kept them and is having them published before John Paul is declared a saint on 27 April in Rome. They were made available to the Vatican in the pope's fast-track beatification and sainthood processes.

In his notes, contained in two bound notebooks, the pope "reveals a part of his soul, of his meeting with God, contemplation and piety and that is the greatest value", Dziwisz said in the southern city of Krakow, where he is archbishop and where Wojtyla was also bishop and cardinal.

He said he burned "those letters and notes that required burning", but it would have been a crime to burn all the notes that gave insight into the pope's soul. "In keeping them I respected his will," he said.

At first, Wojtyla made notes only in Polish, but later also in Italian and Latin with Greek and Spanish inclusions, according to Henryk Wozniakowski, head of the Catholic publishers Znak.

The book's editor, Agnieszka Rudziewicz, said the notes were an "extraordinary record of a spiritual path" and a record of Wojtyla's "self-development and road to sainthood", but readers should not expect "sensation".

John Paul died in 2005 at the age of 84 after 26 years as pope.


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« Reply #175 on: Jan 24, 2014, 06:34 AM »

Pope Francis describes the Internet as ‘a gift from God’ and calls for Catholics to get online

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, January 23, 2014 10:29 EST

Pope Francis described the Internet on Thursday as “a gift from God” and called on Catholics to “boldly become citizens of the digital world”.

“The internet… offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God,” the Argentine pontiff said in his first World Communication Day message, given annual by the pope.

“Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world. Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts,” he said.

The 77-year-old pontiff is a keen Twitter user whose account has attracted more than 10 million followers.

But he also makes a point of privileging human relationships and physical touch, often walking among the crowds who flock to see him in St. Peter’s Square and embracing the ill or disabled.

“As I have frequently observed, if a choice has to be made between a bruised Church which goes out to the streets and a Church suffering from self-absorption, I certainly prefer the first,” he said.

“Those ‘streets’ are the world where people live and where they can be reached, both effectively and affectively. The digital highway is one of them, a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope,” he added.

However, Francis warned people not allow the desire to be connected to the digital world twenty-four hours a day to isolate them from society.

“It is not enough to be passersby on the digital highways, simply ‘connected’. Connections need to grow into true encounters,” he said.

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« Reply #176 on: Jan 24, 2014, 07:08 AM »


Timing of François Hollande's meeting with Pope Francis tickles some

Le Monde cartoon makes fun of scheduling of audience with pontiff – given all the speculation about love life

theguardian.com, Thursday
23 January 2014 17.44 GMT      

When your morals are under the spotlight, your love life appears to be in turmoil and your every step is observed by a disapproving Anglo-Saxon media, it is just about the last place in the world you want to be: in the Vatican, with the holy father.

But, along with celebrity magazines and opinion polls, François Hollande has another bete noire to curse this week: the cruel fate of diary scheduling, which decreed this Friday,he would enjoy a private audience with Pope Francis.

The encounter – the French president's first with the Argentinian pontiff – was announced just before his troubled presidency exploded in l'affaire Gayet.

But once done, a papal date is not easily undone. Gleefully, the French daily Le Monde on Thursday ran a cartoon of Hollande on a motorcycle with two women on the back, and Francis, smiling benevolently and declaring: "Who am I to judge?"

The papal audience is not expected to last more than half an hour, with the president's private life not the only potential cause of friction.

A petition signed by almost 115,000 French Catholics and for the attention of the pope calls on Francis to raise their "deep unease and growing concern" with Hollande over government policies such as the legalisation of gay marriage.

But the president was thought more likely to steer conversation towards subjects of possible agreement, including the conflict in Syria and the Geneva II talks, the Israel-Palestine peace process and climate change.

On Thursday Francis showed that even at 77 he is up to speed with the digital age, praising the immense possibilities of the internet and describing it, in part, as "a gift from God".

But he also warned about its potential for social harm, adding: "The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbours, from those closest to us."

In Paris a lawyer representing Hollande's official partner Valérie Trierweiler told a French newspaper she wants to come out of the scandal of the president's alleged affair with actress Julie Gayet "with dignity".

Frédérique Giffard said it was hard for her client to remain "serene faced with such media and political pressure" but added that "she is aware that a clarification is necessary". She accused "certain" media of crossing legal limits "without any scrupules" for Trierweiler or her family and suggested legal action might be taken.

Giffard rejected suggestions from some journalists that Trierweiler was engaged in emotional blackmail in order to remain with Hollande. "To imagine that she would want to use her distress in this way goes against her personality and her way of viewing human relations, which is based on frankness," she said, adding: "She really hopes that this affair can resolve itself and to come out of it with as much dignity as possible."


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« Reply #177 on: Jan 25, 2014, 06:42 AM »


François Hollande affair allegations overshadow meeting with Pope Francis

Between awkward greeting and friendly farewell, French president and pontiff hold private tête à tête at the Vatican

Lizzy Davies in Vatican City and Kim Willsher in Paris
theguardian.com, Friday 24 January 2014 18.30 GMT   

As you would expect from someone who once chuckled magnanimously as a live lamb was draped around his neck, Pope Francis likes to play the role of kindly grandfather, patting young heads, kissing babies and generally smiling at the world before him.

But if it was a friendly face that François Hollande was counting on for his first, rather ill-timed trip to the Vatican, he will have been sorely disappointed. Against a backdrop of frescoed walls and furious speculation, the French president was met at the apostolic palace by a face that was more thunder than divine light.

"I am very happy to be welcomed here," Hollande was heard telling his host. He didn't look it. Small and besuited amid a sea of sashes, medals and gowns, he looked for all the world like a naughty schoolboy called in to see the headmaster. And there was no confessional in sight.

The agenda was earnest, as they are wont to be on occasions like this. The 35-minute conversation revolved around such pressing subjects as respect for religious communities, the situations in Syria and Central African Republic, and the separation of church and state. Of the separation of man and woman, not a word.

"If there is a word that brought us together," Hollande essayed, in a bold attempt at hauteur, "it is dignity, the defence of human dignity." Perhaps in an attempt to preserve his own, there were no questions allowed following the brief declaration.

Had there been, the conversation might have taken a startlingly different turn. The question the French political class really want answered is not "can the church and state live happily side by side?" but can the president and first lady do so. Rattled by allegations of an affair with the actor Julie Gayet, Hollande must decide soon whether his "official partner" Valérie Trierweiler will remain so for an upcoming trip to the US.

For now, for Trierweiler at least, it is business as usual. Reportedly ignoring the advice of presidential advisers, she will undertake a two-day official visit to Mumbai next week for the charity Action Contre la Faim. The Elysée was less than happy, according to le Parisien. Among her commitments is a gala dinner at the luxury Taj Mahal hotel, with the theme of malnutrition. Officials will be anxious to avoid Trierweiler appearing solo in photographs, recalling Diana, Princess of Wales outside the Taj Mahal amid the collapse of the royal marriage.
François Hollande and Pope Francis François Hollande and Pope Francis. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AP

Despite their explorations of what the Vatican termed "the family", it was uncertain whether the pope and the president concerned themselves with such issues during their behind-closed-doors tête à tête. More likely, they chose to dwell on what Hollande said were numerous points of agreement on "the big issues" of international politics.

Whatever it was, it seemed to work. At the end they emerged, both smiling this time, and exchanged gifts. For Hollande there were some pontifical medallions; for the Argentinian there was a book about Saint Francis of Assisi. "This is your patron, too," said the pope to his namesake, a genial grandad once more.

Before long it was time to say goodbye. "Bon voyage," said Francis. "A bientôt," said François. Off he went. And if he was relieved, he wasn't going to tell.


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« Reply #178 on: Jan 27, 2014, 07:06 AM »


Pope John Paul II's blood stolen from church in Italy

Custodian describes night-time theft, from San Pietro della Ienca church in Abruzzo mountains, as more like a kidnapping

Reuters in Rome
theguardian.com, Monday 27 January 2014 12.25 GMT   

Thieves broke into a small church in the mountains east of Rome over the weekend and stole a reliquary with the blood of the late Pope John Paul II.

A custodian, Franca Corrieri, said she had discovered a broken window early on Sunday morning and had called the police. When they entered the small stone church they found the gold reliquary and a crucifix missing.

John Paul, who died in 2005, loved the mountains in the Abruzzo region of Italy. He would sometimes slip away from the Vatican secretly to hike or ski there and pray in the church.

Polish-born John Paul, who reigned for 27 years, is due to be made a saint of the Roman Catholic church in May, meaning the relic will become more noteworthy and valuable.

In 2011, John Paul's former private secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, gave the local Abruzzo community some of the late pontiff's blood as a token of the love he had felt for the mountainous area.

It was put in a gold and glass circular case and kept in a niche of the small mountain church of San Pietro della Ienca, near the city of L'Aquila.

Corrieri said on Monday the incident felt more like a kidnapping than a theft. "In a sense, a person has been stolen," she said.

She said she could not say if the intention of the thieves may have been to seek a ransom for the blood.

Apart from the reliquary and a crucifix, nothing else was stolen from the isolated church, even though Corrieri said the thieves would probably have had time to take other objects during the night-time theft.

Some of John Paul's blood was saved after an assassination attempt that nearly killed him in St Peter's Square on 13 May 1981.


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« Reply #179 on: Jan 28, 2014, 06:39 AM »

Police scramble to find tube of Pope John Paul II’s blood that was stolen in Italy

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, January 27, 2014 10:18 EST

A tube containing Polish pope John Paul II’s blood has been stolen from a church in Italy, sparking a region-wide search involving sniffer dogs and 50 police officers, Italian media reports said Monday.

The vial was stolen on Saturday from the San Pietro della Ienca church in the mountainous Abruzzo region in central Italy where the pope, who died in 2005, loved to go on skiing holidays, according to the Repubblica daily.

Police and sniffer dogs are sweeping the area, famed for its weathered stone houses and the little church where the head of the Catholic Church once reportedly took refuge in a storm.

Pasquale Corriere, head of the “San Pietro della Ienca” association, said there are only three vials in the world containing the former pontiff’s blood.

John Paul II and the Italian pope John XXIII — known as the “good pope” — are set to become saints in a ceremony at the Vatican in April expected to draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.


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