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« Reply #180 on: Jan 29, 2014, 06:39 AM »

Pope Francis as superman: Vatican tweets graffiti of hero pontiff

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 14:13 EST

Pope Francis as superman, flying through the air with his white cape billowing out behind him: the image graffitied by an anonymous artist onto a wall in Rome was tweeted by the Vatican on Tuesday.

Speeding forwards with his fist raised, the heroic pontiff — crucifix swinging in the wind — carries his trademark black bag, with the word “values” written across it, in Spanish, in white letters.

“We share with you a graffiti found in a Roman street near the Vatican,” the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from the Holy See said on its official Twitter page.

The 77-year-old Argentine pontiff is renowned for throwing off his security and plunging into the crowds to greet pilgrims, and often uses jokes or stories to spread the values of the Church.

The pope is a keen Twitter user himself, regularly posting tweets on his own feeds in nine languages, which boast more than 10 million followers in total.

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« Reply #181 on: Feb 01, 2014, 06:40 AM »

Obama ‘really impressed’ with Pope Francis and his regard for the less fortunate

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, January 31, 2014 12:28 EST

US President Barack Obama expressed strong admiration of Pope Francis for promoting “a true sense of brotherhood and sisterhood and regard for those who are less fortunate,” in an interview aired Friday.

“I have been really impressed so far with the way he’s communicated what I think is the essence of the Christian faith,” Obama told CNN of the pontiff who has refashioned the image of the Roman Catholic Church since his installation last year.

The US president, who will visit the Vatican in March, said he didn’t believe Francis was acting out of a desire to gain widespread approval.

Rather, “I think he is very much reflecting on his faith and what he needs to do to make sure that folks — not just of the Catholic faith but people all around the world — are living out a message that he thinks is consistent with the lessons of Jesus Christ,” Obama said.

“That’s a meeting I’m looking forward to,” he added of the planned March 27 sit-down.

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

In a speech in December, Obama praised an argument advanced by Pope Francis, the first non-European pontiff in nearly 1,300 years, on rising inequality in societies split between the very poor and the super rich.

“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 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.

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« Reply #182 on: Feb 01, 2014, 08:24 AM »

‘Unusually large’ Vatican trove shows brutal crackdown on Catholicism in samurai-era Japan

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, January 31, 2014 10:02 EST

A trove of ancient documents unearthed at the Vatican could shed light on the brutal crackdown on Christianity in isolationist Japan under its samurai rulers, scholars say.

The hoard contains about 10,000 pieces of paper, collected by an Italian priest who lived in Japan last century, mostly dating from the “Edo” period (1603-1867), when the country shut itself off from the outside world and declared Western religion illegal.

The wide-ranging collection, including memos from their curator, Father Mario Marega, who died in 1978, offers a rare opportunity to study details of how people lived through the tense religious persecution of the time, said Professor Kazuo Otomo of the National Institute of Japanese Literature.

The records, which contain annual surveys of residents’ religious affiliations, could also provide a glimpse into population changes and other sociological dynamics of early modern Japan, scholars said.

“This unusually large volume of official records show policing and crackdowns and the deprivation of religious freedom,” said Otomo, who will head the six-year project to analyse and catalogue the materials, due to begin in the next 18 months.

Unlike one-off finds of a few historical documents, the 21 bags of materials discovered in the Vatican Library in 2011 should allow scholars to study the minutiae of persecution and whether it differed over time or in specific communities, he said.

For roughly two centuries to the mid-1850s, Japan’s samurai government, fearful of foreign invasion and colonisation, shut itself off almost entirely.

Japanese people were barred — on pain of death — from leaving the country and foreigners were only allowed in very limited areas, such as an artificial island in Nagasaki harbour.

Christianity, the harbinger of empires in other parts of Asia, was outlawed. Foreign missionaries — seen as the advance guard of an invading force — were ejected and converts in Japan were forced to renounce their faith.

Those who refused were frequently tortured and many executed, some by crucifixion.

Despite the stringent and brutally-enforced laws, Christianity survived, especially in parts of the southern island of Kyushu, where believers disguised their icons by making them resemble those used by Buddhists.

European missionaries were hidden by the faithful, sometimes for years in remote parts of the country such as far-flung islands, where significant Christian populations remain today.

Most official documents have been lost or were deliberately destroyed after the shogunate government was replaced in the mid-19th century.

The new civilian regime that ended the isolationist policy was eager to modernise, sloughing off what it saw as the backwardness of the past and aping European cultures and technologies.

Marega collected the documents while living in Kyushu before and during World War II. He later lived in Tokyo for many years until shortly before his death in Italy.

Among the materials in the trove were official records from the Usuki domain in Oita prefecture in Kyushu.

They show routine surveys of religious affiliation among residents, records of religious conversions, surveillance on the lives of the relatives and offspring of former Christians, and how officials forced residents to step on images of Jesus or Mary to prove they were not believers.

“This is the kind of find that makes people go weak at the knees,” said Rumiko Kataoka, an expert on Japanese Christian history at Nagasaki Junshin Catholic University.

“Detailed official documents might shed light on how Christians kept their faith” in this area, she added.

Before the ban, Christianity flourished in 16th century Oita, where a local feudal warlord had given up Zen to follow Jesus, years after his meeting with Spanish missionary Francis Xavier.

“This might help give us a better understanding of the local history of Oita, but it might also shed further light on the central government’s ban on Christianity,” said Kataoka, who is not part of the project.

“It could also lead to various sociological studies. The residents’ religious records, for example, precisely surveyed the population, showing the size of individual households,” Kataoka said.

Historians in Oita will also help the Marega project by matching information from the bagged materials with local knowledge, said Akihiro Sato, head of Oita Prefecture Ancient Sages Historical Archive.

“With studies of local graves and relics, I think we can bring knowledge of Oita to enhance the project and enrich our local history,” Sato said.

Otomo said only three of the bags have been opened, and researchers are yet to learn exactly what is inside the rest.

“This is a study of Christians. But it also can lead to a study of cross-cultural exchange. It can be a study of how communities handled freedom of faith,” he said.

“It shows the relationship between a state and a religion. These are very much present-day issues for us to study.

“While this may be local history, it tells a global story,” he said.

Otomo’s team plans to publish the materials online.

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« Reply #183 on: Feb 04, 2014, 07:06 AM »

Queen Elizabeth II to Meet Pope at Vatican in April

by Naharnet Newsdesk
04 February 2014, 13:04

Queen Elizabeth II will meet Pope Francis for the first time when she visits Rome in April as a guest of the Italian president, Buckingham Palace said on Tuesday.

The queen and her husband Prince Philip will have an audience with the pope after attending a lunch hosted by President Giorgio Napolitano during the one-day visit on April 3.

It will be the first time that the queen, who is head of the Church of England, has met the Roman Catholic leader since he was elected in March last year.

The trip was announced the day after it was confirmed that the queen will make a state visit to France to mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings on June 5-7.

The 87-year-old monarch and her 92-year-old husband have sharply reduced their overseas trips in recent years, allowing heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and other royals to represent them.

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« Reply #184 on: Feb 04, 2014, 07:07 AM »

02/03/2014 04:30 PM

The Pope's Sex Problem: Catholic Survey Reveals Frustrated Flock


The Vatican last year sent out a survey to Catholics around the world focusing on attitudes to sex and sexuality. The responses are now in -- and they show that the Church is badly in need of reform. Can Pope Francis meet such expectations?

Adolescents find it embarrassing to talk about sex with adults. Even more so when the adult in question is their Catholic priest.

About 20 girls and boys are sitting on leather sofas in the basement of St. Josef Catholic Community Center on the outskirts of Berlin. The walls are brightly painted and bags of gummy bears and chocolate are on a table in the center of the room.

Hannah, Jonas and their friends giggle when Harald Tux, a friendly, balding man with glasses, reads a questionnaire from the Vatican out loud. It's about premarital sex, and the officials in Rome want to know how these young Catholics in Berlin's Weissensee neighborhood feel about it. "Is contraception an option for you?" the theologian asks. The youths are already whispering, and they can't help but smile when Tux finally gets to the point: "If you used contraception, would you confess to it?"

"Huh?" a girl asks with a grimace. "It's not a crime," exclaims a boy in a hooded sweatshirt. They all snort with laughter.

The debate continues. "For our generation, it's also a question of responsibility. If you don't want to become a parent at 16 or 17, you have to use contraception," says Hannah. The 16-year-old and her fellow adolescents cite many other issues where they believe change is needed. "Homosexuals should also be allowed to marry, so that the church can be open to everyone," says Jonas. "The church doesn't have the right to interfere."

Last week, Germany's Catholic bishops held a two-day conference in the Bavarian city of Würzburg for the purpose of compiling and analyzing the responses given by Hannah, Jonas and other Catholics from all 27 dioceses in Germany. Their conclusions are bound for Rome. The project has likely led to more churchgoers expressing their opinions than ever before in 2,000-year history of the church.

In the past, the church has turned to its bishops to assess the mood in the grassroots, but their reports often contained more pious desires and wishful thinking than facts.

A Wave of Protest

But now the people of God have spoken. Church members around the world were asked for their opinions on the most controversial issues in Catholicism. They expressed how they feel about the strict prohibitions of their faith, on issues ranging from the family to sexual morality. In the coming weeks and months, their responses to the surveys will be processed and analyzed, and in October Pope Francis and bishops from around the world will discuss the results during an extraordinary synod.

SPIEGEL has taken a closer look at the mood in all 27 German dioceses. Some divulged very little information, while many others provided extensive data. Catholic family and youth organizations that were particularly involved in the survey also contributed.

The outcome is devastating for the guardians of pure doctrine. Even the reactions of committed Catholics reflect disinterest, enmity and deep displeasure. Many can no longer relate to the old dogmas and feel left alone by the church. Even in conservative Bavaria, 86 percent of Catholics do not believe it is a sin to use the pill or condoms, both condemned by the church.

A look into the congregations reveals that Rome could soon be facing a wave of protest unlike anything the Vatican has experienced in a long time.

For most Catholics, the deep divide between everyday reality and doctrine is not a recent phenomenon. But popes have shown little interest in this reality. Pope Benedict XVI, in particular, turned his back on modern life and insisted on upholding ancient dogmas.

Now the church is officially confirming its inner conflict, which creates the greatest challenge to Pope Francis in his young papacy. He must demonstrate whether he intends to heed the call of churchgoers and reform Catholicism, or stick to his amiable and extremely well-received, but ultimately ineffective gestures.

Changing Tone, Changing Substance?

In just a few weeks, on March 19, Jorge Mario Bergoglio will celebrate his first anniversary as pope. His modest behavior and surprising interviews have quickly turned the priest "from the end of the world" into a global star. Pope Francis, despite being 77, delivers his message with the enthusiasm of someone who has just fallen in love, using every channel at his disposal. He has taken such unconventional steps as donning a red clown's nose and eating meals with the poor of Assisi instead of his cardinals.

The man at the helm in St. Peter's Basilica is no longer a preoccupied professor but a PR genius. Bergoglio is following Ratzinger in much the same way US President Barack Obama followed his predecessor George W. Bush: as a man with an eye for the future, someone who promises to liberate people from the conservative doctrine of a controversial predecessor.

Or could it be that while the tone has changed at the Vatican, the substance remains unchanged? The Argentine pope has not eliminated or even softened a single dogma of his rigid church, even though he has the power to do so. As in the White House, it is near the end and not at the beginning of a term at the Vatican that a new pope demonstrates whether there is more to him that charisma and rhetoric -- and whether he can gain control over the machinery of his administration or become a pawn of the power-hungry elites surrounding him.

After almost a year, the period of getting to know the new pope is coming to an end. Now a factional dispute over the future of the church is taking place in the Vatican and within the branches of the world's largest religious community.

When it comes to the pope's position on sex, countless Catholics are eager to see more openness coming from their church, along with pastoral care that meets the demands of everyday life -- even as the Curia, with its hostile approach to change, defends old rules that often reflect the spirit of the Middle Ages rather than the New Testament.

In the middle of all this is an old man from Argentina who seems not to be entirely sure of what he can offer the base and what he can expect from his church hierarchy.

The way in which the survey came about is indicative of Bergoglio's struggles with his new flock. When his theologians wrote the questionnaire, it was under the assumption that the target audience would consist of bishops and other scholarly church leaders. The first of the 39 questions is already a challenge: "Describe how the Catholic Church's teachings on the value of the family contained in the Bible, Gaudium et spes, Familiaris consortio and other documents of the post-conciliar Magisterium is understood by people today?"

Information from the Grass Roots

In late October, the Vatican sent the document to the German Bishops' Conference and its sister organizations around the world, but without specifying who was supposed to answer the questions. Was a response from lay committees, such as diocesan councils, which steadfastly champion the views of many bishops, sufficient? Should pastors have their say? Or was the church truly interested in the opinions of all Catholics? "The consultation must gather information from the grass roots and not limit itself to the level of the Curia or other institutions," Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Vatican's synod of bishops told the National Catholic Reporter last December. "Though involved in the process, they must cooperate by addressing themselves to the faithful, to communities, to associations and other bodies."

But after dispatching the survey, the church half-heartedly left it up to the dioceses to determine how to obtain the desired information.

The chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, simply passed the survey on, providing no further instructions on who was to respond to the Vatican survey.

Zollitsch proved to be more decisive on another, albeit very important issue. In a letter to German bishops written by his secretary, he noted: "Questions 1, 2, 5, 7 and 8 will be answered by the central office." To save time, existing church positions were to be used.

In fact, this meant that particularly issues were being withheld from churchgoers. For instance, the set of questions under item 5 relates to gay and lesbian couples, while question 7 concerns contraception and abortion.

This somewhat clumsy attempt at censorship might have worked in a world with no Internet. But when the English bishops, who are not as timid, abruptly placed the entire questionnaire online, Catholics in Germany simply took matters into their own hands.

Pastor Klaus Zedtwitz from the Archdiocese of Freiburg in southwestern Germany is a case in point. On the evening of Nov. 1, the 63-year-old was browsing through news sites on the Internet when he happened upon a surprising story. The pope, he read, had commissioned a survey on family doctrine that was directed at the faithful around the world. Zedtwitz was thrilled. He promptly downloaded and printed out the questionnaire, and on the following Sunday, he addressed the subject during his sermon to his congregation, Am Luisenpark, in the city of Mannheim.

But Zedtwitz found that the Latin-heavy verbiage of the document from Rome was far too complicated. How could he expect his congregants to understand that the Curia was interested in common-law marriages when it asked about people living together "ad experimentum?" The Mannheim pastor wrote a simpler version, dispensing with both the theological tone of the original and the Bishops' Conference attempts at censorship. "There is something shady" about simply excluding sensitive issues, says Zedtwitz. "Why shouldn't Catholics be allowed to comment on gay and lesbian relationships? The specifications of the Bishops' Conference were too narrow for my taste." In his view, laypeople are certainly capable of forming their own opinions.

The Pope's Sex Problem
Which is exactly what they did. The pastor received 116 completed surveys from his congregation. "Terms like compassion, respect, love, openness and forbearance were used very often," he writes in his evaluation. Many condemned Catholic doctrine as being "out of touch with reality."

The papal survey quickly spread throughout Germany. Lay organizations jumped at the opportunity to finally make their opinions known. The German Catholic Youth Federation (BDKJ), for example, produced a simplified form of the survey, which was completed online by about 10,000 respondents.

If thepope and his bishops were still harboring any illusions about their influence on young Catholics, they have now been dashed. "The church's sexual morals are irrelevant to nine out of 10 young Catholics," reads the BDKJ summary. "Sex before marriage and birth control are a given in their intimate relationships."

And hardly anyone feels guilty about it. For their grandparents' generation, premarital sex was tantamount to living a life in sin. In sermons, Grandma and Grandpa were taught to feel "tainted" after taking sexual liberties. Today, according to the BDKJ, 96 percent of people who are in "sexual relationships" without having been married in the church have no qualms about it. Young Catholics simply do as they please, and yet they still participate in the sacraments.

"I believe that if God had not wanted us to have sex, he certainly wouldn't have made it as exciting," writes a 20-year-old survey respondent.

But young people aren't the only ones protesting. People from all age groups vented their displeasure to the dioceses. The level of response varied in different places, depending on how user-friendly church officials made the survey. In Bonn, for example, 2,217 Catholics completed an online survey. In Upper Bavaria, on the other hand, there were "apparently substantial gaps in the official flow of information," say Katharina Hänel of a local chapter of the Catholic Women's League of Germany. In fact, says Sabine Slawik, a fellow member of the League in the Diocese of Augsburg, a number of pastors didn't even pass on the survey to their congregations.

'Many Issues Were Ignored'

Despite the differences, there was widespread unanimity in the evaluation of the survey. Rarely has an institution received such low marks from its members. "Even though they are not representative, the survey results create and amplify the impression of an unfortunate, calamitous situation," says Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the bishop of Mainz. The 77-year-old has long been Germany's leading proponent of open-minded Catholicism. "Actually, we've known about this for a long time," says Lehmann, referring to the deep divide between churchgoers and the hierarchy, "but many issues were ignored."

His staff has written a 156-page report describing the mood in the Mainz diocese. It is a rare document of alienation, revealing how even well-meaning Catholics are at odds with their church, beginning with its language, which is perceived as an "imposition." After sermons, some parishioners complained: "As a Central European, one feels set back by at least 100 years." Others refused to allow the church to interfere in their family lives, especially by "people forced into celibacy, who secretly father children but are not allowed to marry."

A question that asked respondents about their knowledge of the doctrine of "Humanae vitae" was also the source of great confusion. "Ten out of 10 random respondents thought it referred to an invigorating body lotion," reads a questionnaire received at the diocese in Mainz. In fact, the term refers to an encyclical letter written by Paul VI in 1968, titled "On Human Life," which banned the use of contraceptives, causing a deep divide between the official church and the faithful.

Since then, the Vatican has repeatedly engaged in heated arguments with German Catholics on sexual morality. In 1998, for example, Rome asked Catholic churches in Germany to stop providing pregnancy conflict counseling, a demand that disappointed many church members and liberal bishops alike. Pope John Paul II relentlessly insisted on a ban on condoms. People who are divorced and remarry are marginalized, and homosexuals are discriminated against.

The hardliners within the official church have consistently prevailed in the past, but now they appear to be fighting a lost cause, as parishioners refuse to toe the line on central issues of sexuality.

The most contentious issue is the church's strict prohibition of contraception, which almost all Catholics ignore. "The overwhelming majority explain their decision-making on these issues by referring to their responsibility to their partners," reads an assessment by the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart.

'Crass Terms'

The Vatican's notion that couples should only live together and have sex after marriage is equally outdated. Living together before marriage "is an unmistakable reality today," notes the Diocese of Augsburg. The same conclusions are drawn throughout the alphabet of dioceses, ending with Würzburg, where "about 90 percent of all couples practice cohabitation 'ad experimentum'."

Hardly anyone among the faithful understands how the various prohibitions are supposed to fit together. To begin with, couples are not supposed to have sex before marriage. Once they are married, they are not permitted to use birth control. And if the marriage fails, the church has other objections.

Many Catholics are especially incensed over the treatment of people who have been divorced and then remarried, which, according to the wording of the survey, places them in "irregular marriage situations" and excludes them from communion. One respondent writes: "I have been living in one of these 'irregular' situations for the last 14 years, but no one has ever described my situation in such crass terms as this questionnaire. I'm shocked." Another person writes: "In the more than 30 years of my being divorced then remarried, the church has never shown an interest in me, my problems or my doubts about my faith."

Another group the church accused of committing sins also enjoys considerable support from the base: homosexuals. "Many Christians cannot understand this attitude," the staff of Cologne's Cardinal Joachim Meisner concluded after reading the survey responses they received. In fact, Catholics in Cologne are all too familiar with their conservative archbishop's condemnation of gays and lesbians. Now Meisner can read about the consequences in the analysis prepared by his own priests, who conclude: "Many have already turned away from the church. And many are convinced that this is no longer acceptable."

Finally, many Christians took advantage of a unique opportunity to tell the pope how they felt about issues that were not even included in the survey. One is the vow of chastity for the clergy.

Peter Brandl, a pastor in Neunkirchen, in the Archdiocese of Bamberg, spent 10 days discussing the survey with members of his congregation. In the end, it was clear that his parish, St. Michael and St. Augustine, was not only demanding a new approach to remarried divorcees and same-sex couples. The parishioners also wanted to see the church do away with mandatory celibacy. "Everyone here agrees that it ought to be abolished," says Pastor Brandl. "It was very important to our parishioners to include this issue."

Unadulterated and Unadorned

The results of the survey are clear, from Neunkirchen to the St. Joseph Catholic Youth Group in Berlin. Now the question is whether a diagnosis so painful for the church will reach the pope in an undistorted form.

It's doubtful that it will. Some of the survey analyses by the bishops' staff members are filled with solemn prose. "Good and descriptive sermons should point out, once again, that the husband is the shepherd in the family, and that his duty is to be its spiritual leader," the Diocese of Augsburg wrote after surveying its base.

Lay representatives are alarmed. "We are calling upon the bishops to deliver the results of the surveys to Rome in unadulterated and unadorned form, as difficult as it may be for the bishops," says Christian Weisner, the national chairman of the "We are Church" movement.

The chairman of the BDKJ, Dirk Tänzler, also cautions church leaders "to ensure that the results they deliver to Rome are transparent." Elisabeth Bussmann, president of the Catholic Family Federation in Germany, says: "The survey unleashed a development that can no longer be stopped." And Alois Glück, head of the Central Committee of German Catholics, explains: "The survey was certainly hampered by methodological deficits. But the signal effect emanating from it is extremely important." He also perceives a strong discrepancy between church teachings and reality. "The key issue now is: What will Rome do with the results?"

That is precisely what the recipient of all of this information, Pope Francis, has yet to reveal.

At first glance, it seems that the pope has nothing to worry about. Millions of people have already flocked to his appearances, far more than those who came to see his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

His modest demeanor and often unconventional appearances have been the key to his popularity. Francis kisses the tattooed foot of a convict on live camera. He washes the feet of women, blacks and Muslims, to the dismay of many a cardinal. He embraces the disfigured Vinicio Riva, from Isola Vicentina, a suburb of Vicenza, dubbed the "wart man" by the tabloids, and pats his gnarled skin. He pays no attention to the footmen at the Vatican, preferring to carry his worn leather bag himself. During morning prayers, the Holy Father sits in the back rows of the Vatican chapel, like any other worshipper. And he drives himself to appointments in a used Ford Focus or a Fiat Idea.

Each of these appearances feels like a calculated signal, a message carefully addressed to various regiments from the army of the disadvantaged. If he were a politician, one would say that he is appealing to previously neglected groups of voters.

"If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?," Francis said, seemingly with sympathy, when he was flying back to Rome after attending World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. He also expressed empathy for divorced Catholics as he hovered above the clouds. "I believe we live in a time of mercy," he added. In his first apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii gaudium," the word "joy" appeared 48 times in the introduction alone.

The public has reacted with understandable delight. Shortly before Christmas, Time named Pope Francis its "Person of the Year."

But the public pays little attention when the Vatican -- even under Bergoglio's leadership -- energetically defends Catholic doctrine. The church's new leader has already sent the relevant signals to the Roman Catholic community. "I am a son of the church," he reassured the curia, when public expectations were running so high that the catechism seemed on the verge of suffering a fate similar to socialism.

Critics derisively refer to Pope Francis's approach as "Papastroika, as if he were opening the Church like Mikhail Gorbachev opened the Soviet Union. That, as we now know, ended in chaos. But it should be noted that, unlike Gorbachev, Francis has yet to modify or eliminate a single relevant rule or regulation in his realm.

"Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons," reads the Catholic catechism. "Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young." Masturbation ("a gravely disordered action") is condemned, as are homosexual acts ("Under no circumstances can they be approved"). Divorce is considered especially egregious, even "immoral," because "it introduces disorder into the family and into society," and "because of its contagious effect," it is "truly a plague on society."

The man whose job it is to strictly monitor compliance with these rules is Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, known in the past as the Holy Roman Inquisition. Benedict XVI brought Müller, the then Bishop of Regensburg in southern Germany, to Rome in the summer of 2012. He had commended himself through his deeply conservative positions, as well as his unabashed handling of the critical media, which he likened to a "flock of hissing geese."

Creating Confusion

Francis could have transferred Müller to a less exposed and less influential position. Instead, he announced that Müller would be made a cardinal in February.

A division of labor modeled after American police dramas is emerging between the pope and Müller. As the "good cop," Francis greets ordinary sinners with a smile on his face, while "bad cop" Müller is sharply critical of every transgression. This is how it works in practice: The pontiff calls a divorced woman and comforts her, and it seems almost accidental that half the world finds out about it. Meanwhile, his prefect criticizes an initiative from the Archdiocese of Freiburg, which wanted to stop excluding people who have divorced and remarried from participating in communion. "If such people were admitted to the Eucharist, it would create confusion among the faithful with regard to the teachings of the church," Müller said, by way of reprimand to Freiburg Archbishop Zollitsch, the head of the German Bishops' Conference. Müller also published a treatise "On the Indissolubility of Marriage" in L'Osservatore Romano, the Holy See newspaper.

The most important factions in the Catholic Church still have eight months to prepare for the extraordinary bishops' synod in October, when the pope and his shepherds will discuss the recently completed family survey. Not just German bishops, but also bishops from Belgium to South Africa and New Zealand, had placed the survey online, so that the results are guaranteed to be colorful. In Rome, it will now be a question of who gains the upper hand: Reformers who want to update the catechism or hardliners like Müller, who are defending centuries-old tradition against the zeitgeist.

Francis knows that his church consists of many currents and factions. If he acts alone, he could quickly fail, which is why he has created a crown council of sorts, consisting of eight cardinals from around the world. The group, sometimes referred to as the "G8," is seen as a counterweight to the Curia. The pope's personal advisers are from countries like India, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Honduras, but the group also includes the Archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Reinhard Marx. The choice of cardinals from around the world is intended to ensure that more attention is paid to the concerns of Catholics worldwide at the Rome-centric Vatican.

The coordinator of the papal "G8" is Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, a colorful archbishop from Honduras, who has attracted attention for some of his pursuits, including flying helicopters, working as a psychotherapist and playing the piano. No one knows how much influence the international shadow cabinet already has, and to what extent it can shape church policy, especially in matters of sexual morality. Everything that has been discussed and developed within the panel has remained secret.

But Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga has revealed one thing: his deep distrust of Prefect Müller. "In his mentality, there is only right or wrong, that's it," Rodríguez Maradiaga said in an interview. "But I say: The world, my brother, isn't like that. You should be slightly flexible."

For now, Francis is keeping all options open. He has repeatedly demonstrated his respect for the conservative camp in his personnel decisions to date. He appointed a member of Opus Dei to his commission to reform the Vatican bank, for instance, while a member of the equally reactionary Legionaries of Christ was named general secretary of the Vatican state.

El Viejo

In a strategically shrewd move, Francis has emphasized inclusion of the supporters of Benedict XVI. He demonstratively embraced the former pope from the very beginning, referring to him as a relative living in his house. He speaks highly of his predecessor when possible, and he completed Benedict's unfinished encyclical, changing only a few words in the process. Francis has no desire to unnecessarily stylize himself as an antithesis to Benedict XVI, even though that is undoubtedly what he is.

The retired pope is the fixed star of the traditionalists in the Roman Catholic Church. His residence, the Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church) monastery, is only a few steps from St. Peter's Basilica, set idyllically in the Vatican gardens. It forms the intellectual center of old Catholicism.

Joseph Ratzinger keeps the strict worldview of his era alive through his presence alone. Benedict was in poor health during the weeks following his resignation. He suffered from heart and circulatory ailments, was emaciated and weak and plagued by depression. Many in his circle were convinced that he was dying. But then he recovered.

His ideal of a spiritual church as an antithesis to a secularized, uninhibited society is very much alive. For the conservative establishment, Ratzinger continues to set the standard today.

Of course, the retired pontiff keeps a low profile when it comes to the public. "El Viejo," or "the old man," as his successor respectfully calls him, has held only one larger mass in the Vatican so far: for his former employees, doctoral candidates and students, a meeting of elderly gentlemen. The group of Benedict's former students had come together in late August for an annual conference. Benedict's sermon revolved around one of the new pope's favorite subjects: humility and modesty. It seems as if Benedict were making an effort not to unnecessarily provoke opposition to Francis.

The old elites are not as discreet. They are already turning up their noses because Francis, unlike his predecessors, doesn't want to sing or chant at mass. And they feel it is beneath the Holy Father's dignity to stick both thumbs into the air during a general audience, as if he were attending a football match.

Even more shocking to his detractors is the pope's choice of a residence, the Santa Maria guesthouse, where Bergoglio occupies Suite 201, a 90-square-meter (970-square-foot) apartment on the third floor, next door to his closest advisers. For the traditionalists, the new center of power, unlike the Apostolic Palace, is hardly better than a second-class hotel frequented by traveling salesmen. During lunch in the Santa Maria cafeteria, the pope sometimes spots an acquaintance, jumps up from his table, runs after the man and calls out: "Can I talk to you?" And when he does meet with one of these people, there are no appointments and no preliminary meetings, and no one is ever told about what was discussed. For some at the Vatican, this behavior is nothing short of outrageous, after centuries of strict protocol surrounding the lives of popes.

Overwhelming Public Expectations

So much unconventional behavior causes discomfort among longstanding members of the Vatican staff. But the dictate of the moment is to act as if none of this mattered. Even Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, 72, the head of social communications in the Curia, has taken to proudly reporting, in neo-Italian, how often the pope's words were "re-tweettati." The number of Bergoglio's Twitter followers has increased fivefold to more than 11 million. In the Latin version, the prince of the church addresses his "highly esteemed followers" as "Fautores dilecti."

Is this compatible with the traditional image of the earthly representative of Christ, who can proclaim eternal truths while speaking ex cathedra? Of course not, say the pope's critics in Italy, most notably the philosopher Mario Palmaro and his co-author, journalist Alessandro Gnocchi.

"We don't like this pope," they asserted in a commentary. They subsequently lost their jobs with a Catholic radio station as a result. But otherwise, as Gnocchi reports, their remarks were well received, even within the divided Curia.

Both authors deplore the tendency toward simplification and the softening of doctrine under Francis. They miss the justified rigor that had returned under Benedict XVI and, together with asceticism and prayer, protected against the siren songs of the world." In their verdict, Francis is someone who tells the masses what they want to hear and, regrettably, "the number of followers on Twitter is inversely proportional to the power and clarity of the message." According to Palmaro and Gnocchi, the pope is destroying the roots of the Catholic faith with qualifying statements on the inviolability of the marriage sacrament.

Their attack offers a foretaste of the power struggle of the coming months. "This pope is authentic. He knows what he wants and he carries through with it. It's obvious why people are grumbling in the Curia and elsewhere, because suddenly everyone can be asked what kind of expensive car he drives," says retired Curial Cardinal Walter Kasper, who has been asked to write a position paper on the sensitive family issue for the pope by the end of February. "What Francis says has nothing to do with relativism, but with realism. He is familiar with real life. He will not be able to completely change the Curia during his papacy, but he will manage to reform it. In the future, it should see itself more as a service provider."

That was what countless Catholics were hoping when they completed the surveys the pope sent out in October. A year of decisions is beginning for Francis and his church. Will the calls for attention from the basis be heard behind the thick walls of the Vatican? Can laypeople expect the church to change in accordance with their wishes? And can they expect Rome to stop despising and condemning the realities of their lives?

Even Francis's open-minded advisers are concerned that he will be unable to put the genie back into the bottle. Marcello Semeraro is the secretary of Pope Francis' "crown council," the group of eight cardinals from around the world tasked with advising the pope on reforms. Semeraro does everything he can to dampen the overwhelming expectations of ordinary Catholics.

Some apparently felt "that the questionnaire created the impression of a survey in which majority opinion would be declared valid," Semeraro said recently. "That is absolutely not the case. The role of the pope and the bishops is not to be the notaries of a majority."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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« Reply #185 on: Feb 05, 2014, 06:06 AM »

UN denounces Vatican over child abuse and demands immediate action

Devastating UN report demands Vatican 'immediately remove' all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers

Agencies in Vatican City, Wednesday 5 February 2014 11.31 GMT   
A UN human rights committee has denounced the Vatican for adopting policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children, and urged it to open its files on the paedophiles and the churchmen who concealed their crimes.

In a devastating report on Wednesday, the UN committee also severely criticised the Holy See for its attitudes toward homosexuality, contraception and abortion and demanded that the Vatican "immediately remove" all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers and turn them over to civil authorities.

The committed said the Holy See should also hand over its archives on sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children so that culprits, as well as "those who concealed their crimes", could be held accountable.

The watchdog's exceptionally blunt paper – the most far-reaching critique of the church hierarchy by the world body – followed its public grilling of Vatican officials last month.

"The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators," the report said.

The Vatican was expected to issue a statement on the report later on Wednesday.

The UN committee on the rights of the child said the Catholic church had not yet taken measures to prevent a repeat of cases such as Ireland's Magdalene laundries scandal, where girls were arbitrarily placed in conditions of forced labour.

It called for an internal investigation of the laundries and similar institutions so that whose who were responsible could be prosecuted and that "full compensation be paid to the victims and their families".

A commission created by Pope Francis in December should investigate all cases of child sexual abuse "as well as the conduct of the Catholic hierarchy in dealing with them", the report said.

Abusers had been moved from parish to parish or other countries "in an attempt to cover up such crimes", it added.

"Due to a code of silence imposed on all members of the clergy under penalty of excommunication, cases of child sexual abuse have hardly ever been reported to the law enforcement authorities in the countries where such crimes occurred," the UN body said.

At a public session last month, the committee pushed Vatican delegates to reveal the scope of the decades-long sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests that Pope Francis called "the shame of the church".

The Holy See's delegation, answering questions from an international rights panel for the first time since the scandals broke more than two decades ago, denied allegations of a Vatican cover-up and said it had set clear guidelines to protect children from predator priests.

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« Reply #186 on: Feb 09, 2014, 07:34 AM »

Pope Agrees to Sri Lanka Trip, Honors Korean Martyrs

by Naharnet Newsdesk
08 February 2014, 19:00

Pope Francis on Saturday turned his focus to Asia, announcing a possible trip to Sri Lanka and approving the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs.

The beatification ceremony for Paul Yun Ji-chung and his 123 fellow martyrs -- who were killed for their Catholic beliefs between 1791 and 1888 -- will take place in South Korea on August 15, the Vatican said in a statement.

The ceremony could well be attended by the pontiff himself after the Vatican last month said Francis was considering a trip to South Korea to coincide with Asian Youth Day in mid-August.

Also on Saturday the pontiff met with a group of Sri Lankan immigrants living in Italy and accepted an invitation to visit their country, without however specifying when the trip might take place.

Pleading for reconciliation in Sri Lanka nearly five years after the end of a bloody separatist war, the pope said: "It is not easy, I know, to heal the wounds and cooperate with yesterday's enemy to build tomorrow together, but it is the only path that gives hope for the future, hope for development and hope for peace."

"I ask the Lord to grant you the gift of peace and reconciliation," he said in an audience at St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

Francis also thanked Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, for an invitation to visit the island nation.

"I accept it and believe the Lord will give us this grace," the pope said, without elaborating.

Asia has repeatedly been tipped as a destination for possible papal trips as Francis's predecessor Benedict XVI did not travel there during his eight-year pontificate and evangelization in the continent is a big priority for the Vatican.

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« Reply #187 on: Feb 17, 2014, 07:54 AM »

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Pope Opens Critical Week for Reform, Family Issues

FEB. 17, 2014, 6:42 A.M. E.S.T.   

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Monday opened the most critical week of his year-old papacy: Two commissions of inquiry on Vatican finance are reporting their recommendations for reform and preparations get underway for a summit on family issues that will deal with the widespread rejection by Catholics of church teaching on contraception, divorce and gay unions.

In between, Francis will preside over his first ceremony to formally welcome 19 new cardinals into the elite club of churchmen who will eventually elect his successor. In typical Francis style, the new cardinals hail from some of the poorest places on earth, including Haiti, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.

The first half of Francis' busy week is being devoted to the third meeting of his "Group of Eight" advisers, the senior cardinals representing every continent who Francis appointed to help him govern the church and overhaul the antiquated and inefficient Vatican bureaucracy.

On Monday, the G8, the pope and his No. 2 heard recommendations from a panel of experts on rationalizing the Holy See's overall financial and administrative structures. On Tuesday, they will hear from the commission of inquiry studying how to reform the troubled Vatican bank.

Francis was elected with a mandate to reform the Roman Curia, as the Holy See administration is known, to make it more responsive to the needs of the 21st-century Catholic Church. He wants to make the curia more of a support to bishops trying to spread the faith rather than an obstacle, and this week's meetings are a clear indication that improving the Vatican's financial structures is a core piece of that reform.

Francis has placed particular priority on overhauling the scandal-marred Vatican bank, long accused by Italian authorities as being an off-shore tax haven for well-connected Italians and, more recently, a place where money could be laundered.

On the eve of the G8 meeting, the head of the Vatican bank pleaded his case to Francis' hometown newspaper, telling Argentina's La Nacion daily that his process of reform hadn't yielded any "systematic violations" of the Vatican's anti-money laundering laws but just some "black sheep."

One of those black sheep is Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, an accountant in the Vatican's finance ministry who is currently on trial for allegedly trying to smuggle 20,000 euro ($26,000) from Switzerland to Italy, and is also accused in another case of using his Vatican bank accounts to launder money. The bank's top two managers resigned in July after Scarano was arrested.

"We're in a crucial moment," the bank president, Ernst Von Freyberg, told La Nacion. "The (bank) commission will hand in its report in the coming days, as will the commission on the economic affairs, and then the Holy Father will decide what to do."

Von Freyberg, Benedict XVI's last major appointment before resigning, outsourced his reform to the U.S. consulting firm Promontory Group. The other commission of inquiry, tasked with advising the Holy See on more structural reforms in its overall financial and administrative sphere, also brought in outside experts, tapping McKinsey & Co. to help modernize its communications operations and KPMG to bring its accounting up to international standards.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, cautioned against expectations that any decisions would be made this week or even in the near term.

On a slightly more accelerated timetable are plans for the October meeting of bishops at the Vatican on family issues. A broader group of cardinals are expected to discuss the summit, or synod, in the second half of the week and then the main planning group gets down to work early next week.

Francis called the synod late last year and took the unusual step of commissioning surveys from bishops conferences around the world to ask ordinary Catholics about how they understand and practice church teaching on marriage, sex and other issues related to the family.

The results, at least those reported by bishops in Europe and the United States, have been an eye-opener: The church's core teachings on sexual morals, birth control, homosexuality, marriage and divorce were rejected as unrealistic and outdated by the vast majority of Catholics, who nevertheless said they were active in parish life and considered their faith vitally important.

German Cardinal Walter Kasper has been tasked with delivering an opening speech to the group on Thursday — an indication that the cardinals and pope will get an unfiltered view of this reality when it comes up for discussion this week.

Germany's bishops delivered some of the most startlingly blunt results from the survey, saying: "The church's statements on premarital sexual relations, on homosexuality, on those divorced and remarried and on birth control ... are virtually never accepted, or are expressly rejected in the vast majority of cases."

Francis greatly admires Kasper, who was the Vatican's chief ecumenical officer for nearly a decade. During his first Sunday noon blessing as pope, Francis praised Kasper by name, saying he was a terrific theologian who had just written a great book on mercy.

Lombardi declined to say why Kasper had been asked to open Thursday's meeting. He said Kasper was an esteemed, experienced cardinal and that he would wait to hear what Kasper had to say before commenting further.
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« Reply #188 on: Feb 22, 2014, 07:03 AM »

Pope Names New Cardinals as Predecessor Looks On

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 February 2014, 10:36

Pope Francis appointed his first batch of cardinals on Saturday, as his predecessor Benedict made a surprise rare appearance at the ceremony naming the new "princes of the Church."

The new cardinals were presented with scarlet-red birettas and gold rings at a grandiose ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica that Vatican observers say should help correct a perceived bias towards European cardinals.

Nine of the 19 cardinals appointed on Saturday came from South America, Africa and Asia.

Former pope Benedict XVI, who last year became the first pontiff to retire since the Middle Ages, joined the cardinals in the front row of the basilica.

The 86-year-old seemed cheerful as he sat cloaked in his white papal garments in the midst of the red-robed cardinals. He and Francis hugged at the start of the ceremony and shook hands warmly at the end.

Sixteen of the 19 cardinals are under the age of 80 and can therefore take part in the secretive conclave that elects new popes from among their ranks.

In an indication of the importance of the developing world for the Argentine pope -- a fierce critic of economic inequality -- half are non-Europeans, including five cardinals from South America, two Africans and two Asians.

Francis, in a cream mantle embroidered with gold, called on the new cardinals to be "peacemakers, building peace by our hopes and our prayers."

- 'The Church needs your courage' -

"I will tell you what the Church needs: she needs you, your cooperation and even more your communion. The Church needs your courage," he said.

The 77-year-old called on the new cardinals to show "compassion, especially at this time of pain and suffering for so many countries throughout the world."

Francis is keen to nourish faith in developing countries, to combat the decline of practicing believers in Europe, the Church's traditional power base.

The first non-European pope in nearly 1,300 years bestowed the honor of the red cap on the archbishops of Buenos Aires in Argentina, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Santiago in Chile, Managua in Nicaragua and Les Cayes in Haiti.

Aurelio Poli, 66, took over the post of Buenos Aires archbishop from Francis, who was a regular visitor to the city's slums before he became pope almost a year ago.

Chibly Langlois, 55, is the Church's first cardinal from Haiti, one of the poorest countries of the world.

According to Vatican watcher John Allen, Francis is taking the idea of privileging the periphery even further, by choosing Haiti over the region's three Catholic powerhouses -- Cuba, Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.

For Africa, the new electors were the archbishops of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Abidjan in Ivory Coast, while Asia was represented by the archbishops of Cotabato in the Philippines and Seoul in South Korea.

The pope's choices echo his desire to emphasis the pastoral side of the Church -- choosing for the most part leaders engaged with the problems affecting their local communities rather than favoring administrative heads.

Only four are members of the Curia -- the Vatican's government -- including Italian Pietro Parolin, 58, the new secretary of state, as well as German Gerhard Mueller, 66, who heads the Vatican's doctrinal congregation.

Among the most prominent in the group is Britain's Vincent Nichols, the 68-year-old Archbishop of Westminster, who has been likened to Francis for his determination to speak out for the marginalized.

Just a week before the Vatican ceremony, he waded into British politics to condemn welfare cuts and is best known for winding up the Church's conservative arm in 2010 by defending London masses for gay and transgender Catholics.

Nichols was joined by Gerald Lacroix, the lord archbishop of Quebec in Canada and one of the youngest electors to be chosen at the age of 56.

The oldest "new prince" is Loris Francesco Capovilla, the 98-year-old former secretary to pope John XXIII, who did not attend because of his reduced mobility but is likely to receive his red cap at home.

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« Reply #189 on: Feb 23, 2014, 07:59 AM »

Pope Francis tells new cardinals to shun gossip and cliques

By Reuters
Sunday, February 23, 2014 6:57 EST

Pope Francis urged cardinals, who make up the top echelon of the Roman Catholic Church, on Sunday to shun the intrigue, gossip and cliques typical of a royal court.

Since his election nearly a year ago, Francis has often told his top aides not to live or behave like a privileged class. The eight-year papacy of his predecessor, Benedict, was marked by mishaps and missteps, which were often blamed on a dysfunctional Vatican bureaucracy and intrigue befitting a Renaissance court.

On Sunday, Francis celebrated a mass with 18 of the 19 new cardinals who were elevated to that rank on Saturday. One could not attend because of illness.

“A cardinal enters the Church of Rome, not a royal court,” Francis said in his sermon, welcoming the men into the elite group that help him run the Church in the Vatican and around the world.

“May all of us avoid, and help others to avoid, habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favoritism and preferences,” he said during a solemn ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Jesus did not come to teach us good manners or to behave as if we were at a social gathering,” Francis told them.

It was the second consecutive day that Francis had warned cardinals to shun worldly temptations in the corridors of clerical power, either at home or in the nerve center of the 1.2 billion-member Church.

At the induction ceremony on Saturday, which was attended by ex-pope Benedict, Francis urged the cardinals to avoid rivalries and factions. It was the first time Francis and Benedict, who resigned on February 28, 2013, had been together for a liturgical celebration.

The “Vatileaks” scandal, in which Benedict’s butler was arrested for leaking the pope’s private papers to the media, alleged corruption in the Holy See, something the Vatican denied.


He asked the new cardinals to remain united among themselves and with him as they advise and help him run the Church in the Vatican and beyond in a spirit of simplicity and service.

Later, addressing tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday blessing, Francis said Catholic leaders should “not consider themselves holders of special powers or bosses, but place themselves at the service of the community”.

They should be “good servants, not good bosses,” he said.

Since his election last March as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, Francis has attempted to infuse the Vatican and the Church with his simple style.

Last month, when he announced the names of the new cardinals, he quickly followed up with a letter to each asking that they not see their appointment as a promotion and not to waste money holding celebratory parties.

Francis, who has called for a “poor Church, and for the poor”, has set the example himself. He has opted to live in a simple boarding house rather than the Apostolic Palace, and travels in a blue Ford Focus rather than a luxury car.

Cardinals are the pope’s closest advisers in the Vatican and around the world. Apart from being Church leaders in their home countries, those who are not based in the Vatican are members of key committees in Rome that decide policies that can affect the lives of all Roman Catholics.

Sixteen of the new appointees are “cardinal electors” who join 106 existing cardinals who are also under 80 and thus eligible to enter a conclave to elect a pope from among their own ranks.

They come from Italy, Germany, Britain, Nicaragua, Canada, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Chile, Burkina Faso, the Philippines and Haiti. The non-electors come from Italy, Spain and Saint Lucia.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Larry King)

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« Reply #190 on: Feb 25, 2014, 06:53 AM »

Vatican’s new money man confronts ‘enormous’ reform effort

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, February 24, 2014 22:13 EST

Australian Cardinal George Pell, appointed by Pope Francis to head a new Vatican finance ministry, admitted Tuesday it will be “an enormous task” to put the Holy See’s economic affairs in order.

Pell’s appointment Monday makes him one of the most important men in the Catholic Church, charged with helping overhaul its much-criticised central administration following a wave of scandals.

The Vatican said in a statement that Pell “has been asked to start work as soon as possible” as head of the Secretariat for the Economy, a role aimed at helping the poor and increasing transparency.

The Catholic Church in Australia said he will begin his new job in March.

The ministry will prepare an annual budget as well as impose international financial standards, in line with a series of recommendations made by a group of cardinals advising the pope, including for a “more formal commitment” to enforcing transparency.

Pell said it was a significant move in the right direction, following a series of leaks to the media in 2012 about “numerous situations of corruption and misconduct”.

“The review has highlighted that much can be achieved through improved financial planning and reporting as well as enhancements in governance, internal controls and various administrative support functions,” said Pell, who will be based in Rome.

“I am looking forward to implementing these recommendations as requested by the Holy Father.

“I have always recognised the need for the Church to be guided by experts in this area and will be pleased to be working with the members of the new Council for the Economy as we approach these tasks,” he added.

“We need to be open to expert advice and aware of any opportunity to improve the way we conduct our financial administration.”

“It is an enormous task and it is important we embrace and implement the recommended changes as soon as practicable.”

The new ministry will be run by a 15-member council of eight clergymen from different parts of the world and seven lay financial experts.

Francis has said he wants a style of government for the Church that is more “collegial” and less “Vatican-centric” and the process of consultation he used to reach his decision on the new ministry is seen as an example of this.

He reached outside the Church for advice, with the Vatican hiring international consultancy firms such as Ernst&Young, KPMG, Promontory and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

During the 2012 leaks, letters surfaced from Carlo Maria Vigano, the head of the Vatican governorate, who pointed to inflated costs for Vatican works contracts as an example as corruption and misconduct.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #191 on: Feb 27, 2014, 07:40 AM »

Pope Benedict denies ‘absurd’ claim he was forced to resign

By Reuters
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 9:45 EST

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Former Pope Benedict, in one of the few times he has broken his silence since stepping down nearly a year ago, has branded as “absurd” fresh media speculation that he was forced to quit.

Church law says a pope’s resignation is valid only if he takes the decision in full freedom and without pressure from others.

“There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry,” Benedict, 86, who now has the title “pope emeritus,” said in a letter to the Italian website Vatican Insider published on Wednesday.

“The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision. Speculation regarding its validity is simple absurd,” he wrote in answer to a request by the website for comment on recent Italian media reports.

Benedict announced his decision to resign on February 11, 2013 and formally stepped down on February 28, becoming the first pope in 600 years to do so. Two weeks later, Francis was elected the first non-European pope in 1,300 years.

Benedict said at the time that he was stepping down because he no longer had the physical and spiritual strength to run the 1.2 billion member Church and that his decision had been taken in full freedom.

Earlier this month on the day after the first anniversary of the announcement of the resignation, Italian newspaper Libero ran a long story reviving speculation that Benedict may have been forced to resign because of scandals in the Vatican.

In 2012, Benedict’s butler was arrested for leaking sensitive documents alleging corruption among Vatican prelates and irregularities in Vatican finances.

Italian media at the time reported that a faction of prelates who wanted to discredit Benedict and pressure him to resign was behind the leaks. The Vatican has always denied this.

Libero also suggested that Benedict chose to continue to wear white because he still felt like he was a pope.

Benedict, who lives in near-total isolation inside a former convent on the Vatican grounds, was also asked about this and responded:

“I continue to wear a white cassock and kept the name Benedict for purely practical reasons. At the moment of my resignation there were no other cloths available. In any case, I wear the white cassock in a visibly different way to how the Pope (Francis) wears it. This is another case of completely unfounded speculation.”

In an interview with Reuters earlier this month, Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, said the former pope saw his main function now as helping the Church and his successor through prayer.

Benedict has only responded to a few letters in the past year and has appeared in public only a handful of times. The latest was last Saturday when he attended a ceremony in St Peter’s Basilica when Pope Francis created new cardinals.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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« Reply #192 on: Feb 28, 2014, 08:26 AM »

Pope Francis: Find Me Better Bishops

By Susie Madrak February 28, 2014 6:00 am

“The church doesn’t need apologists for their own agendas or crusaders for their own battles,” he added, “but humble and faithful sowers of the truth.”

Cue the exploding heads in North America's Catholic Church, whose leaders were just described as what a bishop ought not to be. Zing!

    VATICAN CITY — In another strongly worded message to the Catholic hierarchy, Pope Francis on Thursday (Feb. 27) told the Vatican body that vets nominees for bishops that they need to find him better candidates to send to dioceses around the world.

    “To choose such ministers we all need to raise our sights, to move to a higher level,” Francis told the Congregation for Bishops, the critical department of the Roman Curia that acts as a clearinghouse for bishop nominees. “We can’t do anything less, and we can’t be content with the bare minimum.”

    On consecutive days last weekend, Francis delivered stern warnings to 19 new cardinals he appointed to join about 150 others in the College of Cardinals: On Saturday (Feb. 22), he told them to avoid “rivalry, jealousy, factions,” and at a Mass in the Vatican on Sunday (Feb. 23), he said they must reject “habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favoritism and preferences.”

    Francis also has repeatedly called on clerics to live simply and humbly, and in his address Thursday to the cardinals and staff who make up the Congregation for Bishops, Francis said that self-denial and sacrifice are written into the bishop’s DNA.

    He exhorted them to find “authentic” pastors who display “professionalism, service and holiness of life.”

    Bishops, he continued, should be “guardians of doctrine, not to measure how far the world lives from the truth it contains, but to fascinate the world, to enchant the world with the beauty of love, to seduce it with the free gift of the Gospel.”

    “The church doesn’t need apologists for their own agendas or crusaders for their own battles,” he added, “but humble and faithful sowers of the truth.”

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« Reply #193 on: Feb 28, 2014, 09:11 AM »

This 99-Year-Old Man Begs Every Day And Gives It All Away To Churches And Orphanages

The Huffington Post  | by  Eleanor Goldberg
Posted: 02/27/2014 4:10 pm EST Updated: 02/28/2014 8:59 am EST

To the unfamiliar passerby, Dobri Dobrev, 99, may come off as a haggard beggar who depends on the kindness of strangers to get by in life.

But, for the residents of Sofia, Bulgaria, Dobrev is nothing of the sort. Rather, the area’s fixture has been called a "saint" and a "divine stranger," according to a website dedicated to Dobrev.

Click to visit:

Dobrev lost most of his hearing during World War II, according to Yahoo News Canada. He lives more than 15 miles outside of Sofia, a distance he used to trek by foot, but he now relies on the bus, according to He spends his days asking people for money, but he doesn’t keep a cent.

The generous guy lives off of his monthly pension of 80 euros (about $100) and gives all his donations to institutions that are most dear to him: churches and orphanages.

Last year, Reddit user Nullvoid123 wrote on the site that he has met Dobrev a number of times and that the beneficent man said he once "did a bad thing," and is now trying to make up for his past transgressions by helping others.

Dobrev has made a number of generous donations throughout the years to churches, but one of his largest gifts was when he gave 35,700 lev (more than $24,000) to the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, according to a video released by the church. He has also been known to give money to orphanages to help them pay their utility bills.

"The good will is just and true. Everything in it is good," Dobrev said in the film "Mite," which was produced in 2000. "We must not lie, nor steal, nor commit adultery. We must love each other as God loves us.

Click to watch:

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« Reply #194 on: Mar 01, 2014, 08:44 AM »

Cardinal Keith OBrien's accusers take fight for justice to the pope

Priests say investigation into allegations of sexual abuse are being blocked by 'formidable church machine'

Catherine Deveney   
The Observer, Saturday 1 March 2014 07.40 EST   

Three priests and one ex-priest whose allegations of sexual misconduct against the archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, led to his resignation a year ago, have appealed directly to Pope Francis for a meeting in a last-ditch bid for justice.

Describing the church as a "formidable machine" that had blocked any investigation, one told the Observer: "The abuse we received at the hands of Keith O'Brien is dwarfed by the systematic abuse we have received from church officials. They have passed the buck, misrepresented the truth, engaged in cover-up and, having asked for our trust and co-operation, shamelessly procrastinated and hidden behind a veneer of diplomacy and charm. I want to ask Pope Francis, can you sort this out?"

Secret negotiations have been going on between the men and the cardinal's successor, Archbishop Leo Cushley, since last November. The archbishop insists that only Rome can initiate an inquiry into O'Brien's sexual behaviour, but he has agreed to an investigation of the cardinal's financial transactions. In an email to the complainants last December, the archbishop's vicar general, Philip Kerr, confirmed: "The archdiocesan auditors have been asked to examine the financial accounts which Keith O'Brien personally operated."

"Lenny", an ex-priest who rebuffed O'Brien's advances at a seminary, says that the diocese is a charity and he would have contacted the charity regulator if Cushley had refused the audit. "Keith O'Brien was essentially the CEO of a £9m charity. We want to assure ourselves that this institution is not totally corrupt."

The group know that the cardinal bought a priest friend a jet ski for his birthday. "Jet skis cost thousands of pounds. How can a man who was an archbishop have the money to pay for a jet ski for his pal? Catholics should not give a penny more until they know the church is spending it on something they intend to pay for."

The complainants tabled a formal paper at a meeting with Cushley in Edinburgh last November, repeating the need for a formal investigation and proposing a number of initiatives. These included a public apology for "the victims of O'Brien and all those affected by abuse throughout the church", but also an investigation into governance in the diocese. They wanted to know how O'Brien had come to be appointed, the extent of his predatory behaviour and whether those close to him had been manoeuvred into positions of power under his leadership.

Most damaging for the church was a request to examine potential sacramental abuse by O'Brien. The complainants have asked if the cardinal sought absolution in confession from anyone he had committed a sexual sin against. This offence is regarded as so serious that the penalty is automatic excommunication. In church eyes, any sacraments the cardinal had subsequently administered would be illicit.

Cushley, a former Vatican diplomat, insisted he could not take action independently, but would pass requests to the Vatican. He offered a private apology to the men for their suffering, but said a public apology required Rome's approval. A spokesman for the archbishop said: "Archbishop Cushley has listened to the parties concerned and will transmit any information to the Holy See. Any decision on further action will rest with the Holy See as jurisdiction in the matter rests with the pope."

For the four men, the last year has been traumatic. They have been accused of seeking vengeance, while Bishop Stephen Robson, a close friend of O'Brien, has called publicly for forgiveness for the cardinal. For those involved, such calls are simply another church mechanism to silence them. "Denial is deep," says one. "They are so lacking in compassion. Why have we been waiting so long?"

The Vatican ordered O'Brien to undertake an unspecified period of "prayer and penance". In recent months, however, he has sent out personal cards with a photograph of himself, still in his cardinal's red robes. It is, say the complainants, a sign of both his inability to confront his actions and the church's inability to deal with him. "Keith was power hungry," says one. "Now he is a wounded lion, but I'd like to see them remove his teeth and claws. That might mean removing his red hat."

Lenny said that the past year had cost him "physically and emotionally". Watching O'Brien's elevation led to his decision to leave the priesthood, costing him his vocation and a crisis of personal faith. He is now married.

But speaking out has had one positive effect. "It has been the most authentic decision of my life and I know my motive was not hatred. I have had a sense of God over the last year that I haven't had for a long time. I have felt a bit of a guiding presence."

Last week Archbishop Cushley travelled to Rome, assuring the complainants that their requests would be personally delivered. However, he suggested justice had a better chance if "discussion of the case in public is avoided".

"They always demand silence," says Lenny, "which is ironic given the church has been spinning relentlessly all year.""

In an email to Lenny, the archbishop wrote: "Please be assured that I will transmit your request for an audience with the Holy Father and the Secretary of State. As with all such requests, I warn you not to hold your breath for a reply, but you never know."

Lenny said: "If even Francis won't talk to victims of abuse because the abuser is a cardinal, then that will be disappointing – and very telling."
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