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Pope Francis: Even in times of darkness, God is there

Vatican City, Aug 9, 2020 / 05:59 am ().- When caught in difficult moments or trials, turn your heart to God, who is near even when you do not search for him, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Sunday.

“Having faith means, in the midst of the storm, keeping your heart turned to God, to his love, to his tenderness as a Father. Jesus wanted to teach this to Peter and his disciples, and also to us today, in moments of darkness, moments of storms,” the pope said Aug. 9.

Speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, he said “even before we begin to seek Him, He is present beside us lifting us back up after our falls, He helps us grow in faith.”

“Perhaps we, in the dark, cry out: ‘Lord! Lord!’ thinking that he is far away. And He says: ‘I’m here!’ Ah, he was with me!” Pope Francis continued.

 “God knows well that our faith is poor and that our path can be troubled, blocked by adverse forces. But He is the Risen One, do not forget this, the Lord who went through death to bring us to safety.”

In his message before the Angelus, the pope reflected on the Gospel reading from St. Matthew, when Jesus asks the apostles to get in a boat and cross to the other shore of the lake, where he will meet them.

While still far from shore, the disciples’ boat gets caught in some wind and waves.

“The boat at the mercy of the storm is an image of the Church, which in every age encounters headwinds, sometimes very hard trials,” Francis noted.

“In those situations, [the Church] may be tempted to think that God has abandoned her. But in reality, it is precisely in those moments that the witness of faith, the testimony of love and the testimony of hope shines the most,” he said.

He pointed to the Gospel: In this moment of fear, the disciples see Jesus walking to them on the water and think it is a ghost. But he reassures them and Peter challenges Jesus to tell him to come out onto the water to meet him. Jesus invites Peter to “come!”

“Peter gets off the boat and takes a few steps; then the wind and the waves frighten him and he begins to sink. ‘Lord, save me!’ he cries, and Jesus takes him by the hand and says to him: ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’” Francis recounted.

This episode “is an invitation to abandon ourselves with trust to God in every moment of our life, especially in the hour of trial and turmoil,” he said.

“When we feel strong doubt and fear and we seem to sink, in the difficult moments of life, where everything becomes dark, we must not be ashamed to cry out, like Peter: ‘Lord, save me!’”
“It is a beautiful prayer!” he noted.

“And the gesture of Jesus, who immediately reaches out his hand and grasps that of his friend, must be contemplated for a long time: Jesus is this, Jesus does this, it is the hand of the Father who never abandons us; the strong and faithful hand of the Father, who always and only wants our good,” he said.

After praying the Angelus in Latin, Pope Francis noted the presence of a group of pilgrims holding the Lebanese flag in St. Peter’s Square and said his thoughts have been with the country since the deadly explosion in Beirut Aug. 4.

“The catastrophe of last Tuesday calls everyone, starting with the Lebanese, to collaborate for the common good of this beloved country,” he said.

“Lebanon has a peculiar identity, the result of the meeting of various cultures, which has emerged over time as a model of living together,” he noted. “Of course, this coexistence is now very fragile, we know, but I pray that, with the help of God and the loyal participation of all, it may be reborn free and strong.”

Francis invited the Church in Lebanon to be close to her people during this “Calvary,” and asked the international community to be generous in helping the country.

“And please, I ask the bishops, priests and religious of Lebanon to stay close to the people and to live a lifestyle marked by evangelical poverty, without luxury, because your people suffer, and suffer so much,” he concluded.

The pope also noted the 75th anniversary of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which took place on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945.

“While I remember with emotion and gratitude the visit I made to those places last year, I renew my invitation to pray and to commit ourselves to a world totally free from nuclear weapons,” he said.

Italy considers allowing abortion pill without hospitalization

Rome, Italy, Aug 8, 2020 / 12:11 pm ().- Italy’s health ministry is expected to approve a proposal to remove mandatory hospitalization for the administration of the abortion pill and to expand the time frame in which it can be prescribed.

The RU486 drug is prescribed to induce a chemical abortion. Use of the drug was legalized in Italy in 2009, and in 2010 standards were set which require women to be hospitalized for three days during its administration.

The proposed change in guidelines will allow the drug to be administered in an outpatient clinic or at home. Italy’s Ministry of Health is also expected to expand access to the abortion pill by two weeks, allowing it to be prescribed until the ninth week of pregnancy.

“This is a real abortion. It is no less ‘abortion’ due to the fact that it does not occur with surgical instruments,” Marina Casini, president of Movimento per la Vita told Vatican News.

She pointed to the significant health risks associated with chemical abortions, stating that Italy is “facing propaganda in favor” of the abortion drug RU486.

Casini said the proposed changes are based on ideology -- an attempt to convince people that abortion is “a trivial fact -- after all, it is enough to drink a glass of water -- to make us forget that at stake is the destruction of a human being in the prenatal stage.”

RU486 is the administration of two different drugs several days apart. Mifeprex causes the mother’s body to stop nourishing the unborn child; Misoprostol, taken afterward, causes contractions and expels the child and placenta from the mother’s body.

Currently, only two out of 10 abortions which take place in Italy are chemical abortions.

Italian media noted that dropping the hospitalization requirement could result in more Italian women choosing to have a chemical abortion instead of surgical.

In a document from the Superior Health Council, the drop of the hospitalization requirement was also noted to have potentially cost-saving benefits to the health system.

Casini condemned this attitude. “It is much less expensive to give this product to the woman and say: do it yourself, do it alone. It saves beds, anesthesia and even human investment of doctors and health workers,” she noted. “There is a nice cut in spending, however, it is carried out on the skin of children on their way to birth and their mothers.”

Abortion was legalized in Italy in 1978 with the establishment of “Legge 194.” The law made abortion legal for any reason within the first 90 days of pregnancy, and afterward for certain reasons with the referral of a physician.

Since its legalization, it is estimated that more than 6 million children have been aborted in Italy.

Vatican cardinal promotes rural tourism as sector projected to lose billions

Rome Newsroom, Aug 7, 2020 / 09:30 am ().- As the global economy braces to lose billions in international tourism in 2020 due to coronavirus travel restrictions, a Vatican cardinal is encouraging travelers to explore “hidden places.”

Tourism and rural development, the theme of the 2020 World Day of Tourism, could indicate a way forward for the industry once the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic ends, Cardinal Peter Turkson said in a message Aug. 7.

“It begins with the invitation to take seriously and put into practice sustainable development which, in the field of tourism, means a greater interest in extra-urban tourist destinations, small villages, hamlets, roads and little-known and less frequented places,” the cardinal said, “those most hidden places to discover or rediscover precisely because they are more enchanting and unspoiled.”

The United Nation’s 41st World Tourism Day will be September 27.

Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, noted the grave impact the coronavirus pandemic has and will have on the tourism industry and on those whose livelihoods depend on it.

“The suspension of international flights, the closure of airports and borders, the adoption of severe travel restrictions, including domestic ones, are causing an unprecedented crisis,” he said.

The cardinal cited “fears that in the worst-case scenario, at the end of 2020 there will be a decrease of about one billion international tourists, with a global economic loss of about 1.2 billion dollars.”

“The result would be a huge loss of jobs in the entire tourism sector,” he said.

Turkson also quoted the secretary general of the World Tourism Organization, Zurab Pololikashvili, who said “tourism has been the sector most affected by the global lockdown, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labor-intensive sectors of the economy.”

Despite these facts, Turkson encouraged people to remain optimistic and to consider how sustainable development can be put into practice through a slower, more “rural” tourism.

“It is, therefore, the promotion of sustainable and responsible tourism which, implemented according to principles of social and economic justice and in full respect of the environment and cultures, recognizes the centrality of the host local community and its right to be a protagonist in the sustainable and socially responsible development of its territory,” he stated.

It is “a tourism, therefore, that favors the positive interaction between the tourism industry, the local community and travelers.”

This would in turn also help the rural economy, on which many farmers, families, and small businesses depend, he argued.

According to Turkson, traveling in a “conscious and sober way” can also help people to “grasp the differences, small or large, among the traditions, places and communities encountered.”

“So why not turn to tourism that enhances rural and marginal areas by meeting them while walking?” he said. “This will allow us to slow down and avoid the risks of frenzy.”

Pope Francis sends donation to Beirut for explosion recovery

Rome Newsroom, Aug 7, 2020 / 08:30 am ().- Pope Francis has sent a donation of 250,000 euros ($295,488) in aid to the Church in Lebanon to help with recovery efforts after the devastating explosion which occurred in the capital city of Beirut earlier this week.

“This donation is intended as a sign of His Holiness’s attention and closeness to the affected population and of his fatherly closeness to people in serious difficulty,” a Vatican press release stated Aug. 7.

More than 137 people were killed and thousands injured in a blast near Beirut’s port Aug. 4. The explosion caused extensive damage to the city and flattened buildings near the port. Beirut’s governor, Marwan Abboud, said around 300,000 people were left temporarily homeless.

Church leaders have warned that the city and nation are on the brink of total collapse, and pleaded with the international community for aid.

Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, and Bishop Elias Zeidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles described Beirut as an “apocalyptic city” in a joint call for assisstence on Wednesday.

“This country is at the verge of a failed state and total collapse,” they said. “We pray for Lebanon, and we ask for your support for our brothers and sisters at this difficult time and in response to the catastrophe.”  

Pope Francis’ donation, made through the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, will go to the apostolic nunciature of Beirut “to meet the needs of the Lebanese Church in these moments of difficulty and suffering,” according to the Vatican.

The explosion destroyed “buildings, churches, monasteries, facilities and basic sanitation,” the statement continued. “An immediate emergency and first aid response is already taking place with medical care, shelters for the displaced and centres of basic needs made available by the Church through Caritas Lebanon, Caritas Internationalis and several Caritas sisters organizations.”

Lebanese officials say the blast appears to have been caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of the chemical ammonium nitrate, which is commonly used in fertilizer and mining explosives, stored in an unsecured warehouse on the docks for six years.

Pope Francis made an appeal for prayer for the people of Lebanon after his general audience address Aug. 5.

Speaking via livestream, he said, “let us pray for the victims, for their families; and let us pray for Lebanon, so that, through the dedication of all its social, political, and religious elements, it might face this extremely tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing.”

SSPX accused of intimidating would-be whistleblowers amid abuse investigation

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 6, 2020 / 05:00 pm ().- After an official with the Society of St. Pius X told priests and staff they should speak with criminal investigators only in the presence of an attorney provided by the group, the group’s leaders say their message was not intended to suggest anyone should cover up alleged sex abuse.

The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is a breakaway traditionalist group of priests and bishops with no official canonical status in the Church.

Rev. Scott Gardner, bursar of the U.S. district of the SSPX, told staff and priests at St. Mary’s SSPX chapel and school in Kansas last weekend that they did not have to cooperate with state investigators of alleged child sex abuse.

He added that employees and priest should speak to police only in the presence of a lawyer, who would be provided by the organization.

Some former members of the organization said the message, sent by email, seemed designed to silence witnesses or whistleblowers of abuse.

“It looks like they’re trying to hide things, trying to keep people from speaking and definitely stonewalling,” Kyle White, who has alleged that priests in the organization covered up reports of sexual abuse, told the Kansas City Star Aug. 4.

“They don’t want any more stuff like this getting out,” White added.

Gardner said when he emailed priests and staff, he was simply informing them that they did not have to speak to investigators without a lawyer present.
 
“It was certainly not an attempt to intimidate anyone or to discourage cooperation with the KBI,” Gardner said in an Aug. 5 statement.

“This email was clearly sent to priests and employees and not to people attending our church or school in St Mary’s or elsewhere,” the priest said, adding that it was not “an attempt to intimidate anyone or to discourage cooperation” with investigators.

The SSPX is under investigation in the state of Kansas for alleged sex abuse, along with the four Catholic dioceses.

The group was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970. When Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer consecrated four bishops without the permission of St. John Paul II in 1988, the bishops involved were excommunicated.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of the surviving bishops, while noting that “doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry.”

The group has been in intermittent talks with the Vatican about returning to full communion with the Church. In 2015, Pope Francis extended the faculty to hear confession to priests of the society as part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

In the group’s U.S. district, however, a number of abuse allegations have surfaced in relation to the large SSPX community at St. Mary’s, Kansas, which includes the society’s K-12 school, as have several allegations that priests engaged in cover-ups of abuse by priests or attendees of SSPX chapels.
 
In 2019, the Kansas Bureau of Investigations (KBI) announced it would investigate clerical sexual misconduct in four Catholic dioceses in the state; the investigation was subsequently expanded to include the SSPX.

In May, a spokesperson for the KBI told CNA the investigation is “ongoing” and that as of February 1, the bureau had 186 reports of abuse and had opened 112 investigations. KBI did not say how many of the investigations pertained to the SSPX.
 
In addition to the Kansas City Star, the weekend email from Gardner was reported on the Church Militant website. Gardner’s statement said of that report that “Church Militant has once again tried to wring fake news out of an internal email by falsifying the context.”

Gardner’s statement did not address the Kansas City Star, or indicate whether he perceived that newspaper as well to be reporting “fake news.”

The priest did say that the SSPX is “making any priest, employee, or agent” available to the KBI “without the need for a subpoena.”
 
Gardner said in his correspondence that he has “no indication that the KBI has been intimidating” anyone, but added that “our legal system is adversarial” and thus it is “common sense for the Society to protect itself and its priests and employees by having its attorney present at an interview with law enforcement.”

“I hope that anyone with evidence of abuse will go freely to the KBI or other appropriate authorities,” he said.
 
KBI has said that it is accepting reports of abuse by phone at 1-800-KS-CRIME, or by email. ClergyAbuse@kbi.ks.gov.

Atomic bombs contrary to peace: Pope Francis 75 years after Hiroshima attack

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2020 / 10:04 am ().- Nuclear weapons are not compatible with the flourishing of peace, Pope Francis said in a letter to Hiroshima to mark the 75th anniversary of the release of an atomic bomb over the city.

“It has never been clearer that, for peace to flourish, all people need to lay down the weapons of war, and especially the most powerful and destructive of weapons: nuclear arms that can cripple and destroy whole cities, whole countries,” Pope Francis said in a letter to the governor of Hiroshima, Hidehiko Yuzaki.

The year 2020 marks 75 years since the 1945 nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Japanese.

Pope Francis visited the hypocenters of the bombings in Nagasaki and Hiroshima during his apostolic visit to Japan in November 2019.

He said his visit to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial and to Hypocenter Park in Nagasaki allowed him to reflect “on the destruction of human life and property wrought in these two cities during those terrible days of war three quarters of a century ago.”

“Just as I came to Japan as a pilgrim of peace last year, so I continue to hold in my heart the longing of the peoples of our time, especially of young people, who thirst for peace and make sacrifices for peace,” the pope said.

“I carry too the cry of the poor, who are always among the first victims of violence and conflict,” he added.

In his letter, Francis repeated his words in Nagasaki in 2019, that “the use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral.”

“May the prophetic voices of the hibakusha survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki continue to serve as a warning to us and for coming generations!” he said.

“To them, and to all who work for reconciliation, we make the words of the psalmist our own: ‘For love of my brethren and friends, I say: Peace upon you!.’”

Pope Francis has several times condemned the use of nuclear weapons, including in a video message to Japan ahead of his 2019 visit.

Calling use of the weapons “immoral,” he said he was praying they will never be used again.

Japan “is very aware of the suffering caused by war,” the pope said. “Together with you, I pray that the destructive power of nuclear weapons will never be unleashed again in human history. Using nuclear weapons is immoral.”

Pope Francis appoints six women to economy council

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2020 / 06:49 am ().- Pope Francis on Thursday named 13 new members to the Council for the Economy, which oversees Vatican finances and the work of the Secretariat for the Economy.

Among the six women and one man appointed as new members of the Vatican’s top financial oversight body, are high-level experts in banking, finance, asset management, and international law from Spain, Italy, and Germany, as well as a former member of the British cabinet.

The Council for the Economy was established by Pope Francis in 2014 as part of his program of financial reform. According to its statutes, the body “supervises the administrative and financial structures and activities” of the Roman Curia, institutions of the Holy See, and Vatican City State.

Previously, the members of the economy council, overseen since its creation by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, consisted of eight cardinals, six laymen, and a priest secretary.  

The cardinals newly named to the council by Pope Francis are Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark; Anders Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm; Peter Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest; Odilo Pedro Scherer, Archbishop of Sao Paulo; Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec; and Giuseppe Petrocchi, Archbishop of L’Aquila.

Cardinal Tobin is the second American cardinal to be appointed to the body, following Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.

Among the new lay members are German law professor Charlotte Kreuter-Kirchhof and Maria Kolak, president of the National Association of German Cooperative Banks.

Maria Concepcion Osacar Garaicoechea is president of the board of Azora Capital and Azora Gestion, SGIIC, an independent investment manager. Eva Castillo Sanz is on the board of directors of Spanish bank Bankia and elevator manufacturer Zardoya Otis. 

Ruth Mary Kelly served as Great Britain’s Secretary of State for Education under Tony Blair, and later worked for HSBC Global Asset Management. She is currently pro vice chancellor for research and enterprise at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, a role she will leave at the end of the month.

Leslie Jane Ferrar was treasurer to Charles, Prince of Wales, from January 2015 until July 2017. Among other non-executive and trustee roles, she has been a trustee of the Archdiocese of Westminster for 19 years and non-executive director of real estate investment trust company Secure Income REIT for six years. 

The seventh new lay member, Alberto Minali, resigned May 29 after three years as CEO of Italian insurance company, Societa Cattolica di Assicurazioni. According to Italian newspaper Il Corriere del Veneto, Minali is in a legal battle with his former company for compensation of 9.6 million euros for alleged “lack of a just cause” in removing his control of the bank. The company says the claim is “unfounded.”

Minali also previously worked as chief investment officer of the asset management group Eurizon. 

Minnesota bishop retires early while seeking health treatment

CNA Staff, Aug 6, 2020 / 04:09 am ().- Pope Francis has accepted the early resignation of Bishop John LeVoir, who has led the Minnesota diocese of New Ulm since 2008, and took a leave from his position last month to be assessed for physical and psychological concerns.

“I applaud Bishop LeVoir for recognizing his health concerns and making the request for early retirement. I thank him for his devoted leadership during his tenure as the shepherd of our diocese,” Msgr. Douglas Grams, Levoir’s vicar general in the diocese, said in an Aug. 6 press release.

LeVoir was not expected to retire until at least February 2021, seven months from now, when he will turn 75, the age at which bishops customarily submit letters of resignation to the pope. But the diocese said the bishop has been seeking treatment and assessment at a facility in Alma, Michigan, and will remain at the facility until September to begin a “therapy plan.”

The diocese did not specify what conditions afflict the bishop, who said Aug. 6 “it has been a privilege to have served the faithful of the Diocese of New Ulm.”

“As bishop, it has not only been a great honor, but an enriching experience as I have come to know many people throughout this local Church. I have been impressed by their love for Jesus Christ, their willingness to share their Catholic faith, and their concern for the less fortunate. It would not have been possible to serve as their shepherd without their continued support, cooperation, and prayers,” LeVoir added.

LeVoir, a native of Minneapolis, was ordained a priest in 1981 and was appointed bishop of New Ulm, a town southwest of the Twin Cities, in 2008. With a population under 14,000, New Ulm is believed to be the third-smallest diocesan see in the United States, behind Baker City, Oregon and Crookston, Minnesota, which each have fewer than 10,000 people.

The diocese has 35 priests in active ministry and 7 seminarians, who serve 50,000 Catholics in 60 parishes.

In June, LeVoir acknowledged that the diocese is facing financial difficulties.

The diocese declared bankruptcy in March 2017, after several lawsuits were filed against it pertaining to the sexual abuse of clergy. To date, five Minnesota dioceses have filed bankruptcy; in the state only the Crookston diocese has not yet done so.

LeVoir, who is a Certified Public Accountant and taught accounting at the University of Minnesota before becoming a priest, led the New Ulm diocese through its bankruptcy proceeding.

In his June column, written shortly before he went for treatment, LeVoir wrote that while the diocese had come out of bankruptcy in March, it had not “finished with the healing and welcoming that it needs to do with regards to survivors and the lives of all those whom this great tragedy has touched. We are committed to doing what we can to help those harmed as minors by clergy sexual abuse.”

A financial report issued in June 2020 showed that the diocesan financial condition slightly improved in 2019, but Lavoir wrote in June that  the diocese, the parishes, and the Catholic schools are struggling to make ends meet,” and the financial report did not take into account the effect of the pandemic in recent months.

“To navigate the challenges that we all face, we need Jesus Christ. Please pray and do whatever you can to help by putting Catholic social teaching into practice.”

The college of consultors, a group of senior priests in the New Ulm diocese, is expected to elect a temporary diocesan administrator in the days to come. There is no set timeline for the appointment of a new bishop.

 

Vatican: Baptisms administered 'in name of the community' are invalid

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2020 / 04:03 am ().- The Vatican’s doctrinal office issued Thursday a clarification on the sacrament of baptism, stating changes to the formula to emphasize community participation are not permitted.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded to a question about whether it would be valid to administer the sacrament of baptism saying “We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The formula for baptism, according to the Catholic Church, is “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The CDF ruled Aug. 6 any baptisms administered with the formula “we baptize” are invalid and anyone for whom the sacrament was celebrated with this formula must be baptized in forma absoluta, meaning the person should be considered as not yet having received the sacrament.

The Vatican said it was responding to questions on baptismal validity after recent celebrations of the sacrament of baptism used the words “In the name of the father and of the mother, of the godfather and of the godmother, of the grandparents, of the family members, of the friends, in the name of the community we baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The was approved by Pope Francis and signed by CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria and secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi.

A doctrinal note from the CDF Aug. 6 said “with debatable pastoral motives, here resurfaces the ancient temptation to substitute for the formula handed down by Tradition other texts judged more suitable.”

Quoting the Second Vatican Council document , the note clarified that “no one, ‘even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.’”

The reason for this, the CDF explained, is that when a minister administers the sacrament of baptism, “it is really Christ Himself who baptizes.”

The sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ, and “are entrusted to the Church to be preserved by her,” the congregation stated.

“When celebrating a Sacrament,” it continued, “the Church in fact functions as the Body that acts inseparably from its Head, since it is Christ the Head who acts in the ecclesial Body generated by him in the Paschal mystery.”

“It is therefore understandable that in the course of the centuries the Church has safeguarded the form of the celebration of the Sacraments, above all in those elements to which Scripture attests and that make it possible to recognize with absolute clarity the gesture of Christ in the ritual action of the Church,” the Vatican clarified.

According to the CDF, the “deliberate modification of the sacramental formula” to use “we” instead of “I” appears to have been done “to express the participation of the family and of those present, and to avoid the idea of the concentration of a sacred power in the priest to the detriment of the parents and the community.”

In a footnote, the CDF note explained that in reality, the Church’s Rite of Baptism of Children already includes active roles for the parents, godparents, and the entire community in the celebration.

According to the provisions laid out in , “each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy.”  

The minister of the sacrament of baptism, whether a priest or lay person, is “the sign-presence of Him who gathers, and is at the same time the locus of the communion of every liturgical assembly with the whole Church,” the explanatory note said.

“In other words the minister is the visible sign that the Sacrament is not subject to an arbitrary action of individuals or of the community, and that it pertains to the Universal Church.”

Vatican II not sole controversial council, Catholic theologian says

Denver Newsroom, Aug 5, 2020 / 03:35 pm ().-  

Amid recent controversy over Vatican II, a theologian said that ecumenical councils have a history of provoking conflict, but their expression and explanation of the Catholic faith is protected by the Holy Spirit.

“The Holy Spirit can't be inconsistent with Himself,” Notre Dame theologian John Cavadini told CNA, but “wrongly interpreted, the statements of an ecumenical council may be inconsistent with previous teaching.”

Cavadini was appointed in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI to serve on the Church’s International Theological Commission, and specializes in the intellectual history of Christianity.

The theologian said Church documents sometimes need clarification, but saying so is not the same as claiming, as some recent critics have, that an ecumenical council might teach or contain errors about the Catholic faith.

The Second Vatican Council was an authoritative meeting of the Catholic Church’s bishops, called an ecumenical council, held in Rome from 1962 to 1965. There have been , at which, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the college of bishops exercises power over the universal Church in a solemn manner.”

Vatican II has been the subject of disagreement since it began.

The council was convened to articulate teachings of the Catholic faith in a matter that might be understood in modernity, to grapple with the Church’s relationship to the secular world, and to address some theological and pastoral questions that had arisen in the decades before it.

Since the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, it has become a decades-long theological project of the Church’s bishops to interpret and understand the fullness of its vision, in a manner consistent with the doctrinal teachings of the Church. That project has led to numerous theological and pastoral initiatives, and also to division.

Some Catholics, including some bishops who attended the Council, felt that attempts to “modernize” the Church’s language or catechesis could lead to equivocation on important issues, or a less precise and direct expression of Catholic doctrine and worship.

Some critics of Vatican II have said that documents produced by the council contain errors, others say they need clarification, while many others have criticized the application of the council in the decades following it, while defending the documents themselves. In some cases, those debates have led to official ruptures in the Church.

In recent months debate over the council itself has become more public, and more acute.

In a June interview, and in other recent letters, Archbishop Carlo Viganò, a former papal representative to the United States, that attracted considerable attention among some scholars and Catholics, especially because of their source: a former high-ranking Vatican official who had been appointed to positions by Pope St. John Paul and Pope Benedict XVI, both supporters of the Second Vatican Council.

Viganò claimed that at the Second Vatican Council, “hostile forces” caused “the abdication of the Catholic Church” through a “sensational deception.”

“The errors of the post-conciliar period were contained in the Conciliar Acts,” the archbishop added, accusing the council, and not just its aftermath, of overt error.

Viganò has suggested that the Second Vatican Council catalyzed a massive, but unseen, schism in the Church, ushering in a false Church alongside the true Church.

Last month, some Catholics, including priests, media personalities, and some scholars, signed a letter praising Vigano’s engagement on the topic, and claiming that “Whether or not Vatican II can be reconciled with Tradition is the question to be debated, not a posited premise blindly to be followed even if it turns out to be contrary to reason. The continuity of Vatican II with Tradition is a hypothesis to be tested and debated, not an incontrovertible fact.”

In response to Viganò, that he sympathizes with Catholic frustrations “regarding the evident confusion in the Church today, the attenuation of Eucharistic faith, the banality of much of what claims to be the Council’s inheritance liturgically, etc.”

“Yet, is it fair to blame the Council, rejecting it as riddled with error? But would this not mean the Holy Spirit allowed the Church to lapse into prodigious error and further allowed five Popes to teach it enthusiastically for over 50 years?” Cavadini asked.

“Further, did the Second Vatican Council really produce no good worth mentioning? Viganò mentions none. True, its liturgical reforms were commandeered by banality in the United States. For example, there is the introduction of hymns with no aesthetic merit but containing doctrinal errors especially regarding the Eucharist, hymns that de-catechized the very Catholics who faithfully attend Sunday Mass,” he wrote, while noting that he had experienced beautiful liturgies in African nations that were the fruit of the Second Vatican Council.

Speaking of one such Mass in Nigeria, Cavadini wrote, that “when, after Communion, the whole assembly recited in unison three times, ‘O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine,’ it seemed that the Holy Spirit was making the deepest possible appeal to our hearts, reaching into our souls, helping us to ‘pray as we ought.’”

The theologian also praised the universal call to holiness contained in , Vatican II’s document on the Church. The council emphasized that sanctity, or closeness to God, is not only the domain of priests and religious, but of all people.

“It is something which seemed so sublime to me when I first read it at age 19 that the desire to live up to it has never worn off even now,” he wrote.

Cavadini catalogued other aspects of Vatican II he said were important theological or pastoral pronouncements. He said claims that documents of Vatican II planted the “seeds” of theological error do not stand up to scrutiny.

“Is Vatican II a bad seed? Or, is the seed in question rather the lopsided choice of theologians to develop one strand of conciliar teaching at the expense of others? Not to mention pastors who have so prioritized the true good of making Christian teaching accessible and intelligible to modern people that they downplay its uniqueness as embarrassingly outmoded?” he asked.

In comments to CNA, Cavadini emphasized that other councils have been misinterpreted and controversial. His essay noted that after some councils, like the Council of Chalcedon, controversies continued for centuries.

“That a statement would need further interpretation is not a unique feature of this council,” Cavadini said.

The theologian raised an example from the Council of Nicea, which took place in the summer of 325. The council, in a discussion about the Trinity, declared that the Son is consubstantial, or , with the Father.

“There was a widespread reaction against the word,” Cavadini told CNA, by bishops and theologians who equated it m, which had been condemned by the Church’s magisterium.

“It was only when the use of the word or was clarified and distinguished from or ‘substance’ that the ambiguity was clarified. But -- to emphasize -- this was not an error in the teaching itself, far from it! Yet the very act of making a statement sets up a new situation, which often does require further interpretation.”

When Nicea used the word , “it was taking up a tainted word,” the theologian said.

“Wouldn’t our critics of Vatican II have cried foul? And error? They just don’t remember that even this most famous of councils was bold enough to risk using a tainted word in a new sense with new intent.”

He added that amid efforts to interpret a document, official clarification of unclear language is sometimes important.

On matters of faith “an ecumencial council is preserved from error” he added, “but this does not mean that everything was expressed as well as it could have been or could be, for the Holy Spirit doesn't guarantee that, but simply that the Church, in her authoritative teaching, is preserved from outright statements of error.”

Cavadini urged that Catholics, and especially Church leaders, read seriously the documents of Vatican II, and work to incorporate them in their understanding of the Church.

The recent controversy, he wrote, and Viganò’s letter, have “at least had the virtue of forcing me to emerge from complacency in accepting half-measures in the reception of the Council. Perhaps others will find themselves with me in the same boat as well.”

 

Catholic social teaching is 'fundamental' to tackling world issues, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Aug 5, 2020 / 05:04 am ().- Pope Francis said Wednesday the Church is not an expert in the global health crisis, but Catholic social teaching is fundamental to healing the issues faced by the world today.

“Although the Church administers the healing grace of Christ through the sacraments, and although she provides health services in the most remote corners of the planet, she is not an expert in the prevention or treatment of the pandemic,” Pope Francis said at his general audience Aug. 5.

Speaking via livestream from the library of the Vatican’s apostolic palace, the pope stated that the Church “helps with the sick, but she is not an expert. Nor does she give specific socio-political indications.”

“However, over the centuries, and in the light of the Gospel, the Church has developed some social principles that are fundamental principles that can help us move forward, which we need to prepare the future,” he continued.

Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of faith in Jesus Christ, who heals not only physical ailments, but also spiritual.

He pointed to the Gospel’s many accounts of miraculous healings performed by Jesus during his public ministry, including the healing of the paralytic at Capernaum, who had to be lowered through a hole in the roof by his friends.

Quoting the Gospel of Mark, Francis said: “Jesus, having regard to their faith, said to the paralytic: Son, your sins are forgiven.”

“And therefore, Jesus heals,” he noted, “but does not simply heal paralysis: Jesus quashes everything, forgives sins, renews the life of the paralytic and his friends.”

“So, we ask ourselves: how can we help heal our world today? As disciples of the Lord Jesus, physician of souls and bodies, we are called to continue ‘his work, a work of healing and salvation’ in a physical, social and spiritual sense,” Francis said, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The pope said this work of healing is facilitated through the closely related principles found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church; he listed the principles of the dignity of the person, the common good, the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of goods, solidarity, subsidiarity, and care for the earth.

“All these principles express, in different ways, the virtues of faith, hope and love,” he explained.

“In the coming weeks, I invite you to tackle together the pressing issues that the pandemic has highlighted, especially social diseases,” he said.

“And we will do it in the light of the Gospel, the theological virtues, and the principles of the Church’s social doctrine. We will explore together how our Catholic social tradition can help the human family heal this world that suffers from serious diseases.”

 

Pope Francis prays for victims of 'tragic' Beirut explosion as death toll climbs

Vatican City, Aug 5, 2020 / 03:48 am ().- Pope Francis has asked for prayers for Lebanon and for the victims of yesterday's Beirut explosions, which have killed over a hundred people and caused serious destruction to the city.

Speaking after his general audience address on Wednesday, the pope noted the “massive explosions” which occurred near the port in Beirut Aug. 4.

“Let us pray for the victims, for their families; and let us pray for Lebanon, so that, through the dedication of all its social, political, and religious elements, it might face this extremely tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the grave crisis they are experiencing,” he said via livestream from the Vatican.

The blast, which occurred at a warehouse at Beirut’s port, has killed at least 100 and injured thousands, flooding hospitals. The death toll is expected to climb further as emergency personnel search for an unknown number of people still missing in the rubble.

The explosion ignited fires and most of the city is without electricity. Sections of the city, including the popular waterfront area, were flattened in the blast. Crowded residential neighborhoods in eastern Beirut, which is predominately Christian, also sustained severe damage from the explosion, which was felt as far as 150 miles away in Cyprus.

Officials said it appears the explosion may have been caused when a fire detonated more than 2,700 tons of the chemical ammonium nitrate, which had been stored in a warehouse on the docks since 2014 after being confiscated from a cargo ship, the New York Times reports.

A Lebanese Catholic priest asked believers around the world to pray for the people of his country after the blasts.

“We ask your nation to carry Lebanon in its hearts at this difficult stage and we place great trust in you and in your prayers, and that the Lord will protect Lebanon from evil through your prayers,” Fr. Miled el-Skayyem of the Chapel of St. John Paul II in Keserwan, Lebanon, said in a statement to EWTN News Aug. 4.

 

Vatican-funded projects in Latin America to focus on coronavirus

Vatican City, Aug 4, 2020 / 09:59 am ().- A Vatican foundation for Latin America will fund 168 projects in 23 countries, with most projects focusing on the effects the coronavirus pandemic has had in the area.

According to a press release, 138 of the social projects of the Populorum Progressio Foundation this year will be aimed at helping to mitigate the short and medium term effects of COVID-19 in communities in Latin America.

An additional 30 food aid projects, requested by Pope Francis, are already in operation and being organized in collaboration with the Vatican’s COVID-19 commission.

The foundation’s board of directors met in virtual meetings July 29 and 30 to approve all of the projects.

“In the face of this crisis of global proportions that we are experiencing, these projects are intended to be a tangible sign of the Pope’s charity, as well as an appeal to all Christians and people of good will to practice the virtue of charity and solidarity ever better, ensuring that during this pandemic ‘no one is left behind,’ as the Holy Father Pope Francis has asked,” the press release said.

The Populorum Progressio Foundation for Latin America and the Caribbean was established by St. John Paul II in 1992 “to help the poor campesinos and to promote agrarian reform, social justice and peace in Latin America.”

John Paul II founded the charitable institution during the fifth centenary of the beginning of the evangelization of the American continent.

In his founding letter, he said the charity “is to be a gesture of the loving solidarity of the Church towards the most abandoned and those most in need of protection, such as the indigenous peoples, peoples of mixed racial backgrounds, and Afro-Americans.”

“The Foundation is aimed towards collaborating with all those who, conscious of the suffering condition of the Latin American peoples, wish to contribute to their integral development, according to a just and appropriate application of the social teaching of the Church,” the pope wrote in 1992.

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development oversees the foundation. Its president is Cardinal Peter Turkson. It receives substantial support from the Italian bishops.

The foundation’s operations secretariat is located in Bogota, Colombia.

Pope Francis appoints Spanish layman as secretary general of Vatican's economy office

Vatican City, Aug 4, 2020 / 05:28 am ().- Pope Francis Tuesday appointed a Spanish layman with a long career in finance economics to the number two position in the Secretariat for the Economy.

Maximino Caballero Ledo, 60, is from Merida, Spain, but has lived in the United States since 2007, where he is vice president of international finance at Baxter Healthcare, Inc., a medical products company.

As secretary general, Caballero joins prefect Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero, SJ, who has led the Vatican’s economy office since January.  

Guerrero and Caballero are childhood friends who grew up in the same city in Spain. Caballero told Vatican News Aug. 4 they were close friends through university and have remained in contact.

Caballero will start as secretary general in mid-August, according to Vatican News. He has degrees in economics and business administration, and has worked for businesses in Spain and the United States in positions of international finance.

“When Father Guerrero called me and proposed this project to me, a long list of reasons why I could not accept passed through my head,” Caballero told Vatican News.

He said his two adult children will remain in the United States, where they are working, and his wife of 31 years will move to Rome with him.

“My wife, Immaculada, and I, knew from the first moment that God’s call comes in many different ways, and this was ours. Therefore, there was only one response: ‘fiat,’” he said.

Caballero said the laity “have a very important task to carry out within the Church. We are all members of the same body and we all have our mission.”

“My experience and my work are my ‘talents,’ and I hope that with them I can do my part to collaborate in the economic transparence of the Holy See,” he stated.

Vatican: Benedict XVI health 'not serious' concern

Vatican City, Aug 3, 2020 / 10:26 am ().- The Vatican said Monday the health problems of Benedict XVI are not serious, though the pope emeritus is suffering from a painful disease.

The Vatican press office said according to Benedict's personal secretary, Archbishop George Ganswein, "the health conditions of the pope emeritus are not of particular concern, except for those of a 93 year old who is going through the most acute phase of a painful, but not serious, disease."

German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse (PNP) reported Aug. 3 that Benedict XVI has facial erysipelas, or facial shingles, a bacterial infection of the skin which causes a painful, red rash.

Benedict biographer Peter Seewald told PNP the former pope has been "very frail" since his return from visiting his older brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, in Bavaria in June. Georg Ratzinger died July 1.

Seewald saw Benedict XVI at his Vatican home in the Mater Ecclesia monastery Aug. 1 to present him with a copy of his latest biography of the retired pope.   

The journalist said despite his illness, Benedict was optimistic and stated he might take up writing again if his strength returns. Seewald also said the former pope’s voice is now “barely audible.”

PNP also reported Aug. 3 that Benedict has chosen to be buried in the former tomb of St. John Paul II in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica. The body of the Polish pope was moved into the upper part of the basilica when he was canonized in 2014.

Like John Paul II, Benedict XVI has written a spiritual testament which can be published after his death.

After the former pope's four-day trip to Bavaria in June, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg described Benedict XVI as a man "in his frailty, in his old age and in his finiteness."

"He speaks in a low, almost whispering voice; and he clearly has trouble articulating. But his thoughts are perfectly clear; his memory, his combination gift phenomenal. For practically all everyday life processes, he depends on the help of others. It takes a lot of courage but also humility to put yourself in the hands of other people; and to show up in public," Voderholzer said.

Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy in 2013, citing advanced age and declining strength that made it difficult to carry out his ministry. He was the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.

In a letter published in an Italian newspaper in February 2018, Benedict said, “I can only say that at the end of a slow decline in physical strength, inwardly I am on pilgrimage home.”