Skip to content

Taiwan president appeals to Pope Francis over China’s 'abuse of power'

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2020 / 08:00 am ().- Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen has written to Pope Francis describing China’s aggression and persecution of religion as “obstacles to peace,” and detailing the Communist regime’s “abuses of power.”

“The crux of the issue is that China refuses to relinquish its desire to dominate Taiwan. It continues to undermine Taiwan's democracy, freedom, and human rights with threats of military force and the implementation of disinformation campaigns, cyberattacks, and diplomatic maneuvers,” Tsai wrote in published by her office Jan. 21.

Tsai sent the letter in response to Pope Francis’ , the pope’s annual letter sent to all foreign ministers around the world to mark the new year.

This year, the pope’s letter entitled: “Peace as a Journey of Hope: Dialogue, Reconciliation and Ecological Conversion," called on “the conscience of humanity” to rise up in the face of “every desire for dominance and destruction.”

The newly reelected president of Taiwan, formally called the Republic of China, told Pope Francis of her desire to “peacefully resolve the differences across the Taiwan Strait.”

“I am in complete accord with your statement that walking the path of peace requires us to set aside every act of violence in thought, word and deed, whether against our neighbors or against God's creation,” Tsai said.

The president of Taiwan then detailed a list of China’s actions that she said constitute “abuses of power,” describing violence toward Hong Kong protesters, the recent controversy over an NBA coach voicing criticism of the Communist regime, and persecution of religious believers seeking to follow their conscience:

“Authorities dispatching armed police to fire tear gas and suppress and arrest people expressing the wish to pursue democracy and human rights; internet celebrities or athletes being threatened with termination of contracts or bans from competitions when they speak up in defense of freedom of speech; religious practitioners facing detention and persecution by public security officers when they, following their conscience, refuse to be coerced into signing documents to join an organization that violates their religious doctrines — all these constitute what you refer to in your message as abuses of power and reflect the notion of diversity as an obstacle. Indeed, they only serve to fuel conflict.”

Tsai quoted directly from Pope Francis’ peace message, which states: “War is fueled by a perversion of relationships, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuses of power, by fear of others and by seeing diversity as an obstacle.”

She also responded to the pope’s call to care for our common home in his encyclical Laudato Si by highlighting the Taiwanese government’s efforts to “transform Taiwan into a green energy development hub in Asia” through multiple green energy and sustainable water initiatives.

Taiwan’s first female president, Tsai was reelected on Jan. 11 with a campaign pledge to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty from Chinese control, as concerns grew among Taiwanese watching the Hong Kong protests in 2019.

The Chinese state media attempted to sway Taiwan’s presidential election with attacking Tsai. China’s authoritarian leader, Xi Jinping, has threatened Taiwan, saying in 2019 that Chinese Communist Party reserves the right to use force to bring the democratic island under control.

The split between China and Taiwan dates back to 1949, following the communist military success in China’s civil war that led Chiang Kai-shek and the nationalist forces to retreat to the island. Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China, while the government on the mainland is the People’s Republic of China.

“I strongly identify with Your Holiness's magnanimous vision and appeal to all of humanity to renounce the desire to dominate others, show mutual respect, and learn to see one another as sons and daughters of God and as brothers and sisters, so as to break the spiral of vengeance,” Taiwan’s president wrote to Pope Francis.

“Many of the international conflicts today can be attributed to the desire to dominate others. When one party tries to impose its will on another, genuine dialogue becomes impossible,” she said.

The Holy See has recognized the Taiwanese government, the Republic of China, since 1942, and does not currently have formal diplomatic relations with the government of the People’s Republic of China, which consolidated control of the mainland at the conclusion of a civil war in 1949.

In 2018, Beijing and Vatican officials signed a provisional agreement on bishop appointments. The China-Vatican deal was intended to unify the underground Church and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

China has previously demanded that other countries end diplomatic recognition of Taiwan -- which it regards as a rebel province, not as a sovereign nation -- as a price for increased economic or political cooperation.

Vatican City is the only remaining country in Europe that recognizes Taiwan as a country. However, the nunciature in Taipei has not been led by a nuncio since Oct. 25, 1971, when the United Nations ceased to recognize the Taipei-based government as the government of China.

Taiwan’s government has repeatedly invited Pope Francis to visit Taiwan both before and after the Holy See’s provisional deal with China.

Tsai expressed her hope for “the continued growth of the Catholic Church” and said that the virtue of hope leads toward peace and overcoming adversity.

“I firmly believe that as long as people in Taiwan and around the world embrace hope and remain open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion and manipulation, true peace can be achieved,” Tsai wrote.

Pope Francis sent new year’s greetings to Asian nations during his Wednesday audience Jan. 22. Lunar New Year is the biggest annual holiday in East Asia in which millions travel to celebrate with family.

“I invite everyone to pray also for peace, for dialogue and for solidarity between nations: gifts that are ever more necessary for today's world,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis: Christians can unite in welcoming migrants, each other

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2020 / 03:21 am ().- Welcoming other Christians and showing hospitality to strangers, especially migrants, is an opportunity for unity and for sharing Christ’s love, Pope Francis said at the general audience Wednesday.

“Hospitality is important; it is also an important ecumenical virtue,” the pope said in the Pope Paul VI hall Jan. 22. “First of all, it means recognizing that other Christians are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

He explained that hospitality “it is not an act of one-way generosity, because when we host other Christians, we welcome them as a gift that is given to us.”

The first step in welcoming Christians of other traditions is showing them God’s love and welcoming what God has accomplished in their lives, Francis said.

According to the pope, “ecumenical hospitality requires willingness to listen to other Christians, paying attention to their personal stories of faith and the history of their community.” It also involves the desire to know other Christians’ experience of God.

Pope Francis’ catechesis focused on the theme of hospitality as part of the Church’s celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The pope will mark the end of the week with the praying of vespers Jan. 25 for the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes from a line in the 28th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles: “They treated us kindly.”

Acts 27 recounts the story of the storm and shipwreck of St. Paul and his companions as they attempted to travel to Italy by boat, eventually landing on the island of Malta.

The pope told the story, explaining that “the ship on which Paul travels is at the mercy of the elements.”

“For fourteen days, fourteen days, they have been at sea, drifting, and since neither the sun nor the stars are visible, the travelers feel disoriented, lost. Below them, the sea breaks violently against the ship and they fear that it will break under the force of the waves. From above they are lashed by the wind and rain,” he said.

“But Paul knows it is not so. Faith tells him that his life is in the hands of God,” he continued. “Therefore, Paul addresses his traveling companions and, inspired by faith, announces to them that God will not allow a hair of their head to be lost.”

The passengers all survive the ship’s rough landing on the coast of the island of Malta, where they are welcomed by the inhabitants.

“These people, foreign to them, are attentive to their needs. They light a fire to warm up, offer them shelter from rain and food. Even if they have not yet received the Good News of Christ, they manifest the love of God in concrete acts of kindness,” the pope said.

“The hospitality of the Maltese islanders is rewarded by the healing miracles God works through Paul,” he added, highlighting that if the Maltese people were a sign of God’s providence for St. Paul, he was also a witness of God’s merciful love for them.

Francis went on to note that the sea which shipwrecked Paul and his companions is the same sea men and women from around the world risk crossing to “escape violence, war, and poverty.”

Not only do migrants face the indifference and hostility of the desert or sea, he said, but they also risk exploitation by traffickers or being considered a threat by some government leaders: “Sometimes hospitality refuses them like a wave.”

He urged Christians to “work together to show migrants the love of God revealed by Jesus Christ” and to testify “that every person is precious to God and loved by him.”

The divisions among Christians “prevent us from being fully the sign of God’s love,” he stressed.

“Working together to live hospitality, especially towards those whose life is more vulnerable, will make all of us Christians – Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, all Christians – it will make us better human beings, better disciples and a more united Christian people. It will bring us closer to unity, which is God’s will for us.”

Pope Francis condemns clerics who engage in simony

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2020 / 10:07 am ().- In a homily Tuesday, Pope Francis condemned priests and bishops who use money to advance their careers.

To be a priest or bishop, like being a Christian, is a free and undeserved gift of God, not something to be bought, he said Jan. 21 during Mass in the chapel of the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse.

“We have paid nothing to become Christians. We priests, bishops have paid nothing to become priests and bishops,” he continued, “at least I think so.”

Francis went on to note there are those who try to move upward in their “so-called ecclesiastical career,” who “look for influences to get here, there...” as well as those “who behave in a simoniac manner.”

He said that anyone who does that “is not a Christian. Being Christian, being baptized, being ordained priests and bishops is pure gratuitousness. The gifts of the Lord cannot be bought.”

The same thing can happen in “ordinary life,” he said, such as in business, when people try to get ahead at their work by asking for favors.

He recalled that it is by the Lord’s free anointing that someone is a Christian, rejecting the argument that one’s Christian identity comes from being from a Christian family or coming from a Christian culture.

“Many people from a Christian family and Christian culture reject the Lord,” he noted. “But how come we are here, elected by the Lord? For free, without any merit, for free.”

“What is the great gift of God?” he continued. “The Holy Spirit! When the Lord elected us, he gave us the Holy Spirit. And this is pure grace, it is pure grace. Without our merit.”

We must have an attitude of humility in the face of this gift, Pope Francis urged. “This is holiness. The other things are not needed.”

He said if bishops or priests forget their flock or feel they are more important than others, they are denying God’s gift, and the same goes for Christians who forget others, both believers and non-believers.

“It is like saying to the Holy Spirit: ‘But you go, go, go quietly into the Trinity, take a rest, I will manage it by myself,’” he said.

“And this is not Christian. This is not safeguarding the gift,” he argued. “We ask the Lord today, thinking of David, to give us the grace to give thanks for the gift he has given us, to be aware of this gift, so great, so beautiful, and to safeguard it – this gratuitousness, this gift – to safeguard it with our fidelity.”

Put good of human person at center of public policy, Pope Francis says

Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Jan 21, 2020 / 04:56 am ().- In a message to the global delegates of the 2020 World Economic Forum, Pope Francis stressed the duty of governments and businesses to place the good of the human person above power or profit.

“The overriding consideration, never to be forgotten, is that we are all members of the one human family,” he said in the Jan. 21 message.

“The moral obligation to care for one another flows from this fact, as does the correlative principle of placing the human person, rather than the mere pursuit of power or profit, at the very centre of public policy,” he stated.

The pope decried views which treat others as a means to an end and are lacking in solidarity and charity, resulting in injustice.

Integral human development only flourishes, he argued, “when all members of the human family are included in, and contribute to, pursuing the common good.”

He stressed that “all too often materialistic or utilitarian visions, sometimes hidden, sometimes celebrated, lead to practices and structures motivated largely, or even solely, by self-interest.”

“In seeking genuine progress, let us not forget that to trample upon the dignity of another person is in fact to weaken one’s own worth.”

The 2020 World Economic Forum takes place in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland from Jan. 21-24.

The annual meeting has 3,000 participants from around the world. The aim is “to give concrete meaning to ‘stakeholder capitalism,’ assist governments and international institutions in tracking progress towards the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, and facilitate discussions on technology and trade governance,” according to the meeting’s website.

Pope Francis’ message was addressed to Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, and delivered by Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, who attended the meeting on behalf of the Vatican.

In his message, the pope claimed that the meeting’s theme, “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World,” points to the need to address the many issues facing humanity.

Over the last 50 years there have been significant changes at the geopolitical level, he noted, adding that “many of these developments have benefitted humanity while others have had adverse effects and created significant development lacunae.”
 
While today’s challenges are different than those half a century ago, a number of principles remain the same, such as the primacy of the human person,” he said.

“As a result, it is necessary to move beyond short-term technological or economic approaches and to give full consideration to the ethical dimension in seeking resolutions to present problems or proposing initiatives for the future.”

 

Pope Francis denounces ‘barbaric resurgence’ of anti-Semitism  

Vatican City, Jan 20, 2020 / 08:00 am ().- Pope Francis Monday condemned the “barbaric resurgence” of cases of anti-Semitism in the world, and urged the need to respect each person’s human dignity.

“It is troubling to see, in many parts of the world, an increase in selfishness and indifference, lack of concern for others and the attitude that says life is good as long as it is good for me, and when things go wrong, anger and malice are unleashed,” Pope Francis said Jan. 20.

“This creates a fertile ground for the forms of factionalism and populism we see around us, where hatred quickly springs up,” he said. “Even recently, we have witnessed a barbaric resurgence of cases of anti-Semitism. Once more I firmly condemn every form of anti-Semitism.”

Pope Francis met with a delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, ahead of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The pope recalled his visit to the Nazi concentration camp in Poland in 2016:

“I went there to reflect and to pray in silence. In our world, with its whirlwind of activity, we find it hard to pause, to look within and to listen in silence to the plea of suffering humanity.”

“If we lose our memory, we destroy our future. May the anniversary of the unspeakable cruelty that humanity learned of 75 years ago serve as a summons to pause, to be still and to remember. We need to do this, lest we become indifferent,” Pope Francis said.

Between 1940 and 1945, the Nazi regime murdered 1.1 million people in Auschwitz concentration camp, many killed in the gas chambers immediately upon arrival at the camp. Six million Jews died in the Holocaust.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, headquartered in Los Angeles, is dedicated to Holocaust research and education, as well as combatting contemporary anti-Semitism. It was founded by Rabbi Marvin Hier in 1977.

Named for Holocaust-survivor and famed Nazi-hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, the center operates musuems in California and Israel, and produces educational documentary films.

“Your center, active throughout the world, seeks to combat all forms of anti-Semitism, racism and hatred towards minorities. For decades, you have maintained contacts with the Holy See, in a shared desire to make the world a better place in respect for human dignity,” Pope Francis said.

“This dignity is due to every person in equal measure, regardless of his or her ethnic origin, religion or social status. It is essential to teach tolerance, mutual understanding and freedom of religion, and the promotion of peace within society,” he said.

Pope Francis pointed to the Second Vatican Council declaration , which affirms the great spiritual patrimony shared among Christian and Jewish believers.

“I feel that we, above all, are summoned, especially today, to such service: not to take the path of distance and exclusion, but that of proximity and inclusion; not to force solutions, but to initiate ways of drawing closer together,” the pope said, calling for cooperation among Catholics and Jews in defence of the most vulnerable.

The pope said that in order to combat the root causes of anti-Semitism today “we must commit ourselves also to tilling the soil in which hatred grows and sowing peace instead.”

Anti-Semitic violence and harassment has been on the rise in Europe, particularly in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

Pope Francis has frequently spoken out against anti-Semitism. In March 2019, he said it is important to be “vigilant” against anti-Semitic attitudes, to prevent another event like the Holocaust.

“I stress that for a Christian any form of anti-Semitism is a rejection of one’s own origins, a complete contradiction,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis: To know Christ better, contemplate his 'holy face'

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2020 / 06:26 am ().- Meditating on the Gospel and on Christ’s holy face is a good way to know Jesus better, especially as the Lamb of God who sacrificed himself for the sins of the world, Pope Francis said Sunday.

Reflecting on John the Baptist’s testimony in the Gospel of John is an invitation “to start afresh on our journey of faith: to start afresh from Jesus Christ, the Lamb full of mercy that the Father has given for us,” he said Jan. 19.

“We learn from the Baptist not to presume that we already know Jesus, that we already know everything about him,” he continued. “It is not so. Let’s stop on the Gospel, perhaps even contemplating an icon of Christ, a ‘holy face.’

The Holy Face of Manoppello, held in a church in an Italian village, is believed to be an image of the face of Christ, perhaps from the Veil of Veronica.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, celebrated Mass at the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello Jan. 19. At the conclusion of the Mass, the cardinal led a procession with the image.

The Mass and procession were to mark the feast of “Omnis Terra,” which recalls Pope Innocent III’s procession with the Holy Face in 1208, when the image was held at the Vatican.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the protectors of the Holy Face of Manoppello, were also present at the Mass and procession with Cardinal Koch.

At his Angelus address, Pope Francis said we contemplate Christ with the eyes but even more so with the heart. We “let ourselves be instructed by the Holy Spirit, who tells us inside: It is He! He is the Son of God made lamb, immolated for love,” he said.

“He alone suffered, atoned for sin, the sin of each of us, the sin of the world, and also my sins, all. He carried them all on himself and took them away from us, so that we could finally be free, no longer slaves to evil,” Francis stated. “Yes, we are still poor sinners, but not slaves, no, not slaves: children, children of God!”

The pope explained that the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time is a continuation of the feasts of Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord. It continues to speak about Jesus, who after his baptism was “consecrated by the Holy Spirit,” he said.

He urged Catholics to “be surprised again by God’s choice to be on our side, to be in solidarity with us sinners, and to save the world from evil by taking charge of it totally.”

After the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis reminded Catholics that 2020 has been designated the “Year of the Nurse and the Midwife” by the World Health Organization.

“Nurses are the most numerous health workers, and midwives are perhaps the most noble of the professions,” he said. “Let us pray for all of them, so that they can do their best at the valuable work.”

The pope also expressed his desire that a high-level summit in Berlin on the crisis in Libya “will be the start of a path towards the cessation of violence and a negotiated solution that will lead to peace and the much desired stability of the country.”

 

Minn. young adults accompany, pray for bishops on ad limina visit to Rome

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2020 / 04:35 pm ().- Young adults from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis are accompanying their bishops on their ad limina visit to Rome this week, joining them at “the threshold of the apostles.”

The 25 young Catholics are in Rome Jan. 10-18, visiting the city as Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens make their “ad limina apostolorum” visit to the pope and Vatican with the other bishops of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

“It’s really been incredible, it’s been fun to pray for [the bishops] as they meet with the Holy Father, to hear about their experiences,” Maddie Schulte, 23, told CNA.

On Jan. 15, the young adults - ranging in age from 21 to 34 - had their own opportunity to greet Pope Francis after his weekly general audience.

Enzo Randazzo, who organized the pilgrimage, works in the archdiocese’s evangelization office. He said St. Paul and Minneapolis have been blessed with a vibrant young adult community and seen a lot of fruit come from that ministry.

“We are here representing the people [Archbishop Hebda] shepherds back home,” Randazzo, 30, said.

During an ad limina, which typically takes place every five years, diocesan bishops prepare a report on the state of their diocese, which is presented to Pope Francis and to various offices inside the Vatican.

The bishops also celebrate Mass at the tombs of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, and at the other two major papal basilicas. The young people have been present at each of these Masses.

“We really appreciate the fact that they are accompanying the bishops,” Archbishop Hebda told CNA. “They’ve really dedicated themselves to praying for Pope Francis and praying for us in the course of this ad limina. Just to have them at these ad limina liturgies is beautiful.”

“They’re young people with such hope, such joy, it’s a real pleasure to be with them,” he said.

Hebda and Cozzens have also joined the pilgrim group for dinners and on a daytrip to Assisi.

Twenty-two-year-old Mitchell Kohler said the bishops have taken the time to sit with them and listen to what they have to say.

“They’ve been very present throughout the pilgrimage. While they’ve had their own work to do, they’ve been having dinner with us, spending time with us, making sure to connect with us and show that as young adults from the archdiocese we are very valued,” he noted.

Schulte said the “succession of Peter” has come to life for her during this trip.

Fr. Tim Wratkowski, a newly ordained priest of the archdiocese and former student at the Pontifical North American College, has been present as chaplain.

Also taking part is Will Herrmann, 30, a convert who joined the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 2019.

He said that as a young adult, he sometimes feels lonely in his faith, so he has appreciated the bishops’ efforts to be present during the pilgrimage, as well as the chance to build community with other young adults passionate about their faith.

“This community aspect has been wonderful,” he said. “I hope that I can really serve [the bishops] when we get back to the archdiocese, whether that’s directly through anything they ask of me or indirectly through my parish and the work I do locally there.”

From a Lutheran background originally, Herrmann said coming to Rome and encountering the saints has felt “like meeting the family, meeting all the relatives.”
 
“Some I’ve heard of; some I’ve never met… Just really feeling like I belong the more I’m here.”

 

2020 Pope Francis trip to Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea possible

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2020 / 05:00 pm ().- A visit from Pope Francis to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor may happen in September, according to an Indonesian Muslim leader who met with the pope this week.

Sheikh Yahya Cholil Staquf leads the 50 million member Nahdlatul Ulama movement, which calls for a reformed “humanitarian Islam” and has developed a theological framework for Islam that rejects the concepts of caliphate, Sharia law, and “kafir” (infidels).

Staquf met with the pope this week, while in Rome for a meeting of the Abrahamic Faiths Initiative, which gathers Christians, Muslim and Jewish leaders to discuss the promotion of peace and fraternity. U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback attended the meetings.

Pope Francis met with the group Jan. 15.

After that meeting, Staquf told CNA that the pope said he plans to visit Indonesia, East Timor, and New Guinea in September.

The Vatican has not yet confirmed such a trip.

Indonesia is home to the largest population of Muslims in the world. The country’s 229 million Muslims make up more than 12% of the global Muslim population. Nearly all of Indonesia’s Muslims are Sunni.

There are 24 million Christians living in Indonesia, 7 million of them are Catholic. Pope St. Paul VI visited the country in 1970, and Pope St. John Paul II traveled there in 1989.

East Timor is a small country on the island of Timor. It gained independence from Indonesia in 1999, following decades of bloody conflict as the region vied for national sovereignty.

The country’s second president, Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta, shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with East Timorese Bishop Ximenes Bolo, for their efforts to reach a peaceful and just end to fighting in the country. Bishop Belo is now a missionary in Mozambique.

More than 1 million people live in East Timor; more than 98% of them are Catholic. It is one of few majority Catholic countries in Southeast Asia. Pope St. John Paul II visited East Timor in 1989.

Papua New Guinea is a country of nearly nine million people on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. The other side of island consists of two Indonesian provinces. Papua New Guinea is a nation of considerable cultural diversity, comprised of small traditional communities of various groups, some of which remain uncontacted by Westerners. 

Nearly all Papua New Guinea citizens are Christians, and 26 percent of the population is Catholic.

Pope St. John Paul II went to Papua New Guinea in 1984.

Pope Francis has long expressed interest in visiting Indonesia, and has also expressed interest in visiting Iraq in 2020.

 

'No misunderstanding': Cardinal Sarah meets with pope emeritus

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2020 / 03:00 pm ().- Cardinal Robert Sarah has met with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to discuss the controversy following around their recently-published book "From the Depths of Our Hearts,” and insisted that there is no ill feeling between the two. 

The book, presented as a co-authored work by the two, is subtitled “Priesthood, Celibacy, and the Crisis of the Catholic Church.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s contributions have been the subject of controversy since the book was announced on Sunday, and conflicting statements on the extent of the pope emeritus’s involvement in the project have been released over the last week.

Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, issued a series of statements via Twitter on Friday, saying that his meeting with the former pope went well.

“Because of the incessant, nauseating and deceptive controversies that have never stopped since the beginning of the week, concerning the book From the Depths of Our Hearts, I met Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI this evening,” said Sarah. 

The tweets were published in French and signed “-RS.”

“With Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, we have seen how there is no misunderstanding between us,” said Sarah. “I came out very happy, full of peace and courage from this beautiful interview.”

Sarah encouraged people to read and reflect on the book, and thanked his editor and his publisher, “for the thoroughness, probity, seriousness, and professionalism which they have shown,” and added “excellent reading to all!”

The book contains a chapter credited to Benedict, a chapter credited to Sarah, and an introduction and conclusion, which have been attributed to the two men jointly.

On Jan. 14, Benedict’s private secretary,

Ganswein affirmed that Benedict had written the chapter attributed to him, and gave permission for it to appear in a book, but said that Benedict had not actually co-authored the introduction and conclusion attributed to him. Ganswein also communicated the request that Benedict’s name be removed as co-author of the book and he instead be listed as a contributor.

Despite the request from Ganswein, Ignatius Press--who will be publishing the English-languge edition in February--stated this week that it considers the book to have been co-authored by Benedict and Sarah.

The publisher told CNA that critics suggesting that the pope emeritus did not co-author the book, or authorize its publication, are wrong.

“Are these people really implying that Cardinal Sarah is involved in a conspiracy to distort the truth?” Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, editor-in-chief of Ignatius Press, asked Jan. 13.

“If Cardinal Sarah is telling [Ignatius Press] that the chapters from Pope Benedict are from Pope Benedict, we take his word for it,” Fessio said, adding that the publisher stands by its attribution of the book to both Sarah and Benedict.

The publisher’s statement followed a Jan 14. release from Sarah, who said that he had in October proposed a jointly authored book to Benedict, and that after the two corresponded over the matter, he sent on Nov. 19 “a complete manuscript to the pope emeritus containing, as we had mutually decided, the cover, a common introduction and conclusion, the chapter of Benedict XVI, and my own chapter.”

Gregorian University to ‘review’ bishop’s allegedly plagiarized dissertation

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2020 / 11:11 am ().- The Pontifical Gregorian University said Friday it will review the doctoral dissertation of Scotland’s Bishop Stephen Robson, which is alleged to contain several acts of plagiarism.

The institution’s “academic authorities have decided to proceed to a careful review of the dissertation in question, in accordance with what is established in the University's Ethical Norms,” the university said in a Jan. 17 statement provided to CNA.

“The Pontifical Gregorian University considers plagiarism a very serious infringement of university ethics since the ‘attribution to itself of the intellectual property of the text or content of a work of others, in any part of it, is a lack of justice and truth,’” the statement added, quoting from the university’s plagiarism policy.

“A charge of plagiarism involving a doctoral dissertation necessarily implies special attention by the University,” the statement added.

The Gregorian’s announcement came days after that he never intentionally committed any act of plagiarism, but did not explain evidence that his 2003 dissertation contained verbatim, or nearly verbatim excerpts from published scholarship, without attribution.

“I can categorically state that there was absolutely never any intention to plagiarise any work,” Robson told CNA Jan. 14th.

Robson also told CNA that he would accept the judgment of his alma mater regarding his dissertation.

“I am happy for the Gregorian to nullify my text if they think fit,” the bishop said.

Robson completed his dissertation, “With the Spirit and Power of Elijah (Lk 1,17). The Prophetic-Reforming Spirituality of Bernard of Clairvaux as Evidenced Particularly in his Letters,” at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University in 2003.

The text was awarded the university’s 2004 Premio Bellarmino, the annual prize given to the best dissertation completed at the university.

A in the scholarly journal Analecta Cisterciensia first alleged that Robson’s dissertation contained plagiarism. The article was written by the journal’s editor, Fr. Alkuin Schachenmayr, a Cistercian priest living in an Austrian monastery.

Schachenmayr wrote that “there seem to be dozens of passages in Robson’s dissertation which are apparently identical or remarkably similar to texts published by other scholars, yet the author does not attribute these sources.”

The article cited several passages in Robson’s dissertation that were identical or nearly identical to already published scholarship. Those passages give no indication of their source material.

Among the scholars from whom Robson apparently copied are Bruno Scott James, Jean Leclercq, Friedrich Kempf, and Robert Bartlett, according to Schachenmayr.

Some of those scholars were mentioned as sources in his dissertation, even while particular verbatim passages from them were reproduced without citation. In other cases, identical or nearly identical passages from published scholars who were never referenced as sources at all were included in the dissertation, Schachenmayr showed.

Regarding the prize given to Robson by the university, Schachenmayr wrote: “One must ask whether the jury responsible for awards of excellence at the Gregorian succeeded in identifying one of the institution’s best dissertations of 2003.”  

The Gregorian University told CNA it learned of the plagiarism charge against Robson Jan. 16, after the publication of a CNA article on the subject. It did not give indication of how long its planned review will take.

In addition to a doctorate in theology, Robson also earned a licentiate in canon law from the university.

The Pontifical Gregorian University, founded in 1551 by St. Ignatius of Loyola, is a Jesuit university, and offers degrees in theology, canon law, philosophy, Church history, among other subjects.

Robson was named a bishop in 2012 and was installed as Bishop of Dunkeld in 2014.



Synod relator advises bishops on presenting Amazon apostolic exhortation

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2020 / 11:52 am ().- Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the relator general of the Amazon synod, sent a letter Monday to some ordinaries indicating that the apostolic exhortation on the synod should be promulgated this month or the next.

“The draft is currently being reviewed and corrected and then needs to be translated. Pope Francis hopes to promulgate it by the end of this month or in early February,” Cardinal Hummes, who is also president of the Pan Amazonic Church Network, wrote in a Jan. 13 letter.

Among is “protection for the 137 ‘contactless tribes’ of the Amazon and affirmation of their right to live undisturbed.”

Cardinal Hummes said in his letter that Francis is preparing the exhortation “to present the as developed with the guidance of the Holy Spirit” during the Amazon synod.

According to Cardinal Hummes, the exhortation “is keenly awaited and will attract great interest and many different responses.”

The cardinal added that the pope wants ordinaries to receive the text “before it is published and before the world press starts to comment on it, and join him in presenting the Exhortation and making it accessible to the faithful, to fellow believers and all people of good will, and to the media, the academic world, and others in positions of authority and influence.”

Cardinal Hummes offered “some suggestions” to bishops on how to prepare well for the exhortation's release. “The purpose is not to generate publicity or attract attention. Rather, it is quietly to support you the Ordinary, in communion with Pope Francis, as you prepare to receive the Exhortation and pass it on to the People of God in your jurisdiction.”

“Accordingly, with greatest freedom, please make use of the suggestions insofar as they seem helpful.”

The cardinal suggested that “a useful way of preparing would be to read some of the relevant earlier documents referenced below.” He promised that a second letter with more suggestions would be coming shortly.

Cardinal Hummes' suggested reading for ordinaries is composed of: the Amazon synod's final document; Pope Francis' address at a meeting with indigenous people of Amazonia in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, Jan. 19, 2018; the pope's address at the opening of the Amazon synod, Oct. 7, 2019; his own address of the same day; the pope's final speech to the synod of Oct. 26; and , the pope's 2015 encyclical on care for our common home, especially its fifth and sixth chapters.

The synod's final document called for the ordination of married men as priests, and for women to be considered for diaconal ordination. It presented the synod assembly’s reflections and conclusions on topics ranging from environmentalism, inculturation in the Church, and the human rights of indigenous communities in the face of economic, environmental, and cultural exploitation.
Four days before the final document was approved,  Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna indicated that it was to be written principally by a team chaired by Cardinal Hummes.

The cardinal noted that, of course, “there will be a celebratory and communications event” at the Vatican's synod hall when the exhortation is promulgated.

He suggested that ordinaries “may also want to begin planning a press briefing or a press conference or other event as soon as convenient after the publication of the Exhortation.”

“you may find it opportune to have the Exhortation presented by yourself along with an indigenous spokesperson if relevant in your area, an experienced pastoral leader (ordained or religious, layman or laywoman), an expert on climate or ecology, and a youth involved in peer ministry.”

Cardinal Hummes asked that the letter be kept confidential, and not shared with the media.

“Please do respect the guidelines,” he added.

The letter was published Jan. 14 by LifeSiteNews in English, and by Aldo Maria Valli in Italian.

CNA understands the letter to have been sent to “concerned bishops” around the world. It was not sent to all ordinaries.

Cardinal Hummes concluded his letter “with the sincere hope that his letter has been helpful.”

He asked for prayers that God the Father would “dispose the People of God in the Amazon and throughout the world to receive it with faith and hope, intelligently and effectively.”

Pope appoints first woman to managerial position in Secretariat of State  

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2020 / 10:53 am ().- Pope Francis has named Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni as undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Vatican Secretariat of State, marking the first time that a woman has been appointed to a managerial position in the secretariat.

Di Giovanni, 66, was appointed undersecretary for the Section in Relations in States. She has worked as an official in the department for more than 25 years, with specialties including humanitarian law, communications, migrants and refugees, and the status of women, according to Vatican Media.

She will now work with Monsignor Miroslaw Wachowski, who also serves as undersecretary for the Section in Relations in States, but focuses on bilateral affairs. Di Giovanni’s field of multilateral affairs focuses on the interactions between inter-governmental organizations such as the United Nations.

Di Giovanni hails from Palermo, Italy. She has a degree in law and has worked for the Focolare Movement.

She told Vatican News and L’Osservatore Romano that her appointment shows the pope’s commitment to involving women in the Vatican.

“A woman may have certain aptitudes for finding commonalities, healing relationships with unity at heart,” she said. “I hope that my being a woman might reflect itself positively in this task, even if they are gifts that I certainly find in my male colleagues as well.”

She recalled the words of Pope Francis in his homily this year for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God: “Women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes, because when women can share their gifts, the world finds itself more united, more peaceful.”

Di Giovanni said she hopes to cooperate with the other men and women in her working group and hopes to live up to the trust that Pope Francis is placing in her.

She told Vatican News and L’Osservatore Romano that she was surprised by her appointment, although the discussion has arisen in recent years about the need for an additional undersecretary in the field.

The multilateral sector, she said, is “a delicate and demanding sector that needs special attention, because it has its own procedures, in some ways different from those of the bilateral sphere.”

The sector covers multilateral treaties, which Di Giovanni said are significant “because they embody the political will of States with regard to the various issues concerning the international common good: this includes development, the environment, the protection of victims of conflicts, the situation of women, and so on.”

She reiterated the pope’s commitment to the multilateral sector, which she said “has a fundamental function in the international community.”

Di Giovanni noted that in his recent address to the Holy See’s Diplomatic Corps, Pope Francis praised the accomplishments of the United Nations while calling for reform in the multilateral system.

“In the international community, the Holy See also has the mission of ensuring that the interdependence between people and nations be developed in a moral and ethical dimension, as well as in the other dimensions and various aspects that relations are acquiring in today's world,” she said.

She stressed the importance of dialogue and diplomacy and said the Holy See views the UN “as a necessary means for achieving the common good,” while at the same time calling for reform and change where necessary.

 

Pope Francis: The Church never tires of announcing God’s love

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2020 / 04:00 am ().- While often persecuted and misunderstood, the Church never tires of announcing the love of God made present in Jesus Christ, Pope Francis said Wednesday.

With this reflection, the pope completed an eight-month long series of weekly Biblical meditations on every chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.

“Dear brothers and sisters, at the end of this journey, lived together following the race of the Gospel in the world, the Holy Spirit revives in each of us the call to be courageous and joyful evangelizers,” Pope Francis said Jan. 15 in the Pope Paul VI Hall.

The Acts of the Apostles expresses the “dynamism of the Word of God,” the pope said. He called God’s word “an active yeast” in history that is “capable of transforming situations and opening new paths."

Paul’s journey in the book of Acts, the pope said, is “proof that the routes of men, if lived in faith, can become a transit space for the salvation of God.”

Upon his arrival in Rome, Paul, a prisoner under house arrest, told the leaders of the Jews, “it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear these chains.”

Pope Francis noted that the Acts of the Apostles does not end with Paul’s martyrdom, but with “the abundant sowing of the Word.”

The last verses of the Acts of the Apostles records Paul “bearing witness to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus from the law of Moses and the prophets.”

“Paul recognizes himself as deeply Jewish and sees in the Gospel that he preaches, that is, in the proclamation of the dead and risen Christ, the fulfillment of the promises made to the chosen people,” Pope Francis said.

The last line of the book of Acts concludes: “He [Paul] remained for two full years in his lodgings. He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Pope Francis said that this “house open to all hearts”  is an image of the Church, which “although persecuted, misunderstood and chained, never tires of welcoming every man and woman with a motherly heart to announce to them the love of the Father who has made himself visible in Jesus.”

“Make us, like Paul, capable of filling our houses with the Gospel and making them cenacles of fraternity, where we can welcome the living Christ, who comes to meet us in every man and in every age,” he prayed.

Legion of Christ abuser dismissed from clerical state

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2020 / 07:01 pm ().- This week Fernando Martínez Suárez, a priest of the Legionaries of Christ, was dismissed from the clerical state. He had been found guilty of the sexual abuse of minors by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Martinez, 79, will remain a member of the Legion of Christ. He had been ordained a priest in 1964.

The Legion of Christ stated Jan. 13 that Martinez, "who was found guilty of delicts of sexual abuse of minors, as a result of the process before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has lost the clerical state and can no longer exercise the priestly ministry."

Fr. Andreas Schöggl, secretary general of the Legion, wrote in a Jan. 13 letter to Martinez' victims that "the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith submitted the request to the Holy Father after an attentive study of the case.”

Martinez abused at least six girls, ages 6 to 11, between 1991 and 1993 when he directed the Cumbres Institute in Cancún.

He was also accused of other acts of abuse, including that of a boy between the ages of 4 and 6 at the Cumbres Lomas Institute in Mexico City in 1969.

Martinez had himself been abused by Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, in Ontaneda and Rome in 1954, when Martinez was 15.

An internal commission of the Legion published a report last month saying that since its founding in 1941, 33 priests of the Legionaries of Christ committed sexual abuse of minors, victimizing 175 children.

Fr. Maciel abused at least 60 minors.

Fourteen Legionaries who committed abuse of minors were themselves victims of abuse in the order.

The Legion of Christ was long the subject of critical reports and rumors before it was rocked by Vatican acknowledgment that its charismatic founder lived a double life, sexually abused seminarians, and fathered children.

In 2006 the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith removed Maciel from public ministry and ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. The congregation decided not to subject him to a canonical process because of his advanced age.

From that point, Benedict XVI carried on a process of reform for the Legion of Christ, a process continued under Pope Francis.

South Sudan peace declaration signed in Rome

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2020 / 01:30 pm ().- The Republic of South Sudan and the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) have signed a peace declaration in Rome Sunday that will go into effect Jan. 15.

“I think this process will help the country to change to bring peace for the people,” Paolo Impagliazzo, Secretary General of the Community of Sant’Egidio, told CNA Jan. 13.

In peace talks in Rome facilitated by the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio, opposition groups and the South Sudanese government recommitted to cease hostilities, pursue political dialogue, and allow humanitarian aid for the people of South Sudan.

Signers of the “Rome Declaration on the Peace Process in South Sudan” notably included representatives of the opposition groups in SSOMA, who refused to sign an earlier peace agreement in Sept. 12, 2018 in Khartoum, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and National Democratic Movement (NDM) as witnesses.

Dr. Sunday De John, communications director for the opposition alliance, told CNA that he hopes this will pave the way for a long-awaited visit by Pope Francis to South Sudan.

“We have accepted the cessation of hostilities, and therefore there will be no confrontation between the forces of the opposition and that of the government. It means there will be relative security, and would allow the mobility of South Sudanese locally and international visitors, like His Holiness the pope as early as February,” De John said Jan. 13.

“South Sudan is a country that is made up of Christians, notably of the Catholic faith. We believe in His Holiness the pope, and should he come to South Sudan -- even if the opposition is unable to be there for security reasons -- we will be happy because our country is our symbol,” he said.

Paolo Impagliazzo, Secretary General of the Community of Sant’Egidio, facilitated the peace declaration. He said that faith played an important role in the South Sudan peace talks hosted in Rome Jan. 11-12.

“All of them are Christians, so for them to start a meeting with a prayer was very important. They attended Holy Mass on  Saturday evening with Sant’Egidio ... The fact that Pope Francis is so engaged in their country for them is something that they cannot forget,” Impagliazzo told CNA.

“We kept the two delegations separated in different hotels, different rooms for coffee breaks, and a plenary room where they entered together, shaking hands and sitting on the two sides of the table,” he said.

The Community of Sant’Egidio is a lay Catholic movement centered on peace and helping the poor. The community has previously worked with the peace process in Mozambique and the Ivory Coast.

In the declaration, the government and the opposition recommitment to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement of Dec. 2017 to cease armed confrontation in South Sudan, and to allow humanitarian access to local and international organizations.

IGAD, the UN’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development, participated as an observer.

“Rome was not built in one day, so with our peace, we are building it,” Barnaba Maria Benjamin, head of the South Sudan government envoy, said in a press conference Jan. 13.

Benjamin said it is important that Sant’Egidio will be monitoring whether the agreement is implemented. He underlined that the government of South Sudan is committed to “inclusivity,” calling it the “cornerstone of the future of the Republic of South Sudan.”

“The cessation of hostilities is important because it allows our people …  to have humanitarian assistance reach all rural parts of South Sudan and it allows us to build forgiveness, reconciliation and harmony,” Benjamin said.

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in South Sudan’s civil war, which began shortly after South Sudan became an independent country in 2011. The fighting primarily took place between those forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel groups led by Riek Machar, the former vice president.

The signers of the declaration wrote that they were “humbled by the relentless spiritual and moral appeal for peace, reconciliation and fraternity by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Former Moderator of Presbyterian Church of Scotland, as well as those of the South Sudanese religious leaders for reconciliation, peace and fraternity.”

The two groups also reaffirmed their will to foster political dialogue under the auspices of the Catholic community Sant’Egidio in order to facilitate further reconciliation and stabilization.

The Vatican hosted South Sudan’s political leaders for a peacebuilding retreat in April 2019,

“We came together here in appreciation to the tireless effort of His Holiness Pope Francis when he called the leadership of our country and begged them for peace,” Pa’gan Amum Okiech, member of the leadership council of SSOMA and Interim Chairman of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

Pope Francis, who does not have any international trips scheduled for 2020, has repeatedly , in the coming year.

The pope sent a Christmas message together with Archbishop Welby and Rev. John Chalmers, the former moderator of the Scottish Presbyterian Church to the people of South Sudan expressing best wishes for a swift implementation of the peace agreements.

“May the Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, enlighten you and guide your steps in the way of goodness and truth, and bring to fulfilment our desire to visit your beloved country,” the message states.