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Curia reform: Pope Francis reorganizes Vatican Secretariat of State

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has established a third section, or department, of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, which reportedly began its operations Nov. 9. The new section is named “Section for the Diplomatic Staff,” and is tasked with overseeing the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, stationed around the world.
 
Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski has been appointed to helm the third section. Previously the apostolic nuncio to Gabon, in 2015 Archbishop Pawlowski was appointed head of the Office for Pontifical Representations, a sort of “human resources office” within the Secretariat of State.
 
That office has been now elevated into an independent department, alongside the two sections that already constitute the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
 
The First Section of the Secretariat of State oversees the general affairs of the Roman Curia, and is led by the Secretariat’s “substitute,” currently Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu.
 
The second section, the “Section for the Relations with States”, is entrusted with the diplomatic activity of the Holy See. At the helm of the office is the Secretary for Relations with States, often described as the Vatican “foreign minister.”  Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, of Great Britain, holds the post.
 
The Pope established the third section via a letter sent in October to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and delivered to the Apostolic Nunciatures, the embassies of the Holy See, around over the world.
 
In his letter, the Pope expressed that he had “great care for those who assist the ministry of Rome”, both “those who work in the Holy See, and in the Vatican City State, and in the Apostolic See” and its related institutions.
 
The Pope recalled his address to the Roman Curia for the 2013 Christmas greeting, and said that “since the beginning” he proposed the criteria of “professionalism, service, and holiness of life” in order to be a good Vatican official.
 
Pope Francis also underscored that he expressed “vivid appreciation” for the work of “pontifical representatives,” an “important work, that undergoes peculiar difficulties.”
 
He then explained that his decision was motivated by the need to provide “more human, priestly, spiritual and professional accompaniment” to those who are “in the diplomatic service of the Holy See,” whether they are head of mission or even students at the Ecclesiastical Academy, where young priests are trained for diplomatic service.
 
The letter says that “the Office of the Delegate for the Pontifical Representation is strengthened into a Third Section, with the name of Section for the Diplomatic Staff of the Holy See”; the office “will depend from the Secretary of State,” will be given  “a proper number of officials” and will demonstrate “the Pope’s attention to the diplomatic staff.”
 
The Pope’s letter also says that the delegate “will be able to regularly visit pontifical representatives” and will oversee the “permanent selection” of staff as well of “career advancement” for diplomatic personnel.
 
According to a source within the Secretariat of State, this reform is just one step toward a general reorganization of the Secretariat of State.
 
The Council of Cardinals has discussed several times the importance of clarifying and supporting the role of nuncios and diplomatic staff.

 

Pope mourns death of Cardinal Montezemolo, long-time Vatican diplomat

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 / 11:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis sent a telegram Monday for the death of long-time Vatican diplomat Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, who died in Rome Sunday at the age of 92.

His death, the Pope wrote Nov. 20, “raises in my soul a feeling of sincere admiration for an esteemed man of the Church who lived with fidelity his long and fruitful priesthood and episcopate serving the gospel and the Holy See.”

Pope Francis offered his prayers for Cardinal Montezemolo’s welcome, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul, “into joy and eternal peace,” and for those who mourn the death of this “zealous pastor.”

The Pope also expressed his gratitude for the cardinal’s many years of “generous work” as an apostolic nuncio, and the wisdom with which he devoted himself to the good of people in countries around the world.

Montezemolo's final appointment was as Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, from 2005 to 2009.

In his telegram, Pope Francis noted how the cardinal, in his role as the first archpriest of the basilica,  “gave witness to a particularly intense and expert task.”

“Both from the pastoral point of view and from the organizational and artistic-cultural point of view, (he) aimed at restoring spiritual vitality to the whole structure and new impetus to the ecumenical vocation of that place of worship,” Francis said.

The Pope had visited the cardinal in a nursing home about one year ago, in one of his unexpected and private exits from the Vatican.

His funeral Mass will be said Nov. 21 in St. Peter's Basilica. It will be celebrated by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, vice-dean of the College of Cardinals.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis will preside over the rite of Last Commendation and the Valedictus.

Montezemolo was born in Turin Aug. 27, 1925. His father, a colonel in the Italian army, was killed during the Ardeatine Massacre in the Second World War. Many years later, Montezemolo and his sister publicly expressed their forgiveness of those who had killed their father.

As a young man he also fought in World War II before studying and obtaining a degree in architecture. Feeling a calling to the priesthood, he then obtained a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a licentiate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, while working as an architect.

He was ordained a priest in 1954, and in 1959 obtained a degree in canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University.

That same year he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See and for 42 years served as the nunciature secretary in various countries, including the apostolic delegation in Mexico, the apostolic nunciatures in Japan, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, and the Secretariat of State, as council for public affairs.

He was appointed under-secretary and then secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace and in 1977 was nominated titular Archbishop of Anglona and Apostolic Pro-Nuncio in Papua New Guinea and Apostolic Delegate in the Solomon Islands.

He was ordained a bishop June 4, 1977 and over the next 24 years was appointed to various apostolic nunciatures, first in Honduras and Nicaragua.

He was then made Apostolic Nuncio in Uruguay. In 1990 he was appointed Apostlic Delegate in Jerusalem, Palestine and Jordan, as well as Apostolic Nuncio in Cyprus.  

In 1991 he was transferred to the titular see of Tuscania and from 1994-1998 he served as Apostolic Nuncio in Israel. Finally, from 1998-2001 he served as Apostolic Nuncio in Italy and in San Marino, retiring at the age of 75 in 2001.

Four years later, he was appointed Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

As an expert in heraldry, the system by which a coat of arms is devised, he contributed to the design of Benedict XVI's coat of arms. He was elevated to the position of cardinal by Benedict XVI in the consistory of March 24, 2006.

Pope: Are you afraid of God? If so, you don't really know who he is

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2017 / 05:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Sunday cautioned against having a “mistaken” idea of God as harsh and punishing, saying this fear will end up paralyzing us and preventing us from doing good, rather than spreading his love and mercy.

“Fear always immobilizes and often leads us to make bad choices,” the Pope said Nov. 19. “Fear discourages us from taking the initiative, and encourages us to seek refuge in safe and guaranteed solutions, and so we end up doing nothing good.”

To go forward and grow on the path of life, he said, “we must not be afraid, but we have to trust.”  

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his Sunday Angelus address on the first-ever World Day for the Poor, which he implemented at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy.

In his speech, the Pope turned to the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, which recounts the parable of the talents. In the passage, a master goes on a long trip and entrusts three servants with different talents, but when he returns, only two have gained profit from it, while the third buried his out of fear.

This parable “makes us understand how important it is to have a true idea of God,” Francis said, noting that the third servant didn't really trust his master, but but feared him, and this fear prevented him from acting.

We shouldn't think that God is “an evil, harsh and severe master who wants to punish us,” the Pope said, explaining that if we have this “mistaken image of God, then our lives cannot be fruitful, because we will live in fear and this will not lead us to anything constructive.”

Fear, he said, paralyzes us and so is self-destructive. So when faced with the unfaithful servant in this parable, each of us is called to reflect on what our idea of God really is.

Turning to the Old Testament, Francis noted how in Exodus God is described as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Even in the New Testament, Jesus always demonstrated that God is not “a severe and intolerant master,” but a father full of “love and tenderness, a father full of goodness,” Francis said, and because of this, “we can and must have immense trust in him.”

Jesus, he said, shows us his generosity in various ways, through his words, actions, and his welcome towards all, especially toward sinners and the poor and vulnerable. But also with his admonishments, “which show his interest in us so that we do not waste our lives uselessly.”

This, the Pope said, is a sign of the great esteem God has for us, and having this knowledge ought to help us to take responsibility for our every action.

Concluding, Pope Francis said parable invites us to have “a personal responsibility and fidelity which become capable of continually placing ourselves on new roads, without burying the talent, which is are the gifts that God has entrusted to us and of which he will ask us to account for.”

After leading pilgrims in the Angelus prayer, the Pope made a series of appeals, the first of which was for the World Day for the Poor. He prayed that the poor and disadvantaged would be “the center of our communities” not just on special occasions, but always, “because they are the heart of the Gospel, in them we encounter Jesus who speaks to us and challenges us through their sufferings and their needs.”

He also drew attention to beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey yesterday in Detroit, saying the friar was “a humble and faithful disciple of Christ, who distinguished himself with an untiring service to the poor.”

“May his witness help priests, religious and laity to live with joy the link between the announcement of the Gospel and the love for the poor.”

Francis also offered special prayers for those living “a painful poverty” due to war and conflict, and renewed his appeal to the international community “to commit every possible effort in favor of peace, especially in the Middle East.”

He prayed especially for Lebanon, particularly for the country's stability, “so that it may continue to be a message of respect and sharing for every religion and for the entire world.”

A final appeal he made was for the crew of an Argentine military submarine, who have been missing for several days without a trace.

After concluding the Angelus, Pope Francis made his way to the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, where he had lunch with some 1,500 poor and needy in town for the World Day of the Poor.

Before the meal, Francis said a blessing for the food and for everyone there, asking the Lord “to bless us, to bless the meal, to bless those who prepared it, to bless all of us, our hearts, our families, our desires and our lives, that he give us health and strength. Amen.”

He also offered a blessing for all those eating in other soup kitchens throughout Rome. “Rome is full of these today,” he said, and asked for “a greeting and an applause” for the thousands of others participating in the event.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PopeFrancis?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PopeFrancis</a> says blessing before eating lunch, prays for the cooks, the guests, their families &amp; charity organizations in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rome?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Rome</a>: asks that they receive &quot;health &amp; strength&quot; <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldDayofthePoor?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WorldDayofthePoor</a> <a href="https://t.co/jRrW0dN3xc">pic.twitter.com/jRrW0dN3xc</a></p>&mdash; Elise Harris (@eharris_it) <a href="https://twitter.com/eharris_it/status/932212710749691905?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 19, 2017</a></blockquote>
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Pope Francis: the poor are our 'passport to paradise'

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2017 / 02:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the first World Day for the Poor, Pope Francis said caring for the needy has a saving power, because in them we see the face of Christ, and urged Christians to overcome indifference and seek ways to actively love the poor that they meet.

“In the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor,” the Pope said Nov. 19. Because of this, “in their weakness, a saving power is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven.”

“They are our passport to paradise,” he said, explaining that it is an “evangelical duty” for Christians to care for the poor as our true wealth.

And to do this doesn't mean just giving them a piece of bread, but also “breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them,” Francis said, adding that to love the poor “means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.”

Pope Francis spoke during Mass marking the first World Day of the Poor, which takes place every 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time and is being organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

Established by Pope Francis at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy, the World Day for the Poor this year has the theme “Love not in word, but in deed.”

In the week leading up to the event, the poor and needy had access to free medical exams at a makeshift center set up in front of St. Peter's Square.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for Evangelization, led a Nov. 18 prayer vigil at Rome's parish of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls the night before the big event. After Mass with Pope Francis, the poor will be offered a three-course lunch at different centers and organizations around Rome, including the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

According to the Council for Evangelization, some 6-7,000 poor from around Europe, as well as some migrants from around the world, were estimated to attend the Mass along with the organizations that care for them.

In his homily, Pope Francis said no matter our social condition, everyone in life is a beggar when it comes to what is essential, which is God's love, and which “gives meaning to our lives and a life without end. So today too, we lift up our hands to him, asking to receive his gifts.”

Turning to the day's Gospel passage from Matthew recounting the parable of the talents, the Pope noted how in God's eyes, everyone has talents, and consequently, “no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others.”

“God, in whose eyes no child can be neglected, entrusts to each of us a mission,” he said, explaining that God also gives us a responsibility, as is seen in the day's Gospel.

Francis pointed to how in the day's passage only the first two servants make their talent profitable, whereas the third buries it, prompting the master to call him “wicket and lazy.”

Asking what sin the servant had committed that was so wrong, the Pope said above all “it was his omission.”

Many times we believe that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so are content with the presumption that we are good and righteous, he said, but cautioned that with this mentality, “we risk acting like the unworthy servant: he did no wrong, he didn’t waste the talent, in fact he kept it carefully hidden in the ground.”

However, “to do no wrong is not enough,” Francis said, adding that God is not “an inspector looking for unstamped tickets.” Rather, he is a Father that looks for children to whom he can entrust both his property and his plans.

“It is sad when the Father of love does not receive a generous response of love from his children, who do no more than keep the rules and follow the commandments,” he said, noting that someone who is only concerned with preserving the treasures of the past “is not being faithful to God.”

Instead, “the one who adds new talents is truly faithful...he does not stand still, but instead, out of love, takes risks. He puts his life on the line for others; he is not content to keep things as they are. One thing alone does he overlook: his own interest. That is the only right omission.”

Omission, Francis said, is also a big sin where the poor are concerned, though it has a different name: indifference. This sin, he said, takes place when we feel that the brother in need is not our concern, but is society's problem.

The sin typically shows up in our lives when we choose to turn the other way, or “change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it.”

“God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good,” the Pope said.

Asking those present how we can please God, Pope Francis said when we want to give someone a gift, we first have to get to know them. And when we look to the Gospel, we hear Jesus say “when you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

These brothers, he said, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned.

In the poor, “Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love,” he said, adding that “when we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren,” only then are we being faithful.

An example of this attitude is seen in the woman who opens her hand to the poor in the day's first reading from Proverbs, he said. In her, “we see true goodness and strength: not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord.”

Choosing to draw near to the poor among us “will touch our lives” and remind us of what really counts, Francis said, explaining that this is love of God and neighbor.

“Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away,” he said. “What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.”

Pope Francis closed his homily saying the choice we all have before us is whether “to live in order to gain things on earth, or to give things away in order to gain heaven.”

“Where heaven is concerned, what matters is not what we have, but what we give,” he said. “So let us not seek for ourselves more than we need, but rather what is good for others, and nothing of value will be lacking to us.”

Compassion is the heart of healthcare, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2017 / 05:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Saturday sent a message to health workers and organizations, saying compassion is the heart of what they do, and stressed the need for a more equitable distribution resources and services throughout the world.

“A healthcare organization that is efficient and capable of addressing inequalities cannot forget its raison d’être, which is compassion,” the Pope said Nov. 18.

This includes the compassion of doctors, nurses, support staff volunteers and all others able to “minimize the pain associated with loneliness and anxiety,” he said, and stressed the importance for healthcare workers to focus not just on good organization, but on listening, accompanying and supporting the people they care for.

Compassion, Francis said, is “a privileged way to promote justice,” since empathizing with what others are experiencing allows us to not only understand their struggles, hardships and fears, but also “to discover, in the frailness of every human being, his or her unique worth and dignity.”

“Indeed, human dignity is the basis of justice, while the recognition of every person’s inestimable worth is the force that impels us to work, with enthusiasm and self-sacrifice, to overcome all disparities.”

Pope Francis sent his message to participants in the Nov. 16-18 conference “Addressing Global Health Inequalities,” organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in collaboration with the International Confederation of Catholic Healthcare Institutions.

The goal of the conference is to launch a network connecting all 116,000 Catholic health organizations around the world through a platform of collaboration and sharing aimed at exchanging information.

Another key goal of the conference is to raise awareness about global disparities in access to healthcare.

In his speech, he quoted from the Vatican's new Healthcare Charter, released in February, which states that “the fundamental right to the preservation of health pertains to the value of justice, whereby there are no distinctions between peoples and ethnic groups, taking into account their objective living situations and stages of development.”

The Church, he said, continuing the quote, “proposed that the right to health care and the right to justice ought to be reconciled by ensuring a fair distribution of healthcare facilities and financial resources, in accordance with the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.”

To this end, he praised the participants for establishing the new platform, which he said will concretely address the challenges faced in healthcare in different geographical and social settings.

Francis said this task is something that belongs in particular to healthcare workers and their organizations, since they are committed in a special way to raising awareness among institutions, welfare agencies and the healthcare industry as a whole, “for the sake of ensuring that every individual actually benefits from the right to health care.”

This not only depends on the services provided, but also on the economic, social and cultural factors in decision making processes.

He also stressed the need to eradicate the structural causes of poverty, “because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises.”

Welfare projects should only be considered temporary responses, he said, explaining that “as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

Francis also offered a special word to representatives of pharmaceutical companies present, and who were invited to Rome  to address the topic of access to antiretroviral therapies by paediatric patients.

Again quoting from the Vatican's healthcare charter, he said that while scientific knowledge and research on their part have their own laws to abide to, “ways must be found to combine these adequately with the right of access to basic or necessary treatments, or both.”

He also advocated for healthcare strategies that pursue the common good and that are “economically and ethically sustainable.”

Pope Francis closed his message thanking participants for their “generous commitment,” and gave his blessing.

Pope: not everything technically possible is morally acceptable

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2017 / 05:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis praised the achievements of scientific and technological advancements, but cautioned that developments in the field have limits, and should be founded above all on the good of the human person.

“It remains always valid the principle that not everything that is technically possible or feasible is therefore ethically acceptable,” the Pope said in his prepared remarks Nov. 18.

“Science, like any other human activity, knows that there are limits to be observed for the good of humanity itself, and requires a sense of ethical responsibility,” he said, adding that in the words of Bl. Pope Paul VI, the true measure of progress “is that which is aimed at the good of every man and the whole man.”

Pope Francis spoke on the last day of the Pontifical Council for Culture's Nov. 15-18 plenary titled “The Future of Humanity: New Challenges to Anthropology,” and which took place inside the Vatican's old synod hall. Some 54 members and consultors of the council, including prelates and laity, participated.

Discussion touched on anthropological changes in three key areas: medicine and genetics, neuroscience, and the progress of autonomous and thinking machines.

In his speech, the Pope noted how each of these scientific and technical developments have prompted some to think humanity is on the cusp of a new age and level of being superior to what came before.

The questions these advancements raise are “great and serious,” he said, and the Church is paying close attention, but with the desire to put the human person and the issues surrounding it at the center of her own reflections.

In the bible the course of man's anthropological progress can be seen from Genesis to Revelation, he said, developing around the “fundamental elements” of relation and freedom.”

Relation consists of three dimensions: relation to material things such as land and animals, relation to the divine and relation to other beings, where as freedom is expressed in autonomy and in moral choices.

This understanding of anthropology is still valid today, Francis said, but at the same time, today we also realize that “the great fundamental principles and concepts of anthropology are not rarely put into question on the basis of a greater knowledge of the complexity of the human condition and the need for further investigation.”

Anthropology is the source of our self-understanding, but in modern times, it has become a “fluid and changing horizon” in light of increasing socioeconomic changes, population shifts, increasing intercultural interactions, globalization and the “incredible” discoveries of science and technology.”

Francis said that in response to this situation, we must first give thanks to the scientists who work in favor of humanity and all of creation through their research and discoveries.

Science and technology have helped to deepen in our understanding of the human person, he said, but cautioned that “this alone is not enough to give a response.”

In this regard, he said it's necessary to draw on the “treasures of wisdom” conserved in the various religions traditions, in “popular wisdom”  and in literature and the arts, while at the same time rediscovering the perspectives offered by philosophy and theology.

He stressed the need to overcome the “tragic division” between the humanistic-theological culture and the scientific culture, saying there must be greater dialogue between the Church and the scientific community.

The Church, he said, offers key talking points for this dialogue, the first of which is the centrality of the human person, “which is considered an end and not a means.” Secondly, the Church reminds the world of the principle of the “universal destination of goods,” which includes knowledge and technology.

“Scientific and technical progress serve to benefit all of humanity and their benefits can't go to the advantage of the few,” Francis said, adding that new inequalities based on knowledge that increase the divide between the rich and the poor must be avoided in the future.

Pope Francis closed his speech saying the major decisions on the direction of scientific research and investment “are assumed by the whole of society and not dictated solely by the market or by the interest of a few,” and thanked participants for the “precious service” to the Church and to humanity.

What does the Church really teach about nuclear war?

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Vatican conference discussing “A World Free From Nuclear Weapons,” held Nov. 10-11, is the latest step in a long-term commitment from the Holy See to work for nuclear disarmament, which itself is considered by the Vatican to be a step toward the goal of integral disarmament.
 
The conference was held after 120 nations voted this July to pass the UN’s Comprehensive Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  The treaty prohibits signatories from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing or stockpiling nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and prevents them from using these weapons. To date, only three countries have ratified the treaty.
 
The Holy See actively took part in the treaty’s negotiations, and is among the three nations that have ratified the treaty
 
The Holy See has a “Permanent Observer” status at the United Nations, although with “enhanced powers.” That means that the Holy See can take part in the negotiations of treaties, but does not usually have the right to vote.
 
For the July 7 vote on the nuclear treaty, the Holy See was accepted by the UN to participate in negotiations as a full member, and was permitted to vote on the matter before the adoption of the treaty. This was the first time the Holy See has been afforded such a status at the UN, which Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s “foreign minister,” described as a milestone during the treaties ratification ceremony Sep. 20.
 
This diplomatic initiative shows the strength of the Holy See’s commitment to nuclear disarmament.
 
In fact, the Holy See has understood for decades the perilous potential of nuclear weaponry.
 
During the Second World War, Pius XII understood that new scientific developments could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction.
 
Pope Pius XII’s concerns were expressed in three different speeches delivered at the Pontifical Academy for Sciences between 1941 and 1948.
 
Talking on Nov. 30, 1941, Pius XII said in the hands of men, science can be a double edged weapon, able to heal and kill at the same time. The Pope also said that he was following “the incredible adventure of the men committed to research on nuclear energy and nuclear transformation” thanks to Max Planck, Nobel Prize Laureate in 1918, who served as member of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences.
 
Pope Pius XII warned about nuclear danger again, in a meeting with members of the Pontifical Academy that took place Feb. 21, 1943. On that occasion, the Pope warned that because of the development of nuclear weapons, “there could be a dangerous catastrophe for our planet as a whole.”
 
Finally, in a speech delivered to the Pontifical Academy for Science on Feb. 8, 1948, the Pope talked about the atomic bomb as one of the “most horrible weapons the human mind has ever conceived,” and asked: “What disaster should the humanity expect from a future conflict, if stopping or slowing the use of always more and more surprising scientific inventions would be proven impossible? We should distrust any science whose main goal is not love.”
 
Like Pius XII, St. John XXIII urged the need for an “integral disarmament” in his encyclical Pacem In Terris, and the Second Vatican Council’s Apostolic Constitution Gaudium et Spes stressed that “power of weapons does not legitimate their military and political use.”
 
Speaking at the UNESCO June 2, 1980, Pope St. John Paul II explicitly mentioned the “nuclear threat” on the world that could lead to “the destruction of fruits of culture, products of the civilization built in centuries by generation of men who believed in the primacy of the spirit and did not spare efforts nor fatigues.”
 
John Paul II noted the “fragile balance” of the world, caused by geopolitical reasons, economic problems and political misunderstandings along with wounded national prides. But, he said, this balance can be destroyed at any moment, following “a mistake in judging, informing, interpreting.”
 
He then asked: “Can we still be certain that breaking the balance would not lead to war and to a war that would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons?”
 
Benedict XVI also confronted the issue many times. It is especially noteworthy to recall what Benedict said in his May 31, 2009 Pentecost homily.
 
Benedict XVI stressed that “man does not want to be in the image of God any longer, but only in his own image: he declares himself autonomous, free.”
 
A man in such an “unauthentic relation” with God can become dangerous, and “can revolt against life and humanity,” as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedies showed, the Pope said.
 
Pope Francis has warned many times about the risks of the nuclear proliferation. In a message sent to the UN Conference for the Negotiation of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Pope Francis stressed that “International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power.”
 
“We need – he added - to go beyond nuclear deterrence: the international community is called upon to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security”.
 
The Holy See has followed a clear path on nuclear disarmament, which it continued with this month’s conference. The words of Pope Francis at the conference carry the legacy and tradition of the Church’s teachings on nuclear weaponry and its danger.

We can not “fail to be genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices,” the Pope said.  

“If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.  For they exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race.  International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms.  Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security.  They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family."

 

 

Hannah Brockhaus contributed to this report.

 

Commentary: Don’t buy fake agendas; defend the pope!

London, England, Nov 17, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For years now, I have bemoaned the growing number of so-called progressive Catholic figures, in academia, the media and the outer curial orbit, who fancy themselves to be the Pope’s ideological vanguard, amidst what they have taken to calling their “intra-ecclesial battle.”

The agenda they push is an obvious rehash of seventies liberalism: a “progressive” approach to sexual ethics, acceptance of divorce and remarriage, recognition of same-sex relationships, “creating a space” for those who disagree with the Church on life issues. This rather tired agenda has been dressed up in the language of woke university students and twitter social justice warriors, but its core premise remains the same as it ever was - to push the fallacy that Vatican II was part of the cultural revolution of the sixties, rather than the Church’s answer to it. Their efforts are easy to spot, just look for the people endlessly invoking the council but never actually quoting a document from it.

Their main objective is to fracture the continuity and authority of the Church’s essential teaching on the dignity and nature of the human person, relationships with God and other people, and society. In this fight, they have identified the key battleground, their greatest enemy, and their biggest opportunity: Pope Francis.

Pope Francis, from the moment of his election, has been a gigantic figure on the global stage. Through a combination of his personal charisma and the age of viral social media, his every soundbite gets attention and circulation that his predecessors couldn’t have imagined. Being seen to be “with” the pope is more powerful than ever before.

Conversely, being painted as “anti-Francis” is now the fastest way to find yourself beyond the pale of acceptable Church discourse - a far cry from the days when the progressive ‘cool kids’ seemed to take a juvenile kind of pride in forcing St. John Paul II or Benedict XVI to discipline them. Many of those who previously wore dissent as a badge of distinction have become the first and fiercest to label those they dislike, whether journalists, academics, or even cardinals, as “disloyal” to the pope, and opposed to his teaching authority.

Yet those who cry the loudest against the pope’s supposed opponents are themselves at the sharp end of a campaign of double deception. They insist that they are with the pope, or rather he is with them, and so to oppose them, on anything, is to oppose the pope. This is a falsehood.

The list of subjects on which Pope Francis is at odds with his self-appointed enforcers has grown to a comical length. In the last few months alone, Pope Francis has sided with the parents of Charlie Gard in defense of life, contrary to statements from the remade Pontifical Academy of Life, headed by Archbishop Paglia, and he has publicly echoed Cardinal Sarah’s call for a rediscovery of reverential silence in the liturgy, even as the Pope’s supposed-supporters demanded that Sarah be sacked.

Just days ago, the election of Archbishop Joseph Naumann as chairman of the US Bishops’ Conference pro-life committee was railed against by prominent liberal Catholics, who shouted themselves hoarse arguing that this election was an explicit rejection of the pope, and of his entire vision for the Church.

Pope Francis has, of course, called abortion a “horrendous crime,” a “very grave sin,” and, just last month, part of a “eugenic tendency” against the disabled. None of this made it into liberal coverage of the vote, nor was it held to be a factor in the election of an archbishop with sterling pro-life credentials over another who once discouraged his priests from participating in the 40 Days for Life campaign.

This is a group doing everything they can to take the pope’s public image and message hostage, and replace it with their own. The extent to which these voices are trying to define a “Francis agenda” contrary to the clear teaching of the Pope himself would be laughable, if their spurious arguments didn’t seem to gain so much traction.

Their biggest success thus far has been the confected row over communion for the divorced and remarried, an idea the pope has repeatedly refused to endorse, even categorically refuting the claim that his call for “full integration into parish life” meant receiving communion. The motivating force behind this campaign has nothing to do with pastoral concern for the tiny minority of catholics in this situation, in fact many of them have been hurt by the confusion and speculation of this effort. Rather, the goal is to force a crack, in practice if not yet in theory, in the Church’s absolute adherence to the indissolubility of marriage. It has also served to successfully suppress any discussion of the actual content of Amoris Latitiae, a document which not only reaffirms the permanence of marriage, but actually endorses the teaching of Humanae Vitae, the great liberal bête noire of the last sixty years.  It also rejects, in stark terms, the great progressive causes of the moment: a softened stance on abortion and euthanasia, same-sex unions, and gender theory.

Successfully convincing huge swathes of the Church that the pope is in favor of the very things he has condemned, while the evidence to the contrary is there for all to see, is the result of an incredibly brazen slight of hand, unwittingly abetted by the pope’s indifference to television and the internet. It has sown division and discord across the Church. There needs to be an urgent and unflinching response, one which takes true filial pride in the real papal magisterium and uses it to confront those who knowingly abuse the name and authority of Pope Francis and Vatican Council II for their own ends.

 

 Ed Condon is a canon lawyer working for tribunals in a number of dioceses. On Twitter he is @canonlawyered. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Catholic News Agency.

Ahead of Burma visit, Pope says he's coming to promote peace

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday, Pope Francis sent a video greeting to the people of Burma – also known as Myanmar – ahead of his Nov. 27-30 trip, saying he is coming to proclaim the Gospel and promote peace in a country gripped by a heated humanitarian and political crisis surrounding the Rohingya Muslim minority.

In the video, published Nov. 17, the said he wants to “confirm the Catholic community of Myanmar in its faith in God and in its testimony of the Gospel, which teaches the dignity of every man and woman, and demands (us) to open our hearts to others, especially to the poor and the needy.”

Above all, Francis said he is coming “to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ: a message of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace.”

The visit to Burma is the first of two stops in a Nov. 27-Dec. 2 trip that will also take Pope Francis to Bangladesh.

It also takes place amid an uptick in state-supported violence against Burma's Rohingya Muslim community – an ethnic and religious minority – which in recent months has reached staggering levels, causing the United Nations to declare the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

With an increase in violent persecution in their home country, many of the Rohingya population has fled to neighboring Bangladesh, with millions camping along the border as refugees.

In his video message, the Pope thanked everyone working in preparation of his visit and asked for their prayers, that it would be “a source of hope and encouragement for everyone.” He said he also hopes to visit the country in a “spirit of respect and encouragement,” so the nation may endeavor to “build harmony and cooperation in serving the common good.”

Many people at this time, both believers and people of goodwill, feel an increasing need to grow in mutual understanding and respect as “members of the only human family,” he said, “because we are all children of God.”

The Pope’s pastoral visit to Burma and Bangladesh was officially announced by the Vatican in August and a first draft of his schedule was released Oct. 10. He will be in Burma Nov. 27-30 and in Bangladesh Nov. 30-Dec. 2.

Pope Francis will leave the Vatican in the evening on Nov. 26, landing the following day in Yangon, the largest city in Burma, where he will stay during the first portion of his trip. After the official welcoming, he will have time to rest before the full-schedule begins the next day.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, he will fly to Nay Pyi Taw, where there will be another official welcoming and arrival ceremony and an official visit with President Htin Kyaw.

He will then meet with the state advisor and minister of foreign affairs, before an encounter with other government authorities, leaders of civil society and the diplomatic corps, where he will give his first official speech of the visit.

The following morning Francis will celebrate Mass at the Kyaikkasan Grounds park. In the afternoon he will give speeches at separate meeting with the Supreme Council of “Sangha,” a term referring to Buddhist clergy in the country, and in a meeting with the bishops of Burma.

He will conclude his visit to Burma with a Mass for young people at the Cathedral of St. Mary’s in the morning of Nov. 30 before departing for Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Catholics in Burma are a small minority, only making up approximately 1.3 percent of a population of nearly 52 million. There are also few priests - only one per every 742 Catholics.

Who was Albino Luciani, the 'smiling Pope'?

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Last week Albino Luciani, better known by his papal name, John Paul I, took the next step on the path to sainthood. Yet apart from the fame garnered by various theories that sprouted due to the enigmatic nature of his death, for many little is known of his saintly life and brief pontificate.

Born Oct. 17, 1912, in Italy’s northern Veneto region, Albino Luciani, known also as “the smiling Pope,” was elected Bishop of Rome Aug. 26, 1978. He made history when he became the first Pope to take a double name, after his two immediate predecessors, St. John XXIII and Bl. Paul VI.

He sent shock waves around the world when he died unexpectedly just 33 days later, making his one of the shortest pontificates in the history of the Church.

In addition to the novelty of his name and the surprise of his death, Luciani was also the first Pope born in the 20th century, and is also the most recent Italian-born Bishop of Rome.

Yet behind all the novelty of the month before his death and mystery of those that ensued, John Paul I has been hailed as a man of heroic humility and extraordinary simplicity, with a firm commitment to carrying forward the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and a knack for explaining complicated Church concepts in a way everyone can understand.

Life and background

Coming from a northern region in Italy that borders Austria, Luciani grew up with people from all cultures and backgrounds passing through. The area saw high levels of immigration and strong activity on the part of Catholic movements.

The priests around whom Luciani grew up had a keen social awareness and involvement with the faithful.

While all the basic needs of his family were met, Luciani grew up in relative poverty, with his father gone most of the time for work. However, according to Stefania Falasca, vice-postulator of his cause for canonization, this background gave the future Pope “a huge cultural suitcase” that he was able to bring with him in his various endevours.

Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Belluno e Feltre July 7, 1935, at the age of 22, Luciani was rector of the diocese's seminary for 10 years. He taught various courses throughout his tenure, including dogmatic and moral theology, canon law, and sacred art.

In 1941 he received a dispensation from Ven. Pius XII to continue teaching while pursuing his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He was named Bishop of Vittorio Veneto by St. John XXIII in 1958.

In 1969 he was named Patriarch of Venice by Bl. Paul VI. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 1973, and was elected Bishop of Rome five years later.

Literature also played a key role in Luciani's formation. According to Falasca, he had a library full of books in different languages and a special fondness for Anglo-American literature.

Though he knew English, French, German and Russian, his favorite authors were from the Anglo world, and included authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Willa Cather, and Mark Twain.

As cardinal, he wrote his own book called “Illustrissimi,” which is a series of letters penned to a variety of historical and fictional persons, including Jesus, King David, Figaro the Barber, Austrian Empress Maria Theresa Habsburg, Pinocchio, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Christopher Marlowe.

Luciani, Falasca said, was considered by Paul VI to be “one of the most advanced theologians” of the time, and was held in high esteem because he not just knew theology, but also knew how to explain it.

The clarity he had was “highly considered right away among the Italian bishops,” she said. “He was considered the brightest pen because of this 'cultural suitcase,' which knew how to synthesize in a very delicate writing, but clear and full of references.”

Luciani, she said, had “an ease of language” in his writing, which was coupled with “a solid theological preparation,” making him both credible and accessible.

Pontificate – 'an Apostle of the Council'

John Paul I above all else was “a son of the Council,” Falasca said. Luciani “translated and communicated the directives in a natural and simple way … So he was an apostle of the Council in this sense.”

“He explained it, he put it into practice, he put the directives into action in a crystalline way.” It was this desire to carry the Council forward that formed the basis for his priorities during his 33 days in office.  

Among these priorities was a “renewed sense of mission” for the Church, Falasca said, explaining that for Luciani, to accomplish this mission it was important “to go back to the sources of the Gospel.”

“This, you can say, was the meaning of the Council for Luciani.” And for him, going to the sources also meant “communicating the Gospel in simplicity and conforming his ministry” to it.

In addition to mission, John Paul I also placed a special emphasis on spiritual poverty in the Church and the search for peace and ecumenism.

Ecumenism and dialogue in particular are topics Luciani felt were “a duty that is part of being a Christian.”

Collegiality also was another key topic for Luciani, and it was the subject of his only written intervention during the Council, which he contributed in 1963.

Luciani also placed a strong emphasis on mercy, Falasca said, explaining that in many ways he was “was the Pope of mercy 'par excellence,'” and was known for his warm and friendly demeanor.  

These priorities can be clearly seen in the four general audiences John Paul I gave during his pontificate, with the subjects being poverty, faith, hope, and charity.

And the way he spoke about these and other topics, with “the simplicity of his approach (and) of his language,” left “an indelible memory in the People of God,” Falasca said.

John Paul I, she said, moved people with his naturalness and his ordinary way of speaking to the faithful.

Luciani had put this quality into writing long before his pontificate when in 1949, he published his first book, titled “Catechesis in Crumbs,” which focused on how to teach the essential truths of the faith in a simple and direct way, understandable to everyone.

Death

When John Paul I died 33 days after his election, his sudden and unexpected death led to various conspiracy theories that Luciani had been murdered.

However, in a book titled “John Paul I: The Chronicle of a Death” and published Nov. 7 to coincide with the announcement that Luciani's sainthood cause was moving forward, Falasca dispels the theories by outlining the evidence gathered on John Paul I’s death while researching for his cause.

In the book, she recounts how the evening before his death Luciani suffered a severe pain in his chest for about five minutes, a symptom of a heart problem, which occurred while he was praying Vespers with his Irish secretary, Msgr. John Magee, before dinner.

The Pope rejected the suggestion to call for a doctor when the pain subsided, and his doctor, Renato Buzzonetti, was only informed of the episode after his death.

Heroic Virtue

Luciani's prime virtue was humility, which is “the base without which you can't go toward God.” Humility, Falasca said, “was so embedded in him, that he understood it as the only way to reach Christ.”

Luciani's connection with the Lord was also evident in the way that he spoke about God, she said, explaining that he was able to make the love of God close to people, and felt by them.

Falasca said she believes he is an ideal model of the priesthood. To this end, she recalled how during her time working on Luciani's cause, many young priests came to her saying they felt the call of their vocation when they saw his election on TV.  

Another sign of his sanctity was the “spontaneous reputation” that grew over time, and is a “distinctive sign” in determining the heroic virtue of a person.

“The reputation for holiness is the condition 'sine quo non' (without which it could not be) to open a cause of canonization; there must be a reputation,” she said, and “Luciani enjoys much of it, and he enjoys it not in an artificial way.”

Many people pray to him and have continued to travel to his birth town over the past 40 years, she said, because people are attracted “by his charm.”

“He won over many with his stand in the face of contemporaneity, his closeness to the people of his time with that simplicity and with that familiarity of communication.”

Luciani opened “a new season in being and in the exercise of the Petrine ministry...with his charm, which knew how to conjugate in perfect synthesis, in my view, what was old and what was new.”

He also lived an extraordinary sense of poverty of spirit as seen in the Beatitudes, and had an “extreme fidelity to the Gospel in the circumstance and the status that he embraced.”

In a testimony given for documentation in the Luciani's cause for canonization, Benedict XVI said that when Luciani appeared on the balcony in his white cassock after his election, “we were all deeply impressed by his humility and his goodness.”

“Even during the meals, then, he was took a place with us. So thanks to a direct contact we immediately understood that the right Pope had been elected.”

Benedict XVI's testimony regarding John Paul I is four pages long and is one of the documents included in Falasca's book. In her comments to CNA, she said they had originally planned to interview him in 2005 while he was still a cardinal, but he was elected Pope on the same day he was scheduled to speak, and since a Pope is technically the one judging a saints' cause, he is not allowed to give testimony for it.

However, there are currently no previsions for a retired Pope, so when Benedict XVI resigned in 2013, Falasca and her team advancing Luciani's cause reached out again, receiving the testimony that has now been published in her book.

In his testimony, Benedict recalled that he first met Luciani while the latter was Patriarch of Venice. He had decided to visit the seminary in Bressanone with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, for vacation in August 1977, shortly after becoming a bishop.

Luciani came to visit the brothers after learning of their visit, and to go out of his way to do this in the oppressive heat of August “was a expression of a nobility of spirit that went well beyond usual,” Benedict wrote. “The cordiality, simplicity and goodness that he showed to me are indelibly impressed in my memory.”

Benedict said he was shocked when he received news of John Paul I's death in the middle of the night and didn't initially believe it, but slowly accepted the news in Mass the next day, during which the celebrant offered prayer for the “deceased Pope John Paul I.”

Speaking of John Paul I's pontificate, Benedict noted that in 1978 it was evident that “the post-conciliar Church was passing through a great crisis, and the good figure of John Paul I, who was a courageous man on the basis of faith, represented a sign of hope.” And this figure, he said, still represents “a message” for the Church today.

Benedict also noted that during the various public speeches Luciani gave, whether it was a general audience or a Sunday Angelus, the late Pope “spoke several times off-the-cuff and with the heart, touching the people in a much more direct way.”

Luciani often called children up to him during general audiences to ask them about their faith, Benedict said, explaining that “his simplicity and his love for simple people were convincing. And yet, behind that simplicity was a great and rich formation, especially of the literary type.”

So far hundreds of graces and favors have been recorded for those who pray to Luciani, and there are already two miracles being studied and considered for his beatification and eventual canonization. Falasca said they are currently trying to decide which to present first.