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Receive Communion with desire to imitate Jesus’ compassion for the needy, pope says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Going forward for Communion at Mass, Catholics must do so with a desire to imitate Jesus’ compassion for others and with a commitment to sharing what they have, Pope Francis said.

“One who goes to the Eucharist without having compassion for the needy and without sharing is not right with Jesus,” the pope said Aug. 3 before reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead the Angelus in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Aug. 3. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Aug. 3. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

As a morning rain shower tapered off, tens of thousands of people gathered in the square to pray with the pope and listen to his reflection on the day’s Gospel, Matthew 14:13-21, which recounts the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish.

With a multitude of people surrounding him, Jesus takes the five loaves of bread and two fish, blesses them and gives them to the disciples to distribute. More than 5,000 people eat their fill and 12 baskets of leftovers are collected.

The miracle, the pope said, prefigures the Eucharist. “You see this in the gesture of Jesus who ‘recites the blessing’ before breaking the bread and distributing it to the people. It is the same thing Jesus will do at the Last Supper when he institutes the perpetual memorial of his redeeming sacrifice.”

“Compassion, sharing, Eucharist: This is the path Jesus indicates for us in this Gospel,” the pope said. “It is a path that leads us to face the needs of this world with brotherhood, but one that leads us beyond this world because it starts with God the father and returns to him.”

Pope Francis said the Gospel account, which begins with Jesus going off by himself but being followed by the crowd, is a lesson in compassion. “Jesus does not react with irritation, he doesn’t say, ‘these people bother me,’” because he knows they seek him because they are in need.

“Jesus teaches us to put the needs of the poor before our own,” he said. “Our needs, while legitimate, will never be as urgent as those of the poor who do not have what they need to live.”

The Gospel also is a lesson in sharing, the pope said. The miracle Jesus performs “is not magic, it is a sign, a sign that invites people to have faith in God, the provident father, who will not fail to give us our daily bread if we know how to share it as brothers and sisters.”

Pope Francis asked the crowd to recognize “how often we turn away so we do not have to look at our needy brothers and sisters.” In effect, he said, it amounts to telling the poor to find a way to help themselves. “But this is not Jesus’ way, this is selfishness.”


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Pope lifts suspension of Maryknoll priest who was Sandinista official


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has lifted the suspension of Maryknoll Father Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, who was ordered 29 years ago to stop exercising his priestly ministry because he refused to give up his political position in Nicaragua’s Sandinista government.

The pope made his decision after Father D’Escoto, 81, formally requested permission to resume priestly duties, Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican press office, said Aug. 4. Vatican Radio reported that Father D’Escoto had written that he wanted to be able to celebrate Mass again “before dying.”

Pope Francis has lifted the suspension of Maryknoll Father Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, who 29 years ago was ordered to stop exercising his priestly ministry because he refused to give up his political position in Nicaragua's Sandinista government. Father D'Escoto is pictured at the United Nations in 2008. (CNS photo/Paulo Filgueiras, United Nations)

Pope Francis has lifted the suspension of Maryknoll Father Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, who 29 years ago was ordered to stop exercising his priestly ministry because he refused to give up his political position in Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. Father D’Escoto is pictured at the United Nations in 2008. (CNS photo/Paulo Filgueiras, United Nations)

The letter announcing the lifting of the suspension was signed by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

According to a press release from the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, the letter announcing the decision said: “The Holy Father has given his benevolent assent that Father Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann be absolved from the canonical censure inflicted upon him, and entrusts him to the superior general of the institute (Maryknoll) for the purpose of accompanying him in the process of reintegration into the ministerial priesthood.”

Although barred from exercising priestly ministry, Father D’Escoto remained a member of the U.S.-based Maryknoll Society. He continues to live in Nicaragua.

Father D’Escoto supported the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front in its effort to overthrow the government of Anastasio Somoza. When the Sandinistas came to power in 1979, he was named foreign minister, a position he held until 1990, when the Sandinistas lost political power in Nicaragua.

The Code of Canon Law prohibits priests from holding partisan political offices. After repeated attempts by the Vatican and their religious orders to convince them to resign their positions in the Sandinista government, Father D’Escoto and two brothers — Jesuit Father Fernando Cardenal, the Sandinista education minister, and Trappist Father Ernesto Cardenal, the culture minister — were suspended by the Vatican in 1985.

Father Fernando Cardenal was readmitted to the Jesuits in 1997, four years after renouncing his membership in the Sandinistas. His brother, a poet, continues to be involved in politics.


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Assignment: Reorganize the Curia — Pope and Council of Cardinals are working to reform an ancient bureaucracy


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis and his international Council of Cardinals continue to study the most effective and efficient way to organize the Roman Curia, a large bureaucracy with a long history of expansions and a few, short-term, attempts at consolidation.

For centuries, popes were assisted in their ministry by the cardinals meeting in consistories; the practical matters were handled by what was called the Apostolic Chancery. But as the church grew and matters became more complicated and more time-sensitive, offices were added. The first was the Sacred Congregation for the Inquisition, a tribunal established in 1542 by Pope Paul III to judge heresy and orthodoxy.

Over the next four decades, a few other offices were added, but an organized Roman Curia came into existence only with Pope Sixtus V in 1588. Read more »

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A visit with friends: Pope meets with Protestant Pentecostals

July 28th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — His voice breaking with emotion, Giovanni Traettino, a Pentecostal pastor in southern Italy and longtime friend of Pope Francis, welcomed the pope, “my beloved brother,” to his partially built church in Caserta.

Pope Francis said he knows some people were shocked that he would make a special trip outside of Rome to visit a group of Pentecostals, “but I went to visit my friends.”

Pope Francis walks onstage with Giovanni Traettino, a Protestant pastor and his friend, in Caserta, Italy, July 28. Pope Francis said he knew people would be shocked that he would make such a trip outside of Rome to visit a group of Pentecostals, "but I went to visit my friends.” (CNS photo/ L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis walks onstage with Giovanni Traettino, a Protestant pastor and his friend, in Caserta, Italy, July 28. Pope Francis said he knew people would be shocked that he would make such a trip outside of Rome to visit a group of Pentecostals, “but I went to visit my friends.” (CNS photo/ L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Traettino told the pope his visit was “unthinkable until recently,” even though, he said, “even among evangelicals there is great affection for you. Many of us pray for you, every day. Many of us, in fact, believe your election as bishop of Rome was the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Francis told the Pentecostals that “the Holy Spirit is the source of diversity in the church. This diversity is very rich and beautiful. But then the same Holy Spirit creates unity. And in this way the church is one in diversity. To use a beautiful Gospel phrase that I love very much, reconciled diversity” is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In addition to the visit, the pope fulfilled one specific request of the Italian evangelical community by recognizing the complicity of some Catholics in the fascist-era persecution of Italian Pentecostals and evangelicals.

“Among those who persecuted and denounced the Pentecostals, almost as if they were crazies who would ruin the race, there were some Catholics. As the pastor of the Catholics, I ask forgiveness for those Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and were tempted by the devil,” Italian news agencies quoted the pope as saying.

The Vatican had described the visit as “strictly private” and, except for Vatican media, reporters were kept on the roof of a nearby apartment building. In the new worship space of the Pentecostal Church of Reconciliation, still under construction, Pope Francis met with about 200 people, including members of Traettino’s congregation, other Italian evangelicals and representatives of Pentecostal ministries in Argentina and the United States, the Vatican said.

The pope and Traettino first met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the late 1990s when Traettino was establishing ties between charismatic Catholics and Pentecostal Protestants. The then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and Traettino also appeared together at a large ecumenical charismatic gathering in Buenos Aires in 2006. Traettino was present June 1 in Rome’s Olympic Stadium when Pope Francis spoke to an international gathering of Catholic charismatics.

Meeting with Caserta’s Catholic priests and bishops from the Campania region July 26, the date originally scheduled for his visit with the Pentecostals, Pope Francis said he had not known that date was the city’s big celebration for the feast of St. Anne.

If he had gone to the Pentecostals that day, without celebrating the feast with Catholics, “the newspaper headlines would have been ‘On the patron feast of Caserta, the pope visits Protestants,’” he said. So, he asked an official in the Vatican Secretariat of State to help organize the Mass “to remove this noose from around my neck.”

Pope Francis also gave the priests a glimpse into his thoughts about Catholic relations with the Pentecostals, which some people have found surprising, especially given how many Catholics in the pope’s Latin America have joined evangelical communities.

He told the story of a priest who went on mission in a remote area of Argentina and met a woman who told him the Catholic Church had abandoned her and her fellow Catholics.

“I need the word of God, so I had to go to the Protestant service,” the woman said.

The pope said the priest apologized on behalf of the Catholic Church, but recognized and respected the depth and sincerity of her faith.

“Every man, every woman has something to give us,” the pope said. “Every man, every woman has his or her own story and situation, and we must listen. Then, the prudence of the Holy Spirit will tell us what to say.”

“Never be afraid to dialogue with anyone,” Pope Francis told the Caserta priests. Dialogue is not being defensive about one’s faith, although it can mean explaining what one believes. And it is not pressuring another to join one’s faith.

Pope Benedict XVI was right when he said, “The church grows not through proselytism, but through attraction,” Pope Francis said. And attraction is “human empathy guided by the Holy Spirit.”

Msgr. Juan Usma Gomez, who handles the Catholic Church’s official relations with evangelicals and Pentecostals, told Vatican Radio July 22 that Pope Francis teaches that “to work for Christian unity you need brotherhood,” which is why he continues to nurture the friendships he established in Argentina. The iPhone video message the pope made in January with another Pentecostal friend, Bishop Tony Palmer, who died in a motorcycle accident July 20, “opened a door because it reached a really significant number of people,” Msgr. Usma said. “It’s an adventure that Pope Francis is asking us to establish. … He’s way ahead of us and we’re trying to follow this pattern.”


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Vatican revising canon law on abuse penalties, cardinal says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Church law has procedures and penalties for effectively dealing with allegations of clerical sexual abuse, but the Vatican is working to revise a section of the Code of Canon Law to make those norms and procedures clearer and, therefore, more effective, said the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

“We want to make this delicate material more accessible, more understandable and easier for bishops to apply,” Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, council president, told the Vatican newspaper.

In the interview published July 24 in L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said his office has been working since 2008 to revise “Book VI: Sanctions in the Church,” a section of the Code of Canon Law.

The penalties and punishments offered by church law should be applied, he said.

“In the face of a negative action, which harms the good of a person and therefore the good of the church, penal law expects a reaction, that is the pastor inflicting a canonical penalty,” the cardinal said.

If a bishop does not react by imposing a punishment on a priest guilty of the crime of sexual abuse, he said, “in some way that would be, or would seem to be, consenting to the evil committed. A negative act necessarily must be condemned; it requires a reaction.”

At the same time, he said, the bishop must recognize that the infliction of a penalty is ultimately for the good of the abuser as well. Penalties in canon law are designed to “encourage the conversion of those who commit crimes.”

In a 2013 interview with Catholic News Service, Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, council secretary, also spoke of the work of revising that section of canon law.

Bishop Arrieta had said the current Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, was written with such an emphasis on the role of the individual bishop in his local diocese that each bishop bore the full weight of deciding when and how to intervene and what sort of sanction or punishment to impose on the guilty.

The law ended up being too vague, and church sanctions were being applied so haphazardly, that the church appeared to be divided, he said.

The two chief concerns in the revised section, as in all church law, Bishop Arrieta said, are “to safeguard the truth and protect the dignity of persons.”

At the same time, the rules are more stringent, “if someone does this, he must be punished,” the bishop said. While it withdraws the discretionary power of the bishop in certain cases, he said, “it is for the good of the bishop.”



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Francis prays for victims of downed Malaysian jet, urges peace in Ukraine


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY —Pope Francis offered prayers for the 298 passengers and crew members who died when it came down in eastern Ukraine.

An armed pro-Russian separatist stands at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash July 17 in Grabovo, Ukraine. It is believed all 295 people aboard died in the crash. (CNS photo/Maxim Zmeyev, Reuters)

An armed pro-Russian separatist stands at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash July 17 in Grabovo, Ukraine. It is believed all 295 people aboard died in the crash. (CNS photo/Maxim Zmeyev, Reuters)

According to Australian news reports, as many as 108 of those who died July 17 were on their way to Melbourne for the International AIDS Conference. Also killed was Sacred Heart Sister Philomene Tiernan, a member of the staff at Kincoppal-Rose Bay School, a Catholic girls’ school in Sydney.

“The Holy Father, Francis, has learned with dismay of the tragedy of the Malaysian Airlines aircraft downed in east Ukraine, a region marked by high tensions,” said a statement July 18 from the Vatican press office. “The pope raises prayers for the numerous victims of the incident and for their relatives, and renews his heartfelt appeal to all parties in the conflict to seek peace and solutions through dialogue, in order to avoid further loss of innocent human lives.”

Given the ongoing tensions between Ukraine, Ukrainian separatists and Russia, and reports that the plane was flying at 33,000 feet, it was widely believed the plane was shot down.

Regarding the death of Sister Tiernan, the school principal sent a message to parents confirming the news and saying, “this has come as an enormous shock to me and our school community.”

“I heard from Phil yesterday morning,” when the nun was still in France, wrote the principal, Hilary Johnston-Croke. “She told me that she had left Joigny, where she had been attending a retreat,” and had gone to Paris to venerate the remains of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart, “which was a very special moment for her.”

“We are devastated by the loss of such a wonderfully kind, wise and compassionate woman who was greatly loved by us all. She was a great friend and mentor to me personally,” the principal said.

The Archdiocese of Sydney announced that a special memorial Mass for all of the victims would be celebrated July 20 in St. Mary’s Cathedral. Australia’s governor general and prime minister were scheduled to attend the Mass.

In Melbourne, as representatives of faith-based groups caring for people with HIV/AIDS held a pre-conference to the international AIDS meeting, they began their work with prayers for the victims.

The White House press office released a statement July 17 offering the country’s condolences to the victims and their families.

“It is critical that there be a full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation as quickly as possible,” the White House statement said. “We urge all concerned — Russia, the pro-Russian separatists, and Ukraine — to support an immediate cease-fire in order to ensure safe and unfettered access to the crash site for international investigators and in order to facilitate the recovery of remains.”


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Vatican bank issues detailed financial report


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — One week after publishing highlights of its 2013 financial statement, the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly called the Vatican bank, released a 107-page, detailed financial report for the year.

The first statement, released July 8, said the institute’s net profit for 2013 was only 2.9 million euros ($3.9 million) compared to 2012 net profits of 86.6 million euros ($117.7 million).

The detailed report released July 15 and published on the institute’s website, www.ior.va, is packed with charts, tables and explanations of the institute’s focus, its investment policies, the division of its assets and detailed information about its expenses, including contributions to employee pensions.

It also contains some curiosities:

• The main depository for the Vatican’s gold is the U.S. Federal Reserve, while medals and precious coins (valued at close to 9.9 million euros) are kept in IOR vaults. A “significant decline” in the price of gold meant that the value of the Vatican’s gold fell to 20 million euros in 2013 from almost 28.3 million euros in 2012.

• The bank’s officers have almost 3.2 million euros in four funds set up for charitable purposes, including one to support religious orders in missionary work. Only the “Fund for Holy Masses” reported distributing money in 2013; it gave out 59,000 euros.

• The institute is the sole owner of an Italian-registered company, SGIR, which has 21.7 million euros in equity. The report describes SGIR as a real estate company.

• Speaking of real estate, the report said the institute’s operating expenses included a “provision of 1 million euros payable to the owner of the building in which the IOR conducts business.” The bank is based in the 15th-century Tower of Nicholas V on the eastern edge of the Apostolic Palace.

• The bank has 250.7 million invested in external funds; 99 percent of the money is invested in funds that have their legal headquarters in Europe, while the remaining 1 percent are based in the United States.


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Church of England votes for women bishops, move called ecumenical obstacle


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The General Synod of the Church of England voted July 14 to authorize the ordination of women as bishops and approved motions pledging to respect and work with people who believe that, theologically, the vote was a mistake.

Before the vote, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, told the synod that “to pass this legislation is to commit ourselves to an adventure in faith and hope. Like all adventures, it carries dangers … uncertainties and for success will require integrity and courage.”

One of those uncertainties is its impact on the search for Christian unity. The Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox churches teach that since Jesus chose only men as his apostles, only men can be ordained priests and bishops.

Father Anthony Currer, the staff person for relations with Anglicans at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told Catholic News Service the vote “is not creating a new reality for our dialogue,” since other provinces of the Anglican Communion, including the United States and Canada, already have women bishops.

However, he said, “it is significant” that the move was made by the Church of England, the mother church of the communion, which is a point of reference for Anglicans worldwide.

With the Anglicans, Father Currer said, “we have communion, which we describe as impaired or impartial. An area we have to explore with our dialogue partners is what is sufficient for the full communion we are seeking.”

When the General Synod took the first steps toward preparing for women bishops in 2008, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said, “Such a decision means a break from the apostolic tradition maintained by all the churches of the first millennium and is, therefore, a further obstacle for reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England.”

Archbishop Welby characterized the debate as involving “genuine theological arguments which differ,” and not simply differences based on cultural influences regarding the role of women.

The archbishop called on the House of Bishops to act on its promises by setting up a procedure for ensuring the place in the church of those who disagree.

“You don’t chuck out family or even make it difficult for them to be at home, you love them and seek their well-being even when you disagree,” he said.

The vote came after several hours of debate, much of it focused on whether or not the motion offered sufficient guarantees for the place and pastoral care of those with theological grounds for opposing the ordination of women, and on commitments to keep the Church of England united despite differing positions.

After the vote, the Anglo-Catholic group Forward in Faith issued a statement saying it was pleased that the Church of England “is committed to providing bishops and priests for our parishes, enabling us to flourish in the life and structures of our church.” However, the group also said it was “deeply concerned about the consequences for the wider unity of the whole church.”

The General Synod is elected from the laity and clergy of each diocese and meets at least twice a year to consider legislation for the church. The synod has 484 members divided into the houses of bishops, clergy and laity. Its resolutions must receive the assent of the queen before becoming law.

The vote on women bishops was part of the synod’s meeting in York, England, July 11-15.

The Church of England began ordaining women to the priesthood in 1994. Consultative votes in the 43 dioceses of the Church in England showed overwhelming support for ordaining women bishops. Synod members were told that the majority of people in all dioceses voted yes and only nine dioceses reported a favorable vote of less than 90 percent.

A motion on ordaining women bishops failed in the synod by a tiny margin in 2012; commentators at the time said it failed because it did not ensure accommodations for opponents’ continued membership in the church.

To address those concerns, the House of Bishops presented “five principles” to the synod, including one that recognized that “those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion.”

The bishops promised such Anglicans “pastoral and sacramental provision” in a way that “maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England.”

When Cardinal Walter Kasper, then the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was invited to address the Anglican Communion’s Lambeth Conference in 2008, he told the delegates from around the world that ordaining women, especially as bishops, creates an obstacle to the Roman Catholic Church recognizing Anglican ordinations, a key step toward full unity.

The Second Vatican Council recognized that Anglicans held a special place among the Christian communities formed at the time of the Reformation because they maintained the three-fold ministry of deacon, priest and bishop and recognized the bishop’s role as a guardian of faith and the point of unity between the universal and local church.

Pope Benedict XVI, responding to a journalist’s question on a flight to Australia in 2008, said he hoped the Anglican Communion could “avoid schisms and splits” as they debated the ordination of women “and that they will find solutions that respond to the questions of our age, but that also are faithful to the Gospel.”


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After pope’s condemnation of mafia, bishop bans religious processions

July 10th, 2014 Posted in International News Tags: , , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A bishop in Calabria has ordered an end to all religious processions in his diocese after 30 men carrying a large statue of Mary and hundreds of people accompanying the statue paused and bowed in front of the house of a presumed mafia boss.

The first reaction of Bishop Francesco Milito of Oppido Mamertina-Palmi, Italy, was to say that those who bowed during the July 2 procession in Tresilico “are clearly far from even a minimum spirit of pure, correct and authentic faith.”

The bow, he said, was a “gesture of blasphemous devotion that is the opposite of what is due to the mother of God.”

In protest the local commander of the Carabinieri, the Italian military police, and members of his squad who had been accompanying the procession with the statue of Our Lady of Grace left the procession.

Although July and August are the most popular months for the religious processions that remain a key part of annual celebrations in cities, towns and neighborhoods, Bishop Milito announced that, beginning July 10, all processions would be suspended until diocesan leaders could work out rules and procedures for preventing their abuse.

Bishop Milito said the decision was a call to “caution and an invitation to reflection and silence,” but should not be read as “a gesture of mistrust or judgment of those who contribute with dedication and righteousness to processions.”

The ritual bow was made in front of the home of Peppe Mazzagatti, 82, sentenced to life in prison, but serving his sentence under house arrest because of ill health. He was convicted in connection with his presumed ties to the ’Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia.

Bishop Milito told SIR, the Italian bishops’ news agency, that “the lack of a correct reaction on the part of participants in the procession, including clergy and people active in the life of the church,” shows just how “hardened and dulled” people’s consciences are to the evil that is organized crime.

Pierluigi Natalia, a writer for the Vatican newspaper, wrote in the July 8 edition that “it certainly was not the first time something like this has happened in a region where the perversion of religious sentiment” is a characteristic of the mafia.

Because of the cultural ties to the mafia that some religious processions have had, Archbishop Salvatore Nunnari of Cosenza-Bisignano, president of the Calabrian bishops’ conference, said he would stop all religious processions in the region for at least two years.

“I think it would please Our Lady,” he said.

Also in early July, Italian newspapers were filled with headlines about prisoners, presumably with mafia ties, going on “strike” from attending Mass in the high-security wing of a prison in Larino. The stories said the inmates were protesting Pope Francis’ remarks in Sibari in late June that “those who follow the path of evil, like the mafiosi do, are not in communion with God; they are excommunicated.”

Bishop Gianfranco De Luca of Termoli-Larino, who celebrated Mass with the inmates July 6, told Vatican Radio they had not gone on strike, but the pope’s words had left them with serious questions.

“They were asking, ‘Does that mean we can’t go to Mass anymore? Can we receive Communion if we’re excommunicated?’” the bishop said. “They were shaken up by what the pope said.”

The men had so many questions for the prison chaplain, he said, that he decided to go see them in person. Before celebrating Mass for them, he said, there was a lively discussion about how people excommunicate themselves and what repentance means.

“But there was not a mutiny nor a decision not to go to Mass,” Bishop De Luca said. “Their consciences were moved by what the pope said.”

“Unfortunately,” he said, “movements of the heart and soul do not make news,” so media reports focused on the men being upset by the pope’s words.


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Vatican committee to revamp media outreach


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Seven months after hiring a consulting firm to study the Vatican’s communications structures, the Vatican has set up an 11-member committee, which includes Our Sunday Visitor’s Greg Erlandson, to suggest ways to increase collaboration and cut costs.

Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy and a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, announced the formation of the committee at a news conference July 9.

“The objectives are to adapt the Holy See media to changing media consumption trends, enhance coordination and achieve progressively and sensitively substantial financial savings,” he said.

The cardinal told reporters there currently is little or no relation between the Vatican’s individual media expenditures and the number of people reached around the world. For example, he said, at a time when fewer and fewer people around the world listen to the radio, the Vatican’s largest media employer is Vatican Radio, which produces programs in 45 languages.

At the same time, he said, the success of Pope Francis’ Twitter account and the PopeApp developed for mobile devices by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, offering a combination of Vatican Radio and other Vatican media-produced news, photos and video, show a need to strengthen the Vatican’s digital outreach.

Still, Cardinal Pell said, “the priority is not economic,” but using resources more efficiently to reach the greatest number of people possible. While cutting costs is one goal, “we do not want to diminish our outreach.”

The Vatican has nearly a dozen separate communication outlets and offices, many of which operate independently of one another. They include the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano; Vatican Radio; the Vatican television production studio, CTV; the Vatican Information Service; the Vatican press office; the Fides missionary news agency; the main Vatican website; the news.va news aggregator; the Vatican publishing house LEV; and the Vatican printing press.

Lord Chris Patten, former chairman of the BBC Trust and former chancellor of the University of Oxford, will serve as president of the commission. The 70-year-old British public servant is a Catholic and was coordinator of Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to the United Kingdom in 2010.

Irish Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, will serve as secretary of the commission, which has been asked to come up with recommendations in the next 12 months.

The commission members have been asked to review the report submitted to the Vatican by the global management-consulting firm McKinsey & Co. The firm was hired in December to review the Vatican communications structures and recommend ways to streamline and modernize them.

The other members of the commission are:

• Erlandson, who is president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing. He serves as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and, from 1986 to 1989, he was a correspondent in the Rome bureau of Catholic News Service.

• Daniela Frank, executive director of the Catholic Media Council in Germany and consultant to the council.

• French Dominican Father Eric Salobir, media promoter for the Dominicans worldwide.

• Leticia Soberon, a Mexican psychologist who is one of the founders and the chief content officer of dontknow.net, a website devoted to exploring ethical, moral and religious questions.

• George Yeo, former finance minister of Singapore and a member of the Vatican’s new Council for the Economy.

• Giacomo Ghisani, director of international relations and legal affairs at Vatican Radio.

• Msgr. Carlo Maria Polvani, head of the information and documentation office in the Vatican Secretariat of State’s section for general affairs and the Vatican’s representative to the government advisory committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

• Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz, who was born in Argentina and serves as head of the Vatican Internet Service and its telecommunications office.

• Giovanni Maria Vian, editor in chief of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.


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