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Doctrinal chief says bishops must be accountable in abuse prevention


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Bishops of dioceses around the world have an obligation to work to prevent clerical sexual abuse and to ensure that priests in their dioceses do not commit acts of abuse, said Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“If, unfortunately, these crimes are verified, they fall under the exclusive competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which, however, always needs the assistance and collaboration of ordinaries and well-prepared canonists to act effectively and prudently,” he said in a speech at Rome’s Pontifical Urbanian University.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, printed what it described as “ample excerpts” from the speech March 12.

The cardinal spoke during a March 9-10 special course at the university looking specifically at “crimes against the sacrament of penance.” However, he spoke in general about the crimes the church defines as “more grave delicts,” which includes the sexual abuse of minors.

The ordinaries of dioceses and their collaborators, he said, “have the obligation to prevent and to be vigilant in order to avoid the commission of such crimes.”

In early February, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said the commission had drawn up recommendations for Pope Francis aimed at making bishops and superiors of religious orders accountable for following church norms regarding child protection and the handling of allegations of abuse made against a priest.

In the speech excerpted by the Vatican newspaper, Cardinal Muller said that in the past 15 years the church has faced “a serious challenge in which the credibility of its teaching has been placed in doubt because of certain actions, the ‘graviora delicta’ (more grave crimes), on the part of some of its sons and by the lack of a response to confront it.”

“It is not enough for us to say that it is a matter of lies sown by enemies of the church, who nevertheless profit from the circumstances,” Cardinal Muller said.

“The obligation to seek justice in the cases of the ‘graviora delicta’ can in no way be considered opposed to the obligations of charity or mercy,” he said. “Neither charity as the highest virtue consistent with love of God and one’s neighbor, nor mercy as the inclination of compassion and assistance for the misery of others, can be true if they are introduced on the basis of injustice.”

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Two years after his election: Pope Francis talks about his papacy and the future


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When Pope Francis went out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time, he said he did not prepare what he was going to say, but “I felt deeply that a minister needs the blessing of God, but also of his people.” Read more »

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God forgives and expects you to do the same, pope says

March 10th, 2015 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Opening one’s heart to God’s forgiveness means also being willing to forgive others, Pope Francis said.

“If I am not capable of forgiving, I’m not capable of being forgiven,” he said March 10 in the homily at his early morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta where he lives.

Pope Francis (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis (CNS/Paul Haring)

The day’s Gospel reading, Matthew 18:21-35, begins with Jesus telling his disciples they must forgive others “77 times,” which means “always,” the pope said.

While God is all-powerful, he explained, God stops at the “closed door” of a heart not truly interested in forgiveness.

In the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus himself taught the disciples, people say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

“That is what Jesus teaches us about forgiveness,” the pope said. “The forgiveness God will give you” calls for “the forgiveness that you grant others.”

“God always forgives, always,” he said. “But he asks that I forgive. If I don’t forgive, in a certain sense I am closing the door to God’s forgiveness.”

Pope Francis also said asking God’s forgiveness for having committed a sin is much more than the equivalent of saying, “Oops, I goofed.”

“Sin is not just a simple mistake,” he said. “Sin is idolatry. It is adoring the idol, the idol of pride or vanity, money, myself or well-being — the many idols we have.”


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Pope tells theologians don’t be ‘bureaucrats of the sacred’


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis asked academics in every discipline of theology, including moral theology, spirituality and canon law, to focus on how their area of study “can reflect the centrality of mercy” in the Gospel.

“Without mercy our theology, our law, our pastoral work runs the risk of crumbling into bureaucratic pettiness or into an ideology that, by its nature, tries to domesticate mystery,” the pope said in a letter released March 9. “To understand theology is to understand God, who is love.”

Pope Francis made his request in a letter to his successor, Cardinal Mario Poli of Buenos Aires, grand chancellor of the Catholic University of Argentina. The university’s theology school is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The university’s theology students, the pope said, should not be trained as “museum theologians who accumulate data and information about revelation without really knowing what do to with it,” nor should they be cold observers of human and church history.

“Good theologians, like good pastors, should have the smell of the people and the street,” the pope said, and the work in the various fields of theology should give them the balm needed to heal the wounds of the people with whom they will come into contact.

They should not be “bureaucrats of the sacred,” he said, but men and women who know, love and understand the church and its teaching, but also know, love and understand the modern world and are capable of helping people make sense of both.


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Let Jesus cleanse you of your sins, Pope Francis urges


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian faith and a moral life are responses to God’s mercy and not the result of “titanic” human effort, Pope Francis said.

In meetings and Masses March 7-8, the pope repeatedly returned to the theme of the church as an agent of God’s mercy and to the benefits of returning to confession during Lent.

Marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Communion and Liberation lay movement, Pope Francis met March 7 with more than 80,000 members who filled St. Peter’s Square and the boulevard leading to it.

Pope Francis speaks as he meets with parishioners during a visit to St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer Parish on the outskirts of Rome March 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis speaks as he meets with parishioners during a visit to St. Mary Mother of the Redeemer Parish on the outskirts of Rome March 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Belonging to a Catholic movement or any other church group is supposed to help Catholics live a Christian life and reach out to others, he said. If instead it becomes a “brand-name spirituality” and an identity that excludes others, it is just another organization.

“Focused on Christ and the Gospel, you can be the arms, hands, feet, mind and heart of a church that goes out,” he said. “The path of the church is to go out in search of those far off in the peripheries, to serve Jesus in every person who is marginalized, abandoned, without faith, disillusioned with the church or a prisoner of their own selfishness.”

The only way to share the faith with others is to have first experienced the grace of God’s mercy, he told the crowd. “Only one who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy truly knows the Lord.”

When one has sinned and experienced God’s forgiveness, he said, he or she is filled with the desire to change and to live differently. “The Christian moral life is not a titanic self-willed effort by a person who decides to be consistent and is able to do so after some kind of solidarity challenge.”

Instead, Pope Francis said, living a moral life is the ongoing response to “a surprising, unpredictable mercy, a mercy that is, in fact, unjust according to human terms, from the God who knows me, knows my betrayals and yet loves me anyway, prizes me, embraces me, calls me again, hopes in me and waits for me.”

The mission of the church is to be a sacrament of that mercy in the world, he said. The path of the church is “to demonstrate the great mercy of God.”

Pope Francis reminded the Communion and Liberation members that he had told new cardinals in February, “The way of the church is not to condemn anyone for eternity,” but “to pour out God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart.”

In his Angelus address at the Vatican March 8 and during his homily at a Mass that evening at Rome’s Church of St. Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, the pope returned to the theme of mercy.

At both events, he used the Gospel story of Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the temple as a call to Catholics to allow Jesus to cleanse their hearts, especially during Lent and particularly through the sacrament of penance.

People should ask themselves: “Would I allow Jesus to do a bit of cleansing in my heart?” he said at the Angelus. The Gospel story demonstrating Jesus’ anger could make people afraid, he said, “but Jesus will never beat you; Jesus cleanses with tenderness. Mercy is his way of cleansing.”

During Mass in the parish, Pope Francis repeated the last lines of the Gospel story: Jesus “knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.”

“Jesus knows everything that is in our hearts. We cannot fool Jesus,” he said. “We cannot stand before him and pretend to be saints.”

Honesty is the best policy, he said. Stand before Jesus and tell him that while you do some good things, you are also a sinner. “If you tell him, ‘I’m a sinner,’ it won’t frighten him.”

Just like the temple that Jesus entered in the Gospel story, “inside of us there is dirt, there are the sins of selfishness, arrogance, pride, lust, envy, jealousy,” he said. “Open your hearts to Jesus’ mercy. Say to him, ‘Jesus, look at all this dirt. Come, cleanse it. Cleanse it with your mercy, with your sweet word; cleanse me with your caress.’”


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Pope plans to canonize St. Therese’s parents during family synod


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is expected to canonize Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, during the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, leading a conference Feb. 27 on the role of saints in the life of the church, announced that “thanks be to God, in October two spouses, parents of Saint Therese of Lisieux, will be canonized.” Read more »

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Pope shares St. Francis’ opinion of money, says people must come first


Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY —Profit must never be a Christian’s god, although it is one of the tools for measuring the effectiveness of business choices and the ability of a company to help workers feed their families, Pope Francis said.

St. Francis of Assisi (depicted in this fresco at Assisi) once said that "money is the devil's dung." Pope Francis used that quote this week to warn that "when money become an idol, it dictates people's choices."  (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

St. Francis of Assisi (depicted in this fresco at Assisi) once said that “money is the devil’s dung.” Pope Francis used that quote this week to warn that “when money become an idol, it dictates people’s choices.” (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

“Money is the devil’s dung,” the pope said Feb. 28, quoting St. Francis of Assisi. “When money becomes an idol, it dictates people’s choices.” Meeting with members of an Italian association of Catholic farm, credit, housing and shopping cooperatives, the pope urged the co-ops to remain true to their original inspiration of modeling an economy where the needs of the human person are the absolute priority and where sharing and solidarity are at the center of the business model. When unemployment rates are high and there are long “lines of people looking for work,” he said, workers are easily exploited. They will accept long hours for low pay, knowing that if they don’t they will be told, “If you don’t like it, someone else will.” “Hunger makes us accept whatever is given,” even a job that pays under the table, the pope said. Italy’s birthrate has been declining for 50 years, leading many government and church officials to raise an alarm about the financial risks associated with a steady growth in the number of retired people and the shrinking pool of people working and paying taxes. Pope Francis told the Catholic cooperatives that supporting and “even encouraging family life” must be part of their mission in serving their members and influencing the economy. “An economy can never be renewed in a society that is aging instead of growing,” he said. In addition, he said, “to help women fully realize their vocations and allow their talents to bear fruit” and to help them be “protagonists in companies as well as in the family,” the work world must include greater flexibility and services, such as childcare. Cooperatives and anyone truly concerned about the human person and the economy’s impact on individuals and families, he said, must keep in mind the “dizzying increase in unemployed people, the constant tears of the poor” and the need for development that provides jobs and an income while protecting human dignity and ensuring access to health care and a future pension. Pope Francis asked the Catholic cooperatives to solidify their original ties with Catholic parishes and dioceses, but also to look for ways to work with other cooperatives to expand their reach, involve more people and discover new areas where co-ops could meet social and economic needs. “It is a real mission,” he told them, a mission that “calls for a creative imagination to find new forms, methods, attitudes and instruments to combat the ‘throwaway culture’ in which we live, the ‘throwaway culture’ cultivated by the powers that prop up the economic-financial policies of the globalized world where the god money is at the center.” The predominant free market economic model is not working, the pope said; cooperatives need profits to survive, but they must ensure profits do not become an exclusive goal. Catholic co-ops cannot be like “certain forms of liberalism” that believe “it is necessary first of all to produce wealth, and it doesn’t matter how, and then to promote some redistribution policies on the part of the state,” the pope said. He described that approach as being one of “first filling up the glass, then giving to others.” “Others think that companies themselves must share crumbs from the wealth they accumulate, absolving themselves in that way from their so-called social responsibility,” he said. “They run the risk of thinking they are doing good when, unfortunately, they are just doing an exercise in marketing without breaking the fatal cycle of people and businesses who are focused on the god money.”

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Vatican security always on high alert, chief says after IS threats

March 2nd, 2015 Posted in Featured, Vatican News


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The head of Vatican security said Islamic State militants have threatened the Vatican, but there are no indications of any planned attack.

Domenico Giani, left, commander of the Vatican police force, keeps watch as Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass with bishops, priests and members of religious orders in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Manila, Philippines, in this Jan. 16, 2015, file photo. Giani said that he is not aware of any plans to attack the Vatican or the pope although Islamic State militants have made general threats. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Domenico Giani, left, commander of the Vatican police force, keeps watch as Pope Francis arrives to celebrate Mass with bishops, priests and members of religious orders in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Manila, Philippines, in this Jan. 16, 2015, file photo. Giani said that he is not aware of any plans to attack the Vatican or the pope although Islamic State militants have made general threats. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Vatican gendarmes, Swiss Guards and the Italian state police that patrol the perimeter of Vatican City State are always on high alert, said Domenico Giani, the commander of the gendarme and the pope’s chief bodyguard.

“There are not only the threats of the Islamic State, but also the risk of action by individuals, which is more dangerous because it is unpredictable,” he said in an interview for the March edition of Polizia Moderna, the monthly magazine of the Italian state police.

For months, there have been rumors of threats against the Vatican or Pope Francis by the Islamic State militants who are attacking Christians, other religious minorities and Muslims they do not agree with in Syria and Iraq. Concern heightened in February when militants claiming to be allied with the Islamic State group murdered 21 Christians in Libya, which is less than 300 miles from the Italian mainland.

“The threat exists,” Giani said. “That is what has emerged in meetings with my Italian and foreign colleagues. But the existence of a threat is one thing and planning an attack is another. At this time, we have not been informed of any plans to attack the Vatican or the Holy Father.”

Giani, who worked in the Italian secret service before moving to the Vatican, said he is in frequent contact with Italian and other government intelligence services, including some from predominantly Muslim countries. “I can say that today the pontiff is seen and respected by Muslims as the most influential moral authority in the world, and that is on the part of both religious and civil leaders.”

Asked how Pope Francis is living with the threat, Giani responded: “The Holy Father does not intend to abandon the style of his pontificate, which is based on proximity, that is, on a direct encounter with the greatest number of people possible. Even as pontiff, he has remained a priest who does not want to lose contact with his flock.”

“Those of us entrusted with his security must adapt to his style and not the other way around,” he said. “We must do everything possible so that he can continue to carry out his ministry as he wants and believes is best.”

Giani said Pope Francis “is well aware of the threats” against him, “but his only concern is for the faithful.”

The Apostolic Palace, where Pope Francis chose not to live, “is more difficult to access” than the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he has taken up residence, Giani said. “But as I said, the Holy Father has chosen a way of living and does not intend to change it because of a potential risk.”

In addition to his constant collaboration with the Swiss Guard and Italian police forces and his contact with a variety of security services, Giani said the Vatican is aided by a high-tech operations center and “thousands of security cameras installed” in Vatican City and in Vatican buildings around Rome.

Asked if his office ever taps telephones, he said, “it happens sometimes,” but rarely.


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Return with tears to God’s loving embrace during Lent, pope says


Catholic News Service

ROME — Lent is a journey of purification and penance, a movement that should bring one tearfully back to the loving arms of the merciful Father, Pope Francis said at an Ash Wednesday Mass that began with a procession on Rome’s Aventine Hill.

After walking from the Benedictine monastery of St. Anselm to the Dominican-run Basilica of Santa Sabina Feb. 18, Pope Francis celebrated Mass. He received ashes on the top of his head from Cardinal Jozef Tomko, titular cardinal of the basilica, and distributed ashes to the Benedictines, the Dominicans, his closest aides and a family of five.

Pope Francis celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome Feb. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome Feb. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

When a priest places ashes on one’s head or forehead, he recites: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” or “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

Both, Pope Francis said, are “a reminder of the truth of human existence: We are limited creatures, sinners always in need of repentance and conversion. How important it is to listen and accept these reminders.”

In his homily before the ashes were distributed, the pope encouraged Catholics to ask God for “the gift of tears in order to make our prayer and our journey of conversion more authentic and without hypocrisy.”

The day’s first reading, Joel 2:12-18, described the Old Testament priests weeping as they prayed that God would spare their people. “It would do us good to ask, do I cry? Does the pope cry? Do the cardinals? The bishops? Consecrated people? Priests? Do tears come when we pray?”

In the day’s Gospel reading (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18), Jesus warns his disciples three times against showing off the good works they do “like the hypocrites do.”

“When we do something good, almost instinctively the desire is born in us to be esteemed and admired for this good action, to get some satisfaction from it,” the pope said. But Jesus “calls us to do these things without any ostentation and to trust only in God’s reward.”

“Do you know something, brothers and sisters, hypocrites do not know how to cry,” the pope said. “They have forgotten how to cry. They don’t ask for the gift of tears.”

The Lenten call to conversion, he said, means returning “to the arms of God, the tender and merciful father, to cry in that embrace, to trust him and entrust oneself to him.”

During the 40 days of Lent, he said, Christians should make a greater effort to draw closer to Christ, which is why the church recommends the tools of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

But, he said, “conversion is not just a human work. Reconciliation between us and God is possible thanks to the mercy of the Father who, out of love for us, did not hesitate to sacrifice his only-begotten son.”

In the reading from Joel, the prophet calls people to “interior conversion,” the pope said, a conversion that requires a return to God “with your whole heart.”

“Please,” the pope said. “Let’s stop. Let’s pause a while and allow ourselves to be reconciled with God.”

Lent, he said, is time “to begin the journey of a conversion that is not superficial and transitory, but a spiritual itinerary” that goes straight to a person’s heart, the focal point “of our sentiments, the center in which our choices and attitudes mature.”

What is more, he said, the reading makes clear that the call is addressed to the whole community, which is to “proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children.”

Pope Francis prayed that Mary would accompany Christians in their “spiritual battle against sin” and would accompany them in their Lenten journey so they could exult with her at Easter.


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Pope Francis urges new cardinals to go in search of the lost, bring them in


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church cannot call itself church if it is a “closed caste” where the sick, the wounded and sinners are shunned, Pope Francis told the 20 new cardinals he created.

“The way of the church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those essentially on the outskirts of life,” the pope said Feb. 15 as he celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with 19 of the churchmen who received their red hats the day before and with about 140 other members of the College of Cardinals.

New Cardinals Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok, Thailand, Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, and Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento, Italy, pray the Our Father during Pope Francis' Mass with new cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 15. The pope created 20 new cardinals at a consistory the previous day in the basilica. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

New Cardinals Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok, Thailand, Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, and Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento, Italy, pray the Our Father during Pope Francis’ Mass with new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 15. The pope created 20 new cardinals at a consistory the previous day in the basilica. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Total openness to serving others is our hallmark; it alone is our title of honor,” he told the men often referred to as “princes of the church.”

The Mass capped a four-day gathering of the cardinals. They met with Pope Francis Feb. 12-13 to review ideas for the reform of the Roman Curia and Vatican finances as well as the progress made in the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The pope’s homily at Mass with the cardinals, the meditation on love and charity he offered Feb. 14 when he created the new cardinals and his exhortation that the Curia reform emphasize its role of service echo remarks he had made as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires at the meetings immediately preceding his election in March 2013.

Evangelization presupposes that the church does not want to be locked up inside herself, but wants to go “to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents, and of all misery,” he said in an outline of the 2013 talk that was released after his election.

Even Pope Francis’ choice of new cardinals emphasized his focus on geographical peripheries and outreach to those often excluded from society. The 20 new cardinals came from 18 countries, including the first-ever cardinals from Tonga, Myanmar and Cape Verde. In his second round of naming cardinals, he once again skipped large Italian dioceses usually headed by cardinals, notably Venice and Turin, and tapped Ancona and Agrigento, which is led by now-Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, a dedicated defender of the thousands of immigrants who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

In the almost two years since his election, Pope Francis repeatedly has called Catholics to reach out to people on the margins of both the church and society. He also frequently cautions against the temptation of being modern-day scribes and Pharisees, who can allow obedience to the letter of the law to prevent them from reaching out to others with compassion.

The Sunday Gospel reading was St. Mark’s version of Jesus touching a leper, which was forbidden by Jewish law, healing him and, in that way, allowing him back into the community.

The purpose of the law against touching someone with leprosy and forcing them to live outside the community “was to safeguard the healthy, to protect the righteous,” the pope said.

“Jesus, the new Moses, wanted to heal the leper,” the pope said. “He wanted to touch him and restore him to the community without being hemmed in by prejudice, conformity to the prevailing mindset or worry about becoming infected.”

What is more, the pope said, “Jesus responds immediately to the leper’s plea, without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences.”

“For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family,” he said. “This is scandalous to some people.”

But Jesus, he said, “does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity.”

Pope Francis said there are two basic tendencies in the life of faith: being afraid of losing the saved, or wanting to save the lost. The church’s way, he said, “has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement.”

Going out in search of the lost, he told the cardinals, “does not mean underestimating the dangers of letting wolves into the fold,” but it does mean “rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world.”

“The way of the church is not to condemn anyone for eternity,” he said, but “to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart.”


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