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Vatican committee to revamp media outreach

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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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Vatican budgets for 2013 show surplus of 8.5 million euros – updated

July 8th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s final budget figures for 2013 showed a deficit on the part of the Roman Curia, but a strong performance by entities falling under the separate Vatican City State budget covered the deficit and helped the Vatican end the year 8.5 million euros ($11.6 million) in the black.

The Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, the Vatican’s budget management office, presented the consolidated budgets for the Holy See and for Vatican City State to members of the new Council for the Economy July 5, and a summary was released by the Vatican press office July 8.

The budget of the Holy See, which includes the offices of the Roman Curia and the Vatican communications outlets, ended 2013 with a deficit of more than 24.4 million euros. More than half the figure, 14 million euros, was attributed to a steep drop in the value of the Vatican’s investments in gold.

In 2013, the average price of gold fell more than 29 percent from its average value in 2012.

The Holy See deficit includes “a couple million” euros in costs associated with the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI in February 2013 and the conclave, election and inauguration of the ministry of Pope Francis, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.In 2005, the Vatican had estimated that the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the conclave, election and inauguration of the papacy of Pope Benedict cost about $8.9 million. That figure included the traditional extra pay given to Vatican employees on the occasion of a pope’s death and again after the election of a new pope. It also reflected the extra security needed for Pope John Paul’s funeral, employee overtime and temporary modifications of the Sistine Chapel for the conclave.

The College of Cardinals, which sets a budget and approves expenditures for a papal transition, opted not to give Vatican employees the two traditional bonuses in 2013.

Still, as always, the largest single item in the Holy See budget was “personnel.” With 2,886 employees, the total personnel cost was 125 million euros.

The Vatican City State budget, which includes the income-generating Vatican Museums and Vatican stamp and coin office, ended 2013 with a profit of more than 33 million euros, the statement said. The figure is an increase of 10 million euros over its 2012 surplus.

Vatican operations are supported, in part, by contributions from dioceses around the world. In 2013, the Vatican said, they gave 22.4 million euros, an increase of about 88,000 euros from 2012.

In addition, the Vatican bank, which donates profits from its investments to the pope to support works of charity and mission around the world, contributed 50 million euros. Another 4 million euros from the bank was given to foundations supporting cloistered monasteries, church projects in the Amazon region and church life in the countries of the former Soviet Union, the statement said.

 

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Pope Francis urges ban on producing, using landmines

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Landmines wound innocent civilians, “prolong war and nurture fear” long after conflicts have ended, Pope Francis told delegates working on the full implementation of an international treaty banning the production and use of anti-personnel mines.

A woman tries out a prosthetic limb at a rehabilitation center in Sana’a, Yemen, in April. According to government statistics, Yemen has cleared 524,000 landmines and explosive shells over the last 10 years. Pope Francis is urging international action to rid the world of landmines, which, he said, prolong war and nurture fear. (CNS photo/Yahya Arhab, EPA)

“Reduce the stockpile of weapons. Ban weapons that have no reason for existing in human society and instead invest in education, healthcare, saving our planet and building societies marked by more solidarity and brotherhood,” the pope said in a written message to representatives at the treaty review conference in late June.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent the message in the pope’s name to the conference in Maputo, Mozambique, a nation that in the early 1990s became a symbol of the tragedy of landmines and their effects, particularly on children killed or maimed when they went into a mined field.

The victims of landmines, the message said, “carry on their bodies and in their lives signs of an inhumane weapon, an irresponsible weapon, a weapon of cowards.”

For civilians in former war zones, “the environment around them is a constant threat when it should be a source of fruitfulness, development and the joy of living.”

Cardinal Parolin said Pope Francis offered his encouragement to all those working for a total, global ban on landmines and he urged the international community to put the treaty into effect immediately.

Pope Francis, he said, urges all countries to commit themselves to the destruction of all existing mines and a complete ban on their production “so that there are no more victims of mines” and so that “no child must live in fear of mines.”

 

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Pope phones rabbi, offers condolences over Israeli teens’ murder

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis telephoned Rome’s chief rabbi to personally express his sadness over the murder of three kidnapped Israeli teens whose bodies were found June 30 in Hebron, West Bank.

Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni said the pope phoned him at home late in the afternoon July 1 and said: “Good evening. This is Pope Francis. I wanted to personally express my sadness for the death of the three youths.”

The parents and other family members of Naftali Frankel attend his funeral service in Nof Ayalon, Israel, July 1. Ayalon was one of three Israeli teens found dead in a West Bank field 18 days after they disappeared trying to hitchhike home. Israel blamed the Islamist movement Hamas and launched targeted airstrikes into the Gaza Strip (CNS photo/Jim Hollander, EPA)

The rabbi told Rome’s Il Messaggero newspaper he was surprised since the Vatican press office had already published a strong statement condemning the murders of the boys who were kidnapped in mid-June and conveying the pope’s condolences.

During their phone conversation, he said, the pope asked if there was anything he could do.

“It was an informal conversation, very human. He’s an extraordinary man,” the rabbi said.

Rabbi Di Segni also told Il Messaggero that he had been working with Vatican officials to arrange a meeting at the Vatican between Pope Francis and the families of the three kidnapped boys as part of the effort to generate international pressure for their release.

Pope Francis told the rabbi his willingness to meet the families and embrace the boys’ grieving mothers had not changed.

Meanwhile, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem condemned political and religious leaders who, he said, were fanning the desire for revenge. The discovery of the three young Israelis’ bodies led to a large demonstration in Jerusalem July 1.

A 17-year-old Palestinian male was found murdered July 2 in a forested area on the outskirts of Jerusalem. His family had reported him missing earlier in the day, and many people suspected his death was a revenge killing.

“Vengeance begets vengeance and blood begets blood,” Patriarch Twal said. “The innocent young people murdered, all murdered young people, are victims sacrificed on the diabolical altar of hatred.”

In the original statement conveying the pope’s condolences, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, called the killings “terrible and dramatic.”

“The assassination of innocent people is always an execrable and unacceptable crime and a serious obstacle on the path toward the peace for which we must tirelessly continue to strive and pray,” Father Lombardi said.

“Pope Francis participates in the unspeakable suffering of the families struck by this homicidal violence and the pain of all persons afflicted by the consequences of hatred,” Father Lombardi said, and he “prays that God might inspire all with thoughts of compassion and peace.”

After the boys’ bodies were found, Israeli military launched what it described as “precision strikes” on 34 sites in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Defense Forces said the strikes were in response to 18 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel June 29-30.

The three teens were kidnapped as they were hitchhiking home from their school in Gush Etzion, a cluster of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, near Bethlehem. Israeli officials accused Hamas, which recently formed a coalition government with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of being responsible for the abduction.

Abbas condemned the kidnapping, and Palestinian security forces were coordinating with the Israelis to find the kidnappers.

Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali, chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, had asked anyone with information about the kidnapping of the three teens to come forward and help return the youths to their families. At the same time, June 25, he called on the Israeli army to keep its reaction and its search methods proportionate.

“Kidnapping three Israeli young people is not fair, and is against human rights and human dignity. We are opposed to this; this is not the right way to make peace,” he told Catholic News Service. “(But) the reaction of the Israeli army is disproportionate to what happened.”

At that point, he said, Israeli army forces had arrested some 600 Palestinians in their search for the youth; others estimated 400 were arrested.

 

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Pope offers condolences to families of Israeli teens found dead

July 1st, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis expressed his participation in the “unspeakable suffering” of the families of three kidnapped Israeli teens whose bodies were found June 30 in Hebron, West Bank.

In a statement conveying the pope’s condolences, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, called the killings “terrible and dramatic.”

“The assassination of innocent people is always an execrable and unacceptable crime and a serious obstacle on the path toward the peace for which we must tirelessly continue to strive and pray,” Father Lombardi said.

“Pope Francis participates in the unspeakable suffering of the families struck by this homicidal violence and the pain of all persons afflicted by the consequences of hatred,” Father Lombardi said, and he “prays that God might inspire all with thoughts of compassion and peace.”

After the boys’ bodies were found, Israeli military launched what it described as “precision strikes” on 34 sites in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Defense Forces said the strikes were in response to 18 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel June 29-30.

The three teens were kidnapped in mid-June as they were hitchhiking home from their school in Gush Etzion, a cluster of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, near Bethlehem. Israeli officials accused Hamas, which recently formed a coalition government with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of being responsible for the abduction.

Abbas condemned the kidnapping, and Palestinian security forces were coordinating with the Israelis to find the kidnappers.

Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali, chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, had asked anyone with information about the kidnapping of the three teens to come forward and help return the youths to their families. At the same time, June 25, he called on the Israeli army to keep its reaction and its search methods proportionate.

“Kidnapping three Israeli young people is not fair, and is against human rights and human dignity. We are opposed to this; this is not the right way to make peace,” he told Catholic News Service. But “the reaction of the Israeli army is disproportionate to what happened.”

At that point, he said, Israeli army forces had arrested some 600 Palestinians in their search for the youth; others estimated 400 were arrested.

 

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‘Sudden ailment’ causes pope to cancel visit to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital

By

Catholic News Service

ROME — At the moment Pope Francis was scheduled to leave the Vatican to travel to Rome’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and its Gemelli Hospital, patients and staff were told the pope had to postpone his visit because he was not feeling well.

Medical staff members take pictures of the popemobile in front of Gemelli Hospital in Rome June 27. Pope Francis cancelled a visit to the hospital at the last minute because of what the Vatican called a “sudden indisposition.” The Vatican gave no immediate details about what, if anything, was ailing the 77-year-old pontiff, who has cancelled a number of engagements in the last few weeks because of minor health issues. (CNS photo/Giampiero Sposito, Reuters)

“Because of a sudden ailment, the Holy Father will not go to the Gemelli for the announced visit,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said a few minutes later. He declined to give more information about the pope’s condition.

Staff members, patients and their families were already gathered in the hospital lobby waiting for the pope to arrive. Pediatric patients were seated in the lobby and a microphone for the 77-year-old pope was ready. Domenico Gianni, the head of Vatican security who often travels with the pope, and other officers, as well as photographers from the Vatican newspaper also were waiting.

“The pope stayed home,” Father Lombardi said.

The spokesman said the visit would be rescheduled.

Several hours after announcing the pope would not go to Gemelli, Father Lombardi issued a brief note confirming Pope Francis’ commitments for the next two days, including the June 29 Mass for the feast of Sts. Peter and Pau. At the Mass each year, popes give the pallium — a woolen band worn around the shoulders — to new archbishops.

“There is no reason to be worried about the pope’s health,” Father Lombardi said.

At least four times in the past seven months, Pope Francis has canceled appointments because he wasn’t feeling well. In December, the pope postponed a meeting with Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan and organizers of the World Expo that will be held there. In February, at the last minute, the Vatican said he was ill, so he canceled a visit to Rome’s major seminary. His scheduled May 18 visit to Rome’s Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love was canceled so the pope could rest before going to the Holy Land May 24-26. Most of his appointments June 9 were canceled because he wasn’t feeling well.

In addition, because of the difficulty he has been having in walking long distances, Pope Francis chose not to walk in the mile-long Corpus Christi procession June 19. Instead, he celebrated Mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, then met the procession at the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Cardinal Scola presided at the Mass Pope Francis had been scheduled to celebrate at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and read the homily the pope had prepared.

In the text, Pope Francis had written that a Christian should see his or her life as an opportunity to witness God’s love by humbly serving and caring for others. The day’s feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, he said, was an occasion to reflect on how well one loves others. Is one consistent or “do I follow my moods and my fondness” for certain people?

The homily focused on Jesus’ sacred heart as a sign and symbol of God’s faithful, immeasurable love.

“God has set his heart on us, he has chosen us, and this bond is forever, not because we are faithful, but because the Lord is faithful and puts up with our infidelity, our slowness and our failures,” the text said.

“We can experience and taste the tenderness of this love at every stage of our lives, in times of joy as well as sadness, in times of health as well as in sickness,” Pope Francis had written.

 

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Fall meeting at Vatican to review state of family; 2015 synod to draw up proposals

June 26th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Representatives of the world’s Catholic bishops, meeting together in a synod, are not expected to make any formal proposals about the church’s pastoral care of families until after a second, larger gathering in 2015.

The extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family will meet at the Vatican Oct. 5-19, bringing together the presidents of national bishops’ conferences, the heads of Eastern Catholic churches and Vatican officials. The world Synod of Bishops, which will include more bishops, many elected by their peers, will meet at the Vatican Oct. 4-25, 2015.

Introducing the working document for the first synod assembly, formally an “extraordinary” synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, said participants “will thoroughly examine and analyze the information, testimonies and recommendations received” from around the world in response to a questionnaire sent out in November.

The responses to the questionnaire, submitted by about 90 percent of the world’s bishops’ conferences and about 800 Catholic organizations or individuals, formed the basis for the working document for the extraordinary assembly.

The results of the extraordinary assembly will form the basis for the working document for the 2015 meeting, he said.

The general assembly in 2015, “representing a great part of the episcopate and continuing the work of the previous synod, will reflect further on the points discussed so as to formulate appropriate pastoral guidelines,” the cardinal said.

Only the suggestions of the 2015 synod will be forwarded to the pope as formal proposals for church action, he said.

The theme of the extraordinary synod is: “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” Cardinal Baldisseri said there would be about 190 voting members, plus “fraternal delegates” from other Christian churches as well as observers and experts appointed by Pope Francis.

At a news conference June 26, Cardinal Baldisseri announced that the theme of the 2015 synod would be: “Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the family.” That gathering, he said, was expected to include about 250 voting members.

In a letter to families in February, Pope Francis explained that the “extraordinary synodal assembly will be followed a year later by the ordinary assembly, which will also have the family as its theme.”

The pope also noted that the World Meeting of Families would take place in Philadelphia in September 2015; “may we all, then, pray together so that through these events the church will undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel.”

Cardinal Baldisseri announced that Catholics around the world will be asked to observe a day of prayer for the synod and its deliberations Sept. 28.

Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, chosen by Pope Francis to be the special secretary of the extraordinary synod, told reporters June 26, “the doctrine of the church is not up for discussion,” but the synod members will be called upon to find ways to improve the “pastoral application” of church teachings, ways to explain it and to help Catholics live it.

 

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Church community is essential for faith; there is no such thing as ‘do-it-yourself,’ pope says

June 25th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians are not made in a laboratory, but in a community called the church, Pope Francis said.

At his weekly general audience June 25, Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks about the church, telling an estimated 33,000 people that there is no such thing as “do-it-yourself” Christians or “free agents” when it comes to faith.

At his weekly general audience June 25, Pope Francis described as “dangerous” the temptation to believe that one can have “a personal, direct, immediate relationship with Jesus Christ without communion with and the mediation of the church.” (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

Every Christian, he said, can trace his or her faith back to parents, grandparents, teachers or friends. “I always remember the nun who taught me catechism. I know she’s in heaven because she was a holy woman,” he said.

In the Old Testament, the pope said, God called Abraham and began to form a people that would become a blessing for the world. “With great patience, and God has a lot of it, he prepared the people of the ancient covenant and in Jesus Christ constituted them as a sign and instrument of the union of humanity with God and unity with one another.”

Pope Francis described as “dangerous” the temptation to believe that one can have “a personal, direct, immediate relationship with Jesus Christ without communion with and the mediation of the church.”

Obviously, he said, it is not always easy to walk the path of faith with other people. “Sometimes it’s tiring. It can happen that a brother or sister creates problems for us or scandalizes us, but the Lord entrusted his message of salvation to human beings, to us, to witnesses,” he said.

“It is through our brothers and sisters with their gifts and their limits,” the pope said, “that he comes to us and makes himself known. This is what belonging to the church means. Remember: being Christian means belonging to the church. If your first name is Christian, your last name is Member of the Church.”

At the end of his talk, the pope asked people to join him in praying that they would never “give into the temptation of thinking you can do without others, without the church, that you can save yourself, of thinking you can be a laboratory Christian.”

Christians, he said, are not manufactured in isolation, but belong to a long line of believers who handed on the faith and challenged one another to live it fully.

The audience was the last the pope was scheduled to hold before beginning a reduced summer schedule.

The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English is available online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/audiences/2014/documents/papa-francesco_20140625_udienza-generale_en.html

 

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Pope condemns mafia, says members are excom-municated

June 23rd, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In the stronghold of an Italian crime syndicate believed to be richer and more powerful than the Sicilian Mafia, Pope Francis said, “Those who follow the path of evil, like the mafiosi do, are not in communion with God; they are excommunicated!”

During a Mass June 21 in the southern region of Calabria, Pope Francis made clear that even if the mob families continue to go to Mass and decorate their homes and hideouts with religious pictures, they have cut themselves off from communion with the church and with God. Read more »

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Fortnight for Freedom: Religious liberty includes being able to live faith’s values, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Real religious liberty includes the freedom to live according to the values taught by one’s faith, Pope Francis said.

“Religious freedom is not just a matter of thought or private devotion,” the pope said June 20. “It is the freedom to live — both privately and publicly — according to the ethical principles that are a consequence of the truth found.” Read more »

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