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Vatican Letter: Pope Francis’ pro-life challenge: Respect all life, oppose death penalty

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ recent statement that the death penalty is incompatible with the Gospel focused less on a government’s role in protecting its people and more on the need to defend the sacredness and dignity of every human life. Read more »

Pope: Catholics, Methodists can strengthen each other through shared witness of faith

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Catholics and Methodists can strengthen each other through a shared witness of faith, especially through acts of love toward the poor and the marginalized, Pope Francis said.

The mutual call to holiness shared by both communities “is necessarily a call to communion with others, too,” the pope said Oct. 19. Read more »

R E S P E C T — Don’t just tolerate other religions, Vatican officials say

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Peace and harmony will not result from members of different religions simply tolerating each other; respect and appreciation of customs and cultural diversity is required, top Vatican officials said in a message to the world’s Hindus.

Hindu women pray for peace Oct. 1 at the Sri Bunar Maha Shiva Hindu temple in Yangon, Myanmar. Peace and harmony will not result from members of different religions simply tolerating each other; respect and appreciation of customs and cultural diversity is required, top Vatican officials said in a message to the world’s Hindus. (CNS photo/Nyein Chan Naing, EPA)

“Respect creates space for every person and nurtures within us a sense of feeling at home with others. Rather than dividing and isolating, respect allows us to see our differences as a sign of the diversity and richness of the one human family,” said the message from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, respectively the president and secretary of the pontifical, extended their best wishes to the world’s 1.1 billion Hindus for the feast of Diwali, a three-day religious festival, which was to begin Oct. 19 in most parts of the world. The festival focuses on the victory of truth over lies, light over darkness, life over death and good over evil.

The path to mutual respect between communities has no room for intolerance, which spawns “violence in many parts of the world,” the message said. Thus, a true culture of respect is required for peacemaking and harmonious living between communities.

“We are challenged then to go beyond the confines of tolerance by showing respect to all individuals and communities for everyone desires and deserves to be valued according to his or her innate dignity,” said the Vatican officials.

The message to Hindus was released Oct. 16 at the Vatican.

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Risky papal behavior? Pope Francis calls interviews ‘a risk I want to take’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Replying to questions and giving interviews are a “pastoral risk” Pope Francis said he is prepared to take, because it is the best way to know and respond to people’s real concerns.

“I know this can make me vulnerable, but it is a risk I want to take,” the pope wrote in the introduction to a new book collecting transcripts of question-and-answer sessions he has held all over the world.

Pope Francis gestures during a general audience talk last month in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The collection in Italian, “Adesso Fate le Vostre Domande” (“Now, Ask Your Questions”), was edited by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro and scheduled for release Oct. 19. The pope’s introduction was published Oct. 17 in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

“I want a church that knows how to enter into people’s conversations, that knows how to dialogue,” Pope Francis wrote.

The model is the Gospel account of the risen Lord’s meeting with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. “The Lord interviews the disciples who are walking discouraged,” he said. “For me, the interview is part of this conversation the church is having with men and women today.”

The interviews and Q & A sessions “always have a pastoral value,” Pope Francis said, and are an important part of his ministry, just like inviting a small group of people to his early morning Mass each day.

The chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, where he lives, “is, let’s say, my parish. I need that communication with people.”

And, in interviews, the journalists often ask the questions that are on the minds of the faithful, he said.

The most regular appointment he has for responding to questions is on the flights back to Rome from his foreign trips when he holds a news conference with the journalists who travel with him.

“There, too, on those trips, I like to look people in the eye and respond to their questions sincerely,” he wrote. “I know that I have to be prudent, and I hope I am. I always pray to the Holy Spirit before I start listening to the questions and responding.”

His favorite interviews, he said, are with small, neighborhood newspapers and magazines. “There I feel even more at ease,” the pope said. “In fact, in those cases I really am listening to the questions and concerns of common people. I try to respond spontaneously, in a conversation I hope is understandable, and not with rigid formulas.”

“For me,” he said, “interviews are a dialogue, not a lesson.”

Even when the questions are submitted in advance, the pope said he does not prepare his answers. Watching the person ask the question and responding directly is important.

“Yes, I am afraid of being misinterpreted,” he said. “But, I repeat, I want to run this pastoral risk.”

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Former head of Vatican hospital guilty of abuse of office

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican court found the former president of the Vatican-owned pediatric hospital guilty of abuse of office for using donations belonging to the hospital’s foundation to refurbish a Vatican-owned apartment used by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state.

Giuseppe Profiti, second from right, former president of Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, and Massimo Spina, right, former treasurer of the hospital, are pictured during their sentencing at the Vatican court Oct. 14. Profiti was found guilty of illicit appropriation and use of funds belonging to the Bambino Gesu Foundation. He was given a suspended sentence of one year in jail and a 5,000 Euro fine. Spina was absolved of the charges. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Originally charged with embezzlement, Giuseppe Profiti was sentenced to one year in jail and fined 5,000 euros ($5,900) on the reduced charge, but the sentence was suspended. The three-judge tribunal dismissed charges against Massimo Spina, the hospital’s former treasurer. The judgments were handed down Oct. 14.

The original indictment said Profiti, who was president of Bambino Gesu hospital from 2008 to 2015, and Spina extracted 420,000 euros for non-institutional ends from 2013 to 2014 by using hospital foundation money to refurbish Vatican property in order to benefit a construction company owned by Gianantonio Bandera. The company, Castelli Re, went bankrupt in 2014.

Profiti argued in court that the money had been an investment because the apartment’s refurbished areas were to be used for fundraising events to benefit the hospital.

Vatican prosecutor, Roberto Zanotti, said in closing arguments that the deal reflected “opacity, silence and poor management” in the way Vatican assets were handled.

Cardinal Bertone, who was not asked to appear in court, had said he paid 300,000 euros from his own savings for the work; however, the hospital foundation also paid the construction company 422,000 euros. Cardinal Bertone also donated 150,000 euros to the hospital because of the loss they incurred.

Bandera had been asked to provide a six-figure “donation” to the hospital foundation, according to trial testimony. Spina testified he tried to get the “donation” from Bandera, but Bandera cited financial difficulties with the bankruptcy.

It’s not the first time Profiti faced charges of financial crimes.

He had been sentenced to six months’ house arrest while he was still hospital president after being found guilty in 2008 of taking bribes and kickbacks at a different job. As president of Italy’s Liguria region, he was found guilty of the impropriety when assigning or promising contracts to companies bidding for providing food services to public schools and hospitals in the cities of Genoa and Savona. At least four others were found guilty in the same investigation.

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Women must not be subjugated, but eliminating differences between sexes ‘isn’t right,’ pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — While societies must find a way to overcome the subjugation of women, pretending there are no differences between men and women or even using technology to change a person’s sex is not the answer, Pope Francis said.

Using science “to radically eliminate any difference between the sexes, and, as a result, the covenant between man and woman, is not right,” the pope said Oct. 5, opening the Pontifical Academy for Life’s general assembly. Read more »

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Christians aren’t ‘whiny and angry,’ they find hope in the Resurrection, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Real hope lies in the proclamation of Jesus’ death and resurrection, not just with one’s words but also in deeds, Pope Francis said.

Christians are called to be witnesses of the resurrection through “their way of welcoming, smiling and loving” instead of just “repeating memorized lines,” the pope said Oct. 4 during his weekly general audience. Read more »

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Pope names Cardinal Burke a judge on Vatican supreme court

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has named U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke a member of the Apostolic Signature, the church’s supreme court, which the cardinal headed as prefect from 2008 to 2014.

Pope Francis has named U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke a member of the Apostolic Signature, the church’s highest court, which the cardinal headed from 2008-2014. Cardinal Burke is pictured leaving a papal audience to exchange Christmas greetings with members of the Roman Curia at the Vatican in this Dec. 22, 2016, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Members of the Apostolic Signature serve as judges in the cases, which mainly involve appeals of lower-court decisions or of administrative decisions by other offices of the Holy See.

The appeals involve everything from challenges to the decisions of marriage tribunals to recourse against the dismissal of a religious, the transfer of a parish priest, the restriction of a priest’s ministry, removal of ministerial faculties, renovation of a parish church and dismissal from a teaching position.

Cardinal Burke’s nomination was met with surprise in some quarters because he continues to speak publicly about issuing a formal “fraternal correction” of Pope Francis over the pope’s teaching in “Amoris Laetitia,” his exhortation on the family. But the public criticism of the pope did not prevent Pope Francis in late 2016 from naming Cardinal Burke the presiding judge in a church trial investigating allegations of sexual abuse leveled against Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of Agana, Guam. The results of the investigation and trial have not been announced.

The pope’s nomination of Cardinal Burke, 69, was announced at the Vatican Sept. 30. Also named to the Apostolic Signature were Cardinals Agostino Vallini, the retired papal vicar of Rome, and Edoardo Menichelli, retired archbishop of Ancona, Italy. Cardinal Vallini was prefect of the court from 2004 to 2008; as a priest, Cardinal Menichelli had worked at the Apostolic Signature for more than 20 years. Two others also were named members: Belgian Archbishop Frans Daneels, who retired as secretary of the court in 2016; and Auxiliary Bishop Johannes Willibrordus Maria Hendriks of Haarlem-Amsterdam, a canon lawyer.

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Diplomat’s recall not unusual, suspect should be put on trial, says expert

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Catholic News Service

ROME — The recall of a Vatican diplomat suspected by U.S. authorities of having a connection with child pornography reflects normal international protocol, but the suspect must be put on trial and receive punishment if found guilty, said a key organizer of a world congress on child protection.

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Center for Child Protection, speaks in early February at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome during a news conference launching the Center for Child Protection in Rome. At right is Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Due process has to be followed. If there is a case and if the person is found guilty, then he or she needs to be punished, whoever that is,” said Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, head of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection, which is hosting a world congress on protecting minors from online abuse, violence and exploitation.

The Oct. 3-6 congress in Rome came on the heels of the recall of Italian Msgr. Carlo Capella from the Vatican nunciature in Washington, D.C., after the U.S. State Department notified the Holy See of his possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images.

The Vatican said it opened an investigation, which involved international collaboration. Police in Canada then issued a nationwide arrest warrant Sept. 28 for the monsignor’s arrest on charges of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.

Panelists introducing the congress during a news conference Oct. 2 said its goals were to get faith communities, police, software and social media industries, mass media, nonprofits and governments working together to protect children from abuse in a “digital era.”

The panel was asked by Catholic News Service what the Vatican should do to show itself as a leader in child protection, particularly when it comes to possible crimes that involve multiple jurisdictions and when it reportedly invoked the official’s diplomatic immunity in order to conduct its own investigation.

Father Zollner said, “I am pretty well convinced that this follows the normal way of diplomatic and interstate relationships” and that the allegations were being handled similarly to the way the United States or other nations would handle them in similar circumstances.

However, he added, justice must be served and anybody “who commits a crime needs to be punished. Period.”

       

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Politicians must help people overcome fear of migrants, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Politics as service to the common good and the need to create spaces where citizens and migrants can meet and overcome fear were topics Pope Francis repeatedly returned to Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

Pope Francis greets people at the “Regional Hub,” a government-run processing center for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, in Bologna, Italy, Oct. 1. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Arriving in Bologna mid-morning Oct. 1, Pope Francis went to the “Regional Hub,” a government-run processing center for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. He was given, and wore, a yellow ID bracelet with his name and a number, just like the migrants and refugees there wear.

Just four days after he kicked off Caritas Internationalis’ “Share the Journey” campaign to encourage Catholics to meet a migrant or refugee and listen to his or her story, Pope Francis told the 1,000 people at the hub, “Many people don’t know you and they’re afraid.”

The fear “makes them feel they have the right to judge and to do so harshly and coldly, thinking they see clearly,” the pope said. “But it’s not true. One sees well only up close, which gives mercy.”

“From far away, we can say and think anything, like easily happens when they write terrible phrases and insults on the internet,” the pope said.

But, he told them, “if we look at our neighbor without mercy, we run the risk of God looking at us without mercy.”

Pope Francis, after shaking hands with each of the migrants and refugees, said he saw “only a great desire for friendship and assistance.”

The integration of newcomers begins with knowing one another, he said. “Contact with the other leads to discovering the secret that each person carries and also the gift that he or she represents.”

“Each of you has your own story,” he said, and “this story is something sacred. We must respect it, accept it and welcome it, and help you move forward.”

“Do you know what you are?” the pope asked them. “You are fighters for hope.”

Too many of their peers never made it to Europe’s shores because they died in the desert or in the sea, he said. “People don’t remember them, but God knows their names and welcomes them to him. Let’s all take a moment of silence, remembering them and praying for them.”

Pope Francis had begun his Sunday early, arriving shortly after 8 a.m. in Cesena to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of Pope Pius VI.

Meeting the public in the main square of the city of 97,000 people, Pope Francis focused on the obligations of both citizens and politicians in working together for the common good.

Cities and nations need “good politics,” which is a form of governance not enslaved to “individual ambitions or the highhandedness of factions,” he said. Authentic politics promotes collaboration and requires a balance of courage and prudence.

It “increases people’s involvement, their progressive inclusion” he said, and it “does not leave any category at the margins” nor does it “sack and pollute natural resources — these, in fact, are not a bottomless well but a gift given by God for us to use with respect and intelligence.”

The social teaching of the Catholic Church sees politics, when motivated by concern for the common good, to be “a noble form of charity,” he said.

Being a good politician means carrying a cross, he said, “because many times he or she must set aside personal ideas and take up the initiatives of others, harmonizing and combining them so that it really will be the common good that is promoted.”

A good politician, he said, must be morally upright, patient and strong enough to live with the fact that very little will be perfect.

“And when the politician errs,” he said, he or she should be strong enough to say, ‘“I made a mistake, forgive me.’ And go forward. This is noble.”

The pope had spoken about politics and immigration the previous day as well, meeting at the Vatican with mayors and other members of Italy’s national association of municipalities.

Pope Francis urged them to oppose “one-way streets of exasperated individualism” and “the dead ends of corruption,” as well as cities that move at two speeds: the express lanes of the rich and privileged and the barely passable alleys of “the poor and unemployed, large families, immigrants and those who have no one to count on.”

Cities should not be raising walls or towers, he said, but enlarging public squares, giving each person space and helping them “open to communion with others.”

“I understand the discomfort many of your citizens feel with the massive arrival of migrants and refugees,” the pope told the mayors, many of whom lead cities and towns that have welcomed hundreds of people.

The fear, he said, “finds its explanation in an innate fear of the ‘stranger,’ a fear aggravated by the wounds of the economic crisis,” but also by a lack of careful preparation for welcoming so many people throughout the country.

“This discomfort,” the pope said, “can be overcome by offering spaces for personal encounter and mutual knowledge. So welcome all those initiatives that promote the culture of encounter, the exchange of artistic and cultural riches and knowledge about the homes and communities of origin of the new arrivals.”

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