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Vatican letter: Pope Francis will address ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ on Nov. 26

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — With his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), which the Vatican has scheduled for publication Nov. 26, Pope Francis finally makes his real debut as papal author.

Popes through the centuries have issued their most important written messages in one of 10 classic forms, ranging from encyclical to “chirograph,” a brief document on a highly limited subject. But most of these are typically formulaic texts that do not express the distinctive voice or charism of the man who issues them.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis has already published an encyclical, traditionally considered the most authoritative form of papal writing. But in the opening paragraphs of “Lumen Fidei,” released in July, he explained that the text was essentially the work of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, to whose words Pope Francis had merely “added a few contributions” of his own.

By contrast, Pope Francis has made clear that “Evangelii Gaudium” is very much his own work.

Apostolic exhortations are often based on deliberations of synods of bishops, and this one takes into account the October 2012 synod on the new evangelization. But last June, Pope Francis informed the ordinary council of the Synod of Bishops, which is normally responsible for helping draft post-synodal apostolic exhortations, he would not be working from their draft.

Instead, the pope said, he planned to write an “exhortation on evangelization in general and refer to the synod,” in order to “take everything from the synod but put it in a wider framework.”

That choice surprised some, especially since Pope Francis had voiced his strong commitment to the principle of consultation with fellow bishops and even suggested that the synod should become a permanent advisory body.

But the pope was merely reverting to earlier practice. None of the first three modern synods, in 1967, 1969 or 1971, led to a papal document. It was not until 1974 that Pope Paul first chose to use a synod’s recommendations to write an apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Nuntiandi,” published the following year.

Pope Francis may already be deep into his next major document, an encyclical on social teaching. In May, Bishop Luigi Martella of Molfetta, Italy, wrote that the pope had recently told him and other bishops of Italy’s Puglia region that he was planning an encyclical on poverty, “understood not in an ideological and political sense, but in an evangelical sense.” The bishop said the encyclical would be called “Beati Pauperes” (Blessed Are the Poor).

Subsequent reports suggest that Pope Francis’ social encyclical might deal not only with poverty but also with protection of the natural environment, a topic on which he has voiced concern from practically the start of his pontificate.

A category of document that Pope Francis has not yet produced, but in which he is likely to make a major contribution, is that of apostolic constitutions. These are usually routine legal documents establishing a new diocese or appointing a bishop. But they can also address exceptional matters, as did Pope Benedict’s 2009 “Anglicanorum coetibus,” which established personal prelatures for former Anglicans who join the Catholic Church.

An apostolic constitution especially relevant to this pontificate is Blessed John Paul’s 1988 “Pastor Bonus,” which was the last major set of changes to the church’s central administration, the Roman Curia. Planning a revision of that document was the one specific task Pope Francis assigned to his advisory Council of Cardinals when he established the eight-member body in September.

Another consequential type of papal document is an apostolic letter given “motu proprio,” i.e., on the pope’s own initiative. Such letters are used to set up new norms, establish new bodies or reorganize existing ones. Pope Benedict issued 18 of them in the course of his eight-year pontificate, most famously in 2007, when he lifted most restrictions on celebration of the Tridentine Mass; and most recently in February, when he changed the voting rules of a papal conclave less than a week before he resigned from office.

Pope Francis has already issued three such apostolic letters in his first eight months: to update the Vatican’s criminal code so that it includes all Vatican employees around the world, not just those working in Vatican City; to broaden Vatican City laws against money laundering and terrorism financing so that they cover all the offices of the Roman Curia; and to expand the reach of the Vatican body that inspects suspicious financial transactions.

As evidence of the pope’s determination to reform, these impersonal legal documents may be his most eloquent statements yet.

 

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Vatican and Google bring ancient Christian catacombs to light

November 22nd, 2013 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Early Christian burial sites are now easier to see, both in person and via the Internet, thanks to 21st-century technology and collaboration between Google and the Vatican.

A view shows the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome Nov. 19. The catacomb, used for Christian burials from the late 2nd century through the 4th century, reopened to the public after years of restoration. Users of Google Maps now can see virtually through the underground corridors of the catacombs. (CNS photo/Max Rossi)

“This is perhaps the sign of the joining of two extremes, remote antiquity and modernity,” said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi Nov. 19, at a news conference at the Catacombs of Priscilla in northeast Rome.

The cardinal, president of both the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, lauded recent restoration work by the archaeological commission inside the complex of early Christian tombs.

Using advanced laser techniques, restorers have uncovered vivid late fourth-century frescoes depicting Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and Sts. Peter and Paul accompanying Christians into the afterlife. Jesus’ face resembles portraits of the Emperor Constantine, who legalized Christian worship in 313.

Cardinal Ravasi also heralded the Nov. 19 debut of the catacombs on Google’s Street View feature, a project he said had grown out of a conversation he had with the Internet giant’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt.

Users of Google Maps can now click the “see-inside” option for the catacombs, which allows them to move virtually through the narrow corridors tunneled out of soft tufa stone, and to see high-resolution images of the interiors from practically every angle. The brilliantly lit views are in startling contrast to the shadowy reality of an in-person visit.

Google’s Giorgia Abeltino told reporters that almost the entire eight-mile complex of catacombs is now accessible online. However, there is no underground map to let users know exactly what they are seeing.

Also Nov. 19, Google launched a Street View of the catacombs of the Ipogeo di via Dino Compagni, located in southeast Rome. The catacombs are privately owned and not open to the public, so the virtual mode is the only way to visit them.

The news conference at the Catacombs of Priscilla was held above ground in the reconstructed fourth-century Basilica of St. Sylvester, where a new museum displays hundred of fragments of ancient marble sarcophagi, also recently restored. A glass floor offers illuminated views of the sites of ancient tombs below.

Msgr. Giovanni Carru, secretary of the Vatican’s archaeological commission, said the restorations had made the Catacombs of Priscilla a “privileged course” for pilgrims to Rome, helping them to appreciate these “dark places that were lit up by the emblematic and paradigmatic stories of salvation” painted on their walls.

 

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Pope tells U.S. colleges to strengthen Catholic identity

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI called on America’s Catholic colleges and universities to reaffirm their Catholic identity by ensuring orthodoxy in theological studies and accepting the oversight of bishops.

The pope made his remarks May 5 to U.S. bishops from Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Wyoming, who were making their periodic “ad limina” visits to the Vatican.

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Vatican strengthens its oversight of aid agencies

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican decree established new statutes and norms for Caritas Internationalis, giving Vatican offices, including the Secretariat of State, greater authority over the work of the Vatican-based umbrella group of Catholic aid agencies.

The decree strengthens the roles Vatican offices and the pope play in working with the charity confederation, including naming and approving new board members and approving its texts, contracts with foreign governments and financial transactions.

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Pope names panel to investigate leaks to media

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI named the members of a papal commission he established in March to investigate a series of leaks of letters exchanged among Vatican officials and between the officials and the pope himself.

Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, 82, a former president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, will lead the commission. The two other members are 88-year-old retired Slovakian Cardinal Jozef Tomko, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; and the retired archbishop of Palermo, Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, 81.

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Pope names new U.S. cardinals to Vatican panels

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI named Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington to be a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and gave cardinals created in February their assignments as members of other Vatican congregations and councils.

The appointments were announced at the Vatican April 21.

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Vatican bank reassures U.S. donors

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Trustees of the U.S.-based Papal Foundation, which donates millions of dollars to papal charities each year, spent two hours at the Vatican bank April 20 and came away convinced that the institution’s bad press was undeserved, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.

“I found it very reassuring,” the cardinal said in Rome. “The effort of the Holy See to be transparent is demonstrable.”

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Prayer, not strategizing, needed in crisis, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When a community is faced with crisis, persecution and trouble, it should come together in prayer for strength from God, not formulate strategic plans to defend itself from difficulties, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Unity is fundamental, he said, and the community needs to come together and ask “only to proclaim the word of God fearlessly in the face of persecution,” not to avoid tests, trials and tribulation.

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Vatican calls traditionalist group’s response encouraging

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In what the Vatican described as an encouraging “step forward,” the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X has revised its response to a Vatican document laying out certain basic doctrinal principles and criteria for interpreting church teaching.

The latest response submitted by Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the society, arrived at the Vatican April 17. It will be examined by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and then “placed under the judgment of the Holy Father,” said a brief communique from the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” which is handling the Vatican’s discussions with the SSPX.

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Pope turns 85, marks seven years since election

April 13th, 2012 Posted in Featured, Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI’s 85th birthday, April 16, and the seventh anniversary of his election, April 19, are obviously occasions for wishing the pope well and reflecting on the events of his reign thus far. Inevitably, however, these milestones also prompt speculation about what Vatican officials and observers refer to diplomatically as “papal transition.”

Pope Benedict, after all, is already the sixth-oldest pope since the 1400s, when records became available. It has been almost two years since he told a German interviewer, “My forces are diminishing” and that, when it comes to public appearances, “I wonder whether I can make it even from a purely physical point of view.”

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