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Vatican, former auditor give differing accounts of resignation

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The first person to serve as the Vatican’s independent auditor said he was forced to resign after opponents of Pope Francis’ financial reforms mounted a campaign against him.

Pope Francis meets Libero Milone, then the Vatican’s auditor general, at the Vatican April 1, 2016. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

But the Vatican press office responded Sept. 24, saying Libero Milone, “going outside his competencies, illegally hired an external company to undertake investigative activities about the private lives of representatives of the Holy See.”

“This, besides being a crime, irremediably strained the trust placed in Dr. Milone,” the statement said. It added that the Vatican’s internal investigation of his actions was conducted with care and respect.

Without providing an explanation, the Vatican in June announced that Milone turned in a letter of resignation, which was accepted by Pope Francis. Milone had been in office just two years, although he had a five-year contract.

The position of auditor general was seen as a key component of Pope Francis’ efforts to reform Vatican finances and bring greater transparency in financial dealings. According to statutes issued by Pope Francis, the auditor general has the power to audit the books of any Vatican office and reports directly to the pope.

Milone, 68, an Italian accountant and expert in corporate risk management, was chairman of Deloitte Italy and served three years as a member of the audit committee of the United Nations’ World Food Program.

The Vatican statement Sept. 24 expressed surprise that Milone had gone to the news agency Reuters and other news outlets when, at the time he left the Vatican, he had agreed not to discuss the circumstances of his leaving.

Milone told Reuters his troubles had begun on the morning of Sept. 27, 2015, when he suspected that his office computer had been tampered with. He contacted an external company that had done work for him before to check for surveillance devices “because there are no such specialized people” in the Vatican.

The company discovered that his computer had been the target of an unauthorized access, and that his secretary’s computer had been infected with spyware that copied files, he told Reuters.

But Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Vatican undersecretary of state, told Reuters there was proof that the outside contractor had been helping Milone to spy on others, “including me.” The archbishop added, “If he had not agreed to resign, we would have prosecuted him.”

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Mercy can scandalize those who don’t see their own sin, pope says

September 21st, 2017 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Celebrating the feast of St. Matthew, the anniversary of the day when as a 17-year-old he said he was overwhelmed by God’s mercy, Pope Francis said it was interesting how many Catholics today seem to be scandalized when God shows mercy to someone.

Pope Francis gives the homily during morning Mass Sept. 19 in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

In his homily at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta Sept. 21, Pope Francis looked in depth at the day’s short Gospel story of the calling of St. Matthew.

The story, the pope said, has three parts: “the encounter, the celebration and the scandal.”

Jesus sees Matthew, a tax collector — “one of those who made the people of Israel pay taxes to give to the Romans, a traitor to his country” — and calls him to follow. Jesus looks at him “lovingly, mercifully” and “the resistance of that man who wanted money, who was a slave to money, falls.”

“That man knew he was a sinner,” the pope said. “He was liked by no one and even despised.” But it was “precisely that awareness of being a sinner that opened the door to Jesus’ mercy. He left everything and followed.”

“The first condition for being saved is knowing you are in danger,” he said. “The first condition for being healed is feeling sick.”

In the Gospel story, Matthew celebrates by inviting Jesus for a meal. Pope Francis said it reminded him of what Jesus said in the Gospel of St. Luke, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

But, the pope said, the Pharisees saw Jesus with Matthew and were scandalized that he would eat with tax collectors and sinners.

The Pharisees were people who continually repeated, “The law says this, doctrine says that,” the pope said. “But they forgot the first commandment of love and were closed in a cage of sacrifices, (saying), ‘We make our sacrifices to God, we keep the Sabbath, we do all we should and so we’ll be saved.’”

But, the pope said, “God saves us, Jesus Christ saves us and these men did not understand. They felt secure; they thought salvation came from them.”

In the same way today, he said, “we often hear faithful Catholics who see mercy at work and ask, ‘Why?’”

There are “many, many, always, even in the church today,” the pope said. “They say, ‘No, no you can’t, it’s all clear, they are sinners, we must send them away.’”

But, Pope Francis said, Jesus himself answered them when he said, “I have come not to call the just, but sinners.” So, “if you want to be called by Jesus, recognize you are a sinner.”

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Pope Francis admits mistake in approving lenient sanctions against priest abuser

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has endorsed an approach of “zero tolerance” toward all members of the church guilty of sexually abusing minors or vulnerable adults.

U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, is president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Pope Francis address the commission this week and called Cardinal O’Malley a “prophet” in the church who has come forward to shine light on the problem of abuse and to urge the church to face it.(CNS /Paul Haring)

Having listened to abuse survivors and having made what he described as a mistake in approving a more lenient set of sanctions against an Italian priest abuser, the pope said he has decided whoever has been proven guilty of abuse has no right to an appeal, and he will never grant a papal pardon.

“Why? Simply because the person who does this (sexually abuses minors) is sick. It is a sickness,” he told his advisory commission on child protection during an audience at the Vatican Sept. 21. Members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, including its president, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, were meeting in Rome Sept. 21-23 for their plenary assembly.

Setting aside his prepared text, the pope said he wanted to speak more informally to the members, who include lay and religious experts in the fields of psychology, sociology, theology and law in relation to abuse and protection.

The Catholic Church has been “late” in facing and, therefore, properly addressing the sin of sexual abuse by its members, the pope said, and the commission, which he established in 2014, has had to “swim against the tide” because of a lack of awareness or understanding of the seriousness of the problem.

“When consciousness comes late, the means for resolving the problem comes late,” he said. “I am aware of this difficulty. But it is the reality: We have arrived late.”

“Perhaps,” he said, “the old practice of moving people” from one place to another and not fully facing the problem “lulled consciences to sleep.”

But, he said, “prophets in the church,” including Cardinal O’Malley, have, with the help of God, come forward to shine light on the problem of abuse and to urge the church to face it.

Typically when the church has had to deal with new or newly emerging problems, it has turned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to address the issue, he said. And then, only when the problem has been dealt with adequately does the process for dealing with future cases get handed over to another dicastery, he added.

Because the problem of cases and allegations of abuse are “grave” and because it also is grave that some have not adequately taken stock of the problem, it is important the doctrinal congregation continue to handle the cases, rather than turning them over directly to Vatican tribunals, as some have suggested.

However, he said, the doctrinal congregation will need more personnel to work on cases of abuse in order to expedite the “many cases that do not proceed” with the backlog.

Pope Francis told commission members he wants to better balance the membership of the doctrinal team dealing with appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse. He said the majority of members are canon lawyers, and he would like to balance out their more legalistic approach with more members who are diocesan bishops and have had to deal with abuse in their diocese.

He also said proof that an ordained minister has abused a minor “is sufficient (reason) to receive no recourse” for an appeal. “If there is proof. End of story,” the pope said; the sentence “is definitive.”

And, he added, he has never and would never grant a papal pardon to a proven perpetrator.

The reasoning has nothing to do with being mean-spirited, but because an abuser is sick and is suffering from “a sickness.”

The pope told the commission he has been learning “on the job” better ways to handle priests found guilty of abuse, and he recounted a decision he has now come to regret: that of agreeing to a more lenient sanction against an Italian priest, rather than laicizing him as the doctrinal team recommended.

Two years later, the priest abused again, and Pope Francis said he has since learned “it’s a terrible sickness: that requires a different approach.

     

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Vatican calls any nuclear threat against North Korea ‘deplorable’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Holy See ratified and signed the new U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the high-level Vatican diplomat who signed the treaty told a U.N. conference that the Catholic Church supports efforts “to move progressively toward a world free of nuclear weapons.”

North Koreans watch a news report of an intermediate-range ballistic missile launch on a big screen at Pyongyang station in Pyongyang, North Korea, Aug. 30. (CNS photo/Kyodo via Reuters)

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister, signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations Sept. 20. More than 40 other countries signed it as well. The treat would enter into force 90 days after at least 50 countries both sign and ratify it.

Also at the United Nations, Archbishop Gallagher addressed the 10th Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, a treaty the Vatican adhered to in 1996. The text of his speech was released at the Vatican Sept. 21.

The Vatican, he said, believes “a nuclear test ban, nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament are closely linked and must be achieved as quickly as possible under effective international control.”

But delays in getting eight more countries to ratify the treaty mean that it still has not entered into force. “Two decades without the treaty’s entry into force have been two decades lost in our common goal of a world without nuclear weapons,” Archbishop Gallagher said.

The treaty, he said, “is all the more urgent when one considers contemporary threats to peace, from the continuing challenges of nuclear proliferation to the major new modernization programs of some of the nuclear weapons states.”

“The rising tensions over North Korea’s growing nuclear program are of special urgency,” he said. “The international community must respond by seeking to revive negotiations. The threat or use of military force have no place in countering proliferation, and the threat or use of nuclear weapons in countering nuclear proliferation are deplorable.”

“Nuclear arms offer a false sense of security,” the archbishop said. “Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of annihilation.”

The new treaty signed by the Vatican bans testing, but also bans efforts to develop, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The United States and other countries possessing nuclear weapons did not take part in the negotiations and do not plan to sign the treaty.

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Pope cites St. Frances Cabrini as exemplar of ministry to immigrants

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Although she died 100 years ago, St. Frances Cabrini is a shining example of “love and intelligence” in ministering to the needs of immigrants and helping them become integral members of their new homelands, Pope Francis said.

Responding to “the great migrations underway today” the same way Mother Cabrini did “will enrich all and generate union and dialogue, not separation and hostility,” Pope Francis said in a letter to Sister Barbara Louise Staley, superior of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which the saint founded.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, who died 100 years ago, is a shining example of “love and intelligence” in ministering to the needs of immigrants and helping them become integral members of their new homelands, Pope Francis said in a letter to Mother Cabrini’s order this week. This stained-glass window is at the saint’s shrine chapel in the Washington Heights section of New York City. (CNS file photo)

Mother Cabrini arrived in New York in 1889 to work with Italian immigrants, setting up orphanages, schools and hospitals in nine U.S. cities. Naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1909, she died in Chicago Dec. 22, 1917.

The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were holding their general assembly Sept. 17-23 at the National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Chicago.

In her work, particularly among Italian immigrants to the United States, Mother Cabrini “focused attention on situations of greatest poverty and fragility, such as the needs of orphans and miners,” the pope wrote in his letter, which was released at the Vatican Sept. 19.

Mother Cabrini also demonstrated “a lucid cultural sensitivity” by making sure she was in constant contact with local authorities, the pope said.

“She undertook to conserve and revive in the immigrants the Christian tradition they knew in their country of origin, a religiosity which was sometimes superficial and often imbued with authentic popular mysticism,” he wrote. “At the same time, she offered ways to fully integrate with the culture of the new countries so that the Missionary Mothers accompanied the Italian immigrants in becoming fully Italian and fully American.”

With dialogue and help integrating, he said, “the human and Christian vitality of the immigrants thus became a gift to the churches and to the peoples who welcomed them.”

While Mother Cabrini and the sisters had a specific mission to assist the immigrants and strengthen their faith, he said, Catholics today cannot forget “that is the vocation of every Christian and of every community of the disciples of Jesus.”

On a more personal note, Pope Francis told the sisters, “I assure you of my remembrance and prayers with deep affection, both because I have always known the figure of Mother Cabrini and because of the special concern I devote to the cause of immigrants.”

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Those who govern are called to humility and service, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Those who govern or are in positions of authority are called to be humble and serve the good of the people God entrusts to them rather than the interests of their party or themselves, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis gives the homily as he celebrates Mass Sept. 18 in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Without prayer, a leader risks serving his own selfish desires or political party, closing himself or herself in a “circle from which there is no escape,” the pope said Sept. 18 during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

“Who has more power than a ruler? The people, who have given him the power, and God, from whom power comes through the people,” the pope said. “When he has this awareness of being subordinate, he prays.”

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day’s reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy in which he asks that “supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority.”

The pope also spoke about the day’s Gospel reading from St. Luke, which recounted Jesus’ healing of a slave at the behest of his master, a Roman centurion.

“This man felt the need for prayer” not because it was a last resort but because he knew that “there was someone above him, there is another who is in charge,” the pope said.

Praying for politicians and those who lead, the pope continued, is important “because it is the prayer for the common good of the people who are entrusted to him.”

Leaders also must pray and ask the Lord for wisdom so that they find their true strength in God and in the people and not “in small groups or in myself,” he said.

And leaders who claim they cannot pray because they are agnostic or atheist, he said, at least must examine their consciences and seek counsel from those their people consider wise.

Christians “cannot leave rulers alone, we must accompany them with prayer,” the pope said. And when a leader does “awful things,” he added, they need even more prayers.

“Pray, do penance for those who govern,” the pope said. “The prayer of intercession, it is beautiful what Paul says, is for all leaders, for all those in power. Why? So ‘that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life.’ When a leader is free and can govern in peace, all people benefit from this.”

     

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Vatican Letter: Pope moves toward decentralization, local responsibility

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis talks about the need for a “healthy decentralization” in the Catholic Church, but how that should look and work has been a topic of debate since the Second Vatican Council.

The discussion often centers on how people describe the way the church experiences and ensures its unity around the globe: For example, by focusing on a strong, decision-making central authority, that helps unites the parts to the whole or by describing the church as a communion where unity is found in sharing, cooperative relationships among the diversity of local churches.

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the family in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in this 2015, file photo. The pope has spoke of a “healthy decentralization” in the Catholic Church and has made several decisions toward this goal. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“The key thing” in striving for a healthy balance and reform, one Vatican official said, is to avoid a business-management idea of decentralization and “embed theology back into the term.” In other words, it’s not about a cold transfer of power, but an emphasis on collegiality and collaboration.

Bishop Paul Tighe, adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, told Catholic News Service, “the model is the hub,” with the pope and his assistants in the Curia at the center, always connected to the local churches, which are the first to encounter new situations and the first to respond.

“The Vatican is in contact with those different churches,” not as the problem-solver, but to “put them in contact with other churches” that have been dealing with the same or similar issues, so they can share ideas and best practices, and avoid reinventing the wheel, he said.

“Rome has that ability to have that overview” because it is “a point of contact. It’s not centralizing, but building a bond of communion” between churches and church leaders at local, regional and national levels, he said.

“What should be done locally, should be done locally,” Bishop Tighe said, but when some issues “transcend one locality,” that is, they end up being “universal questions that need a harmonious response,” then the help of a central authority is essential.

“People see the church as a hierarchical, monolithic structure. But it is much richer than that,” he said.

Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane told CNS that people are used to hearing “the claim that the unity of the church doesn’t mean uniformity, and much of what Pope Francis has done and is doing is simply moving beyond the rhetoric to give some reality to that claim,” for example, in his naming of new cardinals from very diverse parts of the world.

“There may be some danger of fragmentation in passing more authority to local churches and to bishops’ conferences, but the Holy See and especially the Petrine ministry is the guarantor that a healthy decentralization doesn’t become an unhealthy fragmentation,” he said in an email response to questions.

The archbishop, who chairs the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s commission for evangelization and was a member of the Synod of Bishops on the family in Rome in 2015, said healthy cooperation between the Holy See and bishops requires co-responsibility.

For example, Pope Francis’ new motu proprio, “Magnum Principium,” on guiding future liturgical translations “is an attempt by the pope to restore the balance between the bishops and the Holy See in line with the provisions of Vatican II and in the light of experience since the council. It’s a document driven not by ideology but by theology, and its intent is clearly pastoral.”

A “good liturgical translation” holds the balance between the doctrinal and pastoral, he said, and that requires responsible cooperation among bishops and between bishops’ conferences and the Holy See.

“It does mean that the bishops will have to work hard at shaping a new language, drawing on the work of experts, of course, but maintaining control of the process and working trustfully with the Holy See to ensure that the communion of the church and her fidelity to doctrine are not compromised,” he said. “This will produce variety, certainly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean disunity.”

Retired Pope Benedict XVI said he, too, “always wished that the local churches be the most autonomous and lively possible, without needing assistance from Rome,” he said in the book-length interview, “Last Testament,” published in 2016.

During the Synod of Bishops on the role of the bishop in 2001, he endorsed greater responsibility for bishops as envisioned by the Second Vatican Council and spoke, to great applause, on the bishops’ duty to govern and to judge and correct doctrinal error in their own dioceses.

When that happens, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, at that time head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told the synod of bishops, “the so-desired decentralization happens automatically.”

At the end of that synod, he had stressed that unity was brought about by a harmonious unity of purpose, with a greater focus on Christ and the need to move “forward together to announce Christ to a world that needs a new proclamation of Christ and the Gospel.”

Neglecting those essential tasks because of too much attention to secondary things like internal church structures and organization has been “a way to strangle the life of the church,” he had said.

“The world’s first need is to know Christ. If it doesn’t, all the rest will not function,” he said.

     

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Vatican diplomat recalled from U.S. during child-porn investigation

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A member of the Vatican diplomatic corps serving in Washington has been recalled to the Vatican where he is involved in a criminal investigation involving child pornography, the Vatican said.

People are seen outside the Vatican Embassy, or apostolic nunciature, in Washington in 2014. A member of the Vatican diplomatic corps serving in Washington has been recalled to the Vatican where he is involved in a criminal investigation involving child pornography, the Vatican said. (CNS photo/Tyler Orburn)

The Vatican press office said Sept. 15 that it was notified Aug. 21 by the U.S. State Department “of a possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images by a member of the diplomatic corps of the Holy See accredited to Washington.”

“The Holy See, following the practice of sovereign states, recalled the priest in question, who is currently in Vatican City,” the press office said.

The Associated Press reported that the State Department confirmed it had asked the Vatican to lift the official’s diplomatic immunity. It said that request was denied.

The Vatican said the priest’s identity and other details are covered by “investigative confidentiality” during the preliminary investigation stage. The Vatican yearbook lists the nuncio, Archbishop Christoph Pierre, and three priests as making up the diplomatic staff at the Washington nunciature.

After receiving the notification from the State Department, the Vatican said, “the Secretariat of State transmitted this information to the promoter of justice of the Vatican tribunal.” The promoter of justice is the Vatican’s chief prosecutor.

“The promoter of justice opened an investigation and has already commenced international collaboration to obtain elements relative to the case,” the Vatican said.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said the investigation is concentrated on matters defined as “crimes against children” in the Vatican’s 2013 “Supplementary Norms on Criminal Law Matters.”

Specifically, he said, the investigation is referring to what the law defines as “child pornography,” which “means any representation, by whatever means, of a minor engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities as well as any representation of the sexual parts of a minor for primarily sexual purposes.”

Burke also referred reporters to section 10 of the supplementary norms, which discuss criminal penalties for a person found guilty of producing or selling and trading child pornography; in those cases Vatican law foresees a maximum of 12 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $299,000.

     

Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves at the Vatican.

       

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Vatican reform process ‘nearly complete,’ C9 member says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ international Council of Cardinals, the so-called C9, is nearly done with its work of advising the pope on a major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, the secretary of the council said.

Pope Francis leads the 18th meeting of his Council of Cardinals at the Vatican Feb. 13. Seated to the left of the pope are: Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, secretary of the council; Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the council; Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Cardinal George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy. Seated at right are: Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, secretary of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, told Vatican Radio Sept. 11 that “as far as the reform process of the Roman Curia is concerned, it is even more than three-quarters of the way there; it is almost complete.”

“It is nearly complete at the level of proposals made to the pope,” he said.

The Council of Cardinals was meeting at the Vatican Sept. 11-13. Pope Francis, who returned from his visit to Colombia Sept. 11, did not attend the first day’s meeting.

Bishop Semeraro told Vatican Radio of the council’s work in advising the pope on the reform of the Vatican’s organization and church governance, describing it as a three-step process of “listening” to the contributions from the bishops, the Roman Curia and “many people who have written,” reflecting on those proposals and checking them over.

“Listening, reflecting, checking and then making a proposal to the pope” because the Council of Cardinals does not issue a decree; “the Council of Cardinals proposes to the pope,” he said.

Throughout their meetings, he continued, Pope Francis takes part “primarily by listening” and “intervenes when he recounts his personal experiences when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, or of current situations in the life of the church.”

The work of the council is not only dedicated to reforming the Roman Curia but to informing, advising and collaborating with Pope Francis concerning various situations in the church, Bishop Semeraro said.

One example, he added, was to discuss “the very painful reality of the abuse of minors.”

“This, in itself, is not part of the reform of the Roman Curia. Yet, the pope has decided to listen to the council, too, about these steps. And, when it comes to clarifying or intervening, the pope intervenes but with great discretion. He mostly listens,” Bishops Semeraro said.

Regarding the time frame of the reform, the Italian prelate said the final proposals dealing with all the dicasteries “will be more or less complete in a few months” and that it will be up to the pope “to decide how and when to implement them.”

“Right now the pope has preferred a gradual implementation, as well as a sort of breaking-in period. In some cases, the pope has already intervened to make corrections because in passing from theory to practice, needs for correction have emerged,” Bishop Semeraro said.

     

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Pope Francis hopes Trump reconsiders DACA decision

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Catholic News Service

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM COLOMBIA — Politicians who call themselves pro-life must be pro-family and not enact policies that divide families and rob young people of a future, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Cartagena, Colombia, to Rome Sept. 10. Earlier, the pope cut and bruised his face on the popemobile window when he was greeting people. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Flying from Colombia back to Rome late Sept. 10, Pope Francis was asked about U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed some 800,000 young people brought to the United States illegally as children to stay in the country, working or going to school.

Trump announced Sept. 5 that he was phasing out the program; his decision was strongly criticized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Pope Francis said he had heard of Trump’s decision, but had not had time to study the details of the issue. However, he said, “uprooting young people from their families is not something that will bear fruit.”

“This law, which I think comes not from the legislature, but from the executive (branch), if that’s right, I’m not sure, I hope he rethinks it a bit,” the pope said, “because I’ve heard the president of the United States speak; he presents himself as a man who is pro-life, a good pro-lifer.

“If he is a good pro-lifer, he understands that the family is the cradle of life and its unity must be defended,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said people must be very careful not to dash the hopes and dreams of young people or make them feel “a bit exploited,” because the results can be disastrous, leading some to turn to drugs or even suicide.

Pope Francis spent only about 35 minutes answering journalists’ questions and commenting on his five-day trip to Colombia. After he had answered eight questions, Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, told the pope it was time to sit down because the plane was approaching an area of turbulence.

The pope went to the journalists’ section of the plane still wearing a small bandage on his left eyebrow and sporting a large bump, which had turned black and blue, on his cheek. Rather than joking with reporters, he told them that he had been reaching out of the popemobile to greet people and turned. “I didn’t see the glass.”

While his trip back to Rome did not have to change flight plans like the flight to Colombia Sept. 6 did because of Hurricane Irma, Pope Francis was asked about the apparently increasing intensity of hurricanes and other storms and what he thinks of political leaders who doubt climate change is real.

“Anyone who denies this must go to the scientists and ask,” he said. “They speak very clearly. Scientists are precise.”

Pope Francis said he read a report citing a university study that asserted humanity has only three years to reduce the pace of climate change before it’s too late. “I don’t know if three years is right or not, but if we don’t turn back, we’ll go down, that’s true.”

“Climate change, you can see the effects,
Pope Francis said. “And the scientists have told us clearly what the paths to follow are.”

Everyone has a moral responsibility to act, he said. “And we must take it seriously.”

“It’s not something to play with,” the pope said. “It’s very serious.”

Politicians who doubt climate change is real or that human activity contributes to it should speak to the scientists and “then decide. And history will judge their decisions.”

Asked why he thinks governments have been so slow to act, Pope Francis said he thinks it’s partly because, as the Old Testament says, “”Man is stupid, a stubborn one who does not see.”

But the other reason, he said, is almost always money.

Talking about his five-day stay in Colombia, Pope Francis said he was “really moved by the joy, the tenderness” and the expressiveness of the people. In the end, they are the ones who will determine Pwhether Colombia truly has peace after 52 years of civil war.

Politicians and diplomats can do all the right things to negotiate peace deals, he said, but if the nation’s people aren’t on board, peace will not be lasting. In Colombia, he said, the people have a clear desire to live in peace.

“What struck me most about the Colombian people,” he said, was watching hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fathers and mothers along the roads he traveled, and they would lift their children high so the pope would see and bless them.

What they were doing, he said, was saying, “This is my treasure. This is my hope. This is my future. I believe in this.”

The parents’ behavior with their little ones, he said, “is a symbol of hope, of a future.”

     

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

       

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