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In letter to Cardinal Sarah, pope clarifies new translation norms

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is not to “impose” a specific liturgical translation on bishops’ conferences, but rather is called to recognize the bishops’ authority and expertise in determining the best way to faithfully translate Latin texts into their local languages, Pope Francis said in a letter to Cardinal Robert Sarah.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The pope wrote to Cardinal Sarah Oct. 22 that the Vatican is not to “impose” a specific liturgical translation norm on bishops’ conferences. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

In the letter, released by the Vatican Oct. 22, Pope Francis said he wanted to correct several points made in a “commentary,” which Cardinal Sarah sent him and which was published on several websites in a variety of languages.

Cardinal Sarah is prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The pope’s letter noted that most of the websites “erroneously” cited Cardinal Sarah as the author of the commentary.

The commentary looked at changes Pope Francis made to the Code of Canon Law in the process for approving liturgical translations. The changes were ordered in the pope’s document, “Magnum Principium” (“The Great Principle”), which was published Sept. 9 and went into effect Oct. 1.

Pope Francis, saying he wanted to “avoid any misunderstanding,” insisted the commentary could give an erroneous impression that the level of involvement of the congregation remained unchanged.

However, while in the past “the judgment regarding the fidelity to the Latin and the eventual corrections necessary was the task of the congregation,” the pope said, “now the norm concedes to episcopal conferences the faculty of judging the worth and coherence of one or another term in translations from the original, even if in dialogue with the Holy See.”

The commentary attributed to Cardinal Sarah insisted on the ongoing validity of the norms for translation contained in “Liturgiam Authenticam,” the congregation’s 2001 instruction on translations.

But Pope Francis, in his letter, said the changes to canon law take precedence, and “one can no longer hold that translations must conform in every point to the norms of ‘Liturgiam Authenticam’ as was done in the past.”

The texts for Mass and other liturgies must receive a confirmation from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, the pope said, but this “no longer supposes a detailed, word by word examination, except in obviously cases that can be presented to the bishops for further reflection.”

Pope Francis also wrote to the cardinal that the “fidelity” called for in translations has three layers: “first, to the original text; to the particular language into which it is being translated; and, finally, to the intelligibility of the text” by the people.

The new process, the pope said, should not lead “to a spirit of ‘imposition’ on the episcopal conferences of a translation done by the congregation,” but should promote cooperation and dialogue.

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‘Urning’ over the grave? Vatican releases instruction on burial, cremation

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Professing belief in the resurrection of the dead and affirming that the human body is an essential part of a person’s identity, the Catholic Church insists that the bodies of the deceased be treated with respect and laid to rest in a consecrated place.

An urn containing cremated remains is seen in a niche in the Holy Rood Cemetery mausoleum in Westbury, N.Y., in 2010. During an Oct. 25 news conference in Rome, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that while the Catholic Church continues to prefer burial in the ground, it accepts cremation as an option, but forbids the scattering of ashes or keeping cremated remains at home. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

An urn containing cremated remains is seen in a niche in the Holy Rood Cemetery mausoleum in Westbury, N.Y., in 2010. During an Oct. 25 news conference in Rome, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that while the Catholic Church continues to prefer burial in the ground, it accepts cremation as an option, but forbids the scattering of ashes or keeping cremated remains at home. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

While the Catholic Church continues to prefer burial in the ground, it accepts cremation as an option, but forbids the scattering of ashes and the growing practice of keeping cremated remains at home, said Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“Caring for the bodies of the deceased, the church confirms its faith in the resurrection and separates itself from attitudes and rites that see in death the definitive obliteration of the person, a stage in the process of reincarnation or the fusion of one’s soul with the universe,” the cardinal told reporters Oct. 25.

In 1963, the congregation issued an instruction permitting cremation as long as it was not done as a sign of denial of the basic Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead. The permission was incorporated into the Code of Canon Law in 1983 and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches in 1990.

However, Cardinal Muller said, church law had not specified exactly what should be done with “cremains,” and several bishops’ conferences asked the congregation to provide guidance.

The result, approved by Pope Francis after consultation with other Vatican offices and with bishops’ conferences and the Eastern churches’ synods of bishops, is “Ad resurgendum cum Christo” (“To Rise with Christ”), an instruction “regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation.”

Presenting the instruction, Cardinal Muller said, “shortly, in many countries, cremation will be considered the ordinary way” to deal with the dead, including for Catholics.

Cremation, in and of itself, does not constitute a denial of belief in the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body, the instruction says. Nor does it “prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life.”

However, the Catholic Church wholeheartedly recommends continuing the “pious practice of burying the dead,” Cardinal Muller said. It is considered one of the corporal works of mercy and, mirroring the burial of Christ, it more clearly expresses hope in the resurrection when the person’s body and soul will be reunited.

In addition, he said, when a person is buried in the ground and, at least to some extent, when the urn of the person’s ashes is placed in a columbarium or tomb, the final resting place is marked with the person’s name, the same name with which the person was baptized and by which the person is called by God.

“Belief in the resurrection of the flesh is fundamental,” he said. “A human cadaver is not trash” and an anonymous burial or scattering of ashes “is not compatible with the Christian faith. The name, the person, the concrete identity of the person” is important because God created each individual and calls each individual to himself.

In fact, when asked if there was any way to rectify the situation when a person’s ashes already had been scattered, Cardinal Muller suggested making a memorial in a church or other appropriate place and including the name of the deceased.

What is more, he said, labeling an urn or tomb in a public place is an expression of belief in the “communion of saints,” the unending unity in Christ of all the baptized, living and dead.

“Other believers have a right to pray at the tomb” and to remember deceased members of the Catholic Church on the feast of All Saints and All Souls.

Keeping ashes at home on the mantel, he said, is a sign not only of love and grief, but also of not understanding how the loved one belonged to the entire community of faith and not just to his or her closest relatives.

“Only in grave and exceptional cases,” the instruction says, local bishops may give permission for ashes to be kept in a private home. Cardinal Muller said it was not up to him, but to local and national bishops’ conferences to determine what those “grave and exceptional” circumstances might be.

Placing the ashes in a sacred place also “prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten or their remains from being shown a lack of respect,” which is more likely to happen as time goes on and the people closest to the deceased also pass way, the instruction said.

Asked specifically about the growing trend in his native Germany of “forest burials,” where people pay to have their ashes in urns interred at the base of a tree in a designated forest burial ground, Cardinal Muller said the German bishops were not thrilled with the idea, but accepted it with the proviso that the tree be marked with the name of the person buried at its base.

In the United States and other countries, a growing number of Catholic cemeteries set aside sections for “green burials” for bodies that have not been embalmed and are placed in simple wooden caskets that eventually will biodegrade along with the body.

“We believe in the resurrection of the body and this must be the principle of our understanding and practice,” Cardinal Muller told Catholic News Service, noting that there is a difference between allowing for the natural decay of the body while protecting the environment and seeing the body of the deceased primarily as fertilizer for plants and trees.

 

The English text of the instruction can be found at: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20160815_ad-resurgendum-cum-christo_en.html

The Spanish text is here: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20160815_ad-resurgendum-cum-christo_sp.html

 

 

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Vatican cardinal urges bishops’ conferences not to make ‘doctrinal decisions’

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Catholic News Service

WARSAW, Poland — The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has advised bishops’ conferences not to take “doctrinal and disciplinary decisions” on issues that rightly fall under the magisterium of the church.

Cardinal Gerhard Muller said that while bishops’ conferences have authority on some matters, “they don’t constitute a magisterium within the magisterium, independently of the pope and out of communion with other bishops.”

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is urging national bishops' conference not to make doctrinal decision. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is urging national bishops’ conference not to make doctrinal decision. (CNS/Paul Haring)

His comments came in relation to claims at a recent news conference by Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich-Freising, president of the German bishops’ conference, that his church stood ready to “preach the Gospel in its own original way,” rather than being seen as “a branch of Rome” in relation to the possibility of allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments.

“An episcopal conference isn’t a particular council, still less an ecumenical council, and its president is nothing more than a technical moderator with no magisterial authority,” Cardinal Muller said in a March 26 interview with France’s Catholic Famille Chretienne (Christian Family) weekly.

He explained that the idea of “delegating certain doctrinal or disciplinary decisions on marriage and family” to bishops’ conferences was “absolutely anti-Catholic” and failed to “respect the church’s catholicity.”

“Hearing it said that an episcopal conference isn’t a ‘branch of Rome’ leads me to recall that dioceses aren’t branches of a bishops’ conference secretariat either,” Cardinal Muller said.

“This type of attitude risks reawakening a polarization between local churches and the universal church which was overcome by the First and Second Vatican Councils. The church isn’t a gathering of national churches whose presidents vote in their head as a universal authority.”

Cardinal Marx caused controversy during a Feb. 25 news conference at the close of a German bishops’ plenary meeting when he said his conference planned to help the church “go down new paths” and “pursue its own pastoral care program” regardless of the outcome of the synod on the family Oct. 4-25 at the Vatican.

“We cannot wait for a synod to tell us how we have to shape pastoral care for marriage and family here,” said Cardinal Marx, who will be one of three German church delegates at the synod.

“We are not a branch of Rome. Each bishops’ conference is responsible for pastoral care in its cultural context and must preach the Gospel in its own original way,” he said.

Cardinal Marx’s statement also was rejected by Cardinal Paul Cordes, retired president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. Cardinal Cordes described Cardinal Marx’’s comments as “irritating theological blurriness” in a March 7 letter to Germany’s Catholic Tagespost daily.

“As a social ethicist, Cardinal Marx may know a lot about the dependent branches of large corporations, in an ecclesiastical context, such statements are rather worthy of the village pub,” Cardinal Cordes wrote.

“The sentence ‘We cannot wait for a synod’ was hardly inspired, to say the least, by an ecclesiastical sense of communion. This ‘anti-Roman instinct’ isn’t the invention of some scholars, but a northern reality which displays strong centrifugal power and is highly destructive to the church’s unity,” Cardinal Cordes’ letter said.

 

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Cardinals discuss Curia practices; relationship with bishops’ conferences

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VATICAN CITY — Cardinals meeting at the Vatican discussed better ways to balance the responsibilities of local bishops and of the Roman Curia, said the Vatican spokesman.

 

A recurring theme in the cardinals’ Feb. 12-13 meeting was “what is it that is done best where,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told journalists Feb. 13 during a pause in College of Cardinals’ discussions.

 

About 40 of the 164 cardinals present in the Vatican’s synod hall spoke Feb. 12 about the proposal to reform the Roman Curia, he said. A number of them brought up the subject of “decentralization” and “the relationship between the Curia and the local churches, the episcopal conferences” as a fundamental part of how best to serve the church and the world, Father Lombardi said.

 

Pope Francis, cardinals and cardinal-designates pray before a meeting in the synod hall at the Vatican Feb. 12. A two-day meeting of cardinals and cardinals-designates was being held on the reform of the Roman Curia in advance of a Feb. 14 consistory. The pope will create 20 new cardinals at the consistory. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis, cardinals and cardinal-designates pray before a meeting in the synod hall at the Vatican Feb. 12. A two-day meeting of cardinals and cardinals-designates was being held on the reform of the Roman Curia in advance of a Feb. 14 consistory. The pope will create 20 new cardinals at the consistory. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Although no decisions were made and no vote was taken, he said, there was an emphasis on determining what tasks are best done where based on “competencies and knowledge of the situation” by either the Curia with its more “universal vision” or by dioceses and bishops’ conferences with their direct experience, he said.

 

Canadian Cardinal Gerald Lacroix of Quebec told Vatican Radio Feb. 13 that the Curia’s role must be to assist the pope and also be at the service of local dioceses.

 

Pope Francis “has said several times, so I’m not revealing any secret, that when a bishop comes here to the Roman Curia it should not be like going through customs. He comes here to receive support, guidance, the tools necessary to carry out his mission, encouragement.”

 

The Curia’s identity must focus on serving the church, helping it fulfill its mission and issuing “broad guidelines to clarify issues whether they are doctrinal, pastoral or liturgical,” he said.

 

Father Lombardi told reporters that cardinals also discussed the role of the laity, “in particular women and their presence in positions of responsibility in the Roman Curia.”

 

The cardinals’ morning session Feb. 13 was dedicated to explaining the work of the Secretariat and the Council for the Economy and the reform of the so-called Vatican bank. Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley was to brief the cardinals that afternoon on the work of the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection.

 

Pope Francis opened the meeting saying the reform of the Roman Curia should promote “greater harmony” among the Vatican offices, not primarily to save money or promote efficiency, but to solidify the unity of the church and strengthen its ability to evangelize.

 

The pope arrived in the Vatican’s synod hall a half hour before the consistory was set to begin. Fewer than two dozen cardinals were there before him and the pope greeted them before standing at the front of the hall to welcome each of the others as they arrived.

 

Nineteen of the 20 churchmen Pope Francis was to induct into the College of Cardinals Feb. 14 were present — sitting in two rows behind the other cardinals. Retired Colombian Archbishop Jose de Jesus Pimiento Rodriguez, who turns 96 Feb. 18, sent regrets that he could not attend. Including those who were about to receive their red hats, the College of Cardinals has 227 members.

 

Pope Francis scheduled the meeting primarily to discuss with the cardinals the proposals his nine-member international Council of Cardinals had developed for the reform of the Curia.

 

The proposals include the creation of two new large, high-profile Vatican offices: the Congregation for Laity, Family and Life, and the Congregation for Charity, Justice and Peace, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman. The charity and justice congregation would include the existing pontifical councils for health care and for migrants, but also would have a new section dedicated to “safeguarding creation.”

 

The proposed grouping, he said, flows from an understanding of “charity as fundamental to the essence, existence and mission of the church” and of working for justice “as a consequence” of charity. The special section for ecology reflects an increased concern and commitment on the part of the church to the need to protect creation.

 

The section also would work in the area of “human ecology,” or the idea that social and political environments can be deadly for the human person and for human dignity, he said.

 

“There is an ecclesial and theological vision” behind the planned combination of the pontifical councils involved and raising their profile to the level of a congregation, Father Lombardi said. “It is not just about taking certain offices and putting them together in order to reduce their number.”

 

The Second Vatican Council insisted on the important vocation and role of the laity in the life of the church, particularly in witnessing to Christ in the world. Just as there are congregations for bishops, for clergy and for religious, Father Lombardi said, it seemed “natural” to the Council of Cardinals that there would be a congregation for laity. Given the centrality of family life for many laypeople, it made sense to combine the two councils and to have the Pontifical Academy for Life conduct its work under the new congregation’s auspices, he said.

 

While the congregation would promote lay involvement in the church, Father Lombardi said, it is unlikely and almost “unthinkable” that a layperson would be appointed its prefect because the pastoral responsibilities of a Vatican congregation require that it be led by an ordained minister, usually a cardinal.

 

At the beginning of the meeting, Pope Francis reminded his brother cardinals that the reform was requested by the College of Cardinals during the meetings that preceded his election in 2013.

 

“The aim to reach is that of promoting greater harmony in the work of the various dicasteries and offices” of the Vatican, he said, in order to have “more effective collaboration with the absolute transparency that builds up authentic synodality and collegiality,” or shared responsibility under the pope’s leadership for the good of the whole church.

 

“The reform is not an end in itself,” he said, “but a way to give a strong Christian witness, to promote more effective evangelization, a more fruitful ecumenical spirit and encourage a more constructive dialogue with all.”

 

Pope Francis thanked the members of the Council of Cardinals and its secretary, Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, who, the pope said, “is the one who does the work.”

 

In drawing up its proposals, he said, the council took into account “many suggestions, including those made by the heads” of the various Vatican congregations and councils.

 

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, council coordinator, and Bishop Semeraro both made presentations to the cardinals about the council’s proposals.

 

The proposals, Pope Francis said, should “perfect” the work of the Curia and its main purpose, which is to assist the pope “in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the good and the service of the universal church and the particular churches.”

 

As he did at the beginning of the 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis asked the cardinals to share their opinions with frankness, fidelity to church teaching and concern for the salvation of souls.

 Also with contributions by Cindy Wooden

 

 

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