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Reports say Callista Gingrich will be nominated as Vatican ambassador

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, will be Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, two U.S. news outlets are reporting.

The New York Times and CNN reported May 14 that the official announcement of the nomination is waiting to be approved by the Office of Government Ethics.

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich poses with his wife, Callista, in 2009 outside St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Callista Gingrich is said to be nominated  as the new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. (CNS file photo)

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich poses with his wife, Callista, in 2009 outside St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Callista Gingrich is said to be President Trump’s new U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. (CNS file photo)

Callista Gingrich, 51, a former congressional aide, is the president of Gingrich Productions, which produces documentaries as well as other materials related to her husband, Republican Newt Gingrich, who served from 1995 until 1999 as the 50th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 2010, the company released the film “Nine Days That Changed the World” about Pope John Paul II’s nine-day pilgrimage to Poland in 1979 and how it played a part in the fall of communism in Europe. Callista Gingrich graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in 1988, majoring in music, a passion that has remained with her throughout life. She is a longtime member of the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Some like John Schlageter, executive director of the Bethlehem University Foundation in Washington, hailed the choice.

“It might make me biased, but I think that her years of singing in the choir at the national shrine has given her a backstage pass to some of the most important events in the life in the church in the United States, including two papal visits,” said Schlageter, who is a friend of the couple. The Gingriches are patrons of Bethlehem University, the first Catholic university in the Holy Land founded by the Vatican and the De La Salle Christian Brothers, he said.

Schlageter said Callista Gingrich’s time producing the documentary about Pope John Paul helped her create professional relationships and friendships in the U.S. and Rome that will serve her well should she be confirmed to the post.

“She also loves the church and the United States,” he told Catholic News Service May 15. “I think she’s a wonderful choice.”

Others criticized the choice online because she admitted to having an affair for years with Newt Gingrich while he was married to his second wife. After his 1999 divorce, the two married the following year and he became a Catholic in 2009, saying Callista, a lifelong Catholic, was instrumental in making that choice.

If confirmed, she will succeed Ken Hackett, former head of Catholic Relief Services, who served as the 10th ambassador to the Holy See under President Barack Obama. He held the post from October 2013 until mid-January.

 

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Vatican’s child protection panel seeks new ways to be informed by abuse survivors

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Following the resignation of a prominent member and abuse survivor, a pontifical commission charged with addressing issues related to clergy sex abuse vowed to continue to seek input from victims and survivors.

Marie Collins, a clerical sexual abuse survivor from Ireland, resigned from her membership in the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, citing an uncooperative Vatican office. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

Marie Collins, a clerical sexual abuse survivor from Ireland, resigned from her membership in the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, citing an uncooperative Vatican office. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said the resignation of Marie Collins was a “central topic” of its March 24-26 plenary assembly, and it “expressed strong support for her continuing work” to promote healing for abuse victims and ensuring best practices for prevention.

“Commission members have unanimously agreed to find new ways to ensure its work is shaped and informed with and by victims/survivors. Several ideas that have been successfully implemented elsewhere are being carefully considered for recommendation to the Holy Father,” the commission said in a March 26 statement published by the Vatican.

Among the main concerns addressed by the commission was outreach out to victims, an issue first raised by Collins shortly after she resigned from her position.

In an editorial published online March 1 by National Catholic Reporter, Collins said an unnamed dicastery not only refused to respond to letters from victims, it also refused to cooperate on the commission’s safeguarding guidelines.

In its statement, the commission emphasized Pope Francis’ letter to the presidents of the bishops’ conferences and superiors of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, in which he called for their close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors.

“The work I have entrusted to them includes providing assistance to you and your conferences through an exchange of best practices and through programs of education, training and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse,” the pope wrote Feb. 2, 2015.

Commission members spoke again of their willingness to work together with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith communicating a “guidelines template” to episcopal conferences and religious congregations, both directly and through the commission website, the statement said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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World faces pressing need to protect water, Vatican official tells U.N.

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UNITED NATIONS — The right to clean water is a basic and pressing need for all people of the planet because without water “there is no life,” said the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations.

A man bathes at a public well in Colombo, Sri Lanka, March 22. (CNS photo/Dinuka Liyanawatte, Reuters)

A man bathes at a public well in Colombo, Sri Lanka, March 22. (CNS photo/Dinuka Liyanawatte, Reuters)

Addressing a U.N. meeting on water-related issues under the world body’s sustainable development goals March 22, Archbishop Bernardito Auza called on all nations to recognize the responsibility to care for and share water because it is a life-sustaining resource.

The archbishop’s comments came as World Water Day was being observed. The day has been set aside by international agencies and governments to focus attention on the need for universal access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in developing countries. Events also focus on advocating for sustainable management of freshwater resources.

WaterAid, a London-based international organization that helps communities access clean water and proper hygiene, said about 633 million people, nearly 10 percent of the world’s population, cannot get the water they need. The group made the comments in a report released March 22.

Archbishop Auza said there is an urgent need to protect and care for the earth, particularly its water supplies.

“Access to safe drinking water is a basic human right and a condition for sustainable development,” Archbishop Auza said. “Thus, it needs to be put front and center in public policy, in particular in programs to life people out of poverty.”

The U.N. nuncio said that competition for water can destabilize nations especially where aquatic resources cross national boundaries. He pointed to water experts and advocates who “ominously predict that the Third World War will be about water.”

Archbishop Auza also cited Pope Francis’ address to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, which he visited in Rome in 2014, advising the staff that “water is not free” and that its protection is vital to prevent war.

“Thus, rather than causing conflict,” the archbishop continued, “the need for water sharing should be an opportunity for cross-border cooperation and greater efforts toward adopting binding instruments to ensure stable and predictable transnational relations.”

He said nongovernmental organizations, joined by each person, must “assume our responsibilities” to preserve clean water for present and future generations to preserve peace and ensure that the earth is “more habitable and fraternal place, where no one is left behind and all are able to eat, drink, live healthy lives and grow in accordance with their dignity.”

Archbishop Auza also noted that an all-day conference being held that day at the Vatican, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Club of Rome. Titled “Watershed: Replenishing Water Values for a Thirsty World,” it drew about 400 policymakers, academics, business leaders and grass-roots advocates.

In a greeting to English speakers at his general audience, Pope Francis welcomed the participants, describing the conference as “yet another stage in the joint commitment of various institutions to raising consciousness about the need to protect water as a treasure belonging to everyone, mindful too of its cultural and religious significance.”

 

More information about World Water Day is available online at www.worldwaterday.org.

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U.S.-Vatican ties won’t change with Trump, U.S. diplomat says

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ROME — Despite opposing views on some issues, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See will still look for common ground on global issues, the interim leader of the embassy said. Read more »

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Special Olympians demonstrate that ‘every person is a gift,’ pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The athletes of the Special Olympics witness to the world the beauty and value of every human life and the joy that comes from reaching a goal with the encouragement and support of others, Pope Francis said.

Pope receives a stuffed animal from a participant in the Special Olympics during a meeting Feb. 16 at the Vatican. The athletes and organizers were at the Vatican to promote the Special Olympics World Winter Games, which will be held in Austria March 14-25. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope receives a stuffed animal from a participant in the Special Olympics during a meeting Feb. 16 at the Vatican. The athletes and organizers were at the Vatican to promote the Special Olympics World Winter Games, which will be held in Austria March 14-25. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

“Together, athletes and helpers show us that there are no obstacles or barriers which cannot be overcome,” the pope told representatives of the Special Olympics World Winter Games, which will take place in Austria March 14-25.

“You are a sign of hope for all who commit themselves to a more inclusive society,” the pope told the group Feb. 16. “Every life is precious, every person is a gift, and inclusion enriches every community and society. This is your message for the world, for a world without borders, which excludes no one.”

Pope Francis praised the passion and dedication of the Special Olympians as they train for their events, and said sports are good for everyone, physically and mentally.

“The constant training, which also requires effort and sacrifice, helps you to grow in patience and perseverance, gives you strength and courage and lets you acquire and develop talents which would otherwise remain hidden,” the pope told the athletes.

“In a way,” he said, “at the heart of all sporting activity is joy: the joy of exercising, of being together, of being alive and rejoicing in the gifts the Creator gives us each day. Seeing the smile on your faces and the great happiness in your eyes when you have done well in an event, for the sweetest victory is when we surpass ourselves. We realize what true and well-deserved joy feels like!”

Watching the Special Olympians, he said, everyone should learn “to enjoy small and simple pleasures, and to enjoy them together.”

Sporting events, especially international events like the Special Olympics World Winter Games, help “spread a culture of encounter and solidarity,” the pope said, wishing the athletes “joyful days together and time with friends from around the world.”

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Vatican policy promotes access to Jerusalem, self-determination for all

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s hopes for a peace-filled world and its defense of the right to religious freedom have supported its consistent position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for 70 years.

The key concern of the Holy See, and of the Catholic Church as a whole, since the Middle Ages has been for the Christian holy sites and Christian communities present in the Holy Land from the time of Jesus. The vast majority of Christians in the region are Palestinians.

Family and friends of an Israeli soldier who was killed by a Palestinian truck driver mourn during her Jan. 9 funeral in Jerusalem. The Vatican's hopes for a peace-filled world and its defense of the right to religious freedom have supported its consistent position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for 70 years. (CNS photo/Ronen Zvulun, Reuters)

Family and friends of an Israeli soldier who was killed by a Palestinian truck driver mourn during her Jan. 9 funeral in Jerusalem. The Vatican’s hopes for a peace-filled world and its defense of the right to religious freedom have supported its consistent position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for 70 years. (CNS photo/Ronen Zvulun, Reuters)

More recently, it has supported the “two-state solution” with independence, recognition and secure borders for both Israel and Palestine.

While support for the two-state system evolved over time, the Vatican consistently has called for a special status for Jerusalem, particularly the Old City, in order to protect and guarantee access to the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

As Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations, told the U.N. General Assembly in November: “The Holy See views the holy city of Jerusalem as the spiritual patrimony of the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”

Since the early 1990s, the Vatican has seen as separate issues the need for a special status for the city and questions over the political sovereignty or control of Jerusalem. The political question, it has insisted, must be the result of negotiation.

The internationally unsettled status of Jerusalem and its central importance to Jews, Muslims and Christians explains why, while recognizing the state of Israel, no nation has its embassy in the holy city.

Before his inauguration, President-elect Donald Trump said he would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush said the same thing during their campaigns for election, although once in office, they did not carry through with the move, citing its potential negative impact on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Some observers think Trump is more serious about having the embassy in Jerusalem.

“At this point we are in a wait-and-see pattern,” said Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, who was in Jerusalem in mid-January together with 12 other bishops from North America and Europe.

Bishop Cantu, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, told Catholic News Service that Trump’s promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem poses a “serious problem” to any possible two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We are hoping that other, clearer minds will convince the president-elect to change his mind,” he said, promising the U.S. bishops would engage with the new administration in “as friendly a way as possible.”

“We will share with him our concerns based on the dignity of every human person and also based on the rights of the Palestinians to exist as a free and sovereign state living in peace next to a free and sovereign Israel,” Bishop Cantu said.

One of the Vatican’s earliest mentions of the Palestinians’ right to a homeland came in a communique issued by the Vatican press office when St. John Paul II held his first meeting with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat in 1982.

The statement said the pope had expressed his hope to Arafat that “a just and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict would be reached as quickly as possible, a solution which, by excluding recourse to arms and violence, in any form, and especially that of terrorism and reprisal, would lead to the recognition of the right of all peoples, and in particular the Palestinian people, to possess a land of their own, and that of the Israeli people to ensure their own security.”

Hopes and prayers for peace and an encouragement for dialogue to resolve the ongoing dispute have been a centerpiece of papal pronouncements about the Holy Land for more than half a century.

Almost every Christmas and Easter, popes have renewed their pleas for Israelis and Palestinians, with the support of the international community, to commit themselves to dialogue for their sake and the sake of peace throughout the region.

Pope Francis has followed in his predecessors’ footsteps. In his 2016 Christmas address, he prayed, “May Israelis and Palestinians have the courage and determination to write a new page of history, where hate and revenge give way to the will to build together a future of mutual understanding and harmony.”

 

Contributing to this story was Judith Sudilovsky in Jerusalem.

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Vatican Letter: Ecumenical week focuses on overcoming walls of division

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When a group of German Christians was asked in 2014 to prepare materials for the 2017 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, their choice of a “wall” as a symbol of sin, evil and division explicitly referred to the Berlin Wall.

The German reflections on the power of prayer to bring down walls and the Gospel call to reconciliation were adopted by the World Council of Church’s Faith and Order Commission and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and proposed to Christians worldwide for the Jan. 18-25 octave of prayer. Read more »

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Vatican commission launches child protection website

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VATICAN CITY — The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has launched a beta version of its website in English and has included its template for local guidelines on preventing sexual abuse, resources for a day of prayer for the victims and survivors as well as a mailing address to contact commission members.

The website — www.protectionofminors.va — eventually will include versions in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French, the commission said in a statement Dec. 6.

Pope Francis’ international Council of Cardinals identified the protection of children and young adults as one of the church’s priority needs and suggested in December 2013 that he create a commission to advise him and assist dioceses and religious orders around the world in drawing up guidelines, handling accusations and ministering to victims and survivors.

Pope Francis named the first members three months later and appointed as president Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston.

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Put people first, not terrorizing economies, pope tells grass-roots movements

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By Cindy Wooden

Catholic News Service

 

VATICAN CITY — When the search for profits outweighs all other considerations in society, money becomes a god who terrorizes humanity, excluding the majority of people and causing those still well off to build walls to cower behind, Pope Francis said.

“The entire social doctrine of the church and the magisterium of my predecessors rebel against money as an idol that reigns instead of serves, tyrannizing and terrorizing humanity,” the pope said.

Pope Francis greets attendees during a Nov. 5 meeting at the Vatican with participants in the third World Meeting of Popular Movements, a collection of grass-roots organizations of the poor, the underemployed, indigenous communities and farmworkers. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via EPA)

Pope Francis greets attendees during a Nov. 5 meeting at the Vatican with participants in the third World Meeting of Popular Movements, a collection of grass-roots organizations of the poor, the underemployed, indigenous communities and farmworkers. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via EPA)

Like all forms of terrorism, the terrorism of an economy focused only on making money relies on people’s fear for effectiveness, Pope Francis said Nov. 5 during a meeting at the Vatican with participants in the third World Meeting of Popular Movements, a collection of grassroots organizations of the poor, the underemployed, indigenous communities and farmworkers.

“When this terror, which is sown in the peripheries with massacres, pillaging, oppression and injustice, explodes in the centers with various forms of violence, including odious and vile attacks, the citizens who still have some rights are tempted by the false security of physical or social walls,” he said. “Walls that enclose some and exile others.”

Frightened citizens building walls on one side and frightened and excluded people on the other – “is this the life that God our father wants for his children?” the pope asked.

Wherever there is fear, he said, there is someone who will increase and manipulate it. “Because fear, besides being good business for merchants of weapons and death, weakens and destabilizes us, destroying our psychological and spiritual defenses, anesthetizing us to the suffering of others and, in the end, making us cruel.”

Pope Francis said mercy is the “best antidote” to fear. It works better than anti-depression medicine and is “much more effective than walls, iron bars, alarms and weapons. And it is free.”

Mercy and courage also are needed to respond to the huge wave of refugees, migrants and displaced people all over the globe, he said.

“No one should be forced to flee his or her homeland,” he said. “But the evil is doubled when, facing terrible circumstances, the migrant is thrown into the clutches of human traffickers to cross the border. And it is tripled if, arriving in the land where he or she hoped to find a better future, one is despised, exploited or even enslaved.”

Pope Francis urged members of the popular movements to lobby their governments to be more welcoming of migrants and to improve programs to ensure their integration into their host societies.

The political activism of the groups, he said, is important for ensuring true democracy and not simply an attitude where politicians address poverty without ever listening to or responding to the poor.

In democracies, he said, people who “seek the common good can defeat, with the help of God, the false prophets who exploit fear and desperation, who sell magic formulas of hatred and cruelty or selfish well-being and illusory security.”

When getting involved in politics, though, the pope said, members of the movement must guard against corruption.

All people are called to be honest, he said, but politicians and public servants have an even greater obligation. “The standard is very high: one must live the vocation of service with a strong sense of austerity and humility. This applies to politicians, but also for social leaders and for us pastors.”

Pope Francis said politics is not the place for “anyone who is too attached to material things or to the mirror, those who love money, lavish banquets, sumptuous houses, refined clothes, luxury cars.”

They don’t belong in the seminary, either, he said.

Seeking power or money “sullies the noble cause” of politics as service, the pope said.

“Fight the fear with a life of service, solidarity and humility on behalf of the people, especially those who suffer,” he said. “Against the terror, the best remedy is love. Love heals all.”

Saying that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “always chose fraternal love, even in the midst of the worst persecution and humiliation,” Pope Francis quoted from one of the sermons of the civil rights leader:

“Hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil.”

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Vatican, Italy tax agreement goes into effect

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Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Individuals and entities that have accounts at the Vatican bank and are subject to taxation in Italy will have until mid-April to report to Italian authorities the income earned by their Vatican accounts.
As part of ongoing efforts by the Vatican to increase financial transparency and accountability, an agreement between the Holy See and Italy concerning taxes went into effect Oct. 15. Read more »

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