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On papal flight, Francis says intercommunion policy should be decided by diocesan bishops

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2018 / 05:22 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis said Thursday that the German bishops’ debate on the reception of the Eucharist by the non-Catholic spouses of Catholics, also referred to as intercommunion, should be decided by diocesan bishops, rather than bishops’ conferences.
 
Speaking aboard the papal flight from Geneva to Rome June 21, the pope told journalists that the Code of Canon Law leaves decisions about the criteria for intercommunion to diocesan bishops, in order that their decisions will apply only to their individual dioceses, rather than to the Church across an entire country.

The pope said that although the German bishops attempted to establish guidelines through their episcopal conference, “the Code does not foresee that. It foresees the bishop of the diocese, but not the conference, because a thing approved by an episcopal conference immediately becomes universal.”

“The particular Church, the Code permits it, the local Church [episcopal conference] cannot because it would be universal,” Francis elaborated.

“The conference can study and give direction and opinions to help the bishops to manage the particular cases,” the pope added.

Canon 844 of the Code of Canon Law generally allows for episcopal conferences to establish norms regarding the circumstances in which non-Catholic Christians may be admitted to the Eucharist.

In the danger of death, or “if in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers may licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed,” the canon says.
 
The same canon notes that “the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops is not to issue general norms except after consultation at least with the local competent authority of the interested non-Catholic Church or community.”

The pope’s remarks were in response to a question about a letter he approved, sent from Cardinal-elect Luis Ladaria to the German bishops in May, asking them to study the topic more before publishing guidelines.
 
The pope added that communion for Protestant spouses of Catholics “in special cases” is not a “novelty,” mentioning again the Code of Canon Law.

The Vatican press office could not be reached for clarification by deadline.

During the press conference, Pope Francis also addressed his feelings on the outcome of the day trip to Switzerland, which he undertook for the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches, saying the day’s activities of prayer, speeches, meetings, and Mass had all made him happy.
 
“The right word of the day is ‘encounter,’ and when a person encounters another and feels appreciation for the meeting, this always touches the heart, no? They were positive meetings, good even,” he said.
 
Francis also addressed the topics of immigration and refugees, the responsibility of religions to promote peace, and ecumenism.
 
About immigration, he noted that mass-migration is a problem around the world, and that a country should welcome as many refugees as it can integrate and give work to, in light of the virtue of prudence.
 
The pope also lamented the conditions which many refugees may face if they return to their country of origin, including the increased risk of being trafficked.
 
Speaking particularly of the United States, the pope reiterated his comments in a recent interview with Reuters, that he backs the statements of the U.S. bishops on the issue.
 
Answering a question on the topic of so-called “pacifist Churches,” which hold that a Christian cannot use or condone violence, Francis refuted the idea that there are “religions of peace,” as if that implied the existence of “religions of war.”
 
He said that religious fundamentalism exists, with people who “seek wars,” which it is important to stay alert to, but that during this time, when there is a “crisis of human rights,” all churches should work together to bring about a spirit of peace in the world.

The press conference concluded with Pope Francis presenting a slice of cake to Cardinal-elect Angelo Becciu, currently Substitute of the Holy See Secretariat of State.

Francis, offering the slice of Sardinian cake, noted that it was Becciu's last trip with the pope, because he will soon "change color, but not for embarrassment," referencing the archbishop's recent appointment as a cardinal.

 

Full text of Pope Francis' in-flight press conference from Geneva

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2018 / 04:29 pm (CNA).- In a June 21 conversation with journalists on the way back from a trip to Geneva, Pope Francis touched on an array of topics, including ecumenism, intercommunion, peace and just war, and refugees.


Please read below for CNA's full transcript of the Pope's inflight press conference:


Greg Burke:

Thank you, Your Holiness... we wait a second, here we go... perfect! Thank you in the meantime. To journey, to pray, to work together... we have walked, we have prayed also, at various times, and now we touch on work a little, even to eat after, so that it is seen that to journey together brings fruit.

Today the welcoming- we have seen, after many speeches that it is the mutual respect and it is something more, it is also friendship. However, there is still so much work to do and so many challenges and this interests us normally, the challenges... so, to you journalists... but, if you want to say something first [Holy Father]?

Pope Francis:

Thank you for your work, the day was a little heavy, at least for me... but I am content, I am content [ed. note: or ‘happy’] because the various things that we have done -- that is, the prayers to begin, then the speech during lunch it was the most beautiful, then the academic meeting, and then the Mass, they are things that have made me happy... The tiring but beautiful things! Thank you so much! Now I am available to you.  

Greg Burke:

Good. We begin with the Swiss. (Arnaud Bedat of L’Illustre magazine)

Bedat:

Holy Father, you have been in Geneva, but also in Switzerland. What are the images and what are the strong, important moments that had an impact on you during this day?

Pope Francis:

Repeat for me.

Bedat:

(repeated)

Pope Francis:

I believe that it is a common word: encounter. It was a day of varied encounters. The right word of the day is ‘encounter,’ and when a person encounters another and feels appreciation for the meeting, this always touches the heart, no? They were positive meetings, good even, beginning with the dialogue with the president at the beginning; it was not a speech of courtesy, as usual... [it was] a deep speech on the profound world debates and [spoken by him] with an intelligence... that I remain astonished, beginning from that.

Then the meetings that you all saw, and that which you did not see is the meeting at lunch, that was very profound [or deep] in the way it touched on many debates, mabe the debate we spent the most time on is "the youth." Because even all of the churches are concerned, in the good sense, for the youth and the pre-synod that occurred in Rome from March 19 and then attracted enough attention, because there were youth of all [different] beliefs, even agnostics and of all the countries. Think, 315 youth there and 15,000 connected [ed note: via Facebook] that they entered and exited and this perhaps awakened a special interest.

But the word that came to me maybe the whole trip is that it was a voyage of ‘encounter.’ Maybe... I don't know... an experience of encounter... no rudeness, nothing entirely formal. A human encounter. And this... between Protestants, Catholics and all [people] it says a lot, eh!


Greg Burke:

Thanks, Holiness. Now the German group. Roland Juchem of the German Catholic CIC Agency is here.

Roland Juchem:
 
Thanks, Holy Father. You speak often of concrete steps toward ecumenism. Today, for example, you again referred to that, saying “Let’s see what is possible to do concretely rather than getting discouraged for what isn’t.”

The German bishops recently have decided to take a step and so we ask ourselves why Archbishop Ladaria wrote a letter that seems like an “emergency brake.” After the meeting May 3, it was affirmed that the German bishops would have had to find a possibly unanimous solution. What will be the next steps? Will an intervention from the Vatican be necessary to clarify or will the German bishops have to find an agreement?

Pope Francis:

Well. This is not a novelty because in the Code of Canon Law, what the German bishops were talking about is foreseen: communion in special cases. And, they were looking at the problem of mixed marriages, no? If it is possible or it isn’t possible. And the Code says that the bishop of the particular Church - this word is important, “particular,” if it is of a diocese - must read that. It’s in his hands. This is in the Code. The German bishops, because they had seen that it wasn’t clear... also some priests did things who weren’t in agreement with the bishop, have wished to study this theme and have made this study that I don’t want to exaggerate, but it was a study of more than a year, and more… it’s more than a year… well done… and the study was restrictive.

What the bishops wanted is to say clearly what is in the Code. And, I read it and said: this is a restrictive document, no? It wasn’t open to everyone. It’s a well thought-out thing, with ecclesial spirit. And they wished to do it for the local Church, not the particular. The thing slid along up until there for the German [bishops’] conference. And there, there is a problem, because the Code does not foresee that. It foresees the bishop of the diocese, but not the conference, because a thing approved by an episcopal conference immediately becomes universal.

And this was the difficulty of the discussion: not so much the content, but this. And they sent the document. Then, there were two or three meetings of dialogue or of clarification and Archbishop Ladaria sent that letter, but with my permission. He didn’t do it alone! I told him: ‘Yes, it’s better to make a step ahead and say that the document isn’t yet mature and that the thing needed to be studied more.’ Then, there was another meeting and at the end they will study the thing.
I think that this will be an orientative document so that each of the diocesan bishops can manage what canon law already permits.

It wasn’t a brake … it is reading the thing so that it goes along the right path. When I made a visit to the Lutheran Church of Rome, a question of the kind was posed, and I replied according to the spirit of the Code of Canon Law. It is the spirit that they are seeking now. Maybe it wasn’t the right information in the right moment, a little bit of confusion, but this is the thing: the particular Church, the Code permits it, the local Church [episcopal conference] cannot because it would be universal.

(journalist inaudible)
 
But the conference can study and give orientative opinions to help the bishops to manage the particular cases. Thanks.

Greg Burke:

Now from the Spanish group there is Eva Fernandez of COPE agency and Spanish radio

Pope Francis:

They are good, these [journalists] of COPE

Eva Fernandez:

Thank you, Holy Father! We have seen that even the secretary general of the Ecumenical Council of Churches spoke of help to refugees. Just recently we have seen the incident of the Aquarius ship, also the separation of families in the United States. Do you think that some leaders instrumentalize/use the tragedy of refugees. Do they use them...?

Pope Francis:

I have spoken a lot on refugees, the criteria are those that I have said: to welcome, to accompany, to place, to integrate. This is the criteria for all refugees. Then I have said that every country should do this with the virtue of the rule of prudence, because a country should welcome as many refugees as it can and as many as it can integrate, educate, assimilate, give work to. This I would say is the straightforward/easy, serene plan for refugees. Here we are living [with] a wave of refugees that flee from wars and from hunger. The war and hunger of many countries in Africa, wars and persecution in the Middle East. Italy and Greece were very generous in welcoming [refugees], and for the Middle East, Turkey [was also], in respect to Syria, it has received many... Lebanon many... Lebanon has as many Syrians as Lebanese... and then Jordan... other countries, also Spain has received [them? some?].

There is a problem of trafficking migrants, and also there is the problem when in some cases they return, because they should return if this -- I do not know/understand well the terms in agreement -- if they are in the Libyan water, they should return... and there, I have seen the photographs of the detention centers controlled by the traffickers. Traffickers immediately separate the women from the men... women and babies go... God knows where! This is what the traffickers do! There is even a case that I know of where the traffickers were close to a ship that had accepted barges and... [they were saying] "give us the women and the babies and take the males."

These traffickers and the detention centers of the traffickers eh, that have returned, they are terrible... terrible! In the detention camps of the Second World War they saw these things! And also the mutilizations in the torture of [forced?] labor and then they threw them to be in the comunes of the men. For this the leaders are concerned that they [the people] do not return and fall into the hands of these people [the traffickers]. It is a world-wide concern! I know that the leaders speak on this and they want to find an agreement, even to modify the Dublin agreement and all of this.  

In Spain you have had the case of this ship that is docked in Valencia, but all of this is a mess... the problem of the wars is difficult to resolve. The problem of the persecution also of Christians in the Middle East, also in Nigeria... but the problem of hunger they can resolve, and many European leaders are thinking of an emergency plan to invest in these countries, to invest intelligently, to give work and education in these two things in the countries from which those people come... because -- [I’ll say] one thing, not to offend, but it is the truth -- in the collective subconscious, is a bad motto: Africa is exploited. And Africa is to be preyed on... this is in the subconscious... ‘eh, they are Africans.’ Always ‘land of slaves.’

And this should change with this plan of investment, and to increase education, because the African people have many cultural riches, many, and they have a great intelligence. The children are very intelligent and they, with a good education, can go beyond... this will be the road halfway to the goal, but in the moment leaders should make an agreement between themselves to go forward with these emergency fixes... this here in Europe! We go in America: in America there is a great migration problem.  

(journalist inaudible)

In Latin America too there is an internal migration problem... in my homeland there is a migration problem from North to South and even these people leave the countryside because there is no work and the go to the big cities and where there are these megacities [or huge cities], the slums and all these things, but it is also an external migration to other countries that have work... and speaking concretely of the United States, I back that which the bishops of the country say. I side with them. Thank you.


Greg Burke:
 
Thanks, Holiness. Now is the English group: Deborah Castellano Lubov of the Zenit Agency.


Deborah Castellano Lubov (Zenit):

 Thanks, Holiness! Holiness, in your address today to the ecumenical encounter you made reference to the enormous strength of the Gospel. We know some of the Churches, now the World Council of Churches, the so-called “pacifist Churches” who believe that a Christian cannot use violence. We remember that two years ago in the Vatican there was as conference organized. Do you think that it would be the case for the Catholic Church to unite to these so-called “Churches of peace” and set aside the doctrine of just war? Thanks.

Pope Francis:
A clarification, why do you say that there are “pacifist Churches?”

Deborah Castellano Lubov:

They are considered as pacifist because they have this way of reasoning that if a person (intuits) a violence, at that point they can no longer be considered Christians.

Pope Francis:

Thanks. I understand. Because you put your finger right in the wound, eh? I think that… today at lunch a pastor said that maybe the first human right is the right to hope and I liked that. And this has to do a bit with this and we spoke about the crisis of human rights today. I think that I have to begin from this to arrive to your question.  The crisis of human rights is clearly seen. They speak a bit about human rights but so many groups or some countries take a distance, and “yes, human rights,” but there isn’t the strength, the enthusiasm, the conviction. I don’t say 70 years ago but 20 years ago. And this is grave because we have to see the causes, but what are the causes for which we have arrived to this that today human rights are relative. Also the right to peace is relative. It is a crisis of human rights. This I think that we must think it through to the end, or with certainty.

Then, Churches of peace. I think that all the Churches that have this spirit of peace must reunite and work together as we said in the speeches today, myself and the other people that spoke. And at lunch, unity for peace was spoken of. Peace is an exigency because there is risk of a war that we … some have said this: this third world war, if it is done, we know with which arms it will be done… but if there were a fourth, it would be done with sticks because humanity will be destroyed. The commitment for peace is serious, but when you think of the money that is spent on weapons… for this, the religions of peace… is the mandate of God. Peace, fraternity, human unity. All of the conflicts, don’t resolve them like Cain, resolve them with negotiations, with dialogue, with mediations… for example, we’re in a crisis of mediations. The mediation as a juridical figure (very rich) today is in pure crisis. Hope is in crisis, crisis of human rights, crisis of mediations, crisis of peace.

But then if you say that there are religions of peace, I ask myself, where are the religions of war? It’s tough to understand this. It’s tough. But, some groups, I would say in almost all of the small religious groups, I will say a bit simply fundamentalists, seek wars… Also we Catholics have some. They always seek destruction, no? And this is very important to have our eyes on it.  I don’t know if I replied. Thanks.

They say that the population is asking for lunch, eh, dinner, that there is just enough time to arrive with a full stomach. It’s just to tell you… a word that I want to say clearly that today was an ecumenical day, really ecumenical! And at lunch we said a beautiful word, a beautiful thing, that I leave with you so that you think on it and reflect, you make a nice consideration of this. In the ecumenical movement we have to take from the dictionary a word: “proselytism.” Clear? You cannot have ecumenism with proselytism. You have to choose. Either you have an ecumenical spirit or you are a proselytizer.

Thanks! I would continue speaking because I like it… but now let’s make the Substitute [of the Secretariat of State] come because it is the last trip he’ll make with us, because now he’s going to change color, but not for embarrassment! We want to say goodbye to him. It’s a Sardinian cake to celebrate!


Cardinal-elect Angelo Becciu (Sardinian-born Substitute of the Holy See Secretariat of State):

 Thanks! It is a double surprise of calling me and thanking me in front of you! And then there’s a Sardinian cake. Well, then, we’ll try it with pleasure! I truly thank the Holy Father for this occasion, but for everything, because he has allowed me this magnificent experience of traveling so much with him. At the beginning, he scared me saying, ‘No, I’ve made few trips.’ Do you remember? And then after one, he added another and then another and we said to ourselves, ‘good thing he said there would be few and they’ve been many.’ A magnificent experience of seeing the Holy Father spread the Word of God courageously. My service has been only this: to help him in this. Alright? Thanks to all of you and to those who have helped us! Thanks.

Pope Francis:

Buon appetito, have a good dinner and thanks so much! And pray for me, please. Thanks.
 

 

What’s next for Cardinal McCarrick? How the Church addresses sex abuse allegations

Washington D.C., Jun 21, 2018 / 02:17 pm (CNA).- The allegation that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually abused a teenager is a bombshell for the Catholic Church in America.

McCarrick has stepped down from active priestly ministry at the direction of the Holy See, after an initial investigation judged the allegation to be “credible and substantiated.”

What does that mean, and what might be next for McCarrick?

Any allegation of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy is a serious tragedy, but an allegation against a prominent cardinal, even a retired one, can be devastating for lay Catholics and clergy.

The allegation against the cardinal is that in 1971, then-Monsignor McCarrick fondled the genitals of a 16-year-old boy in the sacristy of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, while measuring the boy for a cassock. McCarrick is alleged to have fondled the same boy in a sacristy restroom the next year, according to the New York Times.

As emeritus Archbishop of Washington, D.C., previously Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark, McCarrick occupied a place of prominence in the US Church. It would be difficult to find any prominent East Coast cleric who has not been photographed next to a smiling McCarrick, who has been a visible presence in the Church even in his late 80s.  

Despite the public persona of an affable bishop, equally at home preaching before a packed cathedral or engaging a room full of donors, rumors have swirled around him privately for years.

Several American priests have spoken to CNA in recent days, noting the uncomfortable reputation McCarrick had for “snuggling,” and his insistent affection for seminarians. Priests in his orbit have recalled the nicknames used in some clerical circles, the oft-mentioned “Uncle Ted” and the uncomfortable moniker “Teddy Bear.”

Statements issued June 20 from the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen confirmed that McCarrick has faced previous allegations of sexual misconduct, albeit with adults, which ended in settlements. That fact seems to lean heavily against his defense in this case, despite his claim of innocence.

This dissonance between public persona and private reputation makes an especially difficult case for the Church to handle, in Rome and in the United States.

As Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal McCarrick was a leading participant in the development of 2002’s Dallas Charter, which established procedures for handling allegations of sexual abuse.

The reforms he helped to adopt have now become the measure by which he will be judged. In fact, the extent to which the full rigor of those norms is applied to his case could also become the measure against which their integrity is assessed.

Under canon law, it is the pope alone who has the right to judge cardinals (even retired ones) in matters of penal law. According to a June 20 statement from the Archdiocese of Washington, Pope Francis delegated Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York to conduct at least the initial stages of the investigation, which have now been concluded.

Whenever there is an allegation of clerical sexual abuse against a minor, canon law requires that the diocese concerned hold a “preliminary investigation.” That process is meant to establish if the accusation has “the semblance of truth,” or, in the language of the Charter, is “credible.”  

The standard of proof required at that phase of the process is very low- requiring only that the accusation not be found manifestly false or frivolous. But what that investigation discovers determines what happens next.

In the United States, following the Dallas Charter, an assessment of the investigation is usually conducted by a diocesan review board. Review boards are quasi-independent bodies made up of legal experts, clergy and independent advisors appointed by the bishop.

If the review board concludes the allegation has the semblance of truth, and the bishop agrees, the matter is ordinarily referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. Since cases involving cardinals are reserved to the pope personally, the case of Cardinal McCarrick was likely forwarded directly to the pope, with some input from the CDF.

In cases involving priests or deacons, if the CDF finds the results of the preliminary investigation suggest further investigation, it has several options.

If the allegation seems well-substantiated, it can refer the matter back to the diocese, to be handled by a canonical trial, or by an expedited process ending in an extrajudicial decree. The CDF can also convene an extrajudicial process or a trial in Rome, handling the matter directly. This is the typical approach in cases which are not clear, or which, for some reason, are particularly contentious or high-profile.

Subsequent to that process, if the cleric is found guilty, the Church may impose the penalty of laicization, permanently removing the cleric from clerical life and ministry, or, taking into account factors including the cleric’s age and health, impose some other penalty. A cleric found to have committed the crime of sexual abuse can never be returned to ministry.

According to the Archdiocese of New York’s statement, following the preliminary investigation, the Archdiocesan Review Board found the allegation against Cardinal McCarrick to be both “credible” and “substantiated.” Taken at face value, this sounds very bad for Cardinal McCarrick’s case.

In fairness, it should be noted that the norms for diocesan review boards allow for significantly different processes and standards in different places, that the procedural and evidentiary norms required in a canonical trial are more stringent, and that the right of defense- an essential part of any legal process- is more robustly defined in a canonical trial.

What happens next will tell us much about how Rome views the credibility of the allegation against Cardinal McCarrick.

In the very rare instances in which archbishops (let alone cardinals) have been personally accused of sexual abuse, full canonical trials have been held at the Apostolic Tribunal of the CDF in Rome, essentially the highest judicial court the Church has. If Cardinal McCarrick’s case is handled by an extrajudicial process in New York, this would suggest overwhelming confidence by Rome in the credibility of the accusation.

It is important, as with any legal system, that the canonical process be allowed to run its course. It is also important that Cardinal McCarrick be given every proper chance and means to defend himself and assert his innocence as part of that process.

It is also possible that, at age 87, Cardinal McCarrick will not face a trial or an extrajudicial process.

In the meantime, the fact that the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen confirmed that there have been previous complaints and settlements because of McCarrick has already caused scandal.

An important question about his ecclesiastical career has also begun to be asked: how was McCarrick allowed to continue for so long in office, and then continue in public ministry after retirement, when Church authorities knew of these settlements?

McCarrick’s former dioceses have been swift to insist that they have never previously received any allegations of sexual abuse of minors. But, as now seems clear, they were aware of credible allegations of sexual misconduct against the cardinal. Some commentators have wondered if Church authorities presumed that so long as no children were involved, there was no obligation to curtail his ministry.

This is not a dry question of past failings by previous administrations: close personal associates of Cardinal McCarrick continue to hold leadership positions in American diocesan curias.

It might be asked whether individuals who could have known - indeed can be reasonably expected to have known - about McCarrick’s behavior, or at least the persistent rumors of it, remain in positions where they will be responsible for assessing and disciplining clergy following allegations of misconduct.

Questions will likely be raised about what these men knew, what they heard, what they did about it and when. Anything less will likely leave some Catholics wondering what else might lurk in the shadow of this scandal.

Hard questions may also soon asked of the other three cardinals in this story: Dolan, Tobin, and Wuerl. They are likely to be asked when they first learned of allegations against Cardinal McCarrick. Cardinals Tobin and Wuerl, especially, might be asked if it would serve the public interest to make clear when they discovered that their mutual predecessor (once removed, in Tobin’s case) had been the subject of sexual misconduct complaints serious enough to prompt legal settlements - and whether they raised questions about his continued public life and ministry during retirement.

While leaving all necessary space for the canonical process concerning the specific allegation involving a minor, the extent to which the cardinals are willing to engage publicly about what they know about the other complaints against Cardinal McCarrick, when they knew it, and what they did, or did not do, about it, could also bear heavily on the credibility of the American hierarchy.

For Pope Francis too, the McCarrick scandal is a serious test. Following allegations of sexual misconduct, the late Cardinal Keith O’Brien, formerly of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, died in disgrace and exile. While he was not formally stripped of his title, in March 2015, Francis accepted his resignation of the rights and privileges of a cardinal.

Having already suspended McCarrick from public ministry for the duration of the canonical process, the steps Pope Francis takes against him at the conclusion of the process - especially taking into account the previous accusations and settlements - will be closely analyzed.

Following on the heels of the much-criticized handling of the sexual abuse scandal in Chile, both the Holy See and the American bishops will be acutely aware that such a high-profile case needs to be handled very carefully. To stop the McCarrick scandal before it becomes a crisis, the margin for error is very slim.

Mission is a prerequisite to unity, Pope says in Geneva

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2018 / 08:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to ecumenical leaders Thursday, Pope Francis said Christian unity in many ways depends on a willingness to go out of oneself to meet the needs of others, and called for a “new evangelical outreach” among Christian communities.

In a June 21 speech, the pope voiced concern over what he said is a growing impression that ecumenism is divorced from missionary outreach, saying the mission aspect of Christianity “cannot be neglected nor emptied of its content.”

Missionary outreach, he said, “determines our very identity,” since preaching the Gospel is core to the Christian identity. And while the ways in which this mission is carried out might vary, we must always remind ourselves that Christ's Church grows by attraction.

To this end, Francis said a “new evangelical outreach” is needed among Christians of different confessions, who are called to be one people that “experiences and shares the joy of the Gospel, praises the Lord and serves our brothers and sisters.”

Francis voiced his conviction that “an increased missionary impulse” would spur Christians toward greater unity, leading to an “ecumenical spring” which, despite the “constant vacillations” among different denominational communities, would allow them to gather together around Jesus Christ.

The pope spoke during a June 21 ecumenical meeting in Geneva to mark the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches.

The WCC was founded in 1948 and is a global fellowship of Churches and ecclesial communities whose goal is to promote unity among Christian confessions.

The council has some 348 members worldwide. Members are present in 110 countries and represent over 500 million Christians, including Orthodox, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran and Methodist denominations, as well as many Reformed, United and Independent communities.

The majority of the founding members initially came from Europe and North America, however, today the bulk of the WCC membership is in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific. The Holy See is not a member of the WCC, but it is an observer, and collaborates with the organization in several areas.

Pope Francis visited the WCC headquarters during his June 21 daytrip to Geneva, which he made specifically for the 70th anniversary celebrations.

After his arrival, the pope met with the President of the Swedish Confederation, Alain Berset, and led an ecumenical prayer encounter, telling attendees that their love for Christ must overcome divisions rooted in party preferences and differences in belief.

Francis then lunched with ecumenical leaders from around the world before returning to the WCC headquarters for his ecumenical meeting. After the gathering, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass for Switzerland's Catholic population before returning to Rome.

In his address at the ecumenical meeting, Pope Francis pointed to the biblical significance of the number 70, noting how in the Gospel Jesus tells his disciples to forgive one another “not only seven times, but seventy times seven.”

That number, the pope said, is not a limit and nor does it quantify justice, but rather, it “opens up a vast horizon” and “serves as the measure of a charity capable of infinite forgiveness.”

After centuries of conflict among Christian communities, this charity “now allows us to come together as brothers and sisters, at peace and full of gratitude to God our Father,” he said, adding that the day's gathering is the fruit of the forgiveness and efforts toward unity of many who have come before them.

“Out of heartfelt love for Jesus, they did not allow themselves to be mired in disagreements, but instead looked courageously to the future, believing in unity and breaking down barriers of suspicion and of fear,” he said.  

Those working in the ecumenical field today are heirs “to the faith, charity and hope of all those who, by the nonviolent power of the Gospel, found the courage to change the course of history,” Francis said.

While in the past this history “had led us to mutual distrust and estrangement, and thus contributed to the infernal spiral of continual fragmentation,” the Holy Spirit has changed the route, “and a path both old and new has been irrevocably paved: the path of a reconciled communion aimed at the visible manifestation of the fraternity that even now unites believers.”

Pope Francis also noted that the number 70 reflects the number of disciples Jesus sent out two-by-two in the Gospel, which implies that in order to be a true disciple, one must “become an apostle, a missionary,” going beyond division to spread the Good News.

Pointing to the theme of the day's meeting, “Walking, Praying and Working Together,” the pope said walking is a two-fold movement which implies both going “in and out,” which means going in toward the center, which is Christ, and out toward “the existential peripheries” of the world.

Prayer is “the oxygen of ecumenism,” he said. “Without prayer, communion becomes stifling and makes no progress, because we prevent the wind of the Spirit from driving us forward.” The pope then urged attendes to ask themselves how often they pray for one another, and for unity.

On the point of walking together, Francis pointed to several ongoing initiatives in which the Holy See already collaborates with ecumenical leaders, including the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism, collaboration with the Office for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation, and the joint preparation of texts for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, among others.

He also praised the WCC's Bossey Ecumenical Institute for their work in training both pastoral and academic leaders for different Christian churches throughout the world.

“The work of our Christian communities is rightly defined by the word 'diakonia,'” a Greek term meaning service to others, he said, adding that credibility of the Gospel “is put to the test by the way Christians respond to the cry of all those, in every part of the world, who suffer unjustly from the baleful spread of an exclusion that, by generating poverty, foments conflicts.”

With vulnerable populations becoming increasingly marginalized and the rich becoming more wealthy, and with Christian persecution increasing throughout the world, Christians themselves are called to draw near to those who suffer, remembering that unity is already established in the “ecumenism of blood,” he said.

Pope Francis closed his address urging attendees to encourage one another while avoiding the temptation “to absolutize certain cultural paradigms and get caught up in partisan interests.”

“Let us help men and women of good will to grow in concern for events and situations that affect a great part of humanity but seldom make it to the front page. We cannot look the other way,” he said, adding that “it is problematic when Christians appear indifferent towards those in need.”

More troubling still, he said, is the certainty shown by some, “who consider their own blessings clear signs of God’s predilection rather than a summons to responsible service of the human family and the protection of creation.”

Asking what each community can concretely do together, the pope urged participants not to hesitate in putting a plan together when ideas arise, so as to “experience a more intense fraternity in the exercise of concrete charity.”

Pope in Geneva: Real ecumenism puts Christ over division

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2018 / 03:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis landed in Geneva Thursday for a day-trip aimed at bolstering ecumenical relations, saying that division among Christians comes from worldliness, and Christ must be prioritized over any differences that might get in the way of unity.  

In his first official speech after touching down, the pope said Christians are called to walk together along the path of the Spirit, which means “rejecting worldliness” and “opting for a mindset of service and growing in forgiveness.”

“It means playing our part in history but in God’s good time, not letting ourselves be caught up in the whirlwind of corruption but advancing calmly on the way whose signpost is the one commandment: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“We are called, together, to walk along this path,” he said, noting that walking together requires perpetual conversion and “the renewal of our way of thinking, so that it can conform to that of the Holy Spirit.”

It could be said that to walk in this way is to “operate at a loss,” he said, “since it does not adequately protect the interests of individual communities, often closely linked to ethnic identity or split along party lines, whether 'conservative' or 'progressive.'”

The pope then pointed to St. Paul's letter to the Galatians, in which the apostle told the community that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

He also referred to the passage in St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, in which the apostle pointed to divisions in the Christian community of Corinth, saying “each of you says, 'I belong to Paul,' or 'I belong to Apollos,' or 'I belong to Cephas,' or 'I belong to Christ.' Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

What modern Christians are asked to do, Francis said, is “to belong to Jesus before belonging to Apollos or Cephas; to belong to Christ before being 'Jew or Greek'; to belong to the Lord before identifying with right or left; to choose, in the name of the Gospel, our brother or our sister over ourselves.”

“In the eyes of the world, this often means operating at a loss,” he said of the ecumenical movement.

However, this loss “is evangelical,” he said, and quoted Jesus' words from the Gospel when he told his disciples that “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”

“To save only what is ours is to walk according to the flesh; to lose everything in the footsteps of Jesus is to walk in the Spirit,” he said. “Only in this way does the Lord’s vineyard bear fruit.”

Pope Francis spoke to participants in an ecumenical prayer gathering during his June 21 visit to Geneva for the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches. The WCC was founded in 1948 and is a global fellowship of Churches and ecclesial communities whose goal is to promote unity among Christian confessions.

The council has some 348 members worldwide. Members are present in 110 countries and represent over 500 million Christians, including Orthodox, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran and Methodist denominations, as well as many Reformed, United and Independent communities.

While the majority of the founding members came from Europe and North America, currently the bulk of the WCC membership is in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific. The Holy See is not a member of the WCC, but it is an observer, and routinely sends representatives to the organization's meetings.

Francis' homily during the prayer gathering was the first official speech of his daytrip to Geneva. He spoke at the WCC headquarters after holding a private meeting with President of the Swiss Confederation, Alain Berset.

In his address, the pope said Christian divisions have historically arisen because “ a worldly mindset has seeped in” at their root.

What happened, he said, is that “self-concern took priority over concern for Christ,” and once this took place, devil “had no difficulty in separating us, because the direction we were taking was that of the flesh, not of the Spirit.”

Even certain attempts to end these divisions in the past have “failed miserably because they were chiefly inspired by a worldly way of thinking,” he said, noting that the ecumenical movement “came about as a grace of the Holy Spirit.”

“Ecumenism made us set out in accordance with Christ’s will, and it will be able to progress if, following the lead of the Spirit, it constantly refuses to withdraw into itself.”

Looking at relations between modern Christian churches and the slew of issues which often stand in the way of full unity, Francis said the current experience is akin to that of the early Christian communities in Galatia.

“How difficult it is to overcome hard feelings and to foster communion! How hard it is to leave behind centuries-old disagreements and mutual recriminations!” he said.

At times, it is “more formidable to withstand the subtle temptation to join others, to walk together, but for the sake of satisfying some partisan interest.” However, this is not the mindset of an apostle, but is the attitude of Judas, who walked alongside Jesus, “but for his own purposes.”

The 70th anniversary of the WCC, Pope Francis said, is a call to strengthen the steps toward ecumenism that have already been taken.

He said Christians should not cease their quest for unity when faced with continual differences, and nor should they be overcome by weariness or a “lack of enthusiasm.”

“Our differences must not be excuses. Even now we can walk in the Spirit: we can pray, evangelize and serve together,” he said. “This is possible and it is pleasing to God! Walking, praying and working together: this is the great path that we are called to follow.”

The aim of this path is unity, and the opposite is a path to division which leads to “conflict and breakup,” he said, stressing that the lack of unity among Christians is not only “openly contrary to the will of Christ,” but is also “a scandal to the world and harms the most holy of causes: the preaching of the Gospel to every creature.”

The Lord, he said, “asks us for unity; our world, torn by all too many divisions that affect the most vulnerable, begs for unity.”

And for Christians, to walk together is not merely a “ploy to strengthen our own positions,” but is rather an act of obedience to Jesus and his love for the world, Francis said, and closed by praying that God would help Christians to “walk together all the more resolutely in the ways of the Spirit.”

“May the Cross guide our steps, because there, in Jesus, the walls of separation have already been torn down and all enmity overcome.”

St. Aloysius Gonzaga

As a young boy, St. Aloysius always had a great desire to know and serve God, but his family life was not always supportive of this desire. He was born into a noble Italian family, and his father was a compulsive gambler. He grew up in a castle and was trained from a very young age to be a soldier and courtier, and despite the opposition of his family, he taught catechism to poor boys.He encountered many holy people in his lifetime; he received his first Communion from St. Charles Borromeo and studied under St. Robert Bellarmine. As a teen, he suffered from a kidney disease which he considered a blessing, as it left him with plenty of time for prayer.At 18 he signed away his legal claim to his title and his family's lands and entered the Jesuits. He died shortly thereafter of the plague at the age of 23, having devotedly cared for plague victims in Rome in the outbreak of 1591.He was canonized in 1726 and is the patron saint of youth, AIDS patients and AIDS caregivers.

Pope says no to women priests, yes to women in Curial leadership

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an interview with Reuters, Pope Francis said more space has to be created for women to take on leading roles in the Roman Curia, but that priestly ordination is not an option.

Responding to a question about women's ordination to the priesthood, the pope said “there is the temptation to 'functionalize' the reflection on women in the Church, what they should do, what they should become.”

“We cannot functionalize women,” he said, explaining that while the Church is referred to as a woman, the Sacrament of Holy Orders is out of the question “because dogmatically it doesn't work.”

“John Paul II was clear and closed the door, and I will not go back on this. It was something serious, not something capricious,” he said, adding, “it cannot be done.”

However, Francis stressed that while the priesthood is out, women do need to be given more opportunities for leadership in the Roman Curia – a view he said has at times been met with resistance.

“I had to fight to put a woman as the vice-director of the press office,” he said, referring to his decision in 2016 to name Spanish journalist Paloma Garica Ovejero as the Vatican's deputy spokesperson.

He said he at one point offered a woman the job of heading the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications, but she turned it down because “she already had other commitments.”

Women in the Curia “are few, we need to put more,” he said, adding that it can be either a religious sister or a laywoman, “it doesn't matter,” but there is a need to move forward with an eye for quality and competency in the job.

“I don't have any problem naming a woman as the head of a dicastery, if the dicastery doesn't have jurisdiction,” he said, referring to the fact that some Vatican departments have specific functions in Church governance that require a bishop to do the job. Lay men are also ineligible to oversee offices that require the jurisdictional authority of a priest or bishop.

For example, the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy has jurisdiction, so it has to be led by a bishop, but for others, such as the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy, “I would not have a problem naming a competent woman,” Francis said.

Women must continue to be promoted, but without falling into “a feminist attitude,” the pope said, adding that “in the end it would be machismo with a skirt. We don't want to fall into this.”

Pope Francis spoke during an interview with American journalist Phil Pullella of Reuters, which took place Sunday at the pope’s Vatican residence, and was published June 20.

In the interview, the pope touched on a variety of topics, including a possible deal with China on the appointment of bishops, clerical abuse and the ongoing scandal in Chile, the reform of the Roman Curia, and criticism he's faced.

On the topic of women, Francis said that in his experience, things are usually done better when there is a mixed group working on a task, rather than just men.

“Women have an ability to understand things, it’s another vision,” he said, noting that whenever he has visited prisons run by women, they “seemed to do better,” because women know how to be “mothers” and care for inmates and their needs in a unique way.

“Women know how to manage conflicts better. In these things, women are braver,” he said, adding, “I think it would be so also in the Curia if there were more women.”

Francis noted that some have said inviting more women into the mix might mean there is more gossip, however, he said he does not believe that would be the case, “because we men are also gossipers.”

Abuse allegation against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick 'credible'

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2018 / 07:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of New York announced Wednesday that an investigation it conducted into an allegation of sexual abuse against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who oversaw multiple U.S. dioceses, has found the accusation to be “credible and substantiated.”

In the June 20 statement, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, said the alleged abuse happened nearly 50 years ago while McCarrick was a priest of the New York archdiocese. It is the only such accusation against McCarrick that the archdiocese is aware of, Dolan said.

Once the archdiocese received the allegation, they turned it over to local law enforcement, and it was “thoroughly investigated” by an independent forensics team, Dolan said, noting that McCarrick has maintained his innocence, but is cooperating in the investigation.

The Vatican has been informed of the accusation, and as a result, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, by order of Pope Francis, has prohibited McCarrick from public ministry. No official statement from the Vatican has been released.

McCarrick, 87, is a native of New York and served as the Bishop of Metuchen from 1982-1986, Archbishop of Newark from 1986-2000 and Archbishop of Washington from 2000-2006.

In his own statement on the alleged abuse, McCarrick said he was informed by Dolan about the allegation of abusing a teenager several months ago.

“While shocked by the report, and while maintaining my innocence,” he said, “I considered it essential that the charges be reported to the police, thoroughly investigated by an independent agency, and given to the Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York. I fully cooperated in the process.”

The cardinal said he was sad to hear that the allegations had been deemed “credible and substantiated” by law enforcement officials.

He said that he accepts the Holy See's decision to remove him from public ministry, and has pledged obedience to the decision.

“I realize this painful development will shock my many friends, family members, and people I have been honored to serve in my sixty-years as a priest,” he said, adding that while he has “absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.”

In his statement, Dolan said the Archdiocese of New York is “saddened and shocked” by the accusation, and asked for prayers for everyone involved.

Dolan also issued a renewed apology to all victims abused by priests, and thanked McCarrick's accuser for having the courage to come forward. He voiced hope that this case “can bring a sense of resolution and fairness.”

In a separate statement from the Archdiocese of Newark, Cardinal Joseph Tobin said news of the accusation against McCarrick was met with “a range of emotions,” and offered his apology to victims of abuse.

“I am thinking particularly of those who have experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy – whose lives have been impacted tragically by abuse,” he said. “To those survivors, their families and loved ones, I offer my sincere apologies and my commitment of prayer and action to support you in your healing.”

Tobin said the Archdiocese of Newark has never received any report or accusation of sexual abuse of a minor against McCarrick.

He noted that many people in Newark likely know McCarrick well from his time leading the archdiocese, and that while the accusation might be hard to comprehend, “we must put first the serious nature of this matter with respect and support for the process aimed at hearing victims and finding truth.”

“The abuse crisis in our Church has been devastating. We cannot undo the actions of the past, but we must continue to act with vigilance today,” Tobin said, and renewed his commitment to seek forgiveness and healing, and to creating a safe environment for children in Newark.

Tobin pledged to continue reporting “immediately to civil authorities any accusation of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy and [I] will cooperate fully in the investigation and adjudication.”

He encouraged anyone abused by a priest to come forward “as brave survivors before you have done,” and urged priests, religious and faithful of the archdiocese to keep the situation in their prayers.

Bishop James F. Checchio, current Bishop of Metuchen, said McCarrick “is appealing this matter through the canonical process.”

After hearing about the “very disturbing” report from New York, Checchio said he had Metuchen's records re-examined, and no accusations of sexual abuse had ever been raised against McCarrick. However, in the past, allegations of “sexual behavior with adults” had been brought forward.

Both the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark, he said, decades ago received three allegations of “sexual misconduct with adults,” and two of these allegations have resulted in settlements.

Pope Francis criticizes Trump's 'zero-tolerance' migrant policy

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2018 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a new interview with Reuters, Pope Francis backed the U.S. bishops' opposition to the separation of migrant children from their parents at the Mexican border, calling the move “immoral” and “contrary to Catholic values.”

“I am on the side of the bishops’ conference,” the pope said, referring to statements made by U.S. bishops earlier this month.

Francis' comment was made in reference to the Trump administration's “zero tolerance” policy on immigration, which was rolled out in May and, among other things, enforces the separation of children from parents who have been detained by border officials.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, issued a statement during the bishops' biannual meeting in Fort Lauderdale last week. He criticized the policy, saying “separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

He said later the bishops would consider the possibility of sending a delegation to the U.S.-Mexico border to see the detention centers for themselves and offer solidarity for incoming migrants and refugees.

“Let it be clear that in these things, I respect [the position of] the bishops conference,” Pope Francis said in the interview with Reuters.

When migrants arrive to a country, “you have to receive them, help them, look after them, accompany them and then see where to put them, but throughout all of Europe,” he said, noting that “some governments are working on it, and people have to be settled in the best possible way, but creating psychosis is not the cure.”

No full text of the interview was available, however, the pope also touched on a variety of other issues, including the possibility of a deal with China on the appointment of bishops, the sexual abuse scandal in Chile, the reform of the Roman Curia and the criticism he's faced.  

The conversation with Reuters marks the the pope's first on-the-record interview with a major American news outlet.

During the 2-hour conversation, which took place in his residence at the Vatican's Saint Marta guesthouse Sunday, Francis said the ongoing reform of the Vatican's structures is going well, “but we have more work.”

In the latest reform move, the pope's Council of Cardinals in their meeting earlier this month finished the first draft of a new apostolic constitution outlining the role and structure of the Roman Curia titled “Predicatae Evangelium.”

Francis voiced satisfaction at the status of the Vatican's financial reform, saying the Vatican bank, which in the past lacked proper oversight and has now flagged and closed several suspicious accounts and transactions, “works well.”

Referring to criticism he has received throughout his papacy, the pope said he prays for those who have said “nasty things” about him.

Referring to the “dubia” letter sent to him by four cardinals, including American Cardinal Leo Raymond Burke, asking him to clarify excerpts of Chapter 8 of his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia,” the pope said he found out about the letter “from the newspaper.”

This, he said, is “a way of doing things that is, let’s say, not ecclesial, but we all make mistakes.” Using the analogy of a river, he said “we have to be respectful and tolerant, and if someone is in the river, let’s move forward.”

On the Chilean abuse scandal, Pope Francis, who has already accepted the resignation of three bishops, including that of Juan Barros Madrid from the Diocese of Osorno, said he may accept more resignations in the future.

He also voiced optimism about the Vatican's ongoing discussion with China on the appointment of bishops, saying the discussions are “at a good point.”

Though he has been criticized for engaging China's communist party for a deal which would give them a say on bishop appointments, Francis said “dialogue is a risk, but I prefer risk rather than the certain defeat that comes with not holding dialogue.”

“As for the timing, some people say it’s 'Chinese time.' I say it’s God’s time. Let’s move forward serenely.”

Pope Francis: We are God's children, not his slaves

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2018 / 04:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said the 10 Commandments are not heartless rules imposed on mankind by an oppressive God, but are rather words given by a father to his children in order to protect them from harm.

“Man is in front of this crossroads: does God impose things on me, or take care of me? Are his commandments only a law, or do they contain a word? Is God a master or a father? Are we slaves, or children?” the pope said June 20.

This is a “battle” which takes place both inside and outside of the person, and “is continually present: a thousand times we must choose between a slave mentality and a mentality of children,” he said, adding that the Holy Spirit is a spirit “of sons, it is the Spirit of Jesus.”

“A spirit of slaves can only welcome the law in an oppressive way, and it can produce two opposite results: either a life of duties and obligations, or a violent reaction of rejection.”

The whole of Christianity, he said, is the passage “from the letter of the law to the Spirit who gives life. Jesus is the word of the Father, he is not the condemnation of the Father.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience, during which he continued a new series of catechesis on the 10 Commandments.

In his address, the pope noted how at the beginning of Chapter 20 of the biblical book of Exodus, in reference to the commandments, verse one reads “God spoke these words to all.”

The phrase might seem simple, but “nothing in the bible is banal,” Francis said, noting that the passage uses the term “word,” rather than “command.”

In Jewish tradition, the commandments, also called the “Decalogue,” are referred to as “the ten words,” he said, explaining that while they are also laws, the term “decalogue” in itself is meant to connote the term “word.”

Asking what the difference between “word” and “commandment” is, Pope Francis said a command is a something which “does not require dialogue,” while word, on the other hand, “is the essential means of relationship through dialogue.”

“God the Father creates through his word, and the son is the Word made flesh. Love nourishes the word, as does education and collaboration,” he said, noting that two people who do not love each other will not be able to communicate. However, “when someone speaks to our heart, our solitude ends.”

Another difference, he said, is that to receive a command is to receive an order, rather than having a dialogue or a conversation.

Dialogue, the pope said, “is much more than the communication of truth,” but is realized in the pleasure “of speaking and of the concrete good, which is communicated between those who love each other through words.”

The devil, Francis said, wanted to trick Adam and Eve by convincing them that God had “forbidden” them to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge in order to keep “submissive.”

However, the challenge with God's first “command” to them, he said, is to determine whether this norm was meant to impose, or whether it was intended to protect “from self-destruction.”

“The most tragic among the various lies the serpent tells Eve is the suggestion of an envious and possessive deity,” Francis said, explaining that “the facts show the serpent lied.”

Pope Francis closed his audience saying it is obvious when people live as if they were children versus slaves, because people can recognize the logic. “The world does not need legalism, but care,” he said, “it needs Christians with the heart of children.”