Vatican City, Jul 1, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis’ first encyclical will be published on Friday, July 5, the Vatican has announced.
The encyclical was begun by Benedict XVI and finished by Pope Francis in recent months. It is entitled “Lumen Fidei,” which means “The Light of Faith.”
The papal document will be presented at a press conference by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
Vatican City, Jul 1, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
At his homily for daily Mass at Saint Martha House, Pope Francis called Abraham's bargaining with the Lord for the people of Sodom a model of prayer – a courageous negotiation with God.
“Praying is negotiating with the Lord, even being inopportune with the Lord,” the Bishop of Rome said at the chapel of the Vatican guest-house July 1.
“Abraham is a courageous man and prays with courage,” he said, finding “the strength to speak face to face with the Lord” in an attempt to “defend” the city of Sodom from destruction.
Abraham's willingness to bargain with the Lord – negotiating for the city's safety from finding 50 to only 10 righteous people to spare it – shows us that “prayer must be courageous.”
The Mass was concelebrated by Cardinal Kurt Koch and Bishop Brian Farrell, the president and secretary, respectively, of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Members and staff of the council attended the Mass.
“When we speak of courage we always think of apostolic courage, going out to preach the Gospel, these sort of things,” the Roman Pontiff stressed.
“But there’s also the kind of courage demonstrated before the Lord … going courageously before the Lord to request things.”
He noted that “it makes you laugh a bit,” and “this is funny because Abraham speaks with the Lord in a special way, with this courage.”
According to Pope Francis, one doesn’t know if this is a man who prays or if this is a “Phoenician deal,” because “he is bartering the price down.”
“And he’s tenacious, from fifty he’s succeeded in lowering the price down to ten.”
“He knew that it wasn’t possible; only that it was right. But with that courage, with that tenacity, he went ahead.”
Abraham's example is “beautiful,” Pope Francis said, because he decided “to convince the Lord with the Lord's own virtues … Abraham's appeal goes to the heart of the Lord and Jesus teaches us the same.”
“The Father, he knows. The Father – don't worry – sends rain down on the just and the sinners, the sun for the just and for the sinners.”
“Jesus himself praised the woman who tenaciously begged for the healing of her daughter,” reflected Pope Francis, saying that tenacity – persistence – is a virtue in prayer.
“Sometimes one goes to the Lord to ask something for someone, one asks for a favor and then goes away. But that is not prayer,” because “if you want the Lord to bestow a grace, you have to go with courage and do what Abraham did,” praying persistently.
Pope Francis told of how Jesus explained we must pray “as the widow with the judge, like the man who goes in the middle of the night to knock on his friend’s door with tenacity.”
“Tenacity, even though it’s tiring, is really tiresome, but this is the attitude of prayer,” he affirmed. “This is prayer, this is receiving a grace from God.”
But, this negotiating with the Lord “is possible only when there’s familiarity with the Lord,” he said.
The Bishop of Rome advised everyone to spend just a couple minutes every day to become familiar with the Lord, recommending reading Psalm 102 daily: “Bless the Lord, O my soul.”
“Pray all of this psalm,” he taught, “and with this we learn the things we must say to the Lord when we request a grace. ‘You who are merciful and forgiving, grant me this grace': just as Abraham did and as Moses did.”
“We forge ahead in prayer, courageous, and with these motivations which come right from the heart of God himself.”
“Praying is praising the Lord in the beautiful things he shares, and asking him to bestow these beautiful things on us. And (appealing to him) who is so merciful, so good, to help us.”
Vatican City, Jul 1, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis will travel to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on July 8 to pray for immigrants who died trying to reach the destination.
A statement released July 1 by the Holy See press office said the Holy Father was “deeply touched by the recent sinking of a boat carrying migrants from Africa, the latest of a series of similar tragedies.”
“Because of the particular circumstances,” the statement explained, the Pope’s visit will be “as discreet as possible, also with regard to the presence of the bishops of the region and of the civil authorities.”
Over the last decade, the island of Lampedusa has been a main gateway for migrants – particularly from Africa – seeking to enter Europe.
The pontiff will pray for those who lost their lives at sea and visit survivors and refugees.
He will also encourage Lampedusa’s inhabitants and appeal to the responsibility of all to ensure that proper care is given to them.
The Pope will celebrate Mass at 10:00 a.m. local time at the Arena Sporting Ground. He will then visit the parish of San Gerlando before returning to Rome by helicopter.
On a separate note, the Vatican also announced that Pope Francis will resume general audiences on September 4, after taking a break over the summer.
However, he will continue to lead the Angelus prayer at the Vatican during the month of August.
The pontiff will celebrate Mass in the town of Castel Gandolfo on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption. Italians call the day “Ferragosto,” and it marks the start of their summer vacation.
Rome, Italy, Jul 1, 2013 (CNA) - After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, an Italian cardinal said that recognizing gay unions as “marriages” ignores nature and may yield effects that cannot be entirely anticipated.
“The fundamental structures of our existence would be overturned, with the destructive effects that we can imagine, but not entirely foresee,” Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general emeritus of the Diocese of Rome, said in a June 28 interview with Italian daily Il Foglio.
“We think, in concrete terms, of what can be a family in which there is no longer a father, a mother, and children who have a father and a mother,” he added in the interview, which was noted by Vatican analyst Sandro Magister of L'Espresso July 1.
Two days before the interview, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, and that the federal government must recognize same-sex “marriages” if they are accepted by individual states. This means that “married” gay couples are entitled to the same federal benefits as married straight couples.
Cardinal Ruini said that same-sex “marriage” is an effect of a misunderstanding – even a rejection – of human nature.
In fact, reality is a given, which cannot be changed and is not a construction of society, he explained.
“One very important aspect of our being is that we are structured according to the sexual difference, of man and woman…it is a primordial and evident difference, which precedes our personal decisions, our culture and the education we have received.”
This reality has led humanity “since its origin,” to understand marriage “as a bond possible only between a man and a woman,” he said.
The basis for “gay marriage,” the cardinal explained, is the view that sex is a choice of the individual, and not a given characteristic that is received at conception.
“But,” he said, “this is an illusion, even if it is shared by many.”
“Our freedom, in fact, is rooted in the reality of our being, and when it is violated it becomes destructive, of ourselves first of all.”
Cardinal Ruini emphasized that equality is a good which is to be valued, “understood as equal dignity among all human beings.”
However, when it is understood “as the negation of every difference and therefore as the presumption to treat different situations in the same way, equality is simply something that goes against reality,” he said.
While acknowledging that Western nations are rushing to accept and promote “gay marriage,” he said that ultimately “the future belongs to those who are able to recognize and accept the human being in his authentic reality.”
“The illusions, instead, sooner or later collapse, often after having done great damage.”
Recognizing that governments cannot command or prohibit whom one loves, the cardinal also said that governments “can and must…seek to regulate in the way most useful and most in keeping with reality the behaviors that are born from love but have a public significance.”
He rejected the idea of civil unions as a compromise between supporters and opponents of same-sex “marriage,” saying society can in no way healthfully “banish nature with a personal or collective decision of our own.”
Civil unions would not “satisfy the demand for absolute freedom and equality that is at the basis of the claim of homosexual marriage,” he stated.
Furthermore, Cardinal Ruini suggested, civil unions are harmful to societies because they would further dissolve the already damaged institution of marriage, as well as useless because all of the rights they would afford “can very well be protected…by recognizing them as rights of persons, and not of couples.”
In light of the rush to accept gay marriage in the U.S. and Europe, the Italian cardinal said the Church “cannot help” but uphold reality and the nature of man.
On that basis, Catholics are called to witness to truth and live their faith in the public square.
He urged that Catholics “must become more aware of the cultural and social significance of their faith.”
“When this awareness becomes weak, the faith becomes insipid and has little impact not only in the public sphere, but also in the capacity to draw persons and lead them to Christ,” he reflected.
Vatican City, Jul 1, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Paolo Cipriani, director of the IOR, or “Vatican Bank,” resigned today, along with his deputy, Massimo Tulli, “in the best interest of the institute and the Holy See,” according to a Vatican statement.
The Vatican Bank, officially known as the Institute for Religious Works, or IOR, has begun the process of finding permanent replacements to fill the positions.
Meanwhile, Ernst von Freyberg, who was appointed president of IOR's supervisory board in February as part of the group's reform, has been appointed interim director, and his interim deputy will be Rolando Marranci.
Antonio Montaresi fills a newly-created position, chief risk officer, to oversee compliance and special projects.
Marranci has previously worked as Chief Operating Officer at an Italian bank in London, while Montaresi has been Chief Risk and Chief Compliance Officer with several U.S. banks.
“Since 2010 the IOR and its management have been working hard to bring structures and processes in line with international standards for anti-money laundering,” von Freyberg said in a July 1 communique from the Vatican press office.
“While we are grateful for what has been achieved, it is clear today that we need new leadership to increase the pace of this transformation process.”
“Our progress is in no small measure due to the continued support from the governing bodies of the Institute and its personnel,” he added.
The Italian media has connected the resignations with scandals surrounding the Vatican Bank, which has been working towards reform.
Cipriani had served as director of the organization since 2007, and in 2010, he was investigated by Italian officials for money laundering, along with IOR's then-president, Ettore Tedeschi. Prosecutors had seized some $30 million from a Vatican account at a Roman bank.
Though neither were charged, the Vatican quickly launched a reform of its banking policy, encouraging transparency.
In December 2010, Benedict XVI created the Financial Information Authority, tasked with policing the financial and commercial dealings of all Vatican agencies, including the Vatican Bank.
In July 2012, Europe’s anti-money-laundering agency Moneyval found that the Vatican met nine of the 16 “key and core” areas for combating terrorist financing and money-laundering.
“The Holy See has come a long way in a very short period of time and many of the building blocks of anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism regimes are now formally in place,” the report said.
In September 2012, Swiss lawyer Rene Bruelhart was recruited by the Vatican to assist in further improving financial transparency as head of the Financial Information Authority.
Von Freyberg was appointed president of Vatican Bank on Feb. 15 as part of an ongoing effort to revamp the institute by updating its controls against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Last week, former Vatican employee Monsignor Nuncio Scarano was arrested alongside two other individuals for allegedly trying to move 20 million Euros – $26 million U.S. Dollars – from Switzerland into Italy illegally.
Monsignor Scarano was a senior accountant at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See until his suspension a month ago, and had an account at the Vatican Bank, although he did not work for the organization.
A Vatican official told CNA under condition of anonymity on June 26 that the Vatican is considering whether the IOR “fulfills the mission of the Church in its current structure, or if it needs to be reformed.”
Pope Francis has appointed a board of five members to report to him about the organization’s “legal position” and activities, and to help “harmonize the Institute with the universal mission of the Apostolic See,” the official explained.
The commission will not interfere with the work of the Financial Information Authority.
The Vatican Bank receives and administers funds for charitable activities, especially in the developing world where the financial strength of institutions is not always robust. It has 114 employees, and was founded in 1942.
Washington D.C., Jul 1, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A district court has ruled that the national craft chain Hobby Lobby may move forward with its lawsuit against the federal contraception mandate without being penalized for violating the regulation.
“Hobby Lobby and the Green family faced the terrible choice of violating their faith or paying massive fines starting this Monday morning,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Hobby Lobby, in a June 28 press release.
“We are delighted that both the 10th Circuit and the district court have spared them from this unjust burden on their religious freedom.”
On June 28, the Federal District Court of Western Oklahoma ruled that Hobby Lobby will receive a temporary injunction to protect it from compliance with the federal contraception mandate and the penalties that accompany it.
The Green family founded Hobby Lobby in an Oklahoma City garage in 1972. While the company has grown to include over 500 stores in more than 40 states, the family has maintained a strong Christian identity in operating the business, closing all stores on Sundays, making donations to charity and maintaining minimum wages that are above the national standard.
The company and its owners are currently engaged in a legal battle against a federal mandate requiring employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that may cause early abortions.
Finalized last week, the mandate exempts some religious organizations, but it makes no allowance for the religious beliefs of individuals running for-profit businesses.
More than 200 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against the mandate, challenging that it violates their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.
The Greens do not object to the provision of most contraceptives, which are already included in their health care plan. However, they do have religious objections to the “morning-after” and “week-after” pills, which are also included in the mandate. These drugs can end the life of a newly-conceived human embryo, causing an early abortion.
The family had requested a preliminary injunction to protect the company from being subject to fines of up to $1.3 million per day while the case worked its way through the court system.
Courts on several different levels had previously denied the injunction request. However, in December 2012, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals granted Hobby Lobby en banc consideration of its appeal and then ruled to send the case back to a lower district court for more argument and further consideration.
In doing so, the appeals court argued that Hobby Lobby and the Green family had “established a likelihood of success” in their case against the mandate, and that the regulation “substantially burdened” their religious freedom, causing “irreparable harm.”
The appeals court also observed that “no one disputes the sincerity of Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs,” critiquing the federal government's claim that the company’s “secular, for-profit” status disqualifies its owners from exercising their constitutional right to religious freedom.
Hobby Lobby will now be able to continue with its lawsuit free from threat of penalty. Further hearings on the case are scheduled on July 19 in Oklahoma City.