Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 16, 2013 (CNA) - While visiting a convent of Poor Clare nuns yesterday, Pope Francis said that “a consecrated woman is a little like the Virgin Mary,” one of the nuns related to Vatican Radio.
“Mary stands behind the door of Paradise. When the sinners get there, Saint Peter is not always opening the doors. Mary suffers, and remains there,” Sister Maria Concetta said, recounting Pope Francis' words to the nuns of the Immaculate Conception Convent in Castel Gandolfo Aug. 15.
“During the night, when nobody can listen or hear, Mary opens the doors of Paradise, and lets everybody in.”
While Roman Pontiffs have customarily spent August in Castel Gandolfo, Pope Francis has remained in Rome this month, traveling this morning to the resort town by helicopter to say Mass for yesterday's holy day of obligation.
Upon arriving in the town, Pope Francis went first to visit briefly the Poor Clares, whose monastery is located inside the Pontifical Villa. It is the second visit he had made to the monastery.
Sr. Maria Assunta, another of the nuns of the monastery, said that “Pope Francis invited us to deeply live our vocation and to be faithful to our charisms of simplicity and poverty that make us sisters.”
The Poor Clares were founded in 1212 as a Franciscan order for women, by St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi.
Pope Francis' predecessors had also visited the Poor Clares of Castel Gandolfo, and the community’s relationship with the Bishop of Rome is a longstanding one.
Benedict XVI received them for an audience in the Apostolic Palace on Sept. 15, 2007, and encouraged them to be “bright torches of love, 'joined hands', watching in ceaseless prayer.”
Blessed John Paul II said Mass at the monastery in the first year of his papacy, and entrusted himself and all of humanity to their prayers.
“In the troubled scenario of history you accompany humanity with your prayer,” he told them. “Because of this presence of yours, hidden but authentic within society, and even more so within the Church, I also look with confidence to your joined hands.”
Paul VI had met the Poor Clares on Sept. 3, 1971, and told them: “You, who are faithful to the Rule (of St. Clare), to life in community, to poverty, are a seed and a sign.”
The link between Castel Gandolfo's Poor Clares and the Holy See goes back even further, however, extending to the 17th century. The monastery was entrusted to the community on March 18, 1631, when a Papal residence was established in the town.
During the next two centuries, wars and sieges at times obliged the nuns to become immersed in secular life, but their community did not break up.
The Holy See “ransomed” the monastery from Italy in the Lateran Treaty of 1929. This treaty recognized Vatican City as a sovereign state, and established the Papal residence in Castel Gandolfo as an extraterritorial property of the Vatican.
The Second World War turned the community’s life upside-down. The monastery was bombed in February 1944, killing 18 nuns.
During the difficulties of the war, Sr. Maria Chiara of St. Therese of the Child Jesus came to be seen as a beacon of light for her dedication to her community. She left nothing undone in trying to alleviate the suffering of the bombing's survivors, and was devoted to her religious namesake.
Asking to suffer the same disease as St. Therese, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and offered her death for the sanctification of priests. Her cause for canonization is open; she has already been recognized as being “heroic in virtue” and named a Venerable.
Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A California bill accused of unfairly targeting the Catholic Church and other groups with lawsuits on decades-old abuse charges has stalled in a committee, but the measure is still being considered.
On Aug. 14, Senate Bill 131 received six votes in the local Assembly Appropriations Committee, three short of the nine needed to advance to the assembly floor for a full vote. Four committee members voted against the bill while seven did not vote.
The committee, which primarily considers how much a bill will cost the state government, focused on whether new lawsuits would overburden the legal system, the Los Angeles Times reports. The group will consider the bill again next week.
California's Catholic bishops have asked Catholics to continue to contact their lawmakers in protest of the legislation.
The Wall Street Journal criticized the 2013 bill as a “nonprofit shakedown” that targets the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, and the “political enemies” of the legislature, in which Democrats hold a supermajority of seats.
Backers of the bill include the National Center for Victims of Crime, whose deputy executive director Jeff Dion told the Assembly Judiciary Committee that it is “very important” for abusers “and the institutions that enabled them” to be held accountable.
However, S.B. 131 specifically exempts public schools and other government institutions from lawsuits.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Faithful Citizenship website said that this exemption means the bill “unfairly targets Catholic and private schools” and fails to protect the 92 percent of California children educated in public schools.
The archdiocese recently launched a new video to encourage opposition to the bill.
“The Catholic Church, and private institutions like the YMCA, YWCA, the California Council of Non-Profit Organizations, and other private and religious institutions in Los Angeles give hope to millions in need through countless charities, educational programs and social service agencies,” the video says.
“But Senate Bill 131 in the California State Legislature may threaten the ability of private schools and social service providers to continue to serve the poor, the hungry, the elderly, and the struggling in Los Angeles and throughout California.”
The bill passed the state Senate May 29 by a vote of 21-10. It passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee by a 6-2 vote.
If the California Assembly approves the bill, the legislation would lift the statute of limitations on child sex abuse lawsuits against private schools and private employers who failed to take action against sexual abuse by employees or volunteers. It would allow alleged victims younger than 31 to sue employers of abusers, extending present age limit for alleged victims from 26 years old.
The bill also provides a one-year window for victims older than this new age limit to sue alleged negligent employers. This could result in many new lawsuits concerning allegations dismissed after 2003, when the statute of limitations was previously suspended.
That suspension resulted in almost 1,000 claims against the Catholic Church in California, with legal awards totaling to $1.2 billion. Some of these claims dated back to the 1950s.
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, in his June 21 column for The Tidings, said the proposed legislation “puts the social services and educational work of the Church at risk.”
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ social media and postcard campaign has helped encourage Californians to send more than 75,000 postcards and emails to representatives in opposition to the bill.
“The bishops of the California Catholic Conference believe it is urgent for all Catholics to act now,” Archbishop Gomez said.
The archdiocese’s new video can be seen at the link http://archla.org/131id. The archdiocese is providing more information about S.B. 131, including how to contact state legislators, through the website www.LAFaithfulCitizen.org.
Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A group of 20 U.S. lawmakers is pushing the State department to encourage Romania's government to return property confiscated from minority religious groups under the former communist regime.
After World War II, the Romanian Catholic Church “wasn’t allowed their buildings – religious objects were seized: it’s about time to make things right,” U.S. Congressman Andy Harris (R-Md.) told CNA on Aug. 15.
“That’s our hope, that the Romanian government does reparations for what’s been seized, and makes things right.”
Harris authored a letter, signed by a bi-partisan group of 12 Republicans and seven Democrats, asking the U.S. Department of State to “vigorously engage the Romanian government to end the travesty of justice which it has perpetuated by failing to fully restitute properties illegally confiscated from religious denominations after 1945.”
Romania was behind the Iron Curtain following World War II, and in 1948 the country's communist government forcibly dissolved the Romanian Catholic Church, which is a Byzantine – or Greek – rite Church in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. It is headed by the Major Archbishop of Fagaras and Alba Iulia, Cardinal Lucian Muresan.
When the Church was dissolved, its properties were given to the Romanian Orthodox Church.
The communist party’s practice of confiscating church properties in Romania primarily affected Romanian Catholics, but properties of the Hungarian Reform, Lutherans and Unitarians were also seized. Jewish properties were also confiscated.
Some 86 percent of Romanians are Orthodox, and five percent are Roman Catholic. Romanian Catholics account for only one percent of the country's population.
After the communist regime fell in 1989, the Romanian government continued to deny Romanian Catholics the use of their churches, and until 2004 even prohibited them from being able to file lawsuits to win the churches back.
According to the Department of State’s 2012 International Religious Freedom Report, many lawsuits since 2004 have been delayed in court, and there have been moves in the Romanian parliament to stop restitution processes that would return the properties to their original owners.
The State department has repeatedly called the Romanian government’s failure to transfer properties back to the Romanian Catholic Church a “significant problem.”
“The lack of progress on restitution of … churches transferred by the former communist government to the Orthodox Church in 1948 remained a significant problem,” its latest report on international religious freedom stated.
The U.S. Congress adopted a resolution in 2005 calling for the restitution of religious properties in Romania.
The letter authored by Harris noted that “unfortunately, the Romanian response has been a pattern of disregard, delay, obfuscation and hindrance.”
It also noted several offenses by the Romanian government against religious freedom which happened in 2013 alone.
Particular attention was given to an April 17 law which “delays and complicates restitution” and an April 23 law “which deliberately omitted return of archival materials” which were seized from religious minorities in 1947.
“Rep. Chris Smith has cited the thousands of claims received by the European Court of Human Rights in Romanian property matters,” it added.
The State department issued a letter in response, signed by acting assistant secretary Thomas B. Gibbons, who said that property restitution “is an Administration priority that we have long raised with Romania and other European partners.”
“Advocating for the rights of Romania’s religious and ethnic minorities, including the rights of the Jewish, Hungarian, Greek-Catholic and Roma communities, is a key priority of the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest.”
The Romanian Greek-Catholic Association, a California-based advocacy group for Romanian Catholics, thanked the members of Congress who sent the letter to the State department, and voiced hope that the initiative will lead to a respect for “basic human rights” in the country.
“Their initiative provided hope for so many Catholics in Romania who are striving to have their human rights respected and be able to worship freely and without constraint in their own churches,” said Father Chris Terhes, president of the association and a priest of the Romanian Eparchy of St. George's in Canton.
He called on lawmakers to continue demanding that Romanian officials “restitute the properties confiscated under the communist regime, which would close a sad chapter of the Romanian history and help the country evolve to a functional democracy.”
Bilboa, Spain, Aug 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Mario Iceta of Bilbao, Spain, said that like Mary, we should allow our lives to be used to offer hope to those in all forms of poverty, as well as to young people.
During his homily at the Basilica of Begona on the feast of the Assumption of Mary, Bishop Iceta drew attention especially to the elderly and the sick who were not able to attend the Mass.
In particular, he mentioned the mayor of Bilbao, Inaki Azkuna, who traditionally attends the festivities on August 15 but was recovering from an illness.
“He would very much like to have been here with us,” Bishop Iceta said, adding that he wishes the mayor a “speedy recovery” so that he can return to “the important task of serving the common good.”
Bishop Iceta also offered prayers for those “suffering or those who cannot find work” and underscored the importance of the faithful practicing “a dynamic, active and creative charity to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters.”
The Lord “sends us to be light in the darkness of the world, to return hope to those who have lost it, to those experiencing the trials of life, to those experiencing the new and old forms of poverty,” he said.
The August 15 celebrations “are an expression of the profound faith of our people” within the context of the Year of Faith, and a call to “accept God, who is love and has a plan of love and salvation for each one of us,” the bishop added.
The Year of Faith, he continued, is an invitation “to renew our faith through meditation on the Word of God, prayer, participation in the Eucharist, communion in the Church, service to the poor and the needy.”
“The Lord invites us to live in a new way, like Mary, putting our confidence in the transforming power of faith and love, which are able to bring contemporary man out of his interior desert and engage him in the construction of a just and fraternal world, where nobody feels excluded, a society that is welcoming and hope-filled, free and at peace.”
Bishop Iceta explained that encountering Christ stirs up in our hearts the need for a true conversion that brings a new perspective to our entire lives.
“We need to return to God, to reach the hearts of so many young people who…in the secret of their hearts, without realizing it, desire Him and need Him more than anything else in order to lead an abundant and fulfilling life,” he said.
Santiago, Chile, Aug 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Two twin brothers in Chile say that their mother’s determination in protecting them from abortion despite the advice of doctors helped to foster their vocations to the priesthood.
“How can I not defend the God of life?” said Fr. Paulo Lizama. “This event strengthened my vocation and gave it a specific vitality, and therefore, I was able to give myself existentially to what I believe.”
“I am convinced of what I believe, of what I am and of what I speak, clearly by the grace of God,” he told CNA.
Fr. Paulo and his identical twin brother, Fr. Felipe, were born in 1984 in the Chilean town of Lagunillas de Casablanca.
Before discovering her pregnancy, their mother, Rosa Silva, had exposed herself to x-rays while performing her duties as a paramedic. Consequently, after confirming the pregnancy, her doctor conducted ultrasounds and informed her that he had seen “something strange” in the image.
“The baby has three arms and its feet are sort of entangled. It also has two heads,” he told her.
Although abortion for “therapeutic” reasons was legal at the time in Chile and doctors told her that her life was in danger, Rosa opposed the idea and said she would accept whatever God would send her.
“The Lord worked and produced a twin pregnancy. I don’t know if the doctors were wrong or what,” Fr. Felipe said.
“I always think with special affection and tenderness in the heart of my mother who gave her life for me, for us,” Fr. Paolo added.
The two brothers were born on Sept. 10, 1984. Felipe was born first, and when the placenta would not detach, doctors suggested scraping her womb. Silva refused however, saying she felt another baby was coming out. Paulo was born 17 minutes later.
“This last detail is very significant for me,” Fr. Paulo said. “The doctors inserted instruments to remove the placenta because it wouldn’t come out. My mother knew that I was there. I was late, but I came out.” Had doctors scraped his mother’s womb, he would likely have been “gravely injured.”
The twins learned about the circumstances of their birth when they were in the sixth year of seminary formation.
“It was surely the wisdom of my mother and her heart that allowed us to learn of such an amazing event at the right time,” Fr. Paulo said, reflected that while he had always thought his priestly vocation came during adolescence, he later realized that God was working in his life from the beginning, thanks to the ‘yes’ of his mother.
Although they grew up in a Catholic home, the Lizama brothers drifted away from the faith and stopped attending Mass. However, their parents’ separation and divorce led them back to the Church, and they received the sacrament of Confirmation.
At the time, Fr. Paulo said, he lacked conviction in his faith but was attracted by the Blessed Sacrament, Gregorian chant, and the silent reverence of prayer.
Fr. Felipe said he was drawn to God through a priest, Fr. Reinaldo Osorio, who would later become his formation director at the seminary.
“God was calling me. I realized that it was in God and in the things of God that I was happy, there was no doubt: I wanted to be a priest,” he recalled.
Despite being close, the two brothers did not talk about their vocations with each other.
“I don’t know who felt the call first,” Fr. Paulo said. “I think God did things the right way in order to safeguard the freedom of our response.”
In March 2003, they both entered the seminary. While it was difficult for the family to accept the brothers’ decision at first, their mother told them after the first year of formation that she was at peace, realizing that they were happy.
The twins were ordained priests on April 28, 2012, and celebrated their first Mass at Our Lady of Mercies in Lagunillas.
Now, a year after their ordination, Fr. Felipe serves at the parish of Saint Martin of Tours in Quillota, and Fr. Paulo serves at the parish of the Assumption of Mary in Achupallas.
“God doesn’t mess around with us. He wants us to be happy, and the priesthood is a beautiful vocation and that makes us completely happy,” Fr. Felipe said.
Following Jesus is not easy but it is beautiful, added Fr. Paulo.
“Jesus, the Church and the world need us,” he explained. “But they don’t need just any young person: they need young people empowered by the truth of God, so that their very lives convey life, their smiles convey hope, their faces convey faith and their actions convey love.”
Vatican City, Aug 16, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A series of seemingly minor appointments may be the forerunners of a Pope Francis “revolution” in the Roman Curia, centered on the Pope who prefers to maintain a small circle of persons around him.
“There is a transition in place, and Pope Francis has his own project, which he shares just with a few people around him,” a source who is familiar with the Vatican Secretariat of State told CNA Aug.13.
The transition can be seen, according the source, by several “side appointments” made by Pope Francis, such as those of Archbishop Guido Pozzo, Monsignor Konrad Krajewski, and Msgr. Francesco Camaldo.
These appointments presage the Bishop of Rome's major appointments, and the source maintained that “the revolution will probably start with the appointment of the Secretary of State, awaited for September.”
The current Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, was appointed seven years ago, under Benedict XVI. The position is second in the Roman Curia, lower only than the Pope.
Among the “side appointments” was the announcement on a recent Saturday – Aug. 3 – that Archbishop Pozzo would take over his previous post, as secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the curial office charged with reconciling the ultra-traditionalist Society of St. Pius X.
At the same time, Archbishop Pozzo's post as head of the Office of Papal Charities was filled by Msgr. Krajewski, who has served as a Papal master of ceremonies and is a priest of the Lódz archdiocese in Poland.
According to a source familiar with the Society of St. Pius X who spoke to CNA Aug. 14 under conditions of anonymity, Archbishop Pozzo's re-appointment as secretary could “mean a strengthening of the role of Ecclesia Dei, and this could mean that Pope Francis is thinking about re-approaching with (the Society) after the breach of last February.”
“Anyway, much must still be understood about this appointment.”
Archbishop Pozzo had already served as secretary of the Pontifical Commission, from July 8, 2009 to Nov. 3, 2012. He was first appointed to Ecclesia Dei when Benedict XVI made efforts to kick start negotiations with the Society of St. Pius X.
Benedict XVI had rescinded the excommunication of the four bishops illicitly consecrated in 1988, and also linked the Pontifical Commission to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, noting that the problems in dialogue with the Society were “doctrinal in nature.”
And when Archbishop Pozzo was removed from Ecclesia Dei to the Office of Papal Charities, the commission had already been strengthened by the appointment of Archbishop Augustine Di Noia as vice president the preceding June.
Msgr. Krajewski's appointment as the new head of the Office of Papal Charities “leads one to think that Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz … has gained a renewed influence under Pope Francis' pontificate.”
Cardinal Dziwisz, the Archbishop of Kraków, was personal secretary to Blessed John Paul II and is a compatriot of Msgr. Krajewski.
Yet another interesting side appointment made by Pope Francis and publicized Aug. 4., is that of Msgr. Francesco Camaldo as canon of the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome.
Msgr. Camaldo has until now been a dean of Papal ceremonies. He served as secretary to Cardinal Ugo Poletti, who from 1973 to 1991 was vicar general of the Diocese of Rome. He was named a monsignor in 1984.
The appointment gives Msgr. Camaldo “the right to abode” at St. John Lateran, and has been interpreted by several observers as a measure to distance him from the Vatican.
In fact, though he works in the Vatican, Msgr. Camaldo has been in residence at St. John Lateran for some time, so his new appointment should not be interpreted as a measure to distance him from the Curia.
A prominent Vaticanista, Gianfranco Svidercoschi, noted in conversation with CNA Aug. 13 that “despite the shadows on him, Msgr. Camaldo maintained his post as dean of Papal ceremonies under three Popes, which means that he is very well networked.”
Svidercoschi also asserted that “Msgr. Camaldo's last appointment 'formally' distances Msgr. Camaldo from the Vatican walls. (But) in fact, it just states what he has always done: living at St. John Lateran.”
Msgr. Camaldo has been associated with supposed scandals twice, but has always come out clean.
Earlier this year, Patrizio Poggi, a former priest who had been laicized for committing child abuse, accused Msgr. Camaldo as being part of a “ring” of homosexuals at the Vatican.
Poggi – who has been sentenced to several years of prison – told Italian police there is a ring of homosexual priest and laymen in Rome, and that this “ring” would hire young men and boys as prostitutes.
Poggi was deemed not credible, and charged for libel. The prosecutors have officially denied Poggi’s allegations.
Despite Poggi's incredibility, the shadow on Msgr. Camaldo still stays on, as he has been involved in other investigation in the past.
He has been involved in investigations against Angelo Balducci, a former ceremonial usher in the Papal household and board member of Italy's Public Works.