Archive of February 15, 2014

Archbishop Stella, the 'big-hearted' cardinal-designate

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Beniamino Stella’s career is characterized by his belief that a Vatican diplomat must have a strong priestly identity, which may well be why Pope Francis has appointed him to a cardinal’s post.

Appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy last September – a post that customarily brings with it the cardinalate -- Archbishop Stella,72, will receive the red hat at a consistory to be held Feb. 22.

Archbishop Stella was born in 1941 into a farming family in Pieve di Soligo, in Italy’s Veneto region, one of 12 children.

He became acquainted with his bishop, Albino Luciani, and in 1960 he began seminary for the Diocese of Vittorio Veneto. Bishop Luciani went on to become, in 1978, John Paul I.

He was ordained a priest in 1966, and then specialized in canon law and entered the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which trains apostolic nuncios, on Bishop Luciani’s recommendation.

Archbishop Stella’s diplomatic service began in 1970, with four years in the Dominican Republic, four in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, five as charge d’affaires in Malta; he then served in the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, part of the Secretariat of State.

In 1987, he was consecrated a bishop and appointed apostolic pro-nuncio to the Republic of the Congo, also coordinating for the Holy See with Central African Republic and Chad.

Archbishop Stella then served as apostolic nuncio to Cuba from 1992 to 1999. Fidel Castro was loosening the reins on the island’s Catholic population, and the archbishop oversaw the creation of four dioceses and an increasing number of Catholic publications.

He contributed to the reinstatement of Christmas as a holiday in the country, as well as to the warming of relations between Cuba and the Vatican. He told La Stampa last year that in Cuba he found the Church as “a community that was lacking in resources and structures, which reminded me of the primitive Church. There was a strong sense of fraternity, poverty and detachment. I remember priests turning up to meetings on bicycles all sweaty but peaceful and generous. They were only too happy and willing to share their toil, poverty and humiliation with their people. We helped and loved each other.”

He was well-loved by the Cuban bishops, who nicknamed him “Beniamino Corazon,” or “Big-hearted Benjamin,” and he oversaw Bl. John Paul II’s 1998 visit to the country.

Archbishop Stella then served as nuncio to Colombia, where he stayed until 2007.

At that time, the country’s conflict with the left-wing Farc rebels was ongoing but decreasing, yet many priests were killed in violence; he negotiated with the Farc for the 1999 release of the kidnapped Bishop Jose Quintero Diaz of Tibu.

In 2002, Archbishop Isaias Duarte Cancino of Cali was assassinated by the Farc, as an act of vengeance for his condemnation of their atrocities. At the funeral, Archbishop Stella intervened at protests which he said were lacking in respect for the late prelate.

Archbishop Stella was appointed president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in 2007, where he directed that the future diplomats focus on their priestly spirituality and be able to “think and reason from the perspective of the universal Church.”

On Sept. 21, 2013, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Stella as head of the Congregation for the Clergy; shortly after, the new prefect told La Stampa that he believes Pope Francis “looks for people who give off a certain feeling of spiritual paternity. Paternity – and maternity – are terms he is very fond of. Spiritual paternity is to do with humanity, coherence and spiritual life. This leads to goodness, closeness, mercy and all the other virtues with which he is building his magisterium day by day.”

Rather than having a fixed agenda at the congregation, Archbishop Stella said, “my plan is not my own, it’s a plan every priest should have, which is to serve God, the Church, and the Pope with a true heart and encourage priests and seminarians to live the Gospel right to its core.”

Archbishop Stella is among 19 men who will be given the red hat of a cardinal at the Vatican later this month. He is one of three who join the cardinalate by virtue of their office in the Roman Curia.

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'Son of God' movie brings Gospels to life, Catholic leaders say

Los Angeles, Calif., Feb 15, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new movie about Jesus Christ – to be released by the makers of the popular History Channel television miniseries “The Bible” – has drawn praise from several Catholic bishops and leaders.

“It is the biggest, greatest story ever told,” said Roma Downey, a co-producer of “Son of God” who stars as Mary.

“The Story of the Son of God is one of the most-known stories in the history of the world,” added her husband and co-producer Mark Burnett. “And yet it never gets old. And the way we have told it is very connective, very young, very gritty and real. You really feel connected and can see yourself as these characters.”

The movie is based on the Bible and covers the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. A 20-minute preview of the video is already being distributed by 20th Century Fox.

The full movie will be released Feb. 28 in English, Spanish and Korean. Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado will play the role of Jesus. Morgado said the role is “overwhelming.”

Burnett said that teenagers and young people who see the movie are “absolutely connecting with the disciples” and realizing “they were just ordinary people.”

“They did not know they were in the Bible, they were just leading ordinary lives,” he said.

The movie was made in consultation with academics and faith leaders.

It has drawn praise from several Catholic leaders.

“It is a joy to watch this film bring alive the pages of the Gospel and help us see what those who lived at the time of Jesus experienced,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.

He said the movie helps individuals and families “be inspired all over again with the story of God’s love for us.”

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said the movie “gives us an opportunity to realize God’s presence in our own lives.”

“Each one of us is a son or daughter of God. It is a wonderful, awesome reality.”

Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said the movie “will speak to your heart and nourish your soul.”

“This is a film that does not simply tell you about Christ, but puts you in the midst of his life, allowing you to see firsthand his public ministry, his love for humanity, and the death he suffered that we might have life eternal.”

Cardinal Wuerl has commissioned movie discussion guides and videos for Catholic churches and schools in his diocese. Both Archbishop Gomez and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami are organizing showings of the movie.

In addition, some community leaders are organizing “Theater Take-overs” to show the movie on every screen in a multiplex. These private screenings will begin Feb. 27.

The movie’s producers hope it will draw upon the success of “The Bible” miniseries, which drew around 11.7 million viewers for its finale at Easter 2013.

“When we were filming the Jesus narrative, we knew that we had something extraordinary,” Downey said. “We over-shot everything in the hopes that we could put together a film, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Downey and Burnett said Feb. 13 they hope that the movie means “the story and message of Jesus Christ will reach tens of millions of people nationwide.”

The movie’s website is

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Pope Francis meets with Cypriot president

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis held an audience Feb. 15 with Nicos Anastasiades, president of Cyprus, at the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, discussing religious freedom and a resolution to the current split of the island nation between Greeks and Turks.

A statement released by the Holy See press office described the meeting as characterized by “cordial discussions which highlighted the good relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Cyprus.”

Pope Francis and Anastasiades discussed “several matters of common interest, such as the positive role of religion in society and the protection of the right to religious freedom,” adding that “satisfaction was expressed at the resumption of negotiations aiming at the development of a shared solution to the island’s current situation.”

The two “indicated their concern regarding the political instability affecting the region of the Near and Middle East, which leads to great suffering on the part of civilian populations, and shared their hope that the Christian communities in the various countries may continue to offer their contribution to building a future of material and spiritual wellbeing.”

After his meeting with Pope Francis, Anastasiades also met with Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.

Juridically, the Republic of Cyprus has sovereignty over the entire island. However, since 1974, the northern portion of the island – about 40 percent of its area – has been occupied by Turkey and has declared itself to be an independent nation, though it is recognized solely by Turkey.

For several decades, the island of Cyprus has been divided between the Greek southern area, under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Cyprus, and the Turkish northern area, which has declared itself to be its own nation, recognized solely by Turkey.

Greek and Turkish Cypriots are divided along ethnic, linguistic, and religious lines: the Greeks are largely members of the Church of Cyprus, an Eastern Orthodox Church; and the Turks are primarily Sunni Muslims.

A wall that long divided the two portions of the island was brought down in 2008, a symbolic gesture indicating movement towards greater unity.

Since then, reunification talks have continued yet no final decisions have been reached.

Benedict XVI made an apostolic journey to Cyprus in June, 2010. There he met not only with political leaders, but in an ecumenical gesture he also spoke with Archbishop Chrysostomos II, head of the Church of Cyprus.

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