Archive of February 17, 2014

Archbishop Parolin: Vatican Secretary of State, soon cardinal

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, who will be made a cardinal Feb. 22, said in a recent interview he is “deeply identified” with Pope Francis’ style of governance.

“The Secretariat of State … must assume a cordial and complete availability to the pastoral conversion proposed by Pope Francis,” Archbishop Parolin told Stefania Falasca of Avvenire, the daily of the Italian bishops’ conference, in an interview published Feb. 8.

“Indeed, it must become, in a certain sense, a model for the whole Church,” he added.

The Vatican’s state department, he said, should “shine in a particularly intense way, in the persons who compose it and the activities it performs” with the three qualities Pope Francis identified in his Christmas address to the Roman Curia: “professionalism, service, and holiness of life.”

Archbishop Parolin is back in Rome after spending four years as apostolic nuncio to Venezuela. But he knows well the Roman Curia, having served in the Secretariat of State for almost 20 years.

He was born in northern Italy in 1955 to a daily Mass-attending father who managed a hardware store and sold agricultural machinery; his mother was an elementary school teacher. His father died when Pietro was 10, of a car accident.

As a boy, Archbishop Parolin was an altar boy, and his priestly vocation was fostered by his pastor, Fr. Augusto Fornasa.

In 1969 he entered seminary, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Vicenza in 1980, where he served two years as a parochial vicar.

Archbishop Parolin was then sent to study canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and then in 1983 was transferred into the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which trains members of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps.

In 1986 he completed his canon law degree, and began his diplomatic service: first at the nunciature to Nigeria, then Mexico, where he contributed to talks which led to the juridical acknowledgement of the Church there, and the opening of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Mexico.

Archbishop Parolin was recalled to Rome in 1992 to work at the state secretariat, handling the dossiers of Spain and Indonesia, as well as relations with Italy.

In 2002, Archbishop Parolin was appointed undersecretary for the relations with states, and charged with the dossiers on Israel, Vietnam, and China.

Vatican relations with Vietnam and China improved under his tenure: Benedict XVI sent a letter to Chinese Catholics in 2007, and Archbishop Parolin twice visited Beijing to lead a Vatican delegation in talk with Chinese officials on the situation of Catholics in the country.

He was appointed apostolic nuncio to Venezuela in 2009, and was consecrated a bishop.

In his Avvenire interview, he indicated that diplomacy is an “instrument at the service of the Church’s mission,” in relation to religious freedom and world peace. In a pluralistic world Vatican diplomacy must “accompany men and peoples to help them realize that their differences are an asset and a resource,” helping them to “construct a human and fraternal world, in which there is room for everyone, especially the weakest and most vulnerable.”

Archbishop Parolin 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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Encyclopedia acknowledges fetal pain as a scientific fact

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new chapter published by Dr. Carlo Bellieni in a prestigious German encyclopedia explores the topic of fetal pain, stating that it is a proven fact that the unborn are able to feel pain, even as early as 20 weeks.

“Fetuses can feel pain. Now we should define it better, but it is a scientific matter of fact,” Dr. Bellini explained in a Feb. 14 interview with CNA.

“We still do not know the exact moment since when the sensation of pain is possible, but evidence allows us to say that it is possible since 20-22 weeks since conception.”

Dr. Bellieni is an Italian neonatologist and a bioethicist, and is also a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.  He serves as Secretary of the Bioethics Committee of the Italian Pediatrics Society, as well as on the Directive Board of the “Scienza e Vita” Association.

An author of various research papers on the study of pain in children and babies, Dr. Bellieni has now published a chapter in the second edition of the German-born “Encyclopedia of Pain” exploring the issue of fetal pain.

“It is one of the most authoritative textbooks in this field, collecting essays of almost all the most outstanding researchers in this field,” the doctor noted, explaining that the publication of a chapter on the topic of fetal pain “is the acknowledgement of this issue by the scientific community.”

In his abstract for the chapter, published in “The Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine,” Dr. Bellieni states that “Most endocrinological, behavioral and electrophysiological studies of fetal pain are performed in the third trimester, and they seem to agree that the fetus in the 3rd trimester can experience pain.”

However, the doctor also highlights that “the presence of fetal pain in the 2nd trimester is less evident,” and although “most studies disclose the possibility of fetal pain in the third trimester of gestation…we cannot exclude its increasing presence since the beginning of the second half of the gestation.”

Expressing his “hope” that this chapter will help to foster “a better treatment of the unborn, starting from its treatment during fetal surgery,” Dr. Bellieni emphasized that “many fetuses undergo surgery to treat several diseases when they are still in the womb, and they deserve to feel no pain during these procedures.”

Referring to the effect that the scientific evidence presented in the chapter will have on the ongoing debate of abortion, the doctor noted that “time will answer this question;” however “the evidence that fetuses can feel pain in the second half of pregnancy can induce interesting reflections in many.”

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Council of cardinals begin third set of reform meetings

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Meeting for the third time since its institution, the council of eight cardinals has reconvened in Rome to address the economic affairs of the Holy See, and will continue their discussions over the next three days.

The council, chosen by Pope Francis to advise him on matters of church governance and curia reform, will be meeting Feb. 17 – 19, following an initial meeting in October, and a second in December.

During a Feb. 17 press briefing for journalists, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi stated that as in previous meetings, “the Cardinals initiated their work with a Holy Mass concelebrated this morning at 7 a.m. in the Sanctae Marthae chapel, after which they began their meetings in a nearby room.”

Noting that Secretary of State and soon-to-be cardinal Pietro Parolin was present, Fr. Lombardi explained that this morning was “dedicated to hearing the representatives of the Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See (COSEA).”

Highlighting how only three members of the commission were present, the spokesman observed that they presented to the council the work which has been “carried out during the eight months since the creation of this body was presented,” however “no decision was made.”

“Following the meeting, the cardinals dined together with Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, and this afternoon they will continue their meeting, but without the attendance of the COSEA representatives,” Fr. Lombardi continued.

Giving the schedule for the rest of the week, the spokesman revealed that tomorrow the cardinals will hear reports from the Commission for Reference on the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), commonly known as the Vatican Bank.

On Wednesday, he explained that the Pope will attend his weekly general audience as usual while the cardinals continue to meet, and in the afternoon “the cardinals of the so-called ‘Council of Fifteen’” will meet with “‘the Council of Eight.’”

The council of fifteen, recalled the spokesman, was “instituted by John Paul II” and is “responsible for the general consolidated financial statement of the Holy See and the Governorate of Vatican City State.”

Following the council of eight meetings, the Extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals, which is dedicated to the family, will meet on Thurs. Feb. 20 at 9:30 in the morning, Fr. Lombardi noted, adding that “participants will meet in the morning session from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and in the afternoon from 4:30 to 7:30.”

Concluding on Friday, Fr. Lombardi explained that “the work of the consistory will begin with a greeting from the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano,” and afterwards “there will be an address from Cardinal Walter Kasper.”

Cardinal Kasper is the former president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and will offer reflections on the theme which will be discussed by all the cardinals during the following sessions, the spokesman noted.

Fr. Lombardi also drew attention to the consistory which will be held on Sat. Feb. 22, during which Pope Francis “will create sixteen new cardinals,” who will celebrate Mass with the pontiff the next morning.

Closing his remarks, the spokesman noted that on Mon. and Tues. of next week, “a meeting of the Secretariat of the Synod and the council of fifteen will take place,” and will continue preparations for the upcoming synod of bishops.

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Be patient even in the midst of trials, Pope encourages

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his daily homily Pope Francis emphasized that God is not a “sorcerer” who does what we want, but rather has a plan that we should wait for with patience even when we face challenges.

“God does not behave like a sorcerer, God has his own way of proceeding. And God is patient,” the Pope said during Mass on Feb. 17, adding that “when we endure trials with faith they ripen our lives.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass this morning in the Vatican's Saint Martha guesthouse alongside the members of the council of eight cardinals, who are holding their third meeting on matters of Church governance and reform this week.

Referring to one of the day's reading taken from the book of James which speaks of having joy in difficulties, the pontiff said we ought to “consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

Patience has nothing to do with resignation, but rather “when we endure trials with faith they ripen our lives,” he explained, adding that those who want everything immediately are like spoiled children who don't understand the wisdom of patience and perseverance.

These people, observed the Pope, cannot grow or face life as it comes, adding that another temptation for the impatient is the power of having what they want immediately.

Highlighting how this is the same attitude which the Pharisees had in the Gospel reading, taken from Mark, when they asked Jesus to perform signs, the pontiff noted that “they wanted God to perform a miracle to show that God approved of him.”

“They confuse God's way of acting with that of a sorcerer. But God does not behave like a sorcerer,” he emphasized, explaining that God is patient and “has his own way of proceeding.”

“Each time we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we sing a hymn to God’s patience,” continued the Pope, adding that “the Lord carries us on his shoulders with much patience!”

“Christians must live their lives in time with the music of patience, because it is the music of our fathers, of the people of God, of those who believed in his Word, who followed the commandment that the Lord gave to our father Abraham: 'walk before me and be blameless.'”

Quoting St. Paul's words in his letter to the Hebrews, Pope Francis noted that “God's people have suffered and have been persecuted, but they have had the joy of looking forward to God’s promises,” and emphasized that this is the patience we should have when we face difficulties in life.

A mature person has this patience, he observed, drawing attention to the many people he meets when he visits parishes who suffer with various problems – whether it be the challenges of raising a disabled child, or the challenge of illness.

These people, the Pope expressed, “go forward in their lives with patience…They do not ask for signs,” but “they know how to read the signs of the times.”

“They know that when the fig tree blossoms spring is on its way,” he explained, emphasizing that “those who wanted a sign from heaven did not know how to read the signs of the times,” and “that is why they did not recognize Jesus.”

Praising those people who “suffer but do not lose the smile of faith; those who have the joy of faith” the pontiff went on to say that these are the ones in our parishes ad institutions that keep the Church going with their everyday holiness.

Concluding his reflections, Pope Francis encouraged all present to “consider it pure joy when you face trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

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New Pakistan archbishop emphasizes social harmony between religions

Lahore, Pakistan, Feb 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - The new Archbishop of Lahore, Pakistan, has asked people to pray that he has “courage and faith,” stressing the need for justice and respect between religions.

“There is not much peace in Pakistan,” Archbishop Sebastian Shaw told Aid to the Church in Need Feb. 10, ahead of his Feb. 14 installation.

He voiced his commitment to have more meetings with other faith leaders and to increase training programs for teachers, catechists, parents and women to help them learn about their rights and responsibilities.

“There is an urgent need for greater equality and social justice and for peace,” he added. “The Church should be a visible sign of our commitment to this and we can only move forward by lives of service.”

The Archdiocese of Lahore has as many as 600,000 Catholics, about half of all Catholics in Pakistan. Christians and other religious minorities, including Shiite Muslims and Ahmadiyya Muslims, suffer persecution, violence and discrimination in the country.

Archbishop Shaw said that interfaith cooperation, ecumenical dialogue and outreach through television are important in developing social harmony. He plans to launch a cable channel initiative called “Catholic TV Lahore” to broadcast 12 or more hours each day.

He said that people must “feel the need for peace.”

“They will see that peace comes when we have justice,” he stressed.

“What we need is to learn to respect one another – to realize that we are all Pakistanis, whether we are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs or Hindus.”

Archbishop Shaw, a Franciscan, has been the archdiocese’s apostolic administrator since Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha stepped down in 2011.

Archbishop Shaw was installed as head of the Lahore archdiocese at a Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral led by Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the apostolic nuncio to Pakistan. All of Pakistan’s bishops attended.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has said that Pakistan should be classified as a Tier 1 “country of particular concern,” the worst category of offender against religious liberty. The commission’s 2013 report cited “chronic” sectarian and religiously motivated violence in the country, as well as the Pakistan government perpetrating and tolerating “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief.”

The predominantly Muslim country’s strict anti-blasphemy laws have led to death sentences for some Christians, including a mother of five named Asia Bibi, who remains in prison.

Controversy over the blasphemy law resulted in the 2011 assassinations of Punjab governor Salman Taseer and of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic who was the national Minister for Minorities and the first Christian in the national cabinet.

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Spain's pro-life bill hailed as growing European trend

Madrid, Spain, Feb 17, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new bill in Spain to re-establish limits on abortion and assert the state's right to protect unborn children is a step forward in the larger pro-life movement growing across the continent, a European legal expert says.

“One of the goals of the Spanish bill was to create debate” said Grégor Puppinck, director of the European Centre for Law and Justice.

“The debate about abortion is all across Europe,” he told CNA on Feb. 13, adding that the Spanish bill is a “way to provoke thought” and continue the debate about abortion across the continent.

The Spanish bill seeks to address what many have seen as an overreach by a 2010 law passed by the Socialists. The 2010 law allowed for abortion up to 22 weeks of pregnancy if there was a “serious risk to the life or health of the mother or the fetus.” However, critics have argued that the law was unregulated, in practice creating a situation where abortion-on-demand was allowed for any reason during this time.

The proposed bill would tighten these regulations. It would continue to allow for abortion at different stages throughout pregnancy, but only for certain reasons, including rape, terminal deformity and the physical or mental well-being of the mother, confirmed by medical professionals. The bill also reinforces a state interest in protecting unborn life, as well as doctors’ conscience rights to refuse to participate in an abortion.

Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardon has been quoted by European media outlets as saying “No right is unlimited,” and that rather than viewing abortion as a “fundamental right,” it should be seen as something to be balanced with the protection of women and unborn children

A Socialist proposal to withdraw the bill was defeated Feb. 11, as the majority of the nation’s parliament voted to allow the measure to move forward. It will now be debated in Congress.

Puppinck said that the proposed law balances the rights of the child with a mother's concerns, attempting to “reconsider the matter and issue with a more realistic approach, taking into account both the situation of the mother and the existence of the unborn child.”

This new approach, he said, “is not hostile to abortion but does not believe anymore that abortion is a great freedom.”

He added that the bill’s “concern also for the woman” can be seen in the parental notification sections, which are intended to protect young women's interests, as well as the requirement that mothers receive medical consultation before an abortion.

While there has been a “very small” pushback against the bill, “the youth is on the pro-life side with no doubt at all,” Puppinck said, pointing to a Madrid pro-life march drawing more than 1 million participants.

In addition, he stressed that while many Christians are “concerned by the problem of abortion,” the European pro-life movement “is broader than the Christians,” encompassing a range of religious views. Those in favor of restricting abortion, he said, are motivated by “care for others” and “increasing scientific knowledge about life.”

Puppinck also said that the Spanish bill can be seen as part of a larger movement against abortion in Europe. He explained that “the change came first from former communist countries,” such as Poland, Lithuania, the Ukraine and Russia, which have rejected permissive abortion laws imposed by the former Soviet Union on member states.

Gradually, he said, other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Norway, have restricted late term abortions after 22 weeks, in part due to scandals where babies who had survived abortions were “left to die.”

In addition, a European citizens’ initiative reached more than 1.5 million signatures last fall in support of banning funding for human embryo-destroying policies, requiring the European Commission to submit the proposal to the E.U. Parliament.

According to Puppinck, the proposed Spanish bill is another indicator of shifting views across the continent.

“What is important with Spain is that it’s a very Western country, and it goes much further than just limiting late abortions,” he explained.

The strong protections that the law would enact have created “a big discussion in Spain about whether or not the state can limit abortion,” as well as conversations about the state's responsibility to women and children, he said.

Despite abortion expansions in some parts of Western Europe in recent years, Puppinck said that legislation such as the Spanish bill shows that the view of abortion as a “sacred human right” is “no longer the only position” in modern Western societies.

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