Archive of March 5, 2014

Historian critiques Cardinal Kasper's speech as a 'cultural revolution'

Rome, Italy, Mar 5, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Roberto de Mattei, an Italian historian, has written about Cardinal Walter Kasper’s Feb. 20 address to cardinals on marriage and the family, calling it a “resounding revolution of culture and praxis.”

The column, authored by the chair of the history department at the European University of Rome, appeared in Il Foglio March 1 immediately following the full text of Cardinal Kasper’s address; it was translated into English by Francesca Romana at Rorate Caeli March 2.

de Mattei characterized the cardinal’s address as an example of the slogan, “repeated for a year now,” that “doctrine does not change, the novelty regards only pastoral praxis.”

“On the one hand it pacifies those conservatives who measure everything in terms of doctrinal statements,” de Mattei wrote, “and on the other hand it encourages those progressives who attribute little value to doctrine and confide everything in the primacy of praxis.”

“Immediately after stating the need to remain faithful to Tradition, Cardinal Kasper advances two devastating proposals to avoid the perennial Magisterium of the Church in matters of the family and marriage,” de Mattei wrote.

The prefect emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity had delivered his address at the extraordinary consistory on the family, to some 150 cardinals, as well as Pope Francis.

The historian said that Cardinal Kasper began his address on those divorced and remarried reflecting on the “abyss” that exists between Church teaching and the convictions of many Christians.

“The Cardinal, however, neglects to formulate a negative judgment on these ‘convictions’ antithetic to the Christian Faith … in no part of his report it is said that the crisis of the family is the consequence of a programmed attack on the family, fruit of a concept from the secularist world which is opposed to it.

de Mattei faulted the cardinal for failing to “express even one word of condemnation on divorce and its disastrous consequences” in the section of his address which concerned the divorced and remarried.

“But hasn’t the moment arrived to declare that most of the crisis in the family goes back actually to the introduction of divorce and the facts demonstrate that the Church had been right in combating it?”

“In Kasper’s view,” according to de Mattei, the method to deal with the crisis of divorce is to “change the doctrine, without showing that it has been modified.”

The historian said this would be to open the doors to “the systematic violation, on the level of praxis, of that dogmatic tradition where the words affirm it legally binding.”

de Mattei criticizes Cardinal Kasper’s use of papal documents and addresses, magisterial documents, and the Church fathers, to support his proposals.

According to de Mattei, “the first way in the thwarting of Tradition” advances from the cardinal’s use of Bl. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation “Familiaris consortio.”

That document specifies, he said, that the judgement of a marriage’s validity is up to “ecclesiastical tribunals, instituted by the Church to defend the sacrament of marriage.”

Noting that Cardinal Kasper suggested alternatives to such tribunals – including the task being entrusted to a priest – de Mattei pointed out that the use of tribunals “guards the search for the truth, guarantees the outcome of a just trial, and demonstrates the importance which the Church attributes to the Sacrament of Marriage and its indissolubility.”

He said that “Kasper’s proposal calls into question the objective judgement of the ecclesiastical tribunal, which would be substituted by an ordinary priest no longer called on to safeguard the good of marriage, but to satisfy the needs of individual consciences.”

de Mattei called the cardinal’s words “offensive” to the tribunals which are based on documents and acts “all aimed at the ‘salvation of souls,” adding that “it is easy to imagine how the annulment of marriages would spread, introducing de facto Catholic divorce, if not by law, incurring devastating damage to good of human persons.”

The historian then discussed Cardinal Kasper’s suggestion that because those who are divorced and remarried can make an act of spiritual communion, they might also receive sacramental Communion, calling it a “leap ahead.”

“The centuries old praxis of the Church,” de Mattei noted, has “no contradiction.” Those who have remarried while their spouse is still alive “are in mortal sin, but they can make a spiritual communion, because even if they find themselves in grave sin, they must pray to obtain the graces necessary to come out of sin.”

He then turned to the cardinal’s use of the Church Fathers – in which he suggested that such leaders as Origen, St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and St. Augustine, supported a practice in which Christians could enter a second relationship, while their spouse was still alive, “after a period of penitence.”

“It is a pity that the Cardinal does not give his patristic references, because the historical reality is completely different from what he describes,” wrote the historian.

“Father George H. Joyce, in his historical-doctrinal study on Christian Marriage (1948) showed that during the first five centuries of the Christian era, no decree by a Council, nor any declaration by a Father of the Church, which sustains the possibility of dissolving the matrimonial bond, can be found.”

de Mattei added that Church fathers of the second century “do not give any indication of exceptions” to Christ’s prohibition of divorce, and that in the next century “Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian are even more explicit.”

“And Origen, even if he looks for some justification in the practices adopted by some bishops, specifies that this contradicts Scripture and the Tradition of the Church,” de Mattei wrote, citing the theologian’s commentary on Matthew.

“In every part of the world, the Church retained the dissolving of the marriage bond as impossible and divorce with the right to a second marriage was completely unknown.”

The historian also explained that Eastern Christianity did not begin “adapting to the Byzantine laws which tolerated divorce” until well into the sixth century.”

According to de Mattei, “the ‘canonical, penitential practice’ that Cardinal Kasper proposes as a way out of the ‘dilemma’ had the exact opposite significance in the first centuries to what he seems to attribute to it.”

He explained that “it was not done to expiate the first marriage, but to repair the sin of the second one, contracted only under civil law, and obviously demanded repentance of this sin, and the abandonment of the pseudo-matrimonial condition. The 11th Council of Carthage (407), for example, issued a canon conceived thus: ‘We decree, according to evangelical and apostolic discipline, that the law does not permit neither a man divorced from his wife, nor a woman repudiated by her husband, to pass to another marriage; but that these persons must remain alone, or that they be mutually reconciled, and if they violate this law, they must do penance.’”

According to de Mattei, “once the legitimacy of second-marriage cohabitation is admitted, one cannot see why pre-matrimonial cohabitation, if it is stable and sincere, should not permitted. ‘Moral absolutes’ are falling, which the encyclical of John Paul II ‘Veritatis Splendor’ had with great force repeated.”

The historian recounted Cardinal Kasper’s five conditions under which a person divorced and remarried might receive confession and Communion, and noted that the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, “has already replied to these questions by referring to ‘Familiaris consortio.’”

“The position of the Church is unequivocal,” said de Mattei. “Communion to remarried divorcees is denied because matrimony is indissoluble and none of the reasons adopted by Cardinal Kasper allows for the celebration of a new matrimony or the blessing of a pseudo-matrimonial union.”

“The Church did not allow it to Henry VIII, losing the Kingdom of England, and will never allow it, because, as Pius XII recalled to the parish priests of Rome March 16, 1946: ‘The matrimony between baptized, validly contracted and consummated, cannot be dissolved by any power on earth, not even by the Supreme Church Authority.’”

“That is,” de Mattei added, “not even by the Pope, and even less so by Cardinal Kasper.”

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Pope names secretary general for new economy dicastery

Vatican City, Mar 5, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis appointed Monsignor Alfred Xuereb March 3 as prelate secretary general for the Vatican’s new Secretariat for the Economy, which will oversee economic and administrative affairs in the city state.

Msgr. Xuereb, 55, is from Malta’s Diocese of Gozo, and has served as Pope Francis’ personal secretary.

He served on Benedict XVI’s staff as a personal secretary beginning in September 2007, a post he held until he was transferred to Pope Francis’ staff shortly after his election.

Prior to his new appointment, Msgr. Xuereb has also served as a delegate of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank. He has also served on the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See.

The Secretariat for the Economy is headed by a prefect, Cardinal George Pell, who was appointed Feb. 24 when the dicastery was created. As prelate secretary general, Msgr. Xuereb will serve as Cardinal Pell’s deputy at the secretariat.

Msgr. Xuereb will assist Cardinal Pell’s work in implementing policies approved by a new 15-member Council for the Economy. The council includes eight cardinals or bishops from different parts of the world and seven lay experts with “strong professional financial experience.”

Pope Francis created the secretariat by his motu proprio “Fidelis dispensator et prudens.” The motu proprio emphasizes that the Church must safeguard and carefully administer her material goods “in light of her mission of evangelization, with special care for the needy.”

The Council for the Economy has “oversight for the administrative and financial structures and activities of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the institutions linked to the Holy See, and the Vatican City State,” the motu proprio states.

The secretariat is “directly responsible to the Holy Father and is competent for the economic control and vigilance over the agencies” of the Holy See and the Vatican, “including policies and procedures concerning purchasing and the suitable allocation of human resources, with due regard to the competencies proper to each agency. The competence of the Secretariat therefore extends to all that in whatsoever manner concerns such material.”

As prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, Cardinal Pell will act in collaboration with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State.

The Secretariat for the Economy will also include an auditor general; no one has yet been appointed to the position.

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Report: Syrian rebel group makes Christians low-status subjects

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - An ultimatum allegedly from a jihadist group has demanded that Syrian Christians live as “dhimmis,” low-status subjects who must pay protection money and obey strict restrictions on their religious practice.

Christians who reject conversion to Islam or the restrictive conditions “are subject to being legitimate targets, and nothing will remain between them and ISIS other than the sword,” said the online statement reputedly from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), the BBC reports.

The statement particularly concerns Christians in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, which the group currently controls. Raqqa was the first provincial capital to come under complete rebel control after the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.

The statement orders Christians to pay about half an ounce of pure gold in exchange for their safety, the BBC says. Christians are barred from renovating churches and displaying crosses or other religious symbols outside churches. They may not ring church bells or pray in public.

They are barred from carrying arms and must follow other rules created by ISIS.

The statement said that a group of 20 Christian leaders have accepted the demands.

Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said Feb. 28 that the statement attributed to the jihadist group has not been independently verified, but is “consistent with the testimony of many Christians who have fled Syria.”

“Syria’s Muslims and Christians alike are intensely suffering from the conflict, with suffering inflicted by both the government and the opposition,” Shea said in an article at National Review Online. “The Christians who remain in Raqqa must now bear the additional suffering of dhimmitude.”

She said the rules will particularly affect churches and monasteries damaged during the Syrian conflict. They will also bar wedding and funeral processions. Christian women will need to wear shrouded clothing, and alcohol will be banned.

According to Shea, the rules purportedly date back to a seventh-century caliph. The protection money, known as the “jizya,” is to be paid twice annually for each adult Christian and varies based on their wealth.

Raqqa had a population of about 300,000 people before the Syrian conflict began. Less than one percent were Christian. Many Christians fled after ISIS began to attack and burn churches.

In July 2013 an Italian Jesuit, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, was abducted in Raqqa and reportedly executed by jihadists, Shea said.

The U.S. State Department on March 3 decried the jihadi group’s announcement, saying the “outrageous conditions” placed upon Christians violate “universal human rights.”

It said the group “has demonstrated time and again its disregard for Syrian lives, and it continues to commit atrocities against the Syrian people.”

The group’s “oppression of and senseless violence against Syrians, including the moderate Syrian opposition, demonstrates that it is fighting for nothing except the imposition of its own brand of tyranny.”

The State Department said the U.S. “deplores the continued threats against Christians and other minorities in Syria.” The United States, which is backing other Syrian rebel groups against President Bashar al-Assad, said that the Syrian government has “brutally cracked down on dissent from all segments of society.”

According to the State Department, the Assad government has arrested Christian worshippers, raided and confiscated church property, shelled Christian communities and bombed dozens of churches. Elements of the rebel groups have also bombed churches.

Many Christian leaders, including Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch, have warned about the extreme Islamist elements among some rebel forces.

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Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, Perugia’s first red hat in 160 years

Perugia, Italy, Mar 5, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Among the cardinals elevated by Pope Francis at the Feb. 22 consistory is Gualtiero Bassetti, Archbishop of Perugia-Citta della Pieve – a diocese which has not seen a cardinal since 1878.

That year, Archbishop Vincenzo Pecci of Perugia, who had been made a cardinal in 1853, was elected Pope Leo XIII.

Cardinal Bassetti was born in 1942 in Maraddi, little more than an hour outside of Florence. He was ordained a priest of the Florence archdiocese in 1966, at the age of 24, and served there in several capacities.

He was a parish priest, and then served as rector of both the minor and major seminaries of the archdiocese. Then beginning in 1990, he served as vicar general of the Archdiocese of Florence.

In 1994 he was consecrated Bishop of Massa Marittima-Piombino. While there, he showed his concern for workers – as had Leo XIII – when he supported a group of steelworkers in Piombino who were facing difficulties because of a company crisis.

Cardinal Bassetti was installed as Bishop of Arezzo-Cortono-Sansepolcro in 1999, and again showed himself to be in solidarity with laborers in his diocese.

He was in 2009 transferred to Perugia-Citta della Pieve, and was installed on the feast of St. Francis.

There, Cardinal Bassetti has continued his pastoral service, encouraging politicians to work toward improving the economy, and focusing on serving families. He has backed the “Youth Mission,” by which young people evangelize in places they frequent, such as universities.

He has sent numerous messages to the community of Perugia, discussing the problem of workplace deaths, the lack of employment opportunities, politics concerned with the common good, and justice in dealing with social plagues such as prostitution and addiction to alcohol, drugs, and gambling.

Cardinal Bassetti has visited several companies in crisis, and has encouraged Perugia-Citta della Pieve’s Caritas organization to support families in which one of the parents has lost their job.

He has begun this year a pastoral visit to the whole of his archdiocese of 733 square miles and nearly 230,000 Catholics, which he expects to last until 2017. He wtill visit laborers, immigrants, students, and hospital workers in the program of visits.

In 2012, Cardinal Bassetti was elected president of the Umbrian bishops’ conference, where he proposed an “educational pact” between the Church and schools to respond to the “educational emergency” identified by Benedict XVI.
He was recently appointed deputy president of the Italian bishops’ conference, and was made a member of the Congregation for Bishops.

He was one of 19 men elevated to the college of cardinals Feb. 22; he was appointed cardinal-priest of Santa Cecilia.

Shortly before the consistory, he told the Italian news agency ANSA that “I intend to continue to be that which I’ve always been. Faithful to my style of being bishop. To continue to work for communion in the Church.”

After his elevation to cardinal, he returned to Perugia to say a Mass of thanksgiving, and then went to Citta della Pieve March 2 to say Mass and to visit inmates and the infirm.

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Transcript: Pope Francis' March 5 interview with Corriere della Sera

Vatican City, Mar 5, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Find below an English translation, by CNA's Estefania Aguirre and Alan Holdren, of the March 5 interview of Pope Francis with Italian daily "Corriere della Sera".


Holy Father, every once in a while you call those who ask you for help. Sometimes they don’t believe you.

Yes, it has happened. When one calls, it is because he wants to speak, to pose a question, to ask for counsel. As a priest in Buenos Aires it was more simple. And, it has remained a habit for me. A service. I feel it inside. Certainly, now it is not that easy to do due to the quantity of people who write me.

And, is there a contact, an encounter that you remember with particular affection?

A widowed woman, aged 80, who had lost a child. She wrote me. And, now I call her every month.  She is happy. I am a priest. I like it.

The relations with your predecessor. Have you ever asked for the counsel of Benedict XVI?
Yes. The Pope emeritus is not a statue in a museum. It is an institution. We weren’t used to it. 60 or 70 years ago, ‘bishop emeritus’ didn’t exist. It came after the (Second Vatican) Council. Today, it is an institution. The same thing must happen for the Pope emeritus. Benedict is the first and perhaps there will be others. We don’t know. He is discreet, humble, and he doesn’t want to disturb. We have spoken about it and we decided together that it would be better that he sees people, gets out and participates in the life of the Church. He once came here for the blessing of the statue of St. Michael the Archangel, then to lunch at Santa Marta and, after Christmas, I sent him an invitation to participate in the consistory and he accepted. His wisdom is a gift of God. Some would have wished that he retire to a Benedictine abbey far from the Vatican. I thought of grandparents and their wisdom. Their counsels give strength to the family and they do not deserve to be in an elderly home.

Your way of governing the Church has seemed to us to be this: you listen to everyone and decide alone. A bit like a general of the Jesuits. Is the Pope a lone man?

Yes and no. I understand what you want to say to me. The Pope is not alone in his work because he is accompanied and counseled by so many. And, he would be a lone man if he decided without listening, or feigned to listen. But, there is a moment, when it is about deciding, placing a signature, in which he is alone with his sense of responsibility.

You have innovated, criticized some attitudes of the clergy, shaken the Curia. With some resistance, some opposition. Has the Church already changed as you would have liked a year ago?

Last March, I didn’t have a project to change the Church. I didn’t expect this transfer of dioceses, let’s put it that way. I began to govern seeking to put into practice that which had emerged in the debate among cardinals in the various congregations. In my way of acting, I wait for the Lord to give me inspiration. I’ll give you an example. We had spoken of the spiritual care of the people who work in the Curia, and they began to make spiritual retreats. We needed to give more importance to the annual spiritual exercises. Everyone has the right to spend five days in silence and meditation, whereas before, in the Curia, they heard three talks a day and then some continued to work.

Kindness and mercy are the essence of your pastoral message…

And of the Gospel. It is the center of the Gospel. Otherwise, one cannot understand Jesus Christ, the kindness of the Father who sent him to listen to us, to heal us, to save us.

But has this message been understood? You have said that the Francis-mania will not last long. Is there something in your public image that you don’t like?

I like being among the people. Together with those who suffer. Going to parishes. I don’t like the ideological interpretations, a certain ‘mythology of Pope Francis’. When it is said, for example, that he goes out of the Vatican at night to walk and to feed the homeless on Via Ottaviano. It has never crossed my mind. If I’m not wrong, Sigmund Freud said that in every idealization there is an aggression. Depicting the Pope to be a sort of superman, a type of star, seems offensive to me. The Pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps calmly and has friends like everyone. A normal person.

(Do you have) nostalgia for your Argentina?

The truth is that I don’t have nostalgia. I would like to go and see my sister, who is sick, the last of us five (siblings). I would like to see her, but this does not justify a trip to Argentina. I call her by phone and this is enough. I’m not thinking of going before 2016 because I was already in Latin America, in Rio. Now I must go to the Holy Land, to Asia, and then to Africa.

You just renewed your Argentinian passport. You are still a head of state.

I renewed it because it was about to expire.

Were you displeased by the accusations of Marxism, mostly American, after the publication of Evangelii Gaudium?

Not at all. I have never shared the Marxist ideology, because it is not true, but I have known many great people who professed Marxism.

The scandals that rocked the life of the Church are fortunately in the past. A public appeal was made to you, on the delicate theme of the abuse of minors, published by (the Italian newspaper) Il Foglio and signed by Besancon and Scruton, among others, that you would raise your voice and make it heard against the fanaticisms and the bad conscience of the secularized world that hardly respects infancy.
I want to say two things. The cases of abuses are terrible because they leave extremely deep wounds. Benedict XVI was very courageous and he cleared a path. The Church has done so much on this path. Perhaps more than anyone. The statistics on the phenomenon of the violence against children are shocking, but they also show clearly that the great majority of abuses take place in the family environment and around it. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No other has done more. And, the Church is the only one to be attacked.

Holy Father, you say ‘the poor evangelize us.’ The attention to poverty, the strongest stamp of your pastoral message, is held by some observers as a profession of ‘pauperism.’ The Gospel does not condemn well-being. And Zaccheus was rich and charitable.
The Gospel condemns the cult of well-being. ‘Pauperism’ is one of the critical interpretations. In Medieval times, there were a lot of pauperistic currents. St. Francis had the genius of placing the theme of poverty on the evangelical path. Jesus says that one cannot serve two masters, God and Wealth. And when we are judged in the final judgement (Matthew 25), our closeness to poverty counts. Poverty distances us from idolatry, it opens the doors to Providence. Zaccheus gave half of his wealth to the poor. And to he who keeps his granary full of his own selfishness, the Lord, in the end, will present him with the bill. I have expressed well in Evangelii Gaudium what I think about poverty.

You have indicated that in globalization, especially financially, there are some evils that accost humanity. But, globalization has ripped millions of people out of indigence. It has given hope, a rare feeling not to be confused with optimism.

It is true, globalization has saved many persons from poverty, but it has condemned many others to die of hunger, because with this economic system it becomes selective. The globalization which the Church supports is similar not to a sphere in which every point is equidistant from the center and in which then one loses the particularity of a people, but a polyhedron, with its diverse faces, in which every people conserves its own culture, language, religion, identity. The current ‘spherical’ economic, and especially financial, globalization produces a single thought, a weak thought. At the center is no longer the human person, just money.

The theme of the family is central in the activity of the Council of eight cardinals. Since the exhortation ‘Familiaris Consortio’ of John Paul II many things have changed. Two Synods are on the schedule. Great newness is expected. You have said of the divorced: they are not to be condemned but helped.

It is a long path that the Church must complete. A process wanted by the Lord. Three months after my election the themes for the Synod were placed before me. It was proposed that we discuss what is the contribution of Jesus to contemporary man. But in the end with gradual steps - which for me are signs of the will of God - it was chosen to discuss the family, which is going through a very serious crisis. It is difficult to form it. Few young people marry. There are many separated families in which the project of common life has failed. The children suffer greatly. We must give a response. But for this we must reflect very deeply. It is that which the Consistory and the Synod are doing. We need to avoid remaining on the surface. The temptation to resolve every problem with casuistry is an error, a simplification of profound things, as the Pharisees did, a very superficial theology. It is in light of the deep reflection that we will be able to seriously confront particular situations, also those of the divorced, with a pastoral depth.

Why did the speech from Cardinal Walter Kasper during the last consistory (an abyss between doctrine on marriage and the family and the real life of many Christians) so deeply divide the cardinals? How do you think the Church can walk these two years of fatiguing path arriving to a large and serene consensus? If the doctrine is firm, why is debate necessary?
Cardinal Kasper made a beautiful and profound presentation that will soon be published in German, and he confronted five points; the fifth was that of second marriages. I would have been concerned if in the consistory there wasn’t an intense discussion. It wouldn’t have served for anything. The cardinals knew that they could say what they wanted, and they presented many different points of view that are enriching. The fraternal and open comparisons make theological and pastoral thought grow. I am not afraid of this, actually I seek it.

In the recent past, it was normal to appeal to the so-called ‘non-negotiable values’, especially in bio-ethics and sexual morality. You have not picked up on this formula. The doctrinal and moral principles have not changed. Does this choice perhaps wish to show a style less preceptive and more respectful of personal conscience?

I have never understood the expression non-negotiable values. Values are values, and that is it. I can’t say that, of the fingers of a hand, there is one less useful than the rest. Whereby I do not understand in what sense there may be negotiable values. I wrote in the exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ what I wanted to say on the theme of life.

Many nations have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?

Marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, pushed by the demand to regulate economic aspects between persons, such as ensuring health care. It is about pacts of cohabitating of various natures, of which I wouldn’t know how to list the different ways. One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety.

How will the role of the woman in the Church be promoted?
Also here, casuistry does not help. It is true that women can and must be more present in the places of decision-making in the Church. But this I would call a promotion of the functional sort. Only in this way you don’t get very far. We must rather think that the Church has a feminine article : ‘La’. She is feminine in her origin. The great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar worked a lot on this theme: the Marian principle guides the Church aside the Petrine. The Virgin Mary is more important than any bishop and any apostle. The theological deepening is in process. Cardinal Rylko, with the Council for the Laity, is working in this direction with many women experts in different areas.

At half a century from Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, can the Church take up again the theme of birth control? Cardinal Martini, your confrere, thought that the moment had come.

All of this depends on how Humanae Vitae is interpreted. Paul VI himself, at the end, recommended to confessors much mercy, and attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, he had the courage to place himself against the majority, defending the moral discipline, exercising a culture brake, opposing present and future neo-Malthusianism. The question is not that of changing the doctrine but of going deeper and making pastoral (ministry) take into account the situations and that which it is possible for people to do. Also of this we will speak in the path of the synod.

Science evolves and redesigns the frontiers of life. Does it make sense to artificially prolong life in a vegetative state? Can a living will be a solution?

I am not a specialist in bioethical issues. And I fear that every one of my sentences may be wrong. The traditional doctrine of the Church says that no one is obligated to use extraordinary means when it is known that they are in the terminal phase. In my pastoral ministry, in these cases, I have always advised palliative care. In more specific cases it is good to seek, if necessary, the counsel of specialists.

Will the coming trip to the Holy Land bring an agreement of intercommunion with the Orthodox that Paul VI, 50 years ago, nearly signed with Athenagoras?

We are all impatient to obtain ‘closed’ results. But the path of unity with the Orthodox means most of all walking and working together. In Buenos Aires, in the catechism courses, some Orthodox came. I spent Christmas and January 6 together with their bishops, who sometimes also asked advice of our diocesan offices. I don’t know if the episode you are telling me of Athenagoras who would have proposed to Paul VI that they walk together and send all of the theologians to an island to discuss among themselves is true. It is a joke, but it is important that we walk together. Orthodox theology is very rich. And I believe that they have great theologians at this moment. Their vision of the Church and of synodality is marvelous.

In a few years, the biggest world power will be China, with which the Vatican does not have relations. Matteo Ricci was Jesuit like yourself.

We are close to China. I sent a letter to president Xi Jining when he was elected, three days after me. And he answered me. There are relations. They are a great people, whom I love.

Why doesn’t the Holy Father ever speak of Europe? What doesn’t convince you about the European design?

Do you remember the day I spoke of Asia? What did I say? I didn’t speak of Asia, nor of Africa, nor of Europe. Only of Latin America when I was in Brazil and when I had to receive the Commission for Latin America. There hasn’t yet been occasion to speak of Europe. It will come.

What book are you reading these days?

Peter and Magdalene by Damiano Marzotto, on the feminine dimension of the Church. It is a beautiful book.

And are you not able to see any nice films, another of your passions? “La Grande Bellezza” won an Oscar. Will you see it?
I don’t know. The last film I saw was “Life is Beautiful” from Benigni. And before, I saw “La Strada” of Fellini. A masterpiece. I also liked Wajda…

St. Francis had a carefree youth. I ask you, have you ever been in love?
In the book “Il Gesuita,” I tell the story of when I had a girlfriend at 17 years old. And I speak also of this in “On Heaven and Earth,” the volume I wrote with Abraham Skorka. In the seminary a girl made me lose my head for a week.

And how did it end, if I’m not indiscreet?

They were things of youth. I spoke with my confessor (a big smile).

Thanks Holy Father.
Thank you.

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Lent is a 'strong' time of conversion, Pope Francis reflects

Vatican City, Mar 5, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his general audience on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis called Lent a moment of renewal which allows us to look at the needs of others with “new eyes,” and to grow in love.

“Brothers and sisters: today, Ash Wednesday, begins the Lenten itinerary that leads us to the celebration of the Easter Triduum, a memorial of our salvation,” the Pope said in March 5.

“Lent,” he affirmed during his weekly address, “is a 'strong' time of conversion,” and a time “to live our baptism with greater profundity.”

Speaking to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, the pontiff noted that the 40 days leading up to Easter is a “journey of penance, prayer and conversion” which prepares us “for the Church's annual celebration of the saving mysteries of Christ's passion, death and resurrection.”

“In this time we are invited to be more aware of the wonders that the Lord does for our salvation,” the Pope reflected, highlighting how the Church asks us “to ponder with joy and gratitude God's immense love” which is “revealed in the paschal mystery.”

Emphasizing that the time of Lent is also a call “to live ever more fully the new life we have received in Baptism,” the pontiff observed that doing this “will help us to not become accustomed to the difficult situations of misery, violence, poverty or indifference to God.”

“These are not Christian behaviors” he explained, but rather “they are comfortable behaviors and they drug our heart.”

Referring to Lent as a “journey of spiritual renewal in the footsteps of Christ,” the Pope went on to say that this season helps us in a special way “to acknowledge and respond to the growing spiritual and material poverty in our midst.”

“Specifically,” he continued, “it means consciously resisting the pressure of a culture which thinks it can do without God, where parents no longer teach their children to pray, where violence, poverty and social decay are taken for granted.”

“Lent is a time to recover the capacity to react before the reality of evil,” the pontiff emphasized, adding that it is also a time “for personal renewal” and for “community” that “brings us closer to God.”

Highlighting the importance of “confidently” adhering “to his Gospel in order to look at our brothers and the needy with new eyes,” during this season, the Pope observed that it is “a suitable time to convert to be able to love our neighbor.”

This love, he explained, is “a love that generates an attitude of gratitude and of mercy with the Lord, who 'became poor to enrich us with his poverty.'”

Concluding his reflections, Pope Francis prayed that this Lent would “be a time when, as individuals and communities, we heed the words of the Gospel, reflect on the mysteries of our faith, practice acts of penance and charity, and open our hearts ever more fully to God’s grace and to the needs of our brothers and sisters.”

Extending his greetings to groups present from various countries around the world, the Pope offered a special welcome to pilgrims who represent Malta, Denmark, Sweden, Indonesia, Canada, the United States, Spain, Mexico, and Argentina.

“May the Lenten journey we begin today bring us to Easter with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit,” he said, inviting all to “invoke with confidence the help of the Virgin Mary.”

The Pope asked that she “accompany us in these days of intense prayer and penance, to arrive to celebrate, purify and to be renewed in the Spirit, the great mystery of the Easter of her Son.”

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Cardinal calls on faithful to have tender hearts during Lent

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 5, 2014 (CNA) - Cardinal Aurelio Poli of Buenos Aires invited Catholics during Lent to “have a more tender heart” toward the difficult situations of daily life.

In this way, he said, the faithful will be ready to live the grace and salvation that God gives us in Holy Week.

In his Lenten message, the cardinal said the new liturgical season is a time to draw closer to the paschal mystery of Christ.

During the five Sundays prior to Palm Sunday, he explained, the Lenten liturgy offers a “training in the passage from death to life,” through “personal conversion,” which he defined as “a change of mentality,” a “change of direction.”

“May our mentality that is often so far from the Gospel become the mentality of Christ,” he said. “May lives closed to God and to neighbor be open with docility to the invigorating mercy of God and to the concrete love of others that transforms reality.”

Following the example of his predecessor Cardinal Bergoglio – now Pope Francis – in his Lenten message for 2013, Cardinal Poli also underscored the words of the prophet Joel from the liturgy for Ash Wednesday: “Rend your hearts not your garments.”

To “rend the heart” means to allow Jesus to enter,” he explained.

Highlighting the “revolution of tenderness” launched by the Holy Father, Cardinal Poli said that to “rend the heart” means to make the heart tender.

“Make your hearts tender so that the grace the God of life abundantly grants us will drench you, and you will experience his salvation,” he said. “Make your hearts tender so that you will not be indifferent to the pain or suffering of anyone.”

“Make your hearts tender in order to feel the soft tenderness of the Father upon the past wounds and hurts of humanity; make your hearts tender to experience the joy of love that is given and shared, which never leaves us unsatisfied.”

“Make your hearts tender to joyfully announce in our own flesh the Gospel of abundant Life. This is an exterior sign of an interior reality of conversion and of the grace of God that renews us on each Easter,” he said.

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All values are non-negotiable, Pope says in new interview

Vatican City, Mar 5, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Emphasizing that “values are values” and leaving aside the expression “non-negotiable values,” Pope Francis has underscored the importance of the entirety of the Church’s social doctrine.

In an interview published March 5 in Italian daily “Corriere della Sera,” he was asked about appeals to “the so-called ‘non-negotiable values’, especially in bio-ethics and sexual morality.”

“I have never understood the expression non-negotiable values,” responded the Pope. “Values are values, and that is it. I can’t say that, of the fingers of a hand, there is one less useful than the rest. Whereby I do not understand in what sense there may be negotiable values.”

He added that what he wishes to say about “the theme of life,” he has stated already in “Evangelii gaudium.”

In the Italian context in which the interview was granted, the expression “non-negotiable values” is the fruit of a national debate that began in the 1980s -- when the Church in Italy celebrated its national convention in Loreto in 1985.

The convention ended with an appeal for the unity of Catholics committed to politics: which meant support for Christian Democracy, a political party founded in 1943 and supported by the Church.

The “table of values” in the appeal included “the primacy and centrality of the human person, the sacrality and inviolability of the human person from conception to natural death, the contribution of women in social development, the role and stability of the family founded on marriage, social pluralism and the freedom of education, privileged attention to those who are weaker, and freedom and social justice in the world.”

When Christian Democracy collapsed in 1994, the Italian bishops’ conference switched its focus from the support to a specific party, to supporting whatever party would advance these values.

During the years 2004 and 2005, there was a wider discussion in Italy about a law on in-vitro fertilization that led to the promotion of a referendum to abrogate the law, considered by the promoters of the referendum too influenced by Christian values.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who was then president of the Italian bishops’ conference and vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, coined and began often using the expression “non-negotiable values”, referring primarily to “life issues” such as abortion, adoption and in-vitro fertilization, to grab headlines and to arouse a political debate.

Cardinal Ruini’s initiative was deemed a great success, and the expression “non-negotiable values” became widely used in Italy.

Benedict XVI also used the expression on several occasions, yet he did so in a wider sense: not simply referring to Italian politics.

He would at times speak of the “so-called non-negotiable values,” thus pointing out that there are no “negotiable” values in the Church’s social teaching.

At his Christmas address to the Roman curia in 2012, he spoke of values “fundamental and non-negotiable for the human condition,” in the context of the dialogue between the Church, and the state and society.

“In her dialogue with the state and with society, the Church does not, of course, have ready answers for individual questions,” he said, saying the Church can offer, in dialogues, a memory of the human condition.

And addressing the Forum of Catholic-Inspired Non-Governmental Organizations Dec. 1, 2007, Benedict XVI maintained that there are ethical principles” which are non-negotiable “by their very nature and their role as the basis of social life.” This would lead to solidarity he said, but that it is to be paired with an “authentic spirit of freedom” which “will help the initiative of the members of non-governmental organization to create a broad gamut of new approaches and solutions with regard to those temporal affairs which God has left to the free and responsible judgement of every individual.”

On both occasions, Benedict referred to the entirety of values acknowledged and promoted by the social teaching of the Church.

Thus set in the Italian context, despite first appearances, Pope Francis actually puts himself in continuity with Benedict XVI in the answer he gave to “Corriere della Sera” on “non-negotiable values.”

Benedict XVI and Pope Francis both have underscored that none of the principles of the Church’s social teaching is less important, and that there is not a rank of values between life issues and social issues.

Pope Francis’ great consideration  of life issues is shown, as he indicated to Corriere della Sera, by what he wrote in “Evangelii gaudium”:

“Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, ‘every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual.’”

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Ukraine’s churches unite behind nation, seek prayers for peace

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Ukrainian religious leaders are standing together in their opposition to Russia’s use of troops in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, and ask for payers for a peaceful end to the situation.

“Our people and Church stand together in witnessing to God, in witnessing to Christ, and in witnessing to unity, the idea that we are one body,” Fr. Mark Morozowich, dean of the Catholic University of America’s School of Theology and Religious Studies, and a priest of the Ukrainian Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, said in a March 4 interview with CNA.

Fr. Serhiy Zakharchenko, a Ukrainian Catholic priest who is an EWTN correspondent in Ukraine, stressed that "all churches in the Ukraine are decidedly against” Russia’s use of military troops in Ukraine.

Russia’s parliament approved president Vladimir Putin’s move to authorize the deployment of Russian troops to Crimea March 1. Russian troops took control of airports as well as the region’s parliament building and communications center, citing a need to protect Russians in Ukraine.

Crimea is a southern peninsula of Ukraine where nearly 60 percent of the population are ethnic Russians, and more than 50 percent of the population speak Russian as their first language.

Military movements in Ukraine follow months of protests, which culminated in the Feb. 21 flight of president Victor Yanukovych, who was impeached the next day. On Feb. 23, Oleksander Turchynov was appointed acting president by the Ukrainian parliament.

The protests in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv began in November, when the government announced it would not sign a major economic partnership agreement with the European Union, in favor of a $15 billion bailout agreement with Russia

U.S. and European Union officials have condemned the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine.

Fr. Morozowich noted that the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, which unites various Christian Churches along with Muslim and Jewish leaders, came together “to speak with a unified voice” against Russia’s deployment of troops in Crimea.

“We call the authorities of Russia to give up the military or any other interference into internal affairs of Ukraine that are not provided by the international law and bilateral agreements,” the council said in a March 1 statement. “The Russian authorities ought to realize their responsibility before God and mankind for possible irrecoverable consequences of the military conflict on the Ukrainian land … we call all to more fervent prayers for our Motherland.”

Fr. Morozowich said that while there are still disagreements about the country’s future within the Ukrainian population, "the fact that the leadership of these churches is pulling them, is directing them, is very clear in their statements" is critical.

Many Christians, particularly Ukrainian Greek Catholics, he said, have been reminded of religion’s treatment under Ukraine’s rule by the Soviet Union.

"This has brought back memories of the Ukrainian Catholic Church being in the underground,” Fr. Morozowich said, pointing out that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was persecuted from its prohibition by the Soviet government from 1946 until Ukraine’s rejection of Soviet rule in 1989.

The Church, he said, “has only been legally allowed to exist for the last 25 years,” and many people “didn’t want to have this as a repeat.”

The state of religious freedom in Russia forecasts how religion might be treated if Russia takes control of parts of Ukraine such as Crimea.

“These are the questions we should ask: what freedom do they have?” Fr. Morozowich said. "Are they free to establish their own hierarchy, are they free to use their own languages, are they free to establish their own parishes?”

“This isn't something we need to ask in the abstract,” he said, pointing to the harsh treatment of religious protestors within the country of Russia’s actions: “We need to look at the concrete and how Russia is acting within its own borders.”

While the ability to “to worship in the way that we want” is at stake, Fr. Morozowich said that the Church in Ukraine “is alive and suffering.”

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, he said, is “a Church that has witnessed some of the greatest massacres of the 20th century,” pointing to the Catholic martyrs canonized by Bl. John Paul II.
“The Ukrainian Catholic Church is a church of modern martyrs,” Fr. Morozowich said. It  “upholds the unity of the Church, a unity that unites the Byzantine tradition with the Pope of Rome.”

The Church “is struggling to teach Catholic faith and morals” to a country “still very affected by communism” and where “abortion is still de rigueur birth control.”

Despite this, he said, “there is outreach to share, there is outreach to minister, to meet people where they are.”

Fr. Zakharchenko stressed that in Ukraine, "no one wants war … we don't want, we don't need war.”

Religious leaders are united behind the Ukrainian people and will support them in their defense of their country, he said, pointing to Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk’s statements that he and the Church will “remain with its people” even on the battlefield to provide pastoral support.

Under Soviet rule, Fr. Zakharchenko said, "we didn't have the freedom to practice our faith," explaining Ukrainian religious leaders’ quick move to stand “together in one voice against the invasion."

The people of Ukraine, he said, "have obligations to protect the country," adding that while he does not want there to be conflict, "I would rather go than stay at home."

However, "the main weapon is prayer" rather than force. "It's very important to pray," Fr. Zakharchenko stated, stressing that "the main source of strength in the Church is prayer."

He asked "not just Ukrainians, but all Catholics and all Christians in the United States to pray for a peaceful solution in the Crimea."

"God is almighty, and God can help us.”

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Legislation to help former inmates draws Catholic praise

Washington D.C., Mar 5, 2014 (CNA) - In a letter to national lawmakers, Catholic leaders applauded the Second Chance Act as an enhancement of public safety and human dignity, and asked for further support in reauthorizing the legislation in Congress.

“This legislation is an important step in addressing some of the many issues facing the more than 650,000 men, women and juveniles who re-enter society each year from federal and state prisons, and local jails and detention centers every day,” said a letter dated March 4.

The letter was signed by Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, who heads the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, as well as Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities, USA.

It was addressed to the chairs and ranking members of the U.S. House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

Signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008, the Second Chance Act helps to ensure that the transition from incarceration in prison or jail into the community is safe and successful.

In the letter, the clergymen urged lawmakers to support the Second Chance Act and highlighted how Catholic tradition supports the right to develop and enforce laws which protect society and advance the common good.

Our faith, they observed, teaches us that “both victims and offenders have a God-given dignity that calls for justice, not vengeance.”

“Just as God never abandons us, so too we must be in covenant with one another,” they said, quoting the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2000 pastoral statement, “Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice.”

“We are all sinners, and our response to sin and failure should not be abandonment and despair, but rather justice, contrition, reparation, and return or re-integration of all into the community,” the document stated.

Drawing attention to the many challenges that persons released from incarceration often face, including “finding housing and stable employment, high rates of substance abuse, physical and mental health challenges and social isolation,” Archbishop Wenski and Fr. Snyder explained that without support, these individuals are more likely to re-offend, which causes harm and drives up “our nation's prison costs.”

“The Second Chance Act,” they affirmed, “supports much needed programs in government agencies and nonprofit organizations.”

And these organizations, they continued, “provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victim support and other services to individuals returning to the community from prison or jail.”

Listing various solutions proposed by the act for problems re-entering into society, Archbishop Wenski and Fr. Snyder highlighted grants offered by the legislation to nonprofit organizations in order to monitor adults and provide transitional assistance for re-integration.

Another positive means which is helping to reduce recidivism, they noted, is the act’s provision of separate “planning and implementation grants” in order to ensure that projects are well developed and researched.

Identifying various programs and resources for re-entry into society through a “federal taskforce” has been another means of developing better collaboration and eliminating some of the challenges offenders face, the signatories observed, going on to list several other positive solutions.

Recalling the words of Pope Francis that “God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else – God is in this person’s life,” the clergymen echoed his sentiments, and urged Congress to pass the legislation.

“We join the pope by advocating for those who are leaving incarceration,” they expressed, adding that the legislation will “enhance public safety by providing the necessary resources to address prisoner reentry and recidivism.”

The act will not only help society to be safer, they explained, but will also “promote human dignity by improving the quality of life in communities across the country.”

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