Vatican City, May 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In his daily Mass Pope Francis reflected on the various challenges St Paul faced in his ministry, explaining that it was only possible for him to go forward because his heart was fixed on God.
“What kind of heart do we have? Is it a fickle heart which like a dancer, like a butterfly flits from one to another” or “is it a heart fixed on the Holy Spirit?” the Pope asked during his May 19 homily.
Speaking to those gathered in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the pontiff turned to the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, noting that this passage display’s Paul’s “firm heart in continuous motion,” as well as his commitment to evangelization.
Recalling how Paul does not complain when the Gentiles of Iconium attempt to stone him, the Pope recounted how Paul then traveled to Lycaonia where he healed a paralytic in the name of the Lord, for which the pagans referred to him and Barnabas as gods and sought to offer sacrifices to them.
Paul “struggled to convince them that they were men,” the Roman Pontiff observed, noting that these “are the human trials Paul experienced” and that “all of us” face as well.
“We are surrounded by many events that move us from one place to another. But we asked for the grace to have a fixed heart, like Paul,” he continued, noting that “so as not to complain about the persecution he went in search of another city.”
Recounting again how the apostle then traveled to another town where he preached, healed the paralytic because of his faith and then tried to stop the people from making a sacrifice to him by proclaiming that there is only one God, the pontiff observed that it was “One thing after another.”
“And this can only come from a steady heart,” he stated, asking “Where was Paul's heart that he was able to make so many changes in such a short time and meet these situations in an appropriate way?”
Turning to the Gospel, the pontiff drew attention to how Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, “will teach us all things” and will “remind us of everything.”
In addition to doing these two things, Pope Francis noted that the Holy Spirit also “gives us strength, gives us this steadiness to be able to move forward in life in the midst of many events.”
And this is exactly what happened with St. Paul when he taught the people and reminded them of Jesus’ message of salvation, the Roman Pontiff continued, observing that it is the Holy Spirit who gave him this firmness of heart.
“With this example,” he went on, “we can ask ourselves today: What kind of heart do we have? Is it a fickle heart which like a dancer, like a butterfly flits from one to another…always in motion; Is it a heart that is scared by the vicissitudes of life, and is hiding and afraid to give witness to Jesus Christ?”
“Is it a brave heart or a heart that has so much fear and is always trying to hide? What does our heart care for? What treasure does our heart custody? Is my heart fixed upon creatures, the problems that we all have? Is my heart fixed upon everyday gods or is it a heart fixed on the Holy Spirit?”
Concluding his homily, the pontiff said that it would do us all well to ask ourselves, “Where is the firmness of our hearts?” and to keep in mind “the many everyday events that we have: at home, at work, with our children, with people who live with us, with work colleagues, with everyone.”
“Do I let myself get carried away by these things or face these events with a fixed heart that knows where it is?”
Noting how “the only one that gives firmness to our hearts is the Holy Spirit,” the pontiff also encouraged attendees to think about the gift of “the Spirit of fortitude, of counsel, who helps us to move forward in the midst, surrounded by every day trials.”
“We should do this exercise today; ask how our heart is: Firm or not? And if it is firm, where does it dwell? In things or in the Holy Spirit? It would do us good!”
Vatican City, May 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity affirmed the sentiments of many who believe that Catholic-Orthodox relations have improved in recent years, especially under Pope Francis.
“When I look to what I hear about Pope Francis, and I remember when he was elected he spoke to the immense group of the faithful at St. Peter’s Square, I remember that he referred to the introduction of the letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Christians of Rome,” Fr. Gabriel Quicke told CNA May 16.
“In his introduction in the letter to the Christians of Rome he speaks about the Church of Rome that is presiding in charity over the whole world of Christians, and Pope Francis used that expression,” he recalled: “The Church of Rome is presiding in charity over all the churches.”
“It was really a very important expression and most appreciated by the orthodox churches. This is a warming up for all of us.”
A former missionary in Lebanon, Fr. Quicke is a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and works specifically with the Oriental Churches.
Out of the four separate dialogues the Oriental section maintains, the priest is in charge of three, which include the whole of the Oriental Orthodox churches, the two Malankara churches, also known as the Indian or Syrian Orthodox, and the Asian church of the east.
What they are seeking to do through these ongoing dialogues, Fr. Quicke explained, is to “put very important steps forward” in order to strengthen their bonds of unity with the Catholic Church.
Observing how there is only “one obstacle” preventing the full union of the Catholic Church with the orthodox churches, the priest explained that this is “the role of the Pope, the Petrine ministry.”
“We realized that we have so many things in common; we are proclaiming the same faith, we have the same sacraments, we have the same ecclesial structure, and we realized that we have the same spiritual roots. Most of the churches also have an apostolic tradition,” he observed.
Noting how great “fraternal dialogue” is already happening within the Orthodox churches of Constantinople and those of the Slavic tradition, Fr. Quicke admitted that “it is not easy” and that “we need a lot of patience and we try to establish an atmosphere of fraternity, brotherhood.”
Speaking of the upcoming encounter between Pope Francis and various patriarchs during his visit to the Holy Land later this week, Fr. Quicke explained that this meeting is especially significant firstly because “it is a commemoration of that unbelievable meeting, that fraternal encounter between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras 50 years ago.”
Referring to it as “a milestone in the relationships of both churches,” the priest observed that “after a thousand years of excommunication that was a radical change.”
“And the fact that Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartolomeo of Constantinople will meet again 50 years after that historic meeting has a very important significance.”
“The fact that they meet each other in such an important place where Christ prayed for the unity of his disciples and where they would pray together,” he continued, “is a sign that we have become closer to one another and that we both are engaged in putting further steps for unity.”
One of the things they are seeking to discuss during the trip is “looking together for a common date for Easter,” Fr. Quicke revealed, noting that “the fact that we don’t have the same date for the celebration of Easter is something painful.”
Regarding the future of the Catholic-Orthodox relationships, the priest explained that “we can learn from them and they can learn from us,” but “with our human efforts we also have to pray for unity because Christian unity is not only the result of human efforts.”
“Ecumenical dialogue is not only discussing high theological issues. It is firstly to enter together into the prayer of Jesus that all may be one.”
Alan Holdren contributed to this piece.
Vatican City, May 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis received the bishops of Mexico on Monday, encouraging them to promote harmony and to proclaim God’s mercy.
“At the present moment, the many forms of violence that afflict Mexican society, especially the young, call for a renewed appeal to promote this spirit of harmony through the culture of encounter, dialogue and peace,” the Pope said to the Mexican bishops at the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.
While pastors should not offer mere “technical solutions” or adopt “policy measures” outside the scope of their ministry, they must be “tireless” in proclaiming “that God, in his mercy, made Himself a man and made Himself poor, that he wanted to suffer with those who suffer in order to save them,” the Pope said.
“Fidelity to Jesus Christ must be lived as committed solidarity and closeness to the people and their needs, offering Gospel values from within,” he affirmed.
His remarks came during the Mexican bishops’ ad limina visit, which takes place routinely every five years. During the visits, bishops from different regions meet with the Pope and other Vatican officials to discuss issues in their country.
Pope Francis said that despite being faced with problems, the Church in Mexico is “consolidated on strong pillars.” He encouraged the bishops to be faithful always to prayer with God and to be close to the people.
The Pope noted the Mexican bishops’ efforts on behalf of those who work in “subhuman conditions,” for migrants seeking a better life, and for farmers.
“I know of your concern for the victims of drug trafficking and for the most vulnerable social groups, and your commitment to the defense of human rights and the full development of the individual,” he added.
These efforts express the “intimate connection” between the Gospel and seeking the good of others, the Pope said. These actions also contribute to the credibility of the Church.
He cited Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation that the bishops not let themselves “be intimidated by the powers of evil” but “be valiant” and “work to ensure that the sap of your Christian roots may nourish your present and your future.”
He also pointed to Catholic social teaching as “a valuable tool that can help Christians in their daily struggle to build a more just and united world.”
Lay involvement is essential, Pope Francis said, encouraging the bishops to promote the laity’s secular responsibility and give them adequate training “to make visible the public dimension of the faith.”
The power of popular piety is an “indispensable starting point” in deepening and maturing the people’s faith, the Pope continued.
He encouraged the bishops to strengthen their pastoral care for the family, which he called “the basic cell of society and the first center for evangelization.”
Though the family is faced with “the dehumanizing culture of death,” he said, it “may become a promoter of the culture of respect for life in all its phases, from conception to natural death.”
Pope Francis reminded the bishops of the importance of being close to their priests and to consecrated religious. He also noted the importance of priestly and religious formation.
He praised the bishops’ adoption of the Aparecida guidelines, which were produced during the 2007 meeting of the general conference of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean.
These guidelines placed the pastoral mission of the Church in a “missionary mode.”
“We can bear witness to Christ in life even among the most distant, and reach out of ourselves to work with enthusiasm in the task that has been entrusted to us, keeping our arms lifted in prayer,” the Pope said.
He concluded by invoking Our Lady of Guadalupe, the “Star of the New Evangelization.”
Vatican City, May 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Authority for Financial Information’s second annual report presents an increasing number of suspicious transactions reported – a reflection of stronger oversight of Vatican finances.
“In 2013 we have taken further decisive steps to foster the legal framework, and, at the same time, to make it work in practice,” said Rene Bruelhart, director of the AIF, at a May 19 presentation of the report at the Holy See press office.
“Today we have a proper and equivalent system in place to prevent and fight financial crime. A system that is well in line with international standards.”
The annual report is divided in three parts: the first presents the legal, institutional, and international framework in which the authority operates and its internal organization; the second deals with data; and the third demosntrates the legal changes which have strengthened its oversight of Vatican finances.
The AIF was established by Benedict XVI in 2010 to oversee the Vatican's monetary and commercial agencies, including the Institutes for the Works of Religion, or “Vatican bank.”
In 2013, Pope Francis issued three motu proprio extending the AIF’s authority and giving it new statutes, and aligning Vatican financial law with international standards.
“The new statutes have built the AIF on two pillars, supervision and financial intelligence, and have clarified some aspects with regard to governance,” Bruelhart commented.
The AIF recorded a notable uptake in suspicious transation reports – from 1 in 2011, to six in 2012, to 202 in 2013.
“It is a significant increase, but a suspicious transaction report is not evidence that something went wrong,” Bruelhart commented.
Rather, the uptake “means the reporting system works.”
Of the 202 reports made last year, five were forwarded to the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice to be further investigated by judicial authorities.
The report also showed that the AIF has made an increasing number of requests from foreign authorities – one in 2012, and 23 in 2013. Conversely, the Vatican received information requests from foreign authorities thrice in 2012, and 53 times in 2013.
This increasing international cooperation has been fostered by the AIF’s signing of memoranda of understading with its counterparts in the U.S., Italy, Germany, Slovenia, and the Netherlands. Bruelhart added that further such agreements would be signed in the future.
Bruelhart also underscored that the AIF became in July 2013 a member of the Egmont Group, which gathers most national finanical intelligence groups, and that “being a member of the Egmont Group is a clear signal of a strong commitment by the Holy See” to combatting money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
The AIF also conducted its first ordinary on-site inspection of the Vatican bank at the beginning of 2014, which showed “substantial progress” made throughout the last year.
The inspection also led the AIF to develop a plan of action to fully implement the Vatican’s new financial laws and to otherwise improve its oversight of Vatican finances.
Bogotá, Colombia, May 19, 2014 (CNA) -
Cardinal Ruben Salazar of Bogota, president of the Bishops' Conference of Colombia, offered his prayers and condolences for the families of 32 children who died in a bus that caught fire.
“The Church in Colombia is praying for the parents who are mourning the tragic deaths of their children,” Cardinal Salazar said via Twitter.
According to Colombian media, the 32 children were returning from a Pentecostal revival meeting on May 18, when the bus that was carrying them burst into flames near the town of Fundacion in northern Colombia.
Authorities are working to determine the cause of the fire.
The mayor of Fundacion, Luz Stella Duran, told Caracol Radio on May 19 that it could take coroners up to four days to identify the remains of each of the children.
She said the bodies of the children have been taken to Barranquilla to be identified and that the mayor's office is providing transportation to the city for their families.
Vatican City, May 19, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis’ appointment Monday of Archbishop Jose Mollaghan of Rosario as a member of the Vatican’s doctrine office confirms the Holy See’s continuing response to the sexual abuse crisis.
On May 19 the Argentine bishop was appointed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he will be responsible for a commission, which is being set up, to examine appeals by clergy accused of “delicta graviora,” or “more grave crimes.”
“Delicta graviora” are the most serious crimes in the Church, and most notably include offenses against morality: the sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric, or the acquisition, possession, or distribution of child pornography by a cleric.
Archbishop Mollaghan’s appointment signals Pope Francis’ commitment to continuing the response to sex abuse begun under Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.
He had been head of the Church’s sex abuse commission in Argentina. He has also served as secretary-general of the national bishops’ conference and the Argentine delegate to the Latin American Bishops’ Council.
Archbishop Mollaghan, 68, was ordained a priest of the Buenos Aires archdiocese in 1971. He holds a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University. In 1993 he was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, serving alongside Bishop Jorge Bergoglio.
When Bergoglio succeeded as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Archbishop Mollaghan served under him until 2000, when he was appointed Bishop of San Miguel. He remained there until his 2005 appointment as Archbishop of Rosario.
The new commission is the latest commitment made by Pope Francis against abuse by clergy.
In December, he established another commission to advise him on the protection of children and on how to assist those who have been victimized already.
His predecessors were also greatly concerned with the issue.
Under St. John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger -- who was then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- established a strong response to allegations of sexual abuse, which he later continued as Pope.
His efforts began with a 1988 letter in which he shed light on how the procedures laid out in canon law made it difficult for bishops to laicize abusive priests.
In “Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela,” a 2001 motu proprio, St. John Paul II transferred authority for investigating abuse cases from the Congregation for Clergy to Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, so that they could be dealt with more speedily.
Finally, in July 2010, under Benedict XVI, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presented modifications to canon law that detailed how the dicastery would examine and punish instances of clerical abuse.
Monday’s appointment of Archbishop Mollaghan to the congregation will strengthen its effectiveness in combatting “delicta graviora.”
Aside from sexual abuse of minors, the “more grave crimes” which his office will examine include those against the sacraments -- including those against Eucharist, such as profaning a consecrated Host; against Confession, such as violating the seal; and against Holy Orders, such as the attempted ordination of a woman.