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Pope Francis: Include the Holy Spirit in art, theology

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2018 / 05:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the face of the difficulties of the modern-age, artists and theologians need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – the source of joy and hope, Pope Francis said Saturday, during the awarding of the 2018 Ratzinger Prize.

“Against the backdrop and in the context of the great problems of our time, theology and art must therefore continue to be animated and elevated by the power of the Spirit, which is the source of strength, joy and hope,” he said Nov. 17.

“I thank the theologians and the architects who help us to lift our heads and turn our thoughts to God,” he added. “Let [their work] always be addressed to this end.”

Pope Francis spoke with members of the Joseph-Ratzinger-Benedict XVI foundation, which is headed by Fr. Federico Lombardi. During the audience in the Clementine hall, the pope bestowed the 8th annual Ratzinger Prize on Swiss architect Mario Botta and Bavarian theologian Marianne Schlosser.

The Ratzinger Prize was started in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian theologian who became Pope Benedict XVI.

It is not the first time a woman has been awarded the prize, he noted, but stressed the importance of greater recognition of the contribution of women to the sciences, to theological research and to the teaching of theology, which were “for so long considered almost exclusive territories of the clergy.”

This contribution should be encouraged, and “find a wider space, in keeping with the growing presence of women in the various fields of responsibility for the life of the Church,” he said, pointing to the example set by St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Therese of Lisiuex and St. Hildegard of Bingen, who are all considered Doctors of the Church.

Francis also praised the contribution of the other prize winner, architect Mario Botta. He noted the importance of sacred buildings throughout the history of the Church, as places which show “a concrete call to God” and express “the faith of the believing community.”

“The commitment of the architect, creator of sacred space in the city of men, is therefore of highest value, and must be recognized and encouraged by the Church, especially when we risk the oblivion of the spiritual dimension and the dehumanization of urban spaces,” he stated.

Pope Francis also encouraged members of the foundation to continue to study the writings of Benedict XVI, both those from his time as pope and before, “but also to face the new themes on which faith is called to dialogue,” like care of creation and defense of human dignity.

For admirers of Benedict’s spiritual legacy, there is a “mission to cultivate it and to continue to make it bear fruit,” he said. “His is a spirit that views the problems of our time with awareness and courage, and knows how to draw, from attention to Scripture in the living tradition of the Church, the wisdom necessary for a constructive dialogue with today’s culture.”

Schlosser, 59, has been a professor of the theology of spirituality at the University of Vienna since 2004. Pope Francis appointed her a member of the International Theological Commission in 2014.

She has translated a large part of the body of work of St. Bonaventure into German and was the researcher for the second volume of the total works of Joseph Ratzinger, which was on "the Idea of Revelation and the Theology of the History of Bonaventure." Her expertise is in Patristics and the theology and spirituality of the late Middle Ages.

Botta, 75, is an internationally-acclaimed architect, who has designed many different buildings, including homes, schools, libraries, museums, and banks. He has also designed several significant religious buildings, among them the Church of St. John the Baptist in Mogno, the Cathedral of Evry near Paris, and the Co-cathedral of Santo Volto in Turin.

He is also the designer of one of the chapels on display in the Holy See's pavilion at this year's Venice Architecture Biennale.

Pope creates class on ‘Sciences of Peace’ at Lateran University

Rome, Italy, Nov 17, 2018 / 04:01 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Monday established a curriculum in Sciences of Peace at the Pontifical Lateran University, involving the “pope’s university” because of the special bond it has with the Holy See in a project to “foster seeds of peace.”

In a letter sent to Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar general of Rome and chancellor of the university, Pope Francis put the new curriculum under the protection of St. John XXIII and St. Paul VI, “heralds of peace.”

The announcement was read at the end of the inaugural lecture of the new academic year. The lecture was delivered by Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, secretary of the Council of Cardinals that is helping Pope Francis to reform the Roman Curia.

The new curriculum within the Pontifical Lateran University will likely be part of this reform.
In his letter to Cardinal De Donatis, Pope Francis said that the Church “feels the call to inspire and support every initiative that might secure people and countries a path to peace.”

He added that the Church’s effort also requires “the knowledge and study of a patrimony of values, notions and tools able to tear down the trend to isolationism, closeness and power mentalities that bear violence and destructions.”

Pope Francis then stressed that “in order to be a credible mediator,” the Church is called to be involved in finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, the land, the defence of life, human and civil rights and so forth.”

The pope said that this credibility is highly required while the Holy See is committed to pontifical diplomacy and the international community, and stressed that the network of Catholic universities has a central role in building the culture of peace.

For this reason, the pope kicked off a new path of the “Church which goes forth” and established the curriculum of Sciences of Peace, the final goal of which is “to incarnate the Word of God for the Church and for humanity of the Third Millennium.”

The curriculum will include theological, philosophical, juridical, economic and social structure, and will provide a bachelor’s degree and a license.

This curriculum, in Pope Francis’ intention, will be the reference point for the promotion of “a proper preparation of current and future workers of peace.”

Pope Francis’ letter was read after Bishop Semeraro had lectured on “The proposal of reform for the Roman Curia.”

The secretary of the Council of Cardinals stressed that the program for curial reform is being scrutinized from the canon law point of view, and for this reason Pope Francis appointed Msgr. Mellino as adjunct secretary to the Council of Cardinals Oct. 27 and also a member of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

Bishop Semeraro said that part of the reform has been already enacted with the establishment of the Council for Economy, the Dicasteries for Laity, Family and Life, the Promotion of Integral Human Development and Communication, and finally of the Third Section of the Secretariat of State.

The new pastoral constitution that will regulate functions and tasks of the Roman Curia offices is provisionally titled Praedicate evangelium, meaning “preach the Gospel,” which was the title proposed in summer 2015. The title of the constitution also fits with the “missionary choice” Pope Francis asked for in the 2014 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

As part of the reform, Bishop Semeraro also included Pope Francis’ decision to hold the Lenten spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia outside of Rome. This is a sign, Semeraro said, that “reform, in Pope Francis’ mind, is really much more than any structural change.”

Italian bishops’ conference establishes national center for youth protection

Rome, Italy, Nov 17, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- With the intention of “providing a radical solution” to the sex abuse issue, the Italian bishops’ conference established Thursday a new center for youth protection, and pledged to update its 2014 guidelines on countering sexual abuse.
 
The decisions came at the end of an extraordinary general assembly of the Italian bishops’ conference, held in Rome Nov. 12 -15.
 
The assembly was summoned to approve new translations of the missal, and in particular of “Our Father” and the “Gloria in Excelsis.” The meeting also included a discussion on new anti-abuse measures that are said to have been for in process for quite some time.
 
During the meeting, the Italian bishops decided to establish a “national service for the protection of Minors and vulnerable people.”
 
The new body will be given statutes, a regulation, a staff, and a panel of experts in advisory roles.
 
According to an Italian bishops’ conference release, the center will have responsibility to “help start diocesan paths to provide formation for the prevention of abuse.”

The center will also counsel and assist dioceses in canonical and civil lawsuits.
 
In addition to this service, the Italian bishops’ conference made the decision to appoint one or two people per region as reference points for abuse reports. Italy is composed of 20 ecclesiastical regions, and almost all of them gather in regional bishops’ conferences.
 
Those people will undergo specific training, on a regional basis, with the help of the Center for the Protection of Minors of the Gregorian University.
 
Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, underscored in a Nov. 15 press conference that the Italian bishops are also committed to improve the procedure to accept candidates to priesthood.

There will be, he said,  “an accurate psychiatric evaluation” before admitting anyone to the seminary.
 
Bassetti also noted that reports of abuse must be “seriously scrutinized. An equitable and just procedure is needed. The reports of survivors must be heard with care and with psychological sensitivity. On the other hand, we must watch out for unjust reports.”

 

 

 

Eating Is a Moral Act

Christianity is one religion that places upon us the obligation to care for the least of our sisters and brothers here on earth if we want to share the banquet the Lord of hosts has prepared in heaven for those who believe. The image of an overflowing cornucopia reminds us that eating ought to be not only an obligation but a celebration. Such a table is a sign of hospitality. When a cook prepares everything from scratch for her guests, no one doubts the efficacy of her loving care for each ingredient. Everyone leaves the table in a jovial mood, satisfied in body and soul, having been the happy recipients of another’s hospitality. We leave the table with a full stomach but, more important, our spirit feels bathed in the warmth of love.

—from the book Table of Plenty: Good Food for Body and Spirit

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Cupich and Wuerl collaborated on alternative sex abuse proposal

Washington D.C., Nov 16, 2018 / 06:56 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington collaborated extensively on a recently proposed policy for handling abuse allegations against bishops, CNA has learned.

Cupich submitted the plan Tuesday to leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference, proffering it as an alternative to a proposal that had been devised by conference officials and staffers.

The conference’s proposed plan would have established an independent lay-led commission to investigate allegations against bishops. The Cupich-Wuerl plan would instead send allegations against bishops to be investigated by their metropolitan archbishops, along with archdiocesan review boards. Metropolitans themselves would be investigated by their senior suffragan bishops.

Sources in Rome and Washington, DC told CNA that Wuerl and Cupich worked together on their alternative plan for weeks, and presented it to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops before the U.S. bishops’ conference assembly in Baltimore. Cupich and Wuerl are both members of Congregation for Bishops.
 
The Cupich-Wuerl plan was submitted to the U.S. bishops even after a Vatican directive was issued Monday barring U.S. bishops from voting on any abuse-related measures. The Vatican suspended USCCB policy-making on sexual abuse until after a February meeting involving the heads of bishops’ conferences from around the world.

An official at the Congregation for Bishops told CNA on Thursday that the substance of the plan presented by Cupich at the Baltimore meeting is known in the congregation as “Wuerl’s plan.” The official would not confirm whether the congregation had received an advance copy of the document.

Senior chancery officials in Washington described the plan presented Tuesday as a collaborative effort by the cardinals, telling CNA that Wuerl and Cupich first informed the Congregation for Bishops several weeks ago about their idea for the “metropolitan model” to handle complaints against a bishop, and suggested they had continued to discuss the plan with Congregation officials since that time.

"It was a mutual effort," one Archdiocese of Washington official told CNA.

The idea of amending USCCB policy so that allegations against a bishop would be handled by his metropolitan archbishop was first suggested by Wuerl publicly in August.

While Cupich played an active role in conference sessions this week, and proposed the detailed plan for an alternative to the conference’s special commission, Wuerl did not make any public comment on the plan, which at least some in Rome consider to be “his,” and which he first suggested in public 3 months ago.

Sources familiar with the behind-the-scenes discussions in Baltimore told CNA that Wuerl chose to step back from the plan’s presentation, providing advice and counsel but not seeking to take public credit. A spokesman for Wuerl declined to comment on that decision.

Several bishops in Baltimore told CNA that Cupich appeared to be positioning himself as an unofficial but influential policy-maker in the conference. His status would be strengthened if the plan he introduced in Baltimore gained support in Rome, they said, especially if it were favored over the plan proposed by conference officials.

It is not clear to what extent Cupich considered how the manner in which he presented his plan could be interpreted. A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago told CNA that Cardinal Cupich was away, and could not be reached for comment.

A source familiar with the drafting of the alternative proposal told CNA that Wuerl was not involved in the way the plan was presented in Baltimore, saying that Wuerl’s only concern was developing the best possible plan for tackling the sexual abuse crisis, and not “playing games” at the conference.

Many American bishops arrived in Baltimore this week expecting to approve the proposed the independent commission, along with proposed standards for episcopal conduct. Bishops were stunned to discover Monday that they could not vote on the measures, following the last-minute instruction from the Congregation for Bishops, received Sunday night by conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.

An Archdiocese of Washington official suggested to CNA that the Congregation for Bishops’ last minute suspension of voting at the Baltimore meeting might have been because the conference’s independent commission proposal was not sent to Rome until Oct. 30.

DiNardo, however, told a press conference Monday that while the draft document for the independent commission had been sent to Rome at the end of October, the USCCB had been in consistent contact with Vatican officials as the texts were developed.

DiNardo said that “When we were in Rome [in October] we consulted with all of [the Vatican dicasteries]. I mean, [that’s what] we do.”

“When I met with the Holy Father in October, the Holy Father was very positive in a general way - he had not seen everything yet - of the kind of action items we were looking to do.”

Cupich spoke from the floor immediately after DiNardo’s announcement of the change Monday morning. The cardinal suggested that the bishops continue to discuss the proposed measures and take non-binding votes on them. He offered no indication at that time that he would introduce a completely different plan.

By Tuesday afternoon, the Chicago cardinal rose to question the premise of the USCCB’s proposed independent commission, asking if it was a reflection of sound ecclesiology. Cupich suggested that the commission could be seen as a way of “outsourcing” difficult situations.

Shortly thereafter, Cupich submitted to conference leaders a seemingly well-prepared and comprehensive “Supplement to the [USCCB] Essential Norms,” which outlined in detail the plan he had developed with Wuerl.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said from the floor that the “metropolitan model” appeared to align closer with the Church’s hierarchical structure.

“I really do favor the use of the metropolitan and the metropolitan review board for these cases… but that would require that the Holy See give metropolitan archbishops more authority than we have,” Chaput told the conference.

Chaput told the bishop that the reason the USCCB executive committee opted to pursue the idea of an independent commission instead of developing a plan based around the metropolitan archbishop was because they did not think the “metropolitan model’ would have support in Rome.

“When we discussed this at the executive committee level we, some people, thought it would be easier for us to develop this independent commission than to get the Church to change canon law,” he said.

Sources close to the USCCB told CNA that if the executive committee had known the Vatican might support the “metropolitan model,” it might have been pursued earlier, with a proposal being circulated to members by the conference leadership. A spokesperson for the USCCB declined to comment on that possibility.

Cupich had suggested during the meeting that either or both plans could be voted on in non-binding resolutions in order to give the Vatican a sense of the American episcopate’s desires. Ultimately, no vote was taken.

Instead, as the Baltimore meeting ended, DiNardo agreed that Cupich’s plan would be developed alongside the independent commission plan, by a special task force consisting of former USCCB presidents Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, and Archbishop Wilton Gregory. DiNardo will have the option of presenting either or both possibilities when he and conference vice president Archbishop Jose Gomez attend the Vatican’s February meeting.

USCCB spokespersons declined several times to comment on any role Cupich or Wuerl, members of the Congregation for Bishops, might have played in developing the congregation’s reaction to the special commission plan.

 

Ed. note: This story was updated after publication to explain that metropolitans under investigation would be investigated by their senior suffragan bishops.

Italy should get back taxes from Vatican, court rules

Rome, Italy, Nov 16, 2018 / 06:27 pm (CNA).- Catholic leaders are open to discussing with the Italian government a court ruling saying Italy has the right to recover millions of dollars from the Church from a previous tax exemption.

According to DW, an exemption was established in the beginning of 2012, which allowed for non-commercial Church properties to be exempt from paying an Italian municipal tax – the IMU.

The case had been opened that year by a Montessori school and an owner of a bed-and-breakfast, who called the exemption unfair to properties offering similar services.

In December 2012, the European Commission in Brussels declared the exemption to be unlawful. However, the court ruled that it would be too complicated to recover the money, as the tax database and Italian property title registry were not up-to-date.

However, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg overruled that decision this month, saying that Italy has the right to take back millions of euros, the Associated Press reported.

On Thursday, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, head of the Italian bishops’ conference, said the Church had not yet begun a discussion with the government, but “certainly some contacts will be necessary,” according to the Associated Press.

Underground bishop in China reported missing

Wenzhou, China, Nov 16, 2018 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Vatican-appointed Chinese bishop has reportedly been taken into custody by the government and is undergoing “isolation and indoctrination.”

This is Peter Shao Zhumin’s fifth arrest in just two years as a bishop. Chinese police have recently been detaining priests loyal to the underground Catholic Church nationwide.

Pope Francis appointed Shao Bishop of Wenzhou in September 2016. Shao had previously endured an 11-month detention beginning in September 2006, after he and another priest returned from a pilgrimage to Europe and were charged with “illegal exit.”

He was detained again during April 2017, ostensibly was to prevent him from celebrating the Triduum and Easter liturgies, which would have been his first time as head of the diocese.

Shao was also arrested in May 2017. La Croix International reported at the time he was summoned by the government’s religious bureau May 18, and released the following April.

Bishop Shao has now been missing for several days. During this most recent detention, Asia News reported, the Chinese police have pressured Shao to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the Communist Party-supported body that seeks to manage the Church in China independently of the Vatican.

The Church in mainland China has been divided for some 60 years between the underground Church, which is persecuted and whose episcopal appointments are frequently not acknowledged by Chinese authorities, and the government-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

Chinese officials have not yet offered any information about Shao’s whereabouts.

Reports of the destruction or desecration of Catholic churches and shrines have come from across China, including the provinces of Hebei, Henan, Guizhou, Shaanxi, and Shandong.

A Sept. 22 agreement between the Holy See and Beijing was intended to normalize the situation of China’s Catholics and unify the underground Church and the Patriotic Association.

The agreement has been roundly criticized by human rights groups and some Church leaders, including Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong.

Since the agreement in September, two CPCA bishops were invited to attend the synod on youth. These men are “known to be close to the Chinese government,” and their attendance at the synod is “an insult to the good bishops of China,” Cardinal Zen said.

At least 42 dead in cathedral attack in Central African Republic

Alindao, Central African Republic, Nov 16, 2018 / 04:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At least 42 people have died in an attack Thursday on the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Alindao, in the Central African Republic, according to local reports.

At least one priest was among those killed in the Nov. 15 attack. Some unofficial estimates have said the death toll could reach as high as 100. Many of the people killed were refugees sheltering at the Church.

The CAR has suffered violence since December 2012, when several bands of mainly Muslim rebel groups formed an alliance, taking the name Seleka, and seized power.

In reaction to the Seleka's attacks, some Central Africans formed self-defense groups called anti-balaka. Some of these groups, mainly composed of Christians, began attacking Muslims out of revenge, and the conflict took on a sectarian character.

According to reports from Aid to the Church in Need, ex-Seleka forces attacked the cathedral, reportedly in retaliation for a Muslim who was killed the day prior by anti-balaka.

The priest killed in the attack was vicar general of the diocese, Abbe Blaise Mada. Aid to the Church in Need added that some reports have said second priest, Father Celestine Ngoumbango, was also killed, but this has not been confirmed.

Houses in the neighborhood were also looted and burned.

Many Catholic churches in the country provide refuge to Muslims and Christians alike fleeing violence, included churches in the Diocese of Bangassou, some 140 miles to the east of Alindao, where several Catholic institutions have taken in displaced Muslims who face violence at the hand of anti-balaka.

Anti-balaka killed more than 100 Muslims in Bangassou in May 2017 before United Nations peacekeepers intervened, and since then the city's Petit Seminaire Saint Louis has been home to about 1,600 displaced Muslims. Another 2,000 Muslims have taken refuge at St. Peter Claver Cathedral in Bangassou.

The CAR held a general election in 2015-16 which installed a new government, but militant groups continue to terrorize local populations. Thousands of people have been killed in the violence, and at least a million have been displaced. At least half of Central Africans depend on humanitarian aid, the U.N. reports.

Pope Francis visited the CAR during his trip to Africa in 2015, and urged the country’s leaders to work for peace and reconciliation.

Three priests were killed in CAR this year prior to yesterday’s Cathedral attack.

Religious sisters in Cameroon released one day after kidnapping

Yaoundé, Cameroon, Nov 16, 2018 / 04:03 pm (CNA).- Three Franciscan sisters and 13 novices travelling from Bamenda to Shisong in Northwest Cameroon have been released, after they were captured by separatist fighters in the small village of Bamessing yesterday.

The hostage-takers were positively identified by an ecclesiastical source as the “Amba boys” - separatist fighters using hit-and-run tactics to engage the armed forces of the Republic of Cameroon in a guerilla warfare for the separation of English-speaking Cameroon from French-speaking Cameroon and the independence of the new nation they have named ‘Ambazonia.’

This nearly three-year conflict has led to several hundred deaths on both the militia and government forces sides, 300,000 refugees in Nigeria and more than 80,000 internally displaced persons in Cameroon.

The separatist fighters are known to dig up trenches on the main road leading from Bamenda, the capital city of the Northwest Region, to many other villages and towns surrounding it, mainly in a bid to prevent military transport and soldiers from reaching their hideouts.

The kidnappers held the religious sisters and their novices hostage in a remote bush overnight, as negotiations took place between an official of the Diocese of Kumbo and the hostage takers.

A source at the Diocese of Kumbo confirmed that the Amba boys had taken the sisters hostage because of what they perceived to be the support of the Church for a peace conference convened by Christian Cardinal Tumi.

The sisters and the novices were released unharmed on the afternoon of November 16. They were handed over to representatives of the Diocese of Kumbo. The conditions of their release were not clear.

Mexican bishops discussing commission to address abuse of minors

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 16, 2018 / 03:33 pm (ACI Prensa).- As part of their work at the 106th Plenary Assembly, the Mexican Bishops' Conference (CEM) is discussing and could approve a commission for the protection of minors, to deal with cases of sexual abuse in all the dioceses of the country.

The CEM Plenary Assembly is taking place Nov. 12-16 at Casa Lago, Cuautitlán Izcalli, a church facility on the outskirts of Mexico City.

At a Nov. 15 press conference, Bishop Alfonso Miranda, Secretary General of the CEM, noted that “the proposal for the creation of a commission for the protection of minors in the Catholic Church in Mexico will be presented this afternoon.”

This proposal for a commission, he explained, “is to make official what we are already doing in practice at the General Secretariat.”

However, he added, currently “there does not exist a body within the structure” of the Church in Mexico to address abuse accusations.

“It does not exist, rather each bishop in his diocese deals with this situation and this issue, but on the national level it hasn't yet existed.”

“What we intend is that there be a regulatory body which would oversee, which would serve in an advisory capacity to address not only “the issue of the bishop but also what they have to do with the victim, the perpetrators, with the regulations under Mexican law and also under canon law, in complete liaison with the Vatican, with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.”

He said that this body would also work in coordination with other bishops' conferences. “We want to be a step forward, we want to be proactive in such a crucial issue for the Catholic Church worldwide and also of course in Mexico.”

In February 2019, the presidents of national bishops’ conferences around the world will gather in Rome to meet with Pope Francis to address the issue of sexual abuse in the Church.

Bishop Miranda said the Mexican bishops will prepare “something more specific for the coming meeting in Rome which our new president of the CEM,” Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera of Monterrey, is scheduled to attend.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.