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Love is in the air: Pope marries couple mid-flight during Chile visit

Aboard the papal plane, Jan 18, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his five years in office, Pope Francis has gained a reputation for embracing spontaneity. Today, he did it again with another papal first: witnessing the marriage of two flight attendants on board his flight from Santiago to Iquique.

According to journalists traveling with the Pope, the couple – Paula Podesta and Carlos Ciuffardi – went to the Pope during the Jan. 18 flight to ask for his blessing.

The couple told Francis they had been civilly married, but said they had not been able to get married in the Church because their parish was destroyed in the massive 8.8 earthquake that rocked Santiago in 2010.

In response, the Pope offered to convalidate their marriage on the spot. Ignacio Cueto, owner of the airline company, LATAM, was a witness in the ceremony.

According to Ciuffardi, who spoke briefly with journalists after the ceremony, the Pope asked the couple if they were married yet, and when they explained why they hadn't been married in the Church, he said “do you want to get married?”

The Pope, Ciuffardi said, asked them “Are you sure, absolutely sure?” They said yes, gave the Pope thier rings and asked Cueto if he would be a witness. The Pope then blessed the rings, placed their hands together, offered some brief reflections and pronounced them man and wife.

The Holy Father celebrated the marriage of 39-year-old Paola Podestà Ruiz and 41-year-old Carlos Ciuffando Elorriaga, during the LATAM 1252 transfer flight from Santiago to Iquique. ????Credit: Vatican Media/CNA #FranciscoEnChile Read the full story here: https://t.co/XOOr9rR9mT pic.twitter.com/ORtfTN1TpL

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) January 18, 2018 According to Ciuffardi, Francis told them what happened “was historic,” because “never has a Pope married a couple on a plane.”

Referring to the rings, Francis jested that they shouldn’t be too tight, because “they would be a torture,” nor too loose, because they might lose them.

Since they didn't have an official marriage certificate to sign, Pope Francis asked the cardinals with him to draft one, so they grabbed a piece of blank copy paper and each signed their names and what role they played in the ceremony. One of the cardinals also signed as a witness.

#PopeFrancis married these flight attendants aboard the papal plane flying to Iquique, #Chile this morning.

Their wedding was canceled when an earthquake destroyed their church in Santiago in 2010.

Join us in congratulating the happy couple! #FranciscoEnChile pic.twitter.com/3pQ64oy7nP

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) January 18, 2018 The Pope gave the couple two rosaries, Podesta received a white rosary and Ciuffardi a black one.

The couple – who have two children, Rafaela, 6, and Isabela, 3 – said they will be traveling with the Pope to Iquique, and from there will take a different flight to another destination, and will celebrate after.  

“It was something historic, really. Very exciting. What he told us was very important: he told us 'this is the sacrament that the world needs, the sacrament of marriage. Hopefully, this will motivate couples around the world to get married’,” Ciuffardi said.

Pope appeals for unity, non-violence in Chile's torn Mapuche zone

Temuco, Chile, Jan 17, 2018 / 07:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Chile's largely indigenous Araucania region, long divided by violent conflict. He stressed the importance of unity, which he said cannot be achieved through violence or forced uniformity.

Pointing to Jesus' prayer that “they may all be one” at the end of John's Gospel, Pope Francis noted that it is at this “crucial moment” before his death that Jesus “stops to plea for unity.”

“In his heart, he knows that one of the greatest threats for his disciples and for all mankind will be division and confrontation, the oppression of some by others,” he said, and urged those present to take Jesus' words in the prayer to heart.

We must “enter with him into this garden of sorrows with those sorrows of our own, and to ask the Father, with Jesus, that we too may be one,” Francis said, and prayed that “confrontation and division never gain the upper hand among us.”

Pope Francis spoke during his Jan. 17 Mass in Chile's Araucania region in Temuco, which for years has been torn apart by violent conflict surrounding the plight of the area's Mapuche people, an indigenous group present largely in south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina.

He traveled to the region as part of his Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile, after which he will make an official visit to Peru from Jan. 18-21.

The largest indigenous group in Chile, the Mapuche resisted Spanish conquest during colonial times by using guerrilla warfare tactics to evade soldiers and maintain control of their land.

They continued to resist after Chilean independence in 1818, however, in the 1860s the military gained control, and the majority of their land was given over to members of the military and incoming immigrants.  

Despite the launch of some initiatives aimed at restoring parts of their land and the creation of scholarships for Mapuche students, the Mapuche live in one of the poorest areas of Chile and claim to be mistreated by authorities.

Some of the Mapuche have in recent years adopted violent means of protest, and have bombed trucks and land of non-Mapuche people they say are illegally inhabiting the area.

They have also set fire to churches, burning more than two dozen in 2016 and 2017, according to the Chilean prosecutor's office. Just last Friday three more churches were firebombed in the Chilean capital Santiago in protest of the Pope's visit.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and authorities are unsure whether Mapuche activists are to blame, however, leaflets criticizing the upcoming visit of Francis and calling for a “free” Mapuche nation were dropped at the scene.

The field attached to the Maquehue Airport, where Pope Francis landed and celebrated Mass, had once been used as a detention center where many indigenous peoples were tortured during Chile’s military government under Augusto Pinochet.

In the lead up to the Pope's trip, a number of the Mapuche had protested the use of the airport for the papal Mass given the serious human rights violations that took place there, arguing that the land belongs to them and not the government. Two more attacks on churches took place shortly before the Pope's arrival to Temuco, however, no one has claimed responsibility for these either.

In his homily, Pope Francis recognized that in the past, the airport had been the site of “grave violations of human rights,” and said he was offering the Mass for “all those who suffered and died, and for those who daily bear the burden of those many injustices.” He paused in a moment of silence for all who died.

“The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross bears all the sin and pain of our peoples, in order to redeem it,” he said, and pointed to the day's Gospel reading from John, in which Jesus prays for the unity of his disciples.

Unity is a gift which must be “persistently sought” for the good of all, and for future generations, he said, but cautioned against what he named as two temptations that can “poison the roots” of this unity.

First, Francis warned against the temptation to confuse unity with uniformity, saying “Jesus does not ask his Father that all may be equal, identical, for unity is not meant to neutralize or silence differences.”

“Unity can never be a stifling uniformity imposed by the powerful, or a segregation that does not value the goodness of others,” he said. Rather, the unity that Jesus refers to is a “reconciled diversity” which recognizes the value of the individual contribution of each tradition and culture.

This unity “will not allow personal or community wrongs to be perpetrated in its name,” the Pope said, adding that “we need the riches that each people has to offer, and we must abandon the notion that there are higher or lower cultures.”

It also requires both listening to and esteeming one another, which in turn builds solidarity. And solidarity, he said, is the most effective weapon against “the deforestation of hope.”

He also warned against the temptation to obtain unity with the use of violence, and cautioned against two forms of violence which he said stifle the growth of unity and reconciliation rather than encouraging them.

The first, he said, are the “elegant agreements that will never be put into practice.” They consist of nice words and detailed plans, and while these are needed, they end up “erasing with the elbow what was written by the hand” when they go unimplemented, he said, explaining that this is a form of violence “because it frustrates hope.”

Second are the actual acts that take place, he said, insisting that “a culture of mutual esteem may not be based on acts of violence and destruction that end up taking human lives.”

“You cannot assert yourself by destroying others, because this only leads to more violence and division,” he said. “Violence begets violence, destruction increases fragmentation and separation. Violence eventually makes a most just cause into a lie.”

Rather than using these two avenues, which are “the lava of a volcano that wipes out and burns everything in its path,” the Pope urged attendees to pursue a path of “active non-violence” as a political style, and told them to never tire of promoting true and peaceful dialogue for the sake of unity.

After Mass, Pope Francis will head to the mother house for the Sisters of the Holy Cross order, where he will each lunch with around 11 people, eight of whom will be Mapuche.

Award to pro-abortion politician a matter of protocol, Vatican says

Vatican City, Jan 16, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The conferral of the Vatican’s Order of St. Gregory the Great to Dutch politician and pro-abortion activist Liliane Ploumen was part of an ordinary diplomatic exchange of honorific titles, and does not mean that the Vatican supports Ploumen’s abortion campaigns, a Vatican spokesperson explained Jan. 15.

Responding to requests of clarification, Paloma Garcia-Ovejero, deputy director of the Holy See Press Office, said that “the honorific of the St. Gregory the Great Pontifical Order that Liliane Ploumen, then Minister for Development received in June 2017, during the visit of the Dutch Royals to the Holy Father, is part of the diplomatic praxis of the exchange of decorations among delegations during official visits between heads of state and government to the Vatican.”

Garcia-Ovejero said that the decoration “cannot be by any way considered an endorsement to the pro-abortion and birth control politics advocated by Mrs. Ploumen.”

Liliane Ploumen, a Dutch politician, served as Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation from Nov. 5, 2012 to Oct. 26, 2017.

In that capacity, she was part of a delegation of the Dutch monarchy that visited Pope Francis on June 22.

On that occasion, the Vatican returned to the Dutch Royal Family a stick belonging to William I, Prince of Orange, that had previously been lost in the Jesuit Catalan archives.

The stick – in fact a scepter – depicts the coat of arms of William of Orange. The stick was used by Louis of Nassau, the brother of William of Orange, during the 1574 Mookerheyde battle in 1574. It was lost, came into the hand of a Spanish general and eventually the superior of the Jesuits. Eventually, it got lost in the Catalan archives.

The occasion included an exchange of honorary titles, an element of diplomatic praxis that usually grabs no headlines.

Diplomatic visits to the Vatican are highly choreographed affairs.

During an official state visit to the Vatican, the most solemn kind of diplomatic meeting, protocol dictates that a solemn procession from St. Peter’s Square, into the Vatican, to the Cortile San Damaso, which accesses the Apostolic Palace.

The procession is greeted by three blasts of trumpets, and then the delegation enters the Apostolic Palace and walks through the rooms.

There is even a specific protocol for walking through Apostolic Palace. The procession toward the Papal Library, where the meeting takes place, is led by a Swiss Guard sergeant, follow by 6 Sediari Pontifici, ceremonial servants, in the case of head of state and 8 Sediari Pontifici for monarchs.

These details explain that a royal family enjoys a sort of “right of precedence” in Vatican protocol, and for that reason the visit of a Royal Family is a serious and solemn event.

The visit of the King William Alexander and Queen Maxima was not an official state visit, but a mere audience, and so an exchange of honorifics would not ordinarily to take place. However, the presence of the royal family, and the solemnity of returning of the Dutch scepter, might have suggested to the Secretariat of State a protocol designed to highlight the audience, including the conferral of honors, a Vatican source explained to CNA. 

In some cases, the Vatican can ask not to proceed with an exchange of awards or honors, especially when some of the members of the other delegations can be controversial, a source close to the Vatican diplomatic service told CNA Jan. 15.

However, the exchange of decorations took place during the Dutch visit.

The presence of Ploumen in the Dutch delegation has sparked controversies because she is an abortion advocate.

In 2017, Ploumen launched an international campaign to support abortion, designed to counter the Trump administration’s decision to cut off funds for NGOs that facilitate abortion. Ploumen’s organization, named “She Decides,” collected nearly $400 million.

However, news of her award did not grab any headlines until Ploumen herself showed off the medal in a recent interview to the Dutch television BNR.

In the interview, the Dutch politician presented the decoration as a personal award, and said that while her the pro-abortion campaign ““was not mentioned” as the reason for the decoration, but, she said, “the Vatican knows that I founded ‘She decides’, but this did not prevent them from awarding me.”

“It is interesting,” she added.  

The honorific was apparently given without significant previous consultation. In a statement released Jan. 15, Cardinal Wilhelm Ejik, Archbishop of Utrecht and Primate of the Netherlands, stressed that he “was not involved” in the process that decided “to give the decoration of Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order St. Gregory the Great, which the former minister Ploumen received last year.”

Cardinal Ejik said that he had not initially been aware that the decoration had been given to the minister.

Established in 1831, the Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great is one of the five orders of knighthood of the Holy See, and can be bestowed to Catholic men and women, but also – in rare cases – to non Catholics. The honor is a recognition of personal service to the Holy See and to the Church.

In Chile, Pope says Beatitudes aren't 'cheap words', but sources of hope

Santiago, Chile, Jan 16, 2018 / 06:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On his first full day in Chile, Pope Francis told Catholics in the country that the Beatitudes aren't just a simple piece of advice from someone who purports to know everything, but are a source of hope which impels people to leave their comfort zone and follow the path given by Jesus.

“The Beatitudes are not the fruit of a hypercritical attitude or the 'cheap words' of those who think they know it all yet are unwilling to commit themselves to anything or anyone,” the Pope said Jan. 16.

People with this attitude, he said, “end up preventing any chance of generating processes of change and reconstruction in our communities and in our lives.”

The Beatitudes, then, “are born of a merciful heart that never loses hope. A heart that experiences hope as a new day, a casting out of inertia, a shaking off of weariness and negativity,” he said.

By proclaiming blessings to the poor, grieving, afflicted, patient and merciful, Jesus casts out “the inertia which paralyzes those who no longer have faith in the transforming power of God our Father and in their brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable and outcast.”

The Beatitudes, he said, are the fruit of Jesus' encounter with people, who saw in him “the echo of their longings and aspirations,” and found in him the “horizon towards which we are called and challenged to set out.”

Pope Francis spoke during his homily for Mass at O'Higgins Park in Santiago on his first full day in Chile. He is currently in the first step of a two-country visit to South America, which will also include a stop in Peru.

He will visit various cities in Chile, including Temuco and Iquique, and on Jan. 18 will travel to Peru, where he will visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo.

In his homily for Mass, Pope Francis focused on the day's Gospel reading from Matthew in which Jesus speaks on the Beatitudes.

The Beatitudes, he said, are not the product of the “prophets of doom who seek only to spread dismay,” and nor do they come from “those mirages that promise happiness with a single 'click,' in the blink of an eye.”

Rather, the Beatitudes “are born of the compassionate heart of Jesus, which encounters the hearts of men and women seeking and yearning for a life of happiness,” he said, noting that these are men and women who know what it means to suffer and who appreciate “the confusion and pain of having the earth shake beneath their feet” or seeing their life's work washed away.

Chileans themselves know from personal experience how to rebuild and start anew, he said, adding: “How much you know about getting up again after so many falls! That is the heart to which Jesus speaks; that is the heart for which the Beatitudes are meant!”

Francis said the Beatitudes represent a “new day” for all those who look to the future and dream, and who allow themselves to be moved and sent forth by the Holy Spirit.

Contrary to “the resignation that like a negative undercurrent undermines our deepest relationships and divides us,” Jesus provides a more positive message, telling the people that “blessed are those who work for reconciliation. Blessed are those ready to dirty their hands so that others can live in peace.”

“Do you want to be blessed? Do you want to be happy? Blessed are those who work so that others can be happy. Do you want peace?” he asked. “Then work for peace.”

Peace, the Pope added, is sown by closeness and by “coming out of our homes and looking at peoples’ faces...This is the only way we must forge a future of peace, to weave a fabric that will not unravel.”

A true peacemaker, he said, “knows that it is often necessary to overcome great or subtle faults and ambitions born of the desire for power and to gain a name for oneself, the desire to be important at the cost of others.”

Quoting Chilean Saint Alberto Hurtado, he said a good peace-maker knows that “it is very good not to do wrong, but very bad not to do good.”

He closed his homily asking that Mary would help all to both live and desire the Beatitudes “so that on every corner of this city we will hear, like a gentle whisper: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Don’t let fear keep you from welcoming the stranger, Pope says

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2018 / 04:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At a special Mass Sunday for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis said that while it is normal to be afraid of the unknown, we can’t let this direct how we respond to newcomers in our midst, who should be treated with respect and generosity.

It’s not easy to put ourselves in another person’s shoes, especially those very different from us, and this can cause us to have doubts and fears, Francis said Jan. 14.

“These fears are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view. Having doubts and fears is not a sin.”

“The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection,” he continued. “The sin is to refuse to encounter the other, to encounter the different, to encounter the neighbor, when this is in fact a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord.”

Pope Francis gave this homily at a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the 104th celebration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The theme for this year was: “Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees.”

Present at the Mass were immigrants and refugees from around the world who are now part of the Diocese of Rome.

In his homily, Francis quoted a line from his message for the day, published Aug. 21: “Every stranger who knocks on our door is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ, who identifies himself with the foreigner who has been accepted or rejected in every age (cf. Mt 25:35-43).”

He emphasized that in welcoming the migrant or refugee, we have an opportunity to welcome Jesus.

The communities that receive migrants and refugees aren’t the only ones with fears and doubts. Migrants and refugees themselves, who have just arrived in a new place, also have fears, such as the fear “of confrontation, judgment, discrimination and failure,” the Pope said.

Francis explained how in the Gospel reading for the day, Jesus calls his disciples to “Come, and see,” and how today this invitation is addressed to all of us.

“It is an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her. It is an invitation which offers the opportunity to draw near to the other and see where and how he or she lives.”

Entrusting the world’s migrants and refugees to the care of Mary, Most Holy, the Pope concluded by asking her intercession, that “responding to the supreme commandment of charity and love of neighbor, may we all learn to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves.”

Following the Mass, Pope Francis led the usual Sunday Angelus from a window in the Casa Santa Marta for pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

Following the prayer, he announced that “for pastoral reasons,” the World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be moved from Jan. 14, as established by Pope St. Pius X in 1914, to the second Sunday of September. Therefore, the next celebration of the day will take place Sept. 8, 2019, he said.

In his Angelus message the Pope also spoke about the importance of not leaving our knowledge of Jesus to “hearsay,” but how we need to really encounter him “in prayer, in meditation on the Word of God and in the frequenting of the Sacraments.”

“Only a personal encounter with Jesus generates a journey of faith and discipleship,” he said.

“We could have many experiences, accomplish many things, establish relationships with many people, but only the appointment with Jesus, at that hour that God knows, can give full meaning to our lives and make our projects and initiatives fruitful.”

Analysis: Why will Pope Francis visit the Ukrainian parish in Rome?

Vatican City, Jan 12, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- On Jan. 28, Pope Francis will visit the Basilica of Saint Sophia, the Greek Catholic Ukrainian parish in Rome. While there, he will pray in front of the tomb of Bishop Stefan Czmil, who served as a missionary to Argentina, and was a childhood mentor to the young Jorge Bergoglio.
 
The news of the visit was released today by the Holy See Press Office. Beyond the personal attachment the Pope has for Bishop Czmil, the visit is meant as a pastoral visit and a sign of closeness to the Ukrainian Catholics living in Italy, and in general abroad.
 
It will be a short visit: the Pope will meet with the Greek Catholic Ukrainian community in the Basilica, and will speak after an address delivered by the Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk. After the speech, he will go down to the crypt, for a moment of prayer in front of the tomb of Bishop Czmil, as well as in front of the tomb of Cardinal Slipyi.

St. Sophia was modeled on the designs of medieval Ukrainian churches in Kiev, and is home to about 14,000 Ukrainians living in the Diocese of Rome. Its symbolic importance goes far beyond the Diocese of Rome.

The Church was built in 1963, thanks to a collection launched by the then Archeparch Josip Slipyi, who went to Rome after he had spent 18 years in Soviet prison camps in Siberia and Mordovia.  

The basilica has, for decades, been considered the “home” for Greek Catholic Ukrainians sent into diaspora during Soviet rule.
 
In 1946, the Soviet authorities convoked a false “Synod” of Lviv, revoking the Union of Brest - the Council that put the Greek Catholic Church in union with Rome – and forced Ukrainian Catholic parishes and eparchies into the hierarchical structure of the Orthodox Church. The Ukrainian Catholic Church survived clandestinely and in exile.
 
After the “Synod,” the church built in Rome was a welcome point of unity and solidarity for the members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
 
Saint Sophia was consecrated Sep. 28, 1969 by Blessed Paul VI. The Pope wanted to concretely show his own solidarity with the persecuted Church of the Ukraine. Years earlier, in 1963, Paul VI made the decision to move the body of Saint Josaphat, the patron of the Ukrainian Church, under the Altar of Confession in St. Peter’s Basilica, to symbolize the union between Eastern and Roman rites.
 
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the biggest of the sui iuris Catholic Churches, the eastern ritual Churches in full communion with Rome.
 
Pope Francis’ presence will strengthen this union with Rome. According to Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Greek Catholic Ukrainian Community, Pope Francis’ visit is “a sign of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, and a way to show closeness with Ukrainian migrants to Italy, who consider Saint Sophia’s Basilica their home, and a link to their native land.”
 
In fact, Pope Francis’ visit might be considered far more than that, considering the political situation in the Ukraine.
 
During a speech delivered Jan. 8 to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, the Pope made a clear mention of the Ukrainian conflict.
 
The Pope said that “a shared commitment to rebuilding bridges is also urgent in Ukraine,” as  “the year just ended reaped new victims in the conflict that afflicts the country, continuing to bring great suffering to the population, particularly to families who live in areas affected by the war and have lost their loved ones, not infrequently the elderly and children.”
 
The “forgotten conflict” of the Ukraine has been one of the main focus of the Holy See diplomacy so far. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of State, visited the country in June 2016. His reports were decisive to launch the program “The Pope for Ukraine,” which began with an extraordinary collection Apr. 24, 2016.
 
The Holy See has kept a balanced position between the Ukrainian and Russian claims over the territory of Crimea, according to Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of external relations in the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow. For this reason, the Pope has not yet scheduled a trip to Ukraine, although Eastern Europe is clearly at the center of the Pope’s attention – the Pope will likely travel to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in Sep. 2018.
 
For all of these reasons, Pope Francis’ visit to the basilica of St. Sophia in Rome will also be a sign of pastoral concern toward the Ukrainian people during a time of national difficulty. It is not a political visit, nor it should be treated as one. However, the Pope will give strength to the Ukrainian population who endured diaspora, and to those who face a continuing conflict over eastern Ukraine.

The Pope knows the history of the Greek Catholic Ukrainians thanks to Bishop Czmil, the first Ukrainian Salesian sent on a mission to Argentina. Czmil was very important to Pope Francis, as the Pope himself explained Nov. 9, 2017 to the students of the College St. Josaphat, the Ukrainian seminary in Rome.
 
The Pope said that “it was Fr. Czmil who taught me how to participate in the Ukrainian rite of the Mass, opening me to a different liturgy.”

 

Youth to be Vatican’s focus in 2018, Cardinal Parolin says

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2018 / 10:17 am (ACI Prensa).- In an interview published Thursday, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that for the Vatican, the new year will be marked by its attention to the lives of young people ahead of the 2018 Synod of Bishops.

“This year – the year 2018 – will be characterized by a special concentration of the Church’s attention at all levels on the young, then on their expectations, their aspirations, the challenges they face and also on the hopes that they bring with them, as on their weaknesses and fears.”

This approach searches “for a new relationship between the Church and young people, based on a paradigm of responsibility exempt from any paternalism,” said Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in a new interview with Vatican News (formerly called Vatican Radio).

Published Jan. 11, the interview covered the topic of the upcoming Synod of Bishops on Youth, Vocation and Discernment, which will take place in October 2018, as well as the World Meeting of Families in August, Amoris laetitia, reform of the Curia, and the Pope’s imminent trip to Chile and Peru.

About the Synod on Youth, Parolin noted the Church’s strong desire to enter into a dialogue with young people that goes both ways.

He referred to the famous line by John F. Kennedy that says, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” explaining that they want to not only help youth, but invite them to contribute to the Church and to the evangelization of the Gospel.

“I believe that at this invitation young people will be able to respond with their generosity and also with their enthusiasm,” he said.

About the Pope’s immanent trip to Chile and Peru, which begins Jan. 15, Parolin said that, as usual, Francis goes as a pastor to meet the local church, which in the two countries is particularly vibrant.

On the other hand, Chile and Peru also face many challenges, one of which is the difficulties experienced by the indigenous people of the Amazon, one of the reasons Francis has called for a Synod on the Pan-Amazon area to take place in 2019.

Another event happening this year is the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, which Parolin said he believes will be an important stage “of reflection… of deepening” in the discussions surrounding the controversial encyclical.

The document arose, according to Parolin, from a “new paradigm,” one that Pope Francis is carrying out with “wisdom, with prudence and also with patience,” and which calls for a new attitude, spirit and approach.

Amoris laetitia is the Church’s “embrace” of the family and its problems, especially those encountered in the world today. It is also “a request to help families to collaborate and contribute to the growth of the Church,” he said.

The cardinal also spoke about the Pope’s reform of the Roman Curia, which he emphasized is less about the structural reform through new laws, regulations, etc., but conversion.

“So, to ensure that the Curia – ever more and always better, taking away even those shadows that can hinder this commitment and this mission – can really become an aid to the Pope to proclaim the Gospel, to witness the Gospel, to evangelize the world of today,” he said.

Analysis: The ambassador’s visit to Rome’s American seminary

Vatican City, Jan 10, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- On Jan. 10, Callista Gingrich, the United States Ambassador to the Holy See, was a guest at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. She visited the college to receive a blessing as she embarks upon her work as ambassador, according to sources at the North American College.
 
News of the event is striking for two reasons.

The first reason is that her visit, and her request for a blessing, stresses the important connection between the work of the North American College as a pastoral center (it is the home to more than 200 U.S. seminarians living and studying in Rome) and the embassy which looks after the diplomatic interests of Americans in relationship with the Holy See.

Given that it is something of an unspoken tradition that the ambassador be a Catholic, the gesture of a new ambassador seeking a private blessing upon her endeavors is both paradoxical and encouraging; a symbol of the role religion can play in public life, informing and affirming public servants without contradicting their work on behalf of the secular state.

The second reason the event is significant is that it demonstrates that a pastoral welcome transcends partisan disagreement. It is all too easy for public servants to be tarred with the broad brush of the government they serve. In the case of President Trump’s administration, there have been a number of issues on which church authorities have voiced clear notes of caution and disagreement. But disagreements between the Trump administration and the US bishops have not severed the pastoral relationships essential to the Church’s mission.

It would be easy to use the occasion of an ambassador’s visit to the North American College as an opportunity to emphasize disagreement or partisan rancor. That Ambassador Gingrich was welcomed as a daughter of the Church shows the sort of personal pastoral attention which Pope Francis has placed at the heart of his papacy, and the maturity to rise above the secular partisan fray. This sort of pastoral maturity benefits everyone involved.

The Church has many occasions where she offers prayers and blessings for Catholics, and non-Catholics who want them, as they serve in public life; Red Masses are a stable feature in many countries at the opening of the judicial year, for example. Public service requires sacrifices, and carries many difficulties for those serving any government. Many Catholics who work in politics especially find that they are, sooner or later, obliged to test their terms of service against their conscience and their faith. Public service requires the constant work of discernment. Where exactly the line is, or can be, drawn between personal faith and public service is under constant scrutiny from the secular world, and is often used to push people of faith out of public life. Yet, as was seen during the confirmation of Judge Amy Barrett, it is often those who have drawn deepest from the Church’s pastoral well who can offer a most measured and dedicated contribution to public life.

Today, the Church prayed that Ambassador Gingrich will find success in her role, and prove an example to those who follow her in it. For Catholics, her visit to the North American College was a meaningful way to begin.

Analysis: What guides Vatican diplomacy?

Vatican City, Jan 10, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- At a traditional new year's meeting between Pope Francis and diplomats to the Vatican, the pope painted a picture of pontifical diplomacy around the globe: An international mission working to secure the common good, an always increasing network of relations, and the certainty of an impartial voice working for peace.

The Pope’s speech sets the basis and the guidelines for the Holy See’s diplomatic activities during the year. If the guidelines are based on concrete issues, then pontifical diplomacy has three main threads —three themes that include all the others.

The first is a commitment to peace; the second is a commitment to human dignity; and the third is a commitment to fight poverty.

In the mind of the Pope, all three seem linked to one another.

The Vatican’s commitment to peace is practiced via the art of mediation, and the Holy See has been a critical participant in the mediation of global conflict for decades. The Vatican’s commitment to human dignity is based on the principle that all people are equal and dignified in the sight of God. And the Church’s commitment to fight poverty is expressed in its diplomatic work for peace, international development, and support for marginalized. On that front, Pope Francis has asked who, in the end, is poorer than an unborn child, or than the forgotten or marginalized elderly.

These three commitments will shape the Holy See’s diplomatic activity for the upcoming year. Within that framework, there are two clear priorities for the diplomatic work of the Holy See in the upcoming year.

The first is advocating for migrants and refugees. The United Nations are finalizing a Global Compact on Migration, that follows the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants issued in September 2016. The Holy See participated in all of the meetings, and presented 20 points of actions on the issue gathered under the four keyworks “welcome, protect, promote and integrate.”

The Pope has made migration a core issue of his pontificate: he established a special section for Migrants and Refugee within the ranks of the Vatican dicastery for the Promotion of the Integral Human Development, and the Pope is personally chairing it. The theme for the World Day of Peace 2018 was “Migrants and Refugees: Seekers of Peace,” underscoring the importance the issue has for the Holy See.

The second diplomatic focus is on peacekeeping. The Holy See is aims to helping and assisting countries in achieving peace.

Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, a former papal nuncio now counsellor at the Vatican Dicastery for the Integral Human Development, stressed to CNA that for at least the past 50 years, “peacekeeping and the search for peace have dominated the Holy See’s public interventions.”

The Holy See is working to create a path to peace, Tomasi said, by working on “the formation of a new mentality, thanks to the World Day of Peace; the Holy See’s involvement in discussions on disarmament; and the Holy See’s encouragement to develop effective international institutions.”

How does the Holy See carry on its commitment?

First of all, with its work into the multilateral institutions, namely the United Nations and other global institutions.

The Holy See Mission at the United Nations in New York provided data on the Holy See’s work at the UN during the last year.

The Holy See at the UN in New York delivered 82 interventions, and 10 of them were delivered by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican “foreign ministry,” who led the Holy See’s delegation at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly in September.

Archbishop Gallagher also signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons for the Holy See and in the name of and behalf of the Holy See.  The Holy See’s  mission noted that “the Holy See was an active participant in negotiations, and was one of the 122 States that voted in favor of the treaty, adopted on July 7, 2017.  The signing took place during the High Level Ceremony for the opening of the signing of the Treaty, in which the Holy See joined more than 40 states in signing the treaty, and was joined by only Thailand in simultaneously ratifying the treaty.”

The Holy See Mission at the UN Office in Geneva, led by Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, delivered 48 interventions, participating in many panels on the Global Compact on Migrations. The Holy See Mission in Geneva also represents the Holy See at the International Organization for Migration: the Holy See has been a member state of the IOM since 2012.

Those are only examples of the Holy See’s considerable involvement in multilateral international organizations. It is noteworthy to remember that there is also a Holy See Diplomatic Mission in Vienna, accredited to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and to other special organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency, to which the Holy See is a member state and founder.

No less important is the Holy See’s Mission at the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. Pope Francis has personally demonstrated that fighting world hunger is a priority to the Holy See. The Pope has visited the FAO headquarters two times, Nov. 20, 2014 and Oct. 16, 2017, and went to the World Food Program Headquarters June 13, 2016. In addition to that, the Pope symbolically donated $25,000 dollars to the FAO to support the Eastern African populations facing food insecurity and famine.

The Holy See’s diplomatic network of bilateral relations also continues to grow.In 1900, only about 20 countries had diplomatic relations with the Holy See. In 1978 the number was 84; in 2005 it was 174. During Benedict XVI’s pontificate, six new countries were added to the list, and, under the leadership of Pope Francis that number has climbed to 183, with Myanmar, also called Burma, joining the list of states with full diplomatic ties with the Holy See.

There are only 13 States who have no diplomatic ties with the Holy See.

Out of them, 8 have no Vatican envoy: Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bhutan, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, Maldives and Tuvalu. The Holy See has apostolic delegates, not fully recognized as ambassadors, in four countries: Comoros, Somalia, Brunei and Laos. The Holy See has started negotiations with Vietnam to reach full diplomatic ties, and in 2011 the Holy See appointed the first non-residential Vatican envoy to Hanoi.

The diplomatic efforts of the Holy See are considerable, and, as Pope Francis emphasized, committed to important and deeply Catholic international goals.

 

Pope taps Colombian bishop to oversee Sodalitium amid ongoing crisis

Vatican City, Jan 10, 2018 / 09:00 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Wednesday that Colombian Bishop Noel Antonio Londoño Buitrago C.Ss.R. has been appointed papal commissioner for the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic society of apostolic life.  

Londoño will oversee the community as they continue a process of reform, following revelations that their founder, Luis Fernando Figari, committed serial acts of abuse while leading the community. Several former leaders of the community have faced related allegations.

Londoño's appointment was announced in a Jan. 10 communique from the Vatican, which stated that Londoño, the Bishop of Jericó, would carry out his role alongside Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who has served as papal delegate overseeing the SCV's reform process since May 2016.

Tobin will continue to be the group’s liaison with the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and will focus primarily on reforming economic matters. In his role as Commissioner, Londoño will oversee the leadership of order as they continue to reform their governing policies and formation procedures.

In a statement released Jan. 10, the Sodalitium expressed gratitude to Pope Francis and Vatican officials “for following the life of our community with concern.”

“We reiterate our willingness to accept all that is available for the development of our Society. We reaffirm once again our absolute obedience to the Holy Father and Holy Mother Church,” the Sodalitium said.

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae was established by Figari in 1971 in Peru, and was granted pontifical recognition in 1997. Alejandro Bermúdez, executive director of CNA, is a member of the community.

In addition to founding the SCV, a community of men, Figari also founded the Marian Community of Reconciliation and the Servants of the Plan of God, a community of women and an order of women religious. In 2002, he was named a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and served in subsequent consultative roles at the Vatican.  

Figari stepped down as superior general of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae in 2010, after allegations of abuse surfaced in Peru. The current superior general is Alessandro Moroni Llabres.

The community was investigated after the publication of a book in 2015 by journalists Paola Ugaz and Pedro Salinas, chronicling years of alleged sexual, physical and psychological abuse by members of the SCV. In addition to Peru, the community operates in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, the United States, and Italy.

Figari and other former leaders of the community remain the subject of criminal investigations in Peru.

In May 2016 the Pope named Archbishop Tobin as the pontifical delegate charged with overseeing the community's handling of the investigation and their process of reform.

In February of 2017, a team of independent investigators commissioned by the Sodalitium reported that “Figari sexually assaulted at least one child, manipulated, sexually abused, or harmed several other young people; and physically or psychologically abused dozens of others.”

As a result, the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life issued a decree the same month forbidding Figari from any contact with the religious community, and banning him from returning to Peru without permission from the current superior of the Sodalitium. Figari was also forbidden to make any public statements.

The Vatican made a similar move in the case of the Legionaries of Christ after it was discovered that their founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, had been living a double life.

In 2006, with the approval of the Pope, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith imposed upon Maciel “a retired life of prayer and penance, renouncing any form of public ministry.” Due to his advanced age, Maciel was not the subject of a formal canonical trial.
 
From that point on, Benedict XVI carried out a process of reform for the Legionaries, and in 2010 named then-Archbishop Velasio de Paolis as papal delegate to serve in a role similar to what Londoño will have for the SVC.

After his appointment, De Paolis formed a commission charged with drafting new constitutions for the Legionaries. He completed his mandate in 2014 when the new constitutions were approved by Pope Francis. The cardinal died in September 2017.

No specific time frame was given for Londoño's mandate as Commissioner and it is not yet known what steps he will take, however, he is likely to follow the model set by De Paolis, and step aside when the community has a clear path forward.