Some interesting news from the Church in Italy – Vatican Insider and Catholic World News:

By a vote of 140-60, Bishop Mario Meini of Fiesole has defeated Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto in an election for the vice presidency of the Italian Episcopal Conference, according to La Stampa’s Vatican Insider.

Archbishop Forte, who served as special secretary at last month’s Synod of Bishops, drafted the controversial paragraphs on homosexuality that appeared in the interim synod report.

Vatican Insider reported: “During the synod of bishops, the name of Bruno Forte, a noted theologian and Biblical scholar, became known as the author of the most contested passages of the much-discussed ‘Relatio post disceptationem’ (Report after the discussion), in particular those on the welcoming of homosexual couples. Passages that were later completely removed from the conclusive ’Relatio Synodi’ as not having obtained the required qualified majority of two-thirds.”

On another topic:

For many Catholics, the matter of American Cardinal Raymond Burke being removed by Pope Francis as head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s supreme tribunal, and appointed to the largely ceremonial post of patron of the Order of Malta is a mystery. At 66 he is young and add to that the fact he was not re-assigned to a post equal in responsibility to that of the Signatura.

Explanations are never given when a Pope selects an individual as an ambassador, a diocesan bishop, a cardinal in a consistory or a prelate or someone else to an office in the Roman Curia or when he moves or transfers people. He appoints people based on consultations with others, on a study of a person’s background, his particular skills and talents, his language ability (where needed) and the needs of the post or place or diocese to which he is appointing someone. One also assumes that prayerful reflection is part of the papal decision process.

And, one can safely assume that with Pope Francis, his very makeup us part of the process. We know, as I mentioned yesterday, that Pope Francis is making mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation a hallmark of his pontificate. And he may, probably does, in fact, look for those traits in people whom he will appoint to an important position (see today’s general audience catechesis on this).

Thus, much goes into a selection and appointment process.

None of which has helped us specifically understand why Cardinal Burke was, as many say, “demoted.”

However, we might be in good company if we don’t always understand what Pope Francis intends or means by certain actions and words.

Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago since 1997, and until November 18 when papal appointee Bishop Blase Cupich is installed in Chicago, is having his own problems discerning what Pope Francis means.

I am proud and delighted to call Cardinal George a good friend, a man who has graced my dinner table many times in Rome and always provided scintillating, thought-provoking conversation. A gem of a racconteur, a catechist, an apologist, a teacher on all matters Catholic.

He is one of the foremost intellects in the Church and has been ranked right up there with Benedict XVI as a theologian.

So, when Cardinal George opines, we listen.

In her report for the New York Times on the November USCCB meeting in Baltimore, Laurie Goodstein starts off by noting, “It was a hail and farewell moment at a tumultuous time for the Roman Catholic Church. More than 200 bishops rose to their feet Monday and gave a protracted standing ovation to Cardinal Francis George, a former president of the bishops’ conference, who will step down next week as the archbishop of Chicago.”

She spoke of Pope Francis’ new style of living and acting and communicating, and wrote: “Some prelates, like Bishop Cupich, are exhilarated at the pontiff’s fresh message and the prospect of change, while others, like Cardinal George, are more wary. A few have been downright resistant, including Cardinal Raymond Burke, an American in Rome who has publicly challenged Francis and was removed on Saturday from his position as head of the Vatican’s highest court.”

“He says wonderful things,” Cardinal George said about Francis in an interview on Sunday, “but he doesn’t put them together all the time, so you’re left at times puzzling over what his intention is. What he says is clear enough, but what does he want us to do?”

Goodstein notes that, “Cardinal George, who is 77 and being treated for cancer, remains a voting cardinal until age 80 and says he would like to travel to Rome to see Francis: ‘I’d like to sit down with him and say, Holy Father, first of all, thank you for letting me retire. And could I ask you a few questions about your intentions?’”


Pope Francis, at the weekly general audience, continued his catechesis on the Church and focused again on the ordained ministries of bishops, priests and deacons,” noting that, “today we consider the qualities demanded of these ministers in their service to Christ and the Church. In addition to the essential gifts of firm faith and holiness, Saint Paul lists such human qualities as kindness, gentleness, patience, prudence and attentive concern for others. These gifts too are required for the exercise of spiritual leadership.”

“In a special way,” stated Francis, “Paul urges the Church’s ordained ministers to rekindle constantly the gift of God which they have received. For it is only by acknowledging that their ministry is an unmerited gift of God’s mercy that bishops, priests and deacons can serve their brothers and sisters with humility, generosity, wisdom and compassion, and thus build up the Church’s communion in faith and love.”

The Holy Father explained that, “the awareness that it is all a gift, it is a grace, also helps the pastor not to give in to the temptation to place himself at the center of attention and to trust only in himself. These are the temptations of vanity, pride, self-sufficiency, arrogance.” “No,” exclaimed Francis, “God does not like it when a bishop, priest or deacon thinks that he knows it all, that he always has the right answer for everything and has no need for anyone else.” “On the contrary, the knowledge that he, first and foremost, is the object of God’s mercy and compassion must lead a minister of the Church always to be humble and understanding towards others.”

Pope Francis encouraged pastors to be especially attentive to the needs of their “brothers.” And he emphasized the importance of listening: “Aware that he is called to preserve the legacy of faith with courage,” a pastor must be able to acknowledge the importance of “listening to people.” And he should know that “there is always something to learn even from those who are still distant from the faith and from the Church.”

The Pope concluded: “Let us thank the Lord for the gift of this threefold ministry in the Church, and pray that our ordained ministers may always be sustained in their efforts to be living icons of the Father’s loving concern for all his children.”


There were several important messages, appeals and prayers – often in unscripted fashion – at the heart of Pope Francis’ greetings at the end of today’s general audience and summaries of the catechesis in different languages.

In Italian, Francis said, “I am following with great trepidation the dramatic events of Christians in various parts of the world who are persecuted and killed because of their religious beliefs. I feel I need to express my deep spiritual closeness to Christian communities who are hard hit by an absurd violence that shows no sign of stopping, and I encourage the pastors and all faithful to be strong and firm in their hope.” The Holy Father then launched “a heartfelt appeal to all those with political responsibility at local and international levels, as well as all persons of good will, to mobilise consciences on a large scale in favour of persecuted Christians. They have the right to find safety and serenity in their own countries, freely professing their faith.”

After recalling that many sick and disabled pilgrims were following the general audience in the Paul VI Hall due to the weather conditions, the Pope invited everyone to pray the Lord’s Prayer for all persecuted Christians in the world.

Speaking Spanish, the Pope turned to pilgrims from Mexico and said: “I wish to express to the Mexican people, those present and those in their homelands, my closeness in this painful moment following the formal disappearance, which we now know to be the assassination, of 43 students. This makes visible the dramatic reality of the criminality behind the trade and trafficking in drugs. I am close to you and your families.”

Addressing a group of soldiers from Chile, Pope Francis mentioned the upcoming 30th anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty between Argentina and Chile over a border dispute which was achieved as a result of the “will to dialogue” He recalled with gratitude the role played by St. John Paul II and Cardinal Antonio Samore in this treaty, he expressed his hope that “all peoples in conflict for any reason, territorial or cultural, will be encouraged to resolve them through dialogue and not by the cruelty of war.” He said; “Borders – let us not continue to argue about borders. Let us argue about other things, but not about this!”