The next ten days at the Vatican will be busy ones for those who wear the red hat of a cardinal – or are about to receive one.

Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley is in Rome to chair the three-day meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors that starts tomorrow and ends Sunday (see story below). With barely a moment to spare, on Monday Cardinal O’Malley will join eight of his brother eminences to start a three-day meeting of the C9 – the nine-member Council of Cardinals that meets four or five times a years with Pope Francis to advise him on Church and Vatican business. That meeting goes through Wednesday.

Then, on February 12 and 13, Pope Francis wil meet with almost the entire College of Cardinals (all who can travel to Rome for this occasion)  to discuss, among other issues, the reform of the Roman Curia, a reform that got underway almost at the start of Francis’ papacy.

On February 14, the Holy Father will create 20 cardinals in a consistory, 15 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave (until they too turn 80). The next day he will concelebrate Mass with the new cardinals in the presence of the other members of the College of Cardinals.

At the moment, the ceiling for the under-80 cardinal electors stands at 120 – a limit established by Pope Paul VI.  I can easily envision Pope Francis eventually extending this number beyond 120, and perhaps even extending voting privilges to those over 80. It must be said, however, that the under-80 cardinal electors, choosing from among their members, can elect an over-80 cardinal.


The Vatican today published a letter from Pope Francis to presidents of episcopal conferences and to superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life  and Societies of Apostolic Life that asked for their “close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors” as it works to rid the Church of the “scourge” of sex abuse. The commission meets February 6-8 in the Vatican.

The letter is dated February 2, feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

The news.va website posted this photo of Pope Francis along with his Letter – I like to think of this as, “Let the children come unto me.”


And here is another “Let the children come to me” moment (artist unknown):

Jesus and the Children artist unknown

Following is the entire Letter by Pope Francis in English:

“Last March I established the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which had first been announced in December 2013, for the purpose of offering proposals and initiatives meant to improve the norms and procedures for protecting children and vulnerable adults.  I then appointed to the Commission a number of highly qualified persons well-known for their work in this field.

“At my meeting in July with persons who had suffered sexual abuse by priests, I was deeply moved by their witness to the depth of their sufferings and the strength of their faith.  This experience reaffirmed my conviction that everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused.

“For this reason, last December I added new members to the Commission, in order to represent the Particular Churches throughout the world.  In just a few days, all the members will meet in Rome for the first time.

“In light of the above, I believe that the Commission can be a new, important and effective means for helping me to encourage and advance the commitment of the Church at every level – Episcopal Conferences, Dioceses, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and others – to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, and to respond to their needs with fairness and mercy.

“Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children.  They should also know that they have every right to turn to the Church with full confidence, for it is a safe and secure home.  Consequently, priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors.

“Every effort must also be made to ensure that the provisions of the Circular Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dated 3 May 2011 are fully implemented.  This document was issued to assist Episcopal Conferences in drawing up guidelines for handling cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.  It is likewise important that Episcopal Conferences establish a practical means for periodically reviewing their norms and verifying that they are being observed.

“It is the responsibility of Diocesan Bishops and Major Superiors to ascertain that the safety of minors and vulnerable adults is assured in parishes and other Church institutions.  As an expression of the Church’s duty to express the compassion of Jesus towards those who have suffered abuse and towards their families, the various Dioceses, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life are urged to identify programmes for pastoral care which include provisions for psychological assistance and spiritual care.  Pastors and those in charge of religious communities should be available to meet with victims and their loved ones; such meetings are valuable opportunities for listening to those have greatly suffered and for asking their forgiveness.

“For all of these reasons, I now ask for your close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors.  The work I have entrusted to them includes providing assistance to you and your Conferences through an exchange of best practices and through programmes of education, training, and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse.

“May the Lord Jesus instil in each of us, as ministers of the Church, the same love and affection for the little ones which characterized his own presence among us, and which in turn enjoins on us a particular responsibility for the welfare of children and vulnerable adults.  May Mary Most Holy, Mother of tenderness and mercy, help us to carry out, generously and thoroughly, our duty to humbly acknowledge and repair past injustices and to remain ever faithful in the work of protecting those closest to the heart of Jesus.”

The complete composition of the Commission follows:

Cardinal Seán O’MALLEY, OFM Cap. (United States), president Mons. Robert OLIVER (United States), secretary – Rev. Luis Manuel ALI HERRERA (Colombia)  – Dr. Catherine BONNET (France) – Marie COLLINS (Ireland) – Dr. Gabriel DY-LIACCO (Philippines) – Prof. Sheila the Baroness HOLLINS (England) – Bill KILGALLON (New Zealand) – Sr. Kayula Gertrude LESA, RSC (Zambia) – Sr. Hermenegild MAKORO, CPS (South Africa) – Kathleen McCORMACK AM (Australia)  – Dr. Claudio PAPALE (Italy) – Peter SAUNDERS (England) – Hon. Hanna SUCHOCKA (Poland) – Dr. Krysten WINTER-GREEN (United States) – Rev. Dr. Humberto Miguel YÁÑEZ, SJ (Argentina) – Rev. Dr. Hans ZOLLNER, SJ (Germany)


PAPAL MESSAGE FOR NATIONAL PRAYER BREAKFAST – Pope Francis has sent a Message to the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, which was attended by US President Barack Obama, lawmakers from both parties, and thousands of guests. A portion of the Message was read during the event, which has taken place since 1953. The full contents of the text was scheduled to be read at the lunch portion of the event. “Dear friends, I send prayerful good wishes for you, for the fruitfulness of your work,” reads the message. I ask you to pray for me, and to join me in praying for our brothers and sisters throughout the world who experience persecution and death for their faith. Upon you, your families, and those whom you serve, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, joy, and peace.” (Vatican Radio)

VATICAN OFFICIALS DENIED VISAS BY INDIA -The Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI)  alleged that two key Vatican officials who were to address the 27th National Assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) in Bengaluru which began on February 3 had been denied visa. Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, President of Pontifical Mission Societies and Adjunct Secretary to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, were key resource persons for the week-long conference. CCBI held  the session in which the two officials were scheduled to participate through video conferencing. Though the two officials had applied for visa in mid-December, their applications were kept pending till the last minute and rejected, a CCBI statement said. Sources claimed that even after the intervention by Vatican’s Secretary of State office the visa applications were kept pending. (Full story here: http://www.news.va/en/news/vatican-officials-unable-to-attend-india-church-me)

POPE FRANCIS: I’M A DINOSAUR WHEN IT COMES TO COMPUTERS. Pope Francis Thursday participated in a Google Hangout session via Youtube with young folks with physical and learning abilities on several different continents, and told one young man who was holding a tablet that he, Pope Francis, is “a dinosaur when it comes to computers.” CC – closed captioning – in English was available on Youtube because the Pope answered all the questions, no matter the language of the question, in Spanish. The event was put together by Scholas Occurentes, Google and Microsoft. Scholas Occurentes is a global network of schools and educational networks inspired by Pope Francis who founded and sponsored similar projects when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. As Pope, Francis asked that this concept be brought to life on an international level and so it was that, on August 14, 2013 the project was born in the Vatican with the help of football greats, Lionel Messi and Gianluigi Buffon, respectively captains of the national teams of Argentina and Italy. Scholas Occurentes’ office is housed in the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, whose chancellor is another Argentinean, Archbishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo. The website http://www.scholasoccurrentes.org/  is predominantly in Spanish but there are some articles in English. The site tells us that the MISSION is “To link schools and educative networks around the world by means of different types of pedagogical, sports and artistic proposals aimed at improving education and achieving inclusion of communities with fewer resources through an active commitment of all social stakeholders. The VISION of Scholas Occurrentes is “to transform the world into an inclusive and educative society.”