LEAP YEAR AND “THE CATHOLIC CONNECTION” – CARDINAL PELL TESTIFIES BEFORE ROYAL COMMISSION ON ABUSE CASES

One of the more extraordinary moments of my life occurred last Friday when I had an amazing reunion with two former high school French students of mine, touching bases for the first time since I left the Academy of the Holy Names in 1964! The now-defunct Academy, where I taught French for four years, was at 711 Pershing Drive in Silver Spring, Maryland, and the very buildings were an illustrious part of state history.

I could write an extra long column about how very much I loved teaching, the great relationships I built with a number of AHN families, and how special the Academy and those years were! Perhaps another day, another time.

Monica (Longen) Knudsen and Anne (Quinn) Glickman stayed in touch after they graduated from the Academy and, even though they now live in different states, they still keep up with each other. (Monica, l, and Anne, center)

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In 2014 they went to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage. On their return, upon watching EWTN one night in her home, Monica heard what she told her husband was “a familiar voice.” My name was announced and she theorized it was her former French teacher, did some research, found me on Facebook (merci Facebook!) and contacted Anne!

In a November 2014 post, Monica wrote: A thought to cheer you: I have never forgotten so many things you taught us in French class. For example, you told us that “mon petit chou-fleur” was a term of endearment in French. Leave it to the French to be able to wring romance out of a humble cauliflower! Happy Thanksgiving to you! Monica

I learned they would be in Rome at this time with a small group and we arranged to have dinner last Friday at La Scaletta. It was phenomenal – Monica, Anne and Madameoiselle Lewis –after so many years! But the years melted away as we exchanged stories about families, work, travel, the changes in teaching and our country in the ensuing years – oh so many adventures!

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And we reminisced, of course, about AHN – the classrooms, the gym, the ballroom, having classes outdoors in the spring, the nuns and the two other lay teachers, so much! It was amazing to go back in time when I was barely 10 years older than my freshmen and sophomore students!

Salih, one of the waiters at La Scaletta, was so taken by this wonderful reunion story, that he was telling everyone at the other tables about us – a group of Scottish rugby players, young Italian couples out for the night, an American couple, and others. The Italians came over to congratulate us and wish us the very best for the future! They were so young that I’m sure the idea of a friendship spanning 50 years was almost beyond comprehension!

Another special moment was having Francesco, the Sicilian-born, Bill Murray-lookalike chef personally cater to our table, bringing our dishes, etc. to us.

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Both Monica and Anne had copies of my book so I wrote a few dedications. I’ve invited them to my home for a mini reception and some prosecco when they return to Rome from points north on Thursday, and they’ll bring several more members of the group.

LEAP YEAR AND “THE CATHOLIC CONNECTION”

Here we are – it’s that extra special day we get once every four years in what we call Leap year and – guess what – it has its origins right here in Rome!

I recently read a story in the Boston Pilot by Donis Tracy that explained that this extra day was a way to adapt the calendar year to the astronomical year. While the concept of the leap year has been around since ancient times — the Ancient Jewish calendar added a leap month every 19 years for example — the current calendar year has its origins in the Catholic Church.

You see, in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII set about adjusting the calendar in order to bring the celebration of Easter to the time of year in which it was celebrated by the early Church. Pope Gregory determined that the calendar was out of sync with the spring equinox by 10 days, and set out to remedy that. This was significant to the Church because the date for Easter was set by the Council of Nicea in 325 as the Sunday after the first full moon of spring, and the start of spring was fixed as March 21. Without adjustment, the date of Easter would eventually drift into the summer.

On February 24, 1582, Pope Gregory issued a papal bull that said the new calendar – which would be called the Gregorian calendar – added an extra day to February every four years, unless the year is divisible by 100. Those years do not have a leap year. The exception to that rule is if the year is divisible by 400. So, following this rule, 1900 was not a leap year but 2000 was. There was some confusion in different countries for a while but eventually all fell into place!

Are you confused as well? You are probably not alone.

For the Pilot story, Tracy interviewed Rev. James Weiss, associate professor of Church history at Boston College.

Over the next 200 years, noted The Pilot article, most European nations adopted the Gregorian calendar, he continued. The final country to switch to the Gregorian calendar was Turkey, which finally adopted the calendar in 1927.

Today, most of the world uses the Gregorian calendar. Some exceptions, such as Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan still use their traditional calendars to mark the years. Others, such as India, Bangladesh and Israel use both the Gregorian and their traditional calendars to mark the passage of time.

CARDINAL PELL TESTIFIES BEFORE ROYAL COMMISSION ON ABUSE CASES

This weekend, before his testimony on sex abuse cases in Australia, given via video linkup with Australia from a Rome hotel, Cardinal George Pell visited the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens to pray for all survivors use. He is the prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

The Cardinal testified for four hours from Sunday night to early Monday morning (given the time difference between Australia and Rome) before the Royal Commission that is investigating institutional sexual abuse in Australia. He will testify again over the next few days. Seated in the same conference room were two dozen Australian abuse survivors who had traveled to Rome with the help of donations from a fund-raising campaign to help pay their expenses.

(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Pell also offered his support for the “Loud Fence” movement by tying a yellow ribbon on the fence at the grotto.

Beginning in Ballarat, in the Australian state of Victoria, the Loud Fence movement encourages people to tie brightly-coloured ribbons on the fences of Catholic institutions, as a symbol of solidarity with survivors of sexual abuse, their families and communities.

The people of the Diocese of Ballarat suffered greatly from a sexual abuse crisis, which led to the suicide of several victims.

Loud Fence ribbons had previously been tied to the barricades around St. Peter’s Square, but the ribbon Cardinal Pell tied to the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto is the first to appear within the Vatican itself.

“I am aware of the Loud Fence movement and how it has grown rapidly. This is my gesture of support, especially for the people of Ballarat,” Cardinal Pell said.

“I think this is an entirely appropriate place to place a ribbon of support and prayed for all survivors of abuse here. I hope the coming days will eventually lead to healing for everyone,” he continued.

Cardinal Pell said he hoped people will accept this gesture of support and solidarity for the Loud Fence movement.

Cardinal Pell has repeatedly given his support for the work of the Australian Royal Commission, and has vowed to meet individually with victims who had travelled to Rome and has said he hoped the coming days “will eventually lead to healing for everyone.”

During his testimony, he acknowledged the Church has not handled the issue of sexual abuse well in the past.

“I’m not here to defend the indefensible. The church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those,” Cardinal Pell said.

“The Church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those, but the Church in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has let people down,” he continued.

Cardinal Pell is scheduled to give further evidence over the next three days.

“VATICAN INSIDER” GOES TO MEXICO – GOD IS LOVE, CHARITY HIS ESSENCE

“VATICAN INSIDER” GOES TO MEXICO

My guest this weekend on Vatican Insider is Alan Holdren, a real Vatican insider who produces “Vaticano” for EWTN and also is the bureau chief for News Nightly. You saw him on the news during the days he was in Mexico with Pope Francis and that is exactly what he will tell us about this week on VI. We look at highlights of the trip, some special moments for both the Pope and Alan, and talk about a lot of behind the scenes – or on the scene! – stories.

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

GOD IS LOVE, CHARITY HIS ESSENCE

Pope Francis, evidently recovered from his one-day indisposition and fever on Thursday, at noon today addressed participants in the international congress that, 10 years on from its publication, has been reflecting on Pope Benedict’s Encyclical Deus caritas est. The gathering was organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

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The Holy Father explained that, “The first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI concerns a theme that allows us to retrace the entire history of the Church, which is also a history of charity . It is a story of the love received from God, to be carried to the world: this charity received and given is the fulcrum of the history of the Church and of the history of each one of us.” He added that, “Charity, therefore, is at the center of the life of the Church and, in the words of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, is truly the heart of the Church.”

“The present Jubilee Year,” added Francis, “is also an opportunity to return to this beating heart of our life and our witness, to the center of the proclamation of faith: ‘God is love’. God does not simply have the desire or capacity to love; God is love: charity is his essence, it is his nature. He is unique, but not solitary; he cannot be alone, he cannot be closed in on himself because he is communion, he is charity; and charity by its nature is communicated and shared. In this way, God associates man to his life of love, and even if man turns away from him, God does not remain distant but goes out to meet him. This going out to meet us, culminating in the Incarnation of his Son, is his mercy. … Charity and mercy are in this way closely related, because they are God’s way of being and acting: his identity and his name.”

Pope Francis said that, “God, without ever tiring, pours out his love on us, and we are called to become witnesses to this love in the world. Therefore, we should look to divine charity as to the compass which orients our lives, … From charity we learn how to see our brothers and sisters and the world. Ubi amor, ibi oculus, say the Medievals: where there is love, there is the ability to see.”

Emphaszing a second point of Deus caritas est, the Pope said the Encyclical “reminds us that this charity needs to be reflected more and more in the life of the Church. How I wish that everyone in the Church, every institution, every activity would show that God loves man! The mission that our charitable organizations carry out is important, because they provide so many poor people with a more dignified and human life, which is needed more than ever. But this mission is of utmost importance because, not with words, but with concrete love it can make every person feel loved by the Father, loved as His son or daughter and destined for eternal life with Him.

“I would like,” continued Francis, “to thank all those who daily are committing themselves to this mission which challenges every Christian. In this Jubilee Year, my intention has been to emphasize that we can all experience the grace of the Jubilee by putting into practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy: to live the works of mercy means to conjugate the verb ‘to love’ according to Jesus. In this way then, all of us together can contribute concretely to the great mission of the Church: to communicate the love of God which is meant to be spread.”

 

 

ARE THESE THE CHANGES IN VATICAN COMMUNICATIONS?

The Italian news agency ANSA reported this morning that, according to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, Pope Francis’s audiences for Thursday have been cancelled because the 79-year-old pontiff has a high temperature. Fr. Lombardi said the pope had a “slight indisposition, nothing serious” adding that, as usual, Francis celebrated Mass at the Santa Marta residence where he lives inside the Vatican on Thursday morning. “For the moment he is resting,” Lombardi said. “He usually recovers quite quickly. Anyway, we’ll see.”

Most of my day has been outside of the office, including getting ready to be with Jim and Joy AT HOME this evening. Be sure to tune in!

The book with Pope Francis’ answers to 31 questions from children around the world was presented this morning in its Italian version, one of the 16 languages in which the book has been published. The Italian-language book is called Before the World, Love. The English version is set to debut March 1 and is titled Dear Pope Francis. Prepared by Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the book presents 31 letters and drawings selected from those presented by 296 students from Jesuit-run schools and institutions in 26 countries. A percentage of the sales will be given to the JRS, Jesuit Refugee Service. (More about this, along with a few photos, tomorrow).

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ARE THESE THE CHANGES IN VATICAN COMMUNICATIONS?

This morning I read, and then posted, Vatican’ Radio’s report by Philippa Hitchens entitled, “Father Lombardi’s lasting legacy at Vatican Radio.”

The piece starts: Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi steps down as Director General of Vatican Radio at the end of February, in the context of a major overhaul of the Holy See’s media and communications organisations.

When I got to the final paragraph, it sounded like what was not going to last was Vatican Radio itself, at least not the name! After 85 years! A name it has had since day one – February 12, 1931.

Here is what that paragraph says: Fr Lombardi’s departure from the Palazzo Pio headquarters marks the end of an era for the Jesuits too, whom Pope Pius XI entrusted with the running of the Radio back in 1931. Pope Francis has made clear he wants the order to continue working in communications, though it’s not yet clear how that service may take shape. The name – Vatican Radio – will also cease to exist in the coming months, as it becomes more closely incorporated into a combined output of TV, newspaper, web and social media production. What Fr Lombardi says he hopes will remain at the heart of the new media operation is the dedication of those committed to their mission of sharing the Good News with those on the margins of today’s ‘throwaway culture’. 

In addition to this bombshell piece of news, I read this at the end of today’s edition of VIS (Vatican Information Service): NOTICE TO VIS SUBSCRIBERS Vatican City, 25 February 2016 (VIS) – From Tuesday 1 March 2016, the Vatican Information Service newsletter will not be transmitted …

We’ve all know there would be some changes in the communications structure since last June when the Pope instituted the Secretariat for Communications. A certain amount of streamlining was expected, although indications were given that taking care of personnel working for the Vatican’s communication offices (Vatican Radio, CTV, Press Office, VIS, L’Osservatore Romano, Pontifical Council for Social Communications) was a high priority.

To a person, the people I have spoken to today, when I told them of the news that the name “Vatican Radio” would soon disappear told me I was mistaken, that could not happen, I had heard or read the story incorrectly, no one would change history, what I was saying had no sense, and so on.

I am still stunned by this announcement. To be honest, I first heard Philippa’s account on Vatican Radio this morning as I was preparing for an appointment, Absolutely sure I had misunderstood her final words, I went online to find the story – there it was, I had no misheard at all.

My heartbeat quickens as I wonder what is down the road for Vatican communications after learning of such a shocking change for the historic Vatican Radio. What will disappear next? What is the rationale behind such changes, behind a “major overhaul”? Perhaps this is what interests me (and others) most.

Here is the link to the entire Philippa Hitchen story: http://www.news.va/en/news/fr-lombardi-reflects-on-lasting-legacy-of-vatican

 

AUTHORITY MUST SERVE COMMON GOOD – “LITTLE CHILDREN HAVE BIG QUESTIONS” FOR POPE FRANCIS

The new book with kids’ question for the Holy Father will be a wonderful read. I intend to get a copy ASAP – let’s see what those “big questions are that the young ones ask Pope Francis.

AUTHORITY MUST SERVE COMMON GOOD

Pope Francis dedicated the weekly general audience to his recurring theme of mercy as expressed in the Bible, and underscored the need for Christians to have a proper disposition towards the goods of the earth. He said, “they serve the common good if used in accordance with the demands of justice, charity and mercy, but become a source of corruption and death if used selfishly and arrogantly.” To this end, the Holy Father highlighted the Biblical account of Naboth, a man unjustly put to death so that King Ahab might take possession of his property.

Departing from his prepared text, the Pope recommended a slim, powerful volume by St. Ambrose of Milan, the great 4th century bishop and Doctor of the Church, as especially pertinent and helpful reading for Lent. “This is not a story from other times,” said Francis. “It is a story of today, as well, a story of the powerful who exploit the poor, who exploit the people for their own gain. It is the story of human trafficking, of slave labor, of poor people who work ‘under the table’ and for a pittance in order to enrich the powerful – it is the story of corrupt politicians who want more and more. For this, I said it would do us well to read St. Ambrose’s book on Naboth – because it is a book about current events.”

The story of Naboth teaches us what happens when authority is exercised “without respect for life or justice and without mercy. Here we see where the thirst for power leads: it becomes avarice, the desire to possess everything.” Francis gave the example of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “who was not a communist”, when he observed the avidity of the rich landowners who sought to acquire more and more houses and land. “Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land.”.

He explained that, “God is greater than evil and the dirty games human beings play, and in His mercy He sends the prophet Elijah to help Ahab convert. The king, faced with his sin, is humbled and asks for forgiveness. How good it would be if today’s powerful exploiters were to do likewise!” exclaimed Francis. “The Lord accepts his penance, but an innocent man was killed and this inevitably has consequences. Indeed, the evil committed leaves painful traces, and the history of mankind bears the scars.” (VIS), Vatican Radio)

“LITTLE CHILDREN HAVE BIG QUESTIONS” FOR POPE FRANCIS

(VR) Pope Francis has answered 30 questions presented to him from children from around the world. Loyola Press is publishing the responses in a book due to be published on 1 March called Dear Pope Francis

KIDS BOOK POPE

The United States-based Jesuit publishing house approached Pope Francis about the idea last year, and received a positive response. They then asked Jesuits from around the world to collect questions from children aged 6-13, including Catholics and non-Catholics. They also asked the children to send drawings, which are included in the book.

They received 259 questions from 26 countries in 14 languages. The book’s editor, Fr. Paul Campbell, SJ, then sat down with a committee and chose the questions to send the Pope.

“One of the lines we use to describe this book is: Little children have big questions,” Fr. Campbell told Vatican Radio.

“Yes they are questions from little children, but they are very, very profound questions,” – Fr. Campbell said – “The Holy Father was very clear that it was terribly difficult to answer these questions.”

The Jesuit priest said one thing that comes out of reading the book is the Holy Father’s profound sensitivity to the suffering of children around the world.

“I believe it was William from the United States who asked the question if you could cause one miracle…what would it be? And the Holy Father said ‘to stop the suffering of children’,” – Father Campbell explained – “and it is very clear to me that the Holy Father’s heart is full of compassion for those who suffer.”

This book is only a small way of giving suffering people hope.

“The  Holy Father wants to reach out to children and adults to everyone who experiences suffering – which means all of us – to tell us that he does not understand suffering, that he cannot explain it, but that he does believe that Jesus did suffer for us, and that is the only thing that gives him hope and comfort,” Father Campbell said.

 

POPE DONATES $50,000 TO VICTIMS OF TAIWAN EARTHQUAKE

Here is a link to my Facebook page with photos from last night’s book-signing event at the Domus Carmelitane residence with pilgrims from Divine Mercy parish in Paulding Ohio, and their pastor, Fr. Joseph T. Poggemeyer, and Fr. Matt Frisbee: https://www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420

Both the parish and the pastor have fascinating stories as you can see on the parish website (http://divinemercycatholic.com/our-parish/). Divine Mercy is in the diocese of Toledo, led by my good friend, Bishop Danny Thomas (we met in 1990, both of us newly arrived to work at the Vatican).

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The group leader, Maggie McDaniels and I had met at a Santa Susanna Mass a few months back. We have mutual friends and, as Maggie explained the group’s pilgrimage to Rome, I naturally mentioned the new must have guide to the Jubilee! You can find Maggie and Teresa Grodi at www.catholicfaithjourneys.com

POPE DONATES $50,000 TO VICTIMS OF TAIWAN EARTHQUAKE

FROM ASIA NEWS: Taipei – Pope Francis has sent a donation of $50,000 for the families of the victims and the survivors of the terrible earthquake that struck the southern part of the island of Taiwan last Feb. 6. This is confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei: the sum was sent to the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference through the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

The 6.4 magnitude earthquake occurred in Tainan. There were 117 victims, of which 115 residents in a single building complex that collapsed in Yongkang district. The authorities are currently engaged in an investigation to understand how the total collapse of the recently built Weiguan Jinlong ( “Golden Dragon”) was possible.

The day after the disaster, which occurred in conjunction with the Chinese New Year, the Pope sent a telegram signed by the Secretary of State Card. Parolin. In the text, the Pope says he  “was saddened to learn of the suffering caused by the deadly earthquake which struck in Tainan, leaving many people dead or seriously injured.  He sends prayerful condolences to the families of the deceased and injured, as well as to rescue personnel and the civil authorities. His Holiness, commending the souls of the departed to the tender mercy of God, invokes abundant divine blessings of consolation and strength upon those who mourn and upon all who have been affected by this tragedy”.

 

 

THE CHURCH MARKS THE FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF PETER – BE MODELS OF MERCY IN DAILY LIFE, EXHORTS POPE FRANCIS

As I note below, today the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of Peter and, on the occasion of their namesake’s feast day, I send special wishes and many prayers to my new friends of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter, based in Houston, Texas. Special wishes go to the new bishop of the Ordinariate, my friend, Bishop Steven Lopes.

THE CHURCH MARKS THE FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF PETER

February 22 is the feast of the Chair of Peter and great honor is paid to the first Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica on this day every year.

As happened in the Holy Year of 2000, today the employees of the Vatican and Roman Curia celebrated the Jubilee of the Roman Curia with Pope Francis, first by attending a meditation on “Mercy in our everyday life” in the Paul VI Hall followed by Mass in the basilica. After the meditation, everyone, including the Holy Father, walked in procession to and then through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica. (photo: L’Osservatore Romano)

ROMAN CURIA JUBILEE

The special feast of the “cathedra” or Chair of St. Peter dates to the fourth century and honors and celebrates the primacy and authority of St. Peter. The word “cathedra” means seat or throne and is the root of the word cathedral, the church where a bishop has his seat from which he preaches and teaches.

A mixture of tradition, legend and belief held for many years that this was actually a double chair, parts of which dated back to the early days of Christianity and to St. Peter himself. This chair or cathedra has been studied over the centuries and the last time it was removed from its niche in the Bernini altar was a six-year period from 1968 to 1974 where studies pointed to a single chair whose oldest parts date to the sixth century. What appeared to be an outer or second chair was a covering that served both to protect the throne and to carry it in procession. (Photos: JFL)

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The Chair of St. Peter is actually a throne that Charles the Bald, the grandson of the Emperor Charlemagne, gave to Pope John VIII at the former’s coronation as emperor on Christmas Day 875. For many years the chair was used at liturgical events by Pope John and his successors: it was ensconced in Bernini’s Altar of the Chair in 1666.

The ceiling above the Altar of the Chair:

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Bernini’s masterful Altar of the Cathedra was executed between 1658 and 1666. A bronze throne, which encases the Chair of Peter, dominates the apse, above the marble altar. It is supported by four statues of bishops: two Fathers of the Latin Church, Sts. Ambrose and Augustine, and two from the Greek Church, Sts. Athanasius and John Chrysostom.

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Above them, in the midst of gilt clouds, flights of angels and rays of sun is the Holy Spirit, illuminated by a stained glass window.

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Notwithstanding its appearance of lightness and harmony, records show that more than 120 tons of bronze were used for this breathtaking monument. This altar is today still used for numerous liturgical celebrations.

The statue of St. Peter seen daily by pilgrims:

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What is so special about this feast day is that the Altar of the Chair is aglow for this one day a year with scores and scores of candles.

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In addition, this is one of two days every year when the statue of a seated St. Peter, on the right side of the main aisle, is robed in ecclesiastical finery, including papal vestments, the triple tiara and a papal ring. The other day you may see St. Peter robes in this manner is June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, patrons of Rome.

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BE MODELS OF MERCY IN DAILY LIFE, EXHORTS POPE FRANCIS

Pope Francis on Monday celebrated a Jubilee for the Roman Curia, the Governorate, and the Institutions attached to the Holy See, as part of the Holy Year of Mercy. The event took place on the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, which has the rank of “Solemnity” in the Vatican Basilica.

In his homily, Pope Francis has told members of the Curia to tend to their flocks with generosity and mercy and has urged them to become a ‘model’ for all. “Pastors are first of all required to have God himself who takes care of his flock as a model.”

He reminded them that God goes in search of the lost sheep, re-conducts them to the fold, cares for the wounded and heals the sick ones.     “This kind of behavior is the sign of love that knows no boundaries. It is faithful, constant, unconditional dedication, so that even the weakest may be reached by His mercy” he said.

And Pope Francis also urged those present to cultivate and practice a strong pastoral attitude within all Vatican work environments, “especially towards the people we meet every day”.“May no one – he said – feel neglected or mistreated, may everyone experience the loving care of the Good Shepherd”.

“At this time, the Lord Jesus addresses a question to every one of us: ‘But who do you say that I am?’. A clear and direct question, from which it is not possible to escape or remain neutral, nor is it possible to postpone the answer or delegate it to someone else. But there is nothing inquisitional about this; instead, it is full of love!”

“Let us,” said Pope Francis, “make Peter’s words our own: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’. May our thought and our gaze be fixed on Jesus Christ, the beginning and end of every action of the Church. He is the foundation and no-one may lay another. He is the ‘stone’ on which we must build. St. Augustine recalls this with expressive words when he writes that the Church, although agitated and disturbed by the upheavals of history, does not fall down, because she is built on stone, from which Peter’s name is derived. It is not the stone that derives its name from Peter, but Peter from the stone, just as it is not the name Christ that derives from Christian, but Christian from Christ. The stone is Christ, the foundation on which Peter too was built.”

“In the Sacred Scripture,” explained the Holy Father, “faithfulness and mercy are inseparable. Where there is one there is the other, and it is precisely in their reciprocal nature and complementarity that we can see the very presence of the Good Shepherd. The faithfulness that is required of us is that of acting in accordance with Christ’s heart. As we have heard in the words of the apostle Peter, we must tend to our flock with a generous heart and become a model for all. In this way, ‘when the Chief Shepherd appears’, we will be able to receive ‘the crown of glory that will never fade away’.” (Vatican Radio, VIS)

 

VATICAN INSIDER PRESENTS JULIANA BIONDO AND “PATRUM” – POPE FRANCIS ATTENDS FIRST LENTEN SERMON – CATHOLICS AND ORTHODOX, YESTERDAY AND TODAY: PART TWO

I was just about to post this column when I got a news alert that Harper Lee, the author of the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning book “To Kill a Mockingbird,” has died at age 89, according to officials in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. I got the chills because a few years ago, through a mutual priest friend, I met a family from Alabama as they visited Rome, and invited them to my home. Their gift to me: an autographed copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Spread the word: Here again is the link to the entire press conference that Pope Francis held aboard the papal flight en route back to Rome after his 6-day trip to Mexico: www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-of-pope-francis-in-flight-interview-from-mexico-to-rome-85821/

VATICAN INSIDER PRESENTS JULIANA BIONDO AND “PATRUM”

A technical problem in both my computer and my recorder caused the deletion of a number of programs (including backup), including the interview I had scheduled for this weekend with Cris Gangemi and her work with the Kairos Foundation and the Pontifical Council for Culture.

As a result, I am going to re-air an earlier conversation I had with Juliana Biondo, creator of the app “PATRUM” for the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican. A native of Baltimore, Juliana is a young, enthusiastic, dedicated member of the Patrons team with a great love for art and also for modern technology. A great conversation you don’t want to miss!

It is such fun to be around young people today! The ones I know – and now I add Juliana to that list! – are ultra-talented, intelligent, exuberant youths, far-sighted young people with a passion for life and all the newness it brings every day – and technology is certainly a part of that!  And you will see this when Juliana explains PATRUM and how the idea for this app came about and what she anticipates bringing to it on a daily basis.

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

POPE FRANCIS ATTENDS FIRST LENTEN SERMON

This morning in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, in the rpesence of Pope Francis, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, offered the first Sermon for Lent 2016. (photo news.va)

FR CANTALAMESSA

Father Cantalamessa’s sermon continued his reflections on the Second Vatican Council, speaking on the theme, “The Second Vatican Council, 50 years later: A revisitation from a spiritual point of view.” After focusing during Advent on the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium (on the Church), Fr Cantalamessa turned his thoughts to the Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The next Lenten sermons will take place on Friday, February 26 and on these Fridays in March 4, 11 and 18.

CATHOLICS AND ORTHODOX, YESTERDAY AND TODAY: PART TWO

Last Friday, in this column, in anticipation of Pope Francis’ historic meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill that afternoon in Cuba, I posted Part One of what I called a two-part look at Catholic-Orthodox relations as both sides struggle for full Christian unity. I hoped to answer some questions: How did that disunity come about?  On what points is there agreement? Disagreement?

I noted that oceans of ink have been used over the centuries to write about Catholic-Orthodox relations since the East-West (Constantinople-Rome) schism of 1054, and explained that, while it was not my intention to give a full, historical review, it was my hope to help you understand some of the issues involved in this split.

In Part One, I offered Pope Francis’ words during his trip to Istanbul in late November 2014, Pope Benedict’s words during his 2006 visit to Istanbul, and some background research I did for Benedict’s visit.

I said that Part Two would be dedicated to excerpts from a lengthy interview I had in 2006 in Istanbul (Phanar) with Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, spiritual leader of some 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians, and exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, stating that that interview would be posted Saturday, February 13.

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In the midst of some unexpected events in my life last Saturday, I forgot to post that and do so today, hoping to further your understanding of the historic East-West split and the differences that today separate Orthodox and Catholics.

To briefly recap some history: What has come to be known as the East-West Schism occurred in 1054 when Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople, leader of the Eastern Christian Churches, and Pope Leo IX, leader of the Western Church excommunicated each other in that year. The excommunications were only lifted in 1965 when Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, following an historic encounter in Jerusalem a year earlier, presided over simultaneous ceremonies that revoked the excommunication decrees. Differences between the two Churches had been growing for years on issues such as papal primacy, liturgical matters and conflicting claims of jurisdiction. The split occurred along doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political and geographic lines and the two Churches have been seeking unity ever since.

Here is the interview:

EWTN: Let’s talk about relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Patriarchate: For you, the Orthodox, what is the bottom line to effect unity?

DEMETRIOS: The main thing is a very important, indelible one thousand years of history. That’s there. You can’t eradicate history, you can’t change history. It is the memory that is very strong – 1,000 years. The early church, the synods, the ecumenical synods accepted by both churches, a beautiful kind of common tradition developing parallel between East and West. So this is the basic thing that is there. Then you have 1,000 years of separation. Separation itself is something very traumatic, very dramatic and it causes results that might last. And during the centuries, changes happen, changes in dogmatic issues, items of faith, some more important, some less, and the question of primacy of the pope. And there are sometimes practical issues, for example, the existence of the Uniate Churches, something that stopped dialogue for several years. Dialogue resumed in September in Belgrade, though I must say we never stopped talking in America. But dialogue did stop in Europe. Basically there is this Uniate issue. Remember, you cannot talk just theological generalities when there is an historical matter that is a thorn in the flesh of the Church So we have the common experience (of 1,000 years) on the one hand, the very clear good will, the quality of the leaders of the Church, especially in the persons of Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict XVI, as his predecessor, John Paul II. You have people who are sensitive to human needs, they know how to handle different situations and they are well committed to advancing the cause of unity, in non-stop, constant reminders. So there is something there that we must do – and this is the strongest element helping us.

EWTN: What do the Orthodox perceive as the bottom line for Catholics to effect unity?

DEMETRIOS. If I have to be direct, there is an expectation of some steps that will show in practice, in action, the willingness. Let me give you an example. I was at a meeting in Rome in the Vatican, in 1982, I think, organized by the seven universities of Rome on the occasion of the 1,600 years, I think it was, of the second ecumenical council that established the dogma and articles on the Holy Spirit. Cardinal Ratzinger was there and Pope John Paul gave a lecture there. There were a number of prominent theologians and one of them, Father Yves Congar, said let’s be specific and really show how willing we are. In the liturgical books that will be printed from now on, next to the page that has the creed with the filioque, let’s have a page with the creed without the filioque and allow the priest to chose what he wants. Now that’s a step. There are other things but that is one specific thing

EWTN. Yesterday in his speech, Pope Benedict spoke of the petrine ministry. He noted that Our Lord chose Peter and Andrew as fishers of men and yet he gave each a specifically different task (See ADDENDUM below). Do you see a complementarity of ministries in those remarks?

DEMETRIOS: Absolutely. And if I may expand your phrase of complementarity and differentiation – which is an enriching, not a diminishing or dividing, factor. St. Paul was clear – we have a variety of charisms, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in order to have the full program of the church in helping the edification of the church as a whole body. It would be boring, allow me to say, if all was the same. With differentiation you have this beauty of variety – imagine a world where everything was white or black – we need shades. So the distinction between the petrine (Peter) and the Andrean (Andrew) kind of ministry is a very nice sign of the variety and richness of the gifts of God.

EWTN: In Istanbul, the Pope said precisely that, “The issue of the universal service of Peter and his Successors has unfortunately given rise to our differences of opinion, which we hope to overcome.” He quoted Pope John Paul’s “invitation to enter into a fraternal dialogue aimed at identifying ways in which the petrine ministry might be exercised today, while respecting its nature and essence,” and said, “It is my desire today to recall and renew this invitation.” If the Pope today were to exercise the petrine ministry as he did during the first millennium, could this bring the Church closer to unity?

DEMETRIOS: That’s a very good way you put it. In essence, when we deal with the petrine ministry we are dealing with primacy, with a universal kind of authority. If we go backwards we can see this kind of thing developing to what it is today. That was not the case in the first centuries. Nor was it when Constantine transferred the capital from Rome to the new Rome, Constantinople. At that time you had the five patriarchates – Alexandria, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Rome – and Rome was clearly recognized as “presiding in love.” It was the Pope of Rome, the bishop of Rome who was primus inter pares, first among equals.

The more you go back, the more you find a level of common acceptance. There was no problem. The problems developed in the way there was an increase in the authority – or, to use a contemporary expression – at the expense of the others. Therefore, a study to have a proper understanding should go as far back as possible. The suggestion you mention will be very fruitful. I dare not interpret Pope Benedict XVI but knowing him as a scholar, because I am an academic person myself, I can see him as an academic saying, “let’s go back and check.” It is he who insists there is no real dialogue without real data. And the data regards not only this moment but going back in history.

EWTN: Having studied the history and relations between Orthodox and Catholics, it is my impression that the Orthodox want more collegiality.

DEMETRIOS: Absolutely. I don’t like simplified statements because they can often do injustice, but if we had to make a simplified statement you might say the central issue is collegiality versus the absolute authority of one person. This is reducing the whole thing in a very simple way.

EWTN: Before closing, may I ask your impression of the Muslim reaction to Pope Benedict, given the anger on their part and the fears for the Pope’s safety before he undertook this trip (because of his speech last September in Regensburg, Germany)?

DEMETRIOS: It is a complex issue here but the first impression is that the spiritual condition of the people vis-a-vis the Pope is not the same today as it was five days ago. The visit gave a different picture of someone who was not what the media projected. He is a gentle man who spoke clearly and with respect for Islam and Muslims. My first estimate: it was very positive in terms of changing things.