“SPOTLIGHT” NOT AN ANTI-CATHOLIC FILM – THE OFFICE OF PAPAL CHARITIES OPENS A CLINIC UNDER THE COLONNADE IN ST PETER’S SQUARE – DOCTORS FOR THE HOMELESS

This is a “Good News” column today, focusing on two fascinating pieces in the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano.

The first is the Vatican reaction to the film, “Spotlight,” which won an Oscar Sunday night for best film and the second is about the just-opened health center for homeless men and women near the new showers installed months ago just off the right hand colonnade of St. Peter’s Square.

On the film “Spotlight”: Seems that a number of pundits gleefully predicted Vatican outrage and anger over the Oscar being awarded to a film that highlighted the Boston Globe’s probe into clerical sex abuse cases in the archdiocese and then elsewhere. The Vatican, instead, saw the film in a a positive light because, says the editorial at the outstart, “it manages to voice the shock and profound pain of the faithful confronting the discovery of these horrendous realities.”

A very worthwhile article. The question that remained in my mind, following the Oscar awards ceremony, is when will the same producers and directors (or even the media) delve into abuse cases in families, in schools, in sports venues,etc., in other words, some place other than the Catholic Church?

And then the piece about the new mini health center for the homeless at the Vatican: Another brilliant gesture by Pope Francis and his superactive Almoner, Abp. Konrad Krajewski, to help restore a sense of dignity to so many people who feel they have nothing left in life, including dignity.

“SPOTLIGHT” NOT AN ANTI-CATHOLIC FILM

Spotlight, the Oscar-winning film, has a compelling plot. The film is not anti-Catholic, as has been written, because it manages to voice the shock and profound pain of the faithful confronting the discovery of these horrendous realities.

spot.jpg

Of course, the narrative does not delve into the long and tenacious battle that Joseph Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and as Pope, undertook against pedophilia in the Church. But one film cannot tell all, and the difficulties that Ratzinger met with do not but confirm the film’s theme, which is that too often ecclesiastical institutions have not known how to react with the necessary determination in the face of these crimes.

Of course, and we all know it, children are vulnerable beings, and therefore privileged victims of abuse even in families, sport circles, and secular schools. Not all monsters wear cassocks. Pedophilia does not necessarily arise from the vow of chastity. However, it has become clear that in the Church some are more preoccupied with the image of the institution than of the seriousness of the act.

All this cannot justify the extremely grave fault of those who, while seen as God’s representatives, use this authority and prestige to exploit the innocent. The film is adept at recounting this detail, giving space to the inner devastation that these acts generate in the victims, who no longer have a God to plead with, to ask for help.

The fact that a call arose from the Oscar ceremony — that Pope Francis fight this scourge — should be seen as a positive sign: there is still trust in the institution, there is trust in a Pope who is continuing the cleaning begun by his predecessor, then still a cardinal. There is still trust in a faith that has at its heart the defence of victims, the protection of the innocent.

Lucetta Scaraffia

THE OFFICE OF PAPAL CHARITIES OPENS A CLINIC UNDER THE COLONNADE IN ST PETER’S SQUARE – DOCTORS FOR THE HOMELESS

A sign which reads “medical-health care clinic” is posted on a wooden door situated in the colonnade of St Peter’s Square. It is Pope Francis’ latest gift – by way of the Office of Papal Charities – to the homeless of Rome. The clinic, which stands alongside the showers and barber shop which were previously made available to Rome’s needy, opened on Monday, 29 February. Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the Papal Almoner, explained that the Italian Association of Podiatrists will also provide a free-of-charge service because, he added, “feet are the most affected part in people living in the street”.

ambulatorio.JPG

The decision to open on a Monday is no accident. The first day of the week is when approximately 150 people use the showers and barber shop. This service – which opened last year – allows them to change into clean clothes, leaving their dirty ones to be laundered at the shelter which recently opened on Via dei Penitenzieri. “It seemed right”, Archbishop Krajewski explained, “to also provide free medical visits. For now, we will begin like this but soon the podiatrists will visit twice per week, and then eventually this service could become daily”. “We are equipped”, said Archbishop Krajewski, “to help all those who come knocking on our door. It is Pope Francis who wants this and those of us who are close to him in this venture are honoured and highly motivated to make this possible”.

Medical specialists and healthcare personnel of the Holy See, of the University of Rome – Tor Vergata and of the volunteer association Medicina Solidale see patients, prescribe tests and treatments, and recommend hospitalization, if necessary. It is “an indispensable service”, the Papal Almoner continued, “to the health of the poor who live among us”. “In taking care of these people, we cannot overlook medical visits, preventive care and continous outpatient care”, of which the homeless “are especially in need. That is why the Holy Father wished that, under the colonnade of St Peter’s Basilica, a medical center be built for those who ask to be cared for”.

 

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MERCIFUL LIKE THE FATHER: MESSAGE FOR THE JUBILEE OF MERCY FOR THE YOUNG – VATICAN HOSTING TWO REFUGEE FAMILIES – HOMELESS AND POOR ATTEND CIRCUS, THANKS TO PAPAL ALMONER

MERCIFUL LIKE THE FATHER: MESSAGE FOR THE JUBILEE OF MERCY FOR THE YOUNG

(VIS) – Pope Francis’ message for the Jubilee of Mercy for young boys and girls was published today. In the text, dated 6 January 2016, Solemnity of the Epiphany, the Holy Father addresses youngsters aged 13 to 16, many of whom intend to make a pilgrimage to Rome from 23 to 25 April, and who are “preparing to be Christians capable of making courageous choices and decisions, in order to build daily, even through little things, a world of peace., He encourages those who live in difficult situations not to lose hope as the Lord “has a great dream” for them that He wishes to come true. He invites them not to be “taken in by the messages of hatred or terror all around us”, and instead to make new friendships.

Click here to read the message in English: http://www.news.va/en/news/merciful-like-the-father-message-for-the-jubilee-o

VATICAN HOSTING TWO REFUGEE FAMILIES

A communique announced today that two refugee families are now being hosted by the two parishes of the Vatican, in response to the September 6, 2015, Angelus appeal of Pope Francis for every parish in Europe to welcome a family of refugees, starting with his own diocese of Rome.

The parish of Sant’Anna has provided a nearby apartment for a Christian Syrian family, consisting of the parents and two children, whereas the parish of St. Peter’s Basilica has provided an apartment for an Eritrean family consisting of a mother and her five children. Three of those children, including one only several months old, are already in Italy, and two others are in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, but are expected to be reunited in Rome the coming weeks. Another woman and her child also live in the apartment which the Vatican communique described as ‘large’.

This entire project has been under the direction of Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal Almoner, and the Sant’Egidio Community. Pope Francis met briefly with the Syrian family shortly after they moved into their apartment in September.

HOMELESS AND POOR ATTEND CIRCUS, THANKS TO PAPAL ALMONER

(Vatican Radio) The Office of the Papal Almoner has announced a unique charity event scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Rome: a circus for the poor. (AP photo: news.va)

ALMONER

The homeless, refugees, prisoners, and those most in need, were invited to the entertainment, offered free of charge at the Rony Roller Circus, which made all 2000 seats under its big top available for the event.

A press release with details of the spectacle highlights the show’s opening number: a song composed by a Spanish singer-songwriter, who was also homeless at one time, dedicated to Pope Francis and written to serve as an opening prayer and expression of gratitude to the Holy Father for his closeness to the guests.

In a January audience last year Pope Francis said that those who create circus shows create beauty which is good for the soul. “How much we need beauty,” he said. He applauded circus artists who with perseverance and sacrifice give beauty to others.

The Almoner’s announcement also explained that medical personnel from Vatican Health Services would be available to give treatment free of charge to any of the event’s attendees with a mobile camper and Vatican ambulances. A small snack will be offered the end of the show.

 

THE JESUIT “GIFT OF MERCY” DORMITORY FOR HOMELESS

THIS IS MY THIRD POST OF THE DAY – STAY TUNED FOR MORE NEWS HERE AND ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE!

THE JESUIT “GIFT OF MERCY” DORMITORY FOR HOMELESS

(Vatican Radio) Just as winter begins to set in, Pope Francis and his Jesuit brothers have made sure there are extra beds in town for those who find themselves facing life out on the streets during the cold winter nights.

The new Rome dormitory for the homeless bears the name “Gift of Mercy,” because – as the Apostolic Almoner, Bishop Konrad Krajewski explains – it is a ‘gift’ from the Society of Jesus and ‘mercy’ is love’s second name. (Photo: ekai.pl)

ABP KONRAD KRAJEWSKI

The building, which previously hosted a travel agency, belongs to the Jesuit community.

Krajewsky says it’s the community’s way of responding to Pope Francis’ appeal to religious institutions to offer buildings to be placed in the service of the needy and those in difficulty.

Just round the corner from the Vatican, in Via dei Penitenzieri, the dormitory was restructured and furnished by the Papal Office of Charities through offerings collected by the faithful,  and  is run by nuns from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

Last week’s inauguration took place with the blessing of the locals and Holy Mass, celebrated by Bishop Krajewski and attended by the dorm’s first guests and by volunteers.

Krajewski explains that it can host up to 34 men a night that there are specific regulations in place to make sure the dormitory runs smoothly.

First of all the nuns interview, admit and register those seeking shelter who can stay for a maximum of 30 days; guests can arrive each day  between 6 and 7pm; then lights-out, rest and wake-up at 6.15am in time for personal hygiene, bed-making and tidying up. The dorm shuts at 8am for cleaning.

Also run by the Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and financed by the Papal Office of Charities,  the “Gift of Mary” dormitory which has been offering shelter to homeless women since 1988.

With the addition of the “Gift of Mercy”, the Vatican is now in a position to offer a bed to a total of 84 people without a fixed abode.

SWISS GUARDS HAVE NEW COMMANDER – POPE FRANCIS PAYS SURPRISE VISIT TO MIGRANT CAMP – POPE FRANCIS, IN HOMILY, SAYS DEVIL IS “FATHER OF HATE, OF LIES,” WHO SEEKS DISUNITY – VATICAN COMPLETES WORK ON SHOWERS FOR HOMELESS

From Fr. Tom Rosica, English-language assistant to Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office:  Prayers for Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, RSM

After a nearly 30-year career as a journalist in Washington, D.C. and Rome, working with Catholic News Service, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and most recently AMERICA Magazine, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, who is 67, has returned to the Sisters of Mercy convent in Albany, New York, to live out her final days with metastatic breast cancer.  Kindly remember this wonderful woman and communicator in your prayers. Click here for a Sisters of Mercy profile of Mary Ann, friend to all of us accredited at the Holy See Press Office, and countless more in the U.S.: http://www.sistersofmercy.org/blog/2015/02/06/facing-terminal-illness-with-mercy-part-ii/?utm_source=t&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=cwm

This is a big week for “red hats” here in Rome, starting today with the eighth meeting of the Council of 9 Cardinals with the Pope at the Santa Marta residence. The meeting will  go to Wednesday, February 11, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick. The following two days – February 12 and 13 – the College of Cardinals will hold their consistory in the Synod Hall and will discuss the reform of the Roman Curia being studied by Francis and C9 Council.

This coming weekend, new members will be joining the College of Cardinals as the Holy Father creates 20 new cardinals on Saturday, February 14 (15 of whom are under age 80 and therefore cardinal electors). That afternoon, the new cardinals will greet friends and relatives in both the Paul VI Hall and rooms of the Apostolic Palace. Sunday, the Pope and new eminences will concelebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

And now, some of the stories from this weekend, especially Pope Francis’ unscripted stop Sunday at a migrant camp on his way to say Mass in a Roman parish!

SWISS GUARDS HAVE NEW COMMANDER

The Vatican announced that Pope Francis has appointed Lieutenant Colonel Christoph Graf as the new commander of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. Graf, who joined the guards in 1987, succeeds Colonel Daniel Anrig, who retired last month and had been commander since 2008. The Swiss Guards were formed in 1506 by Pope Julius II to protect the person of the Pope and the security of the Apostolic Palace.

Cardinal Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, the Philippines, is in Rome for the events this week with the College of Cardinals. He presided at Mass Sunday morning for the new commander and fellow guards in the Swiss Guard Chapel. Click on the Swiss Guards Facebook page to see some photos: https://www.facebook.com/gsp1506

POPE FRANCIS PAYS SURPRISE VISIT TO MIGRANT CAMP

Late afternoon Sunday, on his way to the Roman parish San Michele Arcangelo in the Roman Pietralata neighborhood to say Mass, Pope Francis – no surprise! – made an impromptu visit to a migrant shantytown. The papal car stopped and the Pope got out, accompanied by the papal photographer and head of security and just walke through a gate, unannounced. The camp is called Campo Arcobaleno or Camp Rainbow and is only about 300 yards from the parish.

POPE FRANCIS - SHANTYTOWN

According to a report by Vatican Radio, “he got out of the car and people were shocked when they saw him in front of their shacks,” said Father Aristide Sana, the pastor of the parish who quickly traveled to the camp when he got word of the visit. Pope Francis received a boisterous welcome.

“Viva il Papa!” the crowd shouted, engulfing the Pope, chanting and shaking his hand.  Pope Francis asked how many spoke Spanish, and the crowd shouted out “All of us!” Actually, though many of the residents are from Peru and Ecuador, many others were from Eritrea, Ukraine, Russia, and other parts of the world. However. In what ever language, they joined the Pope in his request to pray the Our Father together in Spanish.

It was only a ten-minute visit, one the migrants will never forget, and Pope Francis seemed totally delighted at the occasion.

To enjoy that encounter with the Pope, here is a video I also posted on my Facebook page: http://www.romereports.com/pg160276-a-look-at-the-pope-s-powerful-visit-to-an-immigrant-shantytown-en

POPE FRANCIS, IN HOMILY, SAYS DEVIL IS “FATHER OF HATE, OF LIES,” WHO SEEKS DISUNITY

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday evening visited the parish of San Michele Arcangelo in the eastern Roman district of Pietralata, on the periphery of Rome and home to 8,000 families. After arriving at the parish hall, Pope Francis’ first stop was to meet with a group of homeless people who are cared for by the Sant’Egidio Community.

“The fact that people do not know your name, and call you ‘homeless’ and you carry this: It is your cross, and your patience,” said Pope Francis. “But there is something in the heart of all of you – of this, please be assured – there is the Holy Spirit.”

He then held a meeting with parents whose children had been baptized in the previous year, and he asked them to teach the Faith well, lamenting that there are “Christian children who cannot make the sign of the cross.”

In his meeting with older children, many of whom were part of the Scouting movement, Pope Francis pointed out that wars are not only those – and he asked them to make a list – that kill children in Iraq, Ukraine, and Africa. Wars are come about much earlier in people who do not possess God.

“Who is the father of war?” Pope Francis asked. “The devil!” the children answered.

Pope Francis said the devil is the “father of hate,” “the father of lies,” who seeks disunity.

“But God wants unity,” Pope Francis said. “If in your heart you feel jealousy, this is the beginning of war. Jealousies are not of God.”

And this is the theme Pope Francis continued during his homily at Mass.

“It is sad when in a family, brothers do not speak because of something stupid,” Pope Francis said.

“Because the devil takes stupidity and makes a world,” he continued. “Then these enmities continue and multiply for years.  It destroys the family: Parents suffer because their children do not speak to each other, or with the wife of a son…And so this jealousy and envy, it is sowed by the devil. And the only one who can drive out demons is Jesus.  The only one who can heal these things is Jesus. So to each of you: Have yourself healed by Jesus.”

As he often does during parish visits, he urged the congregation to listen to Jesus in the Gospel, to read a passage and ask themselves, what does it say to me?

“Have this daily contact with the Gospel,” Pope Francis said.  “Pray with the Gospel.”

VATICAN COMPLETES WORK ON SHOWERS FOR HOMELESS

(Vatican Radio) Work has now been completed on the building of three showers and a barber’s booth for the homeless under the colonnades of St Peter’s Square. The shower unit was commissioned by Pope Francis after learning from his Almoner that homeless people in Rome lacked places where to wash themselves or have their hair cut. (AP/L’Osservatore Romano pool photos)

HOMELESS SHOWERS - AP Photo(L'Osservatore Romano pool

The 3 showers and the barber’s booth have been installed in an existing lavatory block used by pilgrims and tourists visiting the Vatican area that was completely refurbished for this purpose. The showers will be available every day, except on Wednesday during the Pope’s general audience and when celebrations take place, either in St Peter’s Basilica or in the Square.

HOMELESS SHOWERS  -  2

The barber service will be available on Monday between 9am and 3pm.  A number of barbers in Rome have volunteered to offer their services as well as final-year students from a hairdressing school in Rome.  Sisters from Mother’s Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Order will be among those helping to welcome the homeless who come to use the showers.

Each of the homeless people using the shower units will receive two free kits, a complete change of underwear and a kit containing towel, soap, toothpaste and brush, deodorant plus razor and shaving cream for the men. Many of the articles have been offered free of charge by various firms and private individuals who have wanted to show their solidarity with this project. The Pope’s Almoner will be responsible for purchasing, as needed, future supplies using money raised from the selling of parchments with a Papal Blessing.

The Vatican has called for ten nearby parishes to install showers as well. The bill will be paid with money from the Pope’s charity fund.

POPE FRANCIS’ CHRISTMAS TALK TO ROMAN CURIA (IN A NUTSHELL) – CARDINAL TAURAN IS NEW CAMERLENGO OF HOLY ROMAN CHURCH – MY CHRISTMAS GIFT TO YOU: “ONE SOLITARY LIFE” – THE BEAUTY AND SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS ARE ALIVE AND WELL

I am taking a few days off during the Christmas season so this column will be sporadic – but always feel free to check in, as well as to visit my Facebook page (facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420) where I will be posting photos of Christmas in Roman, the nativity scenes around the city, etc. Tomorrow, this column will not appear but I will be working to prepare my weekend radio show, “Vatican Insider,” and will also be live at 9:39 (ET) with Teresa Tomeo on our weekly get-together on “Catholic Connection” (but coming to you a day earlier than our usual Wednesday appointment. I’ll also be off Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

Although things have improved immmensely, I am still being treated for phlebitis and my doctor cautioned against air travel, especially a long trip to California. I missed Christmas with family last year as well because of eye surgery. However, when God gives you a lemon, you make limoncello! I am determined to make this a beautiful, memorable Christmas – my house is decorated and I have put up a wonderful tree, including ornaments from my grandmother, ones Mom and Dad bought over the years as we were growing up and many beautiful ones I have collected on travels or received as gifts. It took longer than usual to decorate the tree, simply because I was lost in the flood of memories of beautiful Christmases past as I unwrapped each ornament!

I am excited about hosting friends for turkey dinner on Christmas Day, and have put gifts under the tree for them. My biggest gifts are my friends, those who will be with me Christmas day and the many others I will see or host at my home over the Christmas seasons.

In lieu of sending Christmas cards to family and friends around the word, I am making some special purchases to bring to Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner who is in charge of the papal blessings office and the Pope’s point man for distributing papal charity. You may have seen the news that the Vatican is building three showers for the homeless in space that is adjacent to the public bathrooms, just off the right hand colonnade of St. Peter’s Square. Bit by bit, I am buying quantities of underwear and socks to bring to the archbishop as these items, along with towels, will be needed when a homeless person showers. This is, in a way, a Christmas gift to Pope Francis whose idea this was!

I will miss everyone in my family, of course, especially the little ones, two of whom I have not met: Charlotte, 14 months old and Harry, 2 months old! He is Number 20 of my great nieces and nephews!

Here they are, in all their splendor. I have several photos of Harry but seem unable to process them for this column.

My niece, Susan Tompkins Smith has three children – Austin, Jr (AJ), Nathan and Charlotte.SMITH CHILDREN

SMITH FAMILY - SUSAN AND CHARLOTTE

Charlotte was a San Diego Charger fan even when very little:SMITH FAMILY - young Charger fan

Harry is the first child for my youngest niece, Julie Lewis Stauter and Jeff. I have a feeling he will be a Chicago Bears fan! He has the Lewis trademark red hair and blue eyes!HARRY STAUTER

For important Vatican and papal news, you can always access news.va for updates. The Roman Curia holdays are December 24 through the 27, then December 31 and January 1. Many officials and staff members take advantage of those six days, and add a few to create a 10-day or two week vacation period but, as you will see, many of my colleagues in the Vatican media will be working to keep you posted on all events.

Today, I offer you a nutshell version of Pope Francis’ talk to officials of the Roman Curia, a link to his entire, surprising speech, and also a link to his words to employees of Vatican City and the Roman Curia and their family members.

I’ve been so involved in work and in plans for my own holidays that I did not realize that I could have (should have) attended this audience as “retired” Vatican employees were more than welcome! I discovered when I went to Vatican City this morning that the post offices, grocery store, and health services were all closed (the bank was open) so that employees could participate. The errands I intended to run this morning are now on my agenda for tomorrow morning.

Do you want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans for the day!

I have some gifts for you, as you will see: The first is the must-read “ONE SOLITARY LIFE,” and I follow that with several stories that truly reflect the spirit and beauty of the Christmas Season – all this after the Vatican stories!

P.S: Only 5,000 more hits and my video of the dancing seminarians will hit 2 million views!

Before I close this special Christmas column, I’d like to wish all my readers and radio listeners and TV viewers a blessed, beautiful and holy Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year filled with many special moments and people. God sit on your shoulder!

POPE FRANCIS’ CHRISTMAS TALK TO ROMAN CURIA (IN A NUTSHELL)

Not many smiling faces this morning after the first few minutes of Pope Francis’ Christmas greetings to the top officials of the Roman Curia, those who head the congregations, councils, commissions, tribunals, etc, Below is a nutshell account of the papal talk by Vatican radio, a talk that several media defined as “a blistering critique” of the Curia. After his meeting with Curia officials, the Holy Father greeted employees of Vatican City and the Roman Curia.

For more on those talks, please click here:

http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-to-vatican-employees-christmas-a-time

http://www.visnews-en.blogspot.it/2014/12/francis-curia-that-is-outdated.html

Pope Francis received the heads and other senior officials of the departments of the Roman Curia on Monday, in their traditional exchange of Christmas greetings. In remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered Monday morning, the Holy Father focused on the need for those who serve in the curia – especially those in positions of power and authority – to remember and cultivate an attitude and a spirit of service.

“Sometimes,” said Pope Francis, “[Officials of the Curia] feel themselves ‘lords of the manor’ [It. padroni] – superior  to everyone and everything,” forgetting that the spirit, which should animate them in their lives of service to the universal Church, is one of humility and generosity, especially in view of the fact that none of us will live forever on this earth.

This “disease” of  feeling “immortal” or “essential” – irreplaceable – was one of fifteen maladies, which Pope Francis identified during the course of his address: from a tendency to prefer Martha’s portion over Mary’s, to over-planning (and micromanaging), to wearing being a perpetual downer and wearing a “funeral face” all the day long.

“These and other maladies and temptations,” said Pope Francis, “are a danger for every Christian and for any administrative organization, community, congregation, parish, ecclesial movement, etc., and can strike at both the individual and the corporate level.”

“It is the Holy Spirit,” continued the Holy Father, “who sustains every sincere effort at purification and every authentic desire for conversion. He is the one, who makes us understand that every member participates in the sanctification of the [mystical] body [of Christ, which is the Church], and to its corruption.”

“Therefore,” said Pope Francis, “we are called in this Christmas season and for the whole period of our service – for so long as we exist – to live, ‘[according to] truth in charity, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and up-builds itself in love’(Eph. 4:15-16).”

CARDINAL TAURAN IS NEW CAMERLENGO OF HOLY ROMAN CHURCH

Pope Francis on Saturday, December 20, named Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran as Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church, replacing Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who turned 80 on December 2 and therefore cannot participate in a conclave. The much-admired and highly respected French cardinal was for years under John Paul II the extraordinarily able Secretary for Relations with States.

As Camerlengo (chamberlain) he is the administrator of the property and revenues of the Holy See during the Sede Vacante (vacant see – from which we get our word ‘vacancy’) or during the absence of the Pope, doing so without taking extraordinary initiatives. Upon the death of a Pope, the camerlengo’s task is to certify the death and inform the cardinal vicar of Rome, who is entrusted with the task of revealing the news to the people. The camerlengo takes possession of the Ring of the Fisherman and destroys it and all other papal seals. He seals off the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, in the Lateran Palace and in Castelgandolfo.

This marks the beginning of the sede vacante, a period when the camerlengo prepares the papal funeral and subsequent nine days of mourning, the ”novendialis.” The camerlengo also starts to prepare the pre-conclave General Congregations, which are chaired by the cardinal-deacon of the College of Cradinals. Today, that is Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 87. During the sede vacante, the camerlengo’s coat of arms, composed of 30 red ribbons like all cardinals, is also topped with the banner of the Pope and two crossed keys that are surmounted by the papal tiara.

During the sede vacante, the camerlengo can also mint new coins that, even if they have legal tender, will never be put in circulation as they are exclusively intended for collectors. The coins portray his coat of arms, with the words “Sede Vacante” and the year of issue.

Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, has been a close collaborator of Pope Francis in his reform of the Roman Curia and IOR, the Vatican bank. (some background from AGI)

 MY CHRISTMAS GIFT TO YOU: “ONE SOLITARY LIFE”

This powerful Christmas column by late columnist Jimmy Bishop will surely leave you speechless for its beauty, simplicity and yet depth of understanding. Here is the Christ of Christmas! Andy Williams recited this in one of his Christmas albums (which is where I first heard it) and you can listen to it online.

“He was born in an obscure village, the Child of a peasant teen who knew not man. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never married or owned a home. He never held a job, yet paid taxes. He never set foot inside a metropolis. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never wrote a book, or held an office. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He received no awards, no medals, no prizes from His peers.

“While He was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends deserted Him. He was turned over to His enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. He had no lawyers, no friendly juries, no fair hearing. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had – His cloak. After He died, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave. Those who stood watch could not explain His disappearance.

“And yet two thousand years have come and gone, and today He is still the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched and al the navies that ever sailed and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this ‘One Solitary Life’.”

THE BEAUTY AND SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS ARE ALIVE AND WELL

Here are three smaller gifts for you, three heartwarming stories that reflect the beauty and spirit of Christmas. The video, “Mary, Did You know?” is a must see, truly. It has had 14 million views and you find that you drop whatever you are doing just to listen!

POPE DONATES SLEEPING BAGS TO HOMELESS: Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, supervised the distribution of hundreds of sleeping bags to the homeless of Rome, as a gift from Pope Francis, on December 18. Swiss Guards drove a minibus around the city on Wednesday evening, stopping at sites where homeless people are known the gather, handing out the sleeping bags—which were decorated with the papal insignia. Nearly 400 were distributed.

STUDENT RAISES THOUSANDS FOR HOMELESS MAN WHO OFFERED HER TAXI MONEY (The Guardian – Abby Young-Powell): An art student living in Preston has raised over £21,000 for a homeless man after she says he offered her his last £3 so that she could get a taxi home safely.

Dominique Harrison-Bentzen, who studies at the University of Central Lancashire, says she had lost her bank card and needed to get home after a night out when the homeless man, known only as Robbie, offered money to help. The 22-year-old says she declined the offer, but was so moved by his gesture that she started a campaign to raise enough money to help him get a flat. She set up a donation page and asked people to each donate £3 for her fundraiser, which involved spending the night on the street, along with supporters who had heard about her story through social media.

Harrison-Bentzen says: “I suddenly realised that I had no money and a homeless man approached me with his only change of £3. He insisted I took it to pay for a taxi to make sure I got home safe. I was touched by such a kind gesture from a man who faces ignorance every day, so I set on a mission to find this man. The more I spoke about him the more kind gestures I learned about him, such as him returning wallets untouched to pedestrians and offering his scarf to keep people warm.

“He has been homeless for 7 months through no fault of his own and needs to get back on his feet but cannot get work due to having no address. So that’s when I decided to change Robbie’s life and help him, as he has helped many others.” The campaign has received global attention, going viral on social media. Since the donation page was set up, it has frequently reported technical difficulties due to “an unusually high number of visitors”. Many have tweeted their support, including Ian Brown of the Stone Roses.

A CAPPELLA GROUP OFFERS INCREDIBLE CHRISTMAS TRIBUTE TO MARY: The a cappella group Pentatonix has released an incredible rendition of the hymn “Mary, Did You Know?“, set in a candlelit cave with no instruments but their voices. It currently has over 14 million views on YouTube. What a beautiful Christmas tribute to Mary! With only five members, the group Pentatonix is one of the most popular musical acts of this Christmas season. Pentatonix was formed in 2011 when they competed and became the victors of the TV show “The Sing-Off,” before rising to global fame.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifCWN5pJGIE

VATICAN TO PROVIDE SHOWERS FOR HOMELESS IN ST. PETER’S SQUARE – SISTINE CHOIR CD OF MUSIC FROM 2013 CONCLAVE PRESENTED – USCCB OFFERS ONLINE CATHOLIC CATECHISM FOR ADULTS – GERMAN CARITAS TO PARLIAMENT ON EUTHANASIA

Some interesting stories today – and quite a variety: a CD of papal election music, showers in the Vatican for the homeless, an online catechism and a call against euthanasia from Germany.

VATICAN TO PROVIDE SHOWERS FOR HOMELESS IN ST. PETER’S SQUARE

The Vatican will provide three showers in St. Peter’s Square for homeless people to use, the papal almoner Archbishop Konrad Krajewski announced. He explained that the decision for the work that will begin on Monday was taken after a homeless man from Sardinia refused his offer to a free meal at a restaurant because he “smelled.”

The showers will be built within the public restrooms for pilgrims under St. Peter’s colonnades for the homeless to wash and change near the Apostolic Palace.

Many parishes in Rome in the neighborhoods most frequented by the homeless have been offered money from the Vatican to build similar facilities. The service will be available to all those who are near the Basilica.

“It is not easy because it is always easier to make sandwiches (for the homeless) than to build showering facilities,” Krajewski said.

The service will require volunteers and donations of soap, towels and clean underwear, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, told the American Catholic News Service. “We have to be evangelical, but intelligent, too.”

Several people living on the streets of Rome or in tents say it is not difficult to find a parish or charity that will give them something to eat, but finding a place to wash is much more difficult.

The news site Vatican Insider first reported the news that Archbishop Krajewski had asked the office governing Vatican City State to include showers in an already-approved project to remodel the public loos in St Peter’s Square.

The remodelling work and installation of the showers was scheduled to begin next week. The archbishop said the three shower stalls would be located in the public bathrooms a few steps north of Bernini’s Colonnade, just behind the Vatican post office. (CNS, Buenos Aires Herald)

SISTINE CHOIR CD OF MUSIC FROM 2013 CONCLAVE PRESENTED

Last Wednesday, Msgr. Massimo Palombella, director of the Sistine Chapel, presented Pope Francis with a CD: “Habemus Papam. La musica del Conclave (We Have a Pope. Music from the Conclave).” The CD contains the music used during the liturgical ceremonies surrounding the election of Pope Francis: The “Missa pro eligendo Pontifice,” (Mass for the Election of a Pope), the “Veni Creator” used during the entrance into the Sistine Chapel, the music of the Mass celebrated with the College of Cardinals the day after his election, the music of the inaugural Mass of Pope Francis and, for the first time, 11 minutes containing the announcement “Habemus Papam” and the first words of Pope Francis on the evening of March 13, 2013.

This morning, the CD – actually a double CD – was presented to the public by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Msgr. Palombella, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director general of Vatican Radio, and Mirko Gratton, director of the Classical Division of Deutsche Grammophon Italia, the agency that signed an exclusive contract with the choir. The second CD consists of studio recordings by the Sistine Chapel Choir of its characteristic repertoire, music composed throughout history for papal celebrations.

The double CD “Habemus papam”, on sale in Italy on November 11 and will be available in the rest of the world on November 28.. Msgr. Palombella said today that, “this publication is presented as the first historical documentation of the music of a Conclave They are all live recordings, with the qualities and limits that this entails.”

The Pontifical Choir is the oldest choral institution in the world and is composed of 20 permanent adult singers and around 30 child choristers. Normally performing at papal celebrations, the choir’s concert activity is directed exclusively towards evangelization and to the promotion of ecumenical dialogue. In September, the Choir made an historic tour in China, performing in Hong Kong, Macao and Taipei.

Fr. Lombardi highlighted the experience accumulated by Vatican Radio in the field of sound recording and broadcasting of numerous concerts in the Vatican, especially in the Paul VI Hall. He recalled the extraordinary 1937 Christmas concert in the Hall of Blessings, broadcast live to 23 countries, “directed by the Maestro Lorenzo Perosi, Msgr. Palombella’s predecessor, with the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir, recorded by Vatican Radio and broadcast with the help of German technology” (to read more: http://www.news.va/en/news/habemus-papam-first-historical-documentation-of-th

USCCB OFFERS ONLINE CATHOLIC CATECHISM FOR ADULTS

The website of the USCCB – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – has a special gift for Catholics, its online United States Catholic Catechism for Adults in both English and Spanish. The online catechism has a very workable search engine, easy index, allows pages to be bookmarked and the reader can even make notes. AND, readers can share a particular age on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Click here to discover for yourself: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/us-catholic-catechism-for-adults/

The website notes that, “The presence of the Catholic Church in the United States reaches back to the founding days of our country through the leadership of Archbishop John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the United States. His story, like other stories at the start of the chapters in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, gives us a glimpse into the lives of Catholics who lived out their faith throughout our country’s history. Each chapter in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults includes stories, doctrine, reflections, quotations, discussion questions, and prayers to lead the reader to a deepening faith. The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is an excellent resource for preparation of catechumens in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and for ongoing catechesis of adults.

Do you like the feel of turning paper pages with your fingers? You can also get the paper edition in bookstores and online.

 GERMAN CARITAS TO PARLIAMENT ON EUTHANASIA

“Dying with dignity means acting so that one can die with dignity, not deciding the time of one’s death,” said Msgr. Peter Neher, the president of Caritas Germany, in a message today addressed to the German Members of Parliament who, at the Bundestag this morning, startinged discussing euthanasia. According to Neher, “the discussion must be focussed on the way seriously ill and dying people may be supported well, because what matters is finding adequate pain treatment, good care and a good pastoral service.”

According to Caritas, it is the fear of pain, the loss of control, the shame for one’s sickness, the humiliation of being a burden on others and the fear of loneliness “that drive people to want to put an end to their lives.” Msgr. Neher said, “We must take such fears very seriously and give special support at this stage of life.” A solution may be outpatient palliative treatment, which must be funded by standard healthcare and (Germany’s) national health service. Outpatient palliative treatment “must be improved.” In his opinion, terminally ill people must be able to be treated at home. According to Msgr. Neher, “if the social revision of the concept of a liveable life makes one internalize that being sick means not being worth living, the fact one’s decision about euthanasia is a free decision and how free it is, is very questionable.”