POPE WELCOMES FIRST FEMALE RESIDENT AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR – PAPAL CALENDAR INCLUDES DECEMBER ADDRESS TO FORUM ON GLOBAL ECONOMY – A POPE ISSUED WORLD’S FIRST PUBLIC SMOKING BAN

Twitter@Pontifex:  September 8 – To offer today’s world the witness of mercy is a task from which none of us can feel exempted

As of this afternoon, exactly nine months to the day that the Jubilee of Mercy began, participants in the Jubilee celebrations in Rome total 15.431.515, according to the official Jubilee website www.im.va   Pilgrims went over the 10 million mark in June and, on July 7, seven months after the start of the Holy Year, they passed the 11 million mark. The Holy Year of Mercy ends November 20.

I’ll introduce a new feature to this column tomorrow and on subsequent Fridays called Question of the Week. Answers will be given on Mondays. The first question will be easy. The object is to see what piques your curiosity and how well you pay attention to news. However, I beg you, do NOT email me the answer. This is for fun – hopefully, your fun!

POPE WELCOMES FIRST FEMALE RESIDENT AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Thursday with Melissa Hitchman, the new Australian ambassador to the Holy See who presented her credentials.

The newest member of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps is an experienced career officer with Australia’s department of foreign affairs and trade.  She has previously served overseas as first secretary at the Australian High Commission in London.

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Diplomatic relations between Canberra and the Holy See were formally established in 1973 but Hitchman is both the first career diplomat and the first woman to hold the post of resident ambassador.

She sat down with Philippa Hitchen to talk about her goals and to share her perspectives on refugees, aboriginal rights, counter-terrorism and on the role of women in society.

For the interview, click here: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/09/08/pope_welcomes_first_female_resident_australian_ambassador/1256662

PAPAL CALENDAR INCLUDES DECEMBER ADDRESS TO FORUM ON GLOBAL ECONOMY

(Time.com) – Time Inc. will host a forum in Rome on the global economy, culminating in a special address by Pope Francis at the Vatican, the company announced Tuesday.

The 2016 Fortune/Time Global Forum—the first of its kind— will take place Dec. 2 and 3 and aims to bring together Fortune 500 CEOs, members of the TIME 100 most influential people and other academic, religious and business leaders to discuss international economic issues, including creating jobs, eliminating poverty, solving the refugee crisis and broadening prosperity.

Pope Francis has regularly spoken out about global economic issues, raising concerns about the growing wealth gap and criticizing the “dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”

“Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy,” he said in a speech in Bolivia last year. “It is a moral obligation.”

The Fortune/Time forum will be led by Time Inc. Chief Content Officer and Fortune Editor-in-Chief Alan Murray and Time Inc. News Group Editorial Director and Time Editor-in-Chief Nancy Gibbs. The official host committee for the forum includes the leaders of IBM and PepsiCo as well as the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, among others.

A POPE ISSUED WORLD’S FIRST PUBLIC SMOKING BAN

(From ChurchPOP – September 8) – Did you know a Pope issued the world’s first public smoking ban?

It was the 16th century, and Europeans had just brought back something very popular from the New World: tobacco. As its use spread around Europe, questions arose about when it was appropriate to use.

Apparently, some people started smoking in and around churches, and other people didn’t like it. This became a big enough problem that the pope actually decided to weigh in on the matter.

Pope Urban VII was elected pope on September 15th, 1590 but died just 12 days later – making his papacy the shortest in history. But he still managed to weigh in on the tobacco debate. (Wikipedia public  image)

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And he came down with an iron fist: anyone caught using tobacco “in the porchway of or inside a church, whether it be by chewing it, smoking it with a pipe, or sniffing it in powdered form through the nose” would be excommunicated.

It’s not clear whether or to what degree this ban was actually enforced. But the ban remained on the books until the 18th century when Pope Benedict XIII finally repealed it.

Note that the Church did not ban smoking in general, just smoking in and around churches, which probably isn’t a good idea. In the appropriate context, the Church has generally taken the approach that such things can be enjoyed if used in moderation.

As G.K. Chesterton famously remarked in the 20th century: “In Catholicism, the pint, the pipe and the Cross can all fit together.”

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.