POPE FRANCIS AND CATHOLICOS GEWARGIS PRAY FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS – CARDINAL PIETRO PAROLIN ON THE BONES FOUND IN VATICAN NUNCIATURE

Remember the disputed presidential election returns in Florida in 2000 when people were called in for a recount and results seemed to depend on what “hanging chads” said about a vote – the chad being that part of a ballot that was to have been punched out of the paper ballot by a machine so that the space next to a candidate’s name was clearly marked. Was the “chad” really punched out of the ballot and the candidate chosen – or was it “hanging” as a result of error?

As I mentioned Tuesday, election day in the U,S., there is no patron saint of elections, although the story did circulate that St. Chad – yes, there is a real St. Chad of Lichfield, England – was the patron of the disputed 2000 U.S. elections. He died March 2, 672.

There is a now a recount in Florida – will people be turning to St. Chad?!

As to “VATICAN INSIDER” this weekend, tune in for sure when I bring you the latest news updates and, in the interview segment, I talk to a Polish priest who speaks about a friend of his – St. John Paul!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)

POPE FRANCIS AND CATHOLICOS GEWARGIS PRAY FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS
By Devin Watkins

Pope Francis signed a Common Statement on Friday with Mar Gewargis III, Catholicos and Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, in which they appealed for an end to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

The two religious leaders signed the statement at the end of their meeting in the Vatican, following a moment of prayer for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. (photo vaticanmedia)

In the statement, the Pope and the Patriarch encourage their ongoing theological dialogue and call for an end to violence against Christians in the Middle East, saying it is impossible to imagine a Middle East without Christians.

“This conviction is founded not simply on religious grounds, but also on social and cultural realities, since Christians, with other believers, greatly contribute to the specific identity of the region: a place of tolerance, mutual respect and acceptance.”

Christians risk leaving the region, they note, if peace is not restored through dialogue. “A truce maintained by walls and displays of power will not lead to peace, since genuine peace can only be attained and preserved through mutual listening and dialogue.”

Pope Francis and Patriarch Gewargis also appealed to the International Community to put in place “a political solution that recognizes the rights and duties of all parties involved.”

Finally, the two leaders affirm the need for inter-religious dialogue “grounded in an attitude of openness, truth, and love.”

Dialogue, they say, “is also the best antidote to extremism, which is a threat to the followers of every religion.”

CARDINAL PIETRO PAROLIN ON THE BONES FOUND IN VATICAN NUNCIATURE

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State responded to journalists asking about the bones found in the Vatican nunciature to Italy in Rome at the end of October.

“There has been no connection made with Emanuela Orlandi by the Holy See,” Cardinal Parolin stated. He went on to say, “I do not know who connected this case with Orlandi.”

Journalists representing SIR (Servizio Informazione Religiosa, a news organization supported by the Italian Episcopal Conference) followed up, asking why the Vatican Secretariat of State immediately involved the Italian authorities. Cardinal Parolin explained that it was “simply done in order to be transparent—so that there would not be any accusation that the Holy See wanted to hide something. Things are being done with greater openness and transparency. Human remains were found, there’s the desire to get to the bottom of what was done, whose [bones] they are. And so help was asked of Italy.” (vaticannews)

(JFL: As I wrote in an October 31 post about the finding of the bones at the nunciature, media here immediately surmised that the bones might be those of Emanuela Orlandi, the 15-year-old daughter of a Vatican employee who went missing in 1983, or of Mirella Gregori, another minor who disappeared that same year.

Investigators will be comparing the cranium and teeth with DNA of the two girls in their possession. Orlandi’s disappearance has been one of Italy’s biggest mysteries for the past 35 years. There have been as many theories as to why she disappeared – or was kidnapped – as there are Agatha Christie novels.

Emanuela’s father worked for IOR, the Institute for Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank. The family lived inside Vatican City. The Orlandi family, Vatican officials, including the gendarmes and Rome police have followed every lead that came to them over the years, including numerous reports of sightings of Emanuela, both in Italy and abroad.)

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POPE INVITES THE FAITHFUL TO OPEN THEIR EARS AND HEARTS TO GOD’S WORD – NEWS ABOUT CHINA AND THE VATICAN – SOME GOOD NEWS FROM CHINA: CELEBRATIONS AS BISHOP SHAO ZHUMIN RETURNS TO WENZHOU

The China story continues as you will see below, including an interview with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Partolin on Vatican-China relations and then a story about a Chinese bishop released after 7 months of being held by Chinese officials. If you want to know what the issues are for the Catholic Church and the Vatican in China this is a short but must-read article.

There was also the weekly general audience today and Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Mass, highlighting the importance of the Liturgy of the Word.

POPE INVITES THE FAITHFUL TO OPEN THEIR EARS AND HEARTS TO GOD’S WORD

During his catechesis at the weekly general audience, Pope Francis told those present that Christians need to be constantly open to and challenged by the Word of God. By Linda Bordoni (for Vaticannews)

Pope Francis invited the faithful to place themselves in silent openness to God’s saving message as it resounds in the ecclesial assembly and is a fundamental aspect of God’s constant dialogue with his people.

The Pope’s words came on Wednesday during the general audience as he continued his ongoing catechesis dedicated to the Eucharist with a reflection on the Liturgy of the Word.

During Mass, he said, God speaks to his people through the Liturgy of the Word, and the same Holy Spirit who inspired the sacred Scriptures opens our minds and hearts to that living word.

“That’s why,” he explained, “personal choices regarding the readings are not acceptable.” He invited priests to use the readings listed in the Church’s Lectionary, and not replace them by reading from other sources – such as newspaper articles. This is something, he said, that favours ecclesial communion.“God’s Word is God’s Word! We can read the newspaper later on. In Church we read God’s Word. It is the Lord speaking to us.”

If you chat you cannot be listening to the Word of God

The Pope also reflected on the behavior of Church-goers pointing out that if one chats during Mass, one doesn’t hear God’s Word. He urged them to open their hearts in silence to be able to receive His message and then put its indications into practice.

“We need to listen! Since we do not live ‘by bread alone’, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God, we need to be constantly open to, and challenged by, that word, in our lives as individuals and in our life as a Church. This is why we talk about the Liturgy of the Word as ‘the table of God’s Word’ that the Lord sets to nourish our spiritual life.”

Active participation

The Responsorial Psalm, Francis said, favors God’s dialogue with his people as it sets the meditative mood for the next reading and he invited the faithful to participate “at least in the response”. The Liturgical proclamation, he added, expresses and favors ecclesial communion and accompanies believers in their journey of faith.

We need good readers

Francis also reflected on the need for good readers and psalmists, whom, he said, must practice: “this favors an atmosphere of receptive silence” he said. “We know that the Lord’s Word is an indispensable aid to avoid getting lost: it lights up our path. …. How could we undertake our earthly pilgrimage, with all of its burdens and challenges without being regularly nourished and enlightened by God’s Word that resounds in the Liturgy?”
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In conclusion the Pope noted that it is not enough to listen only with ears, but with open hearts so that the Word can make its way inside us and make itself evident in our hands “as we carry out good works”.

NEWS ABOUT CHINA AND THE VATICAN

Cardinal Parolin, “Why we are in dialogue with China”

An interview with the Secretary of State who responds to the accusations made against the Holy See regarding the ongoing contacts, “We trust that the Chinese faithful, thanks to their spirit of faith, will know how to recognize that our action is animated by trust in the Lord and does not answer to worldly logic”


(From a La Stampa interview) – Several signals (including opaque operations, actual political manipulations, and even sabotage) indicate that important developments may occur in contacts between the Holy See and the Government of the People’s Republic of China. The time is right to listen to an authoritative word, which will help to grasp what the Pope and the Holy See really have at heart. And with our Chinese brothers and sisters in mind, help to dispel suspicions and artificial fumes, to look at the ecclesial heart of the whole question, outside politicized narratives. For this reason, Vatican Insider interviewed Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of His Holiness.

Eminence, what can you tell us about the dialogue between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China?
“As it is well known, with the advent of “New China”, there were, for the life of the Church in that great country, moments of serious contrasts and severe suffering. Since the eighties, however, contacts have been established between representatives of the Holy See and of People’s China, who have known different seasons and alternating events. The Holy See has always maintained a pastoral approach, trying to overcome the contrasts and making itself available for a respectful and constructive dialogue with the civil authorities. Pope Benedict XVI well represented the spirit of this dialogue in his 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics, “the solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities ” (n. 4). In Pope Francis’ pontificate, the ongoing negotiations move exactly along these lines: constructive openness to dialogue and fidelity to the genuine Tradition of the Church”.

What are the concrete expectations of the Holy See from this dialogue?
“First of all, I would like to make a premise: in China, perhaps more than elsewhere, Catholics have been able to preserve, despite the many difficulties and sufferings, the authentic deposit of faith, keeping firmly the bond of hierarchical communion between the Bishops and the Successor of Peter, as a visible guarantee of faith itself. In fact, communion between the Bishop of Rome and all Catholic Bishops touches the heart of the Church’s unity: it is not a private matter between the Pope and the Chinese Bishops or between the Apostolic See and civil authorities. Having said that, the main purpose of the Holy See in the ongoing dialogue is precisely that of safeguarding communion within the Church, in the wake of genuine Tradition and constant ecclesiastical discipline. You see, in China there are not two Churches, but two communities of faithful called to follow a gradual path of reconciliation towards unity. It is not, therefore, a matter of maintaining a perennial conflict between opposing principles and structures, but of finding realistic pastoral solutions that allow Catholics to live their faith and to continue together the work of evangelization in the specific Chinese context”.

TO READ ENTIRE INTERVIEW, CLICK HERE: http://www.lastampa.it/2018/01/31/vaticaninsider/eng/inquiries-and-interviews/parolin-why-we-are-in-dialogue-with-china-C8mlJsD0PDNsmsx7db6ZIJ/pagina.html

SOME GOOD NEWS FROM CHINA: CELEBRATIONS AS BISHOP SHAO ZHUMIN RETURNS TO WENZHOU

He had been in the hands of the police for seven months. Pressure exerted to make him join the Patriotic Association (Click here for video: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Celebrations-as-Msgr.-Shao-Zhumin-returns-to-Wenzhou-(Video)-42977.html

Wenzhou (AsiaNews) – Msgr. Peter Shao Zhumin, bishop of Wenzhou (Zhejiang), recognized by the Holy See but not by the government, has returned to his diocese. On January 27th he was welcomed by the faithful with a celebration, prayers and a song specially composed for his return. The song praises him as “our dear bishop who leads us to Christ. Our bishop is the good shepherd … your name is always in our hearts “. (AsiaNews photo)

On May 18 he was taken from his diocese by public security forces and members of the Religious Affairs Bureau and held in Xining (Qinghai), 2500 km from Wenzhou, still under police escort. As of January 4 he is free to move and is no longer escorted by security personnel. Sources from the diocese had told AsiaNews that he would stop in Beijing at the hospital to be treated following an ear operation.

In all these months, police exerted psychological pressure on him to make him join the Patriotic Association, the Party body that wants a Church independent of the Holy See. Faced with his refusal, in early December, representatives of religious affairs asked him to sign a document with the four conditions for receiving government recognition. They include his support for the principle of an independent Church; support for self-nomination and self-ordination [of the bishops]; concelebration with an illegitimate bishop, not recognized by the Vatican; submission to the new religious regulations that will be launched next February. But again Msgr. Shao refused.


For decades the Catholic community of Wenzhou – about 130,000 faithful – has been divided between official and non-official communities: more than 80 thousand belong to the unofficial community. There are 70 priests, divided equally between the two communities. Msgr Shao, 54, despite being a member of the underground Church, is also appreciated by the official community.
Following the bishop’s abduction, the German ambassador to Beijing Michael Clauss spoke up for his release. Even the Holy See had expressed concern over its fate.

POPE FRANCIS TO TRAVEL TO MYANMAR AND BANGLADESH – IN BRIEF

PAPAL TWEETS:

Sunday, August 27, feast of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine; Today how many mothers shed tears, like St Monica, so that their children will return to Christ! Do not lose hope in God’s grace!

Monday, August 28, feast of St. Augustine the once errant son of St. Monica who became a saint: “You made us unto Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you”. (St Augustine’s “Confessions”)

POPE FRANCIS TO TRAVEL TO MYANMAR AND BANGLADESH

The Holy See Press Office made the following announcement this morning:

“Welcoming the invitation of the respective heads of state and bishops, His Holiness Pope Francis will make an Apostolic Visit to Myanmar from 27 to 30 November 2017, visiting the cities of Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, and to Bangladesh from 30 November to 2 December 2017, visiting the city of Dhaka. The program for the Visit will be published shortly.

On Sunday, in fact, at the Angelus, Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims of massive flooding in Bangladesh, Nepal, and northern India over the past several days: “I express my closeness to all the [affected] populations, and pray for the victims and for all who suffer because of this calamity.”

Annual monsoon rains have caused the flooding, which has claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people, and disrupted the lives of some 24 million others. Rescue and relief efforts are ongoing, with international aid agencies reporting thousands of villages cut off. People in remote and isolated areas have been without food and clean water for many days. (Vatican Radio)

Also Monday, the Vatican released the official logos for Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Myanmar logo

The logo for his visit to Myanmar depicts Pope Francis releasing a white dove from within a heart drawn in the colors of Myanmar’s flag: yellow, green, and red. An outline of Myanmar’s landmass sits beside the Pope within the heart, while the motto for his journey is shown above: “Love & Peace”.

Bangladesh logo

The logo for Pope Francis’ visit to Bangladesh has colored streamers in the shape of a dove, with a cross raised over a water lily (Bangladesh’s national flower) within it. Above, the official motto for the Apostolic Journey, “Harmony and Peace”, is written in red.

IN BRIEF

CARDINAL DANIEL DINARDO, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, and president of the U..S Conference of Catholic Bishops, released a statement regard the Texas floods on the website of the USCCB: “Please join me and pray for all of those affected by the storm and in need of assistance during this natural disaster,” the cardinal said Aug. 26. “In addition, I ask the faithful to also keep the emergency response personnel and volunteers in your prayers. For those residing in our Archdiocese, in Texas and along the Gulf Coast, be safe and may God have mercy on those affected by Hurricane Harvey.” Sunday he said: “Your safety and the safety of your loved ones is paramount during this emergency. Please do not be concerned about attending Mass today, and heed the warnings of civil authorities to shelter in place. More here: http://www.usccb.org/news/2017/17-150.cfm

CARDINAL SECRETARY OF STATE PIETRO PAROLIN, this evening at 6:30 in the millennia-old St. Peter’s Basilica in Ciel d’Oro di Pavia, northern Italy, celebrated Mass on the tomb of St. Augustine on the liturgical memory of the saint. The remains of St. Augustine have been in Pavia since the 8th century. In a note published by the Pavia Committee for St. Augustine, the cardinal said: “I have a great love and admiration for St. Augustine. I consider him a friend, a teacher, a model. The pages of his writings that move me and fill me with fire are when he speaks of Jesus, of eternal life and the intense desire to attain it, of prayer, of Christian virtues and above all of love and humility. Relative to my work at the Holy See, the pages that greatly interest me are where St. Augustine enters into dialogue with the society of his time, and gives the Church the task of promoting harmony and solidarity, that is, to make herself build the City of God within earthly cities.”

 

VISIT TO RUSSIA BY CARDINAL SECRETARY OF STATE PAROLIN

Pope Francis tweeted today: When we are feeling sad, when it feels like everything is going wrong, we should remember: “God loves me. God never abandons me”.

VISIT TO RUSSIA BY CARDINAL SECRETARY OF STATE PAROLIN

DAY ONE – MONDAY, AUGUST 21

(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin on Monday described the tone of his two-hour meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow,  as “very constructive”.

The cardinal is on a four-day visit to Russia during which he is scheduled to meet the Russian Patriarch Kirill and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday before holding talks with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday.

The website of the Moscow Patriarchate showed a picture of Parolin clasping hands with Hilarion and holding talks in a room decorated with Orthodox icons. It said the two men discussed “key topics of bilateral relations… in the context of the current international situation.”

Answering journalists’ questions after the Monday meeting, the Vatican Secretary of State said that a good part of the conversation touched on the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine as well as on the Holy See’s concern for the situation in Venezuela.

The Russian news agency Tass highlighted the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Holy See reportedly share the same position regarding “the need for a peaceful solution for the middle-eastern region and in particular for Syria” and that a return to normality in that country will be possible only after the total expulsion of IS militants from the occupied territories.”

Cardinal Parolin reportedly noted that Christians are beginning to return to the areas that have been taken back from the so-called Islamic State, but said that notwithstanding some positive developments, the general situation remains very difficult, especially from a humanitarian point of view.

DAY TWO – TUESDAY, AUGUST 22

(Vatican Radio)  Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov for talks on Tuesday, during which they discussed issues of international concern and agreed to visa-free diplomatic travel. (photo news.va)

During the press conference following their talks, the Holy See and the Russian Federation signed an Agreement waiving visa requirements for holders of diplomatic passports.

Cardinal Parolin and Foreign Minister Lavrov called this a sign of the two countries’ desire to continue to work together on bilateral relations and issues of international concern.

Cardinal Parolin said he raised questions regarding the Catholic Church’s life and activity in Russia with his counterpart.

He said difficulties remaining between the Vatican and Russia include “working residency permits for non-Russian personnel and the restitution of several churches necessary for the pastoral care of Catholics in the country.”

Christians in Middle East

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov evoked the need for solutions for Christians living in the Middle East.

“We need to find similar solutions that would provide proper balance between different ethnic and religious groups in Yemen, Libya, and Iraq, where state building processes are underway,” Mr. Lavrov said.

Cardinal Parolin said he recognized the difference in approach between Russia and the Holy See on these issues. But he said the two share a “strong concern for the situation of Christians in several countries of the Middle East and the African continent”.

“The Holy See nourishes constant concern that religious liberty be preserved in all States and in all political situations,” Cardinal Parolin said.

Dialogue in Venezuela

Responding to a question about the situation in Venezuela, Cardinal Parolin said he believes Russia can help to overcome this very difficult moment.”

He said Russia can promote the Vatican’s efforts to create dialogue between Venezuela’s government and the opposition.

“This is the only solution the Holy See sees for an exit to this situation.”

Cardinal Secretary of State Parolin meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday.

A WEEKEND IN ROME: THE BIRTH OF A BASILICA, THE TRANSFIGURATION – PAPAL MESSAGE FOR VICTIMS OF ATTACK ON CHURCH IN NIGERIA

Pope Francis tweeted today: Forgiveness sets our hearts free and allows us to start anew.  Forgiveness gives hope. Without forgiveness, the Church is not built up.

I read that tweet and thought about forgiveness just seconds after seeing the story from Nigeria (see below), and I asked myself: if I had been in that church, could I have forgiven those who comitted this barbaric action? I am not totally sure of the answer but I feel it could be ‘no’.  This is why I admire beyond telling those saints who knew how to ask for and offer forgiveness, even whem seemingly impossible, and therefore lived –heroic virtues!  And I am sure there are many saints-in waiting who live heroic virtues today.

A WEEKEND IN ROME: THE BIRTH OF A BASILICA, THE TRANSFIGURATION

August 5 is the annual feast of Our Lady of the Snows and a great time, notwithstanding torrid temperatures,to experience this feast day if you are in Rome.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:  The year was 358 A.D.   John, a Roman patrician, and his wife, unable to have children, had been praying faithfully to the Virgin, asking her to give them a sign as to whom they should leave their enormous patrimony. The night of August 4-5, one of the hottest of the year, Mary appeared to the couple in a dream and asked them to build a church in her honor where snow would fall that night. John and his wife went to tell their friend Pope Liberius of their dream and, to their astonishment, discovered he had had the same dream

The next morning, August 5, Pope Liberius, John and his wife, joined a massive crowd that had gathered at the site of the snowfall on one of Rome’s seven fabled hills, the Esquiline. And so, fulfilling Mary’s wish, Our Lady of the Snows was built – a basilica you know as St. Mary Major!

The feast of Our Lady of the Snows was introduced that year and has been commemorated ever since on August 5 when, during an afternoon Mass, thousands of white flower petals, symbolizing the miraculous snowfall, are released from the basilica’s rooftop, both inside and outside, showering the faithful who have gathered to commemorate that event.

The ceiling panel where the flower petals are released is at the top, almost center, of the screen, as the video starts: https://youtu.be/WMY9Xj0O91

Sunday, August 6 was the feast of the Transfiguration and also marked the 39th anniversary of the death of Blessed Paul VI. Pope Francis commemorated his predecessor by going to his tomb in the grotto area of St. Peter’s Basilica. Bishop Semeraro of Albano celebrated Mass for this occasion. The papal palace of Castelgandolfo is in this diocese and that is where Paul VI died.

At the Angelus Sunday, Pope Francis said “The ascension of the disciples to Mount Tabor leads us to reflect on the importance of detaching ourselves from worldly things, to make our way up a path to contemplate Jesus.” He noted how, “the event of the Lord’s Transfiguration, which the Church celebrates today, “invites us to meet Jesus and to be at the service of our brothers, ,,, It suggests a way to live the holidays because rest and detachment from everyday occupations, can re-energize both body and spirit, deepening the spiritual path.”

PAPAL MESSAGE FOR VICTIMS OF ATTACK ON CHURCH IN NIGERIA

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday sent a message of condolences following an attack at a Church in southeastern Nigeria. At least 11 people were killed and 18 others were wounded when gunmen opened fire on worshippers who had gathered early on Sunday at St Philip’s Catholic church in Ozubulu near the city of Onitsha. (photo news.va)

In the message, signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Pope says he is “deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and injury”. He extends his “heartfelt condolences” to the local bishop and to “all the faithful of the diocese of Nnewi, in particular the families of the deceased and all those affected by this tragedy.”

Police said they believe the attack may have been linked to drug trafficking and was carried out following a feud between local residents and member of the community living outside Nigeria.

Please see below the full text of the message from Pope Francis to the bishop of the diocese of Nnewi in Nigeria

The Right Reverend Hilary Paul Odili Okeke

Bishop of Nnewi

Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and injury following the violent attack in Saint Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu, His Holiness Pope Francis extends heartfelt condolences to you and to all the faithful of the Diocese of Nnewi, in particular the families of the deceased and all those affected by this tragedy. Upon the entire Diocese, His Holiness willingly invokes the divine blessings of consolation and strength.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin

 

VATICAN CALLS FOR SUSPENSION OF VENEZUELA’S CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY – VATICAN SECRETARIAT OF STATE’S COMMUNIQUE ON VENEZUELA – HOLY SEE OBSERVER TO UN ON VENEZUELA CRISIS

VATICAN CALLS FOR SUSPENSION OF VENEZUELA’S CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY

(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Friday issued an urgent appeal to Venezuela’s leaders to suspend the new Constituent Assembly which, it says, is threatening the future of the South American nation.

The strongly worded communique, issued by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, says Pope Francis is following closely the situation in Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro is headed towards a showdown with the opposition, as he pushes ahead with the inauguration of his new Assembly.

The statement comes as the body’s 545 delegates were expected to be installed at the legislative palace in the capital, Caracas, close to the chamber where the opposition-controlled National Assembly meets.

Erosion of democracy

The new Constituent Assembly has been tasked with rewriting the country’s constitution and holds powers that override all other government branches.

Opposition leaders have denounced the erosion of democracy and vowed they will only be removed by force. Over a hundred and twenty-five people have already been killed in over three months of violent anti-government protests.

Respect rights enshrined in Constitution

The Vatican statement expresses “profound concern for the radicalisation and worsening of the crisis”, including the increase in deaths, injuries and arrests of protesters. It calls on all the country’s politicians, in  particular, the government, to guarantee “full respect for human rights and basic freedoms, as well as for the existing Constitution”.

Suspend Constituent Assembly

It says initiatives such as the new Constituent Assembly should be “avoided or suspended” since they “foment a climate of tension and conflict” which “mortgages the future” of the country, rather than fostering reconciliation and peace.

The statement calls for a negotiated solution, along the lines already indicated in a previous letter from the Secretary of State on December 1st 2016. These solutions must take into account “the serious suffering of the people”, due to a lack of security, as well as the shortages of food and medicine.

Pray for Venezuela

Finally the statement calls on all members of Venezuelan society, in particular the security forces, to avoid violence or an excessive use of force. It says the pope assures all Venezuelans of his prayers and invites people across the globe to pray intensely for the country at this moment of crisis.

VATICAN SECRETARIAT OF STATE’S COMMUNIQUE ON VENEZUELA

Following is my translation of the communique from the Secretariat of State that was released in Spanish and Italian:

The Holy See once again expresses its profound concern for the radicalization and worsening of the crisis in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, with an increase in deaths, wounded people and detainees. The Holy Father, directly and through the Secretariat of State, is closely following the situation and its humanitarian, social, political economic – and even spiritual – implications, and assures his constant prayer for the Nation and all Venezuelans, while he invites the faithful of the entire world to pray intensely for this intention.

At the same tine, the Holy See asks all political players, in particular the government, to assure full respect for human rights and basic freedoms, as well as the current constitution; to avoid or suspend initiatives underway such as the new Constituent Assembly that, instead of favoring reconciliation and peace, foments a climate of tension and clashes and mortgages the future; to create conditions for a negotiated solution in line with the indications expressed in the letter from the Secretariat of State of December 1, 2016, bearing in mind the grave sufferings of the people given the difficulties in procuring food and medicine, and for the lack of security.

And lastly, the Holy See issues a heartfelt appeal to the entire society so that every form of violence be averted, and invites, in particular, the security forces to abstain from excessive and disproportionate use of force.

HOLY SEE OBSERVER TO UN ON VENEZUELA CRISIS

On June 21, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations, reiterated that the crisis in Venezuela must be answered with serious and sincere negotiations between the parties concerned.

In a statement to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States taking place in Cancun, Mexico,  the archbishop said since the beginning of the crisis, the Pope, the Vatican Secretary of State and the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference have on several occasions called upon institutions and political forces, to listen to the voice of the people and defend the common good.

Referring to a letter by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin from December 1, 2016, the nuncio observed that the path to seeking a peaceful solution can be promoted through negotiation in a number of areas, such as a path that leads to free and transparent elections, and measures to provide humanitarian aid. In the 2016 letter, the archbishop added, the Secretary of State also urges measures to be taken involving the release of political prisoners.

Archbishop Auza notes that the recent government’s decision to convene a Constituent Assembly, instead of helping to solve problems, can complicate the situation and jeopardize the democratic future of the country. He concludes that, it is, however, appreciated that a group of countries in the region or, possibly, other continents chosen by both the government and the opposition, may negotiate as guarantors.

VATICAN INSIDER: WHEN WOMEN PRAY – CARDINAL PAROLIN TO TRAVEL TO MOSCOW IN SEPTEMBER

This weekend I offer some great websites (not for the first time!) for your visit to Vatican City. You may know these already but if you don’t, you’ll probably discover they have the answers to your questions about getting tickets for and attending papal functions, reserving tickets for the Vatican Museums so you can skip the long lines, how to visit the Vatican Gardens and Castelgandolfo, get papal blessings, etc.

Visiting the gardens, museums, buying coins and stamps, etc: http://www.vaticanstate.va/content/vaticanstate/en/stato-e-governo.html

For papal audiences and events: http://www.vatican.va/various/prefettura/index_en.html

The Papal Almoner – for papal blessings: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/institutions_connected/elem_apost/index.htm

VATICAN INSIDER: WHEN WOMEN PRAY

I am finally back at the helm and rarin’ to go again with “Vatican Insider,” my segments on “At Home with Jim and Joy” and my Wednesday radio conversations with Teresa Tomeo on “Catholic Connection,” not to mention this column which I resumed on Monday.

Be sure to tune in to Vatican Insider this weekend for my conversation with Kathleen Beckman whom most of you know as a prolific author, engaging speaker and retreat master, and founder of Foundation of Prayer for Priests. Kathleen and I collaborated on the newly-released book, “When Women Pray” and that is what we’ll talk about today – prayer. This was a totally off-the-cuff conversation – one Kathleen suggested after we had just taped an interview about her experience in Rome attending a course on exorcism. So stay with us –and maybe pray with us!

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library:  http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

CARDINAL PAROLIN TO TRAVEL TO MOSCOW IN SEPTEMBER

(Vatican Radio) The Holy See has confirmed that the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin will travel to Moscow in September.

Parolin’s journey to Russia comes in the wake of his visits to Belarus and to Ukraine in the past two years signaling the Vatican’s continuing engagement with eastern Europe and its desire to continue supporting the Christians in the region.

In an exclusive interview with the Italian newspaper “Il Sole 24 ore, Cardinal Parolin pointed out that the Holy See’s support for Christians in Eastern Europe has never waned, not even in the darkest of years.

Holy See’s historical relationship with Russia

He said the Vatican has always given great value to its relationship with Eastern Europe and with Russia and he recalled the Tsar, Nicholas I’s two meetings with Pope Gregorius XVI in 1845, and how the the Pontificate of Pius IX began in 1847 with an agreement by which both the government and the Holy See played a part in filling vacant Latin Church episcopal sees in Russia and in its Polish provinces.

Parolin described the continuing relationship between the Vatican and Russia as a “patient, constructive and respectful dialogue”.

Diplomacy of peace

It is crucially important, he said, especially regarding those issues that are at the root of current conflicts or that risk triggering further tensions.

“In this sense, the question of peace and the quest for solutions to the various crises should be placed above any national or partial interest. There cannot be winners or losers, Cardinal Parolin stressed, I am convinced that it is the mission of the Holy See to insist on this fact”.

In the article the Vatican Secretary of State also touched on the global issue of violence perpetrated in the name of religion and spoke of the need to protect religious freedom and at the same time protect Christians – or any other community –  at risk of persecution.

He also spoke of the need to continue to work to protect and care for creation expressing his hope that the United States – and other international actors – do not ignore their international responsibility to care for our common home, work to reduce poverty and inequality, and open their hearts to forced migrants and refugees.

“The Catholic Church’s diplomacy is a diplomacy of peace” – Parolin explained – it is not driven by political, ideological or economic interests, and for this reason it is free to pursue the path to common good and to denounce the catastrophic effects a self-referenced vision can have on all.