THE WORLD NEEDS A SHARED CHRISTIAN WITNESS – POPE THANKS POLICE FOR PROTECTING PLACES OF FAITH, PILGRIMS – IOR ISSUES NOTE ON STATUTE CHANGES – NIGER: CHURCHES AND CONVENTS BURNED, SCHOOLS, CLINICS CLOSED

THE WORLD NEEDS A SHARED CHRISTIAN WITNESS

The Holy Father Thursday welcomed an ecumenical delegation of the Lutheran Church from Finland on its annual visit to Rome during the January 18 to 25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and the feast of St. Henry of Uppsala, patron saint of Finland.

He quoted from St. John Paul who, thirty years ago, welcomed the first such delegation and said, “The fact that you come here together is itself a witness to the importance of efforts for unity. The fact that you pray together is a witness to our belief that only through the grace of God can that unity be achieved. The fact that you recite the Creed together is a witness to the one common faith of the whole of Christianity.”

Reiterating the words of Bishop Vikstrom, in Rome with the delegation, Francis said, “there is so much that Catholics and Lutherans can do together to bear witness to God’s mercy in our societies. A shared Christian witness is very much needed in the face of the mistrust, insecurity, persecution, pain and suffering experienced so widely in today’s world.”

The Pope said, “The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine on Justification which was solemnly signed some fifteen years ago between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, can produce further fruits of reconciliation and cooperation between us. …Let us hope that further convergence will emerge from that dialogue on the concept of the Church, the sign and instrument of the salvation brought to us in Jesus Christ.”

POPE THANKS POLICE FOR PROTECTING PLACES OF FAITH, PILGRIMS

Thursday morning Pope Francis received a group of agents from the General Inspectorate for Public Security in the Vatican as it celebrates the 70th anniversary of the presence of the Italian forces of order in the Vatican. He thanked the officials and members of their families for the work they carry out on a daily basis “with professionalism and dedication.” The officers work normally in and around St. Peter’s Square and they staff the airport-style security maches for people entering St. Peter’s Basilica or entering the square for a papal general audience.

As we start a new year, he said, “we have many hopes and expectations, and we also see on the horizon the shadows and dangers that trouble humanity. As Christians we are called upon not to lose heart or to be discouraged. Our hope rests upon an immovable rock: God’s love, revealed and given in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

Francis explained that, “In the light of this firm hope, your work assumes a different meaning that brings human and Christian values into play. Indeed, you have the task of protecting and supervising places of the utmost importance for the faith, and of guaranteeing the security of millions of pilgrims. Many people who come to visit the heart of Christian Rome frequently turn to you.”

“May every person,” said the Holy Father, “feel helped and protected by your presence and your care. … We are all called to be our neighbor’s guardians. The Lord will call us to account for the responsibilities entrusted to us, for the good and the bad we have brought upon our neighbors.”

IOR ISSUES NOTE ON STATUTE CHANGES

Vatican City, January 22, 2015 – The Holy Father declared on 10 January 2015 by way of a Rescriptum ex audientia Ss.mi presented to the President of the IOR Supervisory Commission of Cardinals that the Statute of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) has been changed to elevate the number of members in the IOR Supervisory Commission of Cardinals and the IOR Board of Superintendence from five to six respectively. The Rescriptum ex audientia Ss.mi has come into effect on 10 January 2015 and will be published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis in due course. In addition, the nomination of a non-voting Secretary General to the IOR Board of Superintendence has been formalized by the President of the Supervisory Commission of Cardinals.

The full Rescriptum ex audientia Ss.mi as well as information on the IOR governance structure and its key personnel can be found on the Institute’s website at www.ior.va.

About the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR):

The “Istituto per le Opere di Religione” (IOR) is an institute founded on 27 June 1942 by Papal Decree. Its origins date back to the “Commissione Cardinalizia ad Pias Causas” established in 1887 by Pope Leo XIII. The purpose of the IOR is to serve the global mission of the Catholic Church by providing for the custody and administration of its customers’ assets, and rendering dedicated worldwide payment services to its customers. The Institute’s mission was confirmed by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on 7 April 2014. The IOR operates from a single location – its headquarters in the Vatican City State – and is regulated by the “Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria” (AIF), the financial supervisory body for the Vatican City State. The IOR serves approximately 15,500 customers. As of 31 December 2013, the Institute was entrusted with customers’ assets totalling €5.9 billion.

NIGER: CHURCHES AND CONVENTS BURNED, SCHOOLS, CLINICS CLOSED

When Pope Francis appealed for peace in Niger yesterday at the general audience, he was referring to events in that country that have received little coverage in the secular media. The following reports, datelined Niamey, Niger, are from Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples:

(Fides) – “Between Friday 16 and Saturday 17 January, various churches and religious communities in Niger suffered extensive damage because of demonstrators protesting against the publication of the French weekly Charlie Hebdo. In the Diocese of Maradi and Niamey, several churches were burned, along with some religious houses. Other Protestant churches were also affected by the protesters.” Fr. Nicolas Ayouba, superior of the Redemptorists of Niger, confirmed the news to Fides, adding: “According to the latest news, our Community of St. Clement of Niamey was not attacked, while the church of St. Gabriel yes. All the Redemptorists are still in good condition.”

The churches of St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Gabriel, St. John, St. Teresa and St. Joseph were burned and looted in Niamey, as well as two convents of nuns. Because of the situation, all Sunday celebrations were suspended.

The Apostolic Administrator of Niamey, Archbishop Michel Cartatéguy told Vatican Radio: “As a Christian community, we are still under shock. All our churches – 12 out of 14 – have been completely looted: there is nothing left … everything is burned. The cathedral was not touched, because of my request to monitor it. We have suspended all activities of the Catholic mission; we have closed our schools, our dispensaries … We are not able to understand what is going on. I summoned all the priests and community leaders to pray in silence, and we meditated on love for enemies. Many of our religious, who today have lost everything, were protected, and still are, by Muslim families. I said to the highest authorities: ‘We have nothing against the Muslim community, on the contrary’. Indeed, we must further strengthen the bonds of unity and brotherhood that we have built.”

In another report, Fides said, quoting a statement sent to the agency, “The bishops of Niger have suspended “until further notice” all the activities of the Catholic Church (schools, health centers, charitable activities), “following the looting of churches and infrastructure of our institutions, and the desecration of our places of worship. The measure will allow us to pray and to read, in serenity, the painful events that we have suffered.” The bishops “thank very warmly all those who have expressed their solidarity in these difficult times.”

IN INTERVIEW WITH ARGENTINE PAPER, POPE TALKS OF SYNOD, CURIA REFORMS, VATICAN BANK, FUTURE TRAVELS – NEWS IN BRIEF: VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE – IOR PRESSES CHARGES AGAINST TWO FORMER MANAGERS

I hope each one of you can someday experience December 8, the Immacolata, the day devoted to the Immaculate Conception, in Rome. This solemnity is a national holiday and hugely important for Italian families. There were tons of visitors in Rome and I don’t remember when I saw so many families visiting monuments, at the papal Angelus, filling the tables at local restaurants, and so on.

Several main streets in the center of Rome were closed for Pope Francis’ visits, first to St. Mary Major basilica in mid-afternoon and then to the Spanish Steps, Pza. di Spagna, to crown the image of Mary there. Traffic went, as the Romans love to say, “in tilt,” but the closed streets made for great walking around Rome’s historic center and shopping area.

This famous square in the heart of Rome is named for the Palazzo di Spagna, a magnificent building on the piazza that has housed the Spanish embassy to the Holy See since 1647. Every year, early in the morning of December 8, Roman firemen place a garland atop the statue of Mary Immaculate and by day’s end, thousands of Romans will have followed in their footsteps, offering floral homages to Mary. Single flowers as well as bouquets are placed on a table at the foot of the column bearing the statue and Conventual Franciscan Friars and Minim Friars arrange them in an orderly fashion, often creating elegant wreaths.

The ancient Roman column of cipolin marble was found in 1777 in the monastery of Our Lady of the Conception in central Rome and brought to Piazza di Spagna in 1856 to celebrate the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception two years earlier.

Sunday, on my blog and my Facebook page, I posted photos and videos of Pearl Harbor to mark the 73rd anniversary of the “day of infamy,” December 7, 1941. These were pictures and videos that I took at Pearl Harbor this summer and last summer.

I took the day off yesterday, but just from writing. I went to Mass and had lunch at the Pontifical North American College as the Immaculate Conception is the seminary’s feast day. In fact, exactly 155 years ago yesterday, a dozen young men entered the first campus of our new national seminary at 30 Via dell’Umiltà, the 410-year old building that was originally a convent for Dominican Sisters, and given by Pope Pius IX to the American bishops for use as their Rome seminary.

Today, the Casa Santa Maria, as it is known, houses the U.S. Bishops Office for Visitors to the Vatican where many people, on Tuesday afternoons, pick up the tickets that they had previously requested via email for the Wednesday papal general audience.

After a wonderful lunch in very special company at NAC, I came home briefly, only to leave again about 5:45 to join the Marian Fathers and invited guests at their generalate for vespers and dinner on this, the feast day of the order. I have been invited to this for a number of years now and it is always a joy to help the Marians mark their feast day. I am sure most of you know one of the Marians – Fr. Joseph Roesch –from his appearances on EWTN, especially for the feast of Divine Mercy.

IN INTERVIEW WITH ARGENTINE PAPER, POPE TALKS OF SYNOD, CURIA REFORMS, VATICAN BANK, FUTURE TRAVELS

Pope Francis recently gave an interview to the Argentine newspaper, “La Nacion,” touching on a wide variety of subjects including the recent synod, the reform of the Curia and Vatican bank, nominations, his health, futured travels, and other issues. Following is a Vatican Radio summary of the topics treated, after which I have placed two links to the full interview, translated in to English, in two parts.

In the interview, Pope Francis describes the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family as “an open space, protected by the Holy Spirit”. It is not a parliament, he said, and it is a “simplification” to say that the Synod Fathers were divided into two opposing factions. What was important, said Pope Francis, was to “speak with clarity and listen with humility”.

Responding to a question about how the topic of homosexuality was dealt with at the Synod, the Pope said no one at the gathering had spoken about gay marriage. What was discussed, he said, involved families that include a homosexual son or daughter and, therefore, how to assist these families. “We spoke about the family and about homosexual persons in relation to their families”, said Pope Francis, “because this is a reality we encounter in the confessional”. He also stressed that people should not allow themselves to be influenced by what they read in individual news reports or articles concerning the Synod, but should go back and read what was actually said there. What really matters, he said, “is the post-synodal report, the final message and the Pope’s discourse”. “We must not be afraid”, he added, “to go forward guided by the Holy Spirit”.

Referring to his closing speech at the Synod, Pope Francis confirmed what he’d said regarding “not touching any item of Church doctrine on marriage”. There are many pastoral difficulties related to divorced and remarried Catholics, he said, but “it is not a solution if we give them Communion. This alone is not a solution: integration is the solution”. “It’s true they are not excommunicated, but they cannot be baptismal godparents, they cannot be readers at Mass, they cannot distribute Communion, they cannot teach catechism classes, so it appears they are, in fact, excommunicated”. This is why, said the Pope, “we need to open the doors a little”. Pope Francis made the comparison of allowing a “corrupt politician” to act as a godparent simply because he or she has been “married in Church”. Responding to those who speak about creating confusion, the Pope said: “I constantly make speeches and give homilies, and this is the Magisterium”. This, he said, “is what I think and not what the newspapers say I think…Evangelii Gaudium is very clear”.

Pope Francis also spoke about the reform of the Curia, describing it as “a slow process” and not one that will conclude in 2015. One of the proposals includes combining the Council of the Laity with that of the Family and with the Council for Justice and Peace, he explained. But the most important reform, said the Pope, is a spiritual one, “the reform of hearts”. He also anticipated that he is preparing a special Christmas message for members of the Curia and another for Vatican employees and their families who he will meet in the Paul VI Audience Hall. Meanwhile, economic reforms are “moving ahead well”, he said, and the Vatican Bank, or IOR, “is working extremely well”.

Responding to a question about his health, Pope Francis said he feels the usual aches and pains of someone his age “but I am in God’s hands and until now I’ve managed to keep up a relatively good rhythm of work”. “God has given me a good dose of recklessness”, he said.

Finally, the Pope mentioned a series of possible apostolic trips: “perhaps to Argentina in 2016” and other visits to three countries in Latin America and Africa next year. With upcoming elections in Argentina, the Pope said he would not be receiving politicians from that country in audience so as not to “interfere” with the democratic process. He also clarified reports concerning the so-called dismissal of the Commander of the Vatican Swiss Guard recently, confirming his personal admiration for the Commander and how he had been replaced after the normal conclusion of his mandate to that position.

http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1750350-pope-francis-god-has-bestowed-on-me-a-healthy-dose-of-unawareness

http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1750351-the-synod-on-the-family-the-divorced-and-remarried-seem-excommunicated

NEWS IN BRIEF: VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE

For the full stories from Monday, December 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception and today, Tuesday, December 9, click here: http://www.visnews-en.blogspot.it/

AT THE DECEMBER 8 ANGELUS, Pope Francis said the message of the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is, “Everything is given freely by God, all is grace, all is a gift of His love for us. He spoke from the window of his study to pray the noon Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. He explained that, in the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel called Mary “full of grace,” since “in her there was no space for sin: God had always chosen her as the mother of Jesus, and so He protected her from original sin. Mary corresponds to this grace and abandons herself to it, saying to the Angel, ‘Be it done to me according to your word’. She does not say ‘I will do it according to your word’, but rather, ‘Be it done to me…’.” He stressed that, “None of us can buy salvation. Salvation is a free gift from the Lord! A free gift from God that arrives in us and lives within us. As we have received freely, so we are called to give freely, in imitation of Mary. … Because, if everything has been given, everything must be given b

PAPAL MESSAGE TO CONFERENCE ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Pope Francis’ message to Sebastian Kurz, Austrian federal minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration, was read Tuesday at the two-day conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons that began on December 8 in Vienna, Austria. It said, in part: “The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are predictable and planetary. While the focus is often placed on nuclear weapons’ potential for mass killing, more attention must be given to the ‘unnecessary suffering’ brought on by their use. …. To prioritize such spending is a mistake and a misallocation of resources that would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against extreme poverty. When these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak living on the margins of society pay the price.” Noting that, “the desire for peace, security and stability is one of the deepest longings of the human heart,” the Pope “encouraged sincere and open dialogue between parties internal to each nuclear state, between various nuclear states, and between nuclear states and non-nuclear states.”

POPE FRANCIS SENDS TELEGRAM OF CONDOLENCES to Alejandro Jaime Mejia for the death of his brother, Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, archivist and librarian emeritus of the Holy Roman Church, at the age of 91. The Pope wrote that the cardinal dedicated “long years of service with fidelity and competence to various organs of the Holy See,” and assured his prayers for the deceased, to whom he was joined in “a long friendship,” so that the Lord may grant peace to the Cardinal, who demonstrated “such intense and generous commitment to the Church.”

THE GENERAL SECRETARIAT OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS Tuesday issued a press release regarding the publication of the Lineamenta of the next Ordinary General Synod of Bishops, to take place in Rome from October 4-25 on the theme, “The vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.” The Lineamenta, the first document for the 2015 synod, as indicated by Pope Francis in his concluding speech of the October 2014 synod, are constituted essentially by the Relatio Synodi, drafted by the same Assembly. To facilitate the reception of the synodal document and to allow its themes to be considered in depth, the Relatio is accompanied by a series of questions that help to further the Synod’s progress on the path it has undertaken, and to assist in the preparation of the subsequent Instrumentum laboris for the next Ordinary Synod. The text of the Lineamenta in Italian may be consulted on the Vatican website: http://www.vatican.va

TUESDAY MORNING, CARDINAL PETER TURKSON, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace,” presented the international online bullying awareness campaign, “Stop Threats on the Internet,” in the context of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The presentation in the Holy See Pres Office also included Fr. Fortunato Di Noto, president of the Associazione Meter; Olivier Duval, president of the BICE (Bureau International Catholique de l’Enfance), Laetitia Chanut, a former victim of cyber-bullying and witness for the campaign, and Flaminia Giovanelli, under secretary of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace.” Presenters confronted the issues of Internet bullying, “a new form of violence,” the question of adolescents and young people living in a condition of being continually “connected,” the sociological studies that examine the risks linked to the rapid development of information and communication technology, a phenomenon that requires parents to act as mediators of the technological experience for their children, and family relationships in an Internet-connected, globalized world

IOR PRESSES CHARGES AGAINST TWO FORMER MANAGERS

The Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR, Institute for Works of Religion, popularly known as the Vatican Bank,) confirmed Saturday in a press release that “it pressed charges against two former managers and a lawyer some months ago, underlining its commitment to transparency and zero tolerance, including with regard to matters that relate to a more distant past.

The charges submitted to the Vatican’s law enforcement authorities relate to circumstances recorded between 2001 and 2008 that have emerged in the internal review process initiated in early 2013. The accounts held by the concerned individuals at the IOR have recently been seized by order of the Promoter of Justice.

“We are very pleased that the Vatican Authorities are taking decisive action,” said Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, President of the IOR Board of Superintendence. Given the ongoing judicial enquiry, the IOR will refrain from further public statements.