“Plus ça change, plus ça reste le meme” – the more things change, the more they remain the same – is definitely not how one would characterize the changes Pope Francis is making at theVatican, in the Roman Curia and in appointments and nominations around the world. Witness his creation of the Prefecture of the Economy, vast changes in personnel and methodology at the Vatican Bank, a change in methodology at the Synod of Bishops, and some nominations in the Roman Curia.

This weekend, for example:

Several big changes in the Roman Curia were announced on Saturday, including naming Cardinal Raymond Burke, up to Saturday the prefect of the Vatican’s supreme tribunal, the Apostolic Signatura, as patron of the Hospitaller Order of Malta. His removal from the tribunal was first suggested in the Italian press in September and had been confirmed by the cardinal himself in October. Cardinal Burke is quite young at 66, to have mere ceremonial duties, such as those at the Order of Malta. And young not to have been assigned to another area of almost equal responsibility within the curia. It is this that surprises most people and I know that as long as I have been covering the Church I don’t remember a similar case regarding a cardinal.

Although it was said during the synod that labels such as “liberal” and “conservative” are unhelpful and should not be used by the Church to describe a person, Cardinal Burke is well known for his entrenched conservative positions on Church teaching and doctrine. Last February for example,when Cardinal Kasper gave a talk to the College of Cardinals and, among other things, suggested the Church should re-think commuion for the divorced and remarried, Cardinal Burke was among the first to remind people of the Church’s teaching on the matter – a matter that was the focus of much attention at the synod on the family.

It is also well known that Pope Francis is making mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation a hallmark of his pontificate rather than rigidly standing by a Church teaching.

How to reconcile the two seems to be an issue in this case and may be in other cases, as only time will tell. Does the Pope stress mercy too much, with not enough emphasis on teaching? Does Cardinal Burke stress Church teaching too much, with not enough emphasis on mercy?

One thing can be said: Huge numbers of faithful Catholics were dismayed by Cardinal Burke’s being sidelined, “demoted” as many here are saying, and want to know the reason why.

A number of people pointed out to me over the weekend that Cardinal Burke, no longer a member of the Roman Curia, will have more time to lecture and to write so his thoughts and teachings will surely not be lost.

In another appointment Saturday, history was made when Pope Francis appointed English Archbishop Paul Gallagher as Secretary for Relations with States. An able, experienced, multi-lingual highly respected diplomat, Abp. Gallagher is the first Englishman to hold the post. Below is a fine Vatican Radio interview with the new Secretary for Relations with States. I met the archbishop on several occasions when he and I were both working for the Vatican from 1995 to 2000.

He replaces Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, a native of Corsica, who now heads to the Apostolic Signatura.

Pope Francis’ words at the Angelus Sunday about the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall mademe reflect on that great day 25 years ago – November 9, 1989. I had lived in Europe for a dozen years but in 1989 I was in Southern California and I watched all the earth-shatteringly wonderful events on television. Only someone who had lived under communism and under the dominance of the Soviets or, if not in Soviet lands, in lands where it seemed we were always on the brink of a nuclear war or mutually assured destruction known as MAD, as key phrase in those days, could understand the scope and significance of the Berlin walls coming down.

The wall was built in August 1961, just days before I left Europe for the U.S. after a year of study abroad at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. That wall, guarded by machine-gun toting soldiers, guard dogs and barbed wire for decades, was taken apart, stone by stone, brick by brick, by free men on one side and soon-to-be free men on the other.

I had seen the infamous wall up-close and personal during our 1961 winter vacation break in Austria when, shortly after New Year’s Day, we went to the Austrian-Hungarian border on a dark, cold, gray winter day. We saw the gun-toting guards as they walked back and forth and a thousand questions arose in our hearts: Why did they believe in communism? Would they really shoot someone trying to escape to the other side (and guards did – so often!)? Weren’t they just young men who were frozen and would rather be at home or in a warm office, sipping tea? So many questions!

As I watched on TV, I loudly cheered on the Berliners and everyone else who was there and trying to change history. I was almost jealous of those people as I knew that, had I still been living in Rome, I’d have taken an overnight train to Berlin to be part of history.

A year later, however, I was, in a small way, a part of history.

I had been working at the Vatican Information Service just over two months on November 19, 1990 when I was asked if I wanted to go to the Secretariat of State where Pope John Paul was scheduled to welcome Mikhail Gorbachev. It was an unbelievable moment for me as I stood in the presence of these two men – two of the three men credited with the fall of the Berlin Wall (President Ronald Reagan being the third) that led, shortly after that, to the collapse of the Soviet empire.

I was about 20 or so feet away from both men and I was totally struck by the warm and friendly atmosphere. John Paul and Gorbachev seemed like two family members, reuniting after many years. It was a moment – just as the fall of the wall a year earlier had been – that you don’t think you will live long enough to see. I was mesmerized to say the very least!

John Paul helped achieve the fall of the wall and of communism but he was never able to realize his cherished dream of visiting Russia. (Read his remarks at the Angelus below)


(Vatican Radio) On Saturday Pope Francis appointed Liverpool native Archbishop Paul Gallagher to the post of Secretary for Relations with States, thus making him the first native English speaker to hold the position that is to all intents and purposes the Vatican’s Foreign Minister.

In an interview with Emer McCarthy, Archbishop Gallagher says he is “honored and humbled” that the Holy Father chose him, but at the same time “inevitably a little fearful” at taking on such major responsibilities. (Photo from news.va)


These responsibilities include overseeing the Second Section of the Secretariat, which has the specific duty of attending to matters which involve civil governments and international organisms.  Archbishop Gallagher will work directly under the presidency of the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Traditionally the Secretaries for Relations with States are chosen from the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, drawing from their experience as papal representatives to nations around the world.

In this, Archbishop Gallagher is uniquely placed.  In a ministry that has spanned thirty years he has served in Nunciatures in Tanzania, Uruguay and the Philippines and as Nuncio to Burundi, Guatemala and most recently Australia.

In fact, Archbishop Gallagher credits the “many people I have worked with, the Nuncios who I served with years ago” as having inspired him in his life. “Obviously”, he says “when I went to Burundi in 2004 I followed Archbishop Michael Courtney who had been assassinated.  To follow a man who had made the ultimate sacrifice that indeed was very significant”.

The Archbishop continued: “As you work around the world in the Nunciatures – whether it’s as a priest or a Nuncio – you see a microcosm of these problems that the world is facing [and that they] are inter-related. Certainly right now we have an enormous problem in terms of the development of peoples and societies, their aspirations, where they are going.  We have a number of conflicts that are emerging because of poverty and under-development.  The world is becoming increasingly polarized and therefore they feel that their ambitions are thwarted and this therefore leads people into desperate situations”.

Archbishop Gallagher has also served as an Observer at the European Parliament in Strasbourg which Pope Francis is due to address next week.  Moreover he has Curia experience, having worked in its Second Section, from 1995 to 2000 at the same time as the present Secretary of State Card. Parolin. “I also was very much encouraged by the many of the people I worked with in the Secretariat of State when I was there” he says.  “You do get the occasional careerist, but I felt the majority of the people I was working with were very highly motivated indeed”.

All of these experiences he says have convinced him that the role of Papal Diplomat is “a valid ministry and contribution”.  “I’m not sure that I go along with the idea that to be a papal diplomat is a vocation because I think that you have to jealously preserve your priestly vocation in the midst of this if you are going to do something really positive.  But certainly it’s a calling within the Church that is extremely valid and can make a great contribution both to the Church in terms of communications, representations, explaining the local Church to Rome and explaining Rome to the local Church as I frequently say”.

This Archbishop Gallagher concludes is a question of building on the rich History of the Church in the diplomatic field: “My experience is that there is very little hostility towards the Holy See as an entity, rather they do see a value in it.  We work to make a contribution that is obviously grounded in our faith but also in the experience and history of our Church”.


At noon Sunday, as is customary, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered below in St. Peter’s Square. In pre-Angelus reflections, he noted that today’s liturgy recalls the November 9, 324 dedication by Pope Sylvester I of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The cathedral of Rome – the church of the bishop of Rome, the Pope – is traditionally defined as omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput – the “mother of all the churches in the city and in the world..”

Pope Francis said, “The term ‘mother’ refers not only to the sacred building of the basilica, but also to the work of the Holy Spirit, made manifest in this building and fruitful through the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, in all the communities in unity with the Church over whom He presides. Every time we celebrate the dedication of a church, an essential truth is recalled to us: the material temple made of bricks is a sign of the living Church at work in history, that ‘spiritual temple’ … of which Christ Himself is ‘a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight’.”

After praying the Angelus, the Pope noted that precisely 25 years ago today, November 9, 1989, history recorded the fall of the Berlin Wall “which had long divided the city in two and was a symbol of the ideological division of Europe and the entire world. It took place suddenly, but it had been made possible by the long and tireless efforts of many people who fought, prayed and suffered for it; some of them even sacrificed their lives.” He explained that, “among these people, St. John Paul II played a central role. Let us pray that, with the Lord’s help and the collaboration of all persons of good will, a culture of encounter may become ever more widespread, able to bring down all the walls that continue to divide the world; and that innocent people will never more be persecuted and even killed for their beliefs and their religion. Where there is a wall, there is a closed heart. We need bridges, not walls!”


Monday, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, in Pope Francis’ name, sent a telegram to Bishop Jose Manuel Lorca Planes of Cartagena, Spain, upon hearing the news of a serious road accident in the city of Cieza that claimed many victims, including the young pastor of Bullas, Rev. Fr. Miguel Conesa Andujar, and parishioners returning home from a trip to Madrid.

The Pope is “deeply saddened, and raises fervent prayers to God for the eternal repose of the souls of the departed, for the full recovery of the injured, and for the consolation of those who have lost their loved ones.” In the words of Francis: “I urge the sons and daughters of these noble lands to find in faith the encouragement and the strength of spirit to overcome these painful circumstances, and impart to them the comfort of my apostolic blessing, as a sign of hope in the risen Christ.”