FEBRUARY 11 IN NUMBERS – A PAPAL RESIGNATION, AN UNFOLDING STORY – THE DISMAY, SURPRISE, AMAZEMENT OF CARDINALS AT PAPAL ANNOUNCEMENT – POPE BENEDICT SAYS RUMORS HE WAS FORCED TO RESIGN ARE “ABSURD”

FEBRUARY 11 IN NUMBERS

February 11 commemorates some important moments for the Catholic Church:

Today is the 161st anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes to St. Bernadette.

It is the 90th anniversary of the establishment of Vatican City State via the 1929 Lateran Pacts. Today is a holiday in Vatican City State to mark that event.

It is the 27th World Day of the Sick, established in May 1992 by St. John Paul II, a year after he learned that he had Parkinson’s.

It is the 6th anniversary of the announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that he would resign the papacy effective at the end of the month.

The 11th hour of the 11th Day….

Today I focus on that last anniversary because of its unique nature and because of what it entailed for me – and hundreds of others – as a vaticanista. How to handle history as it is actually being made! Getting it right!.

Where does one start to write about a day that is historical, stunning, amazing and also sad – there were so many reactions and emotions. Having lived in Rome for decades and having worked for or covered the Vatican and the papacy for all but two of those years, all of the above emotions were part of that incredible February 11, 2013 when we heard Pope Benedict XVI tell the world he would resign the papacy effective February 28, 2013!

Over the years, from my first visit to Rome as a college student to this very day, I have met or been in the presence of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis and have actually spoken to the last four. I was at the 1978 Mass when John Paul I was installed as Pope but never did meet him during his very brief pontificate.

Up to February 11, 2013, the whole world knew that the death of a Pope was the only way the papacy was vacated, that there could be a “sede vacante,” literally, a vacant chair.

No one is alive on this earth today who had ever heard a Pope say what Pope Benedict did on that fateful, historical morning exactly six years ago – Monday, February 11, 2013.

I remember every moment of that day and subsequent ones like it just happened yesterday – the resignation, the TV appearances, the press conferences, the preparations for a conclave, the mountains of research need to answer questions and to prepare for EWTN’s live television coverage of all events, the visits prepared for the media to Castelgandolfo where Benedict would be living until his permanent home was ready to receive him, and the monastery where Benedict now lives.

I look back at February 11, 2013 with amazement, with gratitude for being here during an historical period, with awe at the events of the months that followed, and once again with gratitude for a Church that could so beautifully transition from one papacy to another.

I look back at the courage and humility and love of the Church that prompted Pope Benedict to resign as he feared, sensed, realized he could not serve the Church he loved as she deserved.

Benedict XVI had become a role model for so many people, for millions of Catholics – and others – who miss him terribly today and wish him well and pray for him on a daily basis. More frequently than you might imagine – still today, six years later – people write me to ask me to please extend to Pope emeritus Benedict their regards, their love, their prayers and their thanksgiving for his pontificate. I try to pass on what I can!

I vividly remember telling U.S. television the night of Benedict’s resignation that Pope John Paul II, in his long suffering, taught us how to die and Pope Benedict, in his humility, courage and love, was teaching us how to live!

Too often we live and make decisions based on what others might think of us. We want to “look good,” we need approval before we act. We rarely look inside ourselves to see – even pray – what is the right thing to do. That is what Benedict XVI did. He looked inside himself and, with great honesty, unbelievable courage and his noted humility, he knew he had to leave the papacy.

In my mind’s eye today I’ve relived every encounter I had with Pope Benedict over the years – the brief exchanges, his soft smile, his wonderful blue eyes, his total sincerity. I will go to Mass and say a rosary today for Benedict, out of love, respect and gratitude.

My favorite photo:

And now a look back at history….

A PAPAL RESIGNATION, AN UNFOLDING STORY

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fr. Federico Lombardi, papal spokesman and head of the Holy See Press Office and Vatican Radio gave a very interesting and informative press briefing today for the world’s media now converging in Rome following Benedict XVI’s stunning announcement that he will “renounce” the office of Pope, the Petrine ministry on February 28.

He said he had little to add to what he told reporters yesterday, and then proceeded to speak and answer questions for almost 90 minutes. He thanked the media for its coverage, saying that in general it was abundant, informative, timely, respectful and, in some instances, “reflective.” He reiterated what he said about the Pope’s decision to resign, namely, that he made the decision with lucidity and serenity and that it was “spiritually well-founded from a human and faith perspective.”

We did learn that the Holy Father has had a pacemaker since the 1990s – before his pontificate – and that as recently as several months ago he went privately to Pius XI clinic in Rome to have the batteries replaced – something he has done regularly over the years.

All the activities, meetings, speeches and liturgies that were on Pope Benedict’s calendar before his announcement for the month of February remain unchanged, including his retreat with members of the curia that starts next Sunday evening, February 17 and ends the following Saturday in late morning. The Pope will receive the presidents of Romania and Guatemala, will meet with the Roman clergy Thursday morning (live in Vatican television), and will continue to meet Italy’s bishops on their ad limina visits.

Two events will have venue changes to accommodate larger crowds.

Tomorrow’s Ask Wednesday Mass in Santa Sabina Basilica that usually follows a procession from St. Anselm’s to Santa Sabina will take place in St. Peter’s Basilica, starting at 5 pm and scheduled to last two hours.

Pope Benedict’s final weekly general audience will be held on February 27th in St. Peter’s Square to accommodate what is expected to be a very large crowd of faithful

One journalist asked why the Pope is resigning specifically at 8 pm on February 28th. Fr. Lombardi said the Pope always considered 8 pm the end of his working day.

The Pope’s promised encyclical on faith will not be ready by February 28. It is not known if it would be released at a future date and possible under Benedict XVI /Joseph Ratzinger.

Benedict XVI will move to a small monastery in Vatican City that is currently being renovated. He will spend in days in prayer and reflection and, many hope, further writing. Pope John Paul years earlier had given this building to an order of cloistered nuns, and he invited a new order to come every five years. The last group of nuns left in November 2012 and the renovation started on the monastery, which has a small chapel, after that.

The Pope knows the monastery well and had visited the cloistered nuns on a number of vocations.

Vatican television went this morning to shoot images for the media.

The Pope’s decision to retire began to “mature” during his Mexico and Cuba trip last year, and became set in his mind in recent months. He had, however, given indications in speeches, in the book/interview, “Light of the World” and in a December talk at a senior citizens’ home in Rome that, if he were to find himself in circumstances where he could not perform the duties of the Petrine ministry, then renouncing the papacy would be a possibility.

Many questions were asked at the press briefing to which Fr. Lombardi said he did not have a specific answer but would inquire:

1. Would Benedict participate in the inaugural Mass of is successor?

2. Have the cardinals been formally notified of the conclave, etc.?

3. Have the current residents of the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta where conclave cardinals reside been informed of a date they must vacate their rooms?

4. What happens to the papal ring and seal and other objects that are usually broken or destroyed when a Pope dies? In this case, Benedict will still be with us

5. Could Pope Benedict himself now write a document and solve some of these issues?

6. How will people refer to Benedict XVI after his resignation? His title? We do know he is now the Bishop of Rome so he will be the former Bishop of Rome.

The date for the start of the conclave to elect Benedict’s successor has not been announced but Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal ceremonies, has said it would start 15 to 20 days, after the Pope leaves. This is according to John Paul’s 1996 Apostolic Constitution “Universi dominici gregis”, though people are still studying this to determine events.

THE DISMAY, SURPRISE, AMAZEMENT OF CARDINALS AT PAPAL ANNOUNCEMENT

From the February 12 (2013) edition of L’Osservatore Romano:

“Dismay, surprise, amazement and emotion at the words of Benedict XVI who announced his decision to ‘renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome’. These sentiments were etched on the faces of the cardinals, bishops and prelates – assembled for the Ordinary Public Concistory on Monday morning, 11 February, in the Concistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace – who heard the unexpected announcement in the Pope’s own voice.

“Everyone’s eyes met, a light murmur swelled in the hall and astonishment faded into sorrow. Yet, after the first few moments of confusion, the unanimous recognition that the Pope’s act was a very lofty act of humility made headway among those present – who included the papal masters of ceremony, representatives of the postulations, choristers of the Sistine Chapel Choir, papal chair bearers and technicians.

“It was a decision that took everyone by surprise. As did the fact that the Pope – accompanied by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Papal Household, and Archbishop Guido Pozzo, the Pope’s Almoner, Mons. Leonardo Sapienza, Regent of the Papal Household, and Alfred Xuereb of the Pope’s Private Secretariat – chose to communicate it personally when, at the end of the celebration of Midday Prayer and after the announcement that the three canonizations on the agenda of the Concistory would be held next 12 May, he read the Latin text of the Declaratio written in his own hand. Speaking in a firm, calm voice, while those present listened to him in an almost unreal silence, he explained the reasons for his decision, made “with full freedom”, and “after having repeatedly examined my conscience before God”.

“The prayerful, joyous atmosphere turned into sadness. The spokesman who rose to the occasion was Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals who immediately took the floor on behalf of all the cardinals. “Your Holiness, beloved and venerable Successor of Peter”, he said, “your moving message rang out in this hall like a bolt from the blue. We heard it with a sense of bewilderment, almost totally unbelieving. In your words we noted the great affection which you have always had for God’s holy Church, for this Church which you have so deeply loved”.

“Now, he added, ‘may I be permitted to tell you on behalf of the apostolic ‘upper room’, the College of Cardinals, on behalf of your dear co-workers, that we are closer to you than ever, as we have been especially close in these luminous eight years of your pontificate’”.

“The Cardinal assured Benedict XVI that ‘before 28 February, as you said, the day on which you wish to give the last word to your papal service, carried out so lovingly, so humbly, before 28 February we will have an opportunity to express our sentiments to you better. A great number of pastors and of the faithful, scattered across the world, will do likewise, as will numerous people of good will, together with the authorities of a great many countries”. He then made a reference to the upcoming commitments of the Pope.

During this month we shall have the joy of hearing your voice as a pastor: on Ash Wednesday, then on Thursday with the clergy of Rome, at the Angelus on the coming Sundays, at the Wednesday General Audiences. There will thus be many occasions on which to hear your fatherly voice again”. “Your mission”, he concluded, “will nevertheless continue”. You said that you will always be close to us with your witness and with your prayers. Of course, the stars of heaven always continue to shine and thus the star of your pontificate will always shine among us. We are close to you, Holy Father, and please bless us’.”

POPE BENEDICT SAYS RUMORS HE WAS FORCED TO RESIGN ARE “ABSURD”

Just days before the first anniversary of his February 28, 2013 resignation, Pope emeritus Benedict wrote a letter to an Italian journalist and said media speculation that he was forced by a group of cardinals to resign because of issues such as the Wikileaks scandal and clerical sex abuse cases was “simply absurd.”

Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa had written to the former pontiff with three questions: he asked about the reason for his resignation, why he continues to wear white and why he kept the name Benedict. Tornielli’s questions to the Pope emeritus arose because of press reports that Benedict was pressured to quit by a group of cardinals opposed to him, and for this reason his resignation was invalid. The charge was that Benedict considered himself still to be Pope, and continued to wear the papal white and keep his papal name.

Tornielli’s article appeared in the February 26  (2014) edition of the Italian daily “La Stampa.” He said Pope emeritus Benedict personally penned answers to the question in a simple and direct fashion.

Before he stepped down a year ago, Benedict on several occasions, most notably on February 11 when he announced his impending resignation to a group of cardinals, spoke of failing physical strength due to old age as the reason for his resignation.

In his letter to Tornielli, he wrote: “There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry.” He said the only condition for the validity of his resignation was the complete freedom of his decision.

In 2010, in the book/ interview with Peter Seewald, “Light of the World,” Benedict said at one point: “If a Pope realizes with clarity that he is no longer able, physically, psychologically and spiritually, to absolve the duties of his office, then he has the right and, in some circumstances even the obligation, to resign.”

As to his wearing white, Benedict XVI said that, at the time of his resignation, no other clothes were available so he kept the white cassock for “purely practical reasons.” He also noted that he wears it in a different way than Francis, without the sash and the cape. The Pope emeritus said questions about his attire was another example of “completely unfounded speculation.” He kept the name Benedict also “for practical reasons.”

It is known that Pope Francis and Pope emeritus Benedict have a close friendship and are in touch with each other on a very frequent basis.

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POPE TO ROMAN ROTA: “MARRIAGE REQUIRES GENEROUS UNITY, FAITHFUL LOVE” – PRIEST ACCUSED OF IMPROPER BEHAVIOR RESIGNS FROM CDF

Every year, at the start of the judicial year, the Holy Father addresses the members of the Roman Rota, one of three Vatican tribunals or courts, and his speech is always closely watched by officials of the equivalent tribunals in the dioceses of the world.

The other Vatican tribunals are the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s equivalent of a Supreme Court. The Apostolic Penitentiary (from the Latin for penance) is responsible for issues relating to Confession, to the forgiveness of sins, and has jurisdiction only over matters in the internal forum.

The name Rota – from the Latin word for wheel – seems to refer to either the circular room or enclosure where the auditors in the early years of the tribunal were assembled or the round table at which they sat to study and judge cases.

“The Rota’s main function is that of an appellate tribunal, ordinarily reviewing decisions of lower courts if the initial court (first instance) and the first appellate court (second instance) do not agree on the outcome of a case; however, any party to an initial decision before a court of the Latin Church (and also some Eastern Churches) has the right to file a second-instance appeal directly to the Rota. Dominating its caseload are petitions seeking the issuance of a decree of nullity of a marriage, although it has jurisdiction to hear any other type of judicial and non-administrative case in any area of canon law.” (from Pastor Bonus)

The word “rotation” also comes from rota, and is defined as “the passing of a privilege or responsibility to each member of a group in a regularly recurring order.”

POPE TO ROMAN ROTA: “MARRIAGE REQUIRES GENEROUS UNITY, FAITHFUL LOVE”

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Pope Francis met Tuesday with members of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, and highlighted the importance of unity and fidelity in the Sacrament of Matrimony.

“Fidelity is possible, because it is a gift, both for spouses and for priests.”

In his address on Tuesday, Pope Francis praised the virtues of unity and fidelity, which he said members of the Roman Rota frequently experience in their service. The Roman Rota tribunal is the Catholic Church’s highest court, and primarily hears cases regarding the nullity of matrimony, though its jurisdiction extends to any type of judicial and non-administrative case related to Canon Law.

Unity and fidelity

The Holy Father said the two “marital goods” of unity and fidelity first of all pertain “to the essence of the Church of Christ.” Society, he said, frequently does not help couples live these virtues.

“The society in which we live is becoming more and more secularized, and doesn’t promote growth in faith, with the result that the Catholic faithful must struggle to witness to a way of life modelled on the Gospel.”

Pope Francis said unity and fidelity are necessary, not only in a married couple’s relationship, but also in all interpersonal and societal relations. “We are all aware of the inconveniences that arise in civil society when promises are not kept,” he said.

Adequate preparation

The Church’s ministers, said the Pope, need to help prepare couples for a life of generous unity and faithful love. This preparation should be done long before marriage and as couples near their wedding date, as well as throughout their married life.

“Pastors are the main actors in this matrimonial formation, by virtue of their office and ministry,” he said, though all layers of the Church community need to be involved in preparing couples.

Saints Aquila and Priscilla

Pope Francis then turned to the example of Saints Aquila and Priscilla, a married couple who helped St. Paul in his evangelizing mission. The Apostle to the Gentiles calls them his synergoi, or fellow workers. “We are struck and moved by Paul’s high recognition of the missionary work of these spouses, and at the same time we recognize how this synergy was a precious gift of the Spirit to the first Christian communities.”

Pastoral care

The Pope also listed several ways in which the Church can help married couples live in unity and fidelity: nearness to the Word of God, catechesis, frequent reception of the Sacraments, spiritual direction, and charitable works towards other families and those most in need. Married couples who live generous unity and faithful love, said Pope Francis, are a special resource for the Church’s pastoral work. “They offer everyone an example of true love and become witnesses and co-workers in the fruitfulness of the Church itself.” This type of married couple, he said, “reflects the image and likeness of God.”

Promote spiritual health of couples

Pope Francis invited members of the Roman Rota tribunal to deliver justice with their juridical sentences. Their rulings, he said, help “to correctly interpret Marriage law” and promotes the spiritual health and faith of spouses.

PRIEST ACCUSED OF IMPROPER BEHAVIOR RESIGNS FROM CDF

By Vatican News

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, accepted the resignation of Father Hermann Geissler on Monday, 28 January.

In a press release on Tuesday, the CDF said Fr. Geissler “decided to take this step to limit the damage already done to the Congregation and to his Community.”

Fr. Geissler is a member of the Opus spiritualis Familia religious community.

Doris Wagner, a former member of the same community, has accused Fr. Geissler of improper conduct that allegedly took place in 2009.

Fr. Geissler, the communique reads, “affirms that the accusation made against him is untrue, and asks that the canonical process already initiated continue. He also reserves the right for possible civil legal action.”

A Catholic News Agency (CNA) story on the resignation gives additional background:

VATICAN CITY — An Austrian priest and theologian has resigned from his position at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), amid charges that he made sexual advances toward a woman in the confessional several years ago.
The priest maintains his innocence.

Father Hermann Geissler, 53, has been an official within the CDF since 1993, and in 2009, he became the head of the congregation’s teaching office.
A statement released Jan. 29 said that Father Geissler “affirms that the accusation made against him is untrue and asks that the canonical process already initiated continue. He also reserves the right for possible civil legal action.”

Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Holy See Press Office, confirmed to CNA that allegations against Father Geissler are being examined by the CDF, which is the Vatican office charged with reviewing allegations of this kind.

CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria accepted the priest’s resignation, which was submitted Jan. 28. The statement said Father Geissler decided to step down “to limit the damage already done to the congregation and to his community.”

Father Geissler is a prominent scholar of Blessed John Henry Newman and a member of the Familia Spiritualis Opus, informally known as “Das Werk.”

The accusations against him became public at the end of September, when a (now-former) member of Das Werk, Doris Wagner, claimed in a lengthy piece in the German newspaper Die Ziet that she had been sexually harassed in the confessional by a member of the religious community she then belonged to, identified in the article as “Hermann G.”

Wagner again spoke of the accusations last November, saying at a conference in Rome that she had received unwanted sexual advances and been “groomed” for sex by “a priest working to this day as capo ufficio at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith,” according to La Croix International.

The solicitation of a sin against the Sixth Commandment within the context of confession is considered in Church law to be a “grave delict,” or offence, for a which a priest can be dismissed from the clerical state.

VATICAN INSIDER LOOKS BACK AT THE SYNOD – POPE FRANCIS ACCEPTS CARDINAL WUERL’S RESIGNATION

Don’t miss the weekend festivities in Rome! Stay with EWTN for the canonization on Sunday of, among others, Blessed Pope Paul VI and Blessed Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, killed while celebrating Mass.

Paul VI’s tomb in the grottoes will have a new look….hope to bring those photos to you soon.

VATICAN INSIDER LOOKS BACK AT THE SYNOD

This week I feature a longer than usual news segment on Vatican Insider, focusing on the synod of bishops, and my radio colleagues are preparing a “best of” for the rest of the program. That is because I have basically been homebound for about 9 days with a very painful muscle-related back problem. The people I hoped to interview are very busy with the synod and unable to come to my office for a conversation – and I can’t get out to go to them! I have been out to go to pharmacies but therapy so far has had no effect and I actually am going to see a doctor the minute I post this. Let’s hope things improve by next week!

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 ACCEPTS CARDINAL WUERL’S RESIGNATION

Pope today accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as archbishop of Washington, asking him to remain on as Apostolic Administrator of the archdiocese. The cardinal submitted his resignation on November 12, 2015, when he turned 75 as is required by canon or Church law. The Pope did not name a successor.

What follows is from the Archdiocese of Washington. The cardinal did write a letter to the faithful of the archdiocese but that was not on the webpage as I prepared this column. The copy I was received could not copied to this text. The letter was sent to all priests and the cardinal requested that the letter be read at Masses this weekend.

Cardinal Wuerl resignation: Full text of Pope Francis’ letter
Please find the full text of Pope Francis’ letter to Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, in an unofficial translation made available on the website of the Archdiocese of Washington.

To our Venerable Brother Cardinal Donald William Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington:

On September 21st I received your request that I accept your resignation from the pastoral government of the Archdiocese of Washington.

I am aware that this request rests on two pillars that have marked and continue to mark your ministry: to seek in all things the greater glory of God and to procure the good of the people entrusted to your care. The shepherd knows that the wellbeing and the unity of the People of God are precious gifts that the Lord has implored and for which he gave his life. He paid a very high price for this unity and our mission is to take care that the people not only remain united, but become witnesses of the Gospel “That they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John17:21). This is the horizon from which we are continually invited to discern all our actions.

I recognize in your request the heart of the shepherd who, by widening his vision to recognize a greater good that can benefit the whole body (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 235), prioritizes actions that support, stimulate and make the unity and mission of the Church grow above every kind of sterile division sown by the father of lies who, trying to hurt the shepherd, wants nothing more than that the sheep be dispersed (cf. Matthew26:31).

You have sufficient elements to “justify” your actions and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with problems, and to commit some mistakes. However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you.

In this way, you make clear the intent to put God’s Project first, before any kind of personal project, including what could be considered as good for the Church. Your renunciation is a sign of your availability and docility to the Spirit who continues to act in his Church.

In accepting your resignation, I ask you to remain as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese until the appointment of your successor.

Dear brother, I make my own the words of Sirach: “You who fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not be lost” (2:8). May the Virgin Mary protect you with her mantle and may the strength of the Holy Spirit give you the grace to know how to continue to serve him in this new time that the Lord gives you.

Cardinal Wuerl’s Statement on the Holy Father’s Acceptance of his Resignation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following the news from the Vatican this morning, Cardinal Donald Wuerl has issued the following statement: “Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has accepted the resignation first offered on November 12, 2015, when I reached my 75th birthday. I am profoundly grateful for his devoted commitment to the wellbeing of the Archdiocese of Washington and also deeply touched by his gracious words of understanding.

The Holy Father’s decision to provide new leadership to the Archdiocese can allow all of the faithful, clergy, religious and lay, to focus on healing and the future. It permits this local Church to move forward. Once again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon. My resignation is one way to express my great and abiding love for you the people of the Church of Washington.”

Statement from the Auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese of Washington on the Holy Father’s Acceptance of Cardinal Wuerl’s Resignation

“We, the Auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese of Washington, wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to His Eminence, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, for the loving pastoral care and devoted service he has provided the Archdiocese of Washington for the past 12 years.

Cardinal Wuerl’s pastoral and spiritual leadership in the archdiocese is well appreciated. We are particularly grateful for his efforts on behalf of parish life, our schools, Catholic Charities and so many other indicators of the vitality of this archdiocese including Saint John Paul II Seminary which he founded and is now filled to capacity.

We believe that Cardinal Wuerl’s decision to request that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, accept the resignation he first offered years ago is a clear manifestation of his love and concern for the people of this archdiocese. As the Holy Father stated in his letter, the Cardinal’s decision shows that he has the heart of a shepherd who places the good of the Church and its needs before his own right to justify his actions. His request and the Holy Father’s response allow the Church of Washington to continue to focus on healing and the ability to move forward.

We offer our prayers and profound gratitude to His Eminence for the service and pastoral care that he has faithfully given to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of this local Church. We accompany him with our love and support during this time of transition.”

Most Reverend Mario E. Dorsonville
Most Reverend Roy E. Campbell Jr.
Most Reverend Michael W. Fisher

Statement on the Retirement of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as Archbishop of Washington by Kim Viti Fiorentino Chancellor and General Counsel of the Archdiocese of Washington

The news that our Holy Father has accepted Cardinal Wuerl’s resignation as Archbishop of Washington fills me with both profound sadness and, at the same time, deep appreciation and admiration for the Cardinal’s abundant, sacrificial love for our archdiocese which he has tirelessly served for the past twelve years.

Cardinal Wuerl’s decision to ask the Holy Father to allow him to retire came after prayer and reflection, in view of the news we have all confronted. This includes the Archbishop McCarrick scandal, the Archbishop Viganò allegations and particularly the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. This report targeted six dioceses in Pennsylvania and touched upon the Cardinal’s tenure as Bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988-2006 before he became our Archbishop. Unfortunately, the Cardinal’s pioneering leadership in the enhancement, implementation and enforcement of historically innovative and rigorous child protection policies was overshadowed by the report’s flaws and its interpretation by media.

Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the impact these realities have had upon the Archdiocese. As the Holy Father reflects in his letter, although he would have been justified to move forward with challenging many of the assertions that have been lodged against him, Cardinal Wuerl decided to forgo his personal interest out of love for the people entrusted to his care. He chose to take the step that would allow the Archdiocese of Washington to move beyond these difficulties and to focus, under new leadership, on healing, renewing and revitalizing our beautiful archdiocesan community, that is the Church of Washington.

We have been profoundly blessed to have this great priest as our archbishop and his final decision to act in favor of the people he loved and served for twelve years is the most eloquent witness to the integrity of his ministry and his legacy. I am truly thankful for his steadfast fidelity and his courageous and sacrificial commitment to the future of the Church in Washington.

Statement from Moderator of the Curia Archdiocese of Washington What is An Apostolic Administrator?

Today Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Donald Wuerl as Apostolic Administrator for the Archdiocese of Washington. In this capacity, he serves as the caretaker for the Archdiocese in this time of transition. The appointment of the retiring archbishop in this capacity has occurred before in the Archdiocese of Washington.

The Administrator’s role is to keep things working normally and to preserve things insofar as is possible until the new Archbishop takes over. As a caretaker, he does not make significant changes or decisions that might affect the incoming Archbishop. The principle involved is “sede vacante nihil innovetur,” or, “When the see is vacant, let there be no innovations.”

POPE FRANCIS ON “STEPPING DOWN”: WHAT DID HE SAY? WHAT DID HE MEAN?

POPE FRANCIS ON “STEPPING DOWN”: WHAT DID HE SAY? WHAT DID HE MEAN?

A Vatican media report on Pope Francis’ homily at his Tuesday morning Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence ended with his words about “stepping down” from the ministry of Bishop of Rome, aka the Petrine ministry. (vaticanmedia photo)

As was noted, Pope Francis focused his reflections on the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles where Paul, “compelled by the Holy Spirit,” takes his leave from the Church Elders at Ephesus to go to Jerusalem. “It’s a decisive move,” said Francis, “a move that reaches the heart, it’s also a move that shows us the pathway for every bishop when it’ time to take his leave and step down.”

Pope Francis, summarized the report, noted how the Apostle made an examination of his conscience, telling the Elders what he had done for the community and leaving them to judge his work. Paul seemed “a bit proud,” said the Pope, but in actual fact “he is objective.” He only boasts about two things: “his own sins and the Cross of Jesus Christ which saved him.”

Describing how Paul feels “compelled by the Holy Spirit” to go to Jerusalem, Pope Francis said: “This experience by the bishop, the bishop who can discern the Spirit, who can discern when it is the Spirit of God speaking to him and who knows how to defend himself when spoken to by the spirit of the world.”

Turning to Paul’s farewell words, Pope Francis noted how Paul takes his leave amidst the pain of those present by giving them advice in a testament that is not a worldly testament “about leaving belongings to this person or that person.”

Paul’s great love, said the Pope, “is Jesus Christ. His second love is for his flock. Take care of each other and of the entire flock. Keep watch over the flock: you are bishops for your flock, to take care of it and not in order to advance your ecclesiastical career.”

The Holy Father, noting how Paul entrusted the Elders to God, knowing that He will take care of them, stressed that the Apostle spoke of having no desire to have any money or gold for himself. He described Paul’s testament as “a witness, as well as an announcement and a challenge.” Paul had nothing to leave to others, “only the grace of God, his apostolic courage, Jesus Christ’s revelation and the salvation that Our Lord had granted him.”

Then the words that have everyone asking: What did Pope Francis mean?

“When I read this, I think about myself, because I am a bishop and I must take my leave and step down. I ask the Lord for the grace to be able to take my leave like this. And in my examination of conscience I will not emerge victorious as Paul who … But the Lord is good, he is merciful, but … I think of the bishops, of all the bishops. May the Lord give grace to all of us to be able to take our leave this way, with this spirit, with this strength, with this love of Jesus Christ, with this trust in the Holy Spirit.”

End of homily, start of commentary:

Often in his five-year papacy, Francis has spoken about having “a brief pontificate” without ever explaining those words. Did he have a health problem none of us knew about? Did he wish to reform the Roman Curia – a hot topic during the pre-conclave meetings of cardinals in March 2013 – and then step down, hoping to do so in a couple of years? Was he starting to feel his 81 years? Did he simply choose a length of time he would be Pope – say 5 or 6 years – and not tell anyone?

The Pope was never clear about why he thought his papacy would be “brief.”

If you look at his words at Tuesday’s Mass, it seems like a pretty factual statement: “When I read this, I think about myself, because I am a bishop and I must take my leave and step down.”

To explain a legal point: Residential bishops and archbishops (be they cardinals or not) are required by Church law to step down from their ministry at age 75. Their letter of resignation to the Holy Father almost always bears the date of their 75th birthday. Such resignations are not always accepted immediately. If the prelate in question is active, vibrant, in good health, is still an effective, passionate leader, he may be asked to stay on – or he stays on until the Pope officially accepts his resignation. The Pope – who is the bishop of Rome – has always been the exception to that rule.

Back to the papal statement: Note that he did not say “I am a bishop and I must eventually take my leave and step down.” He said, “…..I must take my leave and step down.”

Once again, a papal statement leaves us mystified, yearning for clarity, wanting an answer.

Personally, I cannot believe Pope Francis would step down at the same time there is another Pope emeritus.

I am fairly sure that everyone in the media, and those of you reading this column and other reports, will be watching every word that Francis utters from now on about a “brief papacy” or “stepping down” or his future plans. He does have a fair amount of future plans, by the way: his June 21 trip to Geneva for the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches, the August World meeting of Families in Dublin, the October synod on youth and vocations, the 2019 World Youth Day in Panama, to name but a few.

And guess what question visiting bishops and cardinals will be asking the Pope!

PS: Were any of his words a sign to some of Chile’s bishops – whom he met Tuesday afternoon –  that they should think of “stepping down”?

BISHOP FOLEY, KEEN INTELLECT, PASTORAL SENSITIVITY, POWERFUL PREACHING – VATICAN REPORTEDLY REJECTS GERMAN BISHOPS’ PROPOSAL FOR INTERCOMMUNION OF SPOUSES – “BENEDICT XVI: IN HONOR OF TRUTH” :WHY HE REALLY RESIGNED

The unrelenting pace I have kept since March 29 when I flew to New York finally caught up with me, as it always does. I had a dinner party Monday night for Michael Warsaw of EWTN, the latest on a merry-go-round of events, invitations, hosting friends, attending meetings, researching, writing, editing and trying to memorize and then filming new episodes of Joan’s Rome videos, etc. etc.

Michael is in town for the annual three-day communications conference hosted by the Pontifical University of Holy Cross as EWTN this year is the principal sponsor of the event. I was there this morning for Michael’s talk entitled “Religious Information in a ‘fake news’ Society.”

I felt a cold coming on Monday, found the strength to continue activities and appointments but it hit me with a bang yesterday, the morning I was to do the commentary for the Pope’s weekly general audience. I asked the Holy Sprit to be with me for at least an hour and to make sure I could stop sneezing and coughing so that I could actually speak and do the commentary. I spoke to the right person and for an hour was fine (although there were microphone issues in Alabama for a short period of time). In any event, I came home, everything hit me and I spent the rest of the day in bed, except for my usual Wednesday appearance on Catholic Connection, Teresa Tomeo’s radio show.

I wanted to be in fine fettle for Michael’s talk today and a parish council meeting this evening, then dinner with priest friends from Chicago.

I was sorry to hear of Bishop Foley’s death but knew he had been suffering. Even more than that, he was totally ready to meet the Lord. Below is Michael Warsaw’s message.

On the other hand, I was delighted to hear what seems to be good news from the CDF – Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

And I was truly delighted to hear of the documentary about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that explains “the truth about his resignation.” It is the same truth, the same story I have been telling people since the day Benedict resigned on February 11, 2013. I have written about it and have talked about the “real reason” on TV and radio. In fact, my first TV appearance on February 11, 2013 was with Shep Smith on FoxNews: “So, Joan, tell us why Pope Benedict really resigned.” My answer – and a bit more – could have been summed up in the piece you’ll read below.

BISHOP FOLEY, KEEN INTELLECT, PASTORAL SENSITIVITY, POWERFUL PREACHING

Michael Warsaw, CEO of EWTN network, issued the following statement on the death Tuesday night of Bishop emeritus Foley of Birmingham, AL:

“All of us at EWTN are saddened by the death of The Most Reverend David Foley who served the Diocese of Birmingham as Bishop for over a decade. I had the privilege of first knowing Bishop Foley thirty years ago when he was a pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington. Throughout his life and wherever his service to the Church took him, he was always known for his keen intellect, pastoral sensitivity and powerful preaching.

During his time as Bishop of Birmingham, he served as a member of the EWTN Board of Governors. He also took great joy in hosting “Pillars of Faith”, a weekly live call-in television program that examined the Catechism of the Catholic Church from cover to cover.

Despite their occasional disagreements, when Mother Angelica suffered her stroke and brain hemorrhage in 2001, Bishop Foley was one of the first to be at her bedside and he remained a frequent visitor to pray for her. He never waivered in his respect for all that Mother had accomplished and was always supportive of the Network she founded.

May God reward him for his life of service to the church, and may he rest in peace.”

VATICAN REPORTEDLY REJECTS GERMAN BISHOPS’ PROPOSAL FOR INTERCOMMUNION OF SPOUSES

(CNA/EWTN News).- The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reportedly rejected a planned proposal by the German bishops’ conference to publish guidelines permitting non-Catholic spouses of Catholics to receive the Eucharist in some limited circumstances.

Austrian news site kath.net has reported that Vatican sources say the CDF, with papal approval, has suspended the German bishops’ proposal, and sources close to the congregation have confirmed this to CNA.

It is not clear whether the Vatican has asked the bishops’ conference to modify the contents of the draft guidelines, whether they have suspended the development of a draft while the matter is considered further, or whether it has been entirely rejected.

In February, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising announced that the German bishops’ conference would publish a pastoral handout for married couples that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics “in individual cases” and “under certain conditions” to receive Holy Communion, provided they “affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist”.

The announcement was made “after intensive debate” at the conclusion of the general assembly of the German bishops’ conference, which was held Feb. 19 – 22 in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt, and attended by 62 members of the bishops’ conference under the leadership of conference chairman Cardinal Marx.

Last month, seven German bishops sent a letter to the CDF and to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity asking for clarification on the matter. The signatories did not consult beforehand with Cardinal Marx.

The seven bishops asked whether the question of Holy Communion for Protestant spouses in interdenominational marriages can be decided on the level of a national bishops’ conference, or if rather, “a decision of the Universal Church” is required in the matter.

The letter was signed by Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne, Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg, Bishop Gregor Hanke of Eichstätt, Bishop Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg, Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, and Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz.

“From the view of the signatories, the goal in a question of such centrality to the Faith and the unity of the Church must be to avoid separate national paths and arrive at a globally unified, workable solution by way of an ecumenical dialogue,” the Archdiocese of Cologne told CNA Deutsch April 4.

The Code of Canon Law already provides that in the danger of death or if “some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

“BENEDICT XVI: IN HONOR OF TRUTH” – WHY HE REALLY RESIGNED

His closest collaborators deny that the cause was the leaking of documents to the press or the issue of sexual abuse (From a story on Aleteia by Sylvia Costantini)

It was February 11, 2013, when Benedict XVI communicated to the world his decision to resign from the exercise of the papal ministry. This historic event has left many open questions.

Five years later, on the occasion of the Pope Emeritus’ 91st birthday, a documentary has been presented in the Vatican, called “Benedict XVI: in Honor of Truth,” precisely in order to clarify the reasons for that decision.

Some of the people closest to Joseph Ratzinger relive that moment—including his brother, Georg; Fr. Federico Lombardi, former spokesman of the Holy See; and the Prefect of the Papal Household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who was his personal secretary for years.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna and one of the theological disciples of Professor Joseph Ratzinger, is visibly moved when he shares some of his memories.

Cardinal Schönborn, remembering the Pope’s deceased sister, Maria, who was particularly beloved by the Pope Emeritus, reveals: “The day after the conclave [in which he was elected Pope], when he entered the Casa Santa Marta for breakfast, in the morning, dressed in white… —our beloved professor, our friend, yes, dressed in white…—he greeted each one of us personally, and I said to him, ‘Holy Father, yesterday, during your election, I thought about your sister, Maria, and I asked myself if she had said to the Lord, “take my life, but leave my brother here.”‘ And he answered me, ‘I think so.’”

One decisive moment of the documentary helps us to understand Ratzinger’s decision to retire. It is explained by Stephan Horn, who had been his assistant at the University of Regensburg, and is his disciple and friend: “The doctor had told him he wouldn’t be able to travel to Brazil to participate in the World Youth Day. So, he decided to resign before the event.”

Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, describes the impressive responsibility proper to a Pope, and the daily marathon of commitments, both public and private, that characterize it (liturgical ceremonies, journeys, long meetings, audiences…). Pope Ratzinger would not have been able to face such exertion, with his inexorable natural loss of strength due to age. According to the Jesuit priest, it is clear that this was the true motive for Benedict’s resignation.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein categorically denies that the motive for Pope Benedict’s resignation was the leak to the press by his butler (the famous “Vatileaks”), a betrayal which caused his heart profound suffering, or the burden of having to face the crisis caused by sexual abuse by Church representatives.

The documentary, which is 48 minutes long, was produced by the Rome Reports television agency, in collaboration with the Italian episcopate’s television channel, TV2000, and the Joseph Ratzinger Foundation of the Vatican, thanks to the patronage of the Doctor Ramón Tallaj Foundation.
During the presentation of the documentary at the Vatican Film Library in the presence of Archbishop Gänswein, Dr. Ramón Tallaj—president of SOMOS, a network of doctors in the New York area particularly committed to humanitarian causes—emphasized the continuity between the pontificate of Pope Benedict and that of Pope Francis, at the service of the Church and of humanity.

Gänswein confirmed that Pope Benedict retains all his intellectual lucidity, and acknowledged the gradual loss of his physical strength. He underlined the peacefulness of the Pope Emeritus’ life in retirement, spent with the small community of the monastery where he lives in the Vatican.

The documentary “Benedict XVI: In Honor of Truth” was produced in English, Spanish, and Italian, and will now be distributed around the world.

POPE ACCEPTS RESIGNATION OF PREFECT OF COMMUNICATIONS SECRETARIAT

POPE ACCEPTS RESIGNATION OF PREFECT OF COMMUNICATIONS SECRETARIAT

Following are my translations of Msgr. Vigano’s letter to Pope Francis in which he offers his resignation as prefect of the SPC, Secretariat for Communications, and the Holy Father’s letter in which he accepts that resignation but names Msgr. Vigano as assessor to the dicastery.

Vatican City, March 19, 2018

Holy Father,

In these last days there have been many polemics concerning a deed of mine that, beyond its intentions, has destabilized the complex and great work of reform that you entrusted to me in June 2015, work that, thanks to the contribution of many people, starting with the staff, is about to reach its final destination.

I thank you for the firm and paternal accompaniment that you have generously offered me over this time and for the renewed esteem you wished to show me in our most recent meeting.

In respect, however, for those who worked with me in these years, and to avoid having my person in some way delay, damage or even block what was established by the Motu proprio L’attuale contesto comunicativo of June 27, 2015 and, above all, out of love for the Church and for you, Holy Father, I ask you to receive my wish to step aside, if you wish it, and to be available to collaborate in some other way.

On the occasion of Christmas wishes to the Roman Curia in 2016, you reminded us how “the reform will be efficacious only if it takes place with ‘renewed’ people, not simply with ‘new’ people. It’s not enough to be content with changing personnel but rather leading the members of the Curia to be renewed spiritually, humanly and professionally. The reform of the Curia does not take place just by changing persons – that without a doubt is happening and will happen – but with inner conversion of people.

I believe that “stepping aside” can be for me a rich occasion for renewal or, recalling the encounter of Jesus with Nicodemus, a time in which to learn and “to be reborn from on high.” After all, it is not the Church of roles that you taught us to love and live, but rather that of service, a style I have always sought to live.

Holy Father, I thank you if you will except this desire of mine to step aside so that the Church and her path can be resumed with decision guided by the Spirit of God.

Asking you for your blessing I assure you of prayers for your ministry and for the path of the reform that has been undertaken.

DarioVigano
************

Vatican City, March 21, 2018

Most Reverend Monsignor,

Following our recent encounter and, after having reflected and pondered at length the reasons for your request to take a step back in direct responsibilities of the dicastery for communications, I respect your decision and accept, but not without difficulty, your resignation as prefect.

I ask you, however, to remain at the dicastery, and I appoint you assessor for Dicastery for Communications to be able to give your human and professional contribution to the new prefect in the project of reform desired by the Council of Cardinals approved and regularly shared by me. This reform has almost reached its conclusive stage with the imminent merger of L’Osservatore Romano newspaper within the one communications system of the Holy See and the consolidation of the Vatican Printing Office.

The great commitment shown in these years in the new dicastery with the style of willing and docile debate that was shown among collaborators and with the organisms of the Roman Curia made evident how the reform of the Church is not above all a problem of an organizational chart but rather assuming a spirit of service.

While I thank you for your humility and your deep sensus ecclesia, I willingly bless you and entrust you to Mary.

Franciscus