POPE FRANCIS AND ROMAN CURIA START ANNUAL RETREAT – POPE PIUS XI INITIATED RETREATS FOR ROMAN CURIA

If you noticed that VIS, the Vatican Information Service was missing from news.va as of March 1, but you still want to follow Vatican and papal events in English, all you need to do is go here each day for English: http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html

I have heard from a lot of people how much they already miss VIS, and they are wondering what the Secretariat for Communications is up to! You have no idea how many readers, followers and fans of news.va – both inside but especially outside the Vatican – are concerned the Secretariat might dismantle news.va!! Not to mention the future of Vatican Radio!!

POPE FRANCIS AND ROMAN CURIA START ANNUAL RETREAT

Pope Francis and ranking members of the Roman Curia departed the Vatican Sunday afternoon for Ariccia where they will spend the next five days on retreat. The spiritual exercises usually start on the Sunday following Ash Wednesday but this year they were postponed because Pope Francis had travelled to Mexico. The retreat ends mid-morning on Friday.

A small van and larger busses brought the Pope and prelates to Ariccia Sunday afternoon. (photo: Reuters on news.va)

CURIA RETREAT

The Sunday schedule included Eucharistic adoration at 6 pm, vespers at 6:45 and dinner at 7:30.

The schedule for successive days is as follows:

  • –         7.30 am, lauds and a brief reflection
  • –         8.00 am, breakfast
  • –         9.30 am, first meditation
  • –         11.30 am, Eucharistic concelebration
  • –         12.30 lunch
  • –         4 pm, second meditation
  • –         6 pm, Eucharistic adoration
  • –         6.45 pm, vespers
  • –         7.30 pm, dinner

Fr. Ermes Ronchi of the Servants of Mary is the retreat master and will preach on 10 questions from the Gospels.

  1. “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38)
  2.  “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)
  3.  “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?”   (Matthew 5:13)
  4.  “But who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20)
  5. “Then, turning to the woman, he told Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?’” (Luke 7:44)
  6. “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 6:38, Matthew 15:34)
  7. “Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’” (John 8:10)
  8. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” (John 20:15)
  9. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:16)
  10. “Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be?’” (Luke 1:34).

During the retreat the Holy Father will have no public meetings or audiences, including no Wednesday general audience.

Ariccia, a 20-mile drive south of Rome, is home to the Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House), run by the Pauline Fathers.

Click here to see where the Holy Father and other guests are staying (be sure to click on ‘Places and Surroundings” for some lovely additional photos): http://www.casadivinmaestro.it/www/aaa_intestazioni/intestazione.asp?LANGUAGE=ENG

POPE PIUS XI INITIATED RETREATS FOR ROMAN CURIA

Some years ago, when I was working for the Holy See at the Vatican Information Service, I wrote a piece on the history of papal retreats. Because there was generally little if any news during such a retreat, given that Pope does not hold audiences in this period and the heads of Roman Curia offices are also involved in the retreat, we had to find something for our readers so I researched the history of papal retreats.

Annual retreats for the Pope and Roman Curia trace their origins to Pope Pius XI who, on December 20, 1929 marked the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination by publishing the Encyclical “‘Mens nostra,’ On The Promotion of Spiritual Exercises” which he addressed to “Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and Other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.”

1924, Vatican City, Rome, Italy --- In 1932, Pope Pius XI commissioned the building of a Vatican gallery which holds the Pinacoteca, a collection of Italian religious paintings as well as Byzantine and Russian works. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

 Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

In that encyclical, the Pope informed the faithful that he had arranged to hold spiritual exercises every year in the Vatican, a custom still practiced by the Holy Father and ranking members of the Roman Curia. In the early years this retreat was held during the first week in Advent but now takes place in the first full week of Lent. Cardinal Achille Ratti, archbishop of Milan, was elected to the papacy on February 6, 1922, and took the name of Pius XI. He died on February 10, 1939.

On January 6, 1929 feast of the Epiphany, Pius XI declared a Jubilee Year to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of his ordination and asked the faithful to “share in the joy of their common father and to join with us in rendering thanks to the Supreme Giver of all good.” At the end of that year, in the Encyclical “Mens nostra,” he looked back at the “many and rich fruits” of the Jubilee and wrote that, as a way to “express our heartfelt gratitude, … we have deemed it fitting … to establish something most excellent which will, we trust, prove a source of many advantages to the Christian people. We are speaking of the practice of Spiritual Exercises, which we earnestly desire to see daily extended more widely, not only among the clergy, both secular and regular, but also among the multitudes of the Catholic laity.”

Pius XI then wrote at length on the history of “Sacred Retreats,” citing the words on this subject of his predecessors, of Doctors of the Church and founders of religious orders such as Don Bosco of the Salesians and, most especially of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, “whom we are pleased to call the chief and peculiar Master of Spiritual Exercises.”

The Pope in fact, on July 22, 1922 had “declared and constituted St. Ignatius of Loyola the heavenly Patron of all Spiritual Exercises and, therefore, of institutes, sodalities and bodies of every kind assisting those who are making the Spiritual Exercises.”

He underscored the “joy and consolation” he found in Spiritual Exercises and he announced: “And in order that we may secure this joy and consolation, both for ourselves and for others who are near us, We have already made arrangements for holding the Spiritual Exercises every year in the Vatican.” While highlighting the value of retreats, he admonished: “Nor should the priests of the Clergy, secular and regular, think that the time spent on the Spiritual Exercises tends to the detriment of the apostolic ministry.”

In 2014, the spiritual exercises for Pope Francis and members of the Curia marked the first time that they were held outside Vatican City, specifically in Ariccia, not far from Rome, in a religious house.

 

THE CHURCH MARKS THE FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF PETER – BE MODELS OF MERCY IN DAILY LIFE, EXHORTS POPE FRANCIS

As I note below, today the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of Peter and, on the occasion of their namesake’s feast day, I send special wishes and many prayers to my new friends of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter, based in Houston, Texas. Special wishes go to the new bishop of the Ordinariate, my friend, Bishop Steven Lopes.

THE CHURCH MARKS THE FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF PETER

February 22 is the feast of the Chair of Peter and great honor is paid to the first Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica on this day every year.

As happened in the Holy Year of 2000, today the employees of the Vatican and Roman Curia celebrated the Jubilee of the Roman Curia with Pope Francis, first by attending a meditation on “Mercy in our everyday life” in the Paul VI Hall followed by Mass in the basilica. After the meditation, everyone, including the Holy Father, walked in procession to and then through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica. (photo: L’Osservatore Romano)

ROMAN CURIA JUBILEE

The special feast of the “cathedra” or Chair of St. Peter dates to the fourth century and honors and celebrates the primacy and authority of St. Peter. The word “cathedra” means seat or throne and is the root of the word cathedral, the church where a bishop has his seat from which he preaches and teaches.

A mixture of tradition, legend and belief held for many years that this was actually a double chair, parts of which dated back to the early days of Christianity and to St. Peter himself. This chair or cathedra has been studied over the centuries and the last time it was removed from its niche in the Bernini altar was a six-year period from 1968 to 1974 where studies pointed to a single chair whose oldest parts date to the sixth century. What appeared to be an outer or second chair was a covering that served both to protect the throne and to carry it in procession. (Photos: JFL)

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The Chair of St. Peter is actually a throne that Charles the Bald, the grandson of the Emperor Charlemagne, gave to Pope John VIII at the former’s coronation as emperor on Christmas Day 875. For many years the chair was used at liturgical events by Pope John and his successors: it was ensconced in Bernini’s Altar of the Chair in 1666.

The ceiling above the Altar of the Chair:

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Bernini’s masterful Altar of the Cathedra was executed between 1658 and 1666. A bronze throne, which encases the Chair of Peter, dominates the apse, above the marble altar. It is supported by four statues of bishops: two Fathers of the Latin Church, Sts. Ambrose and Augustine, and two from the Greek Church, Sts. Athanasius and John Chrysostom.

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Above them, in the midst of gilt clouds, flights of angels and rays of sun is the Holy Spirit, illuminated by a stained glass window.

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Notwithstanding its appearance of lightness and harmony, records show that more than 120 tons of bronze were used for this breathtaking monument. This altar is today still used for numerous liturgical celebrations.

The statue of St. Peter seen daily by pilgrims:

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What is so special about this feast day is that the Altar of the Chair is aglow for this one day a year with scores and scores of candles.

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In addition, this is one of two days every year when the statue of a seated St. Peter, on the right side of the main aisle, is robed in ecclesiastical finery, including papal vestments, the triple tiara and a papal ring. The other day you may see St. Peter robes in this manner is June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, patrons of Rome.

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BE MODELS OF MERCY IN DAILY LIFE, EXHORTS POPE FRANCIS

Pope Francis on Monday celebrated a Jubilee for the Roman Curia, the Governorate, and the Institutions attached to the Holy See, as part of the Holy Year of Mercy. The event took place on the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, which has the rank of “Solemnity” in the Vatican Basilica.

In his homily, Pope Francis has told members of the Curia to tend to their flocks with generosity and mercy and has urged them to become a ‘model’ for all. “Pastors are first of all required to have God himself who takes care of his flock as a model.”

He reminded them that God goes in search of the lost sheep, re-conducts them to the fold, cares for the wounded and heals the sick ones.     “This kind of behavior is the sign of love that knows no boundaries. It is faithful, constant, unconditional dedication, so that even the weakest may be reached by His mercy” he said.

And Pope Francis also urged those present to cultivate and practice a strong pastoral attitude within all Vatican work environments, “especially towards the people we meet every day”.“May no one – he said – feel neglected or mistreated, may everyone experience the loving care of the Good Shepherd”.

“At this time, the Lord Jesus addresses a question to every one of us: ‘But who do you say that I am?’. A clear and direct question, from which it is not possible to escape or remain neutral, nor is it possible to postpone the answer or delegate it to someone else. But there is nothing inquisitional about this; instead, it is full of love!”

“Let us,” said Pope Francis, “make Peter’s words our own: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’. May our thought and our gaze be fixed on Jesus Christ, the beginning and end of every action of the Church. He is the foundation and no-one may lay another. He is the ‘stone’ on which we must build. St. Augustine recalls this with expressive words when he writes that the Church, although agitated and disturbed by the upheavals of history, does not fall down, because she is built on stone, from which Peter’s name is derived. It is not the stone that derives its name from Peter, but Peter from the stone, just as it is not the name Christ that derives from Christian, but Christian from Christ. The stone is Christ, the foundation on which Peter too was built.”

“In the Sacred Scripture,” explained the Holy Father, “faithfulness and mercy are inseparable. Where there is one there is the other, and it is precisely in their reciprocal nature and complementarity that we can see the very presence of the Good Shepherd. The faithfulness that is required of us is that of acting in accordance with Christ’s heart. As we have heard in the words of the apostle Peter, we must tend to our flock with a generous heart and become a model for all. In this way, ‘when the Chief Shepherd appears’, we will be able to receive ‘the crown of glory that will never fade away’.” (Vatican Radio, VIS)

 

POPE FRANCIS AND THE 12 VIRTUES OF CHRISTMAS – “TAKE CARE OF YOUR MARRIAGE AND YOUR CHILDREN!”

This past weekend was one of the most remarkable of my entire life as I became a Dama, a Lady of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

Friday at St. Mary Major Basilica, I joined seven women and 37 men who would be received into the Order the following day right before Mass at St. John Lateran. On Friday there was a prayer vigil and the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Liturgy of the Word, a reading by all of us, future Ladies and Knights, of promises to the Order and the blessings of our capes and decorations.

Saturday, at St. John Lateran, the actual rite of investiture took place during which we received our decorations, had our capes placed on our shoulders and the women had their veils placed on their head.

Every moment of each day was extraordinary. By the end of Mass Saturday I truly felt like I had just taken religious vows and, in a way, that is what happens when you are received into this Order. The Order of the Holy Sepulchre and the Order of Malta are the only two chivalric Orders under the protection of the Holy See. Women in the Order of the Holy Sepulchre are called “Ladies,” whereas in Malta they are called Dames.

EWTN covered the entire ceremony Saturday and one of my colleagues took some photos afterwards. The Vatican’s photographer from the L’Osservatore Romano was the official photographer for each ceremony but those photos are not yet ready. When they are ready, I will post a few and give a more detailed explanation of both the ceremonies and what my mind and heart felt those days.

Here are a few photos from my CNA colleague:

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Today was an important day for the communications offices of the Holy See and a big day for the Number One communicator, Pope Francis!

The Vatican published some nominations over the weekend, two of which are especially important for English-speaking personnel of the Roman Curia: Bishop-elect Paul Tighe and Greg Burke. The third nomination was a promotion of an Italian within the CTV, The Vatican television Center:

Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, was named adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture and elevated to the dignity of bishop. Gregory Burke, currently communications adviser at the Secretariat of State, was appointed deputy director of the Holy See Press Office, effective February 1, 2016. and Stefano D’Agostini, Italy, technical head of the Vatican Television (CTV), as director of the CTV. (Here’s a great story from L’Osservatore Romano about Greg: http://www.news.va/en/news/five-days-to-say-yes).

As for Pope Francis, he delivered a lengthy address this morning during his annual exchange of Christmas wishes with ranking officials of the Roman Curia and then, in the Paul VI Hall, welcomed employees of the Roman Curia and Vatican City, along with family members.

POPE FRANCIS’ AND THE 12 VIRTUES OF CHRISTMAS

Pope Francis greeted the ranking members of the Roman Curia in the Clementine Hall this morning before delivering his annual Christmas remarks and asked them to forgive him for sitting down to speak: “I am not feeling that well, I think I have a touch of the flu,” he said.

In reality, Francis gave no sign of feeling poorly, speaking with feeling and with gestures. And after his talk he went around the room to individually greet the assembled prelates.

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Following are some of the highlights of that Christmas talk:

The Pope began by saying, “I am pleased to offer heartfelt good wishes for a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year to you and your co-workers, to the Papal Representatives, and in particular to those who in the past year have completed their service and retired.

He noted that in his 2013 talk, “I wanted to stress two important and inseparable aspects of the work of the Curia: professionalism and service. Last year, as a preparation for the sacrament of Reconciliation, we spoke of certain temptations or “maladies” – the “catalogue of curial diseases” – which could affect any Christian, curia, community, congregation, parish or ecclesial movement.”

Francis said, “Some of these diseases became evident in the course of the past year, causing no small pain to the entire body and harming many soul,” an allusion to the Vatileaks 2 scandal.

The Pope stated, vis-à-vis-the Curia, that, “the reform will move forward with determination, clarity and firm resolve, since Ecclesia semper reformanda.

“Nonetheless,” he went on, “diseases and even scandals cannot obscure the efficiency of the services rendered to the Pope and to the entire Church by the Roman Curia, with great effort, responsibility, commitment and dedication, and this is a real source of consolation.”

“It would be a grave injustice not to express heartfelt gratitude and needed encouragement to all those good and honest men and women in the Curia who work with dedication, devotion, fidelity and professionalism, offering to the Church and the Successor of Peter the assurance of their solidarity and obedience, as well as their constant prayers.”

Pope Francis highlighted the need “to return to the essentials, which means being ever more conscious of ourselves, of God and our neighbours, of the sensus Ecclesiae and the sensus fidei.  It is about this return to essentials that I wish to speak today, just a few days after the Church’s inauguration of the pilgrimage of the Holy Year of Mercy.”

The Pope said he wanted “to present a practical aid for fruitfully experiencing this season of grace.  It is by no means an exhaustive catalogue of needed virtues for those who serve in the Curia and for all those who would like to make their consecration or service to the Church more fruitful.” Francis said he hoped the following list of 12 virtues would “serve as our guide and beacon.” (I have abbreviated his remarks on each virtue)

1.        Missionary and pastoral spirit: missionary spirit is what makes the Curia evidently fertile and fruitful; it is proof of the effectiveness, efficiency and authenticity of our activity.

2.        Idoneity and sagacity: idoneity, or suitability, entails personal effort aimed at acquiring the necessary requisites for exercising as best we can our tasks and duties with intelligence and insight.  It does not countenance “recommendations” and payoffs.  Sagacity is the readiness to grasp and confront situations with shrewdness and creativity.”

3.        Spirituality and humanity: spirituality is the backbone of all service in the Church and in the Christian life.  It is what nourishes all our activity, sustaining and protecting it from human frailty and daily temptation.  Humanity is what embodies the truthfulness of our faith; those who renounce their humanity renounce everything.”

4.        Example and fidelity: Blessed Paul VI reminded the Curia of “its calling to set an example.” An example of avoiding scandals which harm souls and impair the credibility of our witness.  Fidelity to our consecration, to our vocation, always mindful of the words of Christ, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much;”

5.        Rationality and gentleness: rationality helps avoid emotional excesses, while gentleness helps avoid an excess of bureaucracy, programmes and planning. These qualities are necessary for a balanced personality.”

6.        Innocuousness and determination: innocuousness makes us cautious in our judgments and capable of refraining from impulsive and hasty actions.  It is the ability to bring out the best in ourselves, in others and in all kinds of situations by acting carefully and attentively. … Determination is acting with a resolute will, clear vision, obedience to God and solely for the supreme law of the salus animarum.”

7.        Charity and truth: two inseparable virtues of the Christian life, “speaking the truth in charity and practising charity in truth.”

8.        Honesty and maturity: honesty is rectitude, consistency and absolute sincerity with regard both to ourselves and to God. … Maturity is the quest to achieve balance and harmony in our physical, mental and spiritual gifts.  It is the goal and outcome of a never-ending process of development which has nothing to do with age.”

9.        Respectfulness and humility: respectfulness is an endowment of those noble and tactful souls who always try to show genuine respect for others, for their own work, for their superiors and subordinates, for dossiers and papers, for confidentiality and privacy, who can listen carefully and speak politely. Humility is the virtue of the saints and those godly persons who become all the more important as they come to realize that they are nothing, and can do nothing, apart from God’s grace.

10.    Diligence and attentiveness: the more we trust in God and His providence, the more we grow in diligence and readiness to give of ourselves, in the knowledge that the more we give the more we receive. ,.. Attentiveness is concern for the little things, for doing our best and never yielding to our vices and failings.”

11.    Intrepidness and alertness: being intrepid means fearlessness in the face of troubles, like Daniel in the den of lions, or David before Goliath. … Alertness, on the other hand, is the ability to act freely and easily, without being attached to fleeting material things.”

12.    Trustworthiness and sobriety: trustworthy persons are those who honour their commitments with seriousness and responsibility when they are being observed, but above all when they are alone; … Sobriety is prudence, simplicity, straightforwardness, balance and temperance.  Sobriety is seeing the world through God’s eyes and from the side of the poor.”.

“And so,” concluded Pope Francis, “may mercy guide our steps, inspire our reforms and enlighten our decisions.  May it be the basis of all our efforts.  May it teach us when to move forward and when to step back.  May it also enable us to understand the littleness of all that we do in God’s greater plan of salvation and his majestic and mysterious working.”

“TAKE CARE OF YOUR MARRIAGE AND YOUR CHILDREN!”

(VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall Pope Francis exchanged Christmas greetings with the employees of the Holy See and Vatican City State, and their families.

Francis thanked all present for their work and for their efforts in doing all things well, even when there is no recognition. He addressed in particular those who have carried out the same type of work for many years, acknowledging that routine is not always easy to accept because “we are not machines … At times we need an incentive, or to change a little. … Thank you! Let us continue to go ahead, in our various workplaces, collaborating with patience and endeavouring to help each other.”

The Holy Father also apologized for the scandals that have taken place in the Vatican. “But I would like my and your attitude, especially in these days, to be that of prayer: praying for those involved so that they may repent and return to a righteous path.”

“There is another thing I wish to say to you, possibly the most important: I encourage you to take care of your marriage and your children. Look after them, do not neglect them. Marriage is like a plant. It is not like a cupboard that you put in a room and perhaps dust every now and then. A plant is living and must be cared for every day. … Marriage is a living reality: the life of a couple must never be taken for granted, in any phase during the progress of a family. Let us remember that the most valuable gift for children … is their parents’ love. And I do not mean only the love of parents for their children, but also the love between parents themselves, that is, the conjugal bond. This is good for you and for your children,”

“Therefore, first and foremost cultivate the plant of marriage, as spouses, and at the same time take care of the relationship with your children; here too, focus on the human relationship rather than material things. Focus on mercy in your daily relations, between husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters; and take care of grandparents. The Jubilee must be lived also in the domestic church, not only in major events! The Lord love those who practice mercy in ordinary situations. This is my wish for you: to experience the joy of mercy, starting with your family. Happy Christmas!”

 

VATICAN INSIDER: A SYNOD COUPLE SPEAKS, PART TWO – POPE FRANCIS CREATES NEW VATICAN OFFICE – SYNOD FATHERS REACT TO DRAFT OF FINAL DOCUMENT

VATICAN INSIDER: A SYNOD COUPLE SPEAKS, PART TWO

Please tune in this weekend to “Vatican Insider” for Part Two of my conversation with Cathy and Tony Witczak, a couple from Philadephia who have been married for 48 years, are leaders in the Worldwide Marriage Encouter movement and auditors at the synod on the family They talk to me about Marriage Encounter, how they were invited to the synod, what they are hearing and seeing and what their hopes are for the post-synod period, including a papal document. They addressed the synod last week.

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As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live 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 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

POPE FRANCIS CREATES NEW VATICAN OFFICE

We have heard about this possibility for months but Thursday, at the beginning of the afternoon General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis formalized the news with the following announcement:

“I have decided to establish a new Dicastery with competency for Laity, Family and Life, that will replace the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Pontifical Academy for Life will be joined to the new Dicastery. To this end, I have constituted a special commission that will prepare a text delineating canonically the competencies of the new Dicastery. The text will be presented for discussion to the Council of Caridnals at their next meeting in December.”

Dicastery is another word for an office of the Roman Curia, such as a pontifical council or a congregation. The new office for Laity, Family and Life, has not been given a name but indications are that it will be a congregation.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity was instituted in 1967 by Paul VI who acted on some of the suggestions from Vatican Council II that had ended in December 1965.

It seemed fitting that Pope Francis announced the new dicastery on October 22, the feast day of St. John Paul II, the Pope who created two of the above-mentioned dicasteries.

In fact, the Pontifical Council for the Family was instituted by John Paul II in 1981 with the Motu Proprio “Familia e Deo Instituta.” It substituted the Committee for the Family created by Paul VI in 1973. Thirteen years later, on February 11, 1994, St. John Paul instituted the Pontifical Academy for Life with the Motu Proprio “Vitae Mysterium.”

SYNOD FATHERS REACT TO DRAFT OF FINAL DOCUMENT

With just two days to go until the end of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, participants on Friday gave their reactions to a draft of the final document which is now being fine-tuned and will be voted on by the bishops on Saturday.

At a press conference following the Friday morning session, press office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi was joined by Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana, Canadian Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec and Belgian Archbishop Lucas Van Looy of Ghent to talk about their hopes for the outcome of the three-week meeting.

Vatican Radio’s Philippa Hitchens reports on Friday’s press briefing:

Long days and sleepless nights is how Cardinal Turkson characterised the work of the drafting committee, currently trying to integrate over 1,350 proposals for changes to the original working document put forward by the Synod’s small groups. On top of that, there were over 50 further comments made in the Synod Hall on Friday on subjects ranging from biblical quotations, to pastoral formation to the crucial question of the relationship between the Church’s moral law and the individual’s right to follow his or her own conscience.

Is it possible to integrate so many differing perspectives without watering down the contents of the final document, journalists wanted to know? Will the substance of the debate on key issues really be reflected, or must it be sacrificed to the need for consensus that can be accepted by all? Cardinal Lacroix noted the final Synod document is not a legislative text so it doesn’t have to reflect unanimity among the Church leaders – on the contrary, he said, differences of opinion reflect a healthy engagement with the difficult issues under discussion.

Among them are the ever-present questions of how to help divorced and remarried couples be reintegrated into the life of the Church and how to approach the issue of homosexuality, which some Synod fathers suggest has not been adequately dealt with at this meeting. Not so, said Cardinal Turkson, revealing that in his small group some bishops and cardinals themselves had shared experiences of gay members of their families. The cardinal also reiterated the view of another Ghanaian participant who told journalists that attitudes in Africa on this issue are changing, faster than they are in other parts of the world.

All three participants pointed to the important experience of synodality, as outlined in the Pope’s own words, allowing bishops in the different parts of the globe greater freedom to exercise leadership, while allowing the Pope to draw on the wealth of local expertise and experience.

Archbishop Van Looy said another key word of this Synod is tenderness, heralding a new attitude of the Church to stop judging and start journeying with people in whatever situation they may find themselves. While it’s vital to support families who do live up to Church teaching, Cardinal Lacroix said there is no such thing as the perfect family and the Church must remain close to all those looking for God’s grace in times of struggle and need.

 

HEAVEN – AND EARTH – WELCOME FOUR NEW SAINTS! – POPE URGES RELIGIOUS FROM MIDDLE EAST TO “PRAY A LOT FOR PEACE”

This morning at 9 a.m., in the Bologna Room of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis met with the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. No press release has been issued as I write these lines in late afternoon but my understanding is that the meeting mostly centered on Vatican plans for the Jubilee of Mercy that will open on December 8. It is also quite plausible that the Pope and heads of dicasteries also discussed the ongoing reform of the Roman Curia, including suggestions that have been made in this regard by the C9, the council of 9 cardinal advisors.

HEAVEN – AND EARTH – WELCOME FOUR NEW SAINTS!

What a beautiful day Sunday was!  Not only because it was the solemnity of the Ascension and the 49th World Day of Social Communications and the day four 19th century nuns, including two Palestinians, were added to the Communion of Saints – it was a perfectly beautiful day weather-wise!  Friday and Saturday had been windy and gray and cloud-filled days, threatening rain at just about every turn. And the forecast for Sunday was thunderstorms!  So now you understand why I say it was such a beautiful day!

The canonization was so meaningful for me because, among the four women who became saints, were two Palestinian religious: You’ve seen my posts in recent days about their lives so I won’t repeat those biographies here. What was so outstanding was that Sister Miriam of Jesus Crucified Baouardy and Sister Marie-Alphonsine Ghattas were the first saints from the Holy Land since the early days of Christianity! And so many of my friends from the Holy Land were in town for this and other canonization-related events.

A large delegation from the Middle East, especially Palestine, Jordan and Israel was in Rome for the celebration, including Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the State of Palestine and Vera Baboun, the mayor of Bethlehem. I interviewed Bethlehem’s mayor last year during Pope Francis May trip to the Holy Land and I’ve interviewed Patriarch Twal on a number of occasions in the past.

Mahmoud Abbas, who met the Pope Saturday, just three days after the Holy See recognized the State of Palestine, was not in town very long but his motorcade sped by my home yesterday morning at 9:50 am, ten minutes before the start of Mass. In fact, he and his delegation exited St. Peter’s basilica just seconds before the start of the papal procession.

The Palestinian motorcade was comprised of about 20 cars, including a number of security vehicles, both marked and unmarked. They came down Via Aurelia and made a sharp left onto Via della Stazione Vaticana and entered the Perugino gate of Vatican City, the entrance used by diplomats and visiting heads of State or government to enter Vatican City and/or attend a liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica or on the square. (I was just about to leave my home for St. Peter’s Square when I heard the sirens. I should have been quicker to get my iPad ready to film the motorcade but I missed the opportunity).

The diplomats’ entrance to the basilica is called the “Door of Prayer.”  Here is one of the four panels on those double doors, as well as the door handle – magnificent pieces of work!

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During the week, when I want to go into Vatican City to Mass at St. Peter’s I enter by the Perugino Gate and the Door of Prayer, using my Vatican ID.

The two Palestinian nuns were the first saints from the Holy Land since the early days of Christianity. The Pope said of them: “Inspired by their example of mercy, charity and reconciliation, may the Christians of these lands look with hope to the future, following the path of solidarity and fraternal co-existence.”

Here is a carousel of some of my photos from Sunday, and below, interspersed with the Holy Father’s homily, are a few additional ones.

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As I said, yesterday during Mass for the seventh Sunday of Easter, Pope Francis canonized four women religious: Marie-Alphonsine and Mary of Jesus Crucified from the territory that made up historical Palestine; Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve of France; and Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception from Italy. All were 19th century nuns who worked in education.

The canonization rite and Mass took place in a sun-splashed and very warm St. peter’s Square. There was notable security in and around Vatican City, especially the square, including Vatican gendarmes and agents from the Italian police and army, both uniformed officals and plainclothes agents.

(Vatican Radio) In his homily, the Holy Father focused on the first reading from Acts of the Apostles which tells how, after the Ascension, the twelve Apostles chose a man to take the place of Judas. Even today, we base our faith on the testimony of the Twelve, who were witnesses of Jesus’ Resurrection. In fact, every disciple of Jesus “is called “to become a witness to his resurrection, above all in those human settings where forgetfulness of God and human disorientation are most evident.”

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Pope Francis identified several traits, exemplified by the new Saints, that are necessary for Christians to be witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. Christians, he said, must “remain in the risen Christ and in His love.” This is “the secret of the saints: abiding in Christ, joined to him like branches to the vine, in order to bear much fruit (cf. Jn 15:1-8). And this fruit is none other than love.”

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The Holy Father said that “A relationship with the risen Jesus is the ‘atmosphere’ in which Christians live, and in which they find the strength to remain faithful to the Gospel, even amid obstacles and misunderstandings.” Ardent love for Christ allows His disciples to give themselves to others.

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Authentic Christian witness also requires unity among the disciples. Jesus, on the eve of His Passion, prayed to God the Father that His disciples would be “one” just as the Trinity is one. This love leads us to live lives of service to one another.

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“To abide in God and in his love, and thus to proclaim by our words and our lives the resurrection of Jesus, to live in unity with one another and with charity towards all. This is what the four women Saints canonized today did,” Pope Francis said. He concluded his homily with the prayer: “When we return home, let us take with us the joy of this encounter with the risen Lord.  Let us cultivate in our hearts the commitment to abide in God’s love. Let us remain united to him and among ourselves, and follow in the footsteps of these four women, models of sanctity whom the Church invites us to imitate.”

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During the traditional Easter-time Regina Coeli prayer, Pope Francis appealed for an end to the violence in Burundi and urged its people to act responsibly for the good of the nation. Burundi saw an attempted coup earlier this week and has been the scene of violent clashes between supporters and opponents of the president. The Pope’s appeal for peace in Burundi came during his address just before the recitation of the traditional Easter Marian prayer, the Regina coeli.

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POPE URGES RELIGIOUS FROM MIDDLE EAST TO “PRAY A LOT FOR PEACE”

(Vatican Radio) Saying he was giving them a “mission,” Pope Francis has asked religious sisters from Bethlehem and the Middle East to pray for peace in the region and for the two new Palestinian saints, 19th century Sister Miriam of Jesus Crucified Baouardy and Sister Marie-Alphonsine Ghattas. They were canonized by Pope Francis in a big outdoor Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.

Many of the Carmelite and Rosary sisters who had attended the canonization had flown into Rome from Jordan – on the same plane as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who was also present as the two Palestinian religious were made saints.   In receiving the visiting nuns in the Clementine Hall in the Apostolic Palace Monday, Pope Francis said the president had told him the flight was full of sisters!  “Poor pilot,” the Pope chuckled.

The Pope urged the nuns to pray for an end to “this interminable” conflict in the Holy Land so that “there will be peace” between Israelis and Palestinians.

He also called for prayers for “persecuted Christians, kicked out of their homes, from the land” and decried what he called “persecution with white gloves – persecution and ‘white terrorism’ – also ‘white gloved terrorism’.”  “It is veiled, but it happens!”

Before reciting the Hail Mary together with the sisters from the Middle East  each in their own language – Francis urged them to “pray a lot for peace.” He was meeting with them during an interval in his morning meeting with heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

POPE FRANCIS TO COLLEGE OF CARDINALS: CURIA REFORM REQUIRES TIME, DETERMINATION, COOPERATION – REFORM OF THE CURIA IS FOCUS OF CONSISTORY OF CARDINALS – FEBRUARY 14: CONSISTORY AND COURTESY VISITS TO NEW CARDINALS

Although he was present for almost the entire morning session of the consistory of the College of Cardinals, Pope Francis at one point went to a small room off the Paul VI Hall to receive Mrs. Signora Shahindokht Molaverdi, vie-president of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

POPE FRANCIS TO COLLEGE OF CARDINALS: CURIA REFORM REQUIRES TIME, DETERMINATION, COOPERATION

Pope Francis Thursday morning, in his address to 165 members of the College of Cardinals at the start of a two-day consistory, said the work being done on the reform of the Roman Curia, “is not an end in itself, but a means to give a strong Christian witness; to promote a more effective evangelization; to promote a more fruitful ecumenical spirit; to encourage a more constructive dialogue with all.” He added that this goal “is not easy to achieve, but rather “requires time, determination and above all, everyone’s cooperation. (ANSA photo – news.va – Pope Francis and Cardinal Dolan)

POPE FRANCIS - CARD. DOLAN

The 20 cardinals that Francis will create on Saturday, including 15 electors, were present at the consistory.

The Holy Father opened the morning session of the first day of the consistory. Cardinals will meet again this afternoon and are schedule to meet all day Friday.

“Dear brothers,

“’How good, how delightful it is to live as brothers all together!’ (Ps 133,1). In the words of the Psalm we give praise to the Lord who has called us together and gives us the grace to welcome the 20 new cardinals in this session. To them and to all, I give my cordial greetings. Welcome to this communion, which is expressed in collegiality.

“Thanks to all those who have prepared this event, especially to His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals. I thank the Commission of nine Cardinals and the coordinator, His Eminence Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga. I also thank His Excellency Marcello Semeraro, Secretary of the Commission of Nine Cardinals: Today he will present a summary of the work done in recent months to develop the new Apostolic Constitution for the reform of the Curia. As we know, this summary has been prepared on the basis of many suggestions, even those made by the heads of the Dicasteries, as well as experts in the field.

“The goal to be reached is always that of promoting greater harmony in the work of the various Dicasteries and Offices, in order to achieve a more effective collaboration in that absolute transparency which builds authentic sinodality and collegiality.

“The reform is not an end in itself, but a means to give a strong Christian witness; to promote a more effective evangelization; to promote a more fruitful ecumenical spirit; to encourage a more constructive dialogue with all.

“The reform, strongly advocated by the majority of the Cardinals in the context of the general congregations before the conclave, will further perfect the identity of the same Roman Curia, which is to assist the Successor of Peter in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the good of and in the service of the universal Church and the particular Churches. This exercise serves to strengthen the unity of faith and communion of the people of God and promote the mission of the Church in the world.

“Certainly, it is not easy to achieve such a goal: it requires time, determination and above all  everyone’s cooperation. But to achieve this we must first entrust ourselves to the Holy Spirit, the true guide of the Church, imploring the gift of authentic discernment in prayer.

“It is in this spirit of collaboration that our meeting begins, which will be fruitful thanks to the contribution which each of us can express with parrhesía, fidelity to the Magisterium and the knowledge that all of this contributes to the supreme law, that being the salus animarum. Thank You.”

REFORM OF THE CURIA IS FOCUS OF CONSISTORY OF CARDINALS

(VIS) – A total of 165 cardinals participated in this morning’s first session of the Extraordinary Consistory with the Holy Father. Twenty-five were unable to attend due to illness or other serious problems, according to a report from the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., following the morning meeting.

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Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga explained that the meeting of the Council of Cardinals (the so-called “C9”) which came to an end yesterday afternoon, focused primarily but not exclusively on the reform of the Curia. Other themes addressed were the regulation of the Synod, the work of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, and relations with the economic entities of the Holy See (COSEA and IOR).

Bishop Marcello Semeraro, secretary of the C9, presented the main lines of reform of the Roman Curia, in the light of the meeting of heads of the dicasteries that took place in November 2014. The issues to be considered are the functions of the Roman Curia, its relationship with other entities such as the episcopal conferences, the criteria for rationalization and simplification that must guide it in its tasks, the Secretariat of State, the coordination of the dicasteries of the Curia, the relationship between religious and laypersons and the procedures that must govern the preparation of the new constitution.

Reference was also made to the institution of two congregations. The first would encompass those organisms that until now have been concerned with the laity, the family and life. The second would deal with matters linked to charity, justice and peace. The collaboration of the pontifical councils and academies dedicated to these themes could be strengthened.

Twelve prelates intervened during the morning session, observed Fr. Lombardi: mainly cardinals who have a profound knowledge of the workings of the Curia, although there have been contributions from a diverse range of contexts. It has been observed that reform is twofold, theological and juridical, and many of its assumptions relate to canon law and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, as well as relationships with the episcopates. It was also noted that the Pope is assisted not only by the Curia, but also by the College of Cardinals and the Synod of Bishops. In this regard, the themes of synodality and collegiality were discussed, and preference was expressed for the latter denomination rather than the former.

The issue of the ongoing training of staff of the Roman Curia was not overlooked, and consideration was given to the possibility of a rotation of duties to counteract routine. In this sector, both favourable and contrary opinions were expressed by the cardinals, who emphasised that some fields require a high level of specialisation and that for this reason, change would be inadvisable.

FEBRUARY 14: CONSISTORY AND COURTESY VISITS TO NEW CARDINALS

On Saturday, February 14, at 11 am in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis will preside at an Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of new cardinals and to vote on several causes of canonization: Blessed Jeanne-Emilie De Villeneuve, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Castres, Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified (nee Maryam Baouardy), professed nun of the Order of Discalced Carmelites and Blessd Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas (nee Maryam Sultanah), co-foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Rosary of Jerusalem of the Latins.

Click here for booklet of the ceremony: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/libretti/2015/20150214-libretto-concistoro-creazione.pdf

The afternoon of February 14 the courtesy visits to the new cardinals will take place in the locations indicated below:

PAUL VI HALLAtrium:  Cardinals:

Manuel Jose Macario do Nascimento Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon (Portugal)

Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, C.M; Archbishop of Addis Abeba (Ethiopia)

John Atcherley Dew; Archbishop of Wellington (New Zealand)

Edoardo Menichelli, Archbishop of Ancona-Osimo (Italy)

Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon, Archbishop of Hà Nôi (Viêt Nam)

Alberto Suarez Inda, Archbishop of Morelia (Mexico)

PAUL VI HALL – Main Hall:  Cardinals:

Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B. Archbishop of Yangon (Myanmar)

Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, Archbishop of Bangkok (Thailand)

Francesco Montenegro, Archbishop of Agrigento (Italy)

Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet, S.D.B., Archbishop of Montevideo (Uruguay)

Ricardo Blázquez Pérez, Archbishop of Vallodolid (Spain)

José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán, O.A.R.,  Bishop of David (Panamá)

Arlindo Gomes Furtado, Bishop of Santiago de Cabo Verde (Archipelago of Cape Verde)

Soane Patita Paini Mafi, Bishop of Tonga (Island of Tonga)

APOSTOLIC PALACE

Sala Regia: Cardinals Dominique Mamberti, prefect of the tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and Luigi De Magistris; prefect emeritus

Sala Ducale: Cardinals Karl-Joseph Rauber (Apostolic nuncio emeritus), Luis Hector Villalba (Archbishop emeritus of Tucumán, Argentina) and Julio Duarte Langa (Bishop emeritus of Xai-Xai, Mozambique)

POPE FRANCIS’ CHRISTMAS TALK TO ROMAN CURIA (IN A NUTSHELL) – CARDINAL TAURAN IS NEW CAMERLENGO OF HOLY ROMAN CHURCH – MY CHRISTMAS GIFT TO YOU: “ONE SOLITARY LIFE” – THE BEAUTY AND SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS ARE ALIVE AND WELL

I am taking a few days off during the Christmas season so this column will be sporadic – but always feel free to check in, as well as to visit my Facebook page (facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420) where I will be posting photos of Christmas in Roman, the nativity scenes around the city, etc. Tomorrow, this column will not appear but I will be working to prepare my weekend radio show, “Vatican Insider,” and will also be live at 9:39 (ET) with Teresa Tomeo on our weekly get-together on “Catholic Connection” (but coming to you a day earlier than our usual Wednesday appointment. I’ll also be off Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

Although things have improved immmensely, I am still being treated for phlebitis and my doctor cautioned against air travel, especially a long trip to California. I missed Christmas with family last year as well because of eye surgery. However, when God gives you a lemon, you make limoncello! I am determined to make this a beautiful, memorable Christmas – my house is decorated and I have put up a wonderful tree, including ornaments from my grandmother, ones Mom and Dad bought over the years as we were growing up and many beautiful ones I have collected on travels or received as gifts. It took longer than usual to decorate the tree, simply because I was lost in the flood of memories of beautiful Christmases past as I unwrapped each ornament!

I am excited about hosting friends for turkey dinner on Christmas Day, and have put gifts under the tree for them. My biggest gifts are my friends, those who will be with me Christmas day and the many others I will see or host at my home over the Christmas seasons.

In lieu of sending Christmas cards to family and friends around the word, I am making some special purchases to bring to Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner who is in charge of the papal blessings office and the Pope’s point man for distributing papal charity. You may have seen the news that the Vatican is building three showers for the homeless in space that is adjacent to the public bathrooms, just off the right hand colonnade of St. Peter’s Square. Bit by bit, I am buying quantities of underwear and socks to bring to the archbishop as these items, along with towels, will be needed when a homeless person showers. This is, in a way, a Christmas gift to Pope Francis whose idea this was!

I will miss everyone in my family, of course, especially the little ones, two of whom I have not met: Charlotte, 14 months old and Harry, 2 months old! He is Number 20 of my great nieces and nephews!

Here they are, in all their splendor. I have several photos of Harry but seem unable to process them for this column.

My niece, Susan Tompkins Smith has three children – Austin, Jr (AJ), Nathan and Charlotte.SMITH CHILDREN

SMITH FAMILY - SUSAN AND CHARLOTTE

Charlotte was a San Diego Charger fan even when very little:SMITH FAMILY - young Charger fan

Harry is the first child for my youngest niece, Julie Lewis Stauter and Jeff. I have a feeling he will be a Chicago Bears fan! He has the Lewis trademark red hair and blue eyes!HARRY STAUTER

For important Vatican and papal news, you can always access news.va for updates. The Roman Curia holdays are December 24 through the 27, then December 31 and January 1. Many officials and staff members take advantage of those six days, and add a few to create a 10-day or two week vacation period but, as you will see, many of my colleagues in the Vatican media will be working to keep you posted on all events.

Today, I offer you a nutshell version of Pope Francis’ talk to officials of the Roman Curia, a link to his entire, surprising speech, and also a link to his words to employees of Vatican City and the Roman Curia and their family members.

I’ve been so involved in work and in plans for my own holidays that I did not realize that I could have (should have) attended this audience as “retired” Vatican employees were more than welcome! I discovered when I went to Vatican City this morning that the post offices, grocery store, and health services were all closed (the bank was open) so that employees could participate. The errands I intended to run this morning are now on my agenda for tomorrow morning.

Do you want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans for the day!

I have some gifts for you, as you will see: The first is the must-read “ONE SOLITARY LIFE,” and I follow that with several stories that truly reflect the spirit and beauty of the Christmas Season – all this after the Vatican stories!

P.S: Only 5,000 more hits and my video of the dancing seminarians will hit 2 million views!

Before I close this special Christmas column, I’d like to wish all my readers and radio listeners and TV viewers a blessed, beautiful and holy Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year filled with many special moments and people. God sit on your shoulder!

POPE FRANCIS’ CHRISTMAS TALK TO ROMAN CURIA (IN A NUTSHELL)

Not many smiling faces this morning after the first few minutes of Pope Francis’ Christmas greetings to the top officials of the Roman Curia, those who head the congregations, councils, commissions, tribunals, etc, Below is a nutshell account of the papal talk by Vatican radio, a talk that several media defined as “a blistering critique” of the Curia. After his meeting with Curia officials, the Holy Father greeted employees of Vatican City and the Roman Curia.

For more on those talks, please click here:

http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-to-vatican-employees-christmas-a-time

http://www.visnews-en.blogspot.it/2014/12/francis-curia-that-is-outdated.html

Pope Francis received the heads and other senior officials of the departments of the Roman Curia on Monday, in their traditional exchange of Christmas greetings. In remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered Monday morning, the Holy Father focused on the need for those who serve in the curia – especially those in positions of power and authority – to remember and cultivate an attitude and a spirit of service.

“Sometimes,” said Pope Francis, “[Officials of the Curia] feel themselves ‘lords of the manor’ [It. padroni] – superior  to everyone and everything,” forgetting that the spirit, which should animate them in their lives of service to the universal Church, is one of humility and generosity, especially in view of the fact that none of us will live forever on this earth.

This “disease” of  feeling “immortal” or “essential” – irreplaceable – was one of fifteen maladies, which Pope Francis identified during the course of his address: from a tendency to prefer Martha’s portion over Mary’s, to over-planning (and micromanaging), to wearing being a perpetual downer and wearing a “funeral face” all the day long.

“These and other maladies and temptations,” said Pope Francis, “are a danger for every Christian and for any administrative organization, community, congregation, parish, ecclesial movement, etc., and can strike at both the individual and the corporate level.”

“It is the Holy Spirit,” continued the Holy Father, “who sustains every sincere effort at purification and every authentic desire for conversion. He is the one, who makes us understand that every member participates in the sanctification of the [mystical] body [of Christ, which is the Church], and to its corruption.”

“Therefore,” said Pope Francis, “we are called in this Christmas season and for the whole period of our service – for so long as we exist – to live, ‘[according to] truth in charity, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and up-builds itself in love’(Eph. 4:15-16).”

CARDINAL TAURAN IS NEW CAMERLENGO OF HOLY ROMAN CHURCH

Pope Francis on Saturday, December 20, named Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran as Camerlengo of Holy Roman Church, replacing Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who turned 80 on December 2 and therefore cannot participate in a conclave. The much-admired and highly respected French cardinal was for years under John Paul II the extraordinarily able Secretary for Relations with States.

As Camerlengo (chamberlain) he is the administrator of the property and revenues of the Holy See during the Sede Vacante (vacant see – from which we get our word ‘vacancy’) or during the absence of the Pope, doing so without taking extraordinary initiatives. Upon the death of a Pope, the camerlengo’s task is to certify the death and inform the cardinal vicar of Rome, who is entrusted with the task of revealing the news to the people. The camerlengo takes possession of the Ring of the Fisherman and destroys it and all other papal seals. He seals off the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, in the Lateran Palace and in Castelgandolfo.

This marks the beginning of the sede vacante, a period when the camerlengo prepares the papal funeral and subsequent nine days of mourning, the ”novendialis.” The camerlengo also starts to prepare the pre-conclave General Congregations, which are chaired by the cardinal-deacon of the College of Cradinals. Today, that is Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 87. During the sede vacante, the camerlengo’s coat of arms, composed of 30 red ribbons like all cardinals, is also topped with the banner of the Pope and two crossed keys that are surmounted by the papal tiara.

During the sede vacante, the camerlengo can also mint new coins that, even if they have legal tender, will never be put in circulation as they are exclusively intended for collectors. The coins portray his coat of arms, with the words “Sede Vacante” and the year of issue.

Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, has been a close collaborator of Pope Francis in his reform of the Roman Curia and IOR, the Vatican bank. (some background from AGI)

 MY CHRISTMAS GIFT TO YOU: “ONE SOLITARY LIFE”

This powerful Christmas column by late columnist Jimmy Bishop will surely leave you speechless for its beauty, simplicity and yet depth of understanding. Here is the Christ of Christmas! Andy Williams recited this in one of his Christmas albums (which is where I first heard it) and you can listen to it online.

“He was born in an obscure village, the Child of a peasant teen who knew not man. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never married or owned a home. He never held a job, yet paid taxes. He never set foot inside a metropolis. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never wrote a book, or held an office. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He received no awards, no medals, no prizes from His peers.

“While He was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends deserted Him. He was turned over to His enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. He had no lawyers, no friendly juries, no fair hearing. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had – His cloak. After He died, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave. Those who stood watch could not explain His disappearance.

“And yet two thousand years have come and gone, and today He is still the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched and al the navies that ever sailed and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this ‘One Solitary Life’.”

THE BEAUTY AND SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS ARE ALIVE AND WELL

Here are three smaller gifts for you, three heartwarming stories that reflect the beauty and spirit of Christmas. The video, “Mary, Did You know?” is a must see, truly. It has had 14 million views and you find that you drop whatever you are doing just to listen!

POPE DONATES SLEEPING BAGS TO HOMELESS: Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, supervised the distribution of hundreds of sleeping bags to the homeless of Rome, as a gift from Pope Francis, on December 18. Swiss Guards drove a minibus around the city on Wednesday evening, stopping at sites where homeless people are known the gather, handing out the sleeping bags—which were decorated with the papal insignia. Nearly 400 were distributed.

STUDENT RAISES THOUSANDS FOR HOMELESS MAN WHO OFFERED HER TAXI MONEY (The Guardian – Abby Young-Powell): An art student living in Preston has raised over £21,000 for a homeless man after she says he offered her his last £3 so that she could get a taxi home safely.

Dominique Harrison-Bentzen, who studies at the University of Central Lancashire, says she had lost her bank card and needed to get home after a night out when the homeless man, known only as Robbie, offered money to help. The 22-year-old says she declined the offer, but was so moved by his gesture that she started a campaign to raise enough money to help him get a flat. She set up a donation page and asked people to each donate £3 for her fundraiser, which involved spending the night on the street, along with supporters who had heard about her story through social media.

Harrison-Bentzen says: “I suddenly realised that I had no money and a homeless man approached me with his only change of £3. He insisted I took it to pay for a taxi to make sure I got home safe. I was touched by such a kind gesture from a man who faces ignorance every day, so I set on a mission to find this man. The more I spoke about him the more kind gestures I learned about him, such as him returning wallets untouched to pedestrians and offering his scarf to keep people warm.

“He has been homeless for 7 months through no fault of his own and needs to get back on his feet but cannot get work due to having no address. So that’s when I decided to change Robbie’s life and help him, as he has helped many others.” The campaign has received global attention, going viral on social media. Since the donation page was set up, it has frequently reported technical difficulties due to “an unusually high number of visitors”. Many have tweeted their support, including Ian Brown of the Stone Roses.

A CAPPELLA GROUP OFFERS INCREDIBLE CHRISTMAS TRIBUTE TO MARY: The a cappella group Pentatonix has released an incredible rendition of the hymn “Mary, Did You Know?“, set in a candlelit cave with no instruments but their voices. It currently has over 14 million views on YouTube. What a beautiful Christmas tribute to Mary! With only five members, the group Pentatonix is one of the most popular musical acts of this Christmas season. Pentatonix was formed in 2011 when they competed and became the victors of the TV show “The Sing-Off,” before rising to global fame.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifCWN5pJGIE