I hope each one of you can someday experience December 8, the Immacolata, the day devoted to the Immaculate Conception, in Rome. This solemnity is a national holiday and hugely important for Italian families. There were tons of visitors in Rome and I don’t remember when I saw so many families visiting monuments, at the papal Angelus, filling the tables at local restaurants, and so on.
Several main streets in the center of Rome were closed for Pope Francis’ visits, first to St. Mary Major basilica in mid-afternoon and then to the Spanish Steps, Pza. di Spagna, to crown the image of Mary there. Traffic went, as the Romans love to say, “in tilt,” but the closed streets made for great walking around Rome’s historic center and shopping area.
This famous square in the heart of Rome is named for the Palazzo di Spagna, a magnificent building on the piazza that has housed the Spanish embassy to the Holy See since 1647. Every year, early in the morning of December 8, Roman firemen place a garland atop the statue of Mary Immaculate and by day’s end, thousands of Romans will have followed in their footsteps, offering floral homages to Mary. Single flowers as well as bouquets are placed on a table at the foot of the column bearing the statue and Conventual Franciscan Friars and Minim Friars arrange them in an orderly fashion, often creating elegant wreaths.
The ancient Roman column of cipolin marble was found in 1777 in the monastery of Our Lady of the Conception in central Rome and brought to Piazza di Spagna in 1856 to celebrate the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception two years earlier.
Sunday, on my blog and my Facebook page, I posted photos and videos of Pearl Harbor to mark the 73rd anniversary of the “day of infamy,” December 7, 1941. These were pictures and videos that I took at Pearl Harbor this summer and last summer.
I took the day off yesterday, but just from writing. I went to Mass and had lunch at the Pontifical North American College as the Immaculate Conception is the seminary’s feast day. In fact, exactly 155 years ago yesterday, a dozen young men entered the first campus of our new national seminary at 30 Via dell’Umiltà, the 410-year old building that was originally a convent for Dominican Sisters, and given by Pope Pius IX to the American bishops for use as their Rome seminary.
Today, the Casa Santa Maria, as it is known, houses the U.S. Bishops Office for Visitors to the Vatican where many people, on Tuesday afternoons, pick up the tickets that they had previously requested via email for the Wednesday papal general audience.
After a wonderful lunch in very special company at NAC, I came home briefly, only to leave again about 5:45 to join the Marian Fathers and invited guests at their generalate for vespers and dinner on this, the feast day of the order. I have been invited to this for a number of years now and it is always a joy to help the Marians mark their feast day. I am sure most of you know one of the Marians – Fr. Joseph Roesch –from his appearances on EWTN, especially for the feast of Divine Mercy.
IN INTERVIEW WITH ARGENTINE PAPER, POPE TALKS OF SYNOD, CURIA REFORMS, VATICAN BANK, FUTURE TRAVELS
Pope Francis recently gave an interview to the Argentine newspaper, “La Nacion,” touching on a wide variety of subjects including the recent synod, the reform of the Curia and Vatican bank, nominations, his health, futured travels, and other issues. Following is a Vatican Radio summary of the topics treated, after which I have placed two links to the full interview, translated in to English, in two parts.
In the interview, Pope Francis describes the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family as “an open space, protected by the Holy Spirit”. It is not a parliament, he said, and it is a “simplification” to say that the Synod Fathers were divided into two opposing factions. What was important, said Pope Francis, was to “speak with clarity and listen with humility”.
Responding to a question about how the topic of homosexuality was dealt with at the Synod, the Pope said no one at the gathering had spoken about gay marriage. What was discussed, he said, involved families that include a homosexual son or daughter and, therefore, how to assist these families. “We spoke about the family and about homosexual persons in relation to their families”, said Pope Francis, “because this is a reality we encounter in the confessional”. He also stressed that people should not allow themselves to be influenced by what they read in individual news reports or articles concerning the Synod, but should go back and read what was actually said there. What really matters, he said, “is the post-synodal report, the final message and the Pope’s discourse”. “We must not be afraid”, he added, “to go forward guided by the Holy Spirit”.
Referring to his closing speech at the Synod, Pope Francis confirmed what he’d said regarding “not touching any item of Church doctrine on marriage”. There are many pastoral difficulties related to divorced and remarried Catholics, he said, but “it is not a solution if we give them Communion. This alone is not a solution: integration is the solution”. “It’s true they are not excommunicated, but they cannot be baptismal godparents, they cannot be readers at Mass, they cannot distribute Communion, they cannot teach catechism classes, so it appears they are, in fact, excommunicated”. This is why, said the Pope, “we need to open the doors a little”. Pope Francis made the comparison of allowing a “corrupt politician” to act as a godparent simply because he or she has been “married in Church”. Responding to those who speak about creating confusion, the Pope said: “I constantly make speeches and give homilies, and this is the Magisterium”. This, he said, “is what I think and not what the newspapers say I think…Evangelii Gaudium is very clear”.
Pope Francis also spoke about the reform of the Curia, describing it as “a slow process” and not one that will conclude in 2015. One of the proposals includes combining the Council of the Laity with that of the Family and with the Council for Justice and Peace, he explained. But the most important reform, said the Pope, is a spiritual one, “the reform of hearts”. He also anticipated that he is preparing a special Christmas message for members of the Curia and another for Vatican employees and their families who he will meet in the Paul VI Audience Hall. Meanwhile, economic reforms are “moving ahead well”, he said, and the Vatican Bank, or IOR, “is working extremely well”.
Responding to a question about his health, Pope Francis said he feels the usual aches and pains of someone his age “but I am in God’s hands and until now I’ve managed to keep up a relatively good rhythm of work”. “God has given me a good dose of recklessness”, he said.
Finally, the Pope mentioned a series of possible apostolic trips: “perhaps to Argentina in 2016” and other visits to three countries in Latin America and Africa next year. With upcoming elections in Argentina, the Pope said he would not be receiving politicians from that country in audience so as not to “interfere” with the democratic process. He also clarified reports concerning the so-called dismissal of the Commander of the Vatican Swiss Guard recently, confirming his personal admiration for the Commander and how he had been replaced after the normal conclusion of his mandate to that position.
NEWS IN BRIEF: VATICAN INFORMATION SERVICE
For the full stories from Monday, December 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception and today, Tuesday, December 9, click here: http://www.visnews-en.blogspot.it/
AT THE DECEMBER 8 ANGELUS, Pope Francis said the message of the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is, “Everything is given freely by God, all is grace, all is a gift of His love for us. He spoke from the window of his study to pray the noon Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. He explained that, in the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel called Mary “full of grace,” since “in her there was no space for sin: God had always chosen her as the mother of Jesus, and so He protected her from original sin. Mary corresponds to this grace and abandons herself to it, saying to the Angel, ‘Be it done to me according to your word’. She does not say ‘I will do it according to your word’, but rather, ‘Be it done to me…’.” He stressed that, “None of us can buy salvation. Salvation is a free gift from the Lord! A free gift from God that arrives in us and lives within us. As we have received freely, so we are called to give freely, in imitation of Mary. … Because, if everything has been given, everything must be given b
PAPAL MESSAGE TO CONFERENCE ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Pope Francis’ message to Sebastian Kurz, Austrian federal minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration, was read Tuesday at the two-day conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons that began on December 8 in Vienna, Austria. It said, in part: “The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are predictable and planetary. While the focus is often placed on nuclear weapons’ potential for mass killing, more attention must be given to the ‘unnecessary suffering’ brought on by their use. …. To prioritize such spending is a mistake and a misallocation of resources that would be far better invested in the areas of integral human development, education, health and the fight against extreme poverty. When these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak living on the margins of society pay the price.” Noting that, “the desire for peace, security and stability is one of the deepest longings of the human heart,” the Pope “encouraged sincere and open dialogue between parties internal to each nuclear state, between various nuclear states, and between nuclear states and non-nuclear states.”
POPE FRANCIS SENDS TELEGRAM OF CONDOLENCES to Alejandro Jaime Mejia for the death of his brother, Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, archivist and librarian emeritus of the Holy Roman Church, at the age of 91. The Pope wrote that the cardinal dedicated “long years of service with fidelity and competence to various organs of the Holy See,” and assured his prayers for the deceased, to whom he was joined in “a long friendship,” so that the Lord may grant peace to the Cardinal, who demonstrated “such intense and generous commitment to the Church.”
THE GENERAL SECRETARIAT OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS Tuesday issued a press release regarding the publication of the Lineamenta of the next Ordinary General Synod of Bishops, to take place in Rome from October 4-25 on the theme, “The vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.” The Lineamenta, the first document for the 2015 synod, as indicated by Pope Francis in his concluding speech of the October 2014 synod, are constituted essentially by the Relatio Synodi, drafted by the same Assembly. To facilitate the reception of the synodal document and to allow its themes to be considered in depth, the Relatio is accompanied by a series of questions that help to further the Synod’s progress on the path it has undertaken, and to assist in the preparation of the subsequent Instrumentum laboris for the next Ordinary Synod. The text of the Lineamenta in Italian may be consulted on the Vatican website: http://www.vatican.va
TUESDAY MORNING, CARDINAL PETER TURKSON, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace,” presented the international online bullying awareness campaign, “Stop Threats on the Internet,” in the context of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The presentation in the Holy See Pres Office also included Fr. Fortunato Di Noto, president of the Associazione Meter; Olivier Duval, president of the BICE (Bureau International Catholique de l’Enfance), Laetitia Chanut, a former victim of cyber-bullying and witness for the campaign, and Flaminia Giovanelli, under secretary of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace.” Presenters confronted the issues of Internet bullying, “a new form of violence,” the question of adolescents and young people living in a condition of being continually “connected,” the sociological studies that examine the risks linked to the rapid development of information and communication technology, a phenomenon that requires parents to act as mediators of the technological experience for their children, and family relationships in an Internet-connected, globalized world
IOR PRESSES CHARGES AGAINST TWO FORMER MANAGERS
The Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR, Institute for Works of Religion, popularly known as the Vatican Bank,) confirmed Saturday in a press release that “it pressed charges against two former managers and a lawyer some months ago, underlining its commitment to transparency and zero tolerance, including with regard to matters that relate to a more distant past.
The charges submitted to the Vatican’s law enforcement authorities relate to circumstances recorded between 2001 and 2008 that have emerged in the internal review process initiated in early 2013. The accounts held by the concerned individuals at the IOR have recently been seized by order of the Promoter of Justice.
“We are very pleased that the Vatican Authorities are taking decisive action,” said Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, President of the IOR Board of Superintendence. Given the ongoing judicial enquiry, the IOR will refrain from further public statements.