Vatican City, Sep 21, 2017 / 01:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a meeting with Italy's Anti-Mafia Parliamentary Commission on Thursday, Pope Francis said that dismantling the mafia begins with a political commitment to social justice and economic reform.
Corruption “has a contagious and parasitic nature, because it does not nourish what good produces, but…it subtracts and robs,” Pope Francis said Sept. 21.
The meeting landed on the 27th anniversary of the death of Servant of God Rosario Livatino, who was a deputy prosecutor in an Italian court before being killed by mafia for his fight against corruption.
Called a “Martyr of Justice” by John Paul II, the Italian magistrate was commended by Pope Francis, who also praised two other judges – Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino – both killed in 1992.
The Pope's criticism of the mafia made global headlines when he publicly denounced organized crime in 2014. He said members of it were “excommunicated,” which was not a reflection of canon law per se but a call to conversion.
The fight against the mafia and organized crime is essential, the Pope said Thursday, particularly because “they steal the common good, taking away people's hope and dignity.”
However, the battle extends beyond the mafia to corrupt organizations which must also be reclaimed and transformed – and this needs commitment on an economic and political level, he said.
First, authentic politics is an important form of charity, which can work “to ensure a future of hope and to promote the dignity of each person.” And second, economic reform must be shifted to remove systems which magnify inequality and poverty.
The Pope warned that corrupt organizations can serve as an alternative social structure which roots itself in areas where justice and human rights are lacking. Corruption, he noted, always finds a way to justify itself, presenting itself as the ‘normal’ condition, the solution for those who are ‘shrewd,’ the way to reach one's goals.”
Earlier this year, Pope Francis expressed concern that these criminal groups were using economic, social, and political weaknesses as a “fertile ground to achieve their deplorable projects.”
“The money of dirty affairs and mafia crimes is blood money and produces an unequal power,” he said.
He said that these criminal organizations, whose members often claim to live a devout Christian life while continuing to carry out heinous crimes, create a “social wound.”
He then challenged the international community to greater collaboration and determination to ensure justice and defense for the weakest in society.
Vatican City, Sep 21, 2017 / 12:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- There should be no opportunity for appealing canonical cases of sexual abuse against minors when allegations have been proven by evidence, Pope Francis said in spontaneous comments Thursday.
In off-the-cuff remarks to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) Sept. 21, the Pope said that “if pedophilia, an abuse of minors, is proven it is enough to not receive appeals.”
“If there is the evidence, period: it is definitive.”
Pope Francis also explained that he would not consider direct appeals for clemency or reconsideration from priests who have been found guilty of allegations of sexual misconduct. “I have never signed one of these,” he said, “and I will never sign it.”
The Pope elaborated, saying that the Church must consider that a person that commits abuse “is sick, that they suffer from a disease.” He explained “today he is sorry, we forgive him, and then after two years he falls again.”
He also expressed regret for a case in which he chose to impose lenient sanctions against an Italian priest abuser, saying, “I learned in this.”
Speaking at the opening of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Francis set aside his prepared remarks, handing them out to be read, explaining that he preferred to talk in a more informal manner.
“I know it was not easy to begin this work,” he told commission members. “It was necessary to go against the current, because it is a reality, the conscience of the Church...came a bit late.”
Because awareness of the problem came late, “the means to solve the problem have come late,” he continued. “I am aware of this difficulty. But it is the reality, I tell you so: we arrived late.”
The practice of moving clergy who were suspected or accused of abuse to a different diocese may have contributed to a slowing of our consciences, he reflected. He said that the Lord has raised “prophetic” men in the Church who have worked to bring this issue to the surface.
One such person the Pope pointed to is Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the president of the PCPM, who frequently raised the issue of the problem of abuse to Pope Francis. The Pope said that Cardinal O’Malley spoke to him about the ministry of Jesus to children.
“Now what I think is that it should be the way to continue with our work,” Francis said. “I say 'ours' because it is not (only) a commission, because it is a commission within the Holy See with the Pope too.”
Speaking about the process for how the Holy See handles abuse cases, Pope Francis said that he believes “for the moment” the responsibility for the resolution of abuse cases should continue to reside with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as it has since 2001.
Some had speculated that the Pope was considering suggestions that the laicization of priests found to have committed abuse be reassigned to the Roman Rota and other tribunals of the Vatican.
“But in this moment the problem is real... it is grave that some have not taken notice of the problem,” he said, and for this reason the competency must remain with the CDF until the whole Church becomes aware.
There are many cases, at the moment, that do not move forward quickly, the Pope noted, but the newly-appointed secretary and prefect of the CDF, Bishop-designate Giacomo Morandi and Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, are working to add more people to work on the process of abuse cases, he said.
The Pope concluded by thanking the commission for their work, saying without them it would not have been possible to carry out the work already done, nor would it be possible to continue their future work within the Curia.
“That's what I wanted to tell you spontaneously,” he said, “then you have the most formal, educated speech there, but I think that this you have the right to know.”
Vatican City, Sep 21, 2017 / 08:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Thursday in a written speech Pope Francis reiterated the Catholic Church’s commitment to the protection of minors from sexual abuse, stating that the Church will continue to take a “zero tolerance” stance against offenders.
“Let me say quite clearly that sexual abuse is a horrible sin, completely opposite and in contradiction to what Christ and the Church teach us,” the Pope’s prepared remarks stated Sept. 21.
“That is why, I reiterate today once again that the Church, at all levels, will respond with the application of the most firm measures to all those who have betrayed their call and abused the children of God.”
Pope Francis addressed members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors at the opening of their plenary assembly. Handing out copies of his prepared statement to those present, he then delivered off-the-cuff remarks.
In his prepared speech, the Pope wrote that the Church “irrevocably and at all levels seeks to apply the principle of ‘zero tolerance’ against sexual abuse of minors.”
He explained that the disciplinary measures which have been adopted by particular churches must apply to everyone who works within the institutions of the Church.
“However, the primary responsibility is of the bishops, priests and religious, of those who have received the vocation to offer their lives to the service, including the vigilant protection of all vulnerable children, young people and adults,” he continued.
The Pope noted how he has personally had the privilege of listening to the stories of victims and survivors of abuse and that in these encounters people have openly shared the effects that sexual abuse has had on their lives and on the lives of their families.
“I know that you too have had the blessed occasion to participate in the same meetings,” he said to commission members, “and that they continue to nourish your personal commitment to do everything possible to combat this evil and eliminate this ruin among us.”
Francis said that he wanted to share at that gathering the “profound pain I feel in my soul for the situation of abused children.” The sexual abuse scandal is, he continued, “a terrible ruin for the whole of humanity” affecting vulnerable children, young people and adults in every country and society.
The whole experience has also been “very painful” for the Church and is something “we are ashamed of,” he said.
“But we have also experienced a call, which we are sure comes directly from our Lord Jesus Christ: to embrace the mission of the Gospel for the protection of all vulnerable minors and adults.”
Francis spoke to the members of the commission after an address by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, president of the commission, and after presentations by two commission members, Sr. Hermenegild Makoro, CPS, and Mr. Bill Kilgallon, on the projects of the commission’s six working groups from the past three years.
Praising the work of the commission over the last three and a half years, the Pope said that they have worked to consistently emphasize the most important principles guiding the Church's efforts in abuse protection.
He also said that he was happy to hear that many churches have taken their advice of holding a Day of Prayer and of dialoguing with victims and survivors.
In his address, O’Malley said that the commission considers the safeguarding of minors and vulnerable adults to be “an integral part of the mission of the Church.”
“The Church’s care for victims/survivors of abuse and their families is a primary consideration in this mission. By listening attentively and sharing experiences with them, our Commission has benefitted greatly from all that survivors have offered to us.”
Other things the commission has emphasized has been educational and training programs, especially for Church leaders, and assistance for local churches to develop and implement guidelines, he said.
Following the audience with Pope Francis, he said the commission will hold their plenary assembly to continue to discuss these projects and prepare recommendations for the Pope for the continued work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Francis said that the Church is called to be “a place of piety and compassion, especially for those who have suffered.”
The Church is a field hospital, he concluded, one which accompanies each of us on our spiritual journey.
“I am fully confident that the Commission will continue to be a place where we can listen with interest to the voices of the victims and the survivors. Because we have much to learn from them and their personal stories of courage and perseverance.”
Vatican City, Sep 21, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An upcoming world congress by the Catholic organization Apostleship of the Sea will focus on the plight of fishermen, who frequently face exploitation in carrying out their work, according to one Vatican official.
He lamented that no ‘Fair Trade’ certification exists for their product.
“We have to be educated,” Fr. Bruno Ciceri told CNA Sept. 20. “Frozen food here is cheap, but it’s because people are exploited, because there is forced labor, because there are trafficked people that work aboard these fishing vessels.”
Referring to the label given to products from developing countries that adhere to ethical standards of trading, he said, “We talk a lot about ‘Fair Trade.’ I don't know the day when we will have ‘fair trade’ also in fishing. That will make a difference.”
Fr. Ciceri is a member of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. He is also the Vatican delegate for the Apostleship of the Sea, which provides pastoral care for seafarers and their families.
He also worked for the Apostleship of the Sea in Taiwan for 13 years.
Their next World Congress, which is held every five years, will take place in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Oct. 1-7. Notable attendees will include Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, and Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Taiwan was chosen for the 25th congress largely because the majority of the world's fishing fleets are concentrated in the island nation; about 36 percent of tuna fishing fleets in the world are Taiwanese.
When it comes to the fishing industry Taiwan faces several grave challenges, Fr. Ciceri said. For one, because Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations it is not obliged to follow UN conventions on the fishing trade.
In general though, the challenges are the same affecting the whole of the industry, he pointed out, including poor working conditions and wage and labor exploitation, such as what happens between fishermen and brokers.
For example, Fr. Ciceri said one situation that is common is when a broker will contract fishermen with a promise of a certain salary. Of this, maybe only 20 percent is given directly to the fisherman and 80 percent will be held by the broker, only to be given over after the fisherman has completed a three year contract. If he leaves before this, he loses everything.
So the fishing industry needs to “clean up their act,” he said, but so does the buyer – the big companies that buy the fish to import.
One thing the Apostleship of the Sea tries to do, he said, is ensure that big companies are checking their supply lines and guaranteeing that they are not profiting from forced labor or other violations.
“Often these companies just make sure that there are all of the hygienic things… but they don't consider the people,” Fr. Ciceri said. “While for us as the Church, people are important. Fish are important, but people are more important.”
Sometimes you will read on cans of tuna that it has been caught without “hurting any turtles or without killing any dolphins,” he said. “Thanks very much, but what about the fishermen?”
“But that is not considered. I think there should be a sort of balance on these things. It's true that we have to worry about the fish and other things, but we have to worry also about the people.”
For the average person who wants to do something, he continued, even the awareness of these practices, and why the products may be so cheap, is a good first step.
“It's true that we would always like to save money,” but maybe sometimes we could consider buying the more expensive product that we know pays people justly.
Cardinal Turkson sent a message July 9 for “Sea Sunday,” reflecting on these issues, saying that at the congress in October “we will strengthen our network with the objective to increase cooperation between the Apostleship of the Sea of the different nations; we will share resources and best practices to develop specific skills, particularly in the fishing sector.”
“Let us ask Mary, Star of the Sea, to sustain our service and dedication to seafarers, fishermen and their families and to protect all the people of the sea until they reach the ‘safe port’ of heaven.”
Vatican City, Sep 20, 2017 / 09:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the people of Mexico after they suffered a devastating earthquake Sept. 19, asking for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for all those who have died or lost loved ones.
“Yesterday a terrible earthquake has devastated Mexico. I saw that there are many Mexicans here today among you. It caused numerous victims and material damages,” the Pope said in Spanish after the General Audience Sept. 20.
“In this moment of sorrow I want to express my closeness and prayer to all the beloved Mexican population. Let us all raise our prayers together to God so that he may welcome into his bosom those who have lost their lives, comfort the wounded, their families and all those affected.”
He also asked for prayers for all military personnel and others who are helping those affected, and prayed for “our mother,” Our Lady of Guadalupe, to be “close to the beloved Mexican nation.”
A 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck southern Mexico City Tuesday destroying dozens of buildings and killing at least 217 people, according to the head of Mexico's civil protection agency, Luis Felipe Puente.
Citizens and rescuers worked through the night to dig people out of the rubble. The death toll is expected to rise as the rescue continues.
The powerful quake hit Puebla state just 76 miles south-east of Mexico City, and follows less than two weeks after a magnitude 8.1 quake, the strongest the country has experienced in a century, struck off of the southern coast of Mexico Sept. 8, killing at least 61 people.
The Sept. 19 earthquake, with more than 11 aftershocks, hit Mexico City exactly 22 years to the day after an 8.0-magnitude earthquake which killed thousands struck the city in 1985.
In his weekly General Audience address, Pope Francis gave an encouraging reflection on hope, saying that this week he intended to address those gathered in St. Peter's Square as an educator or as a father speaking to a child.
He encouraged those present to not give up, or let themselves become bitter, but to trust in God the Creator, who in the Holy Spirit moves all things for good in the end. “Believe it, he is waiting for you,” he emphasized. “Think, where God has sown you, he hopes! He always hopes.”
“Do not,” he said, “ever think that the fight you lead down here is completely useless.” All will not end in shipwreck. “God does not disappoint: if he has placed hope in our hearts, he does not want to wear it out with continued frustration.”
Everything has been created to eventually bloom in an eternal spring, he continued, even we have been created by God to bloom.
But, Francis urged, we cannot sit around waiting, we must act. “If you’re on the ground, get up!” he said. “If boredom paralyzes you, drive it away with good works! If you feel empty or demoralized, ask the Holy Spirit to again fill your nothingness.”
“And above all,” he said, “dream! Do not be afraid to dream.” Throughout history, those who have had hope in dreams are the ones who have won great victories, like the end to slavery, or better living conditions, the Pope said, and we should look to these people as examples.
We must be responsible for the world and for the life of every person, he said, because injustice done to any man is “an open wound” which dampens even our own dignity.
And in this responsibility, Francis continued, we must have “the courage of truth,” even while we remember that we are superior to no one. “If you were the last to believe in the truth, do not shy away from the company of men,” he said.
“Even if you live in the silence of a hermitage, bring into your hearts the suffering of every creature. You are a Christian; and in prayer give all back to God.”
He also advised against listening to the voices of those who spread hate and division, saying that human beings were created for community, and to live together in peace.
Even though living the truth and cultivating ideals takes courage, never stop, be loyal, Francis urged, even if you have to pay “a salty bill.” Your life, from your Baptism, has already been steeped in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, he said. You belong to Jesus, so do not be afraid.
“And if one day you get scared, or you think that evil is too big to be challenged, simply think that Jesus lives in you. And it is He who, through you, with his mildness wants to subdue all the enemies of man: sin, hatred, crime, violence; all our enemies,” he said.
The Pope continued his counsel, saying that when you make a mistake, as humans do, it’s important not to let it imprison you, but to turn it over to God, remembering that he came to save sinners.
And when you make a mistake again, “do not be afraid,” he said. “Get up! Do you know why? Because God is your friend.”
“If you are bitter, believe firmly in all the people who still work for good: in their humility there is the seed of a new world. Spend time with people who have kept their heart like that of a child. Learn from wonder, cultivate amazement,” he concluded.
“Live, love, dream, believe. And with God’s grace, never despair.”
Vatican City, Sep 20, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An exhibit at the Vatican this month shows the 230-year history of the Catholic Church on the Korean peninsula, highlighting the faith of its martyrs and promoting a message of peace.
Fr. Matthias Hur Young-yup , a spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Seoul, told CNA that with the exhibit they want to promote peace and teach people about Korean culture.
“As you know there is a nuclear crisis going on in the Korean peninsula, and through this exhibition we wanted to deliver a peace message, especially to our brothers and sisters in the North,” Fr. Hur said.
The exhibit, called “Come in cielo cosi in terra” (“On earth as it is in heaven”), is a first-ever collaboration between the Vatican Museums and the Seoul archdiocese. It is also sponsored by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the South Korean embassy to the Holy See.
It opened in the Vatican’s Braccio di Carlo Magno museum Sept. 8.
The archdiocese also hopes the exhibit will “introduce the unique history and culture of the Korean Catholic Church worldwide, and to take a step forward to fulfill our mission of the evangelization of Asia.”
The exhibit is “only a part of the different projects” on which Korea and the Holy See are partnering, Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums, told CNA. In 2012, the Vatican Museums sent Renaissance pieces by artists such as Michelangelo and Raphael for an exhibit in Seoul.
They are also working on several restoration projects within the ethnological museum. But “this is the first time that Koreans expose, in the heart of the Vatican City State, their own history,” she said.
She hopes the exhibit will “show how evangelization can bring peace and more evangelization, and (that) even persecution is not an obstacle to that.”
Korean martyrs & other works at the "Come in cielo così in terra" exhibit at the #Vatican showing history of the #Catholic Church in Korea pic.twitter.com/svmIeXagAF
— Hannah Brockhaus (@HannahBrockhaus) September 19, 2017
The Catholic faith was originally introduced to Korea through Catholic books brought to the country from Beijing. A group of scholars studied the books, from them developing a belief in the Catholic faith. One scholar was baptized in Beijing in 1784, returning to Korea to baptize others.
These scholars formed the first Catholic community in the country.
“As the number of believers increased, they discovered that it was not a very good way, to just spread the faith among the lay people,” Fr. Hur explained. “So that is when they decided to ask for a missionary, a priest, to come to Korea for a more formal evangelization of the country.”
He said that it is very significant to the members of the Church in Korea that Catholicism in their country was begun by lay people.
As they waited for a priest, the faith continued to grow among the lay people, until finally in 1794 they received a missionary priest from Beijing.
But even before this, persecution of Christians in Korea had begun. From the beginning of her history, the Church in Korea has been marked with suffering, including a century of religious persecution resulting in the martyrdom of at least 8,000 Catholics.
“With the 230 years of history in Korea, we believe especially that we have been through all the persecutions and we didn't die…but we prospered. Especially that the martyrs have become a good role model for all believers…that is the best fruit that has appeared in the country of Korea,” Fr. Hur said.
This exhibit “is not only a very good chance for us to introduce the history of the Korean Catholic Church, but also the culture and the special characteristics of the Korean country itself. I believe that this is a very good introduction for the world to our Korean culture.”
The exhibit outlines, chronologically, the history of Catholicism in Korea from its start through the present time. It includes religious books and objects, as well as Korean religious art.
There are many beautiful works depicting the Madonna and Child, as well as portraits of the martyrs from throughout their history.
Blessed Feast of the Nativity of Mary! (Our Lady as a Korean Madonna and Child, part of an exhibit on the Korean Church now at the Vatican) pic.twitter.com/Cq4oAVGiAo
— Hannah Brockhaus (@HannahBrockhaus) September 8, 2017
Despite persecution, the Catholic population in Korea has continued to grow; in the 1950s they had only 500,000 Catholics (about two percent of the population). As of 2016 there are nearly 6 million (10 percent of the total population).
In the 1950s they only had 290 priests. Today they have approximately 5,100.
Pope Francis visited Korea in August 2014, his first pastoral visit to an Asian country. While there he beatified 230 martyrs during a Mass in Gwanghwamun, with around 1 million people present.
Pope St. John Paul II was the first Pope to visit South Korea when he went to Seoul in May 1984, marking the 200th anniversary of the Church in Korea. During his visit he presided over the canonization of 103 Korean martyrs, the first canonization ever celebrated outside the Vatican.
He again visited South Korea in 1989 to participate in the 44th International Eucharistic Congress in Seoul. And in 2001, during an ad limina visit of the Korean bishops at the Vatican, he said that “inter-Korean reconciliation and solidarity and the evangelization of Asia is the mission of the Korean Church.”
Fr. Hur said through the exhibit they want people to know that no one on the Korean peninsula wants war, but that peace is what they really want.
“That is the message we wanted to share with all the people through this exhibition and we hope that all the people will pray for us and for peace on the Korean peninsula.”
Vatican City, Sep 19, 2017 / 11:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a letter Tuesday to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pope Francis reflected on the role of their foundress, St. Frances Cabrini, explaining how her example is a fitting guide for the challenges of migration we face today.
“The centennial of the death of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini is one of the main events marking the journey of the Church,” the Pope said Sept. 19. “Both because of the greatness of the figure commemorated and because of the contemporary nature of her charism and message, not just for the ecclesial community but for society as a whole.”
With the “inevitable tensions” caused by the high levels of migration around the world today, Mother Cabrini becomes a contemporary figure, he continued.
Pointing to her example, he said “the great migrations underway today need guidance filled with love and intelligence similar to what characterizes the Cabrinian charism. In this way the meeting of peoples will enrich all and generate union and dialogue, not separation and hostility.”
The Pope’s words on Mother Cabrini and immigration were sent to participants in the General Assembly of the Institute of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
They are meeting in Chicago Sept. 17-23, marking the 100th anniversary of the death of their foundress, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants.
An Italian missionary, Mother Cabrini died on Dec. 22, 1917 after spending much of her life working with Italian immigrants in the United States.
She spent nearly 30 years traveling back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean as well as around the United States setting up orphanages, hospitals, convents, and schools for the often marginalized Italian immigrants. Her feast is celebrated Nov. 13.
We must not forget, Pope Francis noted, St. Cabrini’s missionary sensitivity, which was not “sectorial, but universal.”
“That is the vocation of every Christian and of every community of the disciples of Jesus,” he said.
Mother Cabrini’s charism gave her the strength to devote herself to Italian immigrants, particularly orphans and miners, the Pope stated, and always in cooperation with the local authorities.
She helped them to fully integrate with the culture of their new countries, accompanying the Italian immigrants in becoming “fully Italian and fully American.” At the same time she worked to preserve and revive within them the Christian tradition of their country of origin, Francis pointed out.
“The human and Christian vitality of the immigrants thus became a gift to the churches and to the peoples who welcomed them.”
In addition to all of this, she accepted the call from God to be a missionary at a time when it would have been considered unusual for women to be sent all over the world to do missionary work with their own charism as consecrated women religious.
But her “clearly feminine, missionary consecration” came from her “total and loving union with the Heart of Christ whose compassion surpasses all limits.”
St. Frances Cabrini's love for the Heart of Christ gave her the evangelical fervor and strength to care for those on the edges of society, Francis said.
“She lived and instilled in her sisters the impelling desire of reparation for the ills of the world and to overcome separation from Christ, an impetus that sustained the missionary in tasks beyond human strength.”
This year’s centennial celebration gives us the opportunity to look at Mother Cabrini and the charism of the Institute of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with “intimate and joyful gratitude to God,” the Pope continued.
“This is a great gift above all for you, the spiritual daughters of Mother Cabrini,” he concluded. “May your whole Institute, every community and every religious receive an abundant effusion of the Holy Spirit that revitalizes faith and the following of Jesus in accordance with the missionary charism of your Foundress.
Vatican City, Sep 19, 2017 / 07:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis issued a new motu proprio changing the legal status of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, making it a theological institute charged with studying marriage and the family from a scientific perspective.
The motu proprio, titled “Summa Familiae Cura,” meaning “Highest Care of Families,” was published Sept. 19 and officially established the John Paul II Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and Family, replacing the former institute founded by John Paul II in 1981.
In the document, Francis noted that John Paul II made great strides in the area of the family, first of all with his 1980 Synod of Bishops on the topic and the subsequent publication of his post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the conclusions of the gathering, “Familiaris Consortio.”
He then established the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family in 1981 with the Apostolic Constitution “Magnum Matrimonii Sacramentum” in order develop the themes in his 1960 book “Love and Responsibility,” written when he was still Cardinal Wojtyla, and as well as the theology of the body he developed while Pope.
“Since then it has developed a profitable work of theological and pastoral education both in its central headquarters in Rome and in the territorial sections, present on all continents,” Francis said.
While the institute's main headquarters remains in Rome, they have campuses all over the world, including Washington DC, Nigeria, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, India and South Korea, among others.
This path of development has continued, Francis said, with the recent 2014 and 2015 Synods of Bishops on the Family, which resulted in Pope Francis' own apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” published in 2015.
In the text, which was signed on the Sept. 8 Feast of the Nativity of Mary, the Pope said that in light of the new challenges families today face and increasing cultural changes, he wanted to establish the new entity so that the work of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family can be “better known and appreciated in its fruitfulness and relevance.”
Francis said this is why he chose to make it a theological institute with a scientific perspective, “expanding the field of interest, both in terms of the new dimensions of the pastoral task and the ecclesial mission, as well as in the development of human sciences and the anthropological culture in such a crucial field for the culture of life.”
Composed of six articles, the motu proprio said the new John Paul II Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and the Family, linked to the Pontifical Lateran University, will officially “substitute” the prior entity, annulling the 1981 constitution that established it.
However, Francis stressed that “the original inspiration” that led to the founding of the original institute will “continue to fertilize the vast field of engagement” of the new entity, “effectively contributing to make it fully correspond to the modern needs of the pastoral mission of the Church.”
The motu proprio stated that the new institute will be a “center of academic reference” on matters of scientific interest regarding marriage and the family, particularly on topics “connected with the fundamental alliance of man and woman for the care of generation and of creation.”
The new institute will be tied to the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Pontifical Academy for Life, and the dicastery for Laity Family and Life. It will also be required to adapt its structures to offer the necessary personnel, professors, programs and administrative staff needed to carry out its new task.
Students who attend the institute will now be able to obtain various degrees, including a Doctorate, Licentiate or diploma in the Sciences of Marriage and Family.
Although the statutes for the new institute still need to be defined, the leadership will remain the same, and will continue to be headed by the Institute's Grand Chancellor, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, Chairman Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, and the entity's Board of Directors.
Until new statutes are in place, the theological institute will temporarily be governed by the norms under which the previous institute operated.
In a Sept. 19 press breifing on the motu proprio, Archbishop Paglia said the decision to establish a completely new entity was due to the importance of the family today.
The two key aspects of the new institute, he said, are that it is now “theological” and “scientific.”
Adding “theological” to the title points to “the ecclesial dimension in its fullness, the moral perspective, the sacramental perspective, but the biblical and dogmatic perspective, the perspective of history, of law,” he said.
By adding “sciences,” Paglia said it gives the institute the ability to study and explore topics in the “entire realm of human studies,” including the sociological, anthropological and psychological view from a more scientific perspective.
He said Pope Francis' 2015 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia will be new “magna carta” of-sorts for the institute, noting that Chapter 2 of the document is dedicated to the social and anthropological aspects of the family, while Chapter 4 is dedicated to scripture.
“The family, for Pope Francis, is not simply an abstract reality,” the archbishop said. “Families for Pope Francis are families who today must be helped and accompanied to rediscover their historical task, both in the Church and in society.”
Because of this, he said, there is a special link between the new motu proprio and the 2014 and 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family.
In addition, he said faculty will not be cut, but rather expanded, bringing in new professors and experts to discuss themes relevant to the the Sciences of Marriage and Family, including those who aren't Catholic.
Because it is a scientific entity and due to its link to the Pontifical Academy for Life, the institute “dialogues with everyone who reflects on this theme,” Paglia said, adding that “it clear that the dialogue with those who aren't Catholic must be done.”
Vatican City, Sep 18, 2017 / 01:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nearly four years after the Pope established his Council of Cardinal advisers to help him in the task of reforming the Roman Curia, one member of the group said their work is wrapping up, and that it could take only a few more meetings to finish what they set out to do.
The ongoing process of reform “is being done at various stages of development, and I hope we'll come to an end in all of these matters soon,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay told CNA Sept. 14.
“It will take two or three more meetings more,” he said, adding that “by June perhaps we'll be seeing the end of the tunnel.”
Cardinal Gracias is also President of the Asian Bishops Conference and in 2013 was chosen by the Pope along with eight other prelates from around the world to advise him in matters of Church governance and reform.
He spoke to CNA in a lengthy, sit-down interview after the council – also called the “C9” – concluded their latest round of meetings last week.
As far as the reform goes, Cardinal Gracias said “there won't be very major changes; it's the governance of the Church, we can't just turn everything upside down.” Rather, it will be “a gradual change, a change of mentality, a change of approach, restructuring a bit of the departments so that they are more logically suited to the needs of today.”
He said a key goal of the C9 is to implement the vision of the Second Vatican Council, specifically when it comes to the importance of the role of the laity and women, and incorporating greater synodality and collegiality into the Church's structures.
From the beginning Pope Francis “had very clear what he wanted this group to do,” the cardinal said. “He had no hesitation, he's a good leader. He had a clear vision.”
Cardinal Gracias admitted that in the beginning he had doubts as to whether or not they were going in the right direction, and had started to worry what people on the outside might say, since many fruits of the meetings weren't and likely won't be immediately visible. He said he also struggled with doubts about the pace at which they were moving, and believed that things were going “too slow.”
“I will confess that once at the beginning I was wondering, 'are we going in the right direction?' I asked myself. But now I can see it is,” he said, explaining that Pope Francis' Christmas speech to the Roman Curia last year was a “tipping point” for him.
More than anything, there is a change in mentality that's needed, which will take longer than simply reforming the Vatican's structures, he said, but said the group is “rather confident that it will happen because the Pope is giving very effective leadership.”
In addition to the ongoing curial reform, Cardinal Gracias also spoke about the recent release of Indian priest Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil 18 months after he was abducted in Yemen. He also spoke about the Pope's upcoming trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, and when a possible papal trip to India might take place.
Below are excerpts from CNA's interview with Cardinal Gracias:
You've seen Fr. Tom and you were at his meeting with Pope Francis. How is he doing?
I was pleasantly surprised with calmness with which he came out, because he did not know, to my knowledge, that he was being released. But he said I know people have prayed for me, I'm grateful for the people who were praying for me, but he kept on saying 'Jesus is great, Jesus is great.' And then he told the Holy Father. It was a very moving moment. As soon as the Holy Father came he prostrated in front of the Holy Father and kissed his feet, and he said, 'thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you Holy Father, but just one message I want to give you: Jesus Christ is great. Jesus was with me right through, I could sense the presence of God with me'...And once I thought the Holy Father had tears in his eyes. When Tom kept on speaking about Jesus, this is what he told the Holy Father: please tell the people that Jesus is great! I would say that he's come out of it with an experience of the presence of the Lord, and I think at that moment the Holy Father had tears in his eyes...I met the Holy Father later that afternoon, and he was telling me how impressed he was. He was also surprised with the calmness of the man, with Tom...He was a man who is perhaps strengthened in the faith after this experience, and not bitter about anything. Particularly about his captors, he was very understanding. It was a special experience, very edifying. He needs rest, certainly, he'll have a medical exam and he'll be with his superiors, but eventually he'll go back (to India). So thank God really. It was an anxious moment for the whole Church in India. We didn't know what was happening, but we understood that putting more pressure, in the perspective of the government, could make things more difficult for him. (But) he's not really stressed in any way you can make out. Physically weak, but spiritually strong. When he met the Holy Father, he was weeping right through it. And the Holy Father was very touched, he kissed his hand and blessed him...He felt the comfort and strength of the entire Church. As he said, there was never a moment when he felt abandoned, either by the Church or by God. He kept saying, 'Jesus is great.' So he came out spiritually strengthened in that sense. It was a big relief, a big blessing, and the Holy Father was overjoyed. I think the government of Oman did a very splendid job of helping out...they even brought a Salesian to accompany him on the last plane. It was very human of them, so had the comfort of a spiritual companion.
What role did the Holy See play in working out his release?
They only offered help, they kept the issue open and kept sharing. The Holy See was told he was alive, and the Holy See communicated with the Indian government. In Yemen, the political situation is very fragile, and one doesn't know who is in charge. There are bombardments and all sorts of groups are taking over, so there was always a risk I suppose, that if you tried to liberate him you could have harmed him. But they were always interested, they kept it alive. Every time I came to Rome somebody from the Secretariat of State updated me. The Vatican made sure there was interest. Any information the Holy See had, they shared it with the Indian government, the Omani government, so that was good.
It's interesting that there is still no word on who is responsible...
It's not a terrorist attack, it's a kidnapping. They wouldn't glory in taking him. That has not come out. I spent about half an hour with him before the Holy Father, and he was speaking continuously. I did not at any point attempt to ask him questions, because I think that would be a stress for him. He has got to share...he wants to share it and then I imagine you feel lighter. He's probably just got to rest, and rest and rest, physically and then mentally too, he's got to get it out of his mind. He's not come out of it a broken man at all. I was afraid of that, that he would come out a broken man, but no...It's a moment of grace, a moment of faith, a special experience. The high point was when he told the Holy Father, 'just tell everybody that Jesus is great, Jesus is great.' Just three simple words. That was like the sum of his whole experience, what he meant and why he meant it...he felt not abandoned, I suppose. I hope recovers. I imagine he needs a couple of months really, or maybe more than a couple of months, to really rest. He needs time with the family also, natural circumstances...I'm not sure about this, but I have a feeling that the Omani government decided to bring him to Rome, because they (wanted) to hand him over to the Vatican. I think it was better for him, because I think if he had gone to India he would have been mobbed by everybody. He just needs space to recover, and for doctors to examine him. Physically to see if he's alright, and psychologically also, to be investigated. I think it was a wise decision, but I think it was a decision more of the Omani government.
I don't want to exploit your time, but I wanted to ask a few questions about the process of reform and the C9. You just finished your latest round of meetings...
Yes, we just finished the latest round, the 21st meeting. I can't imagine we've had 21. I didn't realize it's 21 already. I think we are working hard. What's nice is that we're a cohesive group now. In the beginning we were all (gestures). Now we know each other so well and we work together, and of course trying to implement the Holy Father's vision of the Church. Also, one of the things we always say, and it's very clear, before the conclave the cardinals had spoken a lot of their vision of the Church, and we have the texts of what all of the cardinals said, and all the cardinals gave their vision. We picked up from that, the Holy Father picked up from that, his own vision. We've focused so far … it's for a dual purpose that the group was formed: one is to help him help him in the governance of the universal Church, and the second is to revise Pastor bonus, the papal document of St. John Paul II for establishing the Curia and giving the job descriptions and the vision of each dicastery. It's to revitalize, I suppose that's what Pope Francis wants us to do, and to have a new mentality which is applying Vatican II also; how to make the Roman Curia at the service of the Holy Father more effectively, but the Churches at the local level, the Churches in the dioceses, how to make the Roman Curia assist the local Churches to be more effective pastorally, so they can be more vibrant in that sense. So I think the holy Father is satisfied with what's happening. I'm satisfied too with the way we are going ahead. We come for three days and work intensely, we work from 9:00 on the first day to 7:00 (pm) on the last day trying to wrap things up, but lots of work has been done. But it's coming to the end. I think it will take maybe two or three more meetings until we wrap up our conclusions about the dicasteries. Then of course the Holy Father will study the thing and decide. So we're going well. The feedback we receive is the Holy Father is happy, he is satisfied, and he has been using the Christmas messages sometimes to give an indication, a little progress report, so this year's Christmas message (2016). I didn't realize it, but when I read it I realized it's practically giving a progress report of what this group has been doing. I hope that it will make an impact. There won't be very major changes; it's the governance of the Church, we can't just turn everything upside down. But a gradual change, a change of mentality, a change of approach, restructuring a bit of the departments so that they are more logically suited to the needs of today, and also of answering the vision of the Second Vatican Council: the importance of lay people, synodality, collegiality, then concern about women, getting more women involved, then giving importance to the local Churches. Then reflecting on the role of episcopal conferences in all this, because that's another big issue. So all of this is being done at various stages of development, and I hope we'll come to an end in all of these matters soon. It will take two or three more meetings more, I foresee at least February, June...by June perhaps we'll be seeing the end of the tunnel.
It's been a long process...
It's been a really long process, really, but it's good. I've been in other committees of this sort, in which at the beginning we don't what we're doing, where to begin, and they you find your way and you find your vision. But here it was very clear, the Holy Father had very clear what he wanted this group to do...we were not clear in why we were called and what he wanted to do, but gradually we understood his mind. He had no hesitation, he's a good leader. He had a clear vision and he had his people with him. He's there with us, he genuinely doesn't take any other appointments. He's there except the general audience. There are emergencies of course, this time there were lots of things happening, but he participates and he listens to discussion, and every now and then he raises his hand when he wants to speak. It's very odd, but now we're accustomed to it, the Pope raising his hand (laughs) … it's very valuable, he's part of the discussion all the way through, completely inserted right in the thick of it. Certainly he doesn't speak that much, because I think we would feel inhibited and want to go in his direction. So it's just the right amount and at the right time.
Well he's very much about the process, isn't he? He doesn't want to interrupt the process that's happening...
Yes, absolutely. And he's happy. And everybody speaks their mind. We know each other so well, and we know that the Holy Father wants us to speak our minds, so no one is at any stage (overly) conscious that the Pope is there with us, no...but it's going well, I think it's going well. I will confess that once at the beginning I was wondering, 'are we going in the right direction?' I asked myself. But now I can see it is. He's a man of deep faith, the Pope. I remember having spoken to him once about the synod, I was sharing him my anxieties on whether the synods were going well, and he told me, 'Cardinal, I am not worried.' He told me that. I told him I was worried, I don't know what direction we're taking, whether we'll be able in two synods to give your vision. (He said) 'I'm not worried. It'll work out.' He knows what he wants, he's a good Jesuit, and the Jesuits know exactly what they want.
At what point were you convinced that things were going in the right direction?
After about seven or eight or nine meetings, I was beginning to wonder. My worry was what will the world say? Everybody knows we're meeting over here, but we are very limited in what we say are the fruits. What are these eight men – nine, we became nine after the Secretary (of State) joined – the nine cardinals are coming and discussing here, what's happening? They're not just coming here for debate. I was worried about the fruits not being seen, and the process being too slow. But then, especially after I heard the Holy Father's speech (at Christmas 2016), for me that was it. I was like, wow, there has been a lot done. That was absolutely...this past Christmas, it was like a progress report of this group. I'm in the group, right, but I never realized the number of things we had really discussed. Besides modifying the document, the protection of minors, the economy, updates on these things, general principles of collegiality, synodality, we're thinking about these things. Care of the Curia personnel. It's everything that the Holy Father...he isn't like us, who when we go back home we're fully in the diocese, he has this in mind and he keeps working on this fully afterwards. We go back to our dioceses and are concerned about the local Church, but he certainly follows up with what we say. I've seen it several times. He takes the group very seriously. Every now and then he would ask us to take up some point on the agenda to discuss it a bit, which he wants advice on. I think it's a new system he has started in which he gets feedback from all over the world, and he gets it from the grassroots. I think, anyway, I hope. We come from different continents and we bring in our own experiences. But it is going well. In fact I really, really think there has been a contribution to the Holy Father, and then the Holy Father takes decisions. I have a feeling this is shared by all now. I have no doubt, this would be the general feeling of all about it. The tipping point was really his speech, but already before that, say about six or seven months before that, we began to see really when we reflected that...perhaps the Holy Father knew that that was in our minds. It was in my mind, and maybe I expressed it indirectly. And the Holy Father once commented also, he said 'we have done this much, so don't get discouraged.' So at one stage he sort of answered that doubt in my mind.
You mentioned that there's also a change of mentality needed. Other than the structural shifts, it seems that the change of mentality will be the more challenging task...
That will take longer. But we hope it will percolate down, because once you have a certain mentality you generally don't change unless the circumstances change, the ambiance changes. And in a certain sense not changing dramatically. That will I think take longer. But I'm positive that it will happen. We're very, very hopeful. We're rather confident that it will happen because the Pope is giving very effective leadership, and every now and then there is a clear message from him. But it will come about and suddenly we'll realize, oh there has been a change! That's how it will happen. It won't come overnight, but at a certain point we'll realize things have changed. He knows what he wants. And he's happy. Certainly the indication I can see is this way; the relationship he has with the group and the joy he has in being with the group. He says he feels that it has helped him. Thank God. We do what we can. I don't know how or why he chose us, but he's happy. I was very surprised when I got a call from him. I said 'why me? What have I done?' I suppose he knows. I don't know why. I did not know the Holy Father before, we've never been in any other committee before. Only at the conclave. I don't even remember having chatted with him at the conclave, or before the conclave. After the conclave it was true that I was with him. It's true that after I was with the Pope at Santa Marta for a few days. Then we were having meals together – breakfast, lunch and dinner for four or five days. That's the time we came to know each other. So we were thrown together for about a week. It struck me that after his election I was at Santa Marta, because there were five or six cardinals. All the American cardinals were there, the European cardinals, all the ones from close by left and came back (for the installation). I stayed for the installation and then went back to India. And then you share, when you speak. He was very comfortable with us, very comfortable with me. But still, he had to make a choice.
Has he mentioned anything about when a visit to India might take place?
He's very interested. We're working it out, and I'm very hopeful. He would like to come and we would like to have him, and the government would like to have him. But now we must see his program, the government's program, but I'm certain he will come. There are no details at all for the moment. I'm rather certainly positive that we will be able to get the Holy Father, he's interested and I think he's getting more interested. And the people will be excited...we are looking forward. In the beginning, as soon as he was elected, I asked him, 'when are you coming to India?' And he was sort of (disinterested), but gradually he began to like the idea. He's never been to India before. As a Jesuit I think he was supposed to go to Japan, that's what he was telling me. He's going now to Bangladesh and Myanmar. It will be very sensitive. Bangladesh has it's own problems, I believe they have elections next year, and Myanmar has problems to solve, also the refugee problem at the moment. Of late it is continuously on, I believe yesterday or this morning I saw it on CNN, and BBC is reporting on it. It's an issue for the world. I've been there (Bangladesh) a few times. It's a nice Church, concentrated mostly in Dhaka, a living faith. I've been to Myanmar also, I went as a papal legate there some years back, and I found the Church very vibrant. A simple faith, but I'm happy. I think it will mean a lot to the people. It will also strengthen the people. I think the Church is also very vibrant, it's not have any specific difficulty, in my impression as a papal legate about two or three years back, but I was very impressed by the faith and the organization. It was vibrant. The Church was small, but strong and alive. It will make a difference for the Churches, and for the governments I expect.
Will you be there?
I plan to go to both places yes. In all of these trips in Asian I've come along: Sri Lanka, Korea, the Philippines. At the moment I'm president of the Asian Bishops Conference, so I suppose in that capacity I'll have to go.
Vatican City, Sep 18, 2017 / 09:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a letter to Japanese bishops, Pope Francis urges his brother prelates to use the example of their country's martyrs as an inspiration to continue their mission of evangelization amid modern-day challenges.
In the letter, dated Sept. 14, the Pope recalled the numerous martyrs in Japan, including Paul Miki and his 25 companions, who were killed in hatred of the faith in 1597, during a period of strong persecution in the country.
Published Sept. 17, the letter was sent to the Japanese bishops ahead of the visit of Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who will be on an official visit to Japan from Sept. 17-26.
Japan holds an important place in the Pope's heart. He wanted to be a missionary in the country while still a young Jesuit, but was unable to go due to health reasons after having part of his lung removed due to a serious pulmonary illness.
In his letter Francis also recalled the recently-beatified Justus Takayama Ukon, a prestigious samurai who chose to live in poverty and exile rather than renounce his faith, as well as the witness of Japan's numerous “hidden Christians,” who from 1600 to the mid-1800s were forced to live their faith clandestinely due to ongoing persecution.
“The long line of martyrs and confessors of the faith, by nationality, language, social class and age, had in common a deep love for the Son of God, renouncing their own civil status or other aspects of their own social condition, all in order to gain Christ,” the Pope said in the letter.
With this “spiritual heritage” in mind, the Pope addressed the bishops directly, saying they have inherited this witness and “with gentle solicitude continue the task of evangelization, especially caring for the most weak and promoting the integration of faithful from different backgrounds into the community.”
He thanked them for their commitment to the poor, as well as their efforts in cultural education, interreligious dialogue and in caring for creation, as well as the emphasis the Church in Japan places on mission.
“If the Church was born Catholic (that is, universal), it means that it was born 'going out,' that it was born missionary,” Francis said, adding that it is love of Christ which compels us “to offer our lives for the Gospel.”
“Such dynamism dies if we lose missionary enthusiasm. For this reason life is strengthened in giving it, and weakens in isolation and agitation,” he said, noting that those who “make the most” of the chances life offers are the ones “who leave the safe shore and become passionate about the mission of communicating life to others.”
Francis then turned to the passage in the Gospels when Jesus tells his disciples they are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.”
Both salt and light operate in service, he said, explaining that as salt, the Church has the task of “preserving from corruption and giving flavor,” while as light she “prevents darkness from prevailing, ensuring a clear vision of reality and the purpose of existence.”
Jesus' words in this passage are also “a strong call to fidelity and authenticity,” he said, and told the bishops that God has entrusted a “great spiritual and moral mission” to the Church in Japan.
While there are “no small difficulties” in the country due to a lack of clergy, religious and a limited participation of lay faithful, the Pope stressed that “the scarcity of workers cannot reduce the commitment to evangelize.”
Current challenges, he said, “cannot make us resigned nor defer to an irenic and numbing dialogue, even if some problematic situations arouse considerable concern.”
He pointed examples of these challenges, the Pope referred to the high rates of divorce and suicide among youth; the numerous people who live “totally disengaged from social life;” the presence of religious and spiritual “formalism;” moral relativism; religious indifference and “the obsession for work and earnings.”
A society that runs on economic development as a consequence creates a class of poor, marginalized and excluded persons, he said, explaining that this goes not just for the materially poor, but also “those who are spirituality and morally like this.”
“In this peculiar context, the need for the Church in Japan to constantly renew the choice for the mission of Jesus, both in salt and in light, becomes urgent,” he said. “The genuine evangelistic strength of your Church, which comes from being a Church of martyrs and confessors of the faith, is a great asset to guard and develop.”
Francis then stressed the need for a “a solid and integral” priestly and religious formation, which he said is “a particularly urgent task today” thanks to the widespread promotion of the “culture of the provisional.”
This mentality also leads youth to believe “that it's not possible to truly love, that nothing stable exists and that everything, including love, is relative to circumstances and the needs of feeling,” he said.
Because of this, a key step in the formation process is to help those tasked with it to “understand and experience in depth the characteristics of Jesus' love, which is free, involves self-sacrifice and is merciful forgiveness,” the Pope said.
“This experience renders us capable of going against the current and trusting the Lord, who does not delude. It's the witness Japanese society is so thirsty for.”
Pope Francis closed his letter by pointing to the presence of ecclesial movements in the country. With their “evangelistic impulse and witness,” he said these movements can be of great help “in the pastoral service and mission 'ad gentes' (to the nations).”
“These realities contribute to the work of evanglization,” he said, adding that as bishops, “we are called to know and accompany the charisms that they carry and make them part of our work in the context of pastoral integration.”
Francis closed his letter praying that the Lord would “send workers into his Church in Japan and support you with his consolation,” and gave them his blessing.