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Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 / 05:45 pm (CNA).- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to China "in late September" for a final round of talks before an agreement on the appointment of bishops is signed.
 
Citing unnamed “sources familiar with the matter,” the Global Times, an English-language newspaper that reflects the position of Chinese authorities, said that “there are no 'disputes on issues of principle' between the two sides, and since the meeting between the two sides was previously held at the Vatican, the Vatican delegation will come to China this time for a meeting in late September, and if the meeting goes well, the agreement would be signed.”

“A Vatican source also confirmed with the Global Times last week that a prominent figure from the Holy See would probably come to China in late September,” the newspaper reported.  

The Global Times also quoted Wang Meixiu, who is presented as “an expert on Catholic Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,” saying that “China and the Vatican most likely agreed that the future bishops in China should be approved by the Chinese government and mandated by the Pope and the letter of appointment would be issued by the Pope.”

“Before signing the agreement,” according to the Communist party-run Chinese newspaper, “the Holy See would deliver an official document to acknowledge seven Chinese bishops who are regarded as 'illegitimate' by the Vatican, including some it previously had excommunicated.”

“The Chinese will receive a Vatican delegation by the 'end of September' to take one final step towards an agreement between the People's Republic of China and the Holy See, according to a source close to the Chinese Communist Party,” the newspaper added.

Wang is quoted as saying that “one should not expect to solve complicated problems the Catholic Church in China faces today with one agreement,” and that the two sides “still need further discussions on the complex situation in the different dioceses in the Episcopal selection.”

According to the Global Times, Chinese government sources have “stressed that the ongoing negotiations will stay on the religious level, and will not touch on any diplomatic issue such as the establishment of diplomatic ties between Beijing and the Vatican.”

The Vatican is one of the last 17 states in the world that recognizes the government of Taiwan, an island led by a democratically-elected government since 1949. Beijing considers Taiwan to be a renegade Chinese province.

In previous negotiations, China has insisted that the Vatican cut its ties with Taiwan and promise not to interfere with internal Chinese affairs in order to come to an agreement.

It is estimated that there are about 12 million Catholics currently living in China, half within official state churches in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the rest in the “underground Church.”

The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association is under the day-to-day direct supervision of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) due to a major change in March 2018 in which the Chinese government shifted direct control of religious affairs to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department (UFWD).

Some of the bishops appointed by the Chinese government in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association also serve as members of the Chinese Communist Party’s National People’s Congress.

“We, as citizens of the country, should first be a citizen and then have religion and beliefs,” Bishop Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan told Chinese media after he voted to eliminate presidential term limits for President Xi in March 2018. Fang was ordained a bishop in Beijing in 2000 without Vatican approval and then legitimized by the Holy See two years later.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has promoted a campaign of “Sinicization” of all religion in China, “a far-reaching strategy to control, govern, and manipulate all aspects of faith into a socialist mold infused with ‘Chinese characteristics,’” according to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom 2018 report.

New regulations on religious practice in China went into effect in February 2018 that codify the increased scrutiny and pressure on religious activities in China. On September 10, the Chinese government placed further restrictions on evangelization, making it illegal for any religious prayers, catechesis or preaching to be published online. This is being enforced via the country’s extensive internet censorship.

Last month, the United Nations voiced alarm over reports that the Chinese government is detaining up to 1 million Uyghur muslims involuntarily in re-education internment camps.

The U.S. State Department has designated China as a “Country of Particular Concern” for religious freedom every year since 1999.

 

Youth to meet with Pope Francis during October synod

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2018 / 10:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Synod of Bishops announced Tuesday that the upcoming assembly of bishops will include a meeting of young people with Pope Francis and the Synod Fathers in the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI hall.

Taking place starting at 5:00 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, the encounter is intended to allow “young people to offer concrete experiences about their life in study and work, their feelings, their future and their vocational choice,” a press release stated.

Pope Francis will be present for the entirety of the encounter, which follows a pre-synod gathering that was held at the Vatican in March, with around 300 youth participants. The press statement noted that Pope Francis wants to meet young people again with the Synod Fathers to listen to them and to consider their proposals for the final document of the synod.

The gathering will include testimonies from young people interspersed with musical and artistic performances and will focus on three themes: the search for identity, relationships, and life as service and gift.

“Young people are particularly invited, and we hope they will be numerous in order to make their voice and their warmth heard by the Synod Assembly,” the statement read.

Called “NOI PER – Unici, solidali, creativi,” the meeting can be attended with a ticket requested from the Congregation for Catholic Education, which is organizing the event.

The Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place Oct. 3-28. According to its preparatory document, the synod’s purpose is to reflect on the Church’s call “to accompany all young people, without exception, towards the joy of love.”

Pope Francis approves new constitution for Synod of Bishops

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2018 / 08:30 am (CNA).- In a new apostolic constitution, Pope Francis has reformed the Synod of Bishops, creating a mechanism for the assembly’s final document to be included in official Church teaching.

Episcopalis Communio, promulgated by the pope on Sept. 15, establishes that the final document of a synod assembly, drafted and approved by a special commission, can be considered part of the ordinary magisterium – that is, the official teaching of the Church – if it receives a particular level of papal approval.

The constitution does not require the publication of a post-synodal papal document to make its conclusions authoritative, though these have traditionally followed synodal sessions.

The most recent synod, which was held on the theme of the family, was followed by the 2015 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, presented the new constitution on Sept. 18.

Baldisseri told journalists Tuesday that the pope may wish to publish a document of his own following October’s synod on young people, but that the new norms allow him to forego it in favor of adopting the synod’s final document as his own.

Should Francis decide to adopt the final synodal document, it would be published with his signature and those of the members of the synod.

The norms provide for a process similar to that followed during the 2015 synod on the family – by which a commission creates the final synodal document, before it is put before the members of the synod for a vote.

This commission is composed of the relator general and general secretary of the particular session of the synod, the secretary general of the synod’s permanent secretariat - currently Cardinal Baldisseri -  and other members elected by the synod itself. To these, the pope may also add his own personal appointees

Regarding how the final document is to be approved by the membership, Episcopalis Communio refers back to the current “particular law.” Accordingly, individual provisions to be adopted in the final document will still require the approval of two-thirds of the synod’s members, while a simple majority suffices to reject an item.

The new constitution does, however, urge the synod fathers to seek “moral unanimity” whenever possible.

Once the final document has been prepared and voted on, it is presented to the Holy Father for his approval and publication. At this point, the pope can choose to grant a particular kind of approval to the document, called “in forma specifica” in canon law, by which it would become an act of the pope and part of the ordinary papal magisterium.

Speaking at a press conference in Rome, Cardinal Baldisseri said that the process of receiving this specific papal approval does not require a strictly judicial standard, or depend upon a particular margin of approval by the synod fathers. 

Quoting St. John Paul II, the new constitution says that while the synod “normally has a merely consultative function,” this “does not diminish its importance.” Rather, the vote of the synod fathers "if morally unanimous, has an ecclesial quality that overcomes the merely formal aspect of the consultative vote.” This, Baldisseri explained, is more important that a specific margin of voting.

Other sections of the constitution substantially affirm recent synodal processes and regulations, including on the synod’s composition and structure, which members have voting rights, and the three distinct synodal phases of preparation, assembly, and implementation.

In the preparatory phase, information on the announced theme of the synod is gathered through study commissions, local consultations conducted through the diocesan bishops, and a pre-synod meeting - if one is convoked. The new norms also provide the option for such pre-synodal meetings to be held at a regional level.

The second phase is the actual assembly of the synodal fathers and other members, while the third phase is the implementation of the synod’s conclusions in the particular Churches.

Episcopalis Communio underlines the importance of bishops listening to the voice of lay Catholics, saying that “the Synod of Bishops must increasingly become a privileged instrument for listening to the People of God.”

“Although in its composition [the Synod] appears as an essentially episcopal organism, the Synod does not therefore live separate from the rest of the faithful. On the contrary, it is a suitable instrument to give voice to the whole People of God precisely through the Bishops, constituted by God as ‘authentic guardians, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church,’” the document states.

This principle is recognized in the canonical norms of the constitution itself. Article 7 of Episcopalis Communio states that the right of the faithful to send their own contributions for the synod directly to the secretary general “remains integral” to the process.

The Synod of Bishops acts as a temporary and occasional advisory body to the pope on issues of pastoral importance to the Catholic Church. It was established by Bl. Pope Paul VI with the motu proprio Apostolica sollicitudo in 1965.

While the synod itself is a temporary body called into being by the pope, it has a permanent general secretariat in the Roman Curia.

There are three types of synod assemblies a pope can call: ordinary, extraordinary, and special. Next month’s meeting will be an extraordinary assembly, as was 2014’s synod on the family.

A special assembly is usually convoked to discuss an issue related to a particular geographical region, such as the upcoming special assembly on the Amazon, which will take place in October 2019.

Bishop Vásquez, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration Releases Statement on the Setting of the U.S. Refugee Limit for the Year 2019 (English & Spanish)

WASHINGTON—The United States Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, announced yesterday that the Administration will set the Presidential Determination, the level of refugees allowed into the United States, at 30,000 refugees for 2019. This is the lowest number set in the history of the U.S. refugee admissions program which was formally created in 1980.

Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin, Texas, Chair of the of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, issued the following statement:

"The announcement of the Presidential Determination is deeply disturbing and leaves many human lives in danger. To cut off protection for many who are fleeing persecution, at a time of unprecedented global humanitarian need, contradicts who we are as a nation. Offering refuge to those fleeing violence, torture, or religious persecution is a cornerstone of our history. We as a country are blessed with vast resources making us capable of securely welcoming those fleeing harm. Closing our doors on those seeking such safety is not who we are as a people. In the coming days, we pray that Congress will have the opportunity to engage in the formal consultation process with the Administration that is required by law. During this mandatory consultation process, Congress should strongly urge the Administration to return to a refugee admission level that reflects local community response and support of refugees, global refugee protection needs, and our long history of compassionately welcoming refugees."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Committee on Migration, Presidential Determination, Administration, Congress, global refugee protection, Diocese of Austin, refugees, migration, humanitarian need, community response
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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200 

WASHINGTON— El Secretario de Estado de Estados Unidos, Michael Pompeo, anunció ayer que la Administración va a fijar la Determinación Presidencial, el número de refugiados permitidos en Estados Unidos, en 30.000 para el 2019. Éste es el número más bajo en la historia del programa de admisiones de refugiados, que fue formalmente creado en 1980.

El Reverendísimo Joe S. Vásquez, Obispo de Austin, Texas, y Presidente del Comité de Migración de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos emitió el siguiente comunicado:

"El anuncio de la Determinación Presidencial es profundamente inquietante y deja muchas vidas humanas en peligro. Cortar la protección para muchos que huyen de la persecución, en un momento sin precedentes de necesidad humanitaria mundial, contradice lo que somos nosotros como nación. Ofrecer refugio a aquellos que huyen de la violencia, la tortura y la persecución religiosa es una piedra angular de nuestra historia. Como país hemos sido bendecidos con abundantes recursos, lo que nos ha hecho capaces de dar la bienvenida a aquellos que huyen. Cerrar nuestras puertas a quienes buscan tal seguridad no es lo que somos como pueblo. En los próximos días, oramos para que el Congreso tenga la oportunidad de participar en el proceso de consulta formal con la Administración que exige la ley. Durante este proceso obligatorio de consulta, el Congreso debería urgir firmemente a la Administración a retornar al nivel de admisiones de refugiados que es consistente con la respuesta y respaldo de la comunidad local a los refugiados, las necesidades de protección global de refugiados y una larga historia de recibir compasivamente a los refugiados".

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Palabras clave: Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos, USCCB, Obispo J. Vásquez, Comité de Migración, Determinación Presidencial, Administración, Congreso, protección global a los refugiados, Diócesis de Austin, refugiados, migración, necesidad humanitaria, respuesta comunitaria.

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Contactos de prensa:

Judy Keane

202-541-3200

Miguel Guilarte

202-541-3202

Pope Francis Names Rev. Juan Miguel Betancourt, S.E.M.V., as Auxiliary Bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has appointed Rev. Juan Miguel Betancourt, S.E.M.V. as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Hartford. Father Betancourt is a member of the Institute of the Servants of the Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary (Esclavos de la Eucaristia y de Maria Virgen).

Father Betancourt entered the Institute Servants of the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary as a canonical postulant on January 1, 1992. He professed vows as a religious on October 7, 1994. He received his bachelor's in theological studies in May 2000 from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico and earned a Master of Divinity in 2002. He also holds a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute (2005). He was ordained on April 21, 2001.

His assignments include: professor of sacred scripture at the Pontifical University of Puerto Rico (2005-2006), professor of sacred scripture at Regina Cleri Major Seminary in Puerto Rico (2005-2006), assistant professor of sacred scripture at the Seminary of Saint Paul (2006-present), adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas (2006-present), local superior at the Casa de San Jose in Saint Paul, MN, (2006-present) and pastor of the churches of Saint James and Saint Francis de Sales in Saint Paul, MN (2006-present).

Father Betancourt is also a Board Member of the National Conference for Seminarians in Hispanic Ministry (2009-present) and a liaison for Foreign Seminarians at St. Paul Seminary (2008-present).

The Archdiocese of Hartford comprises 2,288 square miles. It has a total population of 1,938,914 people of which 538, 983, or 27 percent, are Catholic. Archbishop Leonard P. Blair is the current Archbishop of Hartford. 

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Rev. Juan Miguel Betancourt, Archdiocese of Hartford, Archbishop Leonard Blair

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Cupich, Tobin appointed by Pope Francis to October synod on young people

Denver, Colo., Sep 17, 2018 / 10:44 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has appointed several Americans to participate in October’s Vatican synod on young adults, the faith, and vocational discernment. They will join the bishops elected as delegated to the synod by the U.S. bishops’ conference.

In an announcement Saturday, the Vatican said that Francis had appointed Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark as delegates to the synod. They are among 29 bishops appointed personally by Pope Francis to participate in the synod, to complement those who had been elected by national and regional bishops’ conferences and those who will participate because of other roles they hold in the Church.

CNA reported Tobin’s appointment last month.

In addition to Cupich and Tobin, the bishops appointed by the pope include Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Germany, Cardinal Gerald Lacroix of Quebec, Canada, and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Pope Francis also tapped several priests to participate, among them Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of the influential Italian journal La Civilta Cattolica, and Fr. Robert Stark, director of the office of social ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu.

Several Americans were also appointed U.S. Catholics as auditors to the synod, who will be invited to participate in some of the meeting’s deliberations, but are not given a vote in its proceedings. Those Americans are Sr. Sally Marie, CSJ, superior general of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery, Jonathan Lewis, Assistant Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns in the Archdiocese of Washington, Fr. Robert Panke, rector of the St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, DC, Sr. Briana Regina Santiago, of the Apostles of the Interior Life, and Yadira Vierya, a researcher on families and immigration at the University of Chicago.

A Greek Orthodox American bishop, Metropolitan Nikitas of Dardanellia, will also attend the synod as an observer.  

Tobin will join Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop José H. Gomez, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, and Bishop Robert E. Barron, who, according to a July 23 USCCB press release, were elected by the U.S. bishops’ conference to attend the conference, after which their election was ratified by Pope Francis.

Chaput is officially listed by the Vatican among those delegates who are members of the ordinary council of the Synod of Bishops, rather than listed among those elected by the U.S. bishops’ conference, although the USCCB had previously reported that he was elected to attend. Chaput was elected in 2015 by U.S. bishops to serve on the ordinary council of the Synod of Bishops for a three year term.

Archbishop William Skurla, leader of the Ruthenian Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, will participate as an ex officio member of the synod.

The synod is scheduled Oct. 3-28. According to its preparatory document, the synod’s purpose is to reflect on the Church’s call “to accompany all young people, without exception, towards the joy of love.”

Archbishop McCarrick’s unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 / 08:05 am (CNA).- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement on the appointment of bishops in the country, attention has turned to the role of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick in fostering Vatican-China relations over the last two decades.

Over 20 years, Archbishop McCarrick traveled to China on at least eight occasions, sometimes staying in a state-controlled Beijing seminary, often serving as an unofficial bridge between the Vatican and Chinese government-appointed bishops until 2016.

Prior to allegations of sexual abuse and harassment becoming public this summer, the former cardinal had been an outspoken proponent of a deal between Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Church under Pope Francis, according to Chinese reports.

“I see a lot of things happening that would really open many doors because President Xi and his government are concerned about things that Pope Francis is concerned about,” McCarrick told The Global Times, in an exclusive interview in Feb. 2016.

The interview quoted McCarrick as saying that the similarities between Pope Francis and Xi Jinping could be “a special gift for the world.”

The the state-approved Chinese newspaper also reported that McCarrick traveled to China in Feb. 2016 -- “a trip in which the cardinal said he would visit some ‘old friends.’”

“His previous visits included meetings with Wang Zuo'an, head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs and late bishop Fu Tieshan, former president of Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), an organization not recognized by the Holy See,” The Global Times reported.

In June 2014, David Gibson reported in the Washington Post that McCarrick had traveled to China “in the past year” for “sensitive talks on religious freedom.”

This detail aligns, in part, with the 11-page “testimony” of former apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. Viganò recounted a meeting with McCarrick in June 2013, during which Vigano claims he was told by McCarrick, “The pope received me yesterday, tomorrow I am going to China.”

McCarrick was hosted by the Beijing seminary during at least two trips to China, according to a 2006 State Department document made available via Wikileaks.

The vice-rector of a Communist-approved seminary, Fr. Shu-Jie Chen, described twice hosting McCarrick in an account found in a cable from Christopher Sandrolini, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

Chen described himself as “king” of the seminary, saying that he “could do what he wanted within its walls.”

Sandrolini also noted that the vice rector “downplayed persecution of the underground Church,” calling the underground church “uneducated” and “elderly.”  He said that Chen seemed “unconcerned” that “evangelization was not an option for official religious personnel.

A cable from U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Francis Rooney in March 2006 noted that Archbishop Claudio Celli, who was at that time the Holy See’s principal China negotiator, insisted that McCarrick was not in a position to negotiate with China and that his visits to China were “unofficial.”

There appears to be a gap between McCarrick’s trips to China between 2006 and 2013, though McCarrick’s influence was still active.

In 2009, the archbishop had a message relayed to a friend in China through Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House of Representatives. Pelosi conveyed McCarrick’s greetings to Bishop Aloysius Jin of Shanghai, formerly a leading Chinese Jesuit.

“She [Pelosi] relayed Cardinal McCarrick's good wishes to Bishop Jin. Bishop Jin said he and Cardinal McCarrick had exchanged visits, beginning when the latter was Bishop of Newark,” the State Department cable reads.

During McCarrick’s time as Archbishop of Newark, Aloysius Jin Luxian was not recognized as a bishop by the Vatican. He was ordained a coadjutor bishop of Shanghai without papal approval in 1985, his position was not recognized by the Vatican until 2004. Bishop Jin died in 2013.

A 2007 article in The Atlantic described the close friendship between McCarrick and Jin, and how McCarrick claimed to have relayed messages from the Chinese government-appointed bishop to the pope in the 1990s.

Both the State Department and Chinese media recorded a 1998 visit to China by Archbishop McCarrick. On that trip he was one of three American clerics to visit China to discuss religious freedom, meeting with Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan, vice-chairman of the Chinese Communist Party’s Standing Committee of the Chinese National People's Congress.

Fu was made a bishop by Beijing 1979 without approval of the pope.

Chinese media reported that McCarrick paid a visit to the National Seminary in Beijing in 1998.

In Aug. 2, 2003, the South China Morning Post reported that McCarrick “spent three days in Beijing earlier this week on what was ostensibly a private visit.”

McCarrick was “the first cardinal from a western country to visit the mainland since relations between China and the Vatican turned frosty after a dispute over canonisation in October 2000,” the article continued.

In a Dec. 2003 State Department cable, U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Jim Nicholson wrote that Vatican Office Director for China Monsignor Gianfranco Rota-Graziosi “did not expect concrete improvement stemming from the informal trip last summer of Washington Cardinal McCarrick to China.”

On Sept. 14, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Holy See could be about to enter a deal with China which would include the recognition of seven illicitly consecrated bishops serving in the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association - a state-sponsored form of Catholicism whose leaders are chosen by Communist authorities.

Reports of the Holy See and Chinese government working towards a formal agreement on the appointment of bishops have been circulating since January, 2018. At the same time, China has launched an increasing crackdown on religious practice in the country, demolishing churches and harassing worshippers.

Pope Francis: Discipleship takes sacrifice

Vatican City, Sep 16, 2018 / 06:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A fundamental rule of being a disciple of Christ is the necessity to make sacrifices and deny one’s self, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Sunday.

“Jesus tells us that in order to follow him, to be his disciples, one must deny oneself – that is, the claims of one’s own selfish pride – and take up one’s very cross,” the pope said Sept. 16. “Then he gives everyone a fundamental rule. And what is this rule? ‘Whoever wants to save his life will lose it.’”

To have faith, he said, must go further than mere words – it must lead to concrete actions and choices, “marked by love of God, by a great life, by a life with so much love for neighbor.”

The pope explained that for many reasons, people may end up on the wrong path, “looking for happiness only in things, or in the people we treat as things.”

“But we find happiness only when love, real [love], meets us, surprises us, changes us. Love changes everything! And love can change us too, each of us. The testimonies of the saints demonstrate this,” he said.

Francis said that the Lord wants his disciples to have a personal relationship with him and to make him the center of their lives. Like Jesus asks to his disciples in the day’s Gospel: “Who do you say that I am?”

“Everyone is called to respond, in his own heart, letting himself be illuminated by the light that the Father gives us to know his Son Jesus,” he said. And like Peter, one might confirm enthusiastically, that he is Christ.”

“But when Jesus tells us clearly what he said to the disciples, namely that his mission is accomplished not in the broad road of success, but in the arduous path of the suffering, humiliated, rejected and crucified Servant,” then it can be easy to want to protest and rebel, like Peter did, he said.

He said: In these moments, Christians deserve the same reproof Jesus gave Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

After the Angelus, in honor of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, celebrated by the Church on Sept. 14, Pope Francis distributed small metal crucifixes to those present in St. Peter’s Square.

“The crucifix is the sign of God’s love, which in Jesus gave life for us. I invite you to welcome this gift and bring it into your homes, your children’s room, or your grandparents..., in any part, but in the house,” he said.

Emphasizing that the crucifix is a religious sign for contemplation and prayer, not a merely ornamental object, he said “looking at Jesus crucified, we look at our salvation.”

He added that the cross “is a gift from the pope,” and is free, so to beware if anyone asks them to pay. The crucifixes were handed out by religious sisters, poor, homeless, and refugees. “As always, faith comes from the little ones, from the humble ones,” Francis noted, thanking them.

According to the pope’s charity office, the silver-plated crucifixes, packaged in a transparent envelope, included a card with a quote from Pope Francis in Italian, English, and Spanish. From July 2013 during World Youth Day in Brazil, it says: “In the Cross of Christ there is all the love of God, there is his immense mercy.”

After handing out the 40,000 crosses, the around 300 volunteers and needy were given a sack lunch by Pope Francis.  

 

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, many have called for official Vatican files on the former cardinal to be released. While this may seem like the easiest way of assessing the truth of Viganò’s claims, many of the documents in question could be protected by the “pontifical secret.” But what is that?

The pontifical secret, also sometimes called papal secrecy, is a rule of confidentiality protecting sensitive information regarding the governance of the universal Church. It is similar to the “classified” or “confidential” status common in companies or civil governments.

While the use of the English word “secret” in relation to Church documents and processes is often invoked dramatically, the term is actually taken from the Latin word “secreto,” which simply means “confidential.”

According to the “Secreta continere,” a canonical instruction issued by the Secretariat of State in 1974, those bound by the pontifical secret take an oath at the beginning of their service in the Curia or the diplomatic corps, promising to “in no way, under any pretext, whether of greater good, or of very urgent and very grave reason,” to break the secret.

Materials covered by the pontifical secret include diplomatic communications made between the Vatican’s nunciatures around the world, but also apply to a range of other subjects. These include private dossiers and recommendations on priests and bishops being considered for promotion. Controversially, the secret also covers penal processes concerning major crimes handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, including cases involving the sexual abuse of minors.

The reasons why the secret is applied to different materials depend upon the circumstances. Private communications between what are effectively papal embassies and the Vatican’s Secretariat of State are protected by confidentiality in the same way, and for the same reasons, that other diplomatic correspondence is kept classified. Files pertaining to bishops or prospective bishops are handled in much the same manner as confidential personnel matters are treated in companies or other institutions.

In judicial cases, the secret is meant to protect the privacy of victims, the good name of the accused (at least until they are convicted), and even the confidentiality of the accusers, who might be under the authority of someone under investigation.

Concerning the case of Archbishop McCarrick, Vatican files could conceivably contain materials covering all of these categories. In addition to possible penal processes and the circumstances surrounding his various promotions - including what was known about his behavior at different times - records could also concern any work undertaken by McCarrick as a papal envoy in different places including, for example, China.

As the name “pontifical secret” implies, it is only the pope - or someone empowered by him - who can dispense from it. Those hoping for curial officials to act on their own initiative, even for the supposed good of the Church, are likely to be disappointed. If they were to do so, they could find themselves subjected to disciplinary measures in the same way that any government official might if they were to release classified documents without authorization.

The seriousness of any violation of the secret by curial officials in relation to McCarrick’s case would depend on the nature of the material disclosed.

Fr. Pablo Gefaell Chamochín, a canon lawyer and professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, told CNA that if a person is judged to have acted in violation of pontifical secrecy, he or she could be subjected to punishment.

Pointing to the Secretariat of State’s instruction, Gefaell said, “if the violation of pontifical secrecy becomes known, a penalty proportionate to the wrongdoing and the damage it causes could be inflicted by the competent dicastery.”

Canon law does not establish a specific penalty for a violation of the secret. It would be left to the discretion of the competent Vatican authority to decide what the appropriate punishment would be for a particular violation, Gefaell clarified.

Regarding the potential release of any documents relating to Archbishop McCarrick, potentially held either at the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C. or at the Congregation for Bishops in Rome, it is Pope Francis alone who could order their effective declassification.

Until the pope decides otherwise, it is unlikely that Vatican officials bound by oath to observe the secret will be making any new documents available.

Pope Francis tells new bishops holiness is their 'most urgent task'

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The most important duty of bishops is total dedication to the pursuit of holiness and the holiness of their local Church, Pope Francis said to a group of 130 new bishops Thursday.

“I speak to you here of the most urgent task of Pastors: that of holiness!” Francis said Sept. 13, explaining that holiness is not a “bookkeeping” of one’s virtues, a schedule of ascetic practices, a diet, or “a gym of personal effort.”
 
“Before we existed, God was there and he loved us. Holiness is touching this flesh of God that precedes us. It is getting in touch with his goodness,” he said. “Each of us [bishops] must humbly enter into the depths of ourselves and ask ourselves what he can do to make the face of the Church we govern in the name of the Supreme Pastor more holy.”

To do this, the pope recommended they face the wounds of their local Church and dialogue with their flock about the questions they have. He also advised paying special attention to their clergy and seminaries.

He said the challenges facing clergy and seminaries cannot be confronted without “updating our processes of selection, accompaniment, evaluation.” But solutions will only be fruitful if they also address “the spiritual chasm that, in many cases, has allowed scandalous weaknesses”

Answers need to reveal “why God has been so mute, so silenced, so removed from a certain way of life, as if he were not there,” he stated.

Warning that pointing the finger at others is counter-productive, he told the bishops to work together, remembering that holiness is a work of God which happens when “we return to the simple joy of the Gospel, so that his blessedness becomes flesh for others in our choices and in our lives.”

Speaking at the conclusion of a training course for new bishops organized annually by the Vatican, the pope condemned the idea that the position of a bishop might come with “automatic privileges.”

Bishops do not have “titles of property or acquired rights,” he said. Referencing Matthew 13 and the “treasure buried in a field,” he said they have found the treasure of their ministry “by chance,” and are called “to sell everything” to buy the field and protect it.

Becoming a bishop “is not the result of a merely human scrutiny, but of a choice from Above” and the ministry “requires not intermittent dedication, fidelity to alternating stages, a selective obedience, no.” He said: “you are called to consume yourselves day and night.”

He told them their identity as bishops is a gift from God and must be considered in the right perspective, begging them to put God at the center of their lives. “He is the one who asks everything but in return offers life fully,” he said.

He urged them not to become discouraged when faced with dark times or difficulty, but to take consolation in the fact that the fate of the Church is in God’s hands.

“The destiny of the Church, of the little flock, is victoriously hidden in the cross of the Son of God. Our names are engraved on his heart – engraved on his heart!” he said. “Therefore, do not spend your best energies recording failures and bringing up disappointments, letting the heart shrink and horizons narrow.”

He praised ministers and consecrated men who persevere in doing good, even though it is not noisy and is not “the theme of blogs nor does it reach the front pages [of newspapers].”

These men, he said, “continue to believe and to preach with courage the Gospel of grace and mercy to men thirsting for reasons to live, to hope and to love.” They are not afraid by the wounds of Christ caused by sin or by “sons of the Church.”

He criticized the spread of individualism and indifference toward others, especially when the situation of the lost does not even prick consciences or is avoided by those who have the greatest responsibility.

“We are not allowed to ignore the flesh of Christ, which has been entrusted to us not only in the Sacrament that we break, but also in the people we have inherited,” he stated. “Even his wounds belong to us.”

It is right for these metaphorical wounds to be seen and touched, he said, not just used programmatically as a manifestation “of understandable anger.” Instead, the wounds are where the Church learns what happens when the face of Christ fades in memory, is not kept at the forefront.

“Christ be your joy, the gospel and your nourishment. Keep your gaze fixed only on the Lord Jesus and, accustoming yourself to his light, know how to search [the light] incessantly even where it is refracted, even through humble gleams,” he encouraged.