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Who was Albino Luciani, the 'smiling Pope'?

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Last week Albino Luciani, better known by his papal name, John Paul I, took the next step on the path to sainthood. Yet apart from the fame garnered by various theories that sprouted due to the enigmatic nature of his death, for many little is known of his saintly life and brief pontificate.

Born Oct. 17, 1912, in Italy’s northern Veneto region, Albino Luciani, known also as “the smiling Pope,” was elected Bishop of Rome Aug. 26, 1978. He made history when he became the first Pope to take a double name, after his two immediate predecessors, St. John XXIII and Bl. Paul VI.

He sent shock waves around the world when he died unexpectedly just 33 days later, making his one of the shortest pontificates in the history of the Church.

In addition to the novelty of his name and the surprise of his death, Luciani was also the first Pope born in the 20th century, and is also the most recent Italian-born Bishop of Rome.

Yet behind all the novelty of the month before his death and mystery of those that ensued, John Paul I has been hailed as a man of heroic humility and extraordinary simplicity, with a firm commitment to carrying forward the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and a knack for explaining complicated Church concepts in a way everyone can understand.

Life and background

Coming from a northern region in Italy that borders Austria, Luciani grew up with people from all cultures and backgrounds passing through. The area saw high levels of immigration and strong activity on the part of Catholic movements.

The priests around whom Luciani grew up had a keen social awareness and involvement with the faithful.

While all the basic needs of his family were met, Luciani grew up in relative poverty, with his father gone most of the time for work. However, according to Stefania Falasca, vice-postulator of his cause for canonization, this background gave the future Pope “a huge cultural suitcase” that he was able to bring with him in his various endevours.

Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Belluno e Feltre July 7, 1935, at the age of 22, Luciani was rector of the diocese's seminary for 10 years. He taught various courses throughout his tenure, including dogmatic and moral theology, canon law, and sacred art.

In 1941 he received a dispensation from Ven. Pius XII to continue teaching while pursuing his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He was named Bishop of Vittorio Veneto by St. John XXIII in 1958.

In 1969 he was named Patriarch of Venice by Bl. Paul VI. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 1973, and was elected Bishop of Rome five years later.

Literature also played a key role in Luciani's formation. According to Falasca, he had a library full of books in different languages and a special fondness for Anglo-American literature.

Though he knew English, French, German and Russian, his favorite authors were from the Anglo world, and included authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Willa Cather, and Mark Twain.

As cardinal, he wrote his own book called “Illustrissimi,” which is a series of letters penned to a variety of historical and fictional persons, including Jesus, King David, Figaro the Barber, Austrian Empress Maria Theresa Habsburg, Pinocchio, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Christopher Marlowe.

Luciani, Falasca said, was considered by Paul VI to be “one of the most advanced theologians” of the time, and was held in high esteem because he not just knew theology, but also knew how to explain it.

The clarity he had was “highly considered right away among the Italian bishops,” she said. “He was considered the brightest pen because of this 'cultural suitcase,' which knew how to synthesize in a very delicate writing, but clear and full of references.”

Luciani, she said, had “an ease of language” in his writing, which was coupled with “a solid theological preparation,” making him both credible and accessible.

Pontificate – 'an Apostle of the Council'

John Paul I above all else was “a son of the Council,” Falasca said. Luciani “translated and communicated the directives in a natural and simple way … So he was an apostle of the Council in this sense.”

“He explained it, he put it into practice, he put the directives into action in a crystalline way.” It was this desire to carry the Council forward that formed the basis for his priorities during his 33 days in office.  

Among these priorities was a “renewed sense of mission” for the Church, Falasca said, explaining that for Luciani, to accomplish this mission it was important “to go back to the sources of the Gospel.”

“This, you can say, was the meaning of the Council for Luciani.” And for him, going to the sources also meant “communicating the Gospel in simplicity and conforming his ministry” to it.

In addition to mission, John Paul I also placed a special emphasis on spiritual poverty in the Church and the search for peace and ecumenism.

Ecumenism and dialogue in particular are topics Luciani felt were “a duty that is part of being a Christian.”

Collegiality also was another key topic for Luciani, and it was the subject of his only written intervention during the Council, which he contributed in 1963.

Luciani also placed a strong emphasis on mercy, Falasca said, explaining that in many ways he was “was the Pope of mercy 'par excellence,'” and was known for his warm and friendly demeanor.  

These priorities can be clearly seen in the four general audiences John Paul I gave during his pontificate, with the subjects being poverty, faith, hope, and charity.

And the way he spoke about these and other topics, with “the simplicity of his approach (and) of his language,” left “an indelible memory in the People of God,” Falasca said.

John Paul I, she said, moved people with his naturalness and his ordinary way of speaking to the faithful.

Luciani had put this quality into writing long before his pontificate when in 1949, he published his first book, titled “Catechesis in Crumbs,” which focused on how to teach the essential truths of the faith in a simple and direct way, understandable to everyone.

Death

When John Paul I died 33 days after his election, his sudden and unexpected death led to various conspiracy theories that Luciani had been murdered.

However, in a book titled “John Paul I: The Chronicle of a Death” and published Nov. 7 to coincide with the announcement that Luciani's sainthood cause was moving forward, Falasca dispels the theories by outlining the evidence gathered on John Paul I’s death while researching for his cause.

In the book, she recounts how the evening before his death Luciani suffered a severe pain in his chest for about five minutes, a symptom of a heart problem, which occurred while he was praying Vespers with his Irish secretary, Msgr. John Magee, before dinner.

The Pope rejected the suggestion to call for a doctor when the pain subsided, and his doctor, Renato Buzzonetti, was only informed of the episode after his death.

Heroic Virtue

Luciani's prime virtue was humility, which is “the base without which you can't go toward God.” Humility, Falasca said, “was so embedded in him, that he understood it as the only way to reach Christ.”

Luciani's connection with the Lord was also evident in the way that he spoke about God, she said, explaining that he was able to make the love of God close to people, and felt by them.

Falasca said she believes he is an ideal model of the priesthood. To this end, she recalled how during her time working on Luciani's cause, many young priests came to her saying they felt the call of their vocation when they saw his election on TV.  

Another sign of his sanctity was the “spontaneous reputation” that grew over time, and is a “distinctive sign” in determining the heroic virtue of a person.

“The reputation for holiness is the condition 'sine quo non' (without which it could not be) to open a cause of canonization; there must be a reputation,” she said, and “Luciani enjoys much of it, and he enjoys it not in an artificial way.”

Many people pray to him and have continued to travel to his birth town over the past 40 years, she said, because people are attracted “by his charm.”

“He won over many with his stand in the face of contemporaneity, his closeness to the people of his time with that simplicity and with that familiarity of communication.”

Luciani opened “a new season in being and in the exercise of the Petrine ministry...with his charm, which knew how to conjugate in perfect synthesis, in my view, what was old and what was new.”

He also lived an extraordinary sense of poverty of spirit as seen in the Beatitudes, and had an “extreme fidelity to the Gospel in the circumstance and the status that he embraced.”

In a testimony given for documentation in the Luciani's cause for canonization, Benedict XVI said that when Luciani appeared on the balcony in his white cassock after his election, “we were all deeply impressed by his humility and his goodness.”

“Even during the meals, then, he was took a place with us. So thanks to a direct contact we immediately understood that the right Pope had been elected.”

Benedict XVI's testimony regarding John Paul I is four pages long and is one of the documents included in Falasca's book. In her comments to CNA, she said they had originally planned to interview him in 2005 while he was still a cardinal, but he was elected Pope on the same day he was scheduled to speak, and since a Pope is technically the one judging a saints' cause, he is not allowed to give testimony for it.

However, there are currently no previsions for a retired Pope, so when Benedict XVI resigned in 2013, Falasca and her team advancing Luciani's cause reached out again, receiving the testimony that has now been published in her book.

In his testimony, Benedict recalled that he first met Luciani while the latter was Patriarch of Venice. He had decided to visit the seminary in Bressanone with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, for vacation in August 1977, shortly after becoming a bishop.

Luciani came to visit the brothers after learning of their visit, and to go out of his way to do this in the oppressive heat of August “was a expression of a nobility of spirit that went well beyond usual,” Benedict wrote. “The cordiality, simplicity and goodness that he showed to me are indelibly impressed in my memory.”

Benedict said he was shocked when he received news of John Paul I's death in the middle of the night and didn't initially believe it, but slowly accepted the news in Mass the next day, during which the celebrant offered prayer for the “deceased Pope John Paul I.”

Speaking of John Paul I's pontificate, Benedict noted that in 1978 it was evident that “the post-conciliar Church was passing through a great crisis, and the good figure of John Paul I, who was a courageous man on the basis of faith, represented a sign of hope.” And this figure, he said, still represents “a message” for the Church today.

Benedict also noted that during the various public speeches Luciani gave, whether it was a general audience or a Sunday Angelus, the late Pope “spoke several times off-the-cuff and with the heart, touching the people in a much more direct way.”

Luciani often called children up to him during general audiences to ask them about their faith, Benedict said, explaining that “his simplicity and his love for simple people were convincing. And yet, behind that simplicity was a great and rich formation, especially of the literary type.”

So far hundreds of graces and favors have been recorded for those who pray to Luciani, and there are already two miracles being studied and considered for his beatification and eventual canonization. Falasca said they are currently trying to decide which to present first.

Catholic Partners Urge 18-month Extension of Temporary Protected Status for Haiti

WASHINGTON—On November 17, 2017, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, was joined by Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) in sending a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, urging an 18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti.

TPS is a temporary, renewable, and statutorily authorized immigration status that allows individuals to remain and work lawfully in the U.S. during a period in which it is deemed unsafe for nationals of that country to return home.

While the current designation for Haiti is set to expire in January 2018, the Department of Homeland Security is required to make a decision to terminate or extend TPS for Haiti by November 23, 2017. As noted by the partners: "[I]t would be premature and detrimental to the country's redevelopment to return TPS holders to Haiti." The letter, sharing insights from the recent USCCB/Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) delegation trip to Haiti, explained that the country is still recovering from the 2010 earthquake and subsequent natural disasters and is not currently in a position to adequately handle return of its nationals who have TPS.

As discussed in the USCCB/MRS trip report, Haiti's Ongoing Road to Recovery: The Necessity of an Extension of Temporary Protected Status, an extension of TPS for the nation is crucial for humanitarian, regional security, and economic stability reasons. Consequently, the Catholic partners urged Secretary Duke to extend TPS for Haiti to "allow the country to build upon the progress it has made towards recovery and help ensure individuals' return and reintegration can be safely accomplished."

The letter also reiterated the Church's commitment to standing "ready to support measures to help ensure TPS recipients and their families are provided the protection and support they need while Haiti rebuilds."

Read the full letter here: https://justiceforimmigrants.org/news/catholic-partner-letter-dhs-urging-extension-tps-haiti/.

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Keywords:  U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe Vásquez, Committee on Migration, Migration and Refugee Services, Temporary Protected Status, TPS recipients, TPS beneficiaries, Department of Homeland Security, Haiti, refugees, migration, earthquake, natural disaster, prayers, legislative solution

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200


U.S. Bishops Chairman Greatly Disappointed by House Passage of Tax Bill that Harms Poor, Many Families

WASHINGTON— Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, expressed "great disappointment" over the House of Representatives' passage of the deeply flawed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, calling on the Senate to work toward legislation that fixes the problems with H.R.1. The full statement reads as follows:

"It is greatly disappointing that the U.S. House of Representatives ignored impacts to the poor and families—including those who welcome life through adoption or have more than three children—and passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act without needed changes. According to the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), this bill raises taxes on the working poor beginning in 2023, and simultaneously gives large tax cuts to millionaires. The November 9 letter of the USCCB detailed the many deficiencies in the House bill, including the elimination of the personal exemption, which will hurt larger families, and the repeal of the out-of-pocket medical expenses deduction, which will harm those with serious and chronic illness. While we are grateful that the House restored the adoption tax credit, it still repeals an important exclusion for families assisted by their employer to adopt children in need, and eliminates incentives for charitable giving. For families working hard for economic security, the bill eliminates the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, and tax relief for persons paying for tuition and student loans, as well as those who retire on disability, among other things.

While H.R. 1 takes an important step toward strengthening parents' ability to choose a school that best suits their child, its repeal of important provisions that aid both teachers and students in non-government elementary and secondary schools should be reversed.

The Senate is currently debating its bill, and the USCCB will release a more detailed analysis shortly. The Senate must act decisively to avoid the deficiencies in the House legislation, and craft a final bill that affirms life, cares for the poor, and ensures national tax policy aimed at the common good. Right now, the Senate bill does not eliminate many of the tax benefits that the House bill does, and this is commendable. However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) wrote on November 14 that the $1.5 trillion deficit that is created over 10 years will require spending cuts, and much of these will likely come from programs that help the poor. The Senate bill does not include a needed 'above-the-line' charitable deduction, the omission of which will result in up to a $13 billion annual decrease in charitable giving.

Senate legislation has also been scored by the JCT as raising taxes on the working poor while giving large tax cuts to millionaires. In addition, the Senate proposes to cut additional tax benefits that help working families, and these must be fully understood. It is laudable that the Senate tries to incentivize paid family and medical leave, but the provision is designed to sunset at the end of 2019. Although the Senate bill further expands the child tax credit, the elimination of the personal exemption will cause a net loss for larger families.

The Senate must work to ensure a legislative process characterized by integrity, one in which Americans can fully understand the implication of tax proposals which will be voted upon. It must also seek to pass a law that demonstrates that our nation prioritizes care for the most vulnerable among us."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, House bill, Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), working poor, personal exemption, medical deduction, Work Opportunity Tax Credit, tax relief, jobs, Congressional Budget Office (CBO), charitable deduction, adoption incentive, medical leave, child tax credit, poor, vulnerable.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Pope at Mass: Take time to think about death

(Vatican Radio) With today’s readings, the Church invites us to reflect on the end of the world, but also on the end of our own lives. Pope Francis based his homily on the Gospel reading, where the Lord speaks about the daily lives of men and women in the days before the great Flood, or in the days of Lot – they lived normal lives, eating and drinking, doing business, marrying. But the “day of the manifestation of the Lord” came – and things changed.

The Church, our Mother, wants us to take time to consider our own death, the Pope said. We are all used to the routine of daily life. We think things will never change. But, Pope Francis continued, the day will come when we will be called by the Lord. For some it will be unexpected; for others it might come after a long illness – but the call will come. And then, the Pope said, there will be another surprise from the Lord: eternal life.

This is why the Church asks us to “pause for a moment, take a moment to think about death.” We should not become accustomed to earthly life, as though it were eternity. “A day will come,” the Pope said, echoing the words of Jesus in the Gospel, “when you will be taken away” to go with the Lord. And so it is good to reflect upon the end of our life.

“Thinking about death is not a gruesome fantasy,” the Pope said. “Whether it is gruesome or not depends on me, and how I think about it – but what will be, will be.” When we die, we will meet the Lord – “this is the beauty of death, it will be an encounter with the Lord, it is Him coming to meet you, saying, “Come, come, [you who are] blessed by My Father, come with me.”

The Holy Father concluded his homily with a story about an elderly priest who was not feeling well. When he went to the doctor, the doctor told him he was sick. “Perhaps we’ve caught it in time to treat it,” the doctor told him. “We will try this treatment, and if this doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. And if that doesn’t work, we will begin to walk [together], and I will accompany you to the very end.”

Like the doctor, we too, the Pope said, must accompany one another on this journey. We must do everything we can in order to assist the sick; but always looking toward our final destiny, to the day when the Lord will come to take us with Himself to our heavenly home. 

(from Vatican Radio)

End of life care must acknowledge our mortality, Francis reminds physicians

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2017 / 03:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to medical professionals Thursday, Pope Francis said that when it comes to end-of-life care, treatments should always be based on human dignity and with the patient's best interests in mind.

He also stressed that the various medical options provided must avoid the temptation either to euthanize a patient or to pursue disproportionate treatments which do not serve the integral good of the person.

When it comes to caring for those at the end of their earthly life, “it could be said that the categorical imperative is to never abandon the sick,” the Pope said Nov. 16.

The anguish of being faced with our human mortality and the difficult decisions we have to make “may tempt us to step back from the patient,” he said, but cautioned that is the stage when we are most called to show love, closeness, and solidarity.

Each person – whether they are a parent, child, sibling, doctor or nurse – must give in their own way, he said, and even though there is not always a guarantee of healing or a cure, “we can and must always care for the living, without ourselves shortening their life, but also without futilely resisting their death.”

In this sense, he pointed to the importance of palliative care, “which is proving most important in our culture, as it opposes what makes death most terrifying and unwelcome – pain and loneliness.”

Pope Francis offered his words in a message sent to participants in the World Medical Association's Nov. 16-17 European Meeting on End-of-Life Questions, organized in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The Pope said “greater wisdom” is needed today when it comes to end-of-life care, “because of the temptation to insist on treatments that have powerful effects on the body, yet at times do not serve the integral good of the person.”

The increase in the “therapeutic capabilities of medical science” have made it possible to eliminate various diseases, improve health and prolong a person's life, he said, noting that while these are certainly positive developments, there is now also the danger “to extend life by means that were inconceivable in the past.”

“Surgery and other medical interventions have become ever more effective, but they are not always beneficial: they can sustain, or even replace, failing vital functions, but that is not the same as promoting health.”

Referencing a speech given by Venerable Pius XII to anaesthesiologists and intensive care specialists in 1957, Francis said that “there is no obligation to have recourse in all circumstances to every possible remedy” for an illness, and that in specific cases, “it is permissible to refrain from their use.”

“Consequently, it is morally licit to decide not to adopt therapeutic measures, or to discontinue them, when their use does not meet that ethical and humanistic standard that would later be called 'due proportion in the use of remedies,'” referencing the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 1980 Declaration on Euthanasia.

The key element of this criterion, according to the CDF, is that it considers “the result that can be expected, taking into account the state of the sick person and his or her physical and moral resources.”

This “makes possible a decision that is morally qualified as withdrawal of 'overzealous treatment',” the Pope said.

“Such a decision responsibly acknowledges the limitations of our mortality, once it becomes clear that opposition to it is futile.” He quoted the Catechism in saying that “here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted.”

“This difference of perspective restores humanity to the accompaniment of the dying, while not attempting to justify the suppression of the living,” he said.

“It is clear that not adopting, or else suspending, disproportionate measures, means avoiding overzealous treatment; from an ethical standpoint, it is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong, in that the intent of euthanasia is to end life and cause death.”

When it comes to concrete clinical situations, Pope Francis noted that various factors come into play that are not always easy to evaluate, and to determine whether a medical intervention is proportionate or not, “the mechanical application of a general rule is not sufficient.”

“There needs to be a careful discernment of the moral object, the attending circumstances, and the intentions of those involved.”

Francis emphasized that when caring for any given patient, decisions must be made in light of human dignity. “In this process, the patient has the primary role,” he added.

“The patient, first and foremost, has the right, obviously in dialogue with medical professionals, to evaluate a proposed treatment and to judge its actual proportionality in his or her concrete case, and necessarily refusing it if such proportionality is judged lacking. That evaluation is not easy to make in today's medical context, where the doctor-patient relationship has become increasingly fragmented and medical care involves any number of technological and organizational aspects.

Compounding this difficulty, the Pope said, is the “growing gap” in healthcare opportunities, which he said is due to “the combination of technical and scientific capability and economic interests.”

What this means, then, is that sophisticated and costly treatments are increasingly available to “ever more limited and privileged segments” of the population. This then raises questions regarding sustainable healthcare delivery and “a systemic tendency toward growing inequality in health care.”

This tendency, Francis said, “is clearly visible” on a global level, especially when comparing different continents. However, he noted this is also seen within wealthier countries, where access to healthcare “risks being more dependent on individuals’ economic resources than on their actual need for treatment.”

In this context, as it relates to both clinical practice and medical culture in general, “the supreme commandment of responsible closeness must be kept uppermost in mind,” he said.

Given the complexity of issues surrounding end-of-life care and the moral and ethical questions they raise, the Pope said democratic societies must address them “calmly, seriously and thoughtfully,” in a way open to finding agreeable solutions whenever possible, including on the legal level.

“On the one hand, there is a need to take into account differing world views, ethical convictions and religious affiliations, in a climate of openness and dialogue. On the other hand, the state cannot renounce its duty to protect all those involved, defending the fundamental equality whereby everyone is recognized under law as a human being living with others in society.”

Special attention must be paid to the vulnerable, who need help when it comes to defending their own interests, he said, noting that if this “core of values essential to coexistence” is weakened, then “the possibility of agreeing on that recognition of the other which is the condition for all dialogue and the very life of society will also be lost.”

Healthcare legislation must adopt this “broad vision and a comprehensive view” of what will most effectively promote the common good in each concrete case, he said, and closed by offering his prayer for the discussion.

“I also trust that you will find the most appropriate ways of addressing these delicate issues with a view to the good of all those whom you meet and those with whom you work in your demanding profession.”

Climate change a problem we can't ignore, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2017 / 12:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis sent a message Thursday to a conference on climate change, telling participants the problem is something that can't be ignored, but must be met with a proactive desire to develop effective solutions.

“I would like to reiterate my urgent invitation to renew dialogue about the way in which we are building the future of the planet,” the Pope said Nov. 16.

“We need a solution that unites everyone, because the environmental challenge that we are living, and its human roots, involves and touches us all,” he said, noting that unfortunately many of the efforts to seek concrete solutions “are often frustrated by various motives that range from negating the problem to indifference, comfortable resignation or blind trust in technical solutions.”

Francis said we have to avoid falling into the “perverse attitudes” of denial, indifference, resignation, and trust in inadequate solutions, which “certainly do not help honest research and sincere dialogue on building the future of our planet.”

Pope Francis offered his words in a message to Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, for the U.N. COP-23 Climate Change conference taking place Nov. 6-17 in Bonn, Germany, and which is being presided over by the government of Fiji.

He noted how the gathering is taking place two years after the Paris Climate Agreement was reached, which reached a consensus on the need to develop “a shared strategy to counteract one of the most concerning phenomenons that our humanity is living: climate change.”

The Paris Agreement was an international climate accord reached in 2015 after representatives of more than 150 countries met for COP 21, or the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Signatories pledged on various levels to help reduce global carbon emissions and aim to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius, as compared to average temperatures from the pre-industrial age, by the end of the 21st century.

When the agreement was initially reached, Pope Francis hailed it as “historic” and said it would require “a concerted and generous commitment” from members of the international community. Over 190 countries have signed on to the agreement.

However, United States President Donald Trump decided earlier this year to pull out of the accord, arguing that the requirements would harm the U.S. economy and jobs.

In his message to the COP-23 conference, Pope Francis said the challenge of climate change requires the commitment of every country, some of whom “must try to assume a guiding role,” with due consideration for vulnerable populations.

He noted how in this year's conference participants are trying to implement a new phase of the Paris agreement, which is “the process of defining and building guidelines, rules and institutional mechanisms so that it can truly be effective and capable of contributing to the achievement of the complex objectives it proposes.”

In coming up with solutions, the Pope cautioned against limiting them only to the economic or technical dimensions, because “technical solutions are necessary but insufficient.”

Rather, he said “it's essential and desirable to also keep in attentive consideration the ethical and social aspects and impacts of the new paradigm of development and progress in short, medium and long-term.”

To this end, Francis emphasized the need to focus on an education and lifestyle that are based on an integral ecology capable of assuming “a vision of honest research and open dialogue” where the various aspects of the Paris Agreement are intertwined.  

The agreement, he said, calls for “serious responsibility to act without delay as freely as possible from political and economic pressures, overcoming particular interests and behaviors,” and requires a “responsible awareness” of our common home.

Pope Francis closed his message voicing his hope that the work done in the conference would be animated by the same “collaboration and proactive” spirit of the COP-21 conference in 2015.

“This will accelerate awareness-raising and the consolidation of the will to make effective decisions to counteract the phenomenon of climate change while at the same time fighting poverty and promoting a true integral human development.”

Pope Francis to lead Prayer for Peace in South Sudan and DRC

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is to preside over a Prayer for Peace in South Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of Congo on November 23rd in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5.30pm Rome time.

Solidarity with South Sudan” in association with the Justice and Peace office of religious organizations worldwide, has organized the Prayer and confirmed that when Pope Francis heard of the initiative he made it known that he wanted to be personally involved. 

Christians across the world are invited to pray together on that day and time for Peace in the world, and above all in South Sudan and in DRC, two conflict ravaged nations in which millions of displaced people are suffering the effects of terrible humanitarian crises.

Sr. Yudith Pereira Rico, the Associate Executive Director of Solidarity in Rome, told journalists that the main thing people ask her to do when she travels to South Sudan, is to tell the world what is happening in their country.

The world’s newest country spiraled into civil war in late 2013, two years after gaining independence from Sudan, causing one fourth of the 15 million-strong population to flee their homes.

Sister Yudith described the continuing violence and abuse taking place in South Sudan as “Silent Genocide”.

She told Linda Bordoni what it means for the suffering people of South Sudan to know that the Pope and Christians across the world are praying for them:

Listen:

Sister Yudith said that for them, to know that people outside of South Sudan, in Rome, and in other places are praying for them, is to know that “we have the world with us”.

“For them it a source of strength and hope for the future to feel that they are not alone, and this is important because otherwise where can they find the courage to resist what they are enduring now as refugees, victims…” she said.

And highlighting the many abuses the most vulnerable people are enduring including the use of rape as a weapon of war, Sr Yudith said “to know that people are talking about this means that they too, as human beings count”.

“They feel they don’t count for anybody: for politicians they don’t count, they don’t exist – they are only fighting for power and for money.”

She says most people don’t even know where South Sudan is or the fact that it is the newt country.

To acknowledge and to pray for them, she said, is to give them dignity and saying “we are with you”.

She said that notwithstanding the terrible events that caused the new nation to disintegrate into conflict the people still want to be one.

She explained that they came from 20 years of war, they did not have a national identity, and while the warmongers are vying for power and control the new generations, the women and all ordinary people are convinced they can all live together peacefully.

Sr Yudith also spoke of Pope Francis’ interest in the nation and of how it has positively impacted the desire to set in motion some kind of peace process.

“He is waiting for them to begin something so he can come and lend his support, but they have to begin…” she said.
       

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope addresses end-of-life issues

(Vatican Radio) When faced with the new challenges that arise with regard to “end-of-life” issues, “the categorical imperative is to never abandon the sick.” In a letter to participants in the European Regional Meeting of the World Medical Association on end-of-life issues, Pope Francis said:

“The anguish associated with conditions that bring us to the threshold of human mortality, and the difficulty of the decision we have to make, may tempt us to step back from the patient.  Yet this is where, more than anything else, we are called to show love and closeness, recognizing the limit that we all share and showing our solidarity.”

In his message, the Holy Father called for “greater wisdom” in striking a balance between medical efforts to prolong life, and the responsible decision to withhold treatment when death becomes inevitable. “It is clear that not adopting, or else suspending, disproportionate measures, means avoiding overzealous treatment,” the Pope said. “From an ethical standpoint, it is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong, in that the intent of euthanasia is to end life and cause death.”

Pope Francis acknowledged that it is often difficult to determine the proper course of action in increasingly complex cases. “There needs to be a careful discernment of the moral object, the attending circumstances, and the intentions of those involved,” he said, pointing to the traditional criteria of moral theology for evaluating human actions. But in this process, he insisted “the patient has the primary role.”

The Holy Father also raised the issue of “a systemic tendency toward growing inequality in health care,” both globally – especially between different continents – and within individual, especially wealthy countries, where options for health care often depend more on “economic resources,” than the “actual need for treatment.”

It is important, Pope Francis said, to find agreed solutions to “these sensitive issues.” He emphasized the need to recognize different world views and ethical systems, but also noted the duty of the state to protect the dignity of every human person, especially the most vulnerable.

Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ letter:

To My Venerable Brother
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia
President of the Pontifical Academy for Life

 

I extend my cordial greetings to you and to all the participants in the European Regional Meeting of the World Medical Association on end-of-life issues, held in the Vatican in conjunction with the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Your meeting will address questions dealing with the end of earthly life.  They are questions that have always challenged humanity, but that today take on new forms by reason of increased knowledge and the development of new technical tools.  The growing therapeutic capabilities of medical science have made it possible to eliminate many diseases, to improve health and to prolong people’s life span.  While these developments have proved quite positive, it has also become possible nowadays to extend life by means that were inconceivable in the past.  Surgery and other medical interventions have become ever more effective, but they are not always beneficial: they can sustain, or even replace, failing vital functions, but that is not the same as promoting health.  Greater wisdom is called for today, because of the temptation to insist on treatments that have powerful effects on the body, yet at times do not serve the integral good of the person.

Some sixty years ago, Pope Pius XII, in a memorable address to anaesthesiologists and intensive care specialists, stated that there is no obligation to have recourse in all circumstances to every possible remedy and that, in some specific cases, it is permissible to refrain from their use (cf. AAS XLIX [1957], 1027-1033).  Consequently, it is morally licit to decide not to adopt therapeutic measures, or to discontinue them, when their use does not meet that ethical and humanistic standard that would later be called “due proportion in the use of remedies” (cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Declaration on Euthanasia, 5 May 1980, IV: AAS LXXII [1980], 542-552).  The specific element of this criterion is that it considers “the result that can be expected, taking into account the state of the sick person and his or her physical and moral resources” (ibid.).  It thus makes possible a decision that is morally qualified as withdrawal of “overzealous treatment”.

Such a decision responsibly acknowledges the limitations of our mortality, once it becomes clear that opposition to it is futile.  “Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2278).  This difference of perspective restores humanity to the accompaniment of the dying, while not attempting to justify the suppression of the living.  It is clear that not adopting, or else suspending, disproportionate measures, means avoiding overzealous treatment; from an ethical standpoint, it is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong, in that the intent of euthanasia is to end life and cause death.

Needless to say, in the face of critical situations and in clinical practice, the factors that come into play are often difficult to evaluate.  To determine whether a clinically appropriate medical intervention is actually proportionate, the mechanical application of a general rule is not sufficient.  There needs to be a careful discernment of the moral object, the attending circumstances, and the intentions of those involved.  In caring for and accompanying a given patient, the personal and relational elements in his or her life and death – which is after all the last moment in life – must be given a consideration befitting human dignity.  In this process, the patient has the primary role.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this clear: “The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able” (loc. cit.). The patient, first and foremost, has the right, obviously in dialogue with medical professionals, to evaluate a proposed treatment and to judge its actual proportionality in his or her concrete case, and necessarily refusing it if such proportionality is judged lacking.  That evaluation is not easy to make in today's medical context, where the doctor-patient relationship has become increasingly fragmented and medical care involves any number of technological and organizational aspects.

It should also be noted that these processes of evaluation are conditioned by the growing gap in healthcare possibilities resulting from the combination of technical and scientific capability and economic interests.  Increasingly sophisticated and costly treatments are available to ever more limited and privileged segments of the population, and this raises questions about the sustainability of healthcare delivery and about what might be called a systemic tendency toward growing inequality in health care.  This tendency is clearly visible at a global level, particularly when different continents are compared.  But it is also present within the more wealthy countries, where access to healthcare risks being more dependent on individuals’ economic resources than on their actual need for treatment.

In the complexity resulting from the influence of these various factors on clinical practice, but also on medical culture in general, the supreme commandment of responsible closeness, must be kept uppermost in mind, as we see clearly from the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:25-37).  It could be said that the categorical imperative is to never abandon the sick.  The anguish associated with conditions that bring us to the threshold of human mortality, and the difficulty of the decision we have to make, may tempt us to step back from the patient.  Yet this is where, more than anything else, we are called to show love and closeness, recognizing the limit that we all share and showing our solidarity.  Let each of us give love in his or her own way—as a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a brother or sister, a doctor or a nurse.  But give it!  And even if we know that we cannot always guarantee healing or a cure, we can and must always care for the living, without ourselves shortening their life, but also without futilely resisting their death.  This approach is reflected in palliative care, which is proving most important in our culture, as it opposes what makes death most terrifying and unwelcome—pain and loneliness.

Within democratic societies, these sensitive issues must be addressed calmly, seriously and thoughtfully, in a way open to finding, to the extent possible, agreed solutions, also on the legal level.  On the one hand, there is a need to take into account differing world views, ethical convictions and religious affiliations, in a climate of openness and dialogue.  On the other hand, the state cannot renounce its duty to protect all those involved, defending the fundamental equality whereby everyone is recognized under law as a human being living with others in society.  Particular attention must be paid to the most vulnerable, who need help in defending their own interests.  If this core of values essential to coexistence is weakened, the possibility of agreeing on that recognition of the other which is the condition for all dialogue and the very life of society will also be lost.  Legislation on health care also needs this broad vision and a comprehensive view of what most effectively promotes the common good in each concrete situation.

 In the hope that these reflections may prove helpful, I offer you my cordial good wishes for a serene and constructive meeting.  I also trust that you will find the most appropriate ways of addressing these delicate issues with a view to the good of all those whom you meet and those with whom you work in your demanding profession.

May the Lord bless you and the Virgin Mary protect you.

 

From the Vatican, 7 November 2017

(from Vatican Radio)

World Day of the Poor: A day for giving and receiving

(Vatican Radio) This Sunday parishes in Rome and around the world will mark the first World Day of the Poor which is just one of the fruits of the Jubilee of Mercy.

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion for the New Evangelization has been tasked with the organization of the initiative called by Pope Francis.

“The Holy Father announced this initiative, occasion, this opportunity for grace during the Jubilee when he reached out to those who are socially marginalized and so this is an opportunity for the Church around the world to not only celebrate and assist and be with those who are poor, but also to change our attitudes about poverty”, says Monsignor Geno Sylva, English language official at the Council.

Listen to Lydia O'Kane's interview with Monsignor Geno Sylva, English language official at the Pontifical Council for the Promotion for the New Evangelization:

Giving and receiving

He points out that, “this World Day of the Poor, it’s so beautiful because it’s nothing about power, it’s nothing about anything else but reciprocity, giving and receiving.”

 “We are all poor in some way” … notes Mons Sylva, “and everybody’s got something to give, something to offer and this day can serve to open our minds and hearts, our attitudes towards the poverty that exists every day of the year.”

He goes on to say that, Pope Francis, “continues to focus the Church, its attention towards how is it we respond to poverty institutionally, but also to people individually.”

Marking World Day of the Poor

The World Day of the Poor is being marked not only in Rome, but also in parishes around the world and Mons Sylva says that the Pontifical Council for the Promotion for the New Evangelization has published information on its website in six languages as a pastoral aid for dioceses and parishes worldwide who wish to take part in this initiative

Some of the events organized in Rome include a prayer vigil in the church of St Lawrence Outside the Walls on Saturday 18th at 8pm. There will also be a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis on Sunday morning the 19th which will see some four thousand needy people take part, followed by a lunch in the Paul VI hall.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Justice of San Francisco

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop William J. Justice as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Bishop Justice's resignation was accepted upon reaching the retirement age of 75. 

Bishop Justice's retirement was publicized in Washington, November 16, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

William Justice was born May 8, 1942 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and moved to San Mateo, California in 1946. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Saint Joseph College in Philosophy in 1962 and a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy from Saint Patrick College in 1964. He graduated from St. Patrick Seminary in 1968 with a Master of Divinity Degree.

On May 17, 1968 he was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Joseph T. McGucken.

Assignments after ordination to the priesthood include: parochial vicar, Saint John the Evangelist, San Francisco, 1968-1970; parochial vicar, All Souls Church, San Francisco, 1970-1976; parochial vicar, Saint Paul Church, San Francisco, 1976-1979; parochial vicar, Saint Timothy Church, San Francisco, 1979-1982; director, Permanent Diaconate, Pastoral Center, San Francisco, 1979-1981; secretary, Office of Pastoral Ministry, Pastoral Center, San Francisco, 1981-1982; in residence, Saint Kevin Church, San Francisco, 1982-1985; pastor, Saint Peter Church, 1985-1991; sabbatical, 1989-1990; parochial vicar, All Souls Church, San Francisco, 1991-2003; pastor, Mission Dolores Basilica, San Francisco, 2003-2008; vicar for clergy, Archdiocese of San Francisco, 2006-2008.

On April 10, 2008, he was named an auxiliary bishop by Pope Benedict XVI.  On May 28, 2008, he was ordained a bishop at St. Mary's Cathedral by Archbishop George H. Niederauer.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco comprises 1,016 square miles. It has a total population of 1,776,095 people of which 441,736 or 25 percent, are Catholic. Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone is the current Archbishop of San Francisco.

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Keywords: Pope Francis, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Auxiliary Bishop William Justice, retirement, Diocese of San Francisco, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio, Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop George H. Niederauer, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone

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Judy Keane
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