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Personal conversion needed to confront Satan's lies, pope says in Lent message

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2020 / 03:34 am (CNA).- There is an urgent need for personal conversion, without which the temptations of Satan, and the presence of evil, create a “hell here on earth,” Pope Francis said Monday in his 2020 Lenten message.

“Christian joy flows from listening to, and accepting, the Good News of the death and resurrection of Jesus,” he said. “Whoever believes this message rejects the lie that our life is ours to do with as we will.”

Rather, the pope said, life is born of the love of God our Father.

“If we listen instead to the tempting voice of the ‘father of lies,’ we risk sinking into the abyss of absurdity, and experiencing hell here on earth, as all too many tragic events in the personal and collective human experience sadly bear witness,” he stated.

Pope Francis’ Lenten message was published Feb. 24. It was signed Oct. 7, 2019, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  

With the season of Lent, the Lord gives Catholics again a time of preparation for Jesus’ death and resurrection, “the cornerstone of our personal and communal Christian life,” he said, urging Catholics to not take this time of conversion for granted.

“This new opportunity ought to awaken in us a sense of gratitude and stir us from our sloth,” he argued. “Despite the sometimes tragic presence of evil in our lives, and in the life of the Church and the world, this opportunity to change our course expresses God’s unwavering will not to interrupt his dialogue of salvation with us.”

In his message for Lent 2020, which will begin Feb. 26, Francis spoke about the “urgency of conversion,” and quoted his 2019 apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit.

“Keep your eyes fixed on the outstretched arms of Christ crucified, let yourself be saved over and over again. And when you go to confess your sins, believe firmly in his mercy which frees you of your guilt.  Contemplate his blood poured out with such great love, and let yourself be cleansed by it. In this way, you can be reborn ever anew.”

During Lent, a penitential period preceding the Church’s celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ, Catholics are called to a renewed practice of almsgiving, fasting, and prayer.

Pope Francis recalled that prayer is “more than a duty,” but that it is “an expression of our need to respond to God’s love which always precedes and sustains us.”

Christians pray with the knowledge they are unworthy, but still loved by God, he said.

Francis also spoke about the paschal mystery and putting it at the center of one’s life, which he said means to have compassion for Christ crucified as represented in “the many innocent victims of wars, in attacks on life, from that of the unborn to that of the elderly, and various forms of violence.”

Christ’s wounds are also represented in “environmental disasters, the unequal distribution of the earth’s goods, human trafficking in all its forms, and the unbridled thirst for profit, which is a form of idolatry,” he stated.

About almsgiving, the pope said sharing one’s worldly goods helps to make the world a better place.

“Charitable giving makes us more human, whereas hoarding risks making us less human, imprisoned by our own selfishness,” he said.

Francis said apart from giving alms, Christians must also consider the structure of economic life, which is why he has convened in March a meeting with young men and women from around the world to bring about “a more just and inclusive economy.”

“The Economy of Francesco,” which will be attended by around 2,000 economists and entrepreneurs under the age of 35, will be held in Assisi March 26-28.

Pope Francis pointed to the crucified Jesus, who was sinless yet took on “the weight of our sins.”

“May we not let this time of grace pass in vain, in the foolish illusion that we can control the times and means of our conversion to him,” he urged.

“I ask Mary Most Holy to pray that our Lenten celebration will open our hearts to hear God’s call to be reconciled to himself, to fix our gaze on the paschal mystery, and to be converted to an open and sincere dialogue with him.”

Denver archbishop discusses February Pope Francis meeting

Denver, Colo., Feb 24, 2020 / 12:06 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Denver offered his impressions of a Feb. 10 meeting between some U.S. bishops and Pope Francis, at which the bishops’ discussion with the pope included some questions about the ministry of Fr. James Martin, and about a 2019 meeting between the pontiff and the priest.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver told CNA it was a “privilege” to meet with the pope and his fellow bishops of the U.S. bishops’ conference Region XIII, adding that “the meeting was a grace.”

“The Holy Father spoke very openly and freely with us regarding many topics,” Aquila said, acknowledging that the meeting “has now become a source of some controversy.”

Last week CNA reported that during the Feb. 10 meeting, Pope Francis discussed his Sept. 30 Vatican visit with Fr. James Martin, an American Jesuit who is well-known for speaking and writing about the Church’s ministry to people who identify themselves as LGBT.

Bishops who met with the pope this month told CNA that Pope Francis expressed frustration with the way his meeting with Martin was interpreted and framed by some journalists.

Since it was reported by CNA, those facts have been confirmed by additional bishops who were in the meeting: Archbishop John Wester and Bishop Steven Biegler.

In a Feb. 21 column published by the National Catholic Reporter, Archbishop John Wester added that the bishops’ discussion with the pope also addressed other aspects of Martin’s ministry, including questions about a recent speech Martin delivered to presidents of Catholic universities, “and his work in general with the LGBT community.”

Regarding the Sept. 30 meeting, some bishops told CNA that the pope’s frustration about the media’s framing of the event was evident in “both his words and his face,” while Wester wrote that, from his view, he did not think the pope had been “angry, upset or annoyed.”

For his part, Aquila told CNA that Pope Francis expressed his personal frustration with the way his meeting with Martin was interpreted and framed by some journalists in a way that was clear, Aquila said, especially for “those who understand Italian.”

Pope Francis spoke in Italian during the meeting with U.S. bishops, and a translator offered English translations for bishops who required it.

Among accounts of the meeting from bishops who attended it, a difference of understanding has emerged regarding another point in the discussion of Martin’s ministry. Some bishops told CNA last week that the pope had said to their group that Martin had received some correction about the way the Sept. 30 visit was framed. But according to Wester, the pope did not say that Martin was given a correction.

“I vaguely remember some mention of people in leadership trying to clarify any misunderstandings about his ministry,” the archbishop wrote, while adding that he thought that reference had to do with another issue.

Reflecting on the meeting, which spanned more than two hours and, for some bishops, relied on a translator, Aquila told CNA that “I think it is reasonable that some remarks from the Holy Father would have been interpreted in different ways by different bishops.”

Wester, one of seven U.S. bishops to have endorsed “Building a Bridge,” Martin’s 2017 book on the Church and homosexuality, commented last week on the length of the meeting, and said it would be “difficult for anyone to remember with precision anything that was said” during the conversation.

From his perspective, Aquilla added that “all of us present at the meeting were making an effort to receive the pope in good faith,” even while bishops understood the pope on some points in differing ways.

Aquila emphasized to CNA the fruitful and open discussions with Pope Francis and the bishops.

“The most important part of the meeting was, of course, our unity with Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ on Earth,” the archbishop said.

 

Pope Francis: Ask God for the strength to love your enemies

Bari, Italy, Feb 23, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Ask God for the grace to love your enemies, Pope Francis said Sunday in a homily in the Italian city of Bari.

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This is the Christian innovation. It is the Christian difference,” Pope Francis said Feb. 23.

“Ask God for the strength to love. Say to Him: ‘Lord, help me to love, teach me to forgive. I cannot do it alone, I need you.’ … We need to pray more frequently for the grace to live the essence of the Gospel, to be truly Christian,” the pope said.

Pope Francis offered Mass in Bari for the conclusion of the “Mediterranean, Frontier of Peace" meeting of bishops from 19 Mediterranean countries, which took place Feb. 19-23. An estimated 40,000 people attended the pope’s Sunday Mass in Bari’s Piazza Libertà.

In his homily, the pope said that Christ on the cross perfectly lived out God’s command to Moses in the Book of Leviticus chapter 19: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”

“He did not point a finger at those who wrongfully condemned him and put him to a cruel death, but opened his arms to them on the cross. And he forgave those who drove the nails into his wrists,” Francis said. “If we want to be disciples of Christ, if we want to call ourselves Christians, this is the only way.”

“Having been loved by God, we are called to love in return; having been forgiven, we are called to forgive; having been touched by love, we are called to love without waiting for others to love first; having been saved graciously, we are called to seek no benefit from the good we do,” he said.

Pope Francis said that “the worship of God” contradicts the “culture of hatred.” He said one can fight this culture of hatred by not giving into the “cult of complaint.”

“How many times do we complain about the things that we lack, about the things that go wrong! Jesus knows about all the things that don’t work. He knows that there is always going to be someone who dislikes us. Or someone who makes our life miserable. All he asks us to do is pray and love,” he said.

“This is the revolution of Jesus, the greatest revolution in history: from hating our enemy to loving our enemy; from the cult of complaint to the culture of gift. If we belong to Jesus, this is the road we are called to take,” Pope Francis said.

The only kind of “Christian extremism” is “the extremism of love,” he said.

Pope Francis said that there is no getting around the Lord’s command to “love your enemies” because Jesus is “direct and clear … His words are deliberate and precise.”

The pope said that some people may think that they cannot “survive in this world” if they love and forgive in a world where “the logic of power prevails and people seem to be concerned only with themselves.”

“As Saint Paul told us in the second reading: ‘Let no one deceive himself... For the wisdom of this world is folly with God.’ God sees what we cannot see. He knows how to win. He knows that evil can only be conquered by goodness,” he said.

He added: “Jesus, with his limitless love, raises the bar of our humanity.”

“Today let us choose love, whatever the cost, even if it means going against the tide. Let us not yield to the thinking of this world, or content ourselves with half measures,” Pope Francis said. “Then we will be true Christians and our world will be more human.”

Pope Francis on Middle East: War should never be considered normal

Bari, Italy, Feb 23, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- War is madness, Pope Francis told bishops gathered in the Italian city of Bari Sunday in a speech that warned against populist sentiments and condemned countries that sell weapons that fund wars in the Middle East.

“War can never be mistaken for normality or accepted as an inescapable way to regulate divergences and opposing interests. Never,” Pope Francis said Feb. 23 in Bari, Italy.

“The international community has been content with military interventions, whereas it should have built institutions that can guarantee equal opportunities and enable citizens to assume their responsibility for the common good,” he said.

The pope also denounced “the serious sin of hypocrisy” committed by “many countries,” who at international conferences and meetings “talk about peace and then sell weapons to countries that are at war.”

Pope Francis addressed more than 50 bishops from 19 Mediterranean countries gathered in the coastal city of Bari for the “Mediterranean, Frontier of Peace" meeting taking place Feb. 19-23.

The Italian bishops conference who organized the five-day meeting have described it as a “synod” for bishops from North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe to discuss issues pertinent to the Mediterranean region.

Pope Francis, who traveled by helicopter to participate in the last day of the meeting, used the opportunity to underline the importance of working toward peace through dialogue in the Middle East and North Africa.

“The Mediterranean region is currently threatened by outbreaks of instability and conflict, both in the Middle East and different countries of North Africa, as well as between various ethnic, religious or confessional groups,” he said. “Nor can we overlook the still unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with the danger of inequitable solutions and, hence, a prelude to new crises.”

“The preaching of the Gospel cannot be detached from commitment to the common good; it impels us to act tirelessly as peacemakers,” Pope Francis said.

“For our part, brothers, let us speak out to demand that government leaders protect minorities and religious freedom. The persecution experienced above all – but not only – by Christian communities is a heart-rending fact that cannot leave us indifferent,” he said.

The pope also spoke out on behalf of migrants and refugees, including the many who have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea by boat in recent years.

“What use is a society of constant technological progress, if it becomes increasingly indifferent to its members in need? In preaching the Gospel, we hand on a way of thinking that respects each person by our unremitting effort to make the Church a sign of special care for the vulnerable and the poor,” he said.

“In the Mediterranean region, these include all who are fleeing war or who have left their homelands in search of a humanly dignified life. The number of these brothers and sisters – forced to abandon their loved ones and their lands, and to face conditions of extreme insecurity – has risen as a result of spreading conflicts and increasingly dramatic environmental and climatic conditions,” Francis added.

The pope called on the bishops to see the “cemetery” of the Mediterranean Sea as “a place of future resurrection” for the entire region.

“We can never resign ourselves to the fact that someone who seeks hope by way of the sea can die without receiving help, or that someone from afar can fall prey to sexual exploitation, be underpaid or recruited by gangs,” he said.

Pope Francis said that a sense of fear of “what is instrumentally painted as an invasion” fuels the rejection of others.

“The rhetoric of the clash of civilizations only serves to justify violence and fuel hatred,” he added.

“Of course, hospitality and dignified integration are stages of a difficult process; however, it is unthinkable to be able to face it by raising walls. It frightens me when I listen to some speeches by some leaders of the new forms of populism, and it makes me hear speeches that sowed fear and then hatred in the 1930s of the last century,” Pope Francis said.

“All too often, history has known conflicts and struggles based on the distorted notion that we are defending God by opposing anyone who does not share our set of beliefs,” he said. “Indeed, extremism and fundamentalism deny the dignity of the human person and his or her religious freedom, and thus lead to moral decline and the spread of an antagonistic view of human relationships.”

To counter this, the pope said: “we need to develop a theology of acceptance and dialogue leading to a renewed understanding and proclamation of the teaching of Scripture.”

Francis said that amid deep divisions in societies, Catholics are called to offer witness of unity.

“Just as Jesus lived and worked in a context of differing cultures and beliefs, so we find ourselves in a multifaceted environment scarred by divisions and forms of inequality that lead to instability. Amid deep fault lines and economic, religious, confessional and political conflicts, we are called to offer our witness to unity and peace. We do so prompted by our faith and membership in the Church, seeking to understand the contribution that we, as disciples of the Lord, can make to all the men and women of the Mediterranean region,” he said.

Pope Francis met the Mediterranean bishops in Bari’s Basilica of St. Nicholas, where he prayed in the crypt, venerating the relics of the saint.

In his Angelus address in Bari, Pope Francis prayed particularly for the people of Syria who have suffered from many years of war.

“While we are gathered here to pray and reflect on peace and the fate of the peoples facing the Mediterranean, on the other side of this sea, particularly in the northwest of Syria, a huge tragedy is taking place,” he said.

Violence in northwestern Syrian province of Idlib has displaced more than half a million people, primarily women and children, since December. Pope Francis has repeatedly called for peaceful negotiation and humanitarian protections during the Russian-backed Syrian government’s offensive Idlib, Syria’s last rebel-held territory, which borders Turkey.

The pope said Feb. 23 that the international community has been silent in the face of the tears of suffering children, and called on all actors involved to “put aside calculations and interests to safeguard the lives of civilians and many innocent children who pay the consequences.”

Pope Francis told the Italian bishops that war is madness because “it is crazy to destroy houses, bridges, factories, hospitals, and to kill people and destroy resources rather than building human and economic relationships.”

“There is no reasonable alternative to peace, because every attempt at exploitation or supremacy demeans both its author and its target. It shows a myopic grasp of reality, since it can offer no future to either of the two. War is thus the failure of every plan, human and divine,” the pope said.

Computer programming teen Carlo Acutis to be beatified 

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2020 / 08:30 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Saturday the approval of a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager and computer programmer, who died in 2006.

The miracle involved the healing of a Brazilian child suffering from a rare congenital anatomic anomaly of the pancreas in 2013. The Medical Council of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes gave a positive opinion of the miracle last November.

With Pope Francis’ approval of the miracle promulgated by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints Feb. 21, Acutis can now be beatified.

The beatification is expected to take place in Assisi. Acutis is currently buried in Assisi’s Church of St. Mary Major.

Acutis, who died of leukemia at the age of 15, offered his suffering for the pope and for the Church. He was born in London on May 3, 1991 to Italian parents who soon returned to Milan. He was a pious child, attending daily Mass, frequently praying the rosary, and making weekly confessions.

In May 2019, Acutis’ mother, Antonia Salzano, told CNA Newsroom: “Jesus was the center of his day.” She said that priests and nuns would tell her that they could tell that the Lord had a special plan for her son.

“Carlo really had Jesus in his heart, really the pureness … When you are really pure of heart, you really touch people’s hearts,” she said.

Exceptionally gifted in working with computers, Acutis developed a website which catalogued Eucharistic miracles. This website was the genesis of The Eucharistic Miracles of the World, an international exhibition which highlights such occurrences.

Pope Francis also authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree regarding the approval of two other miracles.

One miracle attributed to 18th century Indian martyr Blessed Lazarus, also called Devasahayam, who converted from Hinduism to the Catholic faith and was severely persecuted.

The other approved miracle was through the intercession of Blessed Maria Francesca of Jesus, the missionary foundress of the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of Loano, who died in Uruguay in 1904.

Both Blessed Lazarus and Blessed Maria Francesca of Jesus can now be canonized as saints. Their canonization dates have yet to be announced.

The Vatican decree also recognized the martyrdom of a Jesuit priest, Fr. Rutilio Grande García, and two lay companions, who were killed in El Salvador. Grande, a close friend of St. Oscar Romero, was shot by a right-wing death squad while traveling in a car on March 12, 1977.

The heroic virtues of Servants of God Mario Hiriart Pulido, a Chilean engineer and lay member of the Secular Institute for the Schoenstatt Brothers of Mary who died in Wisconsin in 1964, was also approved by the pope, along with the heroic virtues of three Italian priests: Fr. Emilio Venturini, Fr. Pirro Scavizzi, and Fr. Emilio Recchia.

Fr. Emil Kapaun's path to sainthood to face Vatican milestone in March

Wichita, Kan., Feb 22, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- A Kansas priest recalls the holy deeds of Servant of God Emil Kapaun, a POW and chaplain during the Korean War, whose path to sainthood will meet a major milestone next month.

Bishops and cardinals from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints will vote March 10 to on whether the process to declare Kapaun a saint should progress to the next stage of advancement.

Kapaun was named in 1993 a “Servant of God,” the first designation on the way to being declared a saint. To be declared “venerable” is the second step in the canonization process, a step which Kapaun could reach next month.

Father John Hotze, the postulator for Kapaun’s cause, said the priest, whom he described as an average man from Kansas, is an example of stewardship and selflessness.

If Kapaun does become a saint, “then there's hope for each and every one of us to be a saint, also,” Hotze said.

“He was just an average guy. He was just a poor Kansas farm boy. He had nothing, and he was able to use what little he had in service to others,” he said.

“He used all of his time and talent and treasure in service to God and in service to others.”

Kapaun, who was born during the Great Depression in Pilsen, Kansas; was ordained a priest in 1940 and began ministry as a parish priest in his hometown.

During World War II Kapaun would offer the sacraments at the nearby Harrington Army Air Field until he became a full-time army chaplain in 1944.  He was stationed in India and Burma for the duration of the war. There, he offered soldiers the sacraments, and, Hotz said, served his unit with a selfless attitude.

“I was speaking to his brother Eugene once, and his brother said that he thought [Emil] always had that missionary spirit in his heart.”

“He said that he thought one of the reasons why [Emil] asked to become a chaplain was because he knew that that would be part of this missionary life,” he said. 
 
Hotze described Kapaun as a “soldier’s chaplain” who would do anything for his men.

Because the priest’s jeep had been damaged, Kapaun would often ride his bicycle, meeting men even at battlefield front lines, and following the sound of gunshots to find out if he was 

“[The soldiers] would all look up to see where Father Kapaun was at because, they said, as soon as they heard the gunfire, … they knew that he would be on his bicycle …  [Kapaun] knew that's where he would be needed,” he said.

After World War II ended, Kapaun used his GI bill to study history and education at the Catholic University of America. He returned home as pastor of his boyhood parish briefly and served at a few other parishes until the army had need of him.

In 1948, the United States issued a call for military chaplains to return to service. Kapaun jumped at the chance. He was then sent to Texas, Washington, and Japan, before being deployed to Korea.

Hotze said that many of the men serving in the same unit viewed him as a saint. He said Tibor Rubun, a Jewish soldier, was once worried during an attack when Kapaun comforted him and began praying with him using the Hebrew Scriptures.

During the Battle of Unsan in November of 1950, Kapaun worked tirelessly to comfort the suffering and retrieve the wounded from the battlefield. One of the soldiers he retrieved was a wounded Chinese soldier, who helped him negotiate a surrender after he was surrounded by enemy troops. Kapaun was taken as a prisoner of war.

Hotze said Kapaun also saved Herbert Miller’s life, a man who had been shot and then wounded by a grenade, which broke his ankle and shredded his legs with shrapnel. Korean soldiers would kill any U.S. prisoners who could not walk to the camp, so Kapaun carried Miller 30 miles on a prisoners’ march.

Kapaun was then taken to prison camp number five in Pyoktong, a bombed-out village used as a detainment center. The soldiers at the camp were severely mistreated, facing malnourishment, dysentery, and a lack of warm clothing to counter an extremely cold winter. Kapaun would do all he could for the soldiers, washing their soiled clothes, retrieving fresh water, and attending to their wounds

When he developed pneumonia and a blood clot in his leg, the chaplain was denied medical treatment. He died in 1951.

“[He was] taken away to the hospital. The men called it the death house because you didn't come out of it alive. When they took you there, they didn't give you any water or they didn't give you any food or anything,” Hotze said.

“He wound up dying there and...the men talked about how there was not a dry eye in the camp.”

For his bravery at Unsan, Kapaun was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama in 2013. The medal is the United States’ highest military award for bravery.

Hotze said Catholics today are still influenced and inspired by Kapaun. He said every June pilgrims march from Wichita to Kapaun’s hometown of Pilsen. They make the 60 mile walk in commemoration of the priest and his march to the prison camps. The pilgrimage last summer gathered about 200 people.

Hotze emphasized two aspects of Kapaun’s spirituality. He said Kapaun dedicated himself to the service of others and he did so joyfully.

“I think his willingness to serve is probably one of the most appealing things, and, another thing was that this willingness to serve, that he did it with joy.”

“He had every right ... to resent the situation that he was in, in his life or the difficulties that he was facing but he never did. He never was angry. He was never resentful or hateful.”

 

Santa Fe archbishop weighs in on papal discussion of Fr. James Martin

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2020 / 04:06 pm (CNA).- Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe has offered his recollections of a meeting between Pope Francis and the American Southwest, especially as regards a discussion during the meeting of Fr. James Martin, SJ.

CNA reported Feb. 20 that Martin was discussed during a Feb. 10 meeting between the pope and bishops of the USCCB’s Region XIII, who were with the pope as part of their ad limina visit.

Martin, an American Jesuit, is well known for his writing and speaking on LGBT issues and the Church. His work has been a subject of controversy; it is criticized by some bishops and praised by others.

Wester confirmed that Martin and his Sept. 30 visit to the pope had been discussed in the meeting, in a Feb. 21 commentary published by the National Catholic Reporter.

The Santa Fe archbishop, who was appointed to his post in 2015, is one of seven U.S. bishops to have endorsed “Building a Bridge,” Martin’s 2017 book on the Church and homosexuality.

“This courageous work is necessary reading for all who wish to build up the Christian community and to give witness to the Gospel message of inclusion,” Wester wrote of Martin’s book.

In his Feb. 21 commentary, the archbishop indicated that a broader discussion of Martin had taken place than was previously reported. Wester said bishops raised to the pope questions about a recent speech Martin delivered to the presidents of Catholic universities, “and his work in general with the LGBT community.”

The pope’s visit with Martin “was only mentioned in passing and was not the main point of the questions” bishops raised to the pope about Martin, Wester wrote.

The archbishop did not indicate what he saw as the “main point” of the bishops’ questions, nor did he indicate the response of Pope Francis to questions raised about the issues he mentioned.

While it would be “difficult for anyone to remember with precision anything that was said” in such a lengthy meeting, Wester said that he did not recall “the pope saying or implying that he was unhappy with Father Martin or his ministry.”

Regarding the pope’s visit with Martin, one bishop told CNA Feb. 20 that Pope Francis “made his displeasure clear” about the way the meeting was interpreted, and framed by some journalists.

Wester’s commentary confirmed that report. The archbishop added that from his viewpoint, “it was not Father Martin the Pope was talking about, but the way others tried to use that encounter, one way or the other.”

The Archbishop of Santa Fe did take issue with a bishop who told CNA that “the Holy Father's disposition was very clear, he was most displeased about the whole subject of Fr. Martin and how their encounter had been used. He was very expressive, both his words and his face -  his anger was very clear, he felt he'd been used."

Speaking of that bishop’s description, Wester said “the language subtlety, yet incorrectly, leads the reader to believe that Father Martin was the issue while in fact, it was how others used their meeting that was in play.” Wester said he did not think the pope had been “angry, upset or annoyed.”

In his commentary, Wester disagreed with reports from other bishops that the pope said Martin had received some correction about the way the Sept. 30 visit was framed.

"Not at all true from my vantage point," Wester said.

Wester conceded that there was some discussion of raising issues with Martin's superiors, though he was not specific about what was said.

“I vaguely remember some mention of people in leadership trying to clarify any misunderstandings about his ministry,” the archbishop wrote. Wester said he thought that reference had to do with an article Martin had written in America Magazine, and not with the pope's meeting with Martin, although he did not indicate what factors led him to that conclusion.

Martin himself, after Wester’s commentary was published, tweeted that he has “never heard anything negative from Jesuit superiors, nor was I ever given a ‘talking to.’”

The archbishop said he could not recall other aspects of reports about the meeting.

“I believe that I have an obligation to offer my perspective on those matters contained in the CNA article about Father James Martin, SJ, since my understanding of the facts differs from what was reported anonymously,” Wester concluded.

The bishops who spoke with CNA reported that Martin’s work in regards to the LGBT community was also discussed with the heads of numerous Vatican congregations, and that some officials expressed concern about aspects of the priest’s work. Wester did not comment on those reports.

 

Pope Francis: Canon law revision project is concluding

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2020 / 11:36 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said on Friday that canon law can be like medicine, because justice is healing for the entire Church. The pope also said that a long-running process of revising canon law’s penal norms has come to an end, suggesting that major revisions to the Code of Canon Law could soon be issued.

“Making known and applying the laws of the Church is not a hindrance to the presumed pastoral ‘efficacy’ of those who want to solve problems without the law, but a guarantee of the search for solutions that are not arbitrary, but truly just and, therefore, truly pastoral,” Pope Francis said Feb. 21.

“By avoiding arbitrary solutions, the law becomes a valid bulwark in defense of the least and the poor, the protective shield of those who risk falling victim to the powerful in turn,” the pope added.

Pope Francis met with the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts at the end of their plenary assembly. The pontifical council is not itself a lawmaker, but assists the pope, who is the Church's supreme legislator, in drafting, and interpreting canon law.

For more than a decade, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts has been at work on a set of major revisions to Book VI of the Code of Canon Law, which covers penal law in the Church.

The revision was commissioned by Benedict XVI.

“The work of revision of Book VI of the Latin Code, that has occupied you for several years and with this Plenary arrives at [its] conclusion,” Pope Francis said. 

“I urge you to continue tenaciously in this task,” the pope added.

The pope said that the pontifical council’s revision is moving “in the right direction” with its update to the canonical legislation to “make it more organic and in accordance with the new situations and problems of the current socio-cultural context” and “together offer suitable tools to facilitate its application.”

The Church’s law is a pastoral tool, and as such must be considered and accepted, Francis said.

“Contrary to that provided for by the state legislator, the canonical penalty always has a pastoral meaning and pursues not only a function of respect for the order, but also the reparation and above all the good of the guilty party,” the pope said. “The reparative aim is designed to restore, as far as possible, the conditions preceding the violation that disturbed the communion.”

“Every crime affects the whole Church, whose communion has been violated by those who deliberately attacked it with their own behavior,” Pope Francis stressed.

“The aim of the recovery of the individual underlines that the canonical penalty is not a merely coercive tool, but has a distinctly medicinal character. Ultimately, it represents a positive means for the realization of the Kingdom, for rebuilding justice in the community of the faithful, called to personal and common sanctification,” he said.

Pope Benedict XV established the pontifical council following his promulgation of the first Code of Canon Law in 1917. The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts has since played a role in interpreting the decrees of the Second Vatican Council and revising the code of canon law. A new code for the Latin Catholic Church was promulgated in 1983, and a code of canons for Eastern Catholic Churches was promulgated in 1990.

In his address to the pontifical council, Pope Francis quoted Benedict XVI’s “Letter to Seminarians” and said it can be an invitation to all Catholics to learn to “understand and -- I dare say - to love canon law in its intrinsic necessity and in the forms of its practical application.”

“Dictatorships are born and grow without rights. In the Church this cannot happen,” Pope Francis said.

 

Pope Francis prays for victims of German shooting

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis prayed Friday for the victims of a shooting in Germany that killed nine people at two hookah bars.

The victims of the attack on the night of Feb. 19 were predominantly immigrants in Germany from Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, and Bosnia. German authorities said that the suspected gunman posted an online video calling for a genocide of ethnic minorities in Germany before carrying out the attack and then killing himself and his 72-year-old mother.

“Having learned of the terrible act of violence in Hanau, which caused the death of innocent people, the Holy Father Francis was deeply affected,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote in a telegram Feb. 21.

“In prayer, Pope Francis entrusts the dead to the mercy of God and implores Christ, Lord of life, so that mourners will find consolation and trust, and will be accompanied by the blessing and peace of God,” Parolin said.

The Vatican Secretary of State sent the telegram on the pope’s behalf to Bishop Michael Gerber of Fulda, who leads the diocese where the shooting took place.

Bishops throughout Germany spoke out in the wake of the attack. Cardinal Reinhard Marx, chairman of the German bishops’ conference denounced racism and radical nationalism, saying that these cannot be justified from a Christian perspective.

“The news that a man has killed and injured numerous people in Hanau leaves me stunned. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their relatives. We hope that the injured will recover soon. In this situation, we also think of the people who have to deal with this terrible act in their neighborhood,” Marx said.

The German cardinal said that such violence is due to right-wing extremism and violent statements on the internet, which must be opposed.

“As Christians, we believe that all people - regardless of religion, nation, culture or language - are children of God. That is why we stand with everyone together against violence and terror,” Cardinal Marx said.

What to expect when Vatican archives on Venerable Pope Pius XII open in March

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2020 / 11:32 am (CNA).- The Vatican’s archives on the pontificate of Venerable Pius XII will become available for study March 2, possibly bringing to light new information about the pope’s actions during World War II.

Vatican archivists have said, however, that they do not expect any immediate surprises to emerge.

It is for the researchers to explore these questions, probably taking years “to make a historical judgement,” Bishop Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Archive, said Feb. 20.

He said “we believe that the new documents that open in different archives of the Holy See will better clarify, deepen, and contextualize, different aspects of the pontificate” of Ven. Pius XII.

Cardinal José Tolentino Calaça de Mendonça, archivist and librarian of the Vatican, said the Church welcomes the research that will take place. “We should have the patience to wait and listen,” he said.

The Vatican Apostolic Archive, formerly called the “secret archive”, is an office which preserves documents and books of historical and cultural importance to the Church and to the world. Since 1881 the archive has been open to qualified researchers on request.

Scholars have had access to documents through the papacy of Pius XI, which ended February 1939.

In 2019, Pope Francis announced that starting March 2, accessibility would be extended from March 1939 to October 1959, the end of the pontificate of Ven. Pius XII.

The complete catalog is expected to include approximately 16 million documents. The smaller archives of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Secretariat of State’s section for relations with states will also be opening to scholars.

The archive has received requests for access from more than 150 scholars from around the world, Pagano said. A maximum of 60 people may enter per day, he noted, “so we foresee that we will have a very weighty year of work.”

Historians request access to the archive to study many different periods, not only the papacy of Ven. Pius XII, Pagano said, stating they cannot “privilege” one over another.

But many people, especially Jewish scholars, will be interested in what the archives might reveal about the first part of Ven. Pius XII’s papacy and his actions during the Second World War.

Among some of the first researchers when the archives open March 2 will be a group from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., Pagano said. Other Jewish scholars from Rome and individual universities have also requested access.

Critics have accused Ven. Pius XII of indifference to the plight of the Jewish people during World War II, despite several already public documents which show the pope’s systematic efforts to assist Jews in Italy.

Historian Johan Ickx, director of the historical archive of the Secretariat of State’s section for relations with states, noted that many documents from Ven. Pius XII’s pontificate have already been made public.

When Pius XII’s cause for beatification was opened in 1967, St. Paul VI formed a committee of historians to study his predecessor’s life and behavior, especially the events of World War II.

The committee’s work led to the publication of “Actes et Documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale” (Acts and Documents of the Holy See related to the Second World War), an 11-volume collection of documents about Pius XII’s papacy during that tumultuous time.

“Now, our material will add other things, other elements,” Ickx said. “This opening will, in fact, yet change something. … to understand better the truth of things. This is for sure.”

He added that more information will be known “from March 2 onward.”

Pagano said he fears any quick answers that may come, because some “little-prepared” scholars may come to the archive looking for a “scoop” of some sort.

“A serious scholar should take into account 10 years of study more or less,” he stated.