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'Lead, kindly light' - Pope Francis names Newman a saint

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2019 / 03:20 am (CNA).- Nearly two centuries ago, John Henry Newman was England’s most well-known Anglican priest, until he risked everything to become a Catholic. Today he has become a saint.

As Pope Francis named Cardinal John Henry Newman a saint Sunday, he told Catholics that the goal of life is a transforming encounter with Jesus.

“The ultimate goal is not health or wellness, but the encounter with Jesus … He alone frees us from evil and heals our hearts. Only an encounter with him can save, can make life full and beautiful,” Pope Francis said at the canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 13.

Pope Francis officially recognized John Henry Newman, Mariam Thresia, Marguerite Bays, Giuseppina Vannini, and Dulce Lopes as saints.


#NewmanCanonisation #NewmanCanonization

— JD Flynn (@jdflynn) October 13, 2019  

The canonization was attended by Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, along with delegates from the Church of England.

“Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession,” he said.

Pope Francis read a quote from one of  Newman’s sermons describing the holiness of daily life: “The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not... The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretence... with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing, that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man.”


More photos from the #NewmanCanonisation. Newman was named a saint along with four holy women:

Photos: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) October 13, 2019  

Newman was a 19th century theologian, poet, Catholic priest and cardinal. Born in 1801, he was before his conversion a well-known and well-respected Oxford academic, Anglican preacher, and public intellectual.

Newman’s 1845 conversion to the Catholic faith was controversial in England, and resulted in the loss of many friends, including his own sister who never spoke to him again.

He became a priest in 1847 and founded the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England. He was particularly dedicated to education, founding two schools for boys and the Catholic University of Ireland. His “Idea is a University” became a foundational text on Catholic higher education. He was a prolific author and letter writer. Newman died in Birmingham in 1890 at 89.

St. John Henry Newman is Britain’s first new saint since the canonization of St. John Ogilvie in 1976.

“Let us ask to be … ‘kindly lights’ amid the encircling gloom. Jesus, ‘stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest: so to shine as to be a light to others,’” Pope Francis said in his Oct. 13 homily, quoting parts of Newman’s “Meditations on Christian Doctrine.”


Along with Newman, Pope Francis canonized four women.

Mother Mariam Thresia (1876-1926) was an Indian mystic and founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family. The Syro-Malabar Catholic foundress received the stigmata and would sometimes levitate during prayer.

Giuseppina Vannini (1859-1911) religious sister from Rome known for founding the congregation of the Daughters of St. Camillus dedicated to serving the sick and suffering. Sister Dulce Lopes Pontes (1914-1992) founded the largest charitable organization in Brazil providing healthcare, welfare, and education service. Nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize, she is the first Brazilian-born female saint.

Pope Francis said that these three religious women saints show us that the consecrated life is “a journey of love at the existential peripheries of the world.”

“Saint Marguerite Bays, on the other hand, was a seamstress; she speaks to us of the power of simple prayer, enduring patience and silent self-giving,” the pope said. “That is how the Lord made the splendour of Easter radiate in her life.”

When Bays (1815-1879) was diagnosed with advanced cancer in 1853, she prayed to the Virgin Mary to be able to suffer with Jesus rather than to be healed. However, on the day that Bl. Pius IX proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Sept. 8, 1854, she was miraculously healed.

“On the journey of life, purification takes place along the way, a way that is often uphill since it leads to the heights,” Pope Francis said.

“Faith calls for journey, a ‘going out’ from ourselves, and it can work wonders if we abandon our comforting certainties, if we leave our safe harbours and our cosy nests. Faith increases by giving, and grows by taking risks,” he said.

The canonizations took place as the Church celebrates an “Extraordinary Missionary Month” dedicated to prayer and reflection on the missionary work of the Church, as well as the Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian Region, taking place at the Vatican Oct. 6-27.

“The Lord sets our hearts free and heals them if only we ask him, only if we say to him: ‘Lord, I believe you can heal me. Dear Jesus, heal me from being caught up in myself. Free me from evil and fear,’” Pope Francis said at the canonization.

Bishop in Brazil says he will ordain women to diaconate if pope permits it

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2019 / 09:58 am (CNA).- A bishop participating in the Vatican’s Amazon Synod said Saturday he would ordain women in his communities as deacons if the idea is recommended by the synod and permitted by Pope Francis.

Bishop Dom Adriano Ciocca Vasino of the prelature of São Félix, Brazil said Oct. 12, there are women in his community who are already trained in theology, and “they know that if this synod, with the [permission] of the pope, opens up the possibility of the diaconate for women… I will ordain them.”

Ciocca spoke at a press briefing which took place during the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian Region, an Oct. 6-27 meeting on the Church’s life and ministry in the region.

The bishop described to journalists a model of formation he uses in the prelature of São Félix, with a theology school open to both men and women.

After the completion of the four-year course, those men who wish to become priests are asked to spend several years living and working in local community, after which they are considered for ordination as deacons or priests, based in part on the recommendation of the community in which they live.

The idea that women could be ordained or commissioned in some way as deacons in the Church has been under discussion since Pope Francis appointed a commission to study the matter in 2016. The Church teaches definitively that only men can be ordained as priests or bishops, but some theologians suggest that women were ordained as deacons in the early centuries of the Church.

Other theologians suggest that ordination is a sacrament reserved to men, and that while women might be commissioned in some form of “diaconate,” a Greek word that means “service,” their commissioning would not be sacramental.

In May, Pope Francis told reporters that some on the Vatican commission have concluded that the historical “female diaconate” was different from the role of male deacons, namely becaue it did not include sacramental ordination.

“For example, the formulas of female diaconal ‘ordination’ found until now, according to the commission, are not the same for the ordination of a male deacon and are more similar to what today would be the abbatial blessing of an abbess,” he said.

The pope added that others in the commission hold that there was “a female deacon formula,” but it is not clear whether it was a sacramental ordination or not.

A permanent deacon from Brazil, Francisco Andrade de Lima, told reporters that he is not opposed to the idea of women deacons, but that he thinks the question should be thought about in terms of the issue of vocations, rather than simply as a potential solution to a problem.

According to the Oct. 12 briefing participants, the topic of formation is important for the Church in the Amazon.

Proper formation of priests and lay people is a major challenge in the region, Bishop Rafael Cob García of the vicariate of Puyo, Ecuador, said.

Cob said he thinks the key to evangelization in the Amazon is inculturation and understanding lived reality. He also pointed out that the approach to evangelization in the cities must be very different to the approach taken in more remote areas.

To have “a Church with an Amazonian face,” new paths of formation and evangelization must be found, he said. For a Church with an Amazonian face, he noted, they also need vocations to come from the local communities, but the major challenge right now is a lack of formators and good formation at a local level.

Questioned about the importance of evangelization versus the importance of protecting minority indigenous communities from outside bad actors, Cob said both are important, but that these minority communities, like everyone, have a right to know about the salvific mission of Christ.

They need to be evangelized in a direct way, he said, pointing to the Church’s missionary mandate to bring Christ to all people.

Cob also said there is a need to protect indigenous from “greedy” multinational corporations that come into a space without concern for that space’s inhabitants. Their lives are threatened by this, he stated.


UK's Prince Charles praises Cardinal John Henry Newman

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2019 / 06:10 am (CNA).- The Prince of Wales said Saturday that the canonization of Cardinal John Henry Newman is a cause for celebration among all Britons, those who are Catholic and those who “cherish the values by which he was inspired.”

“His faith was truly catholic in that it embraced all aspects of life. It is in that same spirit that we, whether we are Catholics or not, can, in the tradition of the Christian Church throughout the ages, embrace the unique perspective, the particular wisdom and insight, brought to our universal experience by this one individual soul,” Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, wrote in an Oct. 12 column for L’Osservatore Romano.

“Whatever our own beliefs, and no matter what our own tradition may be, we can only be grateful to Newman for the gifts, rooted in his Catholic faith, which he shared with wider society: his intense and moving spiritual autobiography and his deeply-felt poetry,” the prince wrote.

Newman will be canonized by Pope Francis Oct. 13. He was born in 1801, converted to Catholicism in 1845, and died in 1890. Before his conversion, he was a well-known and well-respected Oxford academic, Anglican preacher, and public intellectual. After his conversion, he founded the Birmingham Oratory, a religious community of priests, and was Britain’s most well-known, though sometimes controversial, Catholic. He was a prolific writer of books, poetry, and letters; an educator; an orator; and, more quietly, a minister to the poor in working-class Birmingham.

He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI during the former pope’s 2010 visit to the United Kingdom.

Prince Charles will attend Newman’s canonization in Rome.

“In the age when he lived, Newman stood for the life of the spirit against the forces that would debase human dignity and human destiny.  In the age in which he attains sainthood, his example is needed more than ever – for the manner in which, at his best, he could advocate without accusation, could disagree without disrespect and, perhaps most of all, could see differences as places of encounter rather than exclusion,” Prince Charles wrote.

“At a time when faith was being questioned as never before, Newman, one of the greatest theologians of the nineteenth century, applied his intellect to one of the most pressing questions of our era: what should be the relationship of faith to a sceptical, secular age? His engagement first with Anglican theology, and then, after his conversion, Catholic theology, impressed even his opponents with its fearless honesty, its unsparing rigour and its originality of thought,” he added.

The prince noted the anti-Catholicism Newman faced after his conversion.

“And perhaps most relevantly of all at this time, when we have witnessed too many grievous assaults by the forces of intolerance on communities and individuals, including many Catholics, because of their beliefs, he is a figure who stood for his convictions despite the disadvantages of belonging to a religion whose adherents were denied full participation in public life. Through the whole process of Catholic emancipation and the restoration of the Catholic Church hierarchy, he was the leader his people, his church and his times needed.”

Prince Charles concluded by noting Newman’s capacity for friendship, and his devotion to his friends.

“As we mark the life of this great Briton, this great churchman and, as we can will shortly say, this great saint, who bridges the divisions between traditions, it is surely right that we give thanks for the friendship which, despite the parting, has not merely endured, but has strengthened,” he wrote. 

“In the image of divine harmony which Newman expressed so eloquently, we can see how, ultimately, as we follow with sincerity and courage the different paths to which conscience calls us, all our divisions can lead to a greater understanding and all our ways can find a common home.”


The Amazon synod, by the numbers

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican’s Amazon synod began this week. Over 200 people are gathered in the Vatican to discuss the life and ministry of the Church in the Pan-Amazonian region, an area surrounding the Amazon River which spans nine countries.

Here are a few facts about the Amazon synod, as told by the numbers:


2, 260, 87,000

Pope Francis announced a meeting of the Synod of Bishops to discuss matters of importance to the Pan-Amazonian Region in 2017. The two years since that have been spent planning for this month’s gathering.

According to the head of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, around 260 events were held in the Amazon to prepare for the synod. Most of those events were listening and consultation sessions, attended by approximately 87,000 people.


147, 22, 2/3

The synod’s working document, or Instrumentum laboris, guides the process. The document is 147 paragraphs long. According to Baldisseri, it is the product of listening to the thoughts, questions, and concerns of people in the Amazon. He said it is a starting point for discussion.

The document is controversial, and some Church leaders have criticized its theological approach. Pope Francis himself, at the synod’s opening session, called the document a “martyr text destined to be destroyed.”

How much of the Instrumentum laboris gets incorporated into the final document depends on the work of the assembly, which will produce a final document of recommendations to give to Pope Francis.

The actual synod assembly is taking place in Vatican City over 22 days. The synod began with an opening Mass said by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica Oct. 6 and continues through Oct. 27, concluding with a closing Mass.

During those 22 days, the synod’s bishops, experts, observers, and other advisers are meeting inside the Vatican’s Synod Hall to hear presentations, and to work in small groups that discuss aspects of the assembly’s Instrumentum laboris.

The synod’s final document, essentially a set of recommendations to Pope Francis, is approved by the synod fathers toward the end the synod. It will require a 2/3 majority to pass.


185, 145, 34, 20

There are 185 synod fathers participating in the Amazon synod. A synod father is the name given to the bishops, or in some cases, priests and religious brothers, who make up the voting members of a synod assembly. More than 145 of the members of the 2019 synod come from, or serve in, places in South and Central America.

Women are also participating in the synod in the capacity of auditors or experts. Baldisseri said last week that the 34 women is a record number to participate in a synod. Of  the 34 women, 20 are members of religious orders.


50, 438,373, 134,435, 10,000, Zero

Baldisseri has proposed to make a “symbolic gesture” of commitment to ecological friendliness by buying bonds that would reforest 50 hectares (nearly 124 acres) of land in the Amazon basin.

This purchase would be, he said, to offset the CO2 emissions caused by the synod, of which it is calculated that 438,373kg is caused by the air travel of participants in the assembly, and 134,435kg by other emission-causing activities, such as the use of energy, water, and transportation in Rome.

The cost of the 50 hectares is “very low,” Baldisseri said – just 10,000 euros.

This and other initiatives, including the use of glass and metal water bottles, along with biodegradable cups instead of plastic, are intended to make it a “synod at ‘Impact Zero,’” Baldisseri said.


2,400,000, 34,000,000, 79+26+3

The Amazon River basin, most of which is covered by the Amazon rainforest, encompasses 2.4 million square miles, mostly in Brazil, but also in the countries of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname.

According to statistics provided by the Vatican, due to large migration from forest villages, now an estimated 70 to 80% of the Pan-Amazonian population, around 34 million people, live in cities. Because of this, many cities in the Amazon face urban crowding and lack of infrastructure and resources, making urban poverty one of the major issues facing the region, and one of the many topics to be addressed over the next three weeks.

There are 79 Catholic dioceses, 26 apostolic vicariates, and three prelatures in the Amazon basin. The apostolic vicariates and prelatures are supported financially by the Pontifical Mission Societies, which is under the jurisdiction of the Vatican's Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.


As with any major international event, the synod takes a sum of money to prepare for and to conduct. Expenses include international and domestic transportation, lodging, food, personnel, and interpreters, among many others. Information about how much money has been spent has not been made public. Both the Vatican press office and the office of the Synod of Bishops declined to provide that information to CNA.

‘Useless to pretend’: Vatican official dismisses German ‘binding synodal path’

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- A senior legal official in the Vatican has dismissed the idea that a planned “synodal process” in Germany will be “binding,” noting that bishops must exercise their authority in unity and obedience to the authority of the pope.

Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said the idea that a synodal process in any particular country could change universal Church teaching and discipline is “not a possible way of thinking” in the Church.

“It is useless for anyone to pretend that the German synod is binding, because no one has given that authority to the German synod. No one can bind the faithful beyond their authority to bind or pastors beyond their authority to bind,” Arrieta said in an Oct. 11 interview.

Arrieta was one of the drafters and signatories to a legal assessment of the draft statutes for a Synodal Assembly currently being advanced by the bishops of Germany.

That assessment, which concluded that the German plans were “not ecclesiologically valid” was sent to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, on September 4 by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Congregation for Bishops.

Speaking to Alejandro Bermudez, executive director of the ACI Group, of which CNA is a part, Arrieta explained that bishops’ conferences are not autonomous bodies, but subject to the authority of the Congregation for Bishops because of their obligation of obedience to the pope.

“The bishops and their synods, and episcopal conferences, fall under the authority of the Congregation for Bishops,” Arrieta said. 

“The connection is direct; they depend upon the pope, but through the Congregation for Bishops. In a vicarious, stable, delegated way, the pope has entrusted them to the direction of the congregation.”

In March of this year, Cardinal Marx announced that the Church in Germany would embark on a "binding synodal process" to tackle what he called the “key issues” arising from the clerical abuse crisis: clerical celibacy, the Church's teaching on sexual morality, and a reduction of clerical power.

The synodal proposals call for the creation of an assembly in partnership with the Central Committee of German Catholics, a group whose leadership supports the ending of clerical celibacy, the changing of Church teaching on sexual morality to endorse homosexual unions, and the ordination of women to the priesthood.

In May, the committee’s leadership informed its members that the group would participate in the synodal process because it had received guarantees that the synod assembly could and would treat issues of universal teaching and discipline and pass “binding” resolutions, something Arrieta said went far beyond the authority of any country’s bishops to do.

“The philosophy of legal positivism is not the way of the Church,” Arrieta said. “For the Church it is not a possible way of thinking. What truly links the Church, and the faithful, are the sacraments, the word of Christ. No authority is binding that rejects the sacraments; that is not possible, acting that way would not be possible, even if some say that it could be so.”

“Pastors depend upon the pope, and only the pope can give the authority by which a synod would be binding,” Arrieta added. “Without that, saying ‘this is binding,’ or ‘I accept that this is binding’ does not make it so; no one would be bound. It is not useful for anyone to say that it is, or for someone to pretend that it is, or write a norm about it, because the norm itself would not have authority.”

In response to Ouellet’s September letter and the PCLT assessment, Marx flew to Rome and met with both Pope Francis and Cardinal Ouellet last month. Officials in the Congregation for Bishops told CNA that Marx had used the meetings to attempt to “minimize” the significance of the synodal plans, and to insist that Vatican criticisms are unfounded.

Before Marx arrived in Rome, Matthias Kopp, a spokesman for the German bishops’ conference told Catholic News Service that the term “binding” was not meant to imply any Church figure would be bound by the synodal conclusions. “Binding means it is a vote,” not simply a discussion, Kopp said.

The German bishops’ conference subsequently voted to adopt the statutes by a margin of 51-12 with 1 abstention during their plenary session on Sept. 25. At that time, Bishop Rudolph Voderholzer of Regesburg said that there was “a dishonesty at the beginning of the Synodal Process.” 

The statutes are now with the Central Committee of German Catholics, the leaders of which will agree on an amended version with Cardinal Marx.

The synodal process in Germany is due to begin on the first day of Advent.

These are the four women being canonized with John Henry Newman

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Pope Francis will canonize four women alongside John Henry Newman this Sunday. These women -- a stigmatist, a mystic, a Roman orphan, and Nobel Peace prize nominee -- also proclaimed Christ through their lives and their miracles in a unique way.

Mother Mariam Thresia

Mother Mariam Thresia (1876-1926) was an Indian mystic and founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family. Her prayer life was characterized by frequent ecstasies in which she would sometimes levitate above the ground. In 1909, Thresia received the stigmata, after which she also suffered from demonic attacks.

Mother Thresia cared for the poor, sick, and dying in Kerala, visiting those with leprosy and measles. She also preached to the poor and the rich alike the importance of happy, healthy families to uplift all of society.  In 1914 Thresia founded the Congregation of the Holy Family, which has grown to have 176 houses around the world with 1,500 professed sisters.

“Our main charisma is family apostolate. We have schools, hospitals and counseling centers etc. But our main focus is the family apostolate. Making the families like a Holy Family of Nazareth,” Sister Dr. Vinaya of the Congregation of the Holy Family said.

Pope Francis recognized the second miracle attributed Mother Thresia in February. A grandmother of a dying child had a relic of Mariam Thresia and asked the nurse -- a sister belonging to the Congregation of the Holy Family -- to place the relic on the child’s heart and pray. From that moment forward, the young boy began to breathe normally and was cured.

Marguerite Bays

This 19th century Swiss laywoman and stigmatist dedicated her life to prayer and service to her parish community without marrying or entering a religious community. As a Third Order Franciscan, she lived a simple life as a dressmaker and carried out a lay apostolate as a catechist.

When Bays was diagnosed with advanced cancer in 1853, she prayed to the Virgin Mary to be able to suffer with Jesus rather than to be healed. However, on the day that Bl. Pius IX proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Sept. 8, 1854, she was miraculously healed. Pius made the proclamation on Marguerite’s 39th birthday.

“From that moment on, after Marguerite was healed of her illness in a completely inexplicable way, she proclaimed the Passion of the Lord, because every Friday she had these moments of suffering in which there was blood and the stigmata, the very pain of the Passion,” Fr. Carlo Calloni, the postulator for Bays’ canonization cause, told EWTN’s Vaticano.

Blessed Marguerite died on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1879 at the age of 63. After her death the Vatican approved a miracle attributed to her intercession in which a 2 year old child was completely healed after being run over by a 1,800 lb tractor wheel. She was beatified by St. John Paul II in 1995.

Mother Giuseppina Vannini

Giuseppina Vannini is a 19th century religious sister from Rome known for founding the congregation of the Daughters of St. Camillus dedicated to serving the sick and suffering. She is the first Roman woman to be canonized in more than 400 years, according to ACI Stampa.

Vannini spent much of her childhood in an orphanage near St. Peter’s Square after losing her father when she was four, and her mother when she was seven. She grew up among the Daughters of Charity sisters, who ran the orphanage. On the day of her first communion, young Giuseppina felt that she was called to a religious vocation.

This desire was not realized until 1892 when she was 33 because she was rejected by the Daughters of Charity after her novitiate due to her poor health.

Despite her own health problems, Vannini went on to found the Daughters of St. Camillus, whose charism is to serve the sick, even at the risk of their own lives. However she did not live to see the congregation fully recognized by the Vatican. She died at the age of 51 in 1911.

Today the Daughters of St. Camillus have grown to 800 sisters in 22 countries. The Giuseppina Vannini Hospital in Rome is named in her honor.

Sister Dulce Lopes

This Brazilian sister was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize. Born as Maria Rita Lopes in 1914 in Salvador de Bahia, Lopes began inviting the elderly and those in need into her home at the age of 16. Two years later she joined the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God.

In 1959, she founded the Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce, which grew into largest charitable organization in Brazil providing healthcare, welfare, and education services. Today the foundation includes Roma teaching hospital in Bahia and the Santo Antonio Educational Center which provides free education to 800 children living in extreme poverty.

Sister Dulce died in 1992 after 30 years of respiratory illness. After her body was found to be incorrupt, Sister Dulce was beatified in 2011 and was selected as one of the patrons of World Youth Day in Krakow as a model of charity.

She will be the first Brazilian-born female saint.

Amazon spirituality events organized by network of Latin American and European groups

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2019 / 11:50 am (CNA).- A network of organizations has collaborated to promote gatherings devoted to the spirituality and culture of indigenous Amazonian people. The events are taking place in Rome in conjunction with the Vatican’s Amazon synod this month.

“Amazonia: Casa Comun,” is an initiative promoting more than 115 events hosted by a loose network of groups, connected in varying degrees to the Catholic Church.

Among the organizations involved in the project are an advocacy organization backed by bishops’ conferences in Latin America; two aid and development organizations of the German bishops’ conference; and a Brussels-based confederation of social justice groups.

One gathering, called “a moment of Amazon spirituality,” takes place every weekday morning during the October synod in the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, blocks from the Vatican. It is organized by a group of self-identified “itinerant missionaries” called “Equipo itinerante.” A leader described the event as an “encounter” in which people walk together and share their experiences of the Amazon.

The Amazon spirituality meeting Oct. 9 included singing and testimonies gathered around various objects from Amazon communities, including a wooden canoe, displayed at the foot of the sanctuary of the church, and a controversial wooden figure of a pregnant woman, which has been described as both a Marian image and as a traditional indigenous religious symbol of the goddess Pachamama, or Mother Earth.


Así se ve uno de los altares laterales en la Iglesia Santa María en Transpontina cerca al Vaticano #SinodoAmazonico #SinododelaAmazonia

— Walter Sánchez Silva (@WSanchezSilva) October 9, 2019  

The meeting included a moment where a woman sitting in the canoe was lifted up by participants, and concluded with the praying of the Our Father and Hail Mary.

In addition to posters displaying images of missionaries who have worked, and in some cases died in the Amazon, a poster was displayed in the Church of a woman holding a baby while breastfeeding a small animal.


At this morning’s Amazonian spirituality gathering in Rome’s Santa Maria in Transpontina. #SinodoAmazonico

— JD Flynn (@jdflynn) October 9, 2019  

The spirituality gatherings have garnered questions and criticism from some observers, who have asked whether the rituals and displays are consistent with Catholic theology and liturgical practice. But because the ‘Amazonia: Casa Comun’ initiative is loosely organized, there is no identifiable spokesperson to whom questions may be directed.

CNA attempted to identify spokespersons for some individual events, but was unable to locate or identify event organizers willing to speak on behalf of the events with which they were affiliated.

The initiative aims to “convey the diverse institutions in the Amazon region, members of the Church or linked with her, which were coming to Rome,” Mauricio Lopez, secretary general of REPAM, told CNA.

REPAM (the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network) is one of 14 groups on the organizing committee of the Casa Comun initiative, which Lopez said is intended as “a common space and a common calendar” for different groups to host their events, with each group maintaining responsibility and autonomy over its own events.

Lopez said each group “prepared [their event] according to what they do with the particular community they work with. So each case is different and they are sharing that diversity and spirituality from their own context.”

He noted there are around 390 different indigenous communities in the Amazon region “and spirituality is part of every culture,” though he declined to comment on the ways indigenous people are contributing their spirituality to the events.

REPAM, a group backed by the bishops’ conferences in Latin America, describes itself as an advocacy organization for the rights and dignity of indigenous people in the Amazon. The network is involved in operations for the synod assembly.

REPAM’s president, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, holds the position of relator general of the Amazon synod.

Also involved the Casa Comun events is Adveniat, the German bishops’ Latin American relief organization.

Adveniat describes its collaboration with REPAM as a partnership. In 2016, Adveniat provided 3.2 million euros to sponsor projects in the Amazon.

Adveniat and REPAM have also worked together to lobby the German government on issues related to the Amazon.

Another German bishops’ aid organization, Misereor, is also part of the “coordinating committee” of Casa Comun, as is Caritas International. The two groups work together under a 2018-2020 “cooperation contract” approved by the German bishops.   

In 2018, Misereor gave 52.64 million euros to finance 337 projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to its annual report. It also sponsors projects in Africa and Asia.

Misereor is listed as a joint-host of many of the month’s events alongside REPAM and CIDSE, a network of European and North American Catholic social justice organizations with headquarters in Brussels.

The Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) is another organization involved in Casa Comun. The Global Catholic Climate Movement, the Order of Franciscan Friars Minor, and REPAM were the groups that planned a tree-planting ceremony with an indigenous performance that took place with Pope Francis inside the Vatican gardens Oct. 5.

Other events on the Casa Comun calendar are hosted by the Italian FOCSIV, an international Christian volunteer organization and by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and Talitha Kum, a network of religious sisters who fight human trafficking.

The Colombian bishops’ conference is hosting a photo exhibition and two roundtable-dialogue sessions.

The Church has fought infanticide, Amazon synod bishops say

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2019 / 11:10 am (CNA).- Bishop Wilmar Santin of Itabituba, Brazil said Thursday that the Church has worked to eradicate the practice of tribal infanticide in the Amazon, and compared the practice to the moral evil of abortion.

The bishop said that the Munduruku tribe, resident in his Amazon River basin diocese, were traditionally a warring people, who cut off the heads of their enemies to carry as trophies, and left babies born with disabilities to die.

Santin said that the religious women working as nurses and teachers among the Munduruku tribe also worked to slowly eradicate the practice among the tribe which formerly performed infanticide on the disabled, twins, and the children of unwed mothers.

“Listening to this, we can be amazed. How can they perform such an atrocity ... But what about the abortions they do here in civilization? How many?” the bishop of Itabituba asked at a Vatican press conference Oct. 10.

The press conference took place during the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, an Oct. 6-27 meeting on the Church’s life and ministry in the region.

The question of infanticide was first raised Oct. 8 by Swiss journalist Giuseppe Rusconi, who asked about the content of the synod’s Instrumentum laboris, or working document. He said the document lauded indigenous peoples’ “primitive purity and exalted their harmonious relationship with nature.”

Rusconi mentioned that he had read reports of indigenous groups in the Amazon region that engage in the practice of infanticide.

Peruvian Cardinal Pedro Ricardo Barreto Jimenez, vice-president of the pan-Amazonian ecclesial network and co-president of the synod, responded: “I have never heard of it,” adding, “those who make such statements must present documentary evidence.”

At the synod press conference Oct. 10, the apostolic vicar of Mitu, Colombia, Bishop Medardo de Jesús Henao Del Río, described the historical practice of infanticide among the indigenous population in Vaupés, Colombia before the arrival of Catholic missionaries.

He said before missionaries arrived to his area in 1914, twins and children with deformities were sometimes left to be eaten by animals. “Then the church arrived … they set up shelters for these children,” he said.

Today Rio says that he has seen both children with Down syndrome and sets of twins living among the tribes, welcomed by the community. In some parts of the Amazon, the practice of infanticide remains a social problem. In 2018, Foreign Policy reported that experts in Brazil, including the country’s National Indian Foundation, acknowledge that infanticide takes place among some indigeneous groups, but is in decline.

Bishop Erwin Kräutler, himself a co-author of the synod’s working document, acknowledged in 2009 that “among some few tribes of the Brazilian Indios, there still exists the cultural institution of infanticide.”

Rio said that one cannot make sacred every aspect of indigenous culture, but that there should be an effort made to incorporate elements from the local cultures that “carry the seeds of God.”

“It is not mixing, it is assimilating certain values ​​that the indigenous community has that go in common with Christian values. We cannot sacralize everything indigenous, nor demonize it. We must make a study of all their myths, what does the rite mean,” Rio said.

“It is not to say that we take everything indigenous to assimilate to the Christian,” Rio added.

At the same press conference, Santin also echoed this point in describing the experience of the Munduruku tribe with the growing Pentecostal church in the region. The bishop said that local indigenous had told him that some local pastors have been very aggressive against the local culture, forbidding them to speak their own language or paint their bodies.

He described how in comparison with the growing Pentecostal church, the Catholic Church’s grown in the region has been slow.

“We have to make sure that our mission is something we can carry out in a much more effective way,” Santin said.

The Synod of Bishops broke into smaller language groups, or circoli minori, for further discussion on Oct. 10, which will convene again on Oct. 11, 16, and 17. There are five Spanish language groups, two Italian, two Portuguese, and one English/French group.

The last week of the synod will be devoted entirely to discussing the synod’s final document of reccomendations to Pope Francis, which will be voted upon on the afternoon of Oct. 26.


Vatican: Pope Francis 'never said' what Scalfari reported about divinity of Jesus Christ

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2019 / 07:17 am (CNA).- A Vatican spokesman directly denied on Thursday the report of an Italian journalist who wrote that Pope Francis said he did not believe that Jesus Christ was divine.

“The Holy Father never said what Scalfari wrote,” Vatican communications head Paolo Ruffini said at an Oct. 10 press conference, adding that “both the quoted remarks and the free reconstruction and interpretation by Dr. Scalfari of the conversations, which go back to more than two years ago, cannot be considered a faithful account of what was said by the pope.”

“That will be found rather throughout the Church's magisterium and Pope Francis' own, on Jesus: true God and true man,” Ruffini added.

The statement came in response to an Oct. 9 column in La Repubblica, the newspaper founded by Scalfari, in which the 95-year-old self-declared atheist said that “Pope Francis conceives Christ as Jesus of Nazareth, a man, not God incarnate.”

Ruffini's remarks followed an Oct. 9 statement from Matteo Bruni, the director of the Holy See's press office.

“As already stated on other occasions, the words that Dr. Eugenio Scalfari attributes in quotation marks to the Holy Father during talks with him cannot be considered a faithful account of what was actually said but represent a personal and free interpretation of what he heard, as appears completely evident from what is written today regarding the divinity of Jesus Christ,” Bruni said.

Some commentators responded to Bruni’s initial statement with criticism; saying the statement was too vague or was unclear. Ruffini’s remarks seemed intended to respond to that criticism.

Scalfari’s column did not claim that he had recently interviewed the pontiff, only saying that this was a topic he had discussed with Pope Francis at some time in the past.

Scalfari mentioned examples in Scriptures in which Christ prayed, among them his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, to support his thesis that Jesus Christ was not divine.

He wrote that when he raised those points to Pope Francis, the pope told him: “‘They are the definite proof that Jesus of Nazareth, once he became a man, even if he was a man of exceptional virtue, was not a God.’”

Pope Francis has made reference to Christ’s divinity frequently.

In Evangelli Gaudium, the pope speaks of the “divine life” of Jesus.

In his Dec. 24, 2013 homily, the pope said that “The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God...In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.”

Speaking of Jesus last October, the pope said “God chooses an uncomfortable throne, the cross, from which he reigns giving his life.”

Scalfari, who famously does not take notes during interviews has misrepresented Pope Francis in the past.

In 2018, he claimed the pope denied the existence of hell, and the Vatican subsequently said that the pope had not granted an interview, and that the journalist had inaccurately represented a conversation between the men during a private Easter visit.

“What is reported by the author in today’s article is the result of his reconstruction, in which the literal words pronounced by the Pope are not quoted. No quotation of the aforementioned article must therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father,” a Vatican statement said in March 2018.

The first time Scalfari reported that Pope Francis had made comments denying the existence of hell was in 2015. The Vatican dismissed that reporting as well.

In November 2013, following intense controversy over quotes the journalist had attributed to Francis, Scalfari admitted that at least some of the words he had published a month prior “were not shared by the Pope himself.”

Pope accepts resignation of NY auxiliary under investigation for abuse

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2019 / 04:55 am (CNA).- Pope Francis accepted Thursday the resignation of Bishop John Jenik as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York and appointed two New York priests as auxiliaries of the archdiocese.

Jenik, 75, was removed from ministry last year after the archdiocese found credible an accusation of sexual abuse against him. The bishop, who has been an auxiliary of New York since 2014, maintains his innocence.

Neither the Vatican nor the Archdiocese of New York have announced the results of a preliminary investigation into the abuse allegations against Jenik, nor did the Vatican make mention of the allegations in the notice accepting his resignation. Bishops customarily submit a letter of resignation to the pope at age 75; Jenik turned 75 in March.

Jenik’s alleged victim, Michael Meenan, 53, said last November that the bishop cultivated an inappropriate relationship with him during the 1980s that involved dozens of trips upstate to Jenik's country house, where Jenik allegedly groped him in bed.

Meenan’s allegation was reviewed by the Lay Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York, which concluded “the evidence is sufficient to find the allegation credible and substantiated.”

Jenik, who has served as pastor at Our Lady of Refuge parish since 1985, wrote in an Oct. 29 letter to his parishioners that he continues “to steadfastly deny that I have ever abused anyone at any time.”

Jenik’s case is being reviewed by the Vatican, most likely at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sources say, before being passed to Pope Francis for judgment.

Pope Francis Oct. 10 also appointed two New York priests, Fr. Edmund J. Whalen and Fr. Gerardo J. Colacicco, to serve as auxiliary bishops in the archdiocese.

Whalen, 61, has been the vicar of clergy for New York since January. He was previously dean of Monsignor Farrell High School on Staten Island for eight years.

From Staten Island, Whalen studied at Cathedral College in Douglaston, New York and at the Pontifical North American College and Gregorian University in Rome. He later received a doctorate in moral theology from the Alfonsianum, a graduate school of theology in Rome. He was ordained a priest of New York in 1984.

Fr. Gerardo J. Colacicco, 64, is from Poughkeepsie, New York. He attended St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers and has a license in canon law from Rome's Angelicum university.

He was ordained a priest in 1982. In addition to serving in parishes, Colacicco has worked in the archdiocesan tribunal as a defender of the bond and a judge. Since 2015, he has been pastor of St. Joseph-Immaculate Conception Parish in Millbrook.