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Pope Francis has made College of Cardinals ‘less European,’ analysis shows

A consistory for the creation of new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 5, 2019. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 20, 2022 / 17:46 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis’ picks for the College of Cardinals have made the body “less European,” giving a greater voice to developing nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, a new analysis shows.

The Pew Research Center report focused on the 83 cardinals appointed by the Argentinian pope now under the age of 80 who are eligible to vote in a papal conclave.

Those appointees, 16 of whom won’t be installed until Aug. 27, currently make up a majority (63%) of the 132 voting-age cardinals. Francis’ predecessors, Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, appointed the remaining cardinals.

Europeans account for the plurality of Francis’ voting-age appointees — 28, or 34% of the total, the most of any region. But once the latest batch of appointees is installed, Europe will have seen its share shrink to 40%, down from 52% in 2013 when Francis was elected.

Meanwhile, other parts of the world have gained ground, led by the Asia-Pacific region, whose overall representation of voting-age cardinals has risen from 9% in 2013 to 17% in 2022, the analysis shows.

Sub-Saharan Africa is on the upswing, as well, rising from 9% to 12%. Latin America and the Caribbean has had a more modest gain, rising from 16% to 18%.

“Of the 83 newly appointed or currently eligible voting cardinals Francis has named so far during his papacy, 34% are from Europe, 22% from the Asia-Pacific region, 20% from Latin America and the Caribbean, 13% from sub-Saharan Africa, 8% from North America and 2% from the Middle East-North Africa region,” Pew reported.

The pope emeritus puzzle: Will Pope Francis rewrite the rules of resignation?

Pope Francis with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Monastery of Mater Ecclesiae in Vatican City on June 30, 2015. / null

Rome Newsroom, Jul 20, 2022 / 03:55 am (CNA).

With speculation running rife whether Pope Francis could resign, and whether he might retire to a residence in the Vatican Gardens like Benedict XVI, it is worth analyzing what the pope has actually said — and how this aligns with his wider project of a reform for the Roman Curia and the Catholic Church.

Speaking with the Mexican television company Televisa, Pope Francis has made it known, once again, that he does not intend to give up the Petrine ministry. If and when he does though, he would not take the title of Pope Emeritus.

Instead, Francis would become Bishop Emeritus of Rome. He would hear confessions and dedicate himself to the poor.

Where Benedict and Francis think differently

His recent comments suggest Pope Francis might go to live in the Lateran Palace, which is the seat of the pope as Bishop of Rome.

In this interview, Pope Francis also discussed — in clear terms — how he thinks the office of Pope Emeritus should be defined and how he would interpret his own role after a possible renunciation.

Pope Francis’ conception of the office differs from that of his predecessor: Benedict XVI decided to take the title of Pope Emeritus, to continue wearing white, although without la pellegrina, which is the white mantle symbolizing episcopal authority.

Benedict XVI defined the terms of his resignation in his last general audience as Pope on February 27, 2013: "There can no longer be a return to the private sphere. My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord. "

Does one stay pope forever?

In practice, Benedict XVI distinguished between the munus and the officium, that is, between the function and the exercise of the function. Once elected pope, he remains pope forever.

In a certain sense, Benedict XVI equated the election as pope with a further episcopal ordination. The theologian Karl Rahner, who emphasized that the power of order and the power of jurisdiction were indissociable, had come to consider the primacy conferred with the election as Pope as the highest degree of the sacrament of orders. According to this criterion, the beginning of the Pope's Petrine ministry would represent a unique ordination.

Pope Francis, however, plans to be Bishop of Rome Emeritus. He would no longer have the Petrine primacy and therefore would return to work in public life as a confessor, and likely also reside in the Lateran Palace.

This role was outlined by Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, canonist and cardinal to be elected at the next consistory, in an essay from 2013 republished by Civiltà Cattolica.

Seeking a reform that works

Ghirlanda’s essay offers many observations on the role of a pope emeritus, starting with the fact that ordination and authority are distinct from one another. The issue is a fundamental one, and came up during the reform of the Roman Curia when lay people were allowed to take up positions in the Curia departments.

If that is the standard, episcopal ordination is no longer a prerequisite for authority, much less collegiality with the Pope, who is also a bishop.

In his statements, Pope Francis seems to be intending not to separate munus and officium. One ceases with the cessation of the other, and whoever renounces them returns to their previous life.

Will this be the reform that is announced for the office of Pope Emeritus? It is possible, certainly. The extent to which a Bishop of Rome Emeritus can influence the life of the Church will also require definition. By the admission of Pope Francis himself, everything in recent years has worked for the extraordinary character of Benedict XVI. But would it work the same with another pope emeritus?

New policy says Vatican investments cannot contradict Catholic teaching

St. Peter's Basilica / / Bohumil Petrik/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jul 19, 2022 / 05:42 am (CNA).

A Vatican policy published Tuesday says that the Holy See’s financial investments cannot contradict Catholic teaching.

The policy stipulates that Vatican investments should “be aligned with the teachings of the Catholic Church, with specific exclusions for financial investments which contradict its fundamental principles, such as the sanctity of life or the dignity of the human being or the common good.”

The guidelines also say that investments of the Holy See and related entities should aim to contribute to a more just and sustainable world and to generate sufficient return in a sustainable way.

The policy, which continues Pope Francis’ reform of Vatican finances, goes into effect Sept. 1.

Investments will be made through APSA, the Holy See’s treasury and sovereign wealth manager, and overseen by an ethics committee of four financial professionals headed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell.

According to the policy, the Vatican and related entities may not invest in products and technologies related to “pornography and prostitution; gambling; weapons and defence industry; pro-abortion health centers; and laboratories or pharmaceutical companies that manufacture contraceptive products and/or work with embryonic stem cells.”

Industries which the policy says should be avoided for investment, but are not prohibited, include oil and mining, nuclear energy, and alcoholic beverages.

There will be a one year grace period for Vatican entities to divest of existing investments not in conformity with the new policies.

In April 2021, an Italian investigative news program accused the Vatican’s treasury of investing 20 million euros (then around $24 million) in several pharmaceutical companies involved in making the “morning-after pill.”

Investments, the policy says, should be evaluated to ensure they comply with the principles of the Catholic Church's social doctrine on human dignity, the common good — including the universal destination of goods — subsidiarity, and solidarity.

The guidelines also exclude investments designed to be speculative or of a speculative strategy “unless necessary for the efficiency of investment transactions or to hedge risk.”

“The decision to invest in one place rather than another... is always a moral and cultural choice,” the policy says.

Investments will be approved through an oversight committee, which was formed last month after nearly two years in the making.

On June 7, Cardinal Kevin Farrell was appointed president of the new oversight committee, a body established by the Vatican’s new constitution, Praedicate evangelium.

Farrell, 74, will lead a committee of four finance professionals: John J. Zona, chief investment officer of Boston College; Jean Pierre Casey, founder and manager of RegHedge; Giovanni Christian Michael Gay, managing director of Union Investment Privatfonds GmbH; and David Harris, portfolio manager of Skagen Funds.

Since 2020, the Irish American cardinal has also led a committee to monitor internal Vatican financial decisions which fall outside other accountability norms.

According to the committee statutes, published July 19, members are appointed by Pope Francis for a five year term, with possibility of re-appointment for a second term.

The committee will operate ad experimentum for five years.

Pope Francis warns of toxicity in social media, calls for inclusion in digital space

Pope Francis celebrated Mass for Rome’s Congolese community in St. Peter's Basilica on July 3, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2022 / 03:56 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has called on Catholics to counter toxicity in social media, and to engage in dialogue and education to help deal with “lies and misinformation.” 

In a message published by the Holy See on July 18, the Holy Father also called for the inclusion of currently excluded communities into “the digital space.”

Pope Francis addressed this message to the participants of the 2022 World Congress of SIGNIS in Seoul, South Korea. The event is held every four years, and the 2022 Congress  explores the theme of “Peace in the Digital World” both on site and digitally from August 16-19. 

SIGNIS is the World Catholic Association for Communication, an organization whose mission is to “help transform cultures in the light of the Gospel by promoting human dignity, justice and reconciliation.”  

In his message, Pope Francis said, “the use of digital media, especially social media, has raised a number of  serious ethical issues that call for wise and discerning judgment on the part of communicators and  all those concerned with the authenticity and quality of human relationships.” 

“Sometimes and in some places, media sites have become places of toxicity, hate speech and fake news,” the pope added.

He encouraged Catholic communicators to persevere in efforts to counter these, “paying particular attention to the need to assist people, especially young people, to develop a sound  critical sense, learning to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, good from evil, and to  appreciate the importance of working for justice, social concord, and respect for our common home.”

The pope also drew attention to “the many communities in our world that remain excluded  from the digital space, making digital inclusion a priority.”

In doing  so, Catholic communicators provide a “significant contribution to the spread of a culture of peace grounded in the  truth of the Gospel,” the Holy Father added. 

Pope Francis prayed that “the story of Saint Andrew  Kim and his companions two hundred years ago [may] confirm you in your own efforts to spread the  Gospel of Jesus Christ in the language of contemporary communications media.”

Pope Francis: Time with the Word of God keeps our efforts from being ‘sterile activism’

Pope Francis waves during his Sunday Angelus message and prayer on July 17, 2022 / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jul 17, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Practical effort, while necessary, will be only “sterile activism” unless it flows from listening to the Word of God, Pope Francis said Sunday.

In his message before the Angelus prayer July 17, the pope reflected on the Gospel story of Jesus’ visit to the sisters Mary and Martha in Bethany.

Jesus “acknowledges Martha’s effort. However, he wants to make her understand that there is a new order of priorities, different from the one she had followed until then,” the 85-year-old Francis said from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

“Mary had intuited that there is a ‘better part’ that must be accorded first place,” he continued. “Everything else comes after, like a stream flowing from the source. And so we wonder: what is this ‘better part?’ It is listening to Jesus’ words.”

According to the Vatican gendarmes, around 12,000 people were in St. Peter’s Square for the pope’s weekly message.

The Gospel of Luke says Martha was busy with serving, while Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to him speak.

Francis said: “Then Martha turns to the Master and asks him to tell Mary to help her. Martha’s complaint does not seem out of place; indeed, we would tend to agree with her. Yet Jesus answers her: ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, but few things are needed. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’”

He emphasized that “the word of Jesus is not abstract; it is a teaching that touches and shapes our life, changes it, frees it from the opaqueness of evil, satisfies and infuses it with a joy that does not pass.”

“Jesus’ word is the better part, that Mary had chosen. Therefore, she gives it first place: she stops and listens. The rest will come after,” he said.

Pope Francis said practical effort has value, but it should flow from listening to the word of Jesus, not precede it.

“It must be enlivened by his Spirit. Otherwise, it is reduced to fussing and fretting over many things, it is reduced to sterile activism,” he underlined.

The pope also had advice for how to follow Mary’s example: start the day with scripture.

He encouraged Catholics to spend time in the morning meditating on the Word of God before diving into the busyness of the day.

“Let us ask ourselves: When I start my day, do I throw myself headlong into the things to be done, or do I first seek inspiration in the Word of God?” he said.

“If we leave the house in the morning keeping a word of Jesus in mind,” he said, “the day will surely acquire a tone marked by that word, which has the power to orient our actions according to the wishes of the Lord.”

Take advantage of the slower pace of summer, he urged.

“Nowadays it is increasingly difficult to find free time to meditate,” he noted. “For many people the rhythm of life is frenetic and wearisome. Summertime can be valuable also for opening the Gospel and reading it slowly, without haste, a passage each day, a short passage from the Gospel.”

“Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by those pages, asking ourselves how our life, my life, is going, if it is in line with what Jesus says, or not so much.”

Pope Francis: Canada visit will be a ‘penitential pilgrimage’

Pope Francis meets members of the First Nations at the Vatican on March 31, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jul 17, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The papal trip to Canada next week will be a “penitential pilgrimage” to bring healing and reconciliation, Pope Francis said Sunday.

The pope is scheduled to travel to the Canadian cities of Edmonton, Quebec City, and Iqaluit from July 24-29. There he will meet members of Canadian indigenous groups, residential school abuse survivors, and Catholics.

“Next Sunday, God willing, I will leave for Canada; therefore, I wish now to address all the people of that country,” Francis said after the Angelus on July 17.

“As you know,” he said, “I will come among you especially in the name of Jesus to meet and embrace the indigenous peoples.”

He thanked all those who are preparing the trip and asked for prayers.

“I am about to make a penitential pilgrimage,” he said, “which I hope, with God’s grace, will contribute to the journey of healing and reconciliation already undertaken.”

The pope recalled his private meetings with representatives of the Métis, Inuit, and First Nations peoples at the Vatican at the end of March and beginning of April, and the sorrow and solidarity he expressed for the harm they have suffered.

“Unfortunately, in Canada, many Christians, including some members of religious institutes, have contributed to the policies of cultural assimilation that, in the past, have severely harmed native communities in various ways,” he said.

Pope Francis is expected to issue an apology in Canada on behalf of the Catholic Church for the abuses committed against indigenous students in Catholic-run residential schools.

The Canadian bishops said last year that they would welcome Francis’ visit as a “pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation.”

The 85-year-old pope was also scheduled to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan July 2-7, but postponed the trip “at the request of his doctors.”

He has been suffering from a knee injury for several months.

The decision to postpone the Africa trip came after doctors said he needed 20 more days of therapy and rest for his knee before he travels to Canada.

In an interview with Reuters at the beginning of July, Francis said the fracture was “slowly getting better” with the help of laser and magnet therapy.

Pope Francis saddened by death of atheist journalist whose claims sparked Vatican denials

Pope Francis, pictured on Oct. 3, 2015. / Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

Vatican City, Jul 15, 2022 / 06:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has expressed deep affection for an atheist journalist whose claims, based on encounters with the Holy Father, have repeatedly sparked corrections and denials by the Vatican.

Eugenio Scalfari, a towering figure in the world of Italian journalism, passed away at 98 years of age this week. The self-proclaimed atheist was the founder and former editor of Italian leftist newspaper La Repubblica.

In a statement by the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, the Vatican said Pope Francis had learned “with sorrow of the passing of his friend.”

Pope Francis “cherishes with affection the memory of the meetings — and the deep conversations on the ultimate questions of humankind — that he had with him over the years, and he entrusts his soul to the Lord in prayer, so that He may receive him and console those who were close to him,” Vatican news reported.

Scalfari’s claims that Pope Francis had denied, in personal encounters, the reality of hell and the divinity of Jesus, amongst other things, made headlines around the world.

Vatican spokespersons dismissed the texts of Scalfari as unofficial.

In 2014, Father Federico Lombardi, past papal spokesperson, told CNA that "if there are no words published by the Holy See press office and not officially confirmed, the writer takes full responsibility for what he has written."

In 2015, Scalfari falsely reported that Pope Francis had made comments denying the existence of hell. 

He also claimed in March 2018 that Pope Francis told him "hell doesn't exist, the disappearance of the souls of sinners exists."

In response to such claims, the Holy See stated that Scalfari’s writing should not be considered an accurate depiction of Francis' words, but the author's own "reconstruction."

In 2019, the Vatican directly denied Scalfari’s claim that Pope Francis said he did not believe that Jesus Christ was divine.

The Vatican also said there had not been an interview at all. Instead, the Holy See Press office explained, this was a "private meeting for the occasion of Easter.” 

In a meeting with journalists of the Foreign Press Association of Rome in 2013, Scalfari said that all his interviews had been conducted without a recording device, nor taking notes while the person is speaking.

"I try to understand the person I am interviewing, and after that I write his answers with my own words," Scalfari explained. He conceded that it is therefore possible that "some of the Pope's words I reported, were not shared by Pope Francis."

What to do when there's fake news such as the 'death' of Benedict XVI: A priest responds

Father Juan Manuel Góngora of Almería, Spain, speaks with EWTN Spanish News July 12, 2022, about the need for better verification criteria for online news. / Credit: EWTN Spanish News screenshot

Denver Newsroom, Jul 14, 2022 / 15:27 pm (CNA).

Father Juan Manuel Góngora, a Spanish priest who has more than 53,000 followers on Twitter and who recently received an award by HazteOír (CitizenGo) for his defense of the faith on social media, explained to EWTN Spanish News on July 12 how to react to possibly fake news such as the recent claim that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had died.

In the interview, the priest from Almería, Spain, said that when the fake news about the pope emeritus came out, “we set out to disclaim its reliability, especially considering that that account was fake and was spreading a lie.”

The fake Twitter account @BischofBatzing used the name of the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, who just minutes after the hoax wrote: “Fake account created by the Italian journalist Tommaso De Benedetti.”

The Spanish priest pointed out that “in the world of social media, what usually happens is that the media try to drive that clickbait, that way of attracting attention with news, regardless of whether it’s true or false, to get clicks and visits to their webpages.”

Given this situation, he warned, “we must be very careful and, above all, be clear about the criteria of reliability of the source and go to official sources to back up this type of news.”

This is “one more proof of the need today,” the Spanish priest continued,  “given the enormous amount of information that moves on this sixth continent that is the Internet, to be vigilant and to have greater concern about the reliability and verification criteria.”

“We’re tired of listening to the so-called fact checkers who work on verifying news,” he stressed.

Instead, he concluded, “a more realistic criterion needs to be established and more in line with truthful information, especially so as not to drive those reports of misinformation in order to manipulate, which coincidentally tend to have the Catholic Church as one of their favorite victims.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Pope Francis tells religious congregations to have ‘zero tolerance’ on abuse

Pope Francis speaking to participants of the General Chapters of three religious congregations in audience at the Vatican on July 14, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jul 14, 2022 / 07:39 am (CNA).

In a meeting with three male religious congregations on Thursday, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of taking a “zero tolerance” approach to abuse.

“One of the problems, we know, that often exists, is the problem of abuse. Please, remember this well: zero tolerance on abuse of minors or disabled people, zero tolerance,” he said in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace July 14.

“Please do not hide this reality,” Francis urged. “We are religious, we are priests to bring people to Jesus, not to ‘consume’ people with our concupiscence.”

He said: “And the abuser destroys, ‘consumes’ so to speak, the abused with his concupiscence. Zero tolerance. Do not be ashamed to denounce, ‘This one did this, that one did that…’”

“I accompany you, you are a sinner, you are a sick person, but I have to protect others,” the pope said, acting out a conversation with an abuser. “Please I ask you this, zero tolerance,” he repeated. “You don’t solve this with a transfer. ‘Ah, from this continent I send him to the other continent…’ No.”

The pope spoke about abuse in an address to members of the Order of the Mother of God, also called Leonardian Fathers; the Congregation of the Mission, also called Vincentians; and the Order of Saint Basil the Great.

The Order of Saint Basil the Great, also known as the Basilian Order of Saint Josaphat, is a Greek Catholic monastic order. It ministers to Ukrainian Catholics and other Greek-Catholic churches in central and eastern Europe.

Pope Francis expressed his closeness and the closeness of the whole Church to the Basilian brothers from Ukraine “in this moment of sorrow, in this moment of martyrdom of your homeland.”

“Many times I think that one of the greatest dangers now is to forget the tragedy of Ukraine,” he said. “One gets used to it,” he lamented. “One of the last days, I saw in the newspaper that the news about the war was on page nine.”

Members of the three congregations were in Rome to participate in their general chapters.

Pope Francis noted at the beginning of his speech that it was a “new mode,” meeting with three different groups of consecrated men at the same time.

“I cherish receiving general chapters, because it is a way of communicating with the consecrated life,” he said. “It is so important in the Church, but there is not always time and, indeed, in this vacation time it is closed, but for you it has been opened.”

Vatican astronomer: Webb telescope space images are ‘food for the human spirit’

NASA’s Webb captures a dying star’s Final ‘Performance’ in fine detail: A planetary nebula, shaped like an irregular oval, with lacy, reddish orange plumes of gas and dust. / NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Vatican City, Jul 14, 2022 / 06:07 am (CNA).

The first images from the James Webb space telescope reveal God’s creation and feed our souls, a Jesuit brother and astronomer said Thursday.

“The images are gorgeous, as anyone can see for themselves. It’s a tantalizing glimpse of what we’ll be able to learn about the universe with this telescope in the future,” Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory since 2015, said in a July 14 statement.

Consolmagno said the images are “a necessary food for the human spirit — we do not live by bread alone — especially in these times.”

“The science behind this telescope,” he said, “is our attempt to use our God-given intelligence to understand the logic of the universe.”

“The universe wouldn’t work if it weren’t logical," he continued. “But as these images show, the universe is not only logical, it is also beautiful. This is God’s creation being revealed to us, and in it we can see both His astonishing power and His love of beauty.”

With roots dating to 1582, the Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest active astronomical observatories in the world. Its headquarters are in Castel Gandolfo, a town just outside Rome and the location of the summer residence of the popes.

The Vatican Observatory also operates the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, located in rural Arizona about 200 miles southeast of Phoenix. 

Consolmagno said that he is personally delighted by the success of the Webb telescope because he is friends with many of the scientists who built the instruments and planned the observations.

“I know how long and how hard they and their colleagues have worked to make this incredible machine work. It is a tribute to the power of the human spirit, what we can do when we work together,” he said.

The Jesuit brother added that he is amazed and grateful to God that he has given humans, his creation, “the ability to see and understand what He has done.”

He quoted Psalm 8, which says, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which  you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have  made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.”

Consolmagno also pointed to the historic contribution of a fellow Jesuit astronomer, Father Angelo Secchi, in light of “Webb’s first spectrum of water vapor in the atmosphere of an exo-planet.”

About 150 years ago, Secchi “put a prism in front of his telescope lens on the roof of the St. Ignatius Church in Rome, and made the first spectral measurements of the atmospheres of the planets in our own solar system,” Consolmagno said.

“I can only imagine how delighted he would be to see the science he pioneered applied to planets unknown to him orbiting distant stars.”