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Pope urges Catholics to meet the poor and speak to them with love

Rome, Italy, Nov 9, 2019 / 10:54 am (CNA).- Go out to meet the poor, listen to them, and speak to them with the heart of Jesus, Pope Francis said Saturday at Mass in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.

The Mass, celebrated on the Feast of the Dedication of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, opened a special week dedicated to the poor, which will culminate in the commemoration of the World Day of the Poor Nov. 17.

“May the Lord rejoice in seeing us on the move, ready to listen with his heart to his poor who cry to Him,” the pope said Nov. 9.

“Meet others, enter into dialogue with them, listen to them with humility, gratuitousness and poverty of heart.”

“I invite you all to live all this not as a heavy effort, but with a spiritual lightness,” he said. “Instead of getting caught up in anxieties of performance, it is more important to widen the perception to grasp the presence and action of God in the city. It is a contemplation that comes from love.”

Addressing the people of Rome in particular, Francis said: “May the Mother Church of Rome experience the consolation of seeing once again the obedience and courage of her children, full of enthusiasm for this new season of evangelization.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the feast day with the bishops, priests, religious, and lay people of Rome. The Nov. 9 feast, celebrated by the entire Church, marks the day the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran was dedicated as the cathedral church of Rome by Pope Sylvester I in 324.

A Latin inscription in the Church reads: “omnium ecclesiarum Urbis et Orbis mater et caput,” meaning, “The mother and head of all churches of the city and of the world.”

Before Mass, the pope stopped briefly outside the church at a plaque which honors victims of poverty.

In his homily, Pope Francis entrusted pastoral workers with helping their communities to reach those in the city who are far from the faith and far from the Church.

“But, in doing this service, bring this awareness, this trust, into it: there is no human heart in which Christ does not want and cannot be reborn,” he said.

“In our lives as sinners, we often find ourselves turning away from the Lord and extinguishing the Spirit. We destroy the temple of God that is each of us. Yet this is never a definitive situation: it takes the Lord three days to rebuild his temple within us!”

He said it is the “heart of the ministry” of a priest to help his community “to always be at the feet of the Lord to listen to the Word; to keep it away from all worldliness, from bad compromises; to guard the foundation and the holy  root of the spiritual building; to defend it from rapacious wolves, from those who would like to make it deviate from the way of the Gospel.”

The Gospel and Jesus Christ must be the foundation of the Church, he said, pointing out that priests, in wisdom, know that while something else could probably bring more worldly success or quicker gratification, it would “inevitably involve the collapse, the collapse of the whole spiritual building.”

He encouraged Rome’s priests and bishops to “know the neighborhoods of the city like no other” and to “cherish the faces, smiles, and tears of so many people in your heart.”

Addressing pastoral workers, the pope said sometimes one has to act strongly and make radical changes, like many saints have done.

“Some of [the saints’] behaviors, incomprehensible through human logic, were the result of intuitions aroused by the Spirit and intended to provoke their contemporaries and help them understand that ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts,’ [as] God says through the prophet Isaiah,” he said.


Theology in 'dialogue with cultures' renews humanity, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2019 / 06:40 am (CNA).- When theology and philosophy engage with cultures in creative ways, they become a powerful tool for renewing humanity with the Word of God, Pope Francis said Saturday, during the awarding of the 2019 Ratzinger Prize.

“This is true for all cultures: access to redemption for humanity in all of its dimensions should be sought with creativity and imagination,” the pope said Nov 9.

He quoted St. Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, which says, “Evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new.”

“It is a duty for theology to be and remain in active dialogue with cultures, even as they change over time and evolve differently in various parts of the world,” he said. “It is a condition necessary for the vitality of Christian faith, for the Church’s mission of evangelization.”

“All the arts and disciplines,” Francis said, “thus cooperate in contributing to the full growth of the human person, which is to be found ultimately in the encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Logos, the revelation of the God who is love.”

Pope Francis addressed members of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation in the Vatican's apostolic palace during the award ceremony for the 2019 edition of the prestigious Ratzinger Prize.

The Ratzinger Prize was begun in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology or philosophy in the spirit of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian theologian who became Benedict XVI.

The winners of the 2019 prize are Catholic intellectual Charles Taylor and Jesuit priest and theologian, Fr. Paul Béré.

Béré is the first African to win the prestigious Ratzinger Prize. A lecturer at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, he received the prize for his work on the figure of the prophet Joshua.

From Burkina Faso, Béré spoke in September on the need for an “Africanness” within the Catholic approach to addressing regional problems.

“Africa can find a solution to all its problems within, what we [Africans] simply need is the slightest desire to share the solutions across the continent,” Beré told ACI Africa Sept. 28 at the Nairobi tri-party conference on the status of the evangelization mission in Africa.

Beré is a member of several African theological associations and of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC). He has also participated as an expert in several synods of bishops.

After the announcement that he had won the prize, he told Vatican News: “I think this is an encouragement for all theological work done in Africa.”

Pope Francis Nov. 9 praised Beré as a “renowned scholar of Sacred Scripture” and he expressed his appreciation and encouragement for all those who are “committed to inculturation of the faith in Africa through their original and deepened study.”

Contemporary African theology is still young, but it is “dynamic and full of promise,” the pope said. “Father Béré provides an example of this by his work on the interpretation of Old Testament texts in a context of oral culture, thus bringing to fruition the experience of African culture.”

Dr. Charles Taylor, 88, is an award-winning Canadian Catholic philosopher, who has taught at Oxford and at the University of Montreal and McGill University.

His focus has been in the areas of history of philosophy, most especially political philosophy and the philosophy of social science. One of Taylor’s many notable contributions was to the topics of religion, modernity, and secularization.

“During his years of active research and teaching, Professor Taylor has covered many fields, but he has particularly devoted his mind and heart to understanding the phenomenon of secularization in our time,” Francis noted.

“Secularization effectively poses a significant challenge for the Catholic Church, indeed for all Christians, and for all believers in God,” he said, adding that a priority of Benedict XVI’s pontificate was to “proclaim God anew” during a time “when that proclamation seems to be on the wane for a large part of humanity.”

The pope said, “few scholars in the present day have posed the problem of secularization with the breadth of vision as has Professor Taylor.”

“We are indebted to him for the profound manner in which he has treated the problem, carefully analyzing the development of Western culture, the movements of the human mind and heart over time, identifying the characteristics of modernity in their complex relationships, in their shadows and lights.”

Taylor’s work invites Catholics to seek “new ways to live and express the transcendent dimensions of the human soul,” he continued, which allows them to engage with secularization in the West “in a way that is neither superficial nor given to fatalistic discouragement.”

“This is needed not only for a reflection on contemporary culture, but also for an in-depth dialogue and discernment in order to adopt the spiritual attitudes suitable for living, witnessing, expressing, and proclaiming the faith in our time,” he stated.

Despite coming from very different backgrounds and continents, the two honorees of the 2019 Ratzinger Prize have dedicated themselves to seeking “the way to God and the encounter with Christ,” Francis said.

“This,” he added, “is the mission of all who follow the teaching of Joseph Ratzinger as theologian and Pope, to be “‘co-workers of the truth.’”

The honorees of the Ratzinger Prize are chosen by Pope Francis, based upon the recommendations of a committee composed of Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg and Cardinals Angelo Amato, Kurt Koch, Gianfranco Ravasi, and Luis Ladaria, who are heads of offices in the Roman Curia.

Pope Francis said Nov. 9, that “we are all grateful” for the teaching of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “and for his exemplary service to the Church, demonstrated by his reflections, his thought and study, his listening, dialogue and prayer.”

“His aim was that we might consciously retain a lively faith despite the changing times and situations; and that believers could give an account of their faith in a language that can be understood by their contemporaries, entering into dialogue with them, together seeking pathways of authentic encounter with God in our time,” he said.

“This has always been a keen desire of Joseph Ratzinger the theologian and pastor, who never closed himself off in a disembodied culture of pure concepts, but gave us the example of seeking truth where reason and faith, intelligence and spirituality, are constantly integrated.”

Police raid former offices of Argentine bishop charged with fraud, sex assault

Orán, Argentina, Nov 8, 2019 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- Local civil authorities on Thursday raided the chancery of the Diocese of Orán, where Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta was bishop from 2013 to 2017. Bishop Zanchetta has been charged with sexual assault, as well as fraud and mismanagement of funds.

He was charged in June with assaulting two seminarians.

Orán's Economic Crime Unit raided offices in the chancery Nov. 7. The raid was carried out to investigate Zanchetta's alleged fraud against the state, according to El Oranense.

In addition to accusations of mismanaging church funds donated by the faithful in diocese, public records show that Zanchetta received more than 1 million Argentine pesos from Salta Province to restore a rectory and for lectures at the seminary which never occurred.

Four months after Zanchetta’s resignation as Bishop of Orán, Pope Francis appointed him to a newly-created position in the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which oversees the Vatican’s assets and real estate holdings.

Reporting from Argentine sources suggests that the bishop was first accused of sexually inappropriate behavior in 2015.

According to a February report by Argentine newspaper The Tribune, one of the Zanchetta’s secretaries alerted authorities after accidentally finding sexually explicit images sent and received on Zanchetta’s cell phone in 2015. The complaint says that some of the images depict “young people” having sex in addition to lewd images of Zanchetta himself.

The bishop claimed his phone and computer had been hacked, and that the accusations were motivated by people who did not support Pope Francis.

Pope Francis summoned Zanchetta to Rome for five days in October 2015. The pope appeared to have accepted Zanchetta’s excuse that his cell phone had been hacked, and dismissed the allegations.

The Vatican has stated twice that they did not know about Zanchetta’s misdeeds until 2018, a claim that is disputed by Fr. Juan José Manzano, the former vicar general of the Diocese of Orán. Manzano claims that he reported Zanchetta in 2015, after the pornographic images were found on his phone. Manzano says he also reported him again in 2017.

The report also says three of Zanchetta’s vicars general and two monsignors made a formal internal complaint before the Argentinian nunciature in 2016, alleging inappropriate behavior with seminarians.

This behavior included entering their rooms at night, requesting massages from them, waking up seminarians in the morning, sitting on their beds, drinking alcohol with them, and favoring more the more “graceful” (attractive) among them.

The 2017 internal accusation, which The Tribune says alleged more explicit abuse by Zanchetta of seminarians, resulted in Zanchetta’s exit from the diocese, though Zanchetta said he was resigning for health reasons. The Vatican did not open an investigation at that time.

Manzano said part of the reason the allegations against Zanchetta may have not been taken seriously by the Vatican was because of the bishop’s close relationship with Pope Francis, who appointed him Bishop of Orán in 2013. Still, Manzano said he didn’t believe the Vatican meant to lie or hide anything about Zanchetta. He said he believed Francis and other Vatican officials had also been victims of the bishop’s "manipulation."

The Vatican acknowledged Zanchetta was under investigation in January 2019, and suspended him from his role at APSA.

Vatican Press Office spokesman Alessandro Gisotti in January “resolutely” repeated a Vatican statement that said no sexual abuse charges had yet emerged against the bishop at the time Pope Francis appointed Zanchetta his position at the APSA. Gisotti said the charges only emerged in the fall of 2018.

When asked at a Feb. 24 press conference about Zachetta’s case, Gisotti reiterated that an investigation was ongoing.

In late May 2019, Pope Francis announced that a preliminary investigation against Zanchetta had concluded and would proceed to trial at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

If convicted by the civil court in Argentina, Zanchetta could face between three and 10 years in prison.

Prison ministry includes helping people after incarceration, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2019 / 11:01 am (CNA).- In addition to looking after the physical and spiritual needs of those in prison, Catholics have an obligation to recognize the humanity of those who have left the prison system and to help them get back on their feet, Pope Francis said Friday.

“As Christian communities, we must ask ourselves a question” about those who have been released from prison, the pope said Nov. 8, addressing Catholics involved in prison ministry around the world.

“If these brothers and sisters have already paid the penalty for the wrongdoing, why is a new social punishment placed on their shoulders with rejection and indifference? On many occasions, this social aversion is one more reason they run the risk of repeating their own faults,” he said.

Often when a person leaves prison, he or she finds themselves in a world which is foreign to them and which, at the same time, does not trust them, the pope continued. This can make it very difficult for them to find work and to make a decent living.

“By preventing people from regaining the full exercise of their dignity, they are once again exposed to the dangers that accompany the lack of development opportunity, in the middle of violence and insecurity,” Francis stated.

“True social reintegration,” he argued, begins with access to decent work, education, self-development opportunities, and health care.

But it is often easier and more comfortable to ignore or deny the injustices present in society than to try to create equal opportunities for all citizens, he said, calling it “a way of discarding.”

He said this is the same reason many places choose incarceration as a solution over trying to fix the root societal problems which lead people to crime.

Especially today, he said, societies are called to overcome the stigmatization of people who have served time in prison for their mistakes.

“Because instead of offering the right help and resources to live a dignified life, we have become accustomed to rejecting,” he underlined, and people do this instead of looking for and noticing what effort a person might be making to respond to the love of God in his or her life.

Pope Francis spoke about ministering to the imprisoned during an audience with participants in a two-day conference on Catholic prison ministry, organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The pope said he entrusted to the dicastery the task of making evident the Church’s concern for those in situations of suffering, including the imprisoned, but added that “it is not a task indicated only for the dicastery, but it is for the whole Church in fidelity to the mission received from Christ.”

The Church “is called to act permanently the mercy of God in favor of the most vulnerable and helpless in whom Jesus himself is present,” he said. “We will be judged on this.”

The conference took place at the Vatican Nov. 7-8 and was held to learn more about diocesan and local prison ministry in countries around the world, so that they can strengthen and improve through sharing ideas and experiences.

Pope Francis argued that prisons themselves also fail to properly reintegrate people into society, because they lack the resources to address the social, psychological, and relational problems imprisoned people often face.

Prison verpopulation is also a problem, he noted.

Pope Francis thanked those who serve the incarcerated, noting Christ's words that “what they did to one of the least of my brothers, they did to me.”

“With the inspiration of God, each Church community is taking its own path to present the Father’s mercy to all these brothers, and to make resonate a permanent call, so that every man and society seeks to act firmly and decisively in favor of peace and justice,” he said.

Cardinal O’Malley to US bishops: Ask for grace at St. Peter’s tomb

Vatican City, Nov 7, 2019 / 10:39 am (CNA).- In St. Peter’s Basilica Thursday, Cardinal Sean O’Malley asked American bishops to pray for the grace to make a profession of faith, hope, and love at the tomb of St. Peter before meeting with Pope Francis.

Cardinal O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, and the other bishops from New England are in Rome for an ad limina apostolorum visit — a pilgrimage to “the threshold of the apostles” — in which they are meeting the pope and curial officials to discuss the state of their dioceses.

In his homily in the crypt of the basilica, O’Malley touched upon some of the problems currently affecting American Catholics.

“Today many people have lost hope. It is one of the reasons that people are not having children, turning to drugs, and seeking thrills,” he said.

The American cardinal said that bishops need to be evangelizers: “Jesus is our hope. He is reason we trust in his promises.”

He connected a recent Pew survey on American Catholics’ belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist to the decline in Mass attendance in the U.S.

“In today’s world, too many Catholics are quick to dismiss the hard saying about the Eucharist. and as the Pew poll indicates they do not accept the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Hence the diminished Mass attendance, and no sense of urgency to confess our sins to receive worthily,” O’Malley said.

He related this to the crowd’s reaction to Jesus’ bread of life discourse in the Gospel of John chapter 6. After many left because “this saying is hard,” Jesus turned to Peter and asked, “Are you going to abandon me too?”

Peter replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”

Cardinal O’Malley highlighted this as one of three key questions Christ asked Peter in the Gospels. He said that Christ’s three questions to Peter: “Who do you say that I am?”, “Are you going to abandon me too?”, and  “Do you love me?” correspond to the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love respectively.

“Today before Peter’s tomb, let us bishops ask for the grace to answer those questions as Peter did with a profession of faith, a profession of hope, a  profession of love,” he said.

A Five-Year Report in Rome

Pardon me, but I’m a little bit nervous. Next week I’m being called into the principal’s office! Pardon me, but I’m a little bit nervous. Next week I’m being called into the principal’s office!

Why Federalism Matters So Much

Well-intentioned efforts to pass federal restrictions on abortion run afoul of the principles of federalism, and risk giving the green light to radical pro-abortion laws.

Venezuelan cardinal says Maduro has 'led the country to a terrible ruin'

Caracas, Venezuela, Nov 4, 2019 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino has said that if the administration of Nicolas Maduro “truly had love for Venezuela they would have already left power.”

In an interview published by the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional, Cardinal Urosa, Archbishop Emeritus of Caracas, noted that the Maduro administration “has really led the country to a terrible ruin which is growing more and more.”

Under Maduro's socialist administration Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval, with severe shortages of food and medicine, high unemployment, blackouts, and hyperinflation. More than 4 million Venezuelans have emigrated since 2015, most of them to Colombia, Peru, the US, and Ecuador.

“They don’t want to leave now because they’re clinging to power, it would seem they don’t care about the suffering they’re causing the people, the suffering of so many people that have to leave,” the cardinal stated.

For the Venezuelan cardinal, “the government continues to play out a kind of a farce, a dishonest dialogue to gain time and they the completely reject what’s at the center and the root of the problems which is the inability of the current president to govern.”

The cardinal recalled that the Venezuelan bishops do not recognize “any legitimacy or validity” to the Constituent Assembly, a pro-government legislature formed by Maduro in 2017 to supersede the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

“From the point of view of the socio-political and socio-economic reality, we’re going to end up very badly, unless there is as substantial change between now and December, a change in government,” Cardinal Urosa said.

If that does not take place, he warned, “We’re going to end up very badly because the dollar continues to rise, food is more and more expensive, there are no products, healthcare is worse and education has completely collapsed. The problems continue and are going to get worse.”

“As a bishop of the Church, as a minister of Jesus Christ, let us strengthen our faith in God, our hope, and seek without violence for there to be a peaceful change for the people’s welfare,” he encouraged.

In July the Venezuelan bishops asked that Maduro resign from office, saying his exercise of the presidency is illegimate. They called for the election of a new president as soon as possible.

They cited a July 4 report from the UN human rights commissioner which said the government has committed a variety of human rights abuses, including a high number of extrajudicial killings.

Maduro was sworn in for a second term as president Jan. 10, after winning a contested election in which oppositon candidates were barred from running or imprisoned. Juan Guaidó, head of the National Assembly, declared himself interim president Jan. 23.

Guaidó has been recognized by a number of Western and Latin American governments, but has been largely unable to secure the support of Venezuela's military. He has pledged a transitional government and free elections.

On Nov. 3 the Salvadoran president ordered Venezuelan diplomats to leave the country, as El Salvador does not recognize Maduro as the legitimate president. Among Maduro's supporters are China, Cuba, and Russia.

In September, the US barred senior Venezuelan officials and their families from entering the country, after imposing sanctions on Venezuela the month prior.

In 2018, Venezuela's annual inflation rate was 1.3 million percent; the IMF has forecast an inflation rate of 10 million percent in 2019. Prices were doubling every 19 days by the end of 2018.

New and Noteworthy: Monday, November 4

Today, Russell Moore in the Wall Street Journal (paywall) comments on the end of discrimination against Christian adoption services.

Development Associate, Executive Office

Development Office