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Vatican News

Pope Francis: To know Christ better, contemplate his 'holy face'

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2020 / 06:26 am (CNA).- Meditating on the Gospel and on Christ’s holy face is a good way to know Jesus better, especially as the Lamb of God who sacrificed himself for the sins of the world, Pope Francis said Sunday.

Reflecting on John the Baptist’s testimony in the Gospel of John is an invitation “to start afresh on our journey of faith: to start afresh from Jesus Christ, the Lamb full of mercy that the Father has given for us,” he said Jan. 19.

“We learn from the Baptist not to presume that we already know Jesus, that we already know everything about him,” he continued. “It is not so. Let’s stop on the Gospel, perhaps even contemplating an icon of Christ, a ‘holy face.’

The Holy Face of Manoppello, held in a church in an Italian village, is believed to be an image of the face of Christ, perhaps from the Veil of Veronica.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, celebrated Mass at the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello Jan. 19. At the conclusion of the Mass, the cardinal led a procession with the image.

The Mass and procession were to mark the feast of “Omnis Terra,” which recalls Pope Innocent III’s procession with the Holy Face in 1208, when the image was held at the Vatican.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the protectors of the Holy Face of Manoppello, were also present at the Mass and procession with Cardinal Koch.

At his Angelus address, Pope Francis said we contemplate Christ with the eyes but even more so with the heart. We “let ourselves be instructed by the Holy Spirit, who tells us inside: It is He! He is the Son of God made lamb, immolated for love,” he said.

“He alone suffered, atoned for sin, the sin of each of us, the sin of the world, and also my sins, all. He carried them all on himself and took them away from us, so that we could finally be free, no longer slaves to evil,” Francis stated. “Yes, we are still poor sinners, but not slaves, no, not slaves: children, children of God!”

The pope explained that the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time is a continuation of the feasts of Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord. It continues to speak about Jesus, who after his baptism was “consecrated by the Holy Spirit,” he said.

He urged Catholics to “be surprised again by God’s choice to be on our side, to be in solidarity with us sinners, and to save the world from evil by taking charge of it totally.”

After the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis reminded Catholics that 2020 has been designated the “Year of the Nurse and the Midwife” by the World Health Organization.

“Nurses are the most numerous health workers, and midwives are perhaps the most noble of the professions,” he said. “Let us pray for all of them, so that they can do their best at the valuable work.”

The pope also expressed his desire that a high-level summit in Berlin on the crisis in Libya “will be the start of a path towards the cessation of violence and a negotiated solution that will lead to peace and the much desired stability of the country.”

 


Minn. young adults accompany, pray for bishops on ad limina visit to Rome

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2020 / 04:35 pm (CNA).- Young adults from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis are accompanying their bishops on their ad limina visit to Rome this week, joining them at “the threshold of the apostles.”

The 25 young Catholics are in Rome Jan. 10-18, visiting the city as Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens make their “ad limina apostolorum” visit to the pope and Vatican with the other bishops of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

“It’s really been incredible, it’s been fun to pray for [the bishops] as they meet with the Holy Father, to hear about their experiences,” Maddie Schulte, 23, told CNA.

On Jan. 15, the young adults - ranging in age from 21 to 34 - had their own opportunity to greet Pope Francis after his weekly general audience.

Enzo Randazzo, who organized the pilgrimage, works in the archdiocese’s evangelization office. He said St. Paul and Minneapolis have been blessed with a vibrant young adult community and seen a lot of fruit come from that ministry.

“We are here representing the people [Archbishop Hebda] shepherds back home,” Randazzo, 30, said.

During an ad limina, which typically takes place every five years, diocesan bishops prepare a report on the state of their diocese, which is presented to Pope Francis and to various offices inside the Vatican.

The bishops also celebrate Mass at the tombs of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, and at the other two major papal basilicas. The young people have been present at each of these Masses.

“We really appreciate the fact that they are accompanying the bishops,” Archbishop Hebda told CNA. “They’ve really dedicated themselves to praying for Pope Francis and praying for us in the course of this ad limina. Just to have them at these ad limina liturgies is beautiful.”

“They’re young people with such hope, such joy, it’s a real pleasure to be with them,” he said.

Hebda and Cozzens have also joined the pilgrim group for dinners and on a daytrip to Assisi.

Twenty-two-year-old Mitchell Kohler said the bishops have taken the time to sit with them and listen to what they have to say.

“They’ve been very present throughout the pilgrimage. While they’ve had their own work to do, they’ve been having dinner with us, spending time with us, making sure to connect with us and show that as young adults from the archdiocese we are very valued,” he noted.

Schulte said the “succession of Peter” has come to life for her during this trip.

Fr. Tim Wratkowski, a newly ordained priest of the archdiocese and former student at the Pontifical North American College, has been present as chaplain.

Also taking part is Will Herrmann, 30, a convert who joined the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 2019.

He said that as a young adult, he sometimes feels lonely in his faith, so he has appreciated the bishops’ efforts to be present during the pilgrimage, as well as the chance to build community with other young adults passionate about their faith.

“This community aspect has been wonderful,” he said. “I hope that I can really serve [the bishops] when we get back to the archdiocese, whether that’s directly through anything they ask of me or indirectly through my parish and the work I do locally there.”

From a Lutheran background originally, Herrmann said coming to Rome and encountering the saints has felt “like meeting the family, meeting all the relatives.”
 
“Some I’ve heard of; some I’ve never met… Just really feeling like I belong the more I’m here.”

 


2020 Pope Francis trip to Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea possible

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- A visit from Pope Francis to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor may happen in September, according to an Indonesian Muslim leader who met with the pope this week.

Sheikh Yahya Cholil Staquf leads the 50 million member Nahdlatul Ulama movement, which calls for a reformed “humanitarian Islam” and has developed a theological framework for Islam that rejects the concepts of caliphate, Sharia law, and “kafir” (infidels).

Staquf met with the pope this week, while in Rome for a meeting of the Abrahamic Faiths Initiative, which gathers Christians, Muslim and Jewish leaders to discuss the promotion of peace and fraternity. U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback attended the meetings.

Pope Francis met with the group Jan. 15.

After that meeting, Staquf told CNA that the pope said he plans to visit Indonesia, East Timor, and New Guinea in September.

The Vatican has not yet confirmed such a trip.

Indonesia is home to the largest population of Muslims in the world. The country’s 229 million Muslims make up more than 12% of the global Muslim population. Nearly all of Indonesia’s Muslims are Sunni.

There are 24 million Christians living in Indonesia, 7 million of them are Catholic. Pope St. Paul VI visited the country in 1970, and Pope St. John Paul II traveled there in 1989.

East Timor is a small country on the island of Timor. It gained independence from Indonesia in 1999, following decades of bloody conflict as the region vied for national sovereignty.

The country’s second president, Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta, shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with East Timorese Bishop Ximenes Bolo, for their efforts to reach a peaceful and just end to fighting in the country. Bishop Belo is now a missionary in Mozambique.

More than 1 million people live in East Timor; more than 98% of them are Catholic. It is one of few majority Catholic countries in Southeast Asia. Pope St. John Paul II visited East Timor in 1989.

Papua New Guinea is a country of nearly nine million people on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. The other side of island consists of two Indonesian provinces. Papua New Guinea is a nation of considerable cultural diversity, comprised of small traditional communities of various groups, some of which remain uncontacted by Westerners. 

Nearly all Papua New Guinea citizens are Christians, and 26 percent of the population is Catholic.

Pope St. John Paul II went to Papua New Guinea in 1984.

Pope Francis has long expressed interest in visiting Indonesia, and has also expressed interest in visiting Iraq in 2020.

 


'No misunderstanding': Cardinal Sarah meets with pope emeritus

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Robert Sarah has met with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to discuss the controversy following around their recently-published book "From the Depths of Our Hearts,” and insisted that there is no ill feeling between the two. 

The book, presented as a co-authored work by the two, is subtitled “Priesthood, Celibacy, and the Crisis of the Catholic Church.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s contributions have been the subject of controversy since the book was announced on Sunday, and conflicting statements on the extent of the pope emeritus’s involvement in the project have been released over the last week.

Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, issued a series of statements via Twitter on Friday, saying that his meeting with the former pope went well.

“Because of the incessant, nauseating and deceptive controversies that have never stopped since the beginning of the week, concerning the book From the Depths of Our Hearts, I met Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI this evening,” said Sarah. 

The tweets were published in French and signed “-RS.”

“With Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, we have seen how there is no misunderstanding between us,” said Sarah. “I came out very happy, full of peace and courage from this beautiful interview.”

Sarah encouraged people to read and reflect on the book, and thanked his editor and his publisher, “for the thoroughness, probity, seriousness, and professionalism which they have shown,” and added “excellent reading to all!”

The book contains a chapter credited to Benedict, a chapter credited to Sarah, and an introduction and conclusion, which have been attributed to the two men jointly.

On Jan. 14, Benedict’s private secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, said the former pontiff was not informed he would be presented as co-author of the book and had not seen its cover, adding that Benedict has asked for his name and photo to be removed from the cover.

Ganswein affirmed that Benedict had written the chapter attributed to him, and gave permission for it to appear in a book, but said that Benedict had not actually co-authored the introduction and conclusion attributed to him. Ganswein also communicated the request that Benedict’s name be removed as co-author of the book and he instead be listed as a contributor.

Despite the request from Ganswein, Ignatius Press--who will be publishing the English-languge edition in February--stated this week that it considers the book to have been co-authored by Benedict and Sarah.

The publisher told CNA that critics suggesting that the pope emeritus did not co-author the book, or authorize its publication, are wrong.

“Are these people really implying that Cardinal Sarah is involved in a conspiracy to distort the truth?” Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, editor-in-chief of Ignatius Press, asked Jan. 13.

“If Cardinal Sarah is telling [Ignatius Press] that the chapters from Pope Benedict are from Pope Benedict, we take his word for it,” Fessio said, adding that the publisher stands by its attribution of the book to both Sarah and Benedict.

The publisher’s statement followed a Jan 14. release from Sarah, who said that he had in October proposed a jointly authored book to Benedict, and that after the two corresponded over the matter, he sent on Nov. 19 “a complete manuscript to the pope emeritus containing, as we had mutually decided, the cover, a common introduction and conclusion, the chapter of Benedict XVI, and my own chapter.”


Gregorian University to ‘review’ bishop’s allegedly plagiarized dissertation

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2020 / 11:11 am (CNA).- The Pontifical Gregorian University said Friday it will review the doctoral dissertation of Scotland’s Bishop Stephen Robson, which is alleged to contain several acts of plagiarism.

The institution’s “academic authorities have decided to proceed to a careful review of the dissertation in question, in accordance with what is established in the University's Ethical Norms,” the university said in a Jan. 17 statement provided to CNA.

“The Pontifical Gregorian University considers plagiarism a very serious infringement of university ethics since the ‘attribution to itself of the intellectual property of the text or content of a work of others, in any part of it, is a lack of justice and truth,’” the statement added, quoting from the university’s plagiarism policy.

“A charge of plagiarism involving a doctoral dissertation necessarily implies special attention by the University,” the statement added.

The Gregorian’s announcement came days after Bishop Stephen Robson of Dunkeld told CNA that he never intentionally committed any act of plagiarism, but did not explain evidence that his 2003 dissertation contained verbatim, or nearly verbatim excerpts from published scholarship, without attribution.

“I can categorically state that there was absolutely never any intention to plagiarise any work,” Robson told CNA Jan. 14th.

Robson also told CNA that he would accept the judgment of his alma mater regarding his dissertation.

“I am happy for the Gregorian to nullify my text if they think fit,” the bishop said.

Robson completed his dissertation, “With the Spirit and Power of Elijah (Lk 1,17). The Prophetic-Reforming Spirituality of Bernard of Clairvaux as Evidenced Particularly in his Letters,” at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University in 2003.

The text was awarded the university’s 2004 Premio Bellarmino, the annual prize given to the best dissertation completed at the university.

A 2019 article in the scholarly journal Analecta Cisterciensia first alleged that Robson’s dissertation contained plagiarism. The article was written by the journal’s editor, Fr. Alkuin Schachenmayr, a Cistercian priest living in an Austrian monastery.

Schachenmayr wrote that “there seem to be dozens of passages in Robson’s dissertation which are apparently identical or remarkably similar to texts published by other scholars, yet the author does not attribute these sources.”

The article cited several passages in Robson’s dissertation that were identical or nearly identical to already published scholarship. Those passages give no indication of their source material.

Among the scholars from whom Robson apparently copied are Bruno Scott James, Jean Leclercq, Friedrich Kempf, and Robert Bartlett, according to Schachenmayr.

Some of those scholars were mentioned as sources in his dissertation, even while particular verbatim passages from them were reproduced without citation. In other cases, identical or nearly identical passages from published scholars who were never referenced as sources at all were included in the dissertation, Schachenmayr showed.

Regarding the prize given to Robson by the university, Schachenmayr wrote: “One must ask whether the jury responsible for awards of excellence at the Gregorian succeeded in identifying one of the institution’s best dissertations of 2003.”  

The Gregorian University told CNA it learned of the plagiarism charge against Robson Jan. 16, after the publication of a CNA article on the subject. It did not give indication of how long its planned review will take.

In addition to a doctorate in theology, Robson also earned a licentiate in canon law from the university.

The Pontifical Gregorian University, founded in 1551 by St. Ignatius of Loyola, is a Jesuit university, and offers degrees in theology, canon law, philosophy, Church history, among other subjects.

Robson was named a bishop in 2012 and was installed as Bishop of Dunkeld in 2014.

Hannah Brockhaus contributed to this report.


Synod relator advises bishops on presenting Amazon apostolic exhortation

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2020 / 11:52 am (CNA).- Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the relator general of the Amazon synod, sent a letter Monday to some ordinaries indicating that the apostolic exhortation on the synod should be promulgated this month or the next.

“The draft is currently being reviewed and corrected and then needs to be translated. Pope Francis hopes to promulgate it by the end of this month or in early February,” Cardinal Hummes, who is also president of the Pan Amazonic Church Network, wrote in a Jan. 13 letter.

Among the works of REPAM is “protection for the 137 ‘contactless tribes’ of the Amazon and affirmation of their right to live undisturbed.”

Cardinal Hummes said in his letter that Francis is preparing the exhortation “to present the New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology as developed with the guidance of the Holy Spirit” during the Amazon synod.

According to Cardinal Hummes, the exhortation “is keenly awaited and will attract great interest and many different responses.”

The cardinal added that the pope wants ordinaries to receive the text “before it is published and before the world press starts to comment on it, and join him in presenting the Exhortation and making it accessible to the faithful, to fellow believers and all people of good will, and to the media, the academic world, and others in positions of authority and influence.”

Cardinal Hummes offered “some suggestions” to bishops on how to prepare well for the exhortation's release. “The purpose is not to generate publicity or attract attention. Rather, it is quietly to support you the Ordinary, in communion with Pope Francis, as you prepare to receive the Exhortation and pass it on to the People of God in your jurisdiction.”

“Accordingly, with greatest freedom, please make use of the suggestions insofar as they seem helpful.”

The cardinal suggested that “a useful way of preparing would be to read some of the relevant earlier documents referenced below.” He promised that a second letter with more suggestions would be coming shortly.

Cardinal Hummes' suggested reading for ordinaries is composed of: the Amazon synod's final document; Pope Francis' address at a meeting with indigenous people of Amazonia in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, Jan. 19, 2018; the pope's address at the opening of the Amazon synod, Oct. 7, 2019; his own address of the same day; the pope's final speech to the synod of Oct. 26; and Laudato si', the pope's 2015 encyclical on care for our common home, especially its fifth and sixth chapters.

The synod's final document called for the ordination of married men as priests, and for women to be considered for diaconal ordination. It presented the synod assembly’s reflections and conclusions on topics ranging from environmentalism, inculturation in the Church, and the human rights of indigenous communities in the face of economic, environmental, and cultural exploitation.
Four days before the final document was approved,  Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna indicated that it was to be written principally by a team chaired by Cardinal Hummes.

The cardinal noted that, of course, “there will be a celebratory and communications event” at the Vatican's synod hall when the exhortation is promulgated.

He suggested that ordinaries “may also want to begin planning a press briefing or a press conference or other event as soon as convenient after the publication of the Exhortation.”

“you may find it opportune to have the Exhortation presented by yourself along with an indigenous spokesperson if relevant in your area, an experienced pastoral leader (ordained or religious, layman or laywoman), an expert on climate or ecology, and a youth involved in peer ministry.”

Cardinal Hummes asked that the letter be kept confidential, and not shared with the media.

“Please do respect the guidelines,” he added.

The letter was published Jan. 14 by LifeSiteNews in English, and by Aldo Maria Valli in Italian.

CNA understands the letter to have been sent to “concerned bishops” around the world. It was not sent to all ordinaries.

Cardinal Hummes concluded his letter “with the sincere hope that his letter has been helpful.”

He asked for prayers that God the Father would “dispose the People of God in the Amazon and throughout the world to receive it with faith and hope, intelligently and effectively.”


Pope appoints first woman to managerial position in Secretariat of State  

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2020 / 10:53 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has named Dr. Francesca Di Giovanni as undersecretary for multilateral affairs in the Vatican Secretariat of State, marking the first time that a woman has been appointed to a managerial position in the secretariat.

Di Giovanni, 66, was appointed undersecretary for the Section in Relations in States. She has worked as an official in the department for more than 25 years, with specialties including humanitarian law, communications, migrants and refugees, and the status of women, according to Vatican Media.

She will now work with Monsignor Miroslaw Wachowski, who also serves as undersecretary for the Section in Relations in States, but focuses on bilateral affairs. Di Giovanni’s field of multilateral affairs focuses on the interactions between inter-governmental organizations such as the United Nations.

Di Giovanni hails from Palermo, Italy. She has a degree in law and has worked for the Focolare Movement.

She told Vatican News and L’Osservatore Romano that her appointment shows the pope’s commitment to involving women in the Vatican.

“A woman may have certain aptitudes for finding commonalities, healing relationships with unity at heart,” she said. “I hope that my being a woman might reflect itself positively in this task, even if they are gifts that I certainly find in my male colleagues as well.”

She recalled the words of Pope Francis in his homily this year for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God: “Women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes, because when women can share their gifts, the world finds itself more united, more peaceful.”

Di Giovanni said she hopes to cooperate with the other men and women in her working group and hopes to live up to the trust that Pope Francis is placing in her.

She told Vatican News and L’Osservatore Romano that she was surprised by her appointment, although the discussion has arisen in recent years about the need for an additional undersecretary in the field.

The multilateral sector, she said, is “a delicate and demanding sector that needs special attention, because it has its own procedures, in some ways different from those of the bilateral sphere.”

The sector covers multilateral treaties, which Di Giovanni said are significant “because they embody the political will of States with regard to the various issues concerning the international common good: this includes development, the environment, the protection of victims of conflicts, the situation of women, and so on.”

She reiterated the pope’s commitment to the multilateral sector, which she said “has a fundamental function in the international community.”

Di Giovanni noted that in his recent address to the Holy See’s Diplomatic Corps, Pope Francis praised the accomplishments of the United Nations while calling for reform in the multilateral system.

“In the international community, the Holy See also has the mission of ensuring that the interdependence between people and nations be developed in a moral and ethical dimension, as well as in the other dimensions and various aspects that relations are acquiring in today's world,” she said.

She stressed the importance of dialogue and diplomacy and said the Holy See views the UN “as a necessary means for achieving the common good,” while at the same time calling for reform and change where necessary.

 


Pope Francis: The Church never tires of announcing God’s love

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- While often persecuted and misunderstood, the Church never tires of announcing the love of God made present in Jesus Christ, Pope Francis said Wednesday.

With this reflection, the pope completed an eight-month long series of weekly Biblical meditations on every chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.

“Dear brothers and sisters, at the end of this journey, lived together following the race of the Gospel in the world, the Holy Spirit revives in each of us the call to be courageous and joyful evangelizers,” Pope Francis said Jan. 15 in the Pope Paul VI Hall.

The Acts of the Apostles expresses the “dynamism of the Word of God,” the pope said. He called God’s word “an active yeast” in history that is “capable of transforming situations and opening new paths."

Paul’s journey in the book of Acts, the pope said, is “proof that the routes of men, if lived in faith, can become a transit space for the salvation of God.”

Upon his arrival in Rome, Paul, a prisoner under house arrest, told the leaders of the Jews, “it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear these chains.”

Pope Francis noted that the Acts of the Apostles does not end with Paul’s martyrdom, but with “the abundant sowing of the Word.”

The last verses of the Acts of the Apostles records Paul “bearing witness to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus from the law of Moses and the prophets.”

“Paul recognizes himself as deeply Jewish and sees in the Gospel that he preaches, that is, in the proclamation of the dead and risen Christ, the fulfillment of the promises made to the chosen people,” Pope Francis said.

The last line of the book of Acts concludes: “He [Paul] remained for two full years in his lodgings. He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Pope Francis said that this “house open to all hearts”  is an image of the Church, which “although persecuted, misunderstood and chained, never tires of welcoming every man and woman with a motherly heart to announce to them the love of the Father who has made himself visible in Jesus.”

“Make us, like Paul, capable of filling our houses with the Gospel and making them cenacles of fraternity, where we can welcome the living Christ, who comes to meet us in every man and in every age,” he prayed.


Legion of Christ abuser dismissed from clerical state

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- This week Fernando Martínez Suárez, a priest of the Legionaries of Christ, was dismissed from the clerical state. He had been found guilty of the sexual abuse of minors by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Martinez, 79, will remain a member of the Legion of Christ. He had been ordained a priest in 1964.

The Legion of Christ stated Jan. 13 that Martinez, "who was found guilty of delicts of sexual abuse of minors, as a result of the process before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has lost the clerical state and can no longer exercise the priestly ministry."

Fr. Andreas Schöggl, secretary general of the Legion, wrote in a Jan. 13 letter to Martinez' victims that "the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith submitted the request to the Holy Father after an attentive study of the case.”

Martinez abused at least six girls, ages 6 to 11, between 1991 and 1993 when he directed the Cumbres Institute in Cancún.

He was also accused of other acts of abuse, including that of a boy between the ages of 4 and 6 at the Cumbres Lomas Institute in Mexico City in 1969.

Martinez had himself been abused by Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, in Ontaneda and Rome in 1954, when Martinez was 15.

An internal commission of the Legion published a report last month saying that since its founding in 1941, 33 priests of the Legionaries of Christ committed sexual abuse of minors, victimizing 175 children.

Fr. Maciel abused at least 60 minors.

Fourteen Legionaries who committed abuse of minors were themselves victims of abuse in the order.

The Legion of Christ was long the subject of critical reports and rumors before it was rocked by Vatican acknowledgment that its charismatic founder lived a double life, sexually abused seminarians, and fathered children.

In 2006 the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith removed Maciel from public ministry and ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. The congregation decided not to subject him to a canonical process because of his advanced age.

From that point, Benedict XVI carried on a process of reform for the Legion of Christ, a process continued under Pope Francis.


South Sudan peace declaration signed in Rome

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2020 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- The Republic of South Sudan and the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) have signed a peace declaration in Rome Sunday that will go into effect Jan. 15.

“I think this process will help the country to change to bring peace for the people,” Paolo Impagliazzo, Secretary General of the Community of Sant’Egidio, told CNA Jan. 13.

In peace talks in Rome facilitated by the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio, opposition groups and the South Sudanese government recommitted to cease hostilities, pursue political dialogue, and allow humanitarian aid for the people of South Sudan.

Signers of the “Rome Declaration on the Peace Process in South Sudan” notably included representatives of the opposition groups in SSOMA, who refused to sign an earlier peace agreement in Sept. 12, 2018 in Khartoum, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and National Democratic Movement (NDM) as witnesses.

Dr. Sunday De John, communications director for the opposition alliance, told CNA that he hopes this will pave the way for a long-awaited visit by Pope Francis to South Sudan.

“We have accepted the cessation of hostilities, and therefore there will be no confrontation between the forces of the opposition and that of the government. It means there will be relative security, and would allow the mobility of South Sudanese locally and international visitors, like His Holiness the pope as early as February,” De John said Jan. 13.

“South Sudan is a country that is made up of Christians, notably of the Catholic faith. We believe in His Holiness the pope, and should he come to South Sudan -- even if the opposition is unable to be there for security reasons -- we will be happy because our country is our symbol,” he said.

Paolo Impagliazzo, Secretary General of the Community of Sant’Egidio, facilitated the peace declaration. He said that faith played an important role in the South Sudan peace talks hosted in Rome Jan. 11-12.

“All of them are Christians, so for them to start a meeting with a prayer was very important. They attended Holy Mass on  Saturday evening with Sant’Egidio ... The fact that Pope Francis is so engaged in their country for them is something that they cannot forget,” Impagliazzo told CNA.

“We kept the two delegations separated in different hotels, different rooms for coffee breaks, and a plenary room where they entered together, shaking hands and sitting on the two sides of the table,” he said.

The Community of Sant’Egidio is a lay Catholic movement centered on peace and helping the poor. The community has previously worked with the peace process in Mozambique and the Ivory Coast.

In the declaration, the government and the opposition recommitment to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement of Dec. 2017 to cease armed confrontation in South Sudan, and to allow humanitarian access to local and international organizations.

IGAD, the UN’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development, participated as an observer.

“Rome was not built in one day, so with our peace, we are building it,” Barnaba Maria Benjamin, head of the South Sudan government envoy, said in a press conference Jan. 13.

Benjamin said it is important that Sant’Egidio will be monitoring whether the agreement is implemented. He underlined that the government of South Sudan is committed to “inclusivity,” calling it the “cornerstone of the future of the Republic of South Sudan.”

“The cessation of hostilities is important because it allows our people …  to have humanitarian assistance reach all rural parts of South Sudan and it allows us to build forgiveness, reconciliation and harmony,” Benjamin said.

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in South Sudan’s civil war, which began shortly after South Sudan became an independent country in 2011. The fighting primarily took place between those forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel groups led by Riek Machar, the former vice president.

The signers of the declaration wrote that they were “humbled by the relentless spiritual and moral appeal for peace, reconciliation and fraternity by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Former Moderator of Presbyterian Church of Scotland, as well as those of the South Sudanese religious leaders for reconciliation, peace and fraternity.”

The two groups also reaffirmed their will to foster political dialogue under the auspices of the Catholic community Sant’Egidio in order to facilitate further reconciliation and stabilization.

The Vatican hosted South Sudan’s political leaders for a peacebuilding retreat in April 2019, at which Pope Francis knelt to kiss the feet of the president of South Sudan and the leader of the opposition movement.

“We came together here in appreciation to the tireless effort of His Holiness Pope Francis when he called the leadership of our country and begged them for peace,” Pa’gan Amum Okiech, member of the leadership council of SSOMA and Interim Chairman of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

Pope Francis, who does not have any international trips scheduled for 2020, has repeatedly expressed his hope that he will be able to visit South Sudan, along with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, in the coming year.

The pope sent a Christmas message together with Archbishop Welby and Rev. John Chalmers, the former moderator of the Scottish Presbyterian Church to the people of South Sudan expressing best wishes for a swift implementation of the peace agreements.

“May the Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, enlighten you and guide your steps in the way of goodness and truth, and bring to fulfilment our desire to visit your beloved country,” the message states.

 


What does Benedict XVI actually say in new book on priestly celibacy?

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2020 / 12:37 pm (CNA).- In his chapter in a new book on priestly celibacy, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says a historical understanding of the priesthood in the Old and New Testaments makes it clear that celibacy is an ontological, rather than optional, part of the Catholic priesthood.

“From the Depths of Our Hearts” is set to be released in French this week and in English next month. The book consists of chapters written individually by Benedict and Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, as well as a joint introduction and conclusion.

Controversy has shrouded the book since its publication was announced Jan. 12, largely over disagreement about how much Benedict contributed to the book's introduction and conclusion, and whether he gave permission for publishers to identify him as a coauthor of the text.

While that controversy is ongoing, less discussed is what Benedict XVI actually said in the chapter of the book that the pope emeritus did write.

What did Benedict XVI say in his chapter of the book?

At the core of his writing is an argument that the sexual abstinence that was merely “functional” for the priests of the Old Testament has been transformed into something “ontological” in the priesthood of the New Covenant, according to a draft text of the book seen by CNA.

Benedict’s chapter examines the history of the priesthood in the Old and New Testaments, saying that a proper understanding of the nature of the priesthood is crucial in answering contemporary questions about priestly celibacy.

“At the foundation of the serious situation in which the priesthood finds itself today, we find a methodological flaw in the reception of Scripture as Word of God,” Benedict says.

Abandoning a Christological interpretation of the Old Testament has led to a “deficient theology of worship” among many modern scholars, who fail to recognize that Jesus fulfilled the worship owed to God, rather than abolishing it, he continues.

Looking at the history of the priesthood in the Old Testament, Benedict says that “the relation between sexual abstinence and divine worship was absolutely clear in the common awareness of Israel.”

He notes that the priests of Israel were required to observe sexual abstinence during their time that they spend leading worship, when they were “in contact with the divine mystery.”

“Given that the priests of the Old Testament had to dedicate themselves to worship only during set times, marriage and the priesthood were compatible,” he says. “But because of the regular and often even daily celebration of the Eucharist, the situation of the priests of the Church of Jesus Christ has changed radically.”

Since the entire life of the priest in the New Covenant is “in contact with the divine mystery,” he says, it demands “exclusivity with regard to God” and becomes incompatible with marriage, which also requires one’s whole life.

“From the daily celebration of the Eucharist, which implies a permanent state of service to God, was born spontaneously the impossibility of a matrimonial bond. We can say that the sexual abstinence that was functional was transformed automatically into an ontological abstinence. Thus its motivation and its significance were changed from within and profoundly.”

Benedict’s text seems focused on the Latin Catholic Church; many Eastern Catholic priests do not celebrate Mass daily, and the former pope does not address specifically theology of Eastern Catholic married priests.

The pope emeritus rejects the idea that priestly celibacy is based on a contempt for human sexuality within the Church. He notes that this claim was also dismissed by the Church Fathers, and that the Church has always viewed marriage as a gift from God.

“However, the married state involves a man in his totality, and since serving the Lord likewise requires the total gift of a man, it does not seem possible to carry on the two vocations simultaneously,” he says. “Thus, the ability to renounce marriage so as to place oneself totally at the Lord’s disposition became a criterion for priestly ministry.”

Just as the priests from the Tribe of Levi renounced ownership of land, priests in the New Covenant renounce marriage and family, as a sign of their radical commitment to God, he says.

This is seen in the Psalm prayed when a man entered the clergy before the Second Vatican Council, he says: “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yes, I have a goodly heritage.”

Benedict concludes with a reflection on the words of John 17:17-18: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”

He says these words struck him deeply on the day before he was ordained a priest, and led him to reflect on the lifelong calling of a priest to continually unite himself to Christ and renounce “what belongs only to us.”

“Thus, on that eve of my ordination, a deep impression was left on my soul of what it means to be ordained a priest, beyond all the ceremonial aspects: it means that we must continually be purified and overcome by Christ so that He is the one who speaks and acts in us, and less and less we ourselves,” the pope emeritus says.


Ignatius Press to keep Benedict XVI listed as coauthor of new celibacy book

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2020 / 10:32 am (CNA).- Amid still-unfolding controversy surrounding a new book on priestly celibacy, the book’s US publisher says it plans to continue identifying pope emeritus Benedict XVI as coauthor of the text. The former pope’s private secretary requested Tuesday that Benedict not be listed as a coauthor.

The book, “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” is a text on priestly celibacy, initially identified as being coauthored by Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Vatican’s office on liturgy, and emeritus pope Benedict XVI, who resigned the papacy in 2013.

The book contains a chapter credited to Benedict, a chapter credited to Sarah, and an introduction and conclusion, which have been attributed to the two men jointly.

News of the book’s existence emerged Sunday, and by Monday afternoon the contribution of Benedict XVI to the work had been called into question.

On Jan. 14, Benedict’s private secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, said the former pontiff was not informed he would be presented as co-author of the book and had not seen its cover, adding that Benedict has asked for his name and photo to be removed from the cover.

Ganswein affirmed that Benedict had written the chapter attributed to him, and gave permission for it to appear in a book, but said that Benedict had not actually co-authored the introduction and conclusion attributed to him.

“The name of Benedict XVI as 'co-author' of the book should be deleted and replaced with 'with a contribution by Benedict XVI.' His name must also be deleted after the introduction and the conclusions, because they are texts by Cardinal Sarah. It is simply a matter of correctly assigning the authorship. It is not about changes in content," Gänswein told CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The book is set for English publication by Ignatius Press. The publisher said Tuesday it still considers the text to be coathored.

“Ignatius Press published the text as we received it from the French publisher Fayard. Fayard is the publisher with whom we have collaborated on three other Cardinal Sarah titles. The text we received indicates the two authors are Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah. That text also indicates that Benedict XVI co-authored an introduction and a conclusion with Cardinal Sarah, as well as his own chapter on the priesthood, wherein he describes how his exchanges with Cardinal Sarah gave him the strength to complete what would have gone unfinished,” Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press, said in Jan. 14 statement.

“Given that, according to Benedict XVI’s correspondence and Cardinal Sarah’s statement, the two men collaborated on this book for several months, that none of the essays have appeared elsewhere, and that a joint work as defined by the Chicago Manual of Style is  ‘a work prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contribution be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole’, Ignatius Press considers this a coauthored publication.”

“Cardinal Sarah indicates the content of the book remains unchanged. That content, as noted, includes a co-authored introduction, a chapter by Benedict XVI, and a conclusion coauthored by Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah.,” Brumley added.

The publisher’s statement followed a Jan 14. release from Sarah, who said that he had in October proposed a jointly authored book to Benedict, and that after the two corresponded over the matter, he sent on Nov. 19 “a complete manuscript to the pope emeritus containing, as we had mutually decided, the cover, a common introduction and conclusion, the chapter of Benedict XVI, and my own chapter.”

 

Communiqué officiel : pic.twitter.com/1dJcbFJsVJ

— Cardinal R. Sarah (@Card_R_Sarah) January 14, 2020  

Sarah said that Benedict approved that “complete manuscript” on Nov. 25, and that the two discussed the matter in person on Dec. 3.

Gänswein said attribution of the introduction and conclusion, and Benedict’s identity as a co-author, was a “misunderstanding.”

Later on Jan. 14, Sarah tweeted that, while he stood by his version of events, he had requested that Fayard, the book’s French publisher, acquiesce to Gänswein’s request. The cardinal has insisted that “the complete text will remain absolutely unchanged.”

 

Je confirme que j’ai pu parler ce matin avec Mgr Georg Gänswein. Ce communiqué reste ma seule et unique version du déroulement des faits. J’ai également eu une conversation avec la direction de Fayard pour mettre en place les demandes spécifiques de Mgr Gänswein. +RS pic.twitter.com/yZOZq9Y6Rm

— Cardinal R. Sarah (@Card_R_Sarah) January 14, 2020  

A spokesperson for Ignatius Press told CNA Jan. 14 that while the publisher is “aware” of Gänswein’s request, it stands by its statement, and considers the text a co-authored work.

“There is no doubt that Pope Benedict wrote the section ‘The Catholic Priesthood;’ and since Cardinal Sarah says ‘the complete text will remain absolutely unchanged,’ then the entries in the table of contents: ‘Introduction by the Two Authors’ and ‘Conclusion by the Two Authors’ say all we need to know,” the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson told CNA that Ignatius “can’t speak to what Ignatius might do if Fayard acquiesces,” and that it will address that question if it becomes necessary.

Beyond the question of how the emeritus pope is credited in the work, the book has been the source of controversy because it addresses priestly celibacy while Pope Francis is said to be considering recommendations from a 2019 synod to permit the priestly ordination of some married men in the Amazon region, where there is an acute priest shortage.

Some critics have suggested that a retired pope should not have spoken on a controversial subject under consideration by the current pope. Other critics have suggested that Sarah unfairly manipulated Benedict in order to lobby Pope Francis on the subject.

Supporters of Benedict say the retired pope has been encouraged by Pope Francis to engage on Church matters.

On Jan. 13, Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Vatican’s communications office, praised the book.

“Ratzinger and Sarah — who describe themselves as two Bishops ‘in filial obedience to Pope Francis’ who ‘are seeking the truth’ in ‘a spirit of love for the unity of the Church’ — defend the discipline of celibacy and put forth the reasons that they feel counsel against changing it,” Tornielli wrote.

 


Archbishop Ganswein: Benedict XVI wrote text, but did not agree to be book's co-author

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2020 / 05:58 am (CNA).- Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the private secretary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, said Tuesday the former pontiff was not informed he would be presented as co-author of a new book on priestly celibacy and that Benedict has asked for his name and photo to be removed from the cover.

According to the German-language news agency KNA, Ganswein said Jan. 14 that he had called Cardinal Robert Sarah that morning, at Benedict’s request, to ask the book’s publisher to remove the signature of the pope emeritus from the introduction and conclusion, because he had not co-authored them.

Ganswein said that the chapter in the main part of the book is, however, “100 percent Benedict,” according to KNA. “It was a misunderstanding - without questioning Cardinal Sarah’s good intentions,” Ganswein said.

The book, “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” is to be released in the United States in February, and will consist of chapters written individually by Benedict and Sarah, as well as an introduction and conclusion reportedly credited jointly to them in the French edition, although the text has not yet been published. Its French release is scheduled for Jan. 15.

Ganswein said that Benedict wrote the text on priestly celibacy included in the book during the summer of 2019, that he freely gave it to Cardinal Sarah at his request, and that he knew it would appear in a book. He said the pope emeritus was not informed of the plan for the actual form and layout, according to KNA.

Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Vatican’s liturgy office, sent a tweet in the early afternoon in Rome Jan. 14 saying future editions of the book will list him alone as author with a contribution by Benedict XVI, “however, the full text remains absolutely unchanged.”

Approximately two hours prior, Sarah had tweeted a communique claiming Benedict was sent a “complete manuscript” of the book on November 19, comprised of the cover, the common introduction and conclusion, and their individual texts, which would seem to be at odds with Ganswein's statement.

In the same statement, Sarah said Benedict sent a message November 25 agreeing for the manuscript to be published in the form proposed.

Cardinal Sarah then retweeted the same communique later in the afternoon, stating that "This press release remains my one and only version of the development of the facts."

The previous day, on January 13, Sarah tweeted a series of letters from Benedict XVI, that seemed to affirm that the pope emeritus wrote the chapter attributed to him and authorized its publication. The letters also seemed to indicate that Sarah had edited the text provided by Benedict, with the pope emeritus’s full approval.

In the book, Benedict and Sarah argue that priestly celibacy is not merely an optional feature of Church life today, but an ontological necessity for the priesthood.

Benedict’s chapter in the book examines the history of the priesthood in the Old and New Testaments, saying that a proper understanding of the nature of the priesthood is crucial in answering contemporary questions about the priesthood.
 


Cardinal Sarah: Claim that Benedict did not co-author book on celibacy is 'defamation' of 'exceptional gravity'

Vatican City, Jan 13, 2020 / 02:56 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Robert Sarah said Monday that claims Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI did not co-author with him a new book on priestly celibacy are “defamations of exceptional gravity.”

The publisher of the book told CNA that critics suggesting that the pope emeritus did not co-author the book, or authorize its publication, are wrong.

“Are these people really implying that Cardinal Sarah is involved in a conspiracy to distort the truth?” Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, editor-in-chief of Ignatius Press, asked Jan. 13.

“If Cardinal Sarah is telling [Ignatius Press] that the chapters from Pope Benedict are from Pope Benedict, we take his word for it,” Fessio said, adding that the publisher stands by its attribution of the book to both Sarah and Benedict.

The priest’s comments were a response to a tweet from Eva Fernandez, Vatican correspondent for COPE Radio, a radio station owned by the Spanish bishops’ conference.

 

Una fuente muy cercana a #BenedictoXVI asegura que él no ha escrito el libro “a 4 manos” junto al cardenal Sarah y que no ha dado su autorización a que se publicara.
Tan sólo le facilitó un escrito sobre el sacerdocio en el que estaba trabajando.
Lo contamos en @linternacope pic.twitter.com/lq1mPLow6g

— Eva Fernández (@evaenlaradio) January 13, 2020
Fernandez tweeted that “a source” close to Benedict XVI had told her that Benedict did not write the book with Sarah, or give authorization for its publication.

Fernandez said that Benedict “only made available a text about the priesthood on which he was working.”

Fessio, a long-time friend of the pope emeritus, told CNA that was untrue.

"Regarding Ignatius Press: we don't do ‘fake news’" he told CNA.

The book, “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” will consist of chapters written individually by Benedict and Sarah, as well as an introduction and conclusion reportedly credited jointly to them in the French edition, although the text has not yet been published.

On January 13, Sarah tweeted a series of letters from Benedict XVI, that seemed to affirm that the pope emeritus wrote the chapter attributed to him and authorized its publication. The letters also seemed to indicate that Sarah had edited the text provided by Benedict.

“Attacks seem to imply a lie on my part. These defamations are of exceptional gravity. I give this evening the first proofs of my close collaboration with Benedict XVI to write this text in favor of celibacy,” Sarah wrote.

Attacks seem to imply a lie on my part. These defamations are of exceptional gravity. I give this evening the first proofs of my close collaboration with Benedict XVI to write this text in favor of celibacy. I will speak tomorrow if necessary.+RS pic.twitter.com/EjD9K0Uc0D

— Cardinal R. Sarah (@Card_R_Sarah) January 13, 2020  

In the book, Benedict and Sarah argue that priestly celibacy is not merely an optional feature of Church life today, but an ontological necessity for the priesthood.

The introduction to the book says that it arose from a series of meetings in recent months between Benedict XVI and Cardinal Robert Sarah, “while the world was echoing with the din created by a strange media synod that overrode the real Synod.”

Some voices at the October 2019 synod made a case for the priestly ordination of married men in the Amazon region, ostensibly as a response to a lack of vocations. But other synod participants said that the lack of priests in the Amazon region is not caused by the obligation of priestly celibacy, and that the Church must pray for vocations and strengthen priestly formation in the region.

Cardinal Sarah was among the synod participants opposed to the idea of relaxing ecclesial discipline on celibacy.

Priestly celibacy is also on the agenda of the “binding synodal process” undertaken by the Church in Germany.

Responding to this ongoing discussion, Benedict and Sarah are releasing “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” published in English by Ignatius Press. It can now be preordered, and is due to ship Feb. 20. It is due to be published in French this week.

In the book, Benedict examines the history of the priesthood in the Old and New Testaments, saying that a proper understanding of the nature of the priesthood is crucial in answering contemporary questions about the priesthood.

“At the foundation of the serious situation in which the priesthood finds itself today, we find a methodological flaw in the reception of Scripture as Word of God,” Benedict said.

Abandoning a Christological interpretation of the Old Testament has led to a “deficient theology of worship” among many modern scholars, who fail to recognize that Jesus fulfilled the worship owed to God, rather than abolishing it, he continued.

Looking at the history of the priesthood in the Old Testament, Benedict said that “the relation between sexual abstinence and divine worship was absolutely clear in the common awareness of Israel.”

He noted that the priests of Israel were required to observe sexual abstinence during their time that they spend leading worship, when they were “in contact with the divine mystery.”

“Given that the priests of the Old Testament had to dedicate themselves to worship only during set times, marriage and the priesthood were compatible,” he said. “But because of the regular and often even daily celebration of the Eucharist, the situation of the priests of the Church of Jesus Christ has changed radically.”

Since the entire life of the priest in the New Covenant is “in contact with the divine mystery,” he said, it demands “exclusivity with regard to God” and becomes incompatible with marriage, which also requires one’s whole life.

“From the daily celebration of the Eucharist, which implies a permanent state of service to God, was born spontaneously the impossibility of a matrimonial bond. We can say that the sexual abstinence that was functional was transformed automatically into an ontological abstinence. Thus its motivation and its significance were changed from within and profoundly.”

The pope emeritus rejected the idea that priestly celibacy is based on a contempt for human sexuality within the Church. He noted that this claim was also dismissed by the Church Fathers, and that the Church has always viewed marriage as a gift from God.

“However, the married state involves a man in his totality, and since serving the Lord likewise requires the total gift of a man, it does not seem possible to carry on the two vocations simultaneously,” he said. “Thus, the ability to renounce marriage so as to place oneself totally at the Lord’s disposition became a criterion for priestly ministry.”

Just as the priests from the Tribe of Levi renounced ownership of land, priests in the New Covenant renounce marriage and family, as a sign of their radical commitment to God, he said.

This is seen in the Psalm prayed when a man entered the clergy before the Second Vatican Council, he said: “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yes, I have a goodly heritage.”

Benedict’s theological reflection is followed in the book by a set of pastoral considerations from Sarah.

“My bishop’s heart is worried. I have met with many priests who are disoriented, disturbed and wounded in the very depths of their spiritual life by the violent challenges to the Church’s doctrine,” Sarah said.

“I speak up so that everywhere in the Church, in a spirit of true synodality, a calm, prayerful reflection on the spiritual reality of the sacrament of Holy Orders can commence and be renewed.”

The cardinal called priestly celibacy “the expression of the intention to place oneself at the disposal of the Lord and of men and women,” adding that “Priestly celibacy, far from being merely an ascetical discipline, is necessary to the identity of the Church.”

Ordaining married men would create a “pastoral catastrophe,” risking the Church’s understanding of both the priesthood and itself, Sarah warned. “If we reduce priestly celibacy to a question of discipline, of adaptation to customs and cultures, we isolate the priesthood from its foundation.”

“This total delivering of himself in Christ is the condition for a total gift of self to all men and women,” he said. “He who has not given himself totally to God is not given perfectly to his brethren.”

While some exceptions exist – such as when some married Protestant pastors become Catholic and are able to be ordained priests – the shortage of priests in isolated areas is not such an exception, he said.  Ordaining married men in these communities “would prevent them from giving rise to priestly vocations of celibate priests,” which would create “a permanent state detrimental to the correct understanding of the priesthood.”

Sarah questioned whether the call for married priests among “isolated, poorly evangelized populations” is intended “to prevent them from discovering the fullness of the Christian priesthood.”

The cardinal said that he has met with isolated communities who were living the faith through prayer and scripture without the support of priests and sacraments, similar to the situation faced by some communities in the Amazon. He recalled their “unimaginable joy” at being able to participate in a celebration of the Mass.

“Allow me to state forcefully and with certainty: I think that if they had ordained married men in each village, they would have extinguished the Eucharistic hunger of the faithful,” he said. Ordaining married men would prevent young Churches from the experience of seeing themselves as the Bride of Christ and encountering Christ as Bridegroom through the radical encounter of a celibate priest, he said.

Sarah added that he would not be a priest today if it were not for his encounter with celibate missionary priests in his youth, because it was the radical nature of their lives that impacted him.

The cardinal also argued that “[t]he Eastern married clergy is in crisis,” pointing to comments by some members of these Churches noting tension between the priestly and married states, as well as the problem of divorce by priests.

He also rejected calls for female ordination, while encouraging a deeper study of “the feminine charism,” in order to properly recognize the role and contributions of women in the Church.

Concluding their work, Benedict and Sarah encouraged the discussion surrounding celibacy in the Church to be carried out with a proper understanding of the nature of the priesthood.

“It is urgent and necessary for everyone—bishops, priests and lay people—to stop letting themselves be intimidated by the wrong-headed pleas, the theatrical productions, the diabolical lies and the fashionable errors that try to put down priestly celibacy,” they said.

They called for priestly celibacy to be examined through a “fresh look with the eyes of faith.”

“This fresh look will be the best rampart against the spirit of division, against the spirit of politics but also against the spirit of indifference and relativism,” they said.

On Jan. 13, Andrea Tornielli, editorial director for the Vatican's Dicastery for Communications, wrote an op-ed praising the book.

“Ratzinger and Sarah — who describe themselves as two Bishops ‘in filial obedience to Pope Francis’ who ‘are seeking the truth’ in ‘a spirit of love for the unity of the Church’ — defend the discipline of celibacy and put forth the reasons that they feel counsel against changing it,” Tornielli wrote.

 

This story is developing and will be updated.

 

 


Analysis: On celibacy, what Benedict cannot say and Francis mustn't hear

Washington D.C., Jan 13, 2020 / 02:10 pm (CNA).- This week, the pope emeritus and Cardinal Robert Sarah will publish a new book in defense of clerical celibacy. 

Reaction to the book has opened up a fault-line among Catholic commentators: some seem to oppose the existence of the book on principle, while others argue that the former pope and cardinal are offering support to Pope Francis’ own line of thinking.

Offered apparently as a direct riposte to the recommendation of the final document of the Synod on the Pan-Amazonian region, which called for the ordination of some married men for pastoral service in remote areas, the book has been furiously denounced by some commentators, seemingly before they could read it.

Modern historian and Villanova professor Massimo Faggioli typified a strand of response, suggesting that that for Benedict to co-author a book on an issue currently sitting on the pope’s desk “interferes with a synodal process that is still unfolding,” and “threatens to limit the freedom of the one pope.”

Alongside this and similar reactions, which paint the contribution by the former pope as an implicit subversion of the pope's authority, others have insisted that the pope emeritus is incapable of writing anything because of his age. 

Contrary to the consistent accounts of those who actually see him every day, commentators such as Austen Ivereigh have alleged that Benedict is “conscious for barely half an hour at a time,” and called the publication of the book with his name attached “elder abuse.”

Their intensity of response to the book’s very existence, even leaving its content aside, seems to suggest that anything offered by Benedict will be, de facto, considered by some to undermine his successor’s authority, and become, as Faggioli opines, an “illegitimate form of pressure” on Francis.

Other, more official papal commentators have offered a more catholic perspective on the issue.

Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni issued a statement Monday highlighting Pope Francis’s own thoughts on clerical celibacy, noting that the pope has called it “a gift to the Church,” and that he “does not agree with allowing optional celibacy.” 

Bruni also noted the pope has spoken of room to consider exceptions for married clergy in the Latin rite “when there is a pastoral necessity,” as suggested during the Amazonian synod, but also restated the pope’s commitment to clerical celibacy as the norm in the Latin Church.

Official papal p.r. man Andrea Tornielli made many of the same points in a Monday op-ed.

“Ratzinger and Sarah — who describe themselves as two Bishops ‘in filial obedience to Pope Francis’ who ‘are seeking the truth’ in ‘a spirit of love for the unity of the Church’ — defend the discipline of celibacy and put forth the reasons that they feel counsel against changing it,” Tornielli wrote.

There appears then, at least from the official channels, no indication of concern about a subversion of Francis’s authority – instead the book seems to have been welcomed for what the authors claim it is: merely a contribution to an ongoing debate in the Church.

Perhaps what the two reactions point to is a fault-line, not for or against Pope Francis, but about the actual terms of the debate he is now weighing.

The final document of the Synod on the Amazon – a text which has in itself no magisterial weight whatsoever – famously called for priestly ordination of proven permanent deacons for service in remote regions. There is a debate to be had on the prudence and effectiveness of such a pastoral exception for a region as sui generis as the Amazon. Those with a wider frame of reference would note that Benedict himself supported a relaxing of the discipline of celibacy in some narrowly drawn cases, like former Anglican clergy.

But could it be that the real substance of the opposition to Benedict and Sarah’s new book is aimed not at the exception but the rule itself?

Many in and around the Amazon synod have long signaled their desire to see a wholesale revisiting, if not abandonment, of the universal discipline of clerical celibacy in the Latin Church.

Ivereigh, for example, acknowledged in the run-up to the Amazonian synod that while a possible exception to clerical celibacy in the region could be important, “the bigger story is the ecclesiological reimagining that allows such a possibility to be considered.” He went on to note that papal approval of the idea would hinge on a lack of visible controversy in its presentation. 

“There is little doubt that if the synod reaches a calm consensus behind the proposal to ordain elders in order to promote regular access to the sacraments—which is very likely—Francis will not refuse,” Ivereigh wrote in June last year.

Ivereigh seemed to expect that changes at the synod could lead to changes everywhere. He wrote that “The synod will focus resolutely on the Amazon, but if its vision of reform does not have repercussions for the rest of the Church, then, says [REPAM’s executive secretary Mauricio] López, an important opportunity will have been wasted—an opportunity to show how the church’s peripheries can shape its center.”

“But,” Ivereigh noted, “it seems unlikely Pope Francis will let that happen.” 

Moreover, the matter of clerical celibacy is already being discussed during the “binding synodal path” of the Church in Germany, a process hailed by Faggioli as an important new phase in the Church’s post-conciliar development. 

And the desire in some quarters to use an Amazonian exception to end the universal norm on celibacy has been expressed publicly.

In 2018, before the Amazonian synod, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, vice-chairman of the German bishops’ conference, said that if the ordination of married men were authorized for the Amazon, German bishops would insist on the same authorization. Bode called the necessity of extending the same dispensation everywhere “obvious.”

Opposition to celibacy, and the desire to see it ended, has not been limited to practical or disciplinary arguments.

During the Amazonian synod itself, retired Bishop Erwin Krautler insisted that “indigenous people do not understand celibacy.” Krautler essentially argued that the Church’s discipline – which has for centuries been upheld as a witness to eternal life – has no evangelistic value and is something “they cannot understand.”

It is the multi-pronged attack on the Church’s universal discipline that prompted curial cardinals like Sarah, Ouellet, Filoni, and Turkson, all of whom are known for their intense personal loyalty to Pope Francis, to intervene in favor of the value of priestly celibacy at the time of the synod. 

Set within that context, the more outraged preemptive reactions to the Sarah and Benedict book begin to take a different shape. 

Calling into question the pope emeritus’ moral and physical ability to join a conversation in the Church is a marked departure from reaction to previous Benedict interventions. Last year, when the pope emeritus issued a lengthy letter on the sexual abuse crisis ahead of Pope Francis’s Feburary summit, Ivereigh called it  “a helpful contribution.”

“Both the pope and the pope emeritus are at one in defending the freedom of the Church to be redeemed by God’s mercy, and in opposing any attempt at neo-Donatist reform," he wrote for America magazine at the time.

“They are very different men, and very different popes. But on the fundamentals, there seems to be little distance between them.”

In this light, it seems probable that it is not really the idea of a filial contribution by Benedict to which they object on principle, but that they cannot abide him - or anyone - mounting a serious argument in favor of priestly celibacy on its own terms.

The desire, it seems, is not to protect Pope Francis’s freedom to make up his own mind, but to shield him from those who – like the pope emeritus – might help him resist having his mind made up for him.

The real attempt to limit the freedom of Pope Francis may actually come from those who would only allow him to hear one side of any argument.

 

Editor's note: This article was updated to correct the spelling of Austen Ivereigh. We regret the error.