In his daily homily Pope Francis spoke of the Christian “style,” explaining that in order to be authentic, it must follow the path of Jesus in denying oneself, taking up the Cross, and practicing humility.
“And this style will save us, will give us joy and make us fruitful, because this path of denying oneself is there to give us life,” the Pope told those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse on March 6.
Calling to mind the words of Luke’s Gospel on Thursday, the pontiff repeated Jesus’ words to his disciples, saying “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Emphasizing how this is truly the “Christian style” because it was first put into practice by Jesus himself, the Pope observed that “We can’t think of the Christian life apart from this path.”
“There is always this journey, a journey that He took first: the journey of humility, the journey, too, of humiliation, of denying oneself, and then rising.”
“But this is the path,” repeated the Pope, explaining that “without the Cross, the Christian style is not Christian, and if the Cross is a Cross without Jesus, it is not Christian. The Christian style takes the Cross with Jesus and goes forward,” but “not without the Cross, not without Jesus.”
Despite the fact that Jesus is one in being with the the Father, he gave us an example in denying himself and becoming “a servant for all of us,” the pontiff said. This “style will save us” give us “joy” and “make us fruitful.”
Highlighting how Jesus shows us this path in order to give us life, Pope Francis observed that it is completely “opposed to the path of selfishness, of being attached to all the good things for myself alone.”
“This path is open to others, because the path Jesus took – of abnegation – that path was to give life. The Christian style is precisely this style of humility, of mildness, of meekness.”
Quoting the Gospel passage once again, the pontiff stated that “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,” because “if the grain of wheat does not die, it can’t bear fruit.”
He then went on to describe that this death to self is a source of joy for Christians because the Lord himself “gives us joy” as long as we follow Jesus in the style of Jesus, rather than that of the world, adding that to follow Jesus means to walk his path as closely as one is able in order “to give life to others, not to give oneself life.”
Noting that often times we want to appear better or more important in the opinion of others out of selfishness, he emphasized that Jesus’ way “is the spirit of generosity,” and drew attention to the book “The Imitation of Christ,” which gives the “good advice” to “love to be unknown and considered as nothing.”
Explaining that this is what “Christian humility” is, the pope repeated that “this is our joy, and this is our fruitfulness: to go with Jesus.”
“Other joys are not fruitful” he observed, because “as Jesus said, they think only to gain the whole world, but in the end lose and ruin their lives.”
According to a Catholic News Agency report, the pope concluded his reflections by encouraging all, at the beginning of Lent, to “ask the Lord to teach us a little of this style of Christian service, of joy, of self-abnegation, and of fruitfulness with him, as he desires.”
USCCB Migration Committee to travel to U.S.-Mexico border to remember fallen migrants, highlight human consequences of broken immigration system
Trip follows example of Pope Francis at Lampedusa
Border bishops will join Committee to celebrate Mass in remembrance of the dead
Immigration reform needed to end suffering, redeem the nation
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, joined by bishops on the border, will travel to Nogales, Arizona, March 30-April 1 to tour the U.S.-Mexico border and celebrate Mass on behalf of the close to 6,000 migrants who have died in the U.S. desert since 1998.
The purpose of the trip is to highlight the human suffering caused by a broken immigration system, an aspect of the national immigration debate which is often ignored.
“What we fail to remember in this debate is the human aspect of immigration — that immigration is primarily about human beings, not economic or social issues,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration. “Those who have died – and those deported each day – have the same value and innate God-given dignity as all persons, yet we ignore their suffering and their deaths.”
The trip follows the example of Pope Francis, who, in his first trip outside of Rome, traveled to the Italian island of Lampedusa to remember African migrants who died attempting to reach Europe. During that trip, Pope Francis spoke about the “globalization of indifference” toward migrants and decried the “throwaway culture” that disposes of human beings in the pursuit of wealth.
“The U.S.-Mexico border is our Lampedusa,” Bishop Elizondo said. “Migrants in this hemisphere try to reach it, but often die in the attempt.”
Bishop Elizondo continued: “We exhibit our own indifference when we minimize or ignore this suffering and death, as if these people are not worth our attention. It degrades us as a nation.”
The bishops on the USCCB Committee on Migration will be joined by Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, and several border bishops. Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, will host the delegation.
“Hopefully by highlighting the harsh impact the system has on our fellow human beings, our elected officials will be moved to reform it,” Bishop Elizondo said.
The Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. April 1.
Nogales, AZ 85621
Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, who is a Salesian and the Archbishop of Santiago de Chile, was elevated to the college of cardinals by Pope Francis in a Feb. 22 consistory, at the age of 72.
Cardinal Ezzati was born in 1942 in a small town of northeastern Italy, and completed his secondary education at a school run by the Salesians of Saint John Bosco. He chose to enter seminary for the institute of consecrated life at 17, and opted for a novitiate outside of Italy.
“When I was sent to Chile, I made of the country my life option. I am of Italian origins and of Chilean vocation,” he has said.
He made his first profession as a Salesian in 1961, and then studied philosophy and education while in Chile. Later, he studied theology at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome, and religious education in France.
He made perpetual vows in 1966, and was ordained a priest for the Salesians in 1970.
After his ordination, he served for two years in a pastoral mission in Chile, and from 1973 to 1977 was rector of the Salesian College, and superior of the community, in Concepcion. He later served as rector of the Salesian seminary in Santiago, and taught at the Catholic University of Chile.
While in Santiago, he co-authored a book in 1979 which was criticized by the Chilean minister for education as being a betrayal of the nation.
At the time, Chile was ruled under the right-wing military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, which lasted 17 years and left more than 3,000 dead or missing.
Cardinal Ezzati has said, “the minister considered that the book was communist and subversive, but if I read it today I find it so innocent. We maintained that money had to be used more in social issues than in armaments; that the objection of conscience was a fundamental right; that peace could not be built with arms, but with human development.”
At the Salesians’ general chapter in 1984, Cardinal Ezzati was appointed head of the Chilean province, and then served as vice-president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Religious of Chile.
From 1991 to 1996 he worked at the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life.
In 1996, Cardinal Ezzati was consecrated Bishop of Valdivia, in southern Chile, where took took the episcopal motto, “to evangelize.” He served there until he was appointed, in 2001, an auxiliary bishop of Santiago.
Cardinal Ezzati was transferred to the Archdiocese of Concepcion in 2006. There, he showed himself to have great social concerns, acting as a mediator between laborers and employers, and opposing an increasing role of the state in education.
In 2010, he was appointed Archbishop of Santiago, where he has worked with youth and prisoners.
Cardinal Ezzati was elevated along 19 other bishops in the Feb. 22 conclave; he is one of four Latin Americans — he was joined by the archbishops of Managua, Buenos Aires, and Rio de Janeiro.
According to Diario Uchile, shortly before the consistory, he said: “I have asked Mary, Help of Christians, for her maternal protection, and St. John Bosco to keep me very simple, and close to the people.”
Holy Father, every once in a while you call those who ask you for help. Sometimes they don’t believe you.
Yes, it has happened. When one calls, it is because he wants to speak, to pose a question, to ask for counsel. As a priest in Buenos Aires it was more simple. And, it has remained a habit for me. A service. I feel it inside. Certainly, now it is not that easy to do due to the quantity of people who write me.
And, is there a contact, an encounter that you remember with particular affection?
A widowed woman, aged 80, who had lost a child. She wrote me. And, now I call her every month. She is happy. I am a priest. I like it.
The relations with your predecessor. Have you ever asked for the counsel of Benedict XVI?
Yes. The Pope emeritus is not a statue in a museum. It is an institution. We weren’t used to it. 60 or 70 years ago, ‘bishop emeritus’ didn’t exist. It came after the (Second Vatican) Council. Today, it is an institution. The same thing must happen for the Pope emeritus. Benedict is the first and perhaps there will be others. We don’t know. He is discreet, humble, and he doesn’t want to disturb. We have spoken about it and we decided together that it would be better that he sees people, gets out and participates in the life of the Church. He once came here for the blessing of the statue of St. Michael the Archangel, then to lunch at Santa Marta and, after Christmas, I sent him an invitation to participate in the consistory and he accepted. His wisdom is a gift of God. Some would have wished that he retire to a Benedictine abbey far from the Vatican. I thought of grandparents and their wisdom. Their counsels give strength to the family and they do not deserve to be in an elderly home.
Your way of governing the Church has seemed to us to be this: you listen to everyone and decide alone. A bit like a general of the Jesuits. Is the Pope a lone man?
Yes and no. I understand what you want to say to me. The Pope is not alone in his work because he is accompanied and counseled by so many. And, he would be a lone man if he decided without listening, or feigned to listen. But, there is a moment, when it is about deciding, placing a signature, in which he is alone with his sense of responsibility.
You have innovated, criticized some attitudes of the clergy, shaken the Curia. With some resistance, some opposition. Has the Church already changed as you would have liked a year ago?
Last March, I didn’t have a project to change the Church. I didn’t expect this transfer of dioceses, let’s put it that way. I began to govern seeking to put into practice that which had emerged in the debate among cardinals in the various congregations. In my way of acting, I wait for the Lord to give me inspiration. I’ll give you an example. We had spoken of the spiritual care of the people who work in the Curia, and they began to make spiritual retreats. We needed to give more importance to the annual spiritual exercises. Everyone has the right to spend five days in silence and meditation, whereas before, in the Curia, they heard three talks a day and then some continued to work.
Kindness and mercy are the essence of your pastoral message…
And of the Gospel. It is the center of the Gospel. Otherwise, one cannot understand Jesus Christ, the kindness of the Father who sent him to listen to us, to heal us, to save us.
But has this message been understood? You have said that the Francis-mania will not last long. Is there something in your public image that you don’t like?
I like being among the people. Together with those who suffer. Going to parishes. I don’t like the ideological interpretations, a certain ‘mythology of Pope Francis’. When it is said, for example, that he goes out of the Vatican at night to walk and to feed the homeless on Via Ottaviano. It has never crossed my mind. If I’m not wrong, Sigmund Freud said that in every idealization there is an aggression. Depicting the Pope to be a sort of superman, a type of star, seems offensive to me. The Pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps calmly and has friends like everyone. A normal person.
(Do you have) nostalgia for your Argentina?
The truth is that I don’t have nostalgia. I would like to go and see my sister, who is sick, the last of us five (siblings). I would like to see her, but this does not justify a trip to Argentina. I call her by phone and this is enough. I’m not thinking of going before 2016 because I was already in Latin America, in Rio. Now I must go to the Holy Land, to Asia, and then to Africa.
You just renewed your Argentinian passport. You are still a head of state.
I renewed it because it was about to expire.
Were you displeased by the accusations of Marxism, mostly American, after the publication of Evangelii Gaudium?
Not at all. I have never shared the Marxist ideology, because it is not true, but I have known many great people who professed Marxism.
The scandals that rocked the life of the Church are fortunately in the past. A public appeal was made to you, on the delicate theme of the abuse of minors, published by (the Italian newspaper) Il Foglio and signed by Besancon and Scruton, among others, that you would raise your voice and make it heard against the fanaticisms and the bad conscience of the secularized world that hardly respects infancy.
I want to say two things. The cases of abuses are terrible because they leave extremely deep wounds. Benedict XVI was very courageous and he cleared a path. The Church has done so much on this path. Perhaps more than anyone. The statistics on the phenomenon of the violence against children are shocking, but they also show clearly that the great majority of abuses take place in the family environment and around it. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No other has done more. And, the Church is the only one to be attacked.
Holy Father, you say ‘the poor evangelize us.’ The attention to poverty, the strongest stamp of your pastoral message, is held by some observers as a profession of ‘pauperism.’ The Gospel does not condemn well-being. And Zaccheus was rich and charitable.
The Gospel condemns the cult of well-being. ‘Pauperism’ is one of the critical interpretations. In Medieval times, there were a lot of pauperistic currents. St. Francis had the genius of placing the theme of poverty on the evangelical path. Jesus says that one cannot serve two masters, God and Wealth. And when we are judged in the final judgement (Matthew 25), our closeness to poverty counts. Poverty distances us from idolatry, it opens the doors to Providence. Zaccheus gave half of his wealth to the poor. And to he who keeps his granary full of his own selfishness, the Lord, in the end, will present him with the bill. I have expressed well in Evangelii Gaudium what I think about poverty.
You have indicated that in globalization, especially financially, there are some evils that accost humanity. But, globalization has ripped millions of people out of indigence. It has given hope, a rare feeling not to be confused with optimism.
It is true, globalization has saved many persons from poverty, but it has condemned many others to die of hunger, because with this economic system it becomes selective. The globalization which the Church supports is similar not to a sphere in which every point is equidistant from the center and in which then one loses the particularity of a people, but a polyhedron, with its diverse faces, in which every people conserves its own culture, language, religion, identity. The current ‘spherical’ economic, and especially financial, globalization produces a single thought, a weak thought. At the center is no longer the human person, just money.
The theme of the family is central in the activity of the Council of eight cardinals. Since the exhortation ‘Familiaris Consortio’ of John Paul II many things have changed. Two Synods are on the schedule. Great newness is expected. You have said of the divorced: they are not to be condemned but helped.
It is a long path that the Church must complete. A process wanted by the Lord. Three months after my election the themes for the Synod were placed before me. It was proposed that we discuss what is the contribution of Jesus to contemporary man. But in the end with gradual steps – which for me are signs of the will of God – it was chosen to discuss the family, which is going through a very serious crisis. It is difficult to form it. Few young people marry. There are many separated families in which the project of common life has failed. The children suffer greatly. We must give a response. But for this we must reflect very deeply. It is that which the Consistory and the Synod are doing. We need to avoid remaining on the surface. The temptation to resolve every problem with casuistry is an error, a simplification of profound things, as the Pharisees did, a very superficial theology. It is in light of the deep reflection that we will be able to seriously confront particular situations, also those of the divorced, with a pastoral depth.
Why did the speech from Cardinal Walter Kasper during the last consistory (an abyss between doctrine on marriage and the family and the real life of many Christians) so deeply divide the cardinals? How do you think the Church can walk these two years of fatiguing path arriving to a large and serene consensus? If the doctrine is firm, why is debate necessary?
Cardinal Kasper made a beautiful and profound presentation that will soon be published in German, and he confronted five points; the fifth was that of second marriages. I would have been concerned if in the consistory there wasn’t an intense discussion. It wouldn’t have served for anything. The cardinals knew that they could say what they wanted, and they presented many different points of view that are enriching. The fraternal and open comparisons make theological and pastoral thought grow. I am not afraid of this, actually I seek it.
In the recent past, it was normal to appeal to the so-called ‘non-negotiable values’, especially in bio-ethics and sexual morality. You have not picked up on this formula. The doctrinal and moral principles have not changed. Does this choice perhaps wish to show a style less preceptive and more respectful of personal conscience?
I have never understood the expression non-negotiable values. Values are values, and that is it. I can’t say that, of the fingers of a hand, there is one less useful than the rest. Whereby I do not understand in what sense there may be negotiable values. I wrote in the exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ what I wanted to say on the theme of life.
Many nations have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?
Marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, pushed by the demand to regulate economic aspects between persons, such as ensuring health care. It is about pacts of cohabitating of various natures, of which I wouldn’t know how to list the different ways. One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety.
How will the role of the woman in the Church be promoted?
Also here, casuistry does not help. It is true that women can and must be more present in the places of decision-making in the Church. But this I would call a promotion of the functional sort. Only in this way you don’t get very far. We must rather think that the Church has a feminine article : ‘La’. She is feminine in her origin. The great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar worked a lot on this theme: the Marian principle guides the Church aside the Petrine. The Virgin Mary is more important than any bishop and any apostle. The theological deepening is in process. Cardinal Rylko, with the Council for the Laity, is working in this direction with many women experts in different areas.
At half a century from Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, can the Church take up again the theme of birth control? Cardinal Martini, your confrere, thought that the moment had come.
All of this depends on how Humanae Vitae is interpreted. Paul VI himself, at the end, recommended to confessors much mercy, and attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, he had the courage to place himself against the majority, defending the moral discipline, exercising a culture brake, opposing present and future neo-Malthusianism. The question is not that of changing the doctrine but of going deeper and making pastoral (ministry) take into account the situations and that which it is possible for people to do. Also of this we will speak in the path of the synod.
Science evolves and redesigns the frontiers of life. Does it make sense to artificially prolong life in a vegetative state? Can a living will be a solution?
I am not a specialist in bioethical issues. And I fear that every one of my sentences may be wrong. The traditional doctrine of the Church says that no one is obligated to use extraordinary means when it is known that they are in the terminal phase. In my pastoral ministry, in these cases, I have always advised palliative care. In more specific cases it is good to seek, if necessary, the counsel of specialists.
Will the coming trip to the Holy Land bring an agreement of intercommunion with the Orthodox that Paul VI, 50 years ago, nearly signed with Athenagoras?
We are all impatient to obtain ‘closed’ results. But the path of unity with the Orthodox means most of all walking and working together. In Buenos Aires, in the catechism courses, some Orthodox came. I spent Christmas and January 6 together with their bishops, who sometimes also asked advice of our diocesan offices. I don’t know if the episode you are telling me of Athenagoras who would have proposed to Paul VI that they walk together and send all of the theologians to an island to discuss among themselves is true. It is a joke, but it is important that we walk together. Orthodox theology is very rich. And I believe that they have great theologians at this moment. Their vision of the Church and of synodality is marvelous.
In a few years, the biggest world power will be China, with which the Vatican does not have relations. Matteo Ricci was Jesuit like yourself.
We are close to China. I sent a letter to president Xi Jining when he was elected, three days after me. And he answered me. There are relations. They are a great people, whom I love.
Why doesn’t the Holy Father ever speak of Europe? What doesn’t convince you about the European design?
Do you remember the day I spoke of Asia? What did I say? I didn’t speak of Asia, nor of Africa, nor of Europe. Only of Latin America when I was in Brazil and when I had to receive the Commission for Latin America. There hasn’t yet been occasion to speak of Europe. It will come.
What book are you reading these days?
Peter and Magdalene by Damiano Marzotto, on the feminine dimension of the Church. It is a beautiful book.
And are you not able to see any nice films, another of your passions? “La Grande Bellezza” won an Oscar. Will you see it?
I don’t know. The last film I saw was “Life is Beautiful” from Benigni. And before, I saw “La Strada” of Fellini. A masterpiece. I also liked Wajda…
St. Francis had a carefree youth. I ask you, have you ever been in love?
In the book “Il Gesuita,” I tell the story of when I had a girlfriend at 17 years old. And I speak also of this in “On Heaven and Earth,” the volume I wrote with Abraham Skorka. In the seminary a girl made me lose my head for a week.
And how did it end, if I’m not indiscreet?
They were things of youth. I spoke with my confessor (a big smile).
Thanks Holy Father.
During his general audience on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis called Lent a moment of renewal which allows us to look at the needs of others with “new eyes,” and to grow in love.
“Brothers and sisters: today, Ash Wednesday, begins the Lenten itinerary that leads us to the celebration of the Easter Triduum, a memorial of our salvation,” the Pope said in March 5.
“Lent,” he affirmed during his weekly address, “is a ‘strong’ time of conversion,” and a time “to live our baptism with greater profundity.”
Speaking to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the pontiff noted that the 40 days leading up to Easter is a “journey of penance, prayer and conversion” which prepares us “for the Church’s annual celebration of the saving mysteries of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.”
“In this time we are invited to be more aware of the wonders that the Lord does for our salvation,” the Pope reflected, highlighting how the Church asks us “to ponder with joy and gratitude God’s immense love” which is “revealed in the paschal mystery.”
Emphasizing that the time of Lent is also a call “to live ever more fully the new life we have received in Baptism,” the pontiff observed that doing this “will help us to not become accustomed to the difficult situations of misery, violence, poverty or indifference to God.”
“These are not Christian behaviors” he explained, but rather “they are comfortable behaviors and they drug our heart.”
Referring to Lent as a “journey of spiritual renewal in the footsteps of Christ,” the Pope went on to say that this season helps us in a special way “to acknowledge and respond to the growing spiritual and material poverty in our midst.”
“Specifically,” he continued, “it means consciously resisting the pressure of a culture which thinks it can do without God, where parents no longer teach their children to pray, where violence, poverty and social decay are taken for granted.”
“Lent is a time to recover the capacity to react before the reality of evil,” the pontiff emphasized, adding that it is also a time “for personal renewal” and for “community” that “brings us closer to God.”
Highlighting the importance of “confidently” adhering “to his Gospel in order to look at our brothers and the needy with new eyes,” during this season, the Pope observed that it is “a suitable time to convert to be able to love our neighbor.”
This love, he explained in a Catholic News Agency report, is “a love that generates an attitude of gratitude and of mercy with the Lord, who ‘became poor to enrich us with his poverty.’”
Concluding his reflections, Pope Francis prayed that this Lent would “be a time when, as individuals and communities, we heed the words of the Gospel, reflect on the mysteries of our faith, practice acts of penance and charity, and open our hearts ever more fully to God’s grace and to the needs of our brothers and sisters.”
Extending his greetings to groups present from various countries around the world, the Pope offered a special welcome to pilgrims who represent Malta, Denmark, Sweden, Indonesia, Canada, the United States, Spain, Mexico, and Argentina.
“May the Lenten journey we begin today bring us to Easter with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit,” he said, inviting all to “invoke with confidence the help of the Virgin Mary.”
The pope asked that she “accompany us in these days of intense prayer and penance, to arrive to celebrate, purify and to be renewed in the Spirit, the great mystery of the Easter of her Son.”
Roberto de Mattei, an Italian historian, has written about Cardinal Walter Kasper’s Feb. 20 address to cardinals on marriage and the family, calling it a “resounding revolution of culture and praxis.”
The column, authored by the chair of the history department at the European University of Rome, appeared in Il Foglio March 1 immediately following the full text of Cardinal Kasper’s address; it was translated into English by Francesca Romana at Rorate Caeli March 2.
de Mattei characterized the cardinal’s address as an example of the slogan, “repeated for a year now,” that “doctrine does not change, the novelty regards only pastoral praxis.”
“On the one hand it pacifies those conservatives who measure everything in terms of doctrinal statements,” de Mattei wrote, “and on the other hand it encourages those progressives who attribute little value to doctrine and confide everything in the primacy of praxis.”
“Immediately after stating the need to remain faithful to Tradition, Cardinal Kasper advances two devastating proposals to avoid the perennial Magisterium of the Church in matters of the family and marriage,” de Mattei wrote.
The prefect emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity had delivered his address at the extraordinary consistory on the family, to some 150 cardinals, as well as Pope Francis.
The historian said that Cardinal Kasper began his address on those divorced and remarried reflecting on the “abyss” that exists between Church teaching and the convictions of many Christians.
“The cardinal, however, neglects to formulate a negative judgment on these ‘convictions’ antithetic to the Christian Faith … in no part of his report it is said that the crisis of the family is the consequence of a programmed attack on the family, fruit of a concept from the secularist world which is opposed to it.
de Mattei faulted the cardinal for failing to “express even one word of condemnation on divorce and its disastrous consequences” in the section of his address which concerned the divorced and remarried.
“But hasn’t the moment arrived to declare that most of the crisis in the family goes back actually to the introduction of divorce and the facts demonstrate that the Church had been right in combating it?”
“In Kasper’s view,” according to de Mattei, the method to deal with the crisis of divorce is to “change the doctrine, without showing that it has been modified.”
The historian said this would be to open the doors to “the systematic violation, on the level of praxis, of that dogmatic tradition where the words affirm it legally binding.”
de Mattei criticizes Cardinal Kasper’s use of papal documents and addresses, magisterial documents, and the Church fathers, to support his proposals.
According to de Mattei, “the first way in the thwarting of Tradition” advances from the cardinal’s use of Bl. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation “Familiaris consortio.”
That document specifies, he said, that the judgement of a marriage’s validity is up to “ecclesiastical tribunals, instituted by the Church to defend the sacrament of marriage.”
Noting that Cardinal Kasper suggested alternatives to such tribunals – including the task being entrusted to a priest – de Mattei pointed out that the use of tribunals “guards the search for the truth, guarantees the outcome of a just trial, and demonstrates the importance which the Church attributes to the Sacrament of Marriage and its indissolubility.”
He said that “Kasper’s proposal calls into question the objective judgement of the ecclesiastical tribunal, which would be substituted by an ordinary priest no longer called on to safeguard the good of marriage, but to satisfy the needs of individual consciences.”
de Mattei called the cardinal’s words “offensive” to the tribunals which are based on documents and acts “all aimed at the ‘salvation of souls,” adding that “it is easy to imagine how the annulment of marriages would spread, introducing de facto Catholic divorce, if not by law, incurring devastating damage to good of human persons.”
The historian then discussed Cardinal Kasper’s suggestion that because those who are divorced and remarried can make an act of spiritual communion, they might also receive sacramental Communion, calling it a “leap ahead.”
“The centuries old praxis of the Church,” de Mattei noted, has “no contradiction.” Those who have remarried while their spouse is still alive “are in mortal sin, but they can make a spiritual communion, because even if they find themselves in grave sin, they must pray to obtain the graces necessary to come out of sin.”
He then turned to the cardinal’s use of the Church Fathers — in which he suggested that such leaders as Origen, St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and St. Augustine, supported a practice in which Christians could enter a second relationship, while their spouse was still alive, “after a period of penitence.”
“It is a pity that the Cardinal does not give his patristic references, because the historical reality is completely different from what he describes,” wrote the historian.
“Father George H. Joyce, in his historical-doctrinal study on Christian Marriage (1948) showed that during the first five centuries of the Christian era, no decree by a Council, nor any declaration by a Father of the Church, which sustains the possibility of dissolving the matrimonial bond, can be found.”
de Mattei added that Church fathers of the second century “do not give any indication of exceptions” to Christ’s prohibition of divorce, and that in the next century “Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian are even more explicit.”
“And Origen, even if he looks for some justification in the practices adopted by some bishops, specifies that this contradicts Scripture and the Tradition of the Church,” de Mattei wrote, citing the theologian’s commentary on Matthew.
“In every part of the world, the Church retained the dissolving of the marriage bond as impossible and divorce with the right to a second marriage was completely unknown.”
The historian also explained that Eastern Christianity did not begin “adapting to the Byzantine laws which tolerated divorce” until well into the sixth century.”
According to de Mattei, “the ‘canonical, penitential practice’ that Cardinal Kasper proposes as a way out of the ‘dilemma’ had the exact opposite significance in the first centuries to what he seems to attribute to it.”
He explained that “it was not done to expiate the first marriage, but to repair the sin of the second one, contracted only under civil law, and obviously demanded repentance of this sin, and the abandonment of the pseudo-matrimonial condition. The 11th Council of Carthage (407), for example, issued a canon conceived thus: ‘We decree, according to evangelical and apostolic discipline, that the law does not permit neither a man divorced from his wife, nor a woman repudiated by her husband, to pass to another marriage; but that these persons must remain alone, or that they be mutually reconciled, and if they violate this law, they must do penance.’”
According to de Mattei, “once the legitimacy of second-marriage cohabitation is admitted, one cannot see why pre-matrimonial cohabitation, if it is stable and sincere, should not permitted. ‘Moral absolutes’ are falling, which the encyclical of John Paul II ‘Veritatis Splendor’ had with great force repeated.”
According to a Catholic News Agency report, the historian recounted Cardinal Kasper’s five conditions under which a person divorced and remarried might receive confession and Communion, and noted that the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, “has already replied to these questions by referring to ‘Familiaris consortio.’”
“The position of the Church is unequivocal,” said de Mattei. “Communion to remarried divorcees is denied because matrimony is indissoluble and none of the reasons adopted by Cardinal Kasper allows for the celebration of a new matrimony or the blessing of a pseudo-matrimonial union.”
“The Church did not allow it to Henry VIII, losing the Kingdom of England, and will never allow it, because, as Pius XII recalled to the parish priests of Rome March 16, 1946: ‘The matrimony between baptized, validly contracted and consummated, cannot be dissolved by any power on earth, not even by the Supreme Church Authority.’”
“That is,” de Mattei added, “not even by the Pope, and even less so by Cardinal Kasper.”
In his daily homily Pope Francis called persecution a “reality” of Christian life, challenging faithful to take up the cross and noting that we are never given more than we can handle.
“But (people say) ‘today we are better educated and these things no longer exist.’ Yes they do!” the Pope said March 4.
“And I tell you that today there are more martyrs than during the early times of the Church.”
Centering his reflections on the day’s Gospel taken from Mark — in which Peter asks Christ what the disciples will receive for following him — the pope pointed out to those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse the response of Jesus, who explained that their reward would be great, but not without persecution.
“It’s as if Jesus said, ‘Yes, you have left everything and you will receive here on earth many things: but with persecutions!’ Like a salad with the oil of persecution: always!”
This, he said, “is what the Christian gains and this is the road for the person who wants to follow Jesus, because it’s the road that He himself trod: He was persecuted!”
Drawing attention to Paul’s words in his letter to the Philippians where he says that “Jesus emptied himself and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross,” the pontiff observed that the path of a Christian is “the road of humbling yourself.”
Noting how “this is the reality of Christian life,” Pope Francis continued, warning those in attendance that the Cross is always present when we follow Christ, and that although we will receive brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and a community in the Church, we will also have persecutions.
“This is because the world does not tolerate the divinity of Christ,” the Pope explained, “It doesn’t tolerate the preaching of the Gospel. It does not tolerate the Beatitudes.”
Because of this “we have persecutions: with words, with insults, the things that they said about Christians in the early centuries, the condemnations, imprisonment,” he went on to say, emphasizing that we often “easily forget” that persecution happens today.
“We think of the many Christians, 60 years ago, in the labor camps, in the camps of the Nazis, of the communists: So many of them! For being Christians!” the pontiff observed, adding that although some might believe that “these things no longer exist,” they “do,” and to a greater extent than in the early Church.
Highlighting how many of our brothers and sisters today are condemned for bearing witness to Jesus, the Pope noted how “They are condemned for having a Bible. They can’t wear a crucifix,” and that “this is the road of Jesus.”
“But it is a joyful road because our Lord never tests us beyond what we can bear,” he expressed, observing how “Christian life is not a commercial advantage, it’s not making a career: It’s simply following Jesus!”
Challenging those present, the pontiff encouraged attendees to think about whether or not “we have within us the desire to be courageous in bearing witness to Jesus.”
“Let’s spare a thought” on this, he said, explaining that “it will do us good – for the many brothers and sisters who today – today! – cannot pray together because they are persecuted: they cannot have the book of the Gospel or a Bible because they are persecuted.”
Drawing his reflections to a close, Pope Francis invited those present to think about all the people who are not able to attend Mass because it is forbidden, and encouraged them to ask themselves if they are prepared to carry the Cross of Christ and suffer persecutions, just as Jesus did.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement on Ukraine, March 4, and cited concerns for “current tensions and troubling events which continue to unfold there.” He comments followed a call of Pope Francis that all “endeavor to overcome misunderstandings and build together the future of the nation.”
Archbishop Kurtz’s statement follows.
Statement on the Crisis in Ukraine
By Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville
President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
March 4, 2014
The bishops of the United States, together with tens of millions of U.S. Catholics of Eastern European descent, join Pope Francis in solidarity and prayers for the people of Ukraine for an end to the current tensions and troubling events which continue to unfold there. We are grateful for the call of Pope Francis, that all “endeavor to overcome misunderstandings and build together the future of the nation.”
The heroic witness of Ukrainian Greek and Latin Catholic leaders, who stand firm for human rights and democracy, gives us hope that peaceful means might prevail to help rebuild civil society.
Over the centuries, Catholics in Ukraine have been severely persecuted, and Catholicism even outlawed. For this reason, we raise our voice in defense of religious liberty in Ukraine, a liberty further threatened by the invasive actions occurring in the country.
Together with my brother bishops, I ask U.S. Catholic communities, gathering for the beginning of Lent on Wednesday, to pray for a peaceful resolution of this crisis, one that secures the just and fundamental human rights of a long-suffering, oppressed people.
Archbishop Wenski, Catholic Charities’ Father Larry Snyder urge congressional support for Second Chance Act
Congress should take an important step to address issues faced by the more than 650,000 men, women and juveniles who reenter society each year from prisons, jails and detention centers. This was the message of the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the president of Catholic Charities USA in a March 4 letter supporting the Second Chance Act (S. 1690/H.R. 3465).
“Those who return to our communities from incarceration face significant challenges. These include finding housing and stable employment, high rates of substance abuse, physical and mental health challenges and social isolation,” wrote Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami and Father Larry Snyder in a March 4 letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
Archbishop Wenski and Father Snyder wrote that, without necessary support services, these individuals have an increased chance of re-offending.
“The Second Chance Act supports much needed programs in government agencies and nonprofit organizations that provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victim support and other services to individuals returning to the community from prison or jail,” they wrote.
Archbishop Wenski and Father Snyder noted the bill supports “common sense solutions” proven to reduce recidivism rates. These include grants for mentoring programs and family-based treatment centers, development of resources and best practices around reentry and a taskforce to promote cooperation between agencies.
The full text of the letter is available online: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/criminal-justice-restorative-justice/upload/letter-to-senate-and-house-judiciary-from-usccb-ccusa-on-second-chance-act-2014-03-04.pdf
Bishop Pates, Southern Baptist leader urge Senators to advance bill to create special envoy for religious freedom
The U.S. Senate should act quickly to address a “growing crisis of religious minorities” by allowing a vote on S. 653, a bill to establish a Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace and the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in a March 4 letter.
“In many instances, religious minorities have lived for centuries side by side with those of other faiths, but now find themselves coming under increased attack and harassment. Over 8 million Syrians, many of whom are Christians, are caught in the cross-fire between the government and opposition forces, have fled their homes, becoming internally displaced or flooding into neighboring countries,” wrote Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines and Russell D. Moore.
“Given this situation, we believe that a Special Envoy is needed to focus on the dire situation affecting religious minorities, especially Christians who are the group most targeted for harassment and attacks in the largest number of countries,” they wrote.
Bishop Pates and Moore wrote to Senators Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Mike Lee of Utah, who placed a hold on the bill that would create this position. They cited the October 2010 attack that killed 58 at a Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad and the destruction of some 40 Coptic churches in Egypt in August 2013, among other examples, as why the envoy position “can help insure that basic human rights of these minority communities, who face such enormous threats, are protected.”
Full text of the letter is available online: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/joint-letter-to-senators-coburn-and-lee-on-bill-to-create-religious-freedom-envoy-2014-03-04.pdf