As millions of displaced Iraqis are caught in the dead of winter, the international community has a long way to go to cover their basic needs, according to a panel testimony before Congress last week.
“Indeed, we are not meeting the needs overall. The needs are huge,” admitted the State Department’s Kelly Clements, deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
“I certainly don’t think it’s realistic as we stand today. Not just for Iraq, but for Syria as well,” added Kristele Younes, director of the International Rescue Committee’s director of U.N. humanitarian affairs.
Years of war, sectarian strife, and the recent invasion of the Islamic State have displaced millions in Iraq, and an estimated 5 million are in “urgent need of humanitarian aid,” according to Clements’ testimony.
The onset of winter has brought a whole new set of problems to the already desperate situation. In the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq, winter temperatures average between 3 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit, and millions are in need of adequate shelter and kerosene fuel for heating.
And in addition to millions of Iraqis and Syrians living with little to no protection from the cold, another 2 million are in ISIS-held territory and are currently unreachable for humanitarian aid.
Before the mostly-empty Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission — members of the House had already left for Christmas break — USAID’s Thomas Staal said that while “life-saving needs are probably being met, but not adequately.”
Meanwhile, in the Kurdish region alone, where many refugees came after they fled Islamic State forces in Northern Iraq, an estimated 450,000 “need winter clothes and shoes” according to the U.N.
Perhaps more jarringly, the U.N. has a “funding gap” of an estimated $173 million for “winterization support that must immediately be addressed,” according to Younes’s testimony.
The shelter in Kurdistan is nowhere near adequate for the refugees, either. Even if all the proposed camps were built there for “internally-displaced persons,” only “one-third” of them would be sheltered, Younes said.
And new needs are surfacing daily. A running theme of the testimony was that “humanitarian needs are outpacing the capabilities of donor governments and the international humanitarian system.”
While other countries are helping, their budgets are already stretched, the panel insisted.
For instance, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have pitched in to help cover the “basics of food” for Iraqis, “but that’s going to run out by the end of January,” revealed Staal. He added that despite USAID’s new budget, the “needs are so huge” that it will be “burned out quickly.”
“The fact that it is December and that we still are talking about winterization, and providing winter clothes and shoes is frankly a shame. We should be ashamed of ourselves,” said Younes in a Catholic News Agency report.
Supplies aside, another threat the mass displacement poses is that of instability. Andrea Koppel of Mercy Corps went so far as to call it a “ticking time bomb” since it threatens “the fragile equilibrium of these communities.”
Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, N.M., chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) welcomed the announcement by President Barack Obama of the release of Alan Gross and other prisoners, and of the administration’s action to normalize relations with Cuba, December 17.
Full text of the statement follows:
STATEMENT ON RELEASE OF ALAN GROSS AND
THE CHANGE IN U.S. POLICY TOWARD CUBA
Most Reverend Oscar Cantú
Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
December 17, 2014
We share the joy of the family of Alan Gross and of all Americans upon hearing the news of his release from over five years of custody in Cuba, as well as the humanitarian release of other prisoners. We are also encouraged by today’s announcement by the Administration of important actions that will foster dialogue, reconciliation, trade, cooperation and contact between our respective nations and citizens.
Our Conference has long held that universal human rights will be strengthened through more engagement between the Cuban and American people. For decades, the USCCB has called for the restoration of diplomatic relations between our nations. We strongly support the review of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.
We believe it is long past due that the United States establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba, withdraw all restrictions on travel to Cuba, rescind terrorist designations aimed at Cuba, encourage trade that will benefit both nations, lift restrictions on business and financial transactions, and facilitate cooperation in the areas of environmental protection, drug interdiction, human trafficking and scientific exchanges. Engagement is the path to support change in Cuba and to empower the Cuban people in their quest for democracy, human rights and religious liberty.
For more information, see this page on the USCCB website: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/latin-america-caribbean/cuba/
As Christmas approaches, priests and penitents should remind themselves of the “miracle” of confession and how we should approach the sacrament with “full freedom,” a Vatican cardinal says.
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza called the season of Advent is a time of “particularly attentive waiting,” a time both of men awaiting God and of God awaiting men, “whom he loves.”
“The Lord sets himself to search for man,” the cardinal said in a Dec. 14 letter to confessors.
Jesus Christ “continually calls men to conversion and, in these days of vigil, draws hearts with a unique tenderness towards the crib: ‘Come to me all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.’”
The cardinal is prefect of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the tribunal of the Roman Curia whose responsibilities include the internal forum — matters of confession and spiritual direction.
The free act of confession, Cardinal Piacenza said, is “a miracle that has the assistance of God himself” and is “sustained by God’s grace.”
The cardinal said that confession is also a “gift” for the priest-confessor, who “always receives a light and special confirmation in the apostolate from contemplating this mystery.”
He added that through the “ineffable gift” of their ordination, priests “participate intimately in the work of salvation” and share more closely in “the immense joy of the soul’s encounter with him.”
“Even as Mary Most Holy brought him forth to the world in the manger of Bethlehem, we bring him forth in the hearts of repentant sinners, and on the altar for their food and consolation,” the cardinal said.
He stressed the need for “every authentic pastoral charity.”
This charity is not only “much desired” by the Christian faithful, sought by the Church, and “so ardently insisted upon by the Holy Father.” This charity is “overflowing from the wounded Heart of Jesus.”
Cardinal Piacenza also encouraged confessors to pray for one another, especially in preparation for Christmas, “so that, for confessors as much as for penitents, the smile of the Child Jesus may shine transformatively in their souls.”
“And thank you for all you do as generous channels of the waters of divine mercy,” he added in a Catholic News Agency report.
Praising the Virgin Mary as the “perfect mirror of Christ’s charity and sign of sure hope in his victory over sin and death,” he prayed that she may “stake out a true and lasting spiritual ‘rebirth’” for all the members of the church.
As inmates are moved by a letter Pope Francis has sent to the prison of a small town in central Italy, the news broke that a man serving a life sentence will be among those at an audience with Pope Francis Dec. 20.
The Saturday meeting will be between the Roman Pontiff and members of the Community Pope John XXIII, which was founded by Father Oreste Benzi, who died in 2007.
Members of the community will be received by Pope Francis on the occasion of the opening of Fr. Benzi’s cause for beatification, and the list of participants includes Carmelo Musumeci, who was sentenced to life in prison for having committed a homicide in 1991.
While in prison, Musumeci completed high school and then earned a law degree.
Pope Francis addressed the issue of life imprisonment in an Oct. 23 address to delegates of the International Association of Penal Law, saying that “all Christians and men of good will are … called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also in order to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom. And I link this to life imprisonment. A short time ago the life sentence was taken out of the Vatican’s Criminal Code. A life sentence is just a death penalty in disguise.”
The encounter between Pope Francis and Musumeci thus comes in the midst of a pontificate with particular pastoral concern for prisoners.
Among his first decisions as bishop of Rome was to celebrate Holy Thursday at a juvenile prison near the city.
And meeting with prison chaplains on Oct. 23, 2013, he asked them to tell prisoners, “I am praying for them, I have them at heart, I am praying to the Lord and to Our Lady that they may be able to get through this difficult period in their lives in a positive way, that they may not become discouraged or close in on themselves.”
These words encouraged the members of the Community Pope John XXIII to forward a request to have Musumeci among those who will meet Pope Francis Dec. 20.
Longing to meet the Pope, Musumeci has addressed a letter to Pope Francis.
“Pope Francis, I am now living the 24th year of a ‘death penalty in disguise,’ as you call it. And since I got the news that brothers and sisters of the Community Pope John XXIII had included me in the list of people who will meet you in Vatican City State, I have been unable to sleep.”
“Lost in sadness and melancholy, I confess, Pope Francis, that often no more hope lies in my heart. I am tired of hope, and counting the days and nights… I am also tired of waiting for death, and I confess that some nights I wish to go toward death, so as to end my penalty in advance.”
As the Dec. 20 meeting is being prepared, Pope Francis sent on Dec. 14 a letter to inmates of the prison of Latina, which he delivered through Msgr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, Pope Francis’ second secretary who spent several years as a deputy parish priest in Latina.
According to a Catholic News Agency report, Msgr. Lahzi Gaid gave the letter to Father Nicola Cupaiolo, the chaplain of the prison, who then gave the letter to the 120 prisoners, 30 of them are women imprisoned in the high security branch for crimes of terrorism or mafia.
The pope addressed all the prisoners who had written to him: “Reading your letters was a great comfort to me. It is impossible to me writing back to each of you, so I wish that each of you feel this letter as my personal response to him.”
Wishing them a Merry Christmas, Pope Francis hoped that “hours, days, months and years that you have spent or you are spending in this prison are considered and lived nota s a wasted time or as a temporary punishment, but as a real occasion of growing in order to find the peace of heart and the strength to spring up, returning to live the hope in the Lord that never disappoint you.”
Pope Francis also said he is pleased that many of the prisoners “are following a path of faith with the chaplain, Father Nicola, and with those are collaborating in being close to you not because of a duty but for their inner openness to sincerely consider you sisters and brothers.”
Pope Francis sent to the prisoners a new Missal, so that “you could find in the Holy Mass the path of walking daily with the Lord … the needed food to sustain the path to salvation and liberation” that no prison “can prevent.”
In the aftermath of a hostage situation at an Australian café, Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher, O.P., stressed that the love of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, can overcome fear and darkness.
“We are not used to hearing words like ‘seige,’ ‘terrorist,’ ‘hostages’ and ‘security forces’ associated with our city. Yet for the past day and night we were subjected to pictures and sounds we tend to associate with alien lands,” he said in a Dec. 16 homily at Sydney’s St. Mary’s Cathedral during a special Mass for the victims.
“Hell had touched us,” he said, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
On Dec. 14, a gunman took 17 people hostage at the Lindt Chocolat Café in Martin Place, a shopping area of Sydney’s financial district. A 16-hour hostage situation followed. The standoff ended the next day when commandos stormed the café and killed the gunman after they heard gunfire, the BBC reports. Two of the hostages were killed.
“The darkness need not overcome the light,” Archbishop Fisher said. “There is something greater than hatred and violence. There is Love, that humble, self-donative Love that comes in the shape of the Christmas Babe, the Prince of Peace. He can soften the hardest hearts. He can convert the most hardened sinner. Come Prince of Peace. Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
The archbishop reflected on the effects the hostage situation has had on Sydney.
“Today the heart of our city is broken by the deaths of two innocent ‘hostages’ along with their tormentor, the injuries of four others and trauma to many more, the paralysis our city has experienced this day past.”
The archbishop grieved the death of Katrina Dawson, 38, a mother of three and a barrister, who reportedly died shielding her pregnant friend. He also lamented the death of Tori Johnson, 34, a man who was a manager at the café. Johnson was reportedly killed after he charged the gunman.
“These heroes were willing to lay down their lives so others might live, imitating the sacrifice of Christ who said that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for each other,” Archbishop Fisher said, referring to Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John.
He also noted the death of the gunman and hostage-taker, identified as Iranian-born Man Haron Monis.
“Much is still unclear about him, his motivations and affiliations, and we must avoid too quickly jumping to conclusions and pointing fingers,” the archbishop said.
Monis, who received political asylum in 1996, was a self-described sheik who had repeated run-ins with the law, News.com.au reports. At the time of the hostage incident he was on bail after being charged with accessory to murder for the death of his ex-wife. In March, he faced charges of over 50 sexual offenses.
He has been convicted of sending offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Monis reportedly forced his hostages to hold up a black Islamist banner, which Archbishop Fisher said “blasphemously used the name of God as a threat.”
The archbishop warned that the attack could challenge Australians’ assumption of safety and make them “become cautious, cynical, suspicious of our neighbors, or worse, that we turn on them.”
However, this would “undermine what we most love about our Australian way of life.”
He connected the attack to Christmas and the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ.
“The Christ is threatened from the moment of His birth until the violence of this world finally catches up with Him on the cross. And our world today is every bit as mixed up as it was at the first Christmas.”
“Christmas, we think, is supposed to be different – but in a sense it was always like this.”
“So why, if the Prince of Peace has come, do these terrible things keep happening?” Archbishop Fisher asked. “Perhaps the answer is in the first Christmas carol, when the angels sang ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to those of good will’.”
“The God who saves still leaves men free. They choose whether to be of good will or not. The Christ-child proposes peace, again and again; He gives us the wherewithal to be reconciled and live peaceably with our neighbors; but in the end we choose whether to live in His kingdom, by His values.”
Pope Francis touched on the importance of being humble and open to the Lord’s correction, encouraging the faithful to offer him their sins to God in order to be saved.
“The humble, poor people that trust in the Lord: these are the ones who are saved and this is the way of the Church, isn’t it?” the Pope asked during his Dec. 16 daily mass in the Vatican’s Saint Martha Guesthouse.
“This is the path I must follow, not the path in which I do not listen to his voice, do not accept correction and do not trust in the Lord.”
Pope Francis centered his reflections on the day’s readings, taken from the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah and from the Gospel of Matthew, which the pontiff said both speak of a “judgment” on which both salvation and condemnation depend.
While Zephaniah in the first reading talks about a “rebellious and polluted” city, there is still the presence of some who repent of their sins, the Pope observed, saying that this group is the “people of God” who possess the “three characteristics (of) humility, poverty and trust in the Lord.”
However the people in the city who refused to trust in the Lord and accept the corrections he gave him cannot receive salvation because they are closed to it, he said, while it is the meek and the humble who trust that will be saved.
“And that is still valid today, isn’t it? When we look at the holy people of God that is humble, that has its riches in its faith in the Lord, in its trust in the Lord — the humble, poor people that trust in the Lord: these are the ones who are saved.”
The pope then turned to the gospel reading in which Jesus tells the chief priests and elders the story of a father who asks his two sons to work in their vineyard. While the first son says that he will go and does not, the second initially denies his father’s request, but later goes to work.
In telling this story, Jesus makes it clear to the chief priests and elders that they were not open to the voice of God preached by John the Baptist, adding that this is why tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom of heaven before they do.
This statement from Jesus echoes the situation of many Christians today who feel “pure” simply because they go to mass and receive communion, the Pope noted, explaining that God asks for more.
“If your heart is not a repentant heart, if you do not listen to the Lord, if you don’t accept correction and you do not trust in him, your heart is unrepentant,” he said, observing how the Pharisees were “hypocrites” for being scandalized at the attention Jesus gave to prostitutes and tax collectors.
Although they were affronted at Jesus acceptance of the sinners, they then “secretly approached them to vent their passion or to do business,” the pontiff explained, saying that because of their hypocrisy they are not welcome in paradise.
Pope Francis said that this judgment gives hope provided that we have the courage to open our hearts to God, even if that means giving him the full list of our sins.
He recalled the story of a Saint who believed that he had given everything to God with great generosity. However in a conversation with the Lord, the saint was told that there was still something he was holding onto.
When the saint asked what it was that he still had not given, the Lord replied “Your sins,” the pontiff recalled in a Catholic News Agency report.
The moment in which we are able to tell the Lord “these are my sins — they are not his or hers, they are mine…take them” will be the moment when we become that “meek and humble people” who trust in God, the pope said, and prayed that “the Lord grant us this grace.”
The Vatican has published the results of its apostolic visitation examining the quality of religious communities across the U.S. in a report described as realistic yet encouraging.
Voicing thanks to women religious for their service to the Church, the Vatican congregation in charge of religious life also encouraged them to remember to keep Christ at the center of their communities.
The congregation asked the women religious to “carefully review their spiritual practices and ministry” to ensure that they are “in harmony with Catholic teaching about God, creation, the Incarnation and the Redemption.”
Launched in 2009 to examine the quality of religious communities across the U.S., the visitation included meetings, questionnaires, and visits to about one-quarter of the country’s religious communities.
It involved 341 religious congregations, to which approximately 50,000 women in the U.S. belong.
The survey presented religious communities several questions concerning religious orders’ vocation promotion, admission and formation policies, and fidelity to and expression of their vows. The reflections also asked respondents about their concerns for the future of their religious order.
It is distinct from the inquiry into the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a canonically-approved body which has over 1,500 leaders of women religious communities as members.
The LCWR has been assessed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who raised concerns of dissent from Church doctrine on theological topics including homosexuality, the sacramental priesthood and the divinity of Christ.
Mother Mary Clare Millea, the Connecticut-born Superior General of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was the apostolic visitor who led the survey of U.S. religious communities along with a team that she hand-picked.
Mother Millea was one of a panel of seven speakers on Dec. 16, which also included the Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz.
She told journalists that although she was initially “overwhelmed” with the task, she maintained a complete and “deep trust” in the congregation’s decision to enact the visitation.
The report, signed by Cardinal Braz de Aviz as well as Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, recognized that although this visitation was in some ways “unprecedented,” they are a normal phenomenon in the life of the church.
“We initiated the visitation because of our awareness that the apostolic religious life in the United States is experiencing challenging times,” the cardinal told journalists, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
He affirmed the need for new vocations, as well as an exploration of themes such as a congregation’s community and spiritual life, their work and apostolate, in light of the modern call for “credible and attractive witnesses of consecrated religious who demonstrate the redemptive and transformative power of the Gospel.”
Report topics range from finances to vocations, prayer, evangelization, and the role of women in the Church. It provides a presentation of the visitation’s findings as well as points of guidance from the congregation at the end of each section.
As to the declining number of women religious in the U.S., the report revealed that the peak number of vocations seen between the 1940s-1960s was “relatively short-term” and “not typical” in terms of the history of vocations in the country.
Rather, the report explained that such a peak would probably not be seen again. The report’s findings revealed that the numbers dropped due to the fact that many sisters left their congregations after the 1960s, couple with the fact that fewer women have joined communities since.
With the drop in new arrivals, institutes are spending vast spiritual and material means in order to promote vocations.
Interviews with various communities revealed that often entrance candidates seek to live in a “formative community” and be “externally recognizable” as consecrated women, which is a challenge for institutions that don’t observe these practices.
As for the sisters’ spiritual life, the visitation found that institutes generally have written guidelines for receiving the sacraments and strict spiritual practices.
However, the congregation cautioned each community to “evaluate their actual practice of liturgical and common prayer,” and to do whatever is needed to foster each member’s personal relationship with Christ.
Finances were also touched on in the report, which revealed that ongoing losses exist due to a variety of reasons, including the under-compensation of religious women for their ministry over an extended period of time.
Other reasons include a lack of sisters working due to low membership, the subsidizing of sisters who work for the poor by their institutes, the low salaries of sisters who work in ecclesial structures as well as changes to the United States healthcare system.
“Changes in the healthcare system in the United States, resulting in uncertainty regarding the availability of government funding for the future needs of the elderly is a particular concern,” the report observed.
In terms of ecclesial communion, the report revealed that although many religious described themselves as integral members of the universal Church, they expressed a desire for there to be “greater recognition” on the part of pastors for the contribution of women religious.
Some spoke in the survey of feeling like they did not have enough input into pastoral decisions that affect them despite having “considerable knowledge and experience.”
The report also recognized the refusal of some communities to participate in the visitation’s mandate, which Cardinal Braz de Aviz called a “painful disappointment” for everyone involved.
However, he used the occasion as an opportunity to assure the congregation’s willingness to engage in a “respectful and fruitful dialogue” with the institutes that were not fully compliant.
The report commissioned those institutes that felt apprehensive or betrayed by the visitation to use the current Year of Consecrated Life as an opportunity to make steps toward “forgiveness and reconciliation” so that “an attractive witness of fraternal communion” be given to all.
Sister Sharon Holland, I.H.M., president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, told journalists that she is “concerned about those who may still be angry…It’s a concern for me because it’s not healthy to remain angry.”
Although she said she doesn’t know all of the reasons why some women religious feel that way, “sometimes when we’re fearful and feel powerless then we externalize that in anger, but underneath that there’s a fear or hurt or anxiety over what will happen.”
Despite the fact that there are still those who remain angry with the visitation, Sr. Holland said that “I think a lot of us have come beyond that.”
“There is an encouraging and realistic tone in this report,” she said. “Challenges are understood, but it is not a document of blame or of simplistic solutions. One can read the rest and feel appreciated and trusted to carry on.”
In the report, the congregation affirmed Pope Francis’ call for a greater participation of women in the life of society and the Church, as well as his resolve that “the ‘feminine genius’ find expression in the various settings where important decisions are made.”
With a reference to the pontiff’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the report explained that “we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the church.”
The report closed by using the biblical encounter between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth shortly after the Annunciation as an analogy of overcoming fear and uncertainty in order “to joyfully embrace their role in God’s plan of salvation.”
“So too the apostolic visitation offered new opportunities for women religious to discover God’s presence and salvific action in fruitful communication with other religious, with the church’s pastors and lay faithful.”
In an effort to improve the Holy See budgeting system, the Secretariat for the Economy has already trained Vatican employees in new budgeting policies, and 2015’s budgets are to be released by the spring.
All this, according to the latest bulletin released by the economy secretariat.
After the issuance of the handbook of financial management policies, the Secretariat for the Economy trained more than 160 staff members in November and December, representing 79 entities dealing with finances within the Vatican, in order “to assist and support entities with the new budgeting process and budget template.”
“Each session was organised as a meeting of collaborators rather than a classroom, and included a detailed explanation of the reasons for the new policies,” the bulletin stressed, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
By Jan. 9, 2015 each of these entities should have compiled their 2015 budget and given it to the Secretariat for the Economy. The secretariat will review the budgets and consolidate them “according to international standards.”
Given the needed training after the issuance of the new policies, the 2015 budget is scheduled to be published in the spring, but the Secretariat for the Economy anticipates that “in future years the annual budget will be finalised prior to the start of each year.”
In order to facilitate the compilation of the budget, “the secretariat — with the assistance of staff seconded from the curia as well as staff from the Secretariat of State and the Prefecture for Economic Affairs — has recently provided entities with pre-completed budget templates to help entities in the transition to the new budgeting process.”
The Secretariat will also provide “individual support and guidance for each entity,” and finally it “will soon issue the first set of a series of Practice Notes to all entities.”
“The Practice Notes will be developed over time and will be issued after approval by the Council. They will provide a guide for the accounting activities, including donations, recording of personnel and operating costs as well as the approach to recording investments, other assets and liabilities,” reads the bulletin.
At the moment, the Secretariat for the Economy is working on the arrangements for the 2014 Financial Statements, including the arrangements for external audits.
The Holy See balance sheet were already certified by an external auditor, but new arrangements are needed since the auditions were made on the basis of the previous management policies.
The bulletin also reads that “while the 2014 Statements will not be prepared in accordance with the new Policies, it is necessary to carefully map the closing 2014 balances to the opening balances for 2015. It is also necessary to take this opportunity to record any transactions or balances not previously included and to conduct a full inventory so that all amounts are correctly carried forward in to 2015.”
According to the motu proprio Fidelis dispensator et prudens, a general auditor will be appointed.
In fact, while financial reforms are being carried forward, the new Vatican financial bodies are working to shape the economic structure.
The Secretariat for the Economy bulletin says, “we look forward to 2015 as a time when the economic and administrative structures will become operational. Statutes for the Council, Secretariat and the Auditor General are on track to be finalized and submitted to the Holy Father for his approval.”
In a briefing with journalists Dec. 10, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, made public that “there is a restricted group of three cardinals” carrying forward the drafting of the statutes, though he was not able to disclose who these cardinals are.
In the mean time, “the Council for the Economy has presented to the Holy Father and the Council of Cardinals its recommendations on the strengthening of APSA’s role, governance and focus as the Central Treasury of the Holy See and Vatican City State.”
On Monday, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met briefly with his Vatican counterpart, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to discuss issues of common concern and to seek the Holy See’s aid in relocating Guantanamo detainees.
Father Federico Lombardi, Holy See press officer, explained Dec. 15 that Kerry noted America’s commitment to closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the military prison where 136 persons are still being held by the US government as part of the “war on terror.”
According to a Catholic News Agency report, Lombardi said Kerry expressed a desire for “the Holy See’s assistance in seeking adequate humanitarian solutions for current inmates.”
Earlier this month, six men who had been held at Guantanamo for more than 10 years and who are not considered security threats were transferred to Uruguay, which took them in as a humanitarian gesture, and where they are now free men. They have received housing, medical care, donations of clothing, Spanish lessons, and some 30 offers of work.
Most of the discussion between Kerry and Cardinal Parolin concerned the Middle East and the avoidance of violence there, and in particular considering the resumption of negotiations between Palestine and Israel.
Joining Kerry were Kenneth Hackett, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, and two state department staff. Cardinal Parolin was accompanied by three curial officials.
The one-hour meeting also touched on the crisis in Ukraine, which has killed more than 4,000 since February; and the Ebola outbreak in west Africa.
Catholics working in media would do well to remember that communications is about informing people — not collecting “hits,” Pope Francis told representatives from the Italian station TV2000.
Journalists, editors, and technicians from TV2000, the Italian Bishops’ Conference broadcasting station, met with the Pope in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Dec. 15.
Addressing those who work in Italian Church television, Pope Francis presented three points of consideration which lie “at the heart” of communications.
First, the pope said, Catholic media has the “challenging mission” of trying to protect social communications from being “twisted and bent” for other purposes. Rooted in conviction, good communications come from the courage to speak candidly and freely. Otherwise, what is communicated comes across as fake, uninformative, and bland.
Communicators should also, through an openness to the Holy Spirit, work toward unity and harmony. By this, he said, they should avoid saturating the public with an “excess of slogans,” and simple solutions which do not take into account the “complexities of real life.”
Last, Pope Francis stressed that communicators should not be concerned with the number of “hits” they receive but rather with speaking “to the whole person.”
The ope also highlighted the “three sins” which communicators must avoid: misinformation, slander, and defamation. While the most “insidious” of these would appear to be slander, he continued, the most serious, in terms of communication, is in fact misinformation, for it “leads you to believe only one part of the truth.”
According to a Catholic News Agency report, Pope Francis concluded his address by thanking those present for their work in the field of Catholic television, entrusting them to Mary and Saint Gabriel — “the great communicator,” who “communicated the good news.”