Archive for the ‘In the news’ Category


Always start a new project by taking flowers to your Mother

Always start a new project by taking flowers to your Mother

John Allen’s headline says that the real winner of the 2013 conclave is St Francis of Assisi, but his article suggests that the real winner is the Church:

On TV, I tried to explain what the name “Francis” conjures up in the Catholic imagination. For most Catholics, I said, there are two faces of the church. There’s the institutional church, with its rules and dogma, its wealth and power, its hierarchical chain of command. Then there’s the church of the spirit, a humble and simple community of equals with a special love for the least of this world. Ideally, the two go together, but in any case, they’re distinct.

By taking the name “Francis,” the pope effectively said the spirit of that second face of the church needs to shine through anew in the first.

Tim Muldoon has also looked to St Francis in wondering where this Jesuit, this son of St Ignatius, might take us.

Ignatius’s order was an order of mission, with a special vow to serve wherever the pope asked them to go. Adding a Franciscan dimension to that sense of mission suggests to me a pope who wants the Church to be agile in its ministry to the poor, to serve as Christ served. For those who long for a retreat from the vestiges of triumphalism, this is welcome news. What will a church look like that dedicates its energies to serving Christ’s poor? My own hope is that this might be a moment to stop our ecclesial hand-wringing and get to work.

Sean Fitzpatrick looks at the ways Pope Francis might be like his namesake, and ends by saying:

Perhaps most poignant about the message implicit in the selection of the name “Francis,” is the notion of rebuilding a church that has fallen into some disrepair. St. Francis began his journey as a newly born, naked child in heaven’s infantry after praying before a crucifix among the ruins of the church San Damiano. “Francis,” called a voice, “seest thou not that my house is in ruins? Go and restore it for me.” At that moment in Assisi, a young man’s eyes beheld the world and he saw things for the first time as a mystic and a saint. G. K. Chesterton explains this vision in his inspired biography of Francis:

…he sees things go forth from the divine as children going forth from a familiar and accepted home… he hails them with an old familiarity that is almost an old frivolity. He calls them his Brother Fire and his Sister Water.

Now a new Francis has been called by Christ to mind His Church in a way that is at once similar and dissimilar. At that moment in Rome, an old man’s eyes beheld the world and we pray that he now sees things for the first time as Francis. There is good reason to rejoice, for Pope Francis spoke of a vision—a vision of big brotherhood and a joyful journey that we all are bound upon with our crosses gladly slung across our backs.

MercatorNet offers as a portrait of the new Pope by translating some passages from his 2011 book Sobre el cielo y la tierra (On heaven and earth). He records his talks with an Argentinian Rabbi, Abraham Skorka. The MercatorNet articles has quotes from him on abortion, globalisation, euthanasia, gay marriage, and other topics. Here’s what Pope Francis said about the future of the Church:

There have been worse times for religions than the present. Nonetheless they pulled through. Perhaps nowadays there is a scarcity of religious people, but there were times in the past when there was a scarcity of virtue. There have been corrupt times in the Church… There were very difficult times and nonetheless religion revived. Suddenly there appear people like Teresa of Calcutta who revolutionise the notion of personal dignity, who spend their time… helping people to die. These deeds create mysticism and renew the religious sense.

In the history of the Catholic Church, the true renovators are the saints. They are the true reformers, the ones who change, transform, lead and revive spiritual paths. Another example: Francis of Assisi, who introduced a new attitude towards poverty in Christianity when faced with the luxury, pride and vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time. He introduced a mysticism of poverty, of detachment, and he changed history.

Fr John McCloskey sees Pope Francis as the next in a remarkable succession of Popes, but reminds us:

The Church’s mission, simply put, is to help as many people on earth to get to heaven as possible before the world is shut down and Jesus comes in glory to judge the living and the dead.

Two words are key to fulfilling the Church’s mission: evangelization and holiness.

However, the Church is in the world — though not of the world — and joyfully plays its role in the charitable service of mankind and all races, all of whom are seen as children of God, regardless of their religious beliefs.

How appropriate that Pope Francis has chosen St. Francis of Assisi as his patron of his pontificate.

What can we expect from this pontificate?

Above all, continuity. I suspect we’ll see a continuation from him with the two special popes who proceeded him in finally and forever putting into global practice the primary message of the Second Vatican Council that we are celebrating in this Year of Faith.

That message is the joyful universal call to holiness, not just for clergy or consecrated religious, but for every baptized Christian. And a holiness that is evangelical — in both words and deed — from men and women whose hearts have burned within them when they encountered the risen Christ.

And Katrina Fernandez has a few words for those on both ends of the Catholic spectrum:

So far what I can gather about our new pontiff is that…Liberals think he’s going to ordain women and give the thumb’s up to abortion and homosexual marriage. It’s the age of Aquarius, grab your tambourine! Let’s conga line through the Vatican. Alleluia Cha-cha-cha!

Conservatives are in mourning, wailing and gnashing their teeth over the thought of Tango masses in St. Peter’s and women getting their feet washed on Holy Thursday. The Church is doomed! Doomed, I say. Did you see his tacky wooden pectoral cross? I could just die!

Well, aren’t we off to a good start… the traddies are already disappointed and the libbies will be soon enough. Yay! Nobody’s happy. It might be the first time in Church history where everyone is on the same page. A damn miracle, I say.

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From Catholic Memes; H/T Simcha Fisher.


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Jorge Mario BergoglioGod bless Pope Francis, first Argentinian pope, first Jesuit, first to use the name Francis.

NCR Online says:

Bergoglio’s, now Pope Francis’s, first words to a cheering crowd in an overflowing St. Peter’s Square were “Buona serra,” Italian for “Good evening.”

“You know the task of the conclave was to give Rome a bishop,” the new pope continued, speaking Italian with a slight Spanish accent. “My brothers went to the end of the earth to get him.”

Francis then asked the crowd to join him in praying “for our emeritus bishop, Benedict XVI.” Following both the Ave Maria and Our Father  prayers in Latin, the Argentinian then asked the crowd, overwhelmingly Italian, “for a favor.”

“Please ask God to bless me,” he said, bowing his head and clasping his hands.

Following the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing to those in the crowd, the pope removed his stole and extended his hand in the air, almost as if patting those in the square on the head.

“Brothers and sisters, thanks for the welcome,” he said, before heading back into the Basilica. “Tomorrow I will pray that Mary safeguard Rome. Good night. Good rest.”

At whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com, Rocco Palmo says:

For the cardinal-electors to have gone out of Europe for the first time in over a millennium, to have gone to a Jesuit for the first time ever, and to have gone to the runner-up at the last Conclave in all of five ballots – with more than half the electorate changed over since last time – is not merely decisive….

Indeed, it’s epic.

And make no mistake about it – this is a mandate.

To no small degree, having come close to facing the “guillotine” last time, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has had almost eight years to prepare for this. Yet even beyond the first notes he struck as Pope Francis I, a Page Three note in the moment seemed to sum up the ecclesial significance best….

This ain’t Francis I so much as John Paul I
— Rocco Palmo (@roccopalmo) March 13, 2013

To be sure, that was down to the vesture – the simple white cassock, shirking the ermine mozzetta that was supposed to be worn with it.

And now, we’ll get to see what those 33 Days would’ve looked like, if they had had the chance to play out.

Most of all, though, let us pray….

O God, who in your providential design willed that your Church be built upon blessed Peter, whom you set over the other apostles, look with favor, we pray, on Francis, our Pope, and grant that he, whom you have made Peter’s successor, may be for your people a visible source and foundation of unity in faith and of communion.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.


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Copied, with grateful thanks, from Catholic Memes.

Copied, with grateful thanks, from Catholic Memes.

From Rocco Palmo who blogs at Whispers in the Loggia:

O God,
our eternal shepherd,
who guides your people with a father’s care,
grant to your Church
a Pope acceptable to you
in holiness of life,
one entirely consecrated
to the service of your people.

If you haven’t been reading Rocco Palmo, take a look at his insightful views on what’s happening in Rome and his up-to-the minute commentary.

On La Stampa’s blog, Marco Tosatti says:

We are living an extraordinary Conclave. In a century of Church history, there has neve been a Conclave with so many credible possible popes. We can list at least ten, twelve names; when, for instance the situation in 2005 Conclave was incredibly poor. And in the past the race was between two, or three candidates, not more. Benedict XVI has made a great job, leaving a Church definitely stronger and cleaner than the Church he has inherited…

Yesterday, the cardinal electors each celebrated Mass in his own titular church. Here are some quotes from their homilies:

We need to trust the Church. This is a beautiful moment in the life of the Church, people from all around the world are following what we are doing with joy and hope – Cardinal Scherer of Brazil

God, give us a holy shepherd. A pope that could build the Church with the witness of his life – Cardinal Scola of Italy

Now is time to raise our heads, asking which is the road that will lead us from imprisonment to the true and only home – Cardinal Erdo of Hungary

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit illumines the church to choose a new pope who will confirm us in our faith and make more visible the love of the good shepherd – Cardinal O’Malley of Boston

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pope-candidates-cardinalsH/T Lisa Hendy at Patheos for this clip from Rome Report on what the Cardinals will be thinking about in the Conclave that starts next Tuesday.

Cardinal Bertone has listed what he believes the Cardinals need to look for.

John Allen gives his view of the questions facing the Cardinals.

He has also been running a series on papabile.

And speaking of papabile, the Anchoress talks about some of the less well known possibilities.

UPDATE: La Stampa has a neat interactive with all the cardinals.

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From Edward Pentin (again):

The Vatican invited the entire Church to pray with cardinals when they dedicate [Wednesday] afternoon to prayer and adoration in St. Peter’s basilica for the upcoming papal election. The prayers begin at 5pm Rome time (11a.m. EST). [Thursday 5am New Zealand time: JP]

According to Vatican Information Service:

“[At this morning’s general congregation] there was also a proposal, endorsed by the Particular Congregation, to dedicate tomorrow afternoon to prayer in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Cardinal Dean, Angelo Sodano, will lead the prayers. This initiative will also serve as an invitation to the entire Church to pray at this important moment. The ceremony is open to the public so any faithful who so desire may attend.”

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Vatican Insider (La Stampa) has set up a blog that is posting up-to-the-minute news feeds in the run-up to the conclave and throughout the conclave.

UPDATE: And here’s today’s news roundup from National Catholic Register’s Rome Correspondent, Edward Pentin.

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A group of nuns watch a screen in St Peter's square

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popesfarewellWriting as I do from one of those Pacific nations that greet the new day ahead of anyone else, I’m heralding the day the See of St Peter falls vacant while in Rome it is still the day before. Nonetheless, the writers of the world have been saying farewell to our Pope in their own ways every since he announced that he was stepping down.

Rather than write my own retrospective on the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, I decided to collect a few for you.

Pat Gohn writes about her debt to him – first for the Catechism, and later for his other writings. Like her, I was an early purchaser of the first English translation of Cardinal Ratzinger’s erudite, lucid, and comprehensive Catechism, and later read other books, addresses, and encyclicals. Through them all, he taught us that the heart – the purpose and essence –  of the faith is a relationship with Love Himself.

Benedict taught that the Catechism, as with all Christian study, ought to move us into greater possession of a relationship with God, the pearl of great price (Mt 13:45-46.)

All of the “truths of faith” are explications of the one truth that we discover in them. And this one truth is the pearl of great price that is worth staking our lives of: God. He alone can be the pearl for which we give everything else. Dios solo basta (“God alone suffices”)—he who finds God has found all things. But we can find him only because he first sought and found us. He is the one who acts first, and for this reason faith in God is inseparable from the mystery of the Incarnation, of the Church and of the sacraments. Everything that is said in the Catechism is an unfolding of the one truth that is God himself—the “love that moves the sun and all the stars.” (Dante, Paradiso, 33, 145) (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Gospel, Catechesis, Catechism, Ignatius, 1997, p. 33-34.) 

Father de Souza also looks at the Pope’s impact as a teacher – through three encyclicals, but even more in five other ways:

Benedict’s homilies constituted a course in biblical theology, combined with poetic expression and an extraordinary capacity to express the truths of faith in a most accessible manner. Already published in various collections, the homilies of Benedict will be spiritual reading for generations.

Second, and closely associated with his preaching, there were the Wednesday audiences which, over eight years, constituted a course in the Church Fathers, saints, biblical commentary and the art of prayer.

It was surprising to many that Benedict’s Wednesday’s audiences often drew more pilgrims than that of his predecessor. The masterful teaching presented may have been the reason.

Third, returning to form as a professor, there were the great magisterial lectures, echoing the academic tradition of a great scholar addressing an important topic of general interest. There were four great lectures — the September Speeches: the University of Regensburg in 2006, College des Benardins in Paris (2007), the Westminster Parliament (2010), and the Bundestag in Berlin (2011). All were given on September trips of the Holy Father, perhaps prepared with care over the preceding summer months. A fifth great magisterial lecture, at La Sapienza University in Rome, was published, but not given in person due to protests from narrow-minded professors…

Fourth, the great biblical theologian wrote books of academic work — three volumes entitled Jesus of Nazareth. Immensely learned, the trilogy demonstrated that scholarly rigor ought not be opposed to the life of faith. The books, which the Holy Father explicitly insisted were personal works not of his papal magisterium, have had a greater reach and greater impact than any ordinary encyclical could hope to have.

A fifth instrument favored by Benedict was the off-the-cuff format, whether in question-and-answer style, or in extemporaneous remarks.

Whether in his annual meetings with priests, or in his famous Q&A with children preparing for First Communion, the great teacher was often at his best in conversational mode…

Peter Smith points out the upswing in vocations in the United States during this papal reign:

Father Carter Griffin, vice rector at Blessed John Paul II Seminary in Washington, said the Archdiocese of Washington’s new seminary opened its doors in 2011 and is already near capacity.

“Benedict was able to open up new vistas to people,” Father Griffin said. “For them, to see this man of profound faith, love and hope on the world stage has been an enormous benefit on the world and on vocations.”

It’s a scenario that is also playing out at already established seminaries such as Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Md.

“We’re experiencing the largest numbers that we have had in years,” said Msgr. Stuart Swetland, who teaches pre-theology to seminarians at the Mount.

Msgr. Swetland said that most of the men he teaches are between the ages of 21-25 and were teenagers when Blessed John Paul II died.

“They are more affected by Benedict,” he said. “I think the young are responding to the fact that he takes them seriously enough to do something beyond themselves.”

Kenneth Whitehead talks about reactions to the Pope and to his resignation:

…And so it went. What must strike a knowledgeable observer is how many of these characterizations, in spite of the confidence with which they have mostly been delivered, are either distortions or are simply not true! …

This kind of critical account of the pope and his papacy, however, is not so much based on what he has actually said and done, but rather upon what his critics think he should have said and done—based on criteria of theirs often far removed from anything resembling authentic Catholicism. He has been weighed in the balance and found wanting by his critics precisely because he has so faithfully and authentically reflected and represented what the Church and the faith truly are; he has been faulted and vilified because he has been such a “good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21).

Catholics might rightly be disappointed and even dismayed at how their Church and their faith—along with their Church’s supreme leader over the past eight years—could be so ignorantly and even maliciously characterized and misrepresented. It should not be forgotten, however, that “if the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you” (Jn 15:18).

The Anchoress looks ahead to the impact that Pope Emeritus Benedict will have in his new role:

Those who think Benedict has simply lain down his staff do not understand that he lays it down to pick up a flamethrower of sorts. For however long he lives as a monastic, he will be a conduit of prayer, praise, adoration and supplication for the rest of the world. He is taking on huge duty.

In faith he will have delivered the powerful lesson that a life of faith is never without resources, because prayer extends beyond time and space, through darkness and into light.

And perhaps we will need to learn that lesson well, to face our future, together.


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Today is the Feast Day of the Chair of St Peter. The daily office and Mass readings are about the mission given to Peter.

Today is also 2 years since the Christchurch earthquake (the second major one in months, and the one that caused more than 130 deaths). By the way, the Church is thinking of preserving the facade of the ruined Christchurch basilica as an earthquake memorial.

In other history, the Indians introduced the European pilgrims to popcorn (in 1630), Spain sold Florida to the United States (in 1821), the first solo England to Australia flight touched down (1928), and the Beatles began their own publishing company (1963).

And on this day in 1948, in Plymouth England, after a heavy snowfall in the previous two days (illustrated above) an event occured that would shape my life and ensure those of my children and grandchildren. A small child was born very prematurely. The snow meant no medical help, so his family tucked him into a drawer with a hot water bottle and fed him glucose with an eye dropper. He confounded their expectations by surviving and then thriving; and he’s still going strong (thank God).

Happy birthday, my dear love.

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