Pope Francis returns to Rome after week of spiritual exercises


Vatican City, Feb 23, 2018 / 11:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis returned from his week-long Lenten spiritual exercises in Ariccia, where he and members of the Roman Curia have been on their annual retreat since Sunday afternoon.

Before boarding the bus that would take him back to Vatican City, Francis thanked the priest who preached the exercises for his reflections and for encouraging members of the Curia to be open to the Holy Spirit and not stuck in bureaucratic structures.

“Thank you, Father, for having spoken of the Church, for having made us, this small flock, feel the Church,” the Pope said Feb. 23.

He thanked Fr. José Tolentino de Mendonça for reminding them that “the Church is not a cage for the Holy Spirit,” and also voiced thanks for receiving a warning “not to shrink it with our bureaucratic worldliness!”

Fr. Tolentino is a Portuguese priest, poet, and Biblical theologian who preached during the spiritual exercises, which this year focused on the theme: “Praise of Thirst.”

De Mendonça is vice-rector of the Portuguese Catholic University in Lisbon and has been a consultant of the Pontifical Council for Culture since 2011. He was ordained a priest in 1990 and completed his master's degree in Biblical Studies in Rome before later obtaining a doctorate in biblical theology from the Portuguese Catholic University, where he later taught as an assistant professor.

In his brief greeting at the end of the retreat, Pope Francis also thanked De Mendonça for helping them understand how the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of non-believers and those of other religious confessions, saying the Holy Spirit is “universal, he is the Spirit of God, who is for everyone.”

Francis noted that there are many people today like the centurions and the guards at Peter's prison who live with an “an inner search” and who know how to tell when there is “something that calls” them.

He thanked De Mendonça for the call “to opening ourselves without fear, without rigidity, for being malleable in the Spirit and not mummified within our structures that close us off.”

The Pope also noted how he had declared Friday as a day of prayer and fasting for South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Syria, saying the spiritual retreat is extended through the offerings they will make on behalf of the war-torn countries.

Held Feb. 18-23, this year's curial Lenten spiritual exercises began Sunday evening with adoration and vespers. The rest of the week followed a basic schedule beginning with Mass at 7:30 a.m., followed by the first meditation of the day.

In the afternoon, a second meditation was preached before concluding with adoration and vespers. Friday, the final day of the exercises, consisted of only a morning meditation. Pope Francis and the curia then left the retreat house, returning to the Vatican at 11:15 a.m.

The exercises took place at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a town just 16 miles outside of Rome. Located on Lake Albano, the retreat house is just a short way from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. It will be the fifth consecutive year the Pope and members of the Curia have held their Lenten retreat at the house in Ariccia.

While the practice of the Bishop of Rome going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries each Lent began some 80 years ago, it had been customary for them to follow the spiritual exercises on Vatican ground. Beginning in Lent 2014, Pope Francis chose to hold the retreat outside of Rome.


A Catholic 'paradigm shift' would be corruption, not development – Cardinal Muller


Vatican City, Feb 22, 2018 / 01:48 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The authentic development of doctrine is about making more explicit the revealed truths of faith, not changing, or “shifting,” Church teaching – and to use this idea to defend an agenda is wrong, Cardinal Gerhard Müller has said.

In an essay published Feb. 20 in First Things, the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said there can be no such thing as a “paradigm shift” in the interpretation of Catholic doctrine, and to push for one is to contradict God’s commandments.

Anyone who calls a major shift in the Church's teaching in moral theology a “praiseworthy decision of conscience… speaks against the Catholic faith,” wrote the 70-year-old prelate.

The idea of a “paradigm shift” – a “fundamental change in theoretical forms of thought and social behavior” – with respect to “the form of the Church's being and of her presence in the world” is not possible,” Müller wrote, simply because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” as it says in Hebrews 13:8.

“This is, in contrast, our paradigm, which we will not exchange for any other,” Müller stated.

He also explained that the Pope and his fellow bishops have a duty to preserve the unity of faith and to prevent polarization and partisan mentalities. Therefore, it is also a duty of conscience to speak up in opposition when the term “pastoral change” is used by some to “express their agenda to sweep aside the Church’s teaching as if doctrine were an obstacle to pastoral care.”

In his essay, he explained the concept of the “development of doctrine” in the Church as taught by Blessed John Henry Newman, and how it relates to debates on the interpretation of Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation on love in the family, Amoris laetitia.

Chapter eight of Amoris laetitia “has been the object of contradictory interpretations,” he said, stating that when a “paradigm shift” is spoken of in this context, it seems to be “a relapse into a modernist and subjectivist way of interpreting the Catholic faith.”

According to Blessed Newman, a way to identify an authentic development of doctrine is to see if the surrounding cultural environment is growing in conformity with Christianity, not the other way around.

“Thus, a paradigm shift, by which the Church takes on the criteria of modern society to be assimilated by it, constitutes not a development, but a corruption.”

The formal principle is a category within Christian theology which distinguishes the source of the theological teaching from the teaching itself.

In the Catholic Church, Müller said, the “proper method for interpreting revelation requires the joint workings of three principles, which are: Holy Scripture, Apostolic Tradition, and the Apostolic Succession of Catholic bishops.”

He pointed out that the Protestant Reformation is an example in history of when a new formal principle was introduced, in this case, Scripture alone.

“This new principle subjected the Catholic doctrine of the faith, as it had developed up to the sixteenth century, to a radical change,” he said. “The fundamental understanding of Christianity turned into something completely different.”

Regarding debates surrounding the interpretation of Amoris laetitia, Müller noted that groups of bishops or individual bishops’ conferences have issued directives recently on the reception of the Eucharist by divorced-and-civilly-remarried people.

He pointed out the teaching of St. John Paul II in Familiaris consortio, which says that “the divorced living in a new union must resolve to live in continence or else refrain from approaching the sacraments.”

“Is there any logical continuity between John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio n. 84 … and the change of this selfsame discipline that some are proposing? There are only two options,” he said.

“One could explicitly deny the validity of Familiaris Consortio n. 84, thus denying by the same token Newman’s sixth note, 'Conservative Action upon the Past.' Or one could attempt to show that Familiaris Consortio n. 84 implicitly anticipated the reversal of the discipline that it explicitly set out to teach. On any honest reading of John Paul II’s text, however, such a procedure would have to violate the basic rules of logic, such as the principle of non-contradiction.”

Cardinal Müller added that “when cardinals, bishops, priests, and laity ask the pope for clarity on these matters, what they request is not a clarification of the pope’s opinion. What they seek is clarity regarding the continuity of the pope’s teaching in Amoris Laetitia with the rest of tradition.”

For the statements of bishops to be orthodox, “it is not enough that they declare their conformity with the pope's presumed intentions” in Amoris laetitia, he said.

“They are orthodox only if they agree with the words of Christ preserved in the deposit of faith.”


Priesthood isn't an assignment – it's a mission, Pope tells seminarians


Vatican City, Feb 16, 2018 / 07:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis met with the community of the Pontifical Maronite College, explaining how their seminary formation isn’t about them or even for them, but for the people they will eventually serve in their parishes and dioceses.

“The human, intellectual and spiritual enrichment you receive in these years is not a reward for you, much less a good to be earned for your career, but a treasure for the faithful who await you in your Eparchies and to whom your life looks forward to being donated,” the Pope said Feb. 16.

“You will not be called to exercise, even well, an assignment – it is not enough! – but to live a mission, without savings, without many calculations, without limits of availability.”

Pope Francis held an audience at the Vatican with around 45 seminarians and priests of the Pontifical Maronite College in Rome, which was founded in 1584 by Pope Gregory XIII as a place of study for Catholic seminarians of the Maronite rite.

The Maronite Catholic Church traces its roots to the early Christians of Antioch, the first believers to be called Christian. In its liturgy, the rite still uses the Syriac language, which is a dialect of Aramaic, the same language Jesus spoke.

The rite takes its name from the fourth century hermit St. Maron, whose way of life inspired many monks and laity to follow him, eventually resulting in the distinctive Maronite rite.

During the encounter, Pope Francis told the priests and seminarians that as pastors, they will need to listen to people a lot, and that God will “confirm you through their lives, through many encounters, through its unpredictable surprises.”

“And you, as pastors in close contact with the flock, will savor the most genuine joy when you bend over them, making yours their joys and their sufferings, and when, at the end of the day, you can tell the Lord the love you have received and given,” he said.

Pointing to the Maronite Church’s recent Feb. 9 celebration of St. Maron, the Pope praised the monastic life of the saint, saying it shows a proper discontent with living only a moderate or mediocre faith, but wants “to love with all its heart.”

“It is by drawing on these pure sources that your ministry will be good water for today's thirsty people,” he explained.

Our heart is like a compass: It orients and directs itself toward what it loves, Francis said, quoting the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be.”

He explained that these years of study, spiritual formation, and community life in Rome are a good time to “arrange the heart well.”

“All this you are called to live in a time not without suffering and dangers, but also pregnant with hope,” he said, pointing out how the people they will be called to serve will be unsettled by the instability which continues to plague the Middle East.

They “will search for, in you, pastors that console them: pastors with the word of Jesus on their lips, with their hands ready to wipe away their tears and caress suffering faces,” he continued.

“Pastors forgetful of themselves and their own interests; pastors who are never discouraged, because they draw every day, from the Eucharistic Bread, the sweet power of love that satisfies; pastors who are not afraid to ‘be eaten’ by the people, as good bread offered to brothers.”