Pope's Romania trip confirmed for early summer


Vatican City, Jan 11, 2019 / 03:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican confirmed Friday that Pope Francis will travel to Romania to the cities of Bucharest, Iaşi, and Blaj, and to a Marian shrine in eastern Transylvania, at the end of May and beginning of June.

The trip is set for May 31 to June 2 and will include a stop at a Marian shrine located in the Șumuleu Ciuc neighborhood of the city of Miercurea Ciuc, which is in a Hungarian ethno-cultural region of Romania.

CNA reported in November that Pope Francis had told the Romanian bishops during their ad limina meeting Nov. 9 that he would be visiting their country this year, though the precise date was not confirmed at the time.

Francis' visit to the country follows exactly 20 years after Pope St. John Paul II was the first pope to go to Romania in 1999.

The motto of the visit is “Let’s Walk Together.” The trip’s logo, in blue and gold, depicts a group of Romanian people walking beneath an image of Our Lady, which according to a statement from the Holy See Press Office, evokes the Virgin Mary’s care and protection of the Romanian people.

The press office also noted that Romania has often been called “the garden of the Mother of God,” which is a phrase also used by Pope St. John Paul II during his visit to the country.

“The visit of Pope Francis takes up this Marian accent, inviting everyone to join forces under the protective mantle of the Madonna,” the statement continued.

As of 2011, the Catholics in Romania numbered 870,774; making up 4.3 percent of the population. The Catholic Church is the second largest denomination after the Romanian Orthodox Church.

The Romanian bishops’ conference is composed of 17 bishops, including both bishops of Roman Catholic dioceses and Greek Catholic dioceses, that is, dioceses of the Byzantine rite.

The pope will be in Romania just one week before the Feast of Pentecost, which is for many Romanian and Hungarian people an important day of pilgrimage to the Șumuleu Ciuc neighborhood.

The pilgrimage is made in commemoration of the Catholic Szekely population’s resistance to pressure from the Hungarian King John II Sigismund Zapolya to convert to Protestantantism. The group refused to abandon the Catholic faith and emerged victorious in a battle which took place on the Saturday before Pentecost in 1567.


Pope tells Life academy to defend human dignity with courage


Vatican City, Jan 15, 2019 / 06:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Dialogue with society for the protection of human dignity and the common good, which are under threat, Pope Francis said in a letter to the Pontifical Academy for Life, published Tuesday.

“We know that the threshold of basic respect for human life is being crossed, and brutally at that, not only by instances of individual conduct but also by the effects of societal choices and structures,” the pope wrote.

In an over 3,000-word letter to the president of the Vatican’s life academy, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, Francis encouraged the group to be a place “for courageous dialogue in the service of the common good.”

As never before, he said, business strategies and the pace of technological development is influencing “biomedical research, educational priorities, investment decisions and the quality of interpersonal relationships.”

A love for creation, deepened and illuminated by faith, has “the possibility of directing economic development and scientific progress towards the covenant between man and woman, towards caring for our common humanity and towards the dignity of the human person,” he said.

Sent for the 25th anniversary of the academy’s institution, the letter urged active participation in the intercultural, interdisciplinary, and interreligious discussion of human rights. “At stake is the understanding and exercise of a justice that demonstrates the essential role of responsibility in the discussion of human rights,” duties, and solidarity with those in need, he said.

The pope’s letter also commented on the need for the Church to study “emergent” and “convergent” technologies, such as formation and communication technologies, biotechnologies, nanotechnologies and robotics.

Due to advancements in physics, genetics, neuroscience and computing, it is now possible to make “profound interventions on living organisms,” he said, which creates a “pressing need” to understand “these epochal changes and new frontiers” in order to put them at the service of the human person while “respecting and promoting the intrinsic dignity of all.”

Pope Francis noted that Pope St. John Paul II’s institution of the academy on Feb. 11, 1994, was, as he wrote at the time, to promote research, education, and communications which show “that science and technology, at the service of the human person and his fundamental rights, contribute to the overall good of man and to the fulfilment of the divine plan of salvation.”

The Pontifical Academy for Life’s new statutes, adopted in October 2016, were intended to give a “renewed impetus” to this task and to engagement with contemporary issues surrounding technological and scientific advancement, he explained.

“It is time,” he wrote, “for a new vision aimed at promoting a humanism of fraternity and solidarity between individuals and peoples,” knowing that they are not completely closed off “to the seeds of faith and the works of this universal fraternity sown by the Gospel of the kingdom of God.”

Fraternity must continue to be emphasized, the letter continues. “It is one thing to resign oneself to seeing life as a battle against constant foes, but something entirely different to see our human family as a sign of the abundant life of God the Father and the promise of a common destiny redeemed by the infinite love that even now sustains it in being.”

Pope Francis also praised the 25-year history of the academy, which he said has shown a “constant effort to protect and promote human life and every stage of its development,” condemning abortion and euthanasia as “extremely grave evils.”

“These efforts must certainly continue, with an eye to emerging issues and challenges that can serve as an opportunity for us to grow in the faith, to understand it more deeply and to communicate it more effectively to the people of our time,” he said.

 


The Church and sexuality: An interview with Cardinal Brandmüller


Vatican City, Jan 9, 2019 / 10:50 am (CNA).- Cardinal Walter Brandmüller made headlines last week, after he told German news agency DPA that debate over the clerical sexual abuse crisis should not “forget or silence the fact that 80% of the cases of sexual assault in the Church affected male youths not children,” adding that a connection between homosexuality and sexual abuse has been “statistically proven.”

Brandmüller, 90, told the news agency Friday that “only a vanishingly small number” of priests has committed sexual abuse, and that it was “hypocritical” to focus only on the sexual abuse crisis in the Church.

“What has happened in the Church is nothing other than what is happening in society as a whole,” he said.

In an interview with CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language sister agency, the church historian explained his remarks - and pointed to causes of the Church crisis and possible solutions:


Your Eminence, your interview on Friday has generated a great deal of attention. How do you deal with the reporting and the reactions?

What secular media makes of statements that do not correspond to the worldview of the reporting journalists might well raise certain questions. But I was concerned with scandals that are more important than how I am being dealt with as a person.

You’re referring to the abuse scandals and their coverup?

Well, I would argue  that the real scandal is that when it comes to this issue, clergy and employees of the Church are not sufficiently distinguishable from society overall. The apostle Paul admonished the Romans, "do not be conformed to this world." [[12:2]]

[But] sexual abuse - in whatever form - is anything but a specifically Catholic phenomenon.

How is that to be understood in this context?

The sexualization of society over decades - think of Oswalt Kolle and Beate Uhse - has left its mark on Catholics and those in the employ of the Church. This statement may help explain the heinousness of the transgressions, but is by no means an excuse!

[ed. Note: Oswalt Kolle was an author, filmmaker, advocate for the sexual revolution in Germany, prominent during the 1960s and 1970s. Beate Uhse AG is a German distributor of pornography, “sex toys,” and lingerie.]

In other words,  the role and self-conception of the clergy are at the heart of the issue?

First of all, it must be emphatically emphasized that hundreds of thousands of priests and religious people faithfully and selflessly serve God and men. To put them under general suspicion is just as offensive as unjustified, considering the tiny percentage of abusers. On the other hand, it equally is an excessively narrow view of reality to look only at the Catholic Church.

But surely one must be differentiate between abuse in the Church and across society?

Absolutely.

It would be no less unrealistic to forget or conceal that 80 percent of cases of abuse in the church context were perpetrated against male adolescents, not children. This relationship between abuse and homosexuality has been statistically proven - but it has nothing to do with homophobia, whatever one might mean by that term.

How can sexual misconduct and abuse be prevented in principle? Irrespective of whether it is perpetrated against minors or adults, men or women?

In the first place it will be necessary, before any religious consideration, to once again refamiliarize and deepen our understanding of the principles of sexual morality brought about by human nature being that of man and woman. John Paul II, with his Theology of the Body, has made a groundbreaking contribution on this matter.

Surely such an understanding would particularly be required of the clergy, and anyone in a teaching capacity, both in terms of educating on this matter and themselves actually living it?

Indeed, this doctrinal teaching of John Paul II should also form the basis for the selection and formation of future priests and religious educators. Then we should pay attention to their psycho-physical constitution. However, it should not be forgotten that all of this is not just about psychology and sociology, but rather about recognizing a true vocation coming from God. Especially when it comes to priests! Only when these aspects are duly considered and taken into account can a candidate be admitted to ordination.

This is also what Pope Francis has said on several occasions.

By the way: Experienced rigor in the selection of candidates also leads to a higher attractiveness of the priestly profession.

Given this falls under a bishop’s bailiwick, surely theirs is a key role in bringing this about?

The present crisis can only be overcome if, above all, the bishops understand it as a call and an incentive to a new spiritual awakening, drawing on the roots of our Faith. Is it not it astounding that the "conventional" seminars of so-called traditionalist communities, especially in France but not only there, have no shortage of seminarians? So why not adopt this model for success?

In the face of the current crisis, the credibility of the Church as a moral institution is severely shaken in the eyes of many. What is more, Catholics are asking themselves in which direction the Church is headed.

The question I ask myself is whether there really is any direction. Is the Church not tossed back and forth on contradictory currents? Can one recognize any direction at all?

In any case, it is obvious that - at least in Western Europe - Church statements are more or less in line with the social mainstream, and that purely secular matters often determine the speeches and actions of ecclesiastical authorities instead of following the lead of Benedict XVI, who in his speech in Freiburg in 2011 talked about the necessary detachment from worldliness [Entweltlichung], which promptly was misunderstood and even met with disapproval.

In the meantime, even some bishops, especially in the field of morality, have expressed views that are diametrically opposed to Scripture. But in doing so, one removes oneself from the very foundations of the Church’s existence.

So the Church and its foundations are still in their place?

Naturally. And of course it is all the more embarrassing when a financially potent but spiritually foundering  Church in Germany reckons it has a mandate to lecture its "poorer brothers and sisters" in - of all places - regions where  the Church is experiencing a period of spiritual vitality and growth, ie in Eastern and Northeast Europe as well as regions such as Africa and Asia.

What is also noteworthy in the West, however, is the phenomenon of religious awakenings among the youth, who are unimpressed with the decline around them.

"Fluctuat nec mergitur" - This expression is written on the coat of arms of the city of Paris, which shows a ship on high waves: Despite being tossed back and forth, it is not lost! In fact, Jesus Christ is on board even when he appears to be asleep. This is a depiction of of the Church.

 

Translation provided by AC Wimmer.