Friday, September 19, 2008

The New PCF: Now Family-Friendly

On his June appointment as the Vatican's lead spokesman on the "domestic church," it was noted that Cardinal Ennio Antonelli would likely change the tone at the Pontifical Council for the Family from the trigger-happy style of his late predecessor, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, to better fit the Italian prelate's -- and, by extension, his Boss' -- gentler, more affirmative approach.

Yesterday, in his first turn before the home-office press corps in the new post, Antonelli briefed reporters on his first major task as a dicastery head: arranging early January's World Meeting of Families in Mexico City. While the cardinal dashed the hopes of the traveling triennial's organizers with his announcement that the Pope won't be making the trip, the former Florentine's light yet uncompromising touch remained well intact:
Antonelli said his first priority as president of the Pontifical Council for the Family is to help faithful Catholic couples and their children proclaim by their example the church's teaching on marriage and family life.

"The first priority is to build up Christian families," said the cardinal, who was named president of the council in June.

Cardinal Antonelli said he does not think the church and its leaders speak only about problems and attacks on the family, but the media seems to pay attention only when the church expresses its concerns.

"We must care for normal families first so that they become a sign for others," he said. "Without examples, how can we persuade others?"...

Antonelli said he hoped to increase the council's contacts with bishops' conferences around the world, with families, experts and Catholic associations, but giving priority "to ordinary parish pastoral outreach to families."

While strengthening programs for all families, the church wants people who have remarried civilly without an annulment to know that it "welcomes them in every way possible and is close to them, supporting them in their difficulties," the cardinal said.

But the church also must recognize that the situation in which they are living "is not in full harmony" with Jesus' own teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, which is why they cannot receive Communion, he said.

"Objectively, this is the situation: Divorced and remarried people are not in harmony with the teaching of the Gospel; they are not in full communion with the church. Even if the people involved are good people, it is important not to falsify the significance of the Eucharist," he said.

"The church must be open," Cardinal Antonelli said. "Jesus went out to all," but the church also must make clear "the difference between marriage and other forms of cohabitation."

The cardinal said that in church teaching, preaching and public statements about family life, "the accent must be on the beauty of the Gospel lived in the family. That is clear. Beauty persuades by itself. But that can happen only when there are strong families."
With B16's trips to Sydney and Lourdes now in the can, for the first time in a good while the Pope's announced calendar boasts not a single overseas trip.

That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't possibilities. In late June, the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone indicated in the Italian press that the logistics of a potential African visit for 2009 was being studied. Three weeks later, as he rode into Sydney Harbour on a yacht, the pontiff -- ostensibly given his repeated "deep anguish" over the "horror" in the Darfur -- told a young Sudanese woman that hers "is the country I most want to visit."

And if it comes to pass, two words would come in handy: Zaire Rite.

As always, stay tuned.