Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Barque Rocks On

Simply put, it is the oldest continuous office on Earth.

One thousand nine hundred eighty one years in existence.... Two hundred sixty-six occupants.... A line that encompasses great saints and walking scandals both, and every historical circumstance from the glories of human empire and the magnificence of monument to bloody rivers of war, imprisonment and persecution.

Just on the turns of the ages, even a nonbeliever can marvel at the papacy, and especially at the big moments, no shortage do. And for everything else that's surrounded it for close to two millennia, perhaps that's the greatest miracle of all – not that the institution founded upon Peter merely still exists, but how, whether in the heights of affection or political drives for its occupant's suppression, it's retained its relevance, recovering from the lulls as little more than a fleeting spell.

Indeed, just when it was supposedly rational to think that another spin of the wheel really could be curtains, all of a sudden, a new springtime dawns again....

Two thousand years later, just further proof that Somebody knew what He was doing at the start.

Buona festa to one and all.


"The Problem For Us Is Fear" – On Pope's Day, Francis Calls Bishops To "Follow"

Marking the patronal feast of Rome – and, indeed, the papacy itself – on this solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul the city's 266th bishop led the 30th anniversary of the tradition instituted by St John Paul II, conferring the pallium on 24 new metropolitan archbishops named over the last year.

What's more, though, in the process Pope Francis gave himself a new one.... Well, a new-old one.

Six years after the chief MC Msgr Guido Marini devised a "Papal Pallium" adorned with red crosses for B16, at today's rites Francis ditched the model, restoring the same black-crossed version (above) worn by centuries of his predecessors and identical to that given every other archbishop. The sign of the "fullness of the episcopal office" which each metropolitan is entitled to wear at Masses within his province, the return to the common pallium serves to more fully underscore the woolen vestment's intended symbolism over the centuries – namely, a visible sign of the bond between the archbishops of the entire church and the See of Peter.

With the US represented by just one prelate – Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford – among others invested today were Archbishops Malcolm McMahon OP of Liverpool (head of the UK's largest diocese), Leo Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Paul Bui of Ho Chi Minh City, Wojciech Polak of Gniezno (the new Polish primate) and Franz Lackner OFM of Salzburg, a post whose centuries-old privilege of donning a cardinal's red vesture made him stand out among the violet zucchetti of the rest of the group.

While Papa Bergoglio's homily did not feature a similar bomb to last year's preach, in which Francis' unscripted call for a deepening of "synodality" in the church's governance sent shockwaves through the Vatican's Old Guard, today's text did see him launch a pointed examination of conscience for the prelates in attendance, asking them "Are we afraid?" and "if we are, what escapes do we seek to feel safe?"

"Do we seek the approval of the powers of this world?" Francis wondered, "or do we let ourselves be taken in by that pride which seeks gratification and recognition?" In the face of those temptations, the needed answer was to trust in "God's fidelity," he said, which must be "the source of our confidence and our peace."

Outside St Peter's, meanwhile, the pontiff returned to the front page of the newspapers in his own voice. For the second time in ten days, an interview with the Pope was released, this time in Il Messaggero, the dominant Rome-based daily, featuring his tidings to the city on its patronal feast. At the same time, the conversation focused much on what Francis called "moral" and "cultural degradation," which he said was visible in issues ranging from corruption and child prostitution to income inequality (the "golden calf" of "the money god") and poverty as well as – repeating an earlier comment – the "phenomenon" of valuing pets over people.

The first Pope-chat Francis has held with a female reporter, the Domus sit-down with Messaggero's Franca Giansoldati – which, notably, took place during Tuesday's infamous Italy-Uruguay World Cup match – likewise dwelt at length on the role of women in the church. (At right, Giansoldati is seen in an airplane selfie with Francis en route to last month's Holy Land tour.)

Saying that "Women are the most beautiful thing God has made," the Pope reiterated his call in Evangelii Gaudium that the "feminine question" in ecclesial life "must be deepened, otherwise you can't understand the church herself."

While Giansoldati explicitly set aside the question of female clergy, she asked Francis whether a woman would be named as head of a Curial dicastery, a prospect which the pontiff left the door wide open to by replying with a chuckle that "Well [orig: 'Beh'], many times priests [already] end up under the authority of their housekeepers."

Along the way, the pontiff exalted the figure of Pope Paul VI, who he'll beatify on 19 October at the close of the Synod for the Family. In Francis' judgment, Paul's 1975 exhortation on evangelization Evangelii Nuntiandi "remains an unsurpassed pastoral document," adding that, being "the first Pope who studied theology after the Council... for us Paul VI was the great light."

Asked where "the church of Bergoglio" is headed, the Pope said "Thank God I don't have a church, I follow Christ. I haven't founded anything." Programmatically speaking, though, he emphasized that "I've done nothing on my own," that his course of governance was merely "the fruit of the meetings before the Conclave" in the priorities and aspirations laid out by the cardinals. Still, as pertains to his own missionary vision, Francis again repeated that "the church must go out into the streets, seek the people, go into the houses, visit families, go toward the peripheries. It can't be a church that only receives, but one which offers."

Back to the basilica, today's rites made for the Pope's last major event before the Curia's summer hiatus, during which the release of his morning homilies at the Domus and the Wednesday audiences will be suspended.

That's not to say all will be quiet, however – beyond whatever spontaneous things come up (and they will), Tuesday brings the fifth meeting of Francis' "Gang of Eight" cardinal-advisers on the reform of the Curia; set to run four days, the session will be the group's longest to date. In addition, on Friday the Irish Catholic reported that the pontiff's first meeting with survivors of sexual abuse – the first papal meeting with victims at the Vatican – is expected to take place next weekend.

* * *
Here below, meanwhile, the Vatican's English translation of the Pope's homily at this morning's Mass for the Petrine feast....
On this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the principal patrons of Rome, we welcome with joy and gratitude the Delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch, our venerable and beloved brother Bartholomaios, and led by Metropolitan Ioannis. Let us ask the Lord that this visit too may strengthen our fraternal bonds as we journey toward that full communion between the two sister Churches which we so greatly desire.

“Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod” (Acts 12:11). When Peter began his ministry to the Christian community of Jerusalem, great fear was still in the air because of Herod’s persecution of members of the Church. There had been the killing of James, and then the imprisonment of Peter himself, in order to placate the people. While Peter was imprisoned and in chains, he heard the voice of the angel telling him, “Get up quickly… dress yourself and put on your sandals… Put on your mantle and follow me!” (Acts 12:7-8). The chains fell from him and the door of the prison opened before him. Peter realized that the Lord had “rescued him from the hand of Herod”; he realized that the Lord had freed him from fear and from chains. Yes, the Lord liberates us from every fear and from all that enslaves us, so that we can be truly free. Today’s liturgical celebration expresses this truth well in the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm: “The Lord has freed me from all my fears”.

The problem for us, then, is fear and looking for refuge in our pastoral responsibilities.

I wonder, dear brother bishops, are we afraid? What are we afraid of? And if we are afraid, what forms of refuge do we seek, in our pastoral life, to find security? Do we look for support from those who wield worldly power? Or do we let ourselves be deceived by the pride which seeks gratification and recognition, thinking that these will offer us security? Dear brother Bishops, where do we find our security?

The witness of the Apostle Peter reminds us that our true refuge is trust in God. Trust in God banishes all fear and sets us free from every form of slavery and all worldly temptation. Today the Bishop of Rome and other bishops, particularly the metropolitans who have received the pallium, feel challenged by the example of Saint Peter to assess to what extent each of us puts his trust in the Lord.

Peter recovered this trust when Jesus said to him three times: “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21: 15,16,17). Peter thrice confessed his love for Jesus, thus making up for his threefold denial of Christ during the passion. Peter still regrets the disappointment which he caused the Lord on the night of his betrayal. Now that the Lord asks him: “Do you love me?”, Peter does not trust himself and his own strength, but instead entrusts himself to Jesus and his mercy: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17). Precisely at this moment fear, insecurity and cowardice dissipate.

Peter experienced how God’s fidelity is always greater than our acts of infidelity, stronger than our denials. He realizes that the God’s fidelity dispels our fears and exceeds every human reckoning. Today Jesus also asks us: “Do you love me?”. He does so because he knows our fears and our struggles. Peter shows us the way: we need to trust in the Lord, who “knows everything” that is in us, not counting on our capacity to be faithful, but on his unshakable fidelity. Jesus never abandons us, for he cannot deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13). He is faithful. The fidelity which God constantly shows to us pastors, far in excess of our merits, is the source of our confidence and our peace. The Lord’s fidelity to us keeps kindled within us the desire to serve him and to serve our sisters and brothers in charity.

The love of Jesus must suffice for Peter. He must no longer yield to the temptation to curiosity, jealousy, as when, seeing John nearby, he asks Jesus: “Lord, what about this man?” (Jn 21:21). But Jesus, in the face of these temptations, says to him in reply: “What is it to you? Follow me” (Jn 21:22). This experience of Peter is a message for us too, dear brother archbishops. Today the Lord repeats to me, to you, and to all pastors: Follow me! Waste no time in questioning or in useless chattering; do not dwell on secondary things, but look to what is essential and follow me. Follow me without regard for the difficulties. Follow me in preaching the Gospel. Follow me by the witness of a life shaped by the grace you received in baptism and holy orders. Follow me by speaking of me to those with whom you live, day after day, in your work, your conversations and among your friends. Follow me by proclaiming the Gospel to all, especially to the least among us, so that no one will fail to hear the word of life which sets us free from every fear and enables us to trust in the faithfulness of God. Follow me!

Friday, June 27, 2014

In Michigan, A Spartan Shift – Lansing Chancellor Raica to Gaylord

As the Curia's "end of school" desk-clearing reaches its close, the US' longest-standing vacancy has been settled.

At Roman Noon this Friday, the Pope tapped Msgr Steven Raica, 61 – chancellor of Lansing and, from 1999-2005, head of the Casa Santa Maria (the Roman residence for American priests in advanced studies) – as fifth bishop of Gaylord, the 65,000-member church comprising the northern 21 counties of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

Born on the Upper Peninsula and rumored for its opening in Marquette earlier this year, in the slightly warmer rural post Raica succeeds another prominent figure from the Rome scene: now-Archbishop Bernard Hebda, the Harvard and Columbia-trained canon and civil lawyer who wept on being made to leave for the roiled, 1.4 million-member archdiocese of Newark as its coadjutor last fall.

A product of Michigan State, where he earned a bachelor's in mathematics before a JCD from the Gregorian, the "gentle and industrious" bishop-elect is believed to be the first US prelate who's fluent in sign language; for the first decade of his priesthood, Raica served as Lansing's diocesan director for deaf ministry alongside parish work. Beyond his assignments, the bishop-elect has been chaplain to the local Legatus as well as immersing himself in Communion and Liberation, the Milan-based movement which rose to even greater prominence in the last pontificate as B16's favorite.

As for what lies ahead, meanwhile, what Hebda referred to as "the needs of the church in Gaylord" would seem to mesh well with the profile of his successor: on his transfer to Newark after four years, Bishop Bernie just beginning to focus the diocese on planning its mid-range future, a challenge that's been particularly acute across Michigan given demographic shifts as harsh as the state's infamous winters. Alongside the structural realities, priestly vocations have proven another hurdle upstate, while Lansing has long bucked the trend, ordaining five in this year's batch, including identical twins who were profiled in The New York Times. (Gaylord will ordain one tomorrow, with His Grace-in-Waiting returning to perform the rite.)

In a statement released this morning, the bishop-elect mused on the confluence of his appointment and today's solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a figure whose "love and mercy" has repeatedly been part of his life and ministry.

Raica's ordination is scheduled for 28 August, the feast of St Augustine.

With today's move, the number of Stateside Latin-church vacancies falls to four – a group with Toledo now topping the pile – with another five led by ordinaries serving past the retirement age of 75. Earlier this month, it emerged that for the most prominent of the docket – of course, the heavily anticipated Chicago appointment – Cardinal Francis George had submitted his report on the state of the 2.3 million-member archdiocese, featuring his shortlist of preferred successors.

As the process can't reach Rome until the major investigation by the Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, is completed, it bears repeating that no movement is expected until the Congregation for Bishops reconvenes in September. Ergo, things will feel like this for a while....

That said, it's not yet safe to call the end of appointments for the summer – anything decided in the last lap before the recess can drop until July 15th, give or take.

Speaking of Michigan and archbishops, Sunday's feast of Saints Peter and Paul will see Pope Francis confer the pallium on just one American, the Detroit-born Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, among 24 new metropolitans named over the last year around the globe.

Even so, folks, the most important thing for now is far simpler: it's a summer weekend – enjoy it.

SVILUPPO: Describing himself as "thrilled" at the news, a Lansing op sends this portrait of the bishop-elect....

This may sound a bit cliché, but he is truly one of the most kind, gentle, intelligent and faithful people I know.... He is very deliberate and thoughtful, has a great sense of humor and yet is very attentive. He is big on using technology and communications for evangelization....

If this is the sort of bishop Pope Francis is naming, I'm thrilled. He is solid but not an ideologue. He has chancery, Rome and parish experience. Though he loves pasta, travel and culture, he lives very simply. He's an excellent cook. His desk is very messy! He is bright, faithful and yet has no ax to grind.

I have never witnessed him to have an appetite for the sort of rhetoric we see from others in the U.S. hierarchy on the hot button issues. Like Pope Francis, I don't see +Raica watering anything down but I think his emphasis will be in line with this pope - on the positive aspects of our faith. I hope this is a sign of more good appointments to come. I think +Raica really reflects what we are hearing that Pope Francis wants – shepherds who are gentle, approachable, smell like the sheep and are open to bringing everyone closer to the Lord.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Stacking out at 73 pages and released at Roman Noon, the all-important Instrumentum Laboris for October's Synod on the Family is available as both html and pdf.

Don't let somebody else be your brain, folks – do yourself a favor and actually read it.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Quote of the Day

Papa Francesco si è fermato a casa nostra...

In English, that's "Pope Francis stopped at our house" – the caption on the following Facebook post from earlier today in Cassano:

And, well, if this is being "reportedly ill," would that the rest of us were, too.


In Calabria, The Pope's Hit – "The Mafia Is Excommunicated"

Even as today's papal visit to Cassano all'Ionio saw Francis deliver moving messages to prisoners and priests alike, as expected, the day's headline came elsewhere.

Closing out the daylong trek with a Mass – in a rarity for pontifical liturgies, a Sunday vigil – along the shore of the Ionian Sea, the Pope tackled the area's tormented legacy of organized crime, declaring that 'ndrangheta,
 the locally-based syndicate widely thought to be Italy's most feared Mafia branch, "is this: the adoration of evil and contempt of the common good."

Going further, and lifting his head from his prepared text, Papa Bergoglio said that "those who in their lives have taken this evil road, this road of evil, such as the mafiosi, they are not in communion with God – they are excommunicated!"

The massive crowd responded by erupting into applause and cheers. Video:

In January, the Mafia murder of a 3 year-old boy in a Cassano car-bombing sparked outrage across Italy and saw Francis deliver prayers and a rebuke for the perpetrators at his Sunday Angelus. Prior to today's Mass, the Pope met the grandparents and father of the young victim, Coco Campolongo. On another front, Papa Bergoglio's "Mob hit" comes a day after Francis made global headlines for decrying the legalization of "any type of drug" as "a veiled way of surrendering to the phenomenon" of addiction in society.

Back to today, while canonists will take pains to emphasize that the "excommunicated" statement is by no means a formal decree with legal effect, in terms of the symbolics and public perception, its potency would be difficult to overestimate. For purposes of context, when a veteran prosecutor of Mob cases relayed last year that Francis had rattled 'ndrangheta amid his attempts to reform the Vatican's "power centers" – an agenda which "put [the Pope] at risk" – the official noted that "the church has never excommunicated a mobster."

As the thought has likely crossed the mind of not a few Italian bishops, they now have the clearance to proceed with it. Repeating an earlier word, the Mafia theme is fairly certain to resurface on July 5th, when Francis visits Campobasso, home to Italy's most outspoken prelate against the syndicates, Archbishop Giancarlo Bregantini.

On a side-note, the Mass came after a stop at a hospice (below) during which, according to wire reports, Papa Bergoglio asked one of the doctors to remove a splinter from his finger.

More to come... (SVILUPPO: Significant as the preceding is, it was equaled – if not eclipsed – by a moment on the road into town.)

...for now, here's the Vatican's English translation of the Pope's homily for the vigil Mass of Corpus Christi (the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ), which is transferred to tomorrow in Italy and most of the global church:

On the feast of Corpus Domini, we celebrate Jesus “living bread that came down from heaven” (Jn 6,51), food for our hunger for eternal life, strength for our journey. I thank the Lord, who today allows me to celebrate Corpus Domini with you, brothers and sisters of this Church, which is in Cassano allo Jonio. Today’s feast is that on which the Church praises the Lord for the gift of the Eucharist. While on Holy Thursday, we recall its institution at the Last Supper, today thanksgiving and adoration predominate. And, in fact, it is tradition on this day to have the procession with the Blessed Sacrament. To adore Jesus Eucharist and to walk with him. These are the two inseparable aspects of today’s feast, two aspects that mark the entire life of the Christian people: a people that adores God and walks with him.

Before all else, we are a people who adores God. We adore God, who is love, who in Jesus Christ gave himself for us, offered himself on the cross to expiate our sins and by the power of this love he rose from death and lives in his Church. We do have no other God than this!

When adoration of the Lord is substituted by adoration of money, the road to sin opens to personal interest ... When one does not adore the Lord, one becomes an adorer of evil, like those who live by dishonesty and violence. Your land, which so beautiful, knows the signs of the consequences of this sin. The ‘ndrangheta is this: adoration of evil and contempt of the common good. This evil must be fought, must be expelled. It must be told no. The Church, which is so committed to educating consciences, must always expend itself even more so that good can prevail. Our children ask this of us. Our young people ask this of us, they, who need hope. To be able to respond to this demands, faith can help us. Those who in their lives have taken this evil road, this road of evil, such as the mobsters, they are not in communion with God, they are excommunicated!

Today, we confess this with our gaze turned to Corpus Domini, to the Sacrament of the altar. And, for this faith, we renounce Satan and all of his temptations; we renounce the idols of money, vanity, pride and power. We, Christians, do not want to adore anything or anyone in this world except Jesus Christ, who is present in the Holy Eucharist. Perhaps we do not always realize what this means in all its depth, the consequences our profession of faith has or should have. Today we ask the Lord to enlighten us and to convert us, so that we truly adore only him and we renounce evil in all its forms.

But our faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, in the consecrated bread and wine, is authentic if we commit to follow him and to walk with him, seeking to put into practice his commandment which he gave to the disciples at the Last Supper: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (Jn 13,34). A people who adores God in the Eucharist is a people who walks in charity.

Today, as bishop of Rome, I am here to confirm you not only in faith but also in charity, to accompany you and to encourage you in your journey with Jesus Charity. I want to express my support to the bishop, the priests and the deacons of this Church, and also of the Eparchy of Lungro, rich in its Greek-Byzantine tradition. But I extend it to all the pastors and faithful of the Church in Calabria, courageously committed to evangelization and to promoting lifestyles and initiatives which put at the centre the needs of the poor and of the. And I also extend it to the civil authorities who seek to live political and administrative commitment for what it is—a service to the common good.

I encourage all to witness practical solidarity with your brothers, especially those who most need justice, hope and tenderness. Thank God, there are many signs of hope in your families, parishes, associations and ecclesial movements. The Lord Jesus does not cease to inspire acts of charity in his people who journey! The Policoro Project is a concrete sign of hope for young people who want to get in the game and create work possibilities for themselves and for others. You, dear young people, do not let yourselves to be robbed of hope! Adoring Jesus in your hears and remaining united to him you will know how to oppose evil, injustice, violence with the force of good, truth and beauty.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Eucharist has gathered us together. The Body of the Lord makes of us one, one family, the people of God united around Jesus, Bread of Life. That which I said to the young people, I say to all of you: if you will adore Christ, follow him and walk with him, your diocesan Church and your parishes will grow in faith and charity, in the joy of evangelizing. You will be a Church in which fathers, mothers, priests, religious, catechists, children, the elderly and the young walk alongside each other, support each other, help each other, love each other like brothers, especially in moments of difficulty.

Mary, eucharistic Woman, whom you venerate in many sanctuaries, especially at the one in Castrovillari, precedes you in this pilgrimage of faith. May she always help you to stay united so that, even by means of your witness, the Lord may continue to give life to the world.

Friday, June 20, 2014

For the Synod, The Baseline Cometh

After months of anticipation – and, in no shortage of parts elsewhere, presumptions and agitation galore – the core document for October's Extraordinary Synod finally has its pub-date.

Its drafting guided by the questionnaire circulated worldwide by the Holy See last fall, earlier today it emerged that the instrumentum laboris for the assembly on "the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization" will be released next Thursday, 26 June, with a midday press conference featuring the meeting's key officials, led by the Pope's hand-picked Synod chief, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri.

Ostensibly delayed by the torrent of feedback received from the local churches, an initial draft of the text was reviewed by the 15-prelate Synod Council last month under Francis' close watch.

Though the Pope's earnest desire is for the assembly of representatives of the 5,000-member global episcopate to become a significantly more "real and effective tool" for collegial governance than it has in the past – a dynamic which should make for some surprises in the Aula – the document will set the baseline both for the topics envisioned for discussion, and Papa Bergoglio's expectations for the first stage of the process that'll culminate with a second Family Synod in October 2015.

* * *
When they circulated the survey to the episcopal conferences with the request that they "distribute [it] to the dioceses" for local input, Baldisseri & Co. likely weren't banking on the confusion that would reign in its wake.

For starters, progressive lobby groups in several countries took to pouncing on their respective conferences for letting the dioceses take the initiative in circulating the questions, even though the intent was precisely to get an optimal snapshot of the reality in the trenches instead of ideological boilerplate. Then, once the national responses were compiled and sent to Rome, several of the English-speaking bodies declined to release theirs, citing a request for confidentiality from Baldisseri, while extensive, brow-raising reports were published by others, most prominently the Japanese and German bishops. (The latter bench is now led by Europe's lone diocesan bishop on Francis' "Gang of Eight," Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, who's talked up some of his own thoughts on related matters over recent months.)

In any case, Baldisseri has made clear that while "the doctrine on the family is not in discussion" come October, "the approach to pastoral problems is" – and it "can change."

"We're starting from a conviction that we don't know everything," the Synod chief said in a November interview, "and that study and seeking might open new horizons, previously unknown ones."

After having processed the responses (which were due at January's end), over another press sit-down in April, the cardinal let slip that among other issues raised, two stood out: first, he said, "communication is lacking between the institutional church and the real church, which is the people." And secondly, "the awareness of the Christian doctrine on marriage is scarce," adding that "the same could be said for the theme of openness to life.

"Paul VI's Humanae Vitae is rather ignored, the no to contraception has stopped," the cardinal said. "On this theme, the church has much to do."

Lest anybody forgot, Francis will beatify Paul VI – likewise the Synod's founder – at the two-week assembly's closing liturgy on October 19th.

All that said, during last week's June meeting in New Orleans, the USCCB relented slightly on its earlier reticence as the conference president, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, delivered a public report on what he called "some thoughts... some general trends" on the feedback received at the Mothership, joined by the lead American on the 15-man Synod Council, Washington's Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

Here, fullaudio of the briefing:

As the elected leader of the Stateside bench, under the current rules for an Extraordinary Synod – only the third of its kind, the last having taken place in 1985 on the 20th anniversary of Vatican II's close – Kurtz is the lone US prelate assured of a seat at the October assembly. (Since the Synod's founding in 1967, 18 of the 20 prior editions have been the larger and longer "general" or "special" meetings, at which episcopal conferences with over 100 members would each elect three delegates.) That said, 
with Francis and Baldisseri currently retooling the gathering's "methodology" and the Pope ostensibly itching to broaden the "experiences" present for the discussions, the prez is still likely to have some company from home, whether ordained, lay, or both.


For Summer "Vacation," Francis Meets the Mob

Fifteen months into his tenure as Primate of Italy, Papa Francesco has yet to visit Venice, Milan, Genoa or Naples, but in his fourth domestic trek beyond Rome, the weekend brings another stop at the "periphery" – and yet again, one which has already impacted his vision for the church in the "boot."

Early tomorrow, Francis will helicopter some 300 miles southward, to Cassano all'Ionio in the peninsula's lower arch. The visit makes good on a promise Francis made last December as part of his attempt at restitution for plucking the town's bishop, Nunzio Galantino (above), to come to the capital last December as his designated secretary-general of the Italian bishops' conference, the CEI.

Traditionally chosen from among the bishops, the secretary of the Italian bench has invariably given up his prior post on taking the reins of the CEI. Prior to his appointment, however, Galantino sought to do double-duty in overseeing both his diocese and the conference's Rome headquarters. While Francis has allowed the arrangement so far, the setup could prove complicated in the long term given the distance between the two and the size of the workload. Accordingly, in a letter he wrote to "ask permission" of the people of Cassano to take their bishop, the Pope said Galantino's twin roles would continue "at least for a certain time," the six-month point of which is coming next week.

In the note to the people, Francis said that – even if their bishop "would surely prefer to remain with you" – he "need[ed]" Galantino in Rome "for an important mission in the Italian church."

"I ask you, please, to understand me, and to forgive me," the Pope wrote, adding that their evident "brotherly and fatherly love" for the prelate "moves me and makes me thank God."

As previously reported, Francis stunned the home-turf Establishment on selecting Galantino, who served for 27 years as pastor of the same parish prior to his 2012 appointment to Cassano and didn't figure in the preliminary consultations for the national post. As a result, the new CEI chief has become the "poster prelate" of the type of episcopal nominee Papa Bergoglio seeks, the identikit for which he laid out most extensively in February on addressing his reconstituted Congregation for Bishops. Over the months since, Galantino made waves with comments criticizing his confreres for a perceived lack of enthusiasm for Francis' program and voicing his hope that the church could discuss controversial issues "without taboos." In addition, last month the Pope tapped his new confidant's local deputy, the Cassano vicar-general Francesco Oliva, to lead his own diocese adjacent to Sicily.

* * *
Backdrop aside, while the one-day jaunt was primarily intended as a bright, flashing sign of Francis' regard for Galantino and his gratitude to the people for letting him go, the church context became just half the story after the January Mafia killing of a 3 year-old boy in Cassano, Nicola Campolongo, sparked a national outcry against the stranglehold organized crime continues to have in southern Italy.

At his Angelus on the weekend of the attack, the Pope himself weighed in, saying that the boy's death in a car bombing – an act of retaliation against his grandfather's unpaid debts – "seems not to have any precedent in the history of criminality."

Using the boy's nickname, Francis said "we pray with Coco, who surely is with Jesus in heaven, for the people who committed this crime, that they might repent and convert to the Lord."

While a public Mass on the shore of the Ionian Sea is slated to close the day, the Pope's schedule begins with an hour-long mid-morning stop at the local prison, at which a public speech is planned. Afterward, visits are scheduled with the local sick and elderly at two separate care facilities, the priests of the diocese in the cathedral. Francis will have lunch with the poor served by the diocese's charity arm.

In announcing the visit in March, Galantino warned that the day was not to become a moment of "unjustified expense" for either the church or the local authorities. The bishop likewise rapped "the temptation" some would have to seek "preferred treatment or privileged places," adding that any aspiring donors or others aiming for "front row" or similar perks for the day were "dispensed" from offering any contribution they'd expect a reward for.

"The only privileged ones here," he said, "will be the sick and those who've been coming to Caritas for a long time."

* * *
The Cassano stop is just one of two summer getaways within Italy which Francis has planned – at least, so far.

On 5 July, the Pope is slated to go to Campobasso in the central province of Molise, another venue where the Mafia's toll has been prominent. And as with Galantino, the plan doubles as a "thank you" to another of Bergoglio's domestic allies.

This past Good Friday, Francis chose Campobasso's Archbishop Giancarlo Bregantini to write this year's reflections for the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum. Another career pastor and teacher before his appointment as a bishop, the bearded 65 year-old heads up the Italian church's national efforts on social justice, peace and the pastoral care of workers. It bears adding that Bregantini's most well-known target of criticism over the years has been 'ndrangheta, the group widely reputed to be Italy's most vicious crime syndicate, and one whose leaders were said last year to be "nervous [and] agitated" by Francis' attempts at "dismantling the centers of economic power in the Vatican."

Speaking of PopeTrips, it seems some could use reminding that while Francis has only left Italy twice since his election, three overseas journeys are now confirmed to take place before mid-January.

Following mid-August's visit to South Korea for a pan-Asian youth congress – which he intends to conclude in Seoul's cathedral with a "Mass for Peace and Reconciliation" between the country and the Communist North – at Sunday's Angelus the Pope suddenly added his first stop within Europe: a one-day trek on 21 September to the Albanian capital of Tirana, in order "to confirm in faith the church [there] and witness my encouragement and love to a country which has long suffered the consequences of past ideologies."

While an African trip is expected to emerge somewhere in 2015, next year's first stop is again to an Asian church which, on several fronts, arguably best represents this pontificate's "dream" of a vibrant, engaged and inculturated "missionary discipleship" – and thanks to it, has become the biggest winner under Francis to date.

Reportedly to begin with two days in Sri Lanka (a 12-hour flight from Rome) in mid-January, Francis will then head to the Philippines – global Catholicism's third-largest outpost – with the prime item said to be an outreach to the communities affected by November's Typhoon Yolanda, which claimed more than 6,000 lives and directly impacted over a million households. The Vatican advance team visit to plan both legs of the tour will take place in July.

Of course, that's not all. Awaiting little more than the Holy See's formal announcement, Francis' envisioned multi-city US stop in September 2015 has ostensibly added Mexico to the itinerary, according to indications there from church and civil quarters alike.

While the Pope has sworn off returning to lower Latin America until at least 2016, adding Mexico – the world's second-largest Catholic country – to the Stateside card makes sense: much as these shores' Anglo chattering-class has been embarrassingly late to the game, the influx of some 30 million Mexicans north of the border has, among other things, kept the US church from both aging precipitously and posting a net loss of roughly half its membership.

In other words, a visit to the church in the States would be incomplete without due focus on (and, indeed, tribute to) the driving force behind its new de facto majority... and to go full-bore toward that end, a report from Mexico's semi-official news service earlier this week said that – in the vein of Francis' penitential pilgrimage to Lampedusa and sudden stop at the Israeli wall in Bethlehem – the Pope was "consulting various trusted people" in Mexico's northern cities on his "wish" to spend a moment at the barrier separating it from the US.

In a way, the gesture could be seen as an outgrowth of the outdoor Mass at the border celebrated April 1st by several US bishops, led by Francis' principal North American adviser, Boston's Cardinal Seán O'Malley OFM Cap., who said in a recent interview with the Daily Beast that the Pope subsequently made reference to the "powerful" images of the event which had reached the Domus.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Baltimore Gets the Berkshires: Charm City's Rozanski Tapped for Springfield, Mass.

Just last month, a sixth-grade religion class at a Baltimore parochial school got a surprise guest teacher: Auxiliary Bishop Mitch Rozanski.

What made the visit unusual, however, was how it came about – meeting the 55 year-old prelate after a Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, one of the students simply asked if he'd come.

"I thought he would be busy," the student who issued the invitation said afterward.... And so it seems, the kid was onto more than practically anybody else.

At Roman Noon, Pope Francis appointed the well-regarded Rozanski – named a Charm City auxiliary at all of 45 in 2004 – as bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts, the picturesque spread comprising 220,000 Catholics in the state's western third. He succeeds Bishop Timothy McDonnell, who reached the retirement age of 75 in December 2012.

As fits go, there's at least one early providential sign: given the nominee's Polish heritage and ties to the Divine Mercy devotion, the national shrine to St Faustina Kowalska's visions is in the Springfield diocese. Practically speaking, meanwhile, when it comes to the challenges facing the place, "mercy" might be the key quality to have.

In 2003, McDonnell – the Bronx native who famously rescued Covenant House in the 1980s after the fall of its founder, the late Fr Bruce Ritter, in sexual and financial scandal – was parachuted into the post following the sudden resignation of Bishop Thomas Dupre after revelations that he had abused two pre-teen boys in the 1970s. While the scenario made for more than enough of a hurdle to heal, the diocese's way forward was complicated even further by the sting of a parish consolidation process that would see nearly half of its parishes shuttered over the last decade.

Fraught as planning efforts always are, the latter aspect has been unusually bruising in Western Mass., complete with sit-in vigils, Roman appeals that saw some churches reopened on a limited scale as other closings were upheld, and calls for McDonnell's own departure amid the anger the decisions stoked.

With Baltimore having undergone its own difficult waves of pastoral planning in recent years – a road still being traveled there – the incoming bishop is no stranger to the heady mix. Such is the earthiness of the Charm City church, however, that the processes to date have been accomplished with a rare degree of calm and no outbreak of rifts between parishioners and administrators.

Until his appointment as an auxiliary to Cardinal William Keeler, Rozanski had never held a Chancery assignment, spending the two decades of his priesthood entirely in parishes. In the most recent administrative setup of the Premier See, he's been responsible for roughly half of the archdiocese, overseeing 66 parishes in seven counties. On another front, for those keeping score at home, the appointment indeed bears the trace of the reconstituted Congregation for Bishops – today's nominee would be very familiar to DC's Cardinal Donald Wuerl through their work together in the Maryland Catholic Conference. (Beyond the capital, the Washington archdiocese stretches across five Maryland counties.)

On the brighter side of his new charge, meanwhile, Rozanski's surprise cameo at the religion class was onto another significant aspect of the Springfield church: education. The far end of the Mass. Pike is home to an exceptionally high concentration of prominent secular colleges, led by the main campus of the University of Massachusetts and rounded out by a trio of the nation's premier liberal arts schools, Smith, Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges.

Rozanski will be installed on August 12th. With today's appointment, five Stateside Latin-church sees remain vacant, with another five led by (arch)bishops serving past the retirement age pending the arrival of their successors. Notably too, the appointment is the second of four coming in relatively short order in the Boston province, which comprises the bulk of New England; alongside last December's move of the Sox Nation vicar-general (and CDF veteran) Robert Deeley to Portland and today's nod, Vermont's Burlington diocese remains vacant following November's transfer of Bishop Salvatore Matano to Rochester, while along Cape Cod in Fall River, Bishop George Coleman sent in his letter on his March 1 birthday.

Back to the docket at large, though the latter figure rises to six on 9 July as Michael Sheehan – the venerable archbishop of Santa Fe and one last remaining figures of the conference's "golden age" – turns 75, of course, the group in wait is led by Chicago, the nation's third-largest local church, where Cardinal Francis George's successor is expected to be revealed sometime around October.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

In Crescent City, The Bench Marches In

Even if November feels like yesterday, it's time for the Midsummer Classic – as the day starts with an hour of closed-door regional meetings, the public business of the USCCB June meeting begins in New Orleans at 10am Central (11am Eastern, 1700 Rome).

Among other highlights, this meeting marks the debut on the dais of the new President, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as his deputy. As for the agenda, later this morning brings an update on the October Synod on the Family, while the afternoon session will see the two high-stakes discussions on the futures of both the ad hoc committee on religious liberty and the bench's quadrennial text on Faithful Citizenship. The twin presentations on "Marriage and the Economy" and "The New Evangelization and Poverty" are slated for tomorrow morning.

All that said, here's your real-time color feed of the afternoon session....

...and the blow-by-blow of a very full morning session:

Links to on-demand video to come.


Sunday, June 08, 2014

At the Vatican, A Time for Peace

With the Israeli and Palestinian presidents set to arrive at the Domus shortly after 6pm Rome for the 7pm "Invocation of Peace" alongside Pope Francis, below is the Vatican's live-feed of the unprecedented event:

To follow along, here are the English renderings of the texts to be used (link will open in a separate window).

SVILUPPO: Here below, in its Vatican translation, the Pope's appeal to the leaders....

Distinguished Presidents,

I greet you with immense joy and I wish to offer you, and the eminent delegations accompanying you, the same warm welcome which you gave to me during my recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

I am profoundly grateful to you for accepting my invitation to come here and to join in imploring from God the gift of peace. It is my hope that this meeting will mark the beginning of a new journey where we seek the things that unite, so as to overcome the things that divide.

I also thank Your Holiness, my venerable Brother Bartholomaios, for joining me in welcoming these illustrious guests. Your presence here is a great gift, a much-appreciated sign of support, and a testimony to the pilgrimage which we Christians are making towards full unity.

Your presence, dear Presidents, is a great sign of brotherhood which you offer as children of Abraham. It is also a concrete expression of trust in God, the Lord of history, who today looks upon all of us as brothers and who desires to guide us in his ways.

This meeting of prayer for peace in the Holy Land, in the Middle East and in the entire world is accompanied by the prayers of countless people of different cultures, nations, languages and religions: they have prayed for this meeting and even now they are united with us in the same supplication. It is a meeting which responds to the fervent desire of all who long for peace and dream of a world in which men and women can live as brothers and sisters and no longer as adversaries and enemies.

Dear Presidents, our world is a legacy bequeathed to us from past generations, but it is also on loan to us from our children: our children who are weary, worn out by conflicts and yearning for the dawn of peace, our children who plead with us to tear down the walls of enmity and to set out on the path of dialogue and peace, so that love and friendship will prevail.

Many, all too many, of those children have been innocent victims of war and violence, saplings cut down at the height of their promise. It is our duty to ensure that their sacrifice is not in vain. The memory of these children instils in us the courage of peace, the strength to persevere undaunted in dialogue, the patience to weave, day by day, an ever more robust fabric of respectful and peaceful coexistence, for the glory of God and the good of all.

Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare. It calls for the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict: yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity. All of this takes courage, it takes strength and tenacity.

History teaches that our strength alone does not suffice. More than once we have been on the verge of peace, but the evil one, employing a variety of means, has succeeded in blocking it. That is why we are here, because we know and we believe that we need the help of God. We do not renounce our responsibilities, but we do call upon God in an act of supreme responsibility before our consciences and before our peoples. We have heard a summons, and we must respond. It is the summons to break the spiral of hatred and violence, and to break it by one word alone: the word “brother”. But to be able to utter this word we have to lift our eyes to heaven and acknowledge one another as children of one Father.

To him, the Father, in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, I now turn, begging the intercession of the Virgin Mary, a daughter of the Holy Land and our Mother.

Lord God of peace, hear our prayer!

We have tried so many times and over so many years to resolve our conflicts by our own powers and by the force of our arms. How many moments of hostility and darkness have we experienced; how much blood has been shed; how many lives have been shattered; how many hopes have been buried... But our efforts have been in vain.

Now, Lord, come to our aid! Grant us peace, teach us peace; guide our steps in the way of peace. Open our eyes and our hearts, and give us the courage to say: “Never again war!”; “With war everything is lost”. Instil in our hearts the courage to take concrete steps to achieve peace.

Lord, God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love, you created us and you call us to live as brothers and sisters. Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace; enable us to see everyone who crosses our path as our brother or sister. Make us sensitive to the plea of our citizens who entreat us to turn our weapons of war into implements of peace, our trepidation into confident trust, and our quarreling into forgiveness.

Keep alive within us the flame of hope, so that with patience and perseverance we may opt for dialogue and reconciliation. In this way may peace triumph at last, and may the words “division”, “hatred” and “war” be banished from the heart of every man and woman. Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands. Renew our hearts and minds, so that the word which always brings us together will be “brother”, and our way of life will always be that of: Shalom, Peace, Salaam! Amen.
Following Francis' appeal, the dual responses of Presidents Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas can be found here.


Saturday, June 07, 2014

"Lord, Send Forth Your Spirit Upon Us!"

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim....
* * *
The 50th day of Easter is always significant in the life of Christians....

At least, Church, it's supposed to be.

Even so, Pentecost takes on an even deeper import this time around – his devotion to the Holy Spirit already well in evidence, the Pope is gearing up to serve as the Paraclete's instrument in renewing the face of the earth, and not just in the secular sense.

Of course, the journey begins tomorrow – first with morning Mass in St Peter's, then the evening "Invocation for Peace" Francis proposed two weeks ago to the presidents of Israel and the State of Palestine.

The latter set to begin at 7pm Vatican time (1pm ET, 10am Pacific, 1700GMT) in the Gardens, earlier today the English texts for the unique rite – one divided into "three moments" of Jewish, Christian and Muslim prayers and music – were released. In order, Francis, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas will speak at the event's close before departing for closed-door talks. Far afield, meanwhile, an "urgent" appeal that the local churches and "all men and women of good will" join the initiative in prayer and closeness was circulated through the Nunciatures at the Pope's explicit request.

A fortnight since the scenes in Bethlehem and Jerusalem set the stage for the "most daring and ambitious" moment to date of this 14-month pontificate, the "Camp Domus" meeting is just one part of the steeplechase over these coming days: the second is Francis' first meeting with victim-survivors of clergy sex-abuse.

So it'd seem, the high-stakes encounter at the Domus – an unprecedented papal encounter with survivors at the Vatican – is no less on the Pope's mind; beyond Friday's homily on the necessity of maintaining the integrity and sense of "first love" about one's priesthood, Papa Bergoglio has taken to speaking repeatedly over recent days "sulle ferite di Cristo" – on the "scars" or "wounds of Christ," among which the harrowing assault and exploitation of the young – first by clerics or religious, then, far too often, by an at least equally perverse and disgraceful response from ecclesial administration – have served as none other to decimate the presence and witness of the fold he now leads in no shortage of places.

Some moments make sufficient words hard to come by, and another round of those is at hand. Fittingly then, as yet another wild cycle began, a Pope who aims to reign on his knees – not that he would be admired, but in the hope that others might follow suit – did just that last Sunday as he appeared before 50,000 Charismatics in Rome's Olympic Stadium and sought to be prayed over in the Spirit....

While the act echoed the newly-elected Francis' now-famous request to be blessed by the crowd on his first balcony appearance, the more relevant precedent came in late 2012, when Cardinal Bergoglio took up a similar pray-over during a Pentecostal rally in Buenos Aires' Luna Park.

At the time, a traditionalist journal in Williamson Country reacted with the headline "Buenos Aires Sede Vacante" as the capital's then-archbishop had "committ[ed] the sin of apostasy."

So it seems, however, the prayer worked – in six months flat, no less.

Context aside, at the close of last week's event (fulltext), Francis offered the following prayer – not just for the gathered, but the entire church beyond:

Lord, look upon your people as we await the Holy Spirit. Watch over our young people, watch over our families, watch over our children, watch over our sick, watch over our priests, consecrated men and women, and us bishops… Watch over us all. And grant us that holy inebriation, the drunkenness of the Spirit, which enables us to speak all languages, the languages of charity, ever close to our brothers and sisters who need us. Teach us not to quarrel among ourselves to get a little more power; teach us to be humble, teach us to love the Church more than our own 'team,' than our internal squabbles; teach us to have a heart open to receive the Spirit. Lord, send forth your Spirit upon us! Amen.
* * *
Lastly, while the events of the Holy Land made for a PopeTrip the likes of which most ops couldn't remember, only one could find a fitting parallel. Not only was he right – as it happens, both sprang from the same place.

Thirty-five years ago this week, the newly-canonized John Paul II made his triumphant homecoming to Poland – Communist Poland – less than eight months after his own shocking election.

In an early glimpse of Wojtyla's preferred style, the eight-day jaunt stretched widely across the turf. The scene wasn't just astonishing due to the politics; beyond being the first papal visit behind the Iron Curtain, to that point, no modern Pope had spent as much time anywhere outside of Rome.

Still, all it took was the first Mass – at Victory Square in Warsaw, on this very Pentecost Eve – for history's die to be cast. At the close of his homily, John Paul issued what sounded like spiritual plea, but one whose subversive intent wasn't lost on the million-plus in attendance....

And I cry — I, a son of Polish soil... now, I, John Paul the Second, the Pope — I cry from all the depths of this Millennium, I cry on this vigil of Pentecost:

Send down your Spirit!
Send down your Spirit!
And renew the face of the earth.

Of this earth!

And in that moment, Something was unleashed: in response, the massive throng held up the liturgy for several minutes with a simple chant: "We want God!"

Even if it took another decade, in Poland and throughout Europe, the Curtain fell, and the sudden mid-Mass demonstration in Victory Square is routinely cited as the point of no return.

Lest anyone forgot, this kind of thing isn't just the province of the Popes – through Baptism and Confirmation, the gift of the Spirit is given to all God's People, to every "living stone" which comprises His Church, whose "birthday" today is our own and deserves to be taken seriously by each one of us.

That said, you can cry out and pray all you want – Lord knows how many do all the time. For the Spirit to actually do His work, though, each of us actually need to do ours.

That's the only way it's ever gonna happen, gang... and for those of us who need a fresh start, there's literally no better time for one like this.

Just as we pray together that Francis will bring peace to The Land Called Holy, so may the Church he shepherds, this Mother and home we share together, be inspired to take on the work of the same Spirit and come to know the merited fruit of its labors.

And there, folks, the choice is yours... both on our own and as a people, may we know the grace to do it well.


Tuesday, June 03, 2014

"The Perspective of the Gospel" – In Francis' Defense, The "Vice-Pope" on The Economy

Over his 14 months as Pope Francis' foremost adviser, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga has been no stranger to brow-raising – or, for not a few, agita-inducing – statements... and perhaps that's putting it mildly. Yet while said penchant for provocation is no surprise to those who've known the globe-trotting Honduran over his two decades on the church's global scene, his new role as coordinator of the "Gang of Eight" – and, arguably, Francis' "Vice-Pope" – gives his words not just a far bigger audience, but a whole new weight.

His surname often confused by English speakers, last time we checked in with Rodríguez, he was voicing his "dream that the next Pope will be Asian" while forcefully laying out Francis' program over twin October talks in Dallas and Miami. Today, he's in Washington, where – amid pointed criticism or outright dismissal of the Pope's emphatic teaching on social and economic matters by conservative political commentators, as well as some within the church – the cardinal took Francis' defense into his own hands.

The keynote of a daylong conference on libertarianism and the Magisterium organized by the Catholic University of America's Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies, Rodríguez's full-tilt reiteration of Evangelii Gaudium comes days after the Pope himself repeated his governing manifesto's warning that "this [global] economy kills" while speaking to the press on his return from the Holy Land.

Citing European figures of woefully low birthrates and skyrocketing youth unemployment, Francis observed that "this means that there is an entire generation which is 'neither-nor': they neither study nor work, and this is something really serious! A generation of young people is being thrown away. For me, this throwaway culture is extremely serious. But it is not only in Europe, it is a bit everywhere, but in Europe we really feel it. A comparison can be made with the culture of well-being, ten years ago. And this is tragic. It is a difficult moment. It is an inhumane economic system. I didn’t hesitate to write in the Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that this economic system kills. And I repeat this."

Reinforcing the message, the cardinal was introduced by one of organized labor's top leaders, the AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.

While Rodríguez tends to replace a good deal of his scripted content with colorful off-the-cuff reflections, below is the cardinal's text as prepared for delivery this afternoon. Following the keynote, the principal response (fulltext) was given by one of the USCCB's keener policy wonks, Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane.

* * *
The Catholic Case Against Libertarianism.
Keynote. June 3rd. 2014

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodríguez Maradiaga SDB
Archbishop of Tegucigalpa

I would like to start quoting Michael Sean Winters’s recent article in NCR:
“Last week, the Holy Father addressed leaders of United Nations who called on him in Rome. He gave a short talk, which included these words calling for ‘the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State.’ Then, America's conservative chattering classes went ballistic. John Moody, executive vice president at Fox News and a former Vatican correspondent, might be expected from his time covering the Holy See to have rendered a nuanced appraisal of what Pope Francis said. Nah. The title of the piece -- and I know writers do not usually choose their own titles -- is: ‘Pope Francis should stick to doctrine, stay away from economic 'redistribution.' Of course, Pope Francis was speaking from the social doctrine of the Church. The Church's teachings on social justice are as firmly rooted in our theological doctrines as are the teachings on any other issues.”

And the following day he wrote: “Here comes Father Zuhlsdorf, who runs a popular conservative blog. ‘I wonder how many people are still listening to him seriously on this issue,’ opines Reverend Father. Not content to take a swipe at the Pope, he goes after a few cardinals, adding, ‘I suspect other people might have the same reaction that I have when hearing/reading this stuff. It comes across as naive, out of step with history.  Has any nation successfully dealt with poverty through redistribution? I don't think so. Moreover, who would supervise this process of global redistribution? Angels? EU bureaucrats? The UN? Card. Rodriguez Maradiaga? Card. Kasper?’.”
As you see, the theme of today is very actual.
But instead of trying to quote all what we know about the Social Doctrine of the Church, I would like to make an analysis of the Pastoral Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” regarding our subject, because as it happens frequently, many people do not read the original texts and react from comments by others or fragments out of the context.
Very much in the spirit of the developments of the Church in Latin America after the Second Vatican Council, the Holy Father underlines the preferential option for the poor. “The poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel”(48). Already at the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Conferences in Aparecida, Brazil, where Cardinal Bergoglio was the President of the editorial committee, he said that the poor in the dominating neo- liberal economic system were superfluous, mere waste and rubbish. This statement of Cardinal Bergoglio was written down in the final document of Aparecida in 2007: “A globalization without solidarity has a negative impact on the poorest groups.” It shows something quite new: social exclusion. This undermines the very root of “belonging to the society” when people are no longer only at the underclass, marginalized or without influence, but are cast out. These “outcasts” are not merely “exploited”, they are considered “superfluous” and “human waste” (AP 65). 
Quoting this seems important to me in order to understand the background of Pope Francis’s view on the situation of the poor in today’s asymmetric, distorted global economy.
Whereas the poorest 600 million of the world’s population have to make a living with an average of 300 euros per annum, the other 600 million well-off people each on an average dispose of an annual income of 27,000 Euros. What a discrepancy and what great injustice ! And, not to forget what livelihood for the hungry, especially the children, is actually concealed behind those figures. Meanwhile in Germany e.g. there is one doctor for 266 persons, in Liberia for example there is one for 82,000. Notwithstanding the Millennium Development Goals the international community formulated with a view to 2015, the fact is that today still about 870 million people go hungry. Two billion of the world’s population does not have access to life’s essential medicine and one billion do not have sufficient and clean drinking water. 
Generally, there is a growing inequality and polarization between the rich and the poor in many countries today. This holds true for developing countries, emerging countries as well as industrialized countries. It also goes for the United States and China. The gap between incomes today in the US is wider than 100 years ago. 0.01% of the richest in the US have an income as 50% of the poorest of the population. During the last 20 years the 5% richest in the US made a progress in their possessions like the 50% of the whole population (cf. Thomas Pogge, Yale University). The rich can, unlike the poor, profit from globalization. Increasing competition on the world market encourages this dynamic entailing a reduction of wages. The libertarianism de-regulation of the markets and financial market is much to the disadvantage of the poor (cf. Francois Bourguignon “Globalization of Inequality”).
“This economy kills” (53) This in fact is the most provocative economy- critical statement of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium. Certain economic circles in industrialized countries thereupon criticized in turn the Pope saying, “The Church despises the Rich.” And they argue: Already from the Gospel and from the Acts of the Apostles, Christian Faith does not at all promote a positive attitude towards the market, towards competition, towards riches and luxury. The goods gathered on earth by the Christians meet with reservation. Wherever property is suspect, entrepreneurship and profit maximization cannot flourish. In this connection the Catholic Social Teaching and the social encyclicals of the late Popes were attacked. They would show a problematic concept of private property. Francis’s view would be shaped by the difficult economic history in Argentina and by the post-Marxist theology of liberation. Francis would not recognize that poverty and inequality have been reduced thanks to market economy reforms. He would furthermore ignore that today, thanks to the successful growth of a capitalist economy, the number of people suffering from hunger and thirst is far smaller than some twenty years ago. The Pope would be naïve and unable to see that to overcome poverty, market economy and capitalism were absolute indispensable. 
These are some of the essential arguments which libertarianism economic circles raised against EG of the Pope.
But let us ask what is Francis’s concern in EG? Let us look at the text itself: In the numbers 52-59 he characterizes some of the challenges in today’s world. An “Evangelization of joy” cannot just light-heartedly close its eyes to reality. In that case it would remain illusionary and would hardly benefit people in difficult situations. Evangelization in the  meaning of the Pope therefore always asks for an analysis of the situation based on the Gospel; Francis does not ask for a neutral sociological analysis, but for an evangelical discernment: Discipleship and evangelization according to Francis means, taking the point of view of Jesus Christ and looking at the people’s and the world’s reality with His eyes. This goes for all areas of human day-to-day life and for all dimensions of evangelization. 
Let us now take a closer look at how Francis views the present economic situation from the perspective of the Gospel. In the numbers 182-216 he details the practical consequences of the challenges.
“No to an economy of exclusion” (53). With this title Pope Francis already denotes the essential characteristic of today’s economy, which he rejects. He ties in with the Ten Commandments. The commandment “You shall not kill” (Ex 20,13) defines a limit aimed at securing the value of human life. From this biblical view he says “no to an economy of exclusion and to inequality in income” (53). And Francis describes this in concrete terms very clearly: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion.” And I think each and any of you may know of similar fates from people in your country.
As a pastor in a very poor country I know how much of daily insecurity is connected with this situation of poverty- insecurity for the children in particular, but also big worries for mothers and fathers that do not know how to get drinking water, food, medical care or school education for their children. Global economy under the conditions of libertarianism excludes such people. Since their point of view a human being is a consumer. If she or he is incapable of consuming this type of economy does not need her of him, can do away with her or him. From this, Francis concludes: “It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underclass or its fringes or its disenfranchised- they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but waste, “rubbish” (53).
This diagnosis Cardinal Bergoglio already made in 2007 in Aparecida and he still considers it crucial for today so that he- as Pope- restates it in EG. Yes he even finds a stronger wording, because he sees that in this libertarian global economy, not the human being is at the center but profit and money. He speaks out a sharp prophetic verdict: “This economy kills” (53).
Francis analyzes the economy from the point of view of the poor which is in line with Jesus’s perspective. He does not let himself be deceived by the trickle-down theory, which is based on the conviction that if the market is allowed to freely unfold itself this would favor general economic growth which at length is the way out of misery. As someone who lived with the poor, Francis rejects such theory, since facts speak another language and never ever have confirmed this (cf. 54). Taking the financial crisis of 2008 and the following years as an example, Francis points to the deep anthropological crisis which characterizes our time in that it “denies the pre-eminence of human beings.” 
The worship of the golden calf (Ex 32, 1-15) today is demonstrated by the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an economy without a human face, lacking a real human purpose (cf.55). He denounces the unbridled greed for power and property as well as “ideologies that defend the absolute autonomy of the market and financial speculation” (cf. 56). This denies the state’s right of control, whose intrinsic task is to protect the common good. The idolatry around the market concentrating on the increase of profit, disregards all that is weak and equally disregards environment (cf. 56). Money must serve, not rule (cf.58). 
The Pope calls for ethics based on God and cares for a more humane social order. He quotes an old saying from Saint John Chrysostom: “Not to share one’s own wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs” (57).
It may be that such words in particular have raised the criticism from certain economic circles of Francis being naïve. He clearly puts a finger in the wounds of unjust social order and the unbridled economic system. He speaks for instance of unfettered consumerism going along with social inequality, the arms race and corruption. He also clearly sees the mechanism that accuses the poor of violence. And prophetically he levels the accusation: “Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles” (60).
According to Francis, society lacks the capacity to feel compassion, to hear the outcry of the poor and to weep when faced with the desperate situation of the poor. He talks of a “globalization of indifference” (54). He wants to overcome this and restore human compassion in all people. By no means has he despised economy nor does he condemn the rich, he has clearly stated: “The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings” (58).
The presentation on economy so far showed Francis’s concern regarding some important challenges according to the methodological three steps: seeing, judging and acting.
Now let us turn by way of example towards Christian acting in the sense of evangelization and come to the numbers 176-216 of the EG.
In his introduction to chapter 4 (The Social dimension of Evangelization)- in number 176- Francis points out that evangelization means “to make the Kingdom of God present in our world”. Thereby he underlines something which is important and which we should keep in mind: if evangelization does not duly consider the social dimension we run “the constant risk of distorting the authentic and integral meaning of the mission of evangelization” (176). With this, Francis again reverts to what he had said already in number 61, i.e. “We also evangelize when we attempt to confront the various challenges which can arise”, such as social exclusion, inequality etc. Francis thus does away with a narrow understanding of evangelization which only aims at a mere proclamation by words. Francis bases the Church’s social responsibility on the doctrine of Trinity and anchors it at the very center of our Faith. The social commitment thus is not something occasional, which could be added to evangelization. It is in fact a core dimension! Francis speaks of an “inseparable bond”, which- if it gets lost- would “make us lose our amazement, our excitement and our zeal for living the Gospel of fraternity and justice!” And, theologically profound, he adds: “God’s Word teaches that our brothers and sisters are the prolongation of the incarnation for each of us: As you did to one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it to me (Mt 25, 40)” (179).
Theologically, Francis even goes one step farther: The Gospel’s offer does not just consist of a personal relation with God. God offers the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk 4,43). Thus our answer to his love should not “be seen simply as an accumulation of small personal gestures to individuals in need” (180). In his own figurative language Francis refers to this as “a kind of charity a la carte”, a series of good deeds in order to calm our conscience. This I understand is a clear statement at the rich and at the Church in rich countries. The point is to love God who wants to rule the world. “To the extent that He reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity” (180). Evangelization understood this way, striving for the Kingdom of God, has a universal dimension; it encompasses all people, all social classes, all peoples and the whole of Creation (Cfr.181). An authentic Faith is eager to change the world and participate in constructing a better world with decisive consequences for economic life. Because then not our personal wellbeing is given priority, but the common good. This explains Francis’s main concerns: social integration of the poor, and peace and social dialogue (Cfr.185).
God’s Kingdom, which God offers and to which we all are called, is incompatible with injustice, poverty and exclusion of part of humanity. What he demands is solidarity: “The word solidarity is a little worn and at times poorly understood” (188). Solidarity is more than a few sporadic acts of generosity. “It presumes the creation of a new mindset” (188) which recognizes the social function of property and the universal destination of goods as realities which come before private property. “The private ownership of goods is justified by the need to protect and increase them, so that they can better serve the common good” (189). Referring to Saint John Chrysostom’s wise saying, the Pope explains that the poor must be given back what is rightfully theirs. This asks for dealing with the structural causes of poverty and injustice.
And Francis describes another dimension of solidarity: We must hear the cry of the poorest peoples; respect the rights of the peoples and not alone the human rights. He widens the scope to encompass the whole planet which is to serve the wellbeing of all humankind “…the mere fact that some people are born in places with fewer resources or less development does not justify the fact that they are living with less dignity” (190). The more fortunate, Francis demands, should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others. We cannot do without solidarity; its lack will have direct influence on our relationship with God. Here Francis refers to the first letter of John which says: “If someone has worldly possessions and sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?” (3,17).
Basing his arguments on theology and the Social Teaching of the Church, Francis turns to economy. Someone who like him has profound knowledge of the life of the poor says that elimination of the structural causes for poverty is a matter of urgency that can no longer be postponed. The hungry or sick child of the poor cannot wait. Apart from this pragmatic view Francis recognizes in those unjust structures an illness of the system as such. “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems” (202). Any economic policy therefore must be re-structured focusing on the dignity of each individual and on the common good (cf. 203). We no longer are to trust the blind forces and invisible hand of the market. Economy should reject a mere economic growth and increase of profit at any price, which means even at the price of excluding workers, because it is growth in justice that should set the direction.
To bring about such change of mindset in economy it needs entrepreneurs practicing solidarity. Such acting Francis designates as “noble work” (203). Thus the Church does by no means despise the rich, as critics from economic circles argue against EG. Francis is also not against the efforts of business to increase the goods of the earth. The basic condition however, is that it serves the common good.
In this connection Francis also talks of the role of politicians. Their work he regards “one of the highest forms of charity, in as much as it seeks the common good” (205). Here he sees- referring to Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate”- the “principle of love” put into practice. We are used to linking this principle of love to the micro-relationships, as friendship, family and small groups, but it must be extended to macro-relationships encompassing the social, economic and political relationships. Francis has a high opinion of politics in as far as it can be oriented towards overcoming the absolute dichotomy between economy and the common good, taking the poor’s needs seriously and guaranteeing fair access to the common goods (cf. 205)”. 
To end, I would like to comment numbers 205, 206 and 241 of EG.
The document correctly stresses the importance of politics and common good-oriented governance for a more inclusive economy and society.  For that purpose, however, it is not enough to appeal to the individual morale of politicians.  More importantly, the electorate should be educated about common good-oriented governance in order to take more informed decisions when casting their ballots and to be able to hold their governments responsible and accountable in the years between the elections.  What is necessary is a “culture of political participation.”
The church should encourage the lay faithful to take a keen interest in public affairs and get involved in civic activities oriented towards the common good.  Even though politics is often regarded as a “dirty” game, who else than committed Christian citizens can clean it up?
The global common good calls for better global governance.  This holds especially true for the protection of the environment and natural resources, the financial and monetary systems and international trade.  Beyond the respective international organization, there is a need for a global civil society.  The church is a global player who could facilitate global cooperation in that respect and work towards global alliances for global “common good oriented governance.”
The document rightly positions the Church as an important player of civil society.  Her commitment to the common good makes her a sincere mediator of cooperation between various sectors of society.  For that purpose, she should not be afraid to enter into alliances with other social forces of good will in order to promote a more inclusive society and integral human development.