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Pope names long-time Vatican diplomat as deputy of Secretariat of State

Vatican City, Aug 15, 2018 / 04:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis Wednesday named Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps for over 25 years, the ‘sostituto,’ or ‘substitute,’ of the Secretariat of State.

Apostolic nuncio to Mozambique since 2015, Pena will start in the position of substitute Oct. 15, according to a Vatican statement Aug. 15.

Pena, 58, began diplomatic service to the Holy See on April 1, 1993, and has served in Kenya, Yugoslavia, the United Nations Office in Geneva, and in apostolic nunciatures in South Africa, Honduras, and Mexico. He was nuncio to Pakistan from 2001 to 2014.

Born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, he was ordained a priest in 1985, and made a bishop in 2011. He studied canon law and speaks Spanish, Italian, English, French, Portuguese and Serbo-Croatian.

Pena takes over the position from Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who resigned June 29 in anticipation of beginning his assignment as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints later this summer.

Becciu, 70, who was elevated to the cardinalate June 28, served in the Secretariat of State, under both Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, beginning in 2011. He will start at the congregation for saints Aug. 31.

It is yet unknown if Pena will join Pope Francis as part of the papal entourage on his trip to Dublin Aug. 25-26.

The Secretariat of State is the central governing office of the Catholic Church and the department of the Roman Curia which works most closely with the pope.

Since the publication of Pastor Bonus, Pope John Paul II's 1988 apostolic constitution which introduced a reform of the Roman Curia, the Secretariat of State has been divided into two sections: the Section for General Affairs and the Section for Relations with States.

The substitute, who must be a bishop, acts as head of the Section for General Affairs, which is responsible for the everyday affairs and service of the pope, including overseeing the facilitation of appointments within the Roman Curia, the duties and activity of representatives of the Holy See, and the concerns of embassies accredited to the Holy See.

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher is the secretary for Relations with States, often described as the Vatican’s “foreign minister.”

As of November 2017, Pope Francis established a third section of the Secretariat, specifically to oversee the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, stationed around the world.

Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski is at the helm of the third section, called the “Section for Diplomatic Staff.” Previously apostolic nuncio to Gabon, in 2015 Pawlowski was appointed head of the Office for Pontifical Representations, a sort of human resources office within the Secretariat of State.

Fight evil with action – not apathy, Francis says

Vatican City, Aug 12, 2018 / 05:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- It is not enough for Catholics to not do bad things, they must counter evil by actively living out charity in the performance of good deeds, Pope Francis told young people and others in St. Peter’s Square Sunday.

“If we do not oppose evil, we feed it tacitly. It is necessary to intervene where evil spreads; because evil spreads where there are no daring Christians who oppose with good, ‘walking in love,’ according to the warning of St. Paul,” the pope said Aug. 12.

Speaking to around 90,000 people in St. Peter’s Square and the adjoining street before the recitation of the Angelus, Francis warned that people are guilty of the sin of omission when they could do something good but choose not to.

“It is not enough not to hate, it is necessary to forgive,” he said. “It is not enough not to have a grudge, we must pray for [our] enemies… it is not enough to not speak badly about others, we must stop when we hear someone talking badly.”

The pope addressed, in particular, Italian young people, who had made a pilgrimage to Rome as a way to pray for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on youth, urging them to be “protagonists of the good!”

He noted that because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in every baptized person, Christians must strive to live their lives “in a coherent manner,” renouncing evil, temptation, and sin, saying “no” to a culture of death, and by adhering to the good and doing good.

St. Paul urges in his letter to the Ephesians, remove “all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling… along with all malice” and replace it with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness, “as God has forgiven you in Christ,” Francis said.

He explained that many times he has heard people say that they do not hurt anyone with their actions – “All right but are you good?” the pope asked. To not do harm, but meanwhile neglect to live out the virtues, leads to apathy and indifference, he said.

Such an attitude is contrary to the Gospel and contrary to the character of young people, “who by nature are dynamic, passionate and courageous.”

“Remember this,” he said, quoting St. Albert Hurtado: “It is good not to do evil, but it is bad not to do good.”

Noting the walking pilgrimage many of those present had made to reach Rome, he said, “therefore, you are trained and I can tell you: walk in love!”

“Let’s walk together towards the next Synod of Bishops… May the Virgin Mary support us with her maternal intercession, so that each of us, every day, with deeds, can say ‘no’ to evil and ‘yes’ to good,” he concluded.

Francis continues to watch abuse response in Chile, Vatican says

Vatican City, Aug 11, 2018 / 09:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis held a meeting on the abuse scandal in Chile and will continue to follow the actions of the country’s bishops’ conference in response to the crisis, the Vatican press office said Friday.

According to press office vice director, Paloma Garcia, Francis is following “with interest” the response of the Chilean bishops and “has expressed his desire to continue to clarify all the questions in order to give a just answer to everyone.”

The pope met with Bishop Juan Ignacio González of San Bernardo and Ana María Celis Brunet, president of the Chilean National Council for the Prevention of Abuse, in the Vatican’s Santa Marta House Aug. 10.

An attorney, Celis was appointed to the position in early August by the Chilean bishops, during a week-long meeting to consider the roots of the crisis of sexual abuse in the Church in their country and to define guidelines to implement in their dioceses.

The Vatican statement on their meeting said the aim was “to get information and exchange views on the steps being taken in Chile to deal with cases of abuse and to prevent them from happening again.”

The conversation also referenced the suffering of victims and the need to provide “consolation and reparation.”   

Friday’s meeting follows similar encounters the pope conducted over the last few months with victims of abuses which occurred at Fr. Fernando Karadima’s Sacred Heart parish in Santiago.

Karadima, a Chilean priest who committed sexual abuse, and abuse of power and conscience, was convicted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011 of abusing minors, and sentenced to a life of prayer and penance. He has not been sentenced by civil courts because of Chile’s statute of limitations.

A sacerdotal association which Karadima had led, the Priestly Union of the Sacred Heart, was suppressed within a year of his conviction.

Pope Francis Aug. 6 wrote to the Chilean bishops’ conference to express his approval of their newly-adopted plan to prevent future instances of sex abuse within the Church.

“I was impressed by the work of reflection, discernment, and decisions that you have made,” the Pope wrote in his Aug. 5 letter to Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamales of Chile’s military diocese, who is president of the Chilean bishops’ conference.

Francis was responding to the Aug. 3 statement issued at the conclusion of the week-long meeting of the Chilean bishops to address the sexual abuse crisis.

The bishops acknowledged they had failed in their duty as pastors in the face of the cases of sexual abuse committed by priests and presented some short- and medium-term measures in order to determine the truth and to secure justice and reparation for the victims.

Waiting for a new deputy at the Vatican Secretariat of State

Vatican City, Aug 9, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis’ trip to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families will be likely his first international trip not to include the “sostituto,” or deputy, of the Vatican Secretariat of State among the papal entourage.
Since the former “sostituto”, Giovanni Angelo Becciu, was created cardinal and promoted to lead the Congregation for the Cause of Saints in May, the position has been vacant.
The pope was expected to fill the position once Becciu’s mandate formally ended at the end of June, but he did not do that.
Now that the trip to Ireland is approaching, reports are spreading that Pope Francis might appoint Becciu’s successor by the end of the week.
The position of the “sostituto” is important for the functioning of the Secretariat of State and the entire Roman Cura.
According to Pastor bonus, the apostolic constitution that defines the tasks and competencies of Curial offices, the “sostituto” is at the helm of the first section of the Secretariat of State, the section on “general affairs.”
In practice, the “sostituto” works as a coordinator, and as a link between the pope and the secretary of state, becoming in many cases the person closest to the pope.
This is likely the reason Pope Francis wants to ponder carefully who will be the next “sostituto.”
On the other hand, the competencies of the “sostituto” might change some when Praedicate evangelium, the anticipated apostolic constitution updating the governance structures of the Vatican, is published and takes effect, and the pope might be waiting for the promulgation of that document before appointing a person to the role.
The Secretariat of State has already changed its shape under Pope Francis; the pope established in November a third section dedicated to the pastoral care of nuncios and other diplomatic personnel.
The newly established department took on the competencies of the Office for Pontifical Representatives, which was previously under the first section of the Secretariat. As the same time, the third section also absorbed some of the tasks generally entrusted to the first section, among them the presentation to the pope of three candidates for an nuncio position, and granting special permissions or delegations to nuncios.
The new “sostituto” will be called to work out a transition toward a new modus operandi of the Secretariat of State.
There has been a great deal of speculation about who will be picked for the job.
The “sostituto” is entrusted with general affairs, so it is not a diplomatic role, as is the Secretary for the Relations with States, who heads the Second Section. However, lately the “sostituto” have been from picked among the ranks of papal nuncios, as all of them have had experience and in its diplomatic work.
Since the position of the sostituto was created in 1831, there have been 20 deputies to the Secretary of State, and 17 of them were Italians. The tradition of an Italian “sostituto” was broken under John Paul II, who picked the Spanish Eduardo Martinez Somalo (1979 – 1988),  the Australian Edward Idris Cassidy (1988 – 1989) and the Argentinian Leonardo Sandri (2000 – 2007).
Since 1953, the “sostituto” has always had a past in the diplomatic service.
Will Pope Francis keep that tradition?
Vatican observers claim that the pope will likely choose an active nuncio for the position. Some have speculated that the pope might pick Archbishop Nicola Girasoli, nuncio to Peru, or Archbishop Giordano Caccia, nuncio to Philippines. Other reports say that the top candidate for the position might be Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See Observer to the United Nations in New York.
It is also rumored that the pope might appoint Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano as “sostituto”- he is a long term friend of the pope, he is serving as secretary of the Council of Cardinals, and so he would be the well positioned to oversee Curia reform – including that of the Secretariat of State.
However, there is no consensus candidate within the Vatican corridors. Names circulate in conversations with Vatican officials, but they are considered to be, at best, possibilities.
Among the possibilities, there is a new entry who could represent a concrete option for the future: Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, apostolic nuncio to Mozambique.
Archbishop Peña Parra fits many of Pope Francis’ priorities.
First, he is not Italian, and Francis seems keen to dispense with an overreliance on Italians.
Second, he comes from Venezuela: with his appointment, Pope Francis might further show his attention to the situation in that country, where every Church mediation in the messy political situation has thus far failed.
Third, he was apostolic nuncio to Pakistan from 2011 to 2015, a country to which Francis has paid particular attention, even appointing a cardinal from Pakistan at the last consistory.

Peña Parra therefore has a deep knowledge of two of the scenarios that Pope Francis deems important. In addition, his doctoral dissertation has become a reference point for study of human rights, an issue of importance to the pontiff.
At the moment, and for all of these reasons, the appointment of Archbishop Peña Parra is considered a strong possibility. However, Vatican sources have maintained that “the pope will make his decision alone,” and that “the pope can always surprise us.”
Much will be understood from the timing of the appointment: while it seems really likely that the pope will announce the appoint of the new “sostituto” by the end of the week, the decision can always be postponed to September, when vacation time is over and when the reform of the Curia should renewed in full swing.

Archbishop Fisichella talks Veritatis splendor, Francis, and development of doctrine

Vatican City, Aug 9, 2018 / 01:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an interview with Vatican News marking the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis splendor, Archbishop Salvatore Rino Fisichella said that “the magisterium must never be used instrumentally to place a contrast in the development of the doctrine.”

Veritatis splendor, written on some fundamental questions of the Church's moral doctrine, encouraged a renewal of moral theology and taught that there are intrinsically evil acts, that absolute truths exist across various cultures. It also urged sharp caution against moral relativism and the misuse of conscience to justify false or subjective morals.

Archbishop Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, stated that “when we speak about the truth, we must always have a dynamic concept.”

“The truth is not a 'fixistic' dimension. The truth, for the Christian, is first of all that living Word that the Lord has left us. Let us not forget Jesus who says: 'I am the way, the truth and the life',” the archbishop said.

“Therefore, the dimension of truth opens to a personal encounter: it is the truth of the Gospel, it is the truth represented by the person of Jesus Christ. All that is the content that Jesus wanted to transmit to His disciples, and that comes from the Apostles to us, is a truth that opens up more and more to a discovery of the mystery that has been revealed.”

He said that “there are some fundamental points that remain as milestones in the dogmatic and moral teaching of the Church. These are elements that remain in their immutability.”

“All this then requires from the theologians … a great work of interpretation,” Archbishop Fisichella stated.

Immutable norms “must, however, be continuously opened through the discovery of the truth of the Word of God.”

The archbishop said that in his opinion, the Church “cannot accept an idea of truth closed in on itself. Truth, by its very nature, refers to fidelity and also to freedom: 'The truth will set you free.' A truth that opens up more and more is a truth that makes every believer, every man, discover a more profound freedom. However, this also requires fidelity. The link between fidelity and truth is a typical link in the biblical conception of truth.”

Asked about fidelity to truth and those who criticize Pope Francis for, they believe, diverging from Catholic doctrine, and who refer to Veritatis splendor, Archbishop Fisichella said that “I don’t think there are any grounds that justify challenging the teaching of Pope Francis in the light of the previous Magisterium.”

The question is an implicit reference to the 'dubia letter' sent by four cardinals to Pope Francis in September 2016. The letter asked the Pope to clarify some passages of Amoris laetitia, and four of the five dubia quoted Veritatis splendor and noted that Francis' apostolic exhortation could be interpreted as contrasting with St. John Paul II’s encyclical.

Pope Francis has not responded to the dubia.

The Vatican News interview also comes on the heels of a change to the text of the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding capital punishment, which has been widely interpreted as a change in doctrine.

Archbishop Fisichella said that “when there is an instrumental use” of the Magisterium, “then I fear there is no desire for a discovery of the truth, and also that there is no fidelity to the tradition of the Church. I don’t think there are any grounds that justify challenging the teaching of Pope Francis in the light of the previous Magisterium. On the contrary, we need to reiterate how much continuity there is in development.”

“I think, however, that it is also important to carefully consider the whole teaching of Pope Francis and not just a single particular aspect of it: the mosaic is produced by the whole deck, not by a single card.”

For Archbishop Fisichella, the teaching of Pope Francis is “a great openness in the work of evangelization” without “anticipating the norm of the proclamation.”

According to the prelate, Francis' pontificate is about “being able … to accompany our contemporaries, to walk beside them in order to help them understand, to really understand its application, and sometimes also, perhaps, to take a step back. And so this dimension emerges together with the need for mercy. The Jubilee of Mercy was the concrete sign of how Pope Francis identifies and orients his Pontificate.”

Pope Francis: Trust God – not idols

Vatican City, Aug 8, 2018 / 04:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Attachment to idols is a failure to trust totally in God – and to reject these idols, Catholics must accept their weaknesses, inviting Christ to heal their hearts, Pope Francis said Wednesday.

Healing from the attachment to idols comes from Jesus Christ, “who became poor, who accepted failure, who took our precariousness to the end to fill it with love and strength,” the pope said Aug. 8.

When we let Jesus Christ into our hearts, “we discover that recognizing our weakness is not the misfortune of human life, but it is the condition to open up to who is really strong.”

“Then God’s salvation enters through the door of weakness…” he continued. “Man’s freedom arises from letting the true God be the only Lord. And this allows us to accept our own fragility and reject the idols of our hearts.”

For his weekly general audience, Pope Francis spoke on what he called the “very important” topic of idols, begun the previous week, and part of a larger series of catechesis on the Ten Commandments.

“Everything,” the pope said, “stems from the inability to trust above all in God, to place our safety in Him, to let Him give true depth to the desires of our heart. Without God’s primacy one easily falls into idolatry and is content with meager assurances.”

His catechesis reflected on a passage from the Book of Exodus, in which the Israelites, who were awaiting the return of Moses from the mountain where he would receive the Ten Commandments, fashioned a golden calf and began worshipping it as a god.

The context of this story, the desert, has its own precise meaning, Pope Francis said. “What is the desert? It is a place where uncertainty and insecurity reign – there is nothing in the desert – where there is no water, there is no food and there is no shelter.”

He said the image of the desert represents the uncertainty and lack of guarantee found in human life and noted that the anxiety of life’s unpredictability, or feeling God is not present, can lead people to cling to false, or “custom-made” gods, like the Israelites did with the golden calf.

In the end, the pope said, God’s greater work was not freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt but removing “idolatry from the heart of the people.”

“And yet God continues to work to remove it from our hearts. This is the great work of God: to take away ‘that Egypt’ that we carry within, which is the charm of idolatry.”

“He comes to reveal to us the fatherhood of God; in Christ our fragility is no longer a curse, but a place of encounter with the Father and the source of a new strength from above,” he said.

Why the Feast of St. Dominic is not actually the Dominicans' biggest feast day

Vatican City, Aug 8, 2018 / 03:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Wednesday marks the Feast Day of St. Dominic, the 13th century priest known for founding the Order of Preachers, commonly called the Dominicans, and for spreading devotion to the Rosary.

Surprisingly, though, the Dominicans don’t usually do much to celebrate the saint’s Aug. 8 feast day.

While the August feast “is for us certainly always a feast,” Dominican Fr. Angelo Giuseppe Urru told CNA, it’s not the primary one.

Instead, the order celebrates “more solemnly” May 24, which is the Solemnity of the Translation of St. Dominic.

This unusual feast day commemorates the day St. Dominic’s remains were moved, or “translated,” from their original burial spot behind an altar of the church of San Nicolo della Vigne in Bologna, Italy to a more prominent place in the church in 1233.

For many Dominican provinces, this day is the big celebration, Fr. Urru said.

The move of St. Dominic’s body was carried out at the request of Pope Gregory IX, about one year before the saint’s canonization on July 13, 1234, only 13 years after his death.

As recorded in a letter by Bl. Jordan of Saxony, one of the first leaders of the Dominicans, the brothers were very anxious before the move of the body, because they were worried that when the wooden coffin was uninterred from the stone sepulcher, the body would give off a foul odor, since it had been buried in a poorly constructed tomb, exposed to water and heat.

But they received a great surprise, because when the tomb was opened, a wonderful and sweet perfume emanated from the coffin instead.

“Its sweetness astonished those present, and they were filled with wonder at this strange occurrence. Everyone shed tears of joy, and fear and hope rose in all hearts,” Bl. Jordan wrote.

He reported that the odor remained and if anyone touched a hand or some object to the body, the odor immediately attached itself and lingered for a long time.

“The body was carried to the marble sepulcher where it would rest – it and the perfume that it poured forth. This marvelous aroma which the holy body emitted was evidence to all how much the saint had truly been the good odor of Christ,” he wrote.

By 1240, the church containing St. Dominic’s remains had been expanded into a basilica, and renamed for the saint.

Now, every year Dominican friars, sisters, and laity all over the world celebrate St. Dominic on May 24.

Mass is celebrated at the Basilica of Santa Sabina, the mother church of the Dominicans in Rome, for this feast.

The tradition is for a priest of the Order of Friars Minor, commonly called the Franciscans, to say the Mass and preach. After Mass, the procession of friars stops at the first side chapel, where the Blessed Sacrament is kept, to sing the O Lumen, the Dominican antiphon to St. Dominic.

Besides the tomb with the saint’s body, which is in the basilica in Bologna, there are few relics of St. Dominic in existence.

One relic, a piece of his skull, can be found in Rome. It is at the church of Santa Maria del Rosario, part of a Dominican monastery located on Monte Mario, the tallest hill of Rome.

Fr. Urru said he was not sure how it came to be kept in the monastery, but that it originated when some students in Bologna stole it to have in their chapel.

“There is also the breviary of St. Dominic, a small breviary,” he said.

In 2016, the Dominicans celebrated the 800th anniversary of their founding with a Jubilee Year, culminating in an International Congress for the Mission of the Order, which took place Jan. 17-21 in Rome.

Fr. Urru voiced gratitude for the blessing of vocations, which allow the order’s work to continue.

Thankfully, though there are some provinces which are very small, many are growing and are very strong, he noted, such as those in Vietnam and Africa. The United States as well has seen a good number of new vocations, he said.

Around the world, “there are many initiatives of the order,” and they are working hard still, just as they have the last 800 years.

Ultimately, though, he said, the future of the order is “in the hands of God.”


This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 8, 2017.


Can Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals still deliver on reform?

Vatican City, Aug 7, 2018 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- By most accounts, Pope Francis was elected with a mandate to reform the Roman Curia- the complex network of dicasteries, commissions, and councils charged with the central administrative work of the Catholic Church- a network that, even to insiders and experts, more often resembles a rabbit warren than a well-defined system of governable offices with clear responsibilities.

From the beginning, there were high expectations for Francis, and widespread belief that he could succeed in reforming the Curia. His informality and disdain for protocol -his ability to think ‘outside the box’- led many to believe that under his leadership, the Curial wilds could be tamed.

One month after his election, he made his first major reform announcement: the creation of the Council of Cardinals, tasked with helping him review and reform the entire governing structure of both the Roman Curia and the universal Church.

Cardinals Maradiaga, Bertello, Errázuriz, Gracias, Marx, Monsengo Pasinya, O’Malley and Pell were informally dubbed the C8, later the C9 (Cardinal Parolin was added to the council when he became Secretary of State). Many saw them, and the enormous task they were assigned, as the embodiment of the kind of global perspective the Church needed for Curial reform.

Five years on, Curial dysfunction has been compounded by international crises, and several members of the C9 are themselves mired in controversy. Rather than bringing an end to scandals in the Curia, Rome’s ongoing problems seem- to some observers- to have gone global.

Embroiled in sexual abuse scandals, shady financial dealings, Curial power-plays, and even full-blown doctrinal disputes – rather than becoming the engine of reform, the C9 has, to some, begun to look like a microcosm of everything going wrong in the Church. Critics have begun to ask if the Council of Cardinals, and the whole of Pope Francis’s reforming agenda, still has the credibility to effect any meaningful change.

For example, clerical sexual abuse has reemerged as a major crisis in the Church, and three of C9 are connected directly to issues surrounding sexual abuse allegations.

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa and a close confidant of the pope, is the C9’s official coordinator. For months, he has been dogged by allegations concerning his personal finances. At the same time, his auxiliary bishop and his frequent proxy in the governance of his  archdiocese, Juan Pineda, was forced recently to resign, after allegations were made public that he sexually approached seminarians and maintained a string of male lovers – and allegations were also made that those behaviors were widely known in the diocese and by the cardinal.

In response to that scandal, several seminarians from Tegucigalpa wrote an open letter to the bishops of Honduras, detailing a culture of open and active homosexuality in the seminary, with reprisals taken against those who spoke out. Cardinal Maradiaga reportedly denounced the letter’s authors and their motivations for writing it.

Cardinal George Pell, another member of the C9, has had to return to Australia to defend himself against “historic” allegations of sexual abuse. While the trial is ongoing, the cardinal is vigorously defending himself in court against the charges, and questions have been asked about the methods of Victoria police during their investigation.

Furthermore, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, a C9 cardinal who was known to be a close friend of the pope before his election, has emerged as a central figure in the disastrous Chilean abuse scandal.

Though he retired as Archbishop of Santiago in 2010, Errázuriz is alleged to have participated in cover-ups of clerical sexual abuse in Chile over a period of years, – including the abuse of notorious Fernando Karadima. It has also been reported that he tried to prevent Juan Carlos Cruz, the most visible and vocal of the Chilean abuse victims, from being appointed as a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Young People.

While five Chilean bishops have had their resignations accepted by Francis, and although Archbishop Theodore McCarrick made history recently by resigning from the College of Cardinals in the wake of his own scandal, Errázuriz remains both a cardinal and a member of the C9.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, whose public intervention was credited with the pope’s change of heart toward Juan Carlos Cruz and the other Chilean victims, is widely considered to be the Church’s most credible voice in speaking out against sexual abuse. Yet the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he leads, has seen the resignation of two high-profile members, both survivors of sexual abuse. One of them, Marie Collins, has spoken often about her frustration that the Commission’s recommendations have not been adopted in the Curia or by national bishops’ conferences.

And O’Malley has faced criticism over reports that in 2015 his office received a letter from a priest detailing allegations against McCarrick, but issued only a staff member’s response, saying that the allegation was not the cardinal’s responsibility to address.

If the president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, a member of the C9, cannot advance binding reforms in the Curia, or even instill a culture of moral responsibility in his own staff, some working in Vatican tell CNA they are left wondering whether meaningful change can be expected to get beyond rhetoric.

Meanwhile, the structural reform of the Curia rumbles on, with Vatican departments being newly created, combined and renamed.

Initially, the most important of these new developments was the creation of the Prefecture for the Economy, led by Cardinal Pell. But even before Pell had to return to Australia, it became clear that bringing transparency and accountability to the Vatican finances was going to be an uphill slog.

In 2016, the Secretariat of State cancelled an external audit of  Curial finances that had been arranged by Pell’s department. The cancellation was ordered by then Archbishop, now Cardinal, Angelo Becciu. It was widely seen as an old-fashioned power-play - neither Becciu nor anyone else at the Secretariat of State technically had the authority to overrule Pell and the Prefecture for the Economy. That Francis was persuaded to back the move, granting it legal authority after-the-fact, was seen a serious blow to financial reform in the Curia.

In June 2017, Pell’s departure for Australia coincided with the dismissal of the first Vatican auditor-general Libero Milone. Milone was fired in dramatic fashion by the Secretariat of State, once again through Angelo Becciu, while being accused of “spying” on the finances of senior officials and facing the threat of prosecution.

Milone maintained that he was fired for being too good at his job, and because he and the reforming work of the Prefecture for the Economy were a direct threat to the Curial old guard. In May of this year, the Vatican quietly announced it had dropped all charges against Milone, but the financial reforms he and Pell were working towards appear to have been effectively dropped as well.

Despite expectations that the C9 would deliver a comprehensive reform of the Roman Curia, the results have been decidedly haphazard. New ‘super-dicasteries,’ like the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, were announced with much fanfare, but thus far, without clear mandates of responsibility and processes for oversight, changes to the names of departments appear to be about as tangible as the reforms have gotten.

Meanwhile, as other departments like the Prefecture for the Economy have had their wings very publicly clipped, the Secretariat of State has seen its influence grow under Cardinal Parolin, to the point where virtually all Vatican business, either formally or informally, comes under its purview.

Ironically, some in Rome claim that Parolin’s greatest coup was arranging for his personal rival and nominal deputy, Angelo Becciu, to be made a cardinal and moved to the far less influential Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

Parolin has also been known to take a personal interest in high-profile disciplinary cases handled at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “checking in” with the CDF to monitor their progress – something unthinkable in previous decades. Outside of Rome, bishops in far corners of the world have been awakened by phone calls from the cardinal weighing in on those local issues of Church governance that may have caught his attention.

A capable diplomat and politician, Parolin has managed to thrive in a Vatican where foundering structural reforms have disrupted traditional spheres of influence and centers of power, and the day-to-day authority he has centralized in his own department is considerable.

If the reformed Curia under Pope Francis has become, perhaps accidentally, ever more administratively centralized, doctrinally the pull is in the other direction.

On a whole range of issues, most notably the pastoral implementation of Pope Francis’ 2016 exhortation Amoris laetitia, bishops’ conferences have begun articulating very different approaches to what were, until recently, universal points of teaching and discipline.

Many of the more radical approaches have begun, or at least been strongly championed in Germany, where the national bishops’ conference is led by Cardinal Reinhard Marx. As de facto head of the German Church, Marx has been closely associated with some highly controversial pastoral policies, most notably the recent proposal to allow protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Communion.

The way in which the German bishops have effectively refused to take no from Rome as an answer is seen to demonstrate how weak the CDF has become, and how little Parolin’s preeminent state department can do, for all its administrative clout, on matters of discipline.

Some have noted that Marx and the German Church can act with a level of autonomy, even impunity, because of their vast financial resources. It is certainly not coincidental that Cardinal Marx also serves as the coordinator for the Vatican’s Council for the Economy.

The Church tax, by which the German government awards the local Church a proportion of the income tax of every citizen who registers as Catholic, has kept German dioceses fabulously wealthy, even as actual church buildings empty at a staggering rate.

The German bishops send millions of euros abroad each year, and with the Church in some parts of the world – and even parts of the Vatican – depending on Teutonic largesse, Marx can publicly muse about theological issues in a way that progressive bishops elsewhere would not dream of doing.

The result of the peculiar Parolin-Marx dynamic is that, under Francis, the Church has inched toward a federalized approach to teaching and discipline, even as administrative power in the Curia becomes more centralized.

It is possible that this situation will be reversed, or at least placed into some more coherent context, if and when the C9 produces a final version of a new governing constitution for the Vatican’s departments. A first draft was apparently presented to the pope in June of this year, but there is no clear indication of when a final document might be made public, let alone brought into force.

In the meantime, Curial politicking and scandal continues to rumble on, and the global sexual abuse crisis shows no signs of meaningful resolution.

Five years ago, the C9 was created to reassure the world that the best leaders from the global Church were hard at work to deliver on the Franciscan promise of reform. Today, with several of its members directly implicated in personal scandals and others publicly maneuvering for their own agendas, the Council of Cardinals seems every bit as tainted as the structures it was tasked to reform.

Famously reliant on people he knows and trusts to work his will, Pope Francis may be fast running out of credible collaborators, and that is likely to create a whole new problem for the universal Church.

How papal diplomacy began a new approach in 1914

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2018 / 03:09 pm (CNA).- Pontifical diplomacy took on a new approach in 1914, with the election of Benedict XV as pontiff. The viewpoint of that moment is captured in a snapshot: a report from the Secretariat of State on papal diplomacy, drafted at the time of Benedict XV’s election.
That report was is published in a new book, “From Pius X to Benedict: Pontifical Diplomacy in Europe and Latin America in 1914”, written by Church historians Roberto Regoli and Paolo Valvo.
How did the Holy See change its approach to diplomacy?
In 1914, the Holy See had just 9 nunciatures established in the world. Ties with European countries were decreasing, while relations with Latin American countries we on the rise.
In 1871, the Papal States were seized by the Italian troops who headed to Rome to make it the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. The Papal States thus lost their territory, and the Holy See became a kind-of state without territory, though it kept up its diplomatic relations.
In Europe, the Church had no strong allies: Italy, Austria and Prussia had signed in 1882 the Triple Alliance, while France was under such strong secularizing trends that brought to the 1905 Law on Separation between Churches and States.
As a consequence of the European political dynamic, the Church was forced to look further afield for diplomatic partners. In 1893, Pope Leo XIII opened an apostolic delegation to United States, and in 1899 another apostolic delegation was established in Canada.
A pontifical representation was opened in Central America in 1908 and in Venezuela in 1909, while in 1904 an apostolic visitor was appointed for Mexico, and a delegate was sent to Haiti.
The Holy See’s presence in Asia was also strengthened: in 1884, there began a pontifical delegation in India, and in 1905 Pope Pius X sent a delegation to Japan to study the possibility of establishing papal representation there. A pontifical delegate was appointed for China in 1922.
Given this data, it is no surprise that Latin America was the area of significant interest in the 1914 report on pontifical diplomacy. The report described the situation of 12 Latin American countries and of 7 European countries. Among those countries, great space was given to Serbia because of a covenant the Holy See had signed June 24, 1914.
The covenant was considered a template for similar agreements in Europe, and it is clear by the reports that the defense of religious interests and religious liberty was one of the central areas of importance for pontifical diplomacy in Europe
Latin America had become one of the Church’s main interests, as the countries there were undergoing a shift, too: governments had shed colonial ties, but at the same time they sought the same guarantees the Church had granted to the colonial powers.
In order to evangelize the New World, the Church had given the European kingdoms many concessions, even some influence in appointing new bishops. This was part of a Church-state bond that would be considered unacceptable now. At the time, however, they were part of a widespread practice, one that did bear good fruit, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, recently said.
Under Benedict XV, a shift in pontifical diplomacy was clear. The bilateral relations, though fundamental, were step-by-step set aside by a more multilateral approach. The main outcome of the multilateral approach was Benedict XV’s efforts for peace, which resulted in a letter he sent Aug. 1, 1918 to warring countries.
Benedict XV also worked to get rid of the system of “protectorates,” the concessions and agreements made with colonial powers who acted as the real guarantors for the evangelization in outward-bound countries.
This resulted in Benedict XV’s 1919 encyclical Maximum illud on missionary activity, which called for the formation of local bishops in territories of mission. Following that call, Pius XI later ordained the first Chinese bishops.
Valvo and Regoli noted that “it is evident that the ‘diplomatic mind’ of the 1914 report had rather pastoral and ecclesial policy priorities.”
One example is the Church’s relationship with France.
“The key of understanding to the relation with France is that of the pure defence of religious interests”, the authors write.
Given the French 1905 law on separation between the Church and state, and increasingly tense relations with the French state, which granted no juridical status to the Holy See, the Holy See made the decision to affirm the French protectorates in the Near and Far East in order to keep connections with France.
Despite the need to keep the links with France, the Law on the Separation of the Churches and the State also had a positive effect: the Pope could independently appoint the bishops, without any interference of the government.
Another example was the approach toward Latin America.
In South America, the Holy See had a nunciature in Brazil, and diplomatic ties in Argentina and Chile. Pontifical representatives had diplomatic rank in Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Perù and Venezuela.
The Holy See also was very active “in countries where there was a tendentially hostile separation between Church and States.”
In sum, before the pontificate of Benedict XV, the Holy See had tried to sign concordates or covenants in order to promote a confessional model of state, wherein the Catholic religion could have a predominant position, giving in exchange the possibility of advancing suggestions to fill the vacant sees of bishops, for example.
Benedict XV’s model was different. As the Holy See lost its structure and most of its secular privileges, Benedict XV promoted a more spiritual role for nuncios, whose task became more pastoral than political, and whose effort in helping the pope to identify new possible candidates for bishops becomes crucial.

After this shift, the Holy See began to be perceived as a neutral figure in the disputes between state, and this led to increased significance of its diplomatic activity. The 1929 Lateran Treaty signed with Italy, which granted the Holy See a small territory, paved the way for the building of a diplomatic network with a large impact because of its reputation for neutrality.
The Holy See now has diplomatic ties established with 183 countries: fairly more than the 9 countries that enjoyed full diplomatic ties with the Holy See back in 1914.
The Holy See’s diplomatic agenda, in the end, is that of the common good, and the relations with states are a tool to achieve it.


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