Vatican news

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  1. Vilnius, Lithuania, Sep 22, 2018 / 02:36 pm (CNA).- Traveling Saturday to Lithuania, Pope Francis joked that, in the eyes of some, Pope St. John Paul II is considered a saint while he himself is considered “a devil.”

    The pope’s joke came amidst a Sept. 22 conversation with journalists, the Associated Press reported, during which he was presented a book about Pope St. John Paul II, written by long-time papal photographer Grzegorz Galazka.

    Francis joked as he examined the book, reportedly telling reporters “[John Paul II] was a saint, I am a devil.”

    “No, you are both saints!” Galazka responded.

    The pope has shown a similar penchant for self-deprecating humor in the past.

    Talking with reporters in August, he said his role in securing Italy’s reception of controversial controversial migrants had been that of “the devil’s paw.”

    In January, Francis joked with cloistered nuns in Peru that they had come to hear him speak only “to get out of the convent a bit to take a stroll.”

    In 2015, Pope Francis reportedly joked with then-Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa. After a visit, Correa tweeted that Pope Francis had made a joke based on stereotypes about Argentine vanity. “Being Argentine, they thought I would call myself Jesus II,” Francis reportedly told Correa.

    The pope’s trip to Lithuania is the start of a four-day trip through the Baltic states, during which Pope Francis will visit Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, before returning to Rome Sept. 25.

  2. Vatican City, Sep 22, 2018 / 06:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After the signing Saturday of a provisional Vatican-China deal on the nomination of bishops, the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ recognition of seven illicitly ordained Chinese bishops.

    The decision was made “with a view to sustaining the proclamation of the Gospel in China,” according to a Sept. 22 Vatican press brief.

    Those bishops who will now be admitted to full communion with the Church are Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai of Rehe; Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang of Shantou; Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin of Jiading; Bishop Joseph Liu Xinhong of Wuhu; Metropolitan Archishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming; Bishop Joseph Yue Fusheng, apostolic administrator of Harbin; and Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu of Funing.

    The pope also recognized Bishop Anthony Tu Shihua, who died on Jan. 4, 2017, but, according to the press release, “had expressed the desire to be reconciled with the Apostolic See” before his death.

    The statement expressed Francis’ hope that the decision to recognize the bishops, who were ordained by the Chinese government without permission from Rome, would begin a new process “that will allow the wounds of the past to be overcome, leading to the full communion of all Chinese Catholics.”

    The Catholic Community in China “is called to live a more fraternal collaboration, in order to promote with renewed commitment, the proclamation of the Gospel,” he continued. “In fact, the Church exists to give witness to Jesus Christ and to the forgiving and salvific love of the Father.”

    Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, sent a statement commenting on the provisional agreement between the Vatican and China, saying, “today, for the first time all the Bishops in China are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, with the Successor of Peter.”

    “Pope Francis, like his immediate Predecessors, looks with particular care to the Chinese People,” he noted. “What is required now is unity, is trust and a new impetus; to have good Pastors, recognized by the Successor of Peter – by the Pope – and by the legitimate civil Authorities.”

    Addressing the Catholic community in China, including priests, bishops, religious, and laity, he said the pope asks, “above all, the commitment to make concrete fraternal gestures of reconciliation among themselves, and so to overcome past misunderstandings, past tensions, even the recent ones.”

    Parolin said the objective of the deal is pastoral and meant to create greater freedom and autonomy for the Church in China, to aid its mission of spreading the Gospel. Signing the agreement is “of great importance, especially for the life of the Church in China,” he said.

    It was also announced Sept. 22 that Pope Francis has established a new diocese in China, “the Diocese of Chengde,” as a suffragan diocese of the See of Beijing, for “the pastoral care of the Lord’s flock and to attend with greater efficacy to is spiritual good.”

    Its cathedral will be the church of Jesus the Good Shepherd, which is situated in the administrative division of Shuangluan, “Chengde City.”

    According to the statement the diocese's territory will be defined by the civil boundaries of "Chengde City" and will require the modification of the dioceses of Jehol/Jinzhou and Chifeng, as a portion of each will become part of the new diocese.

    The new diocese will be composed of roughly 15,000 square miles with a population of around 3.7 million. There are estimated to be around 25,000 Catholics in 12 parishes served by seven priests.

  3. Beijing, China, Sep 22, 2018 / 04:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An expected agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China on the appointment of bishops was signed Saturday in Beijing, the Vatican announced.

    A Sept. 22 communique said that a meeting was held in which a “Provisional Agreement” was signed concerning “the nomination of Bishops, a question of great importance for the life of the Church,” and creating “the conditions for greater collaboration at the bilateral level.”

    Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the deal is the beginning, not the end, of a process of dialogue between people from “very different standpoints.”

    He said the objective of the accord is “not political but pastoral” and will allow “the faithful to have bishops who are communion with Rome but at the same time recognized by Chinese authorities.”

    It was signed by the heads of the Vatican and Chinese delegations: the Vatican undersecretary for Relations with States, Mons. Antoine Camilleri; and Wang Chao, the deputy minister for foreign affairs of the People’s Republic of China.

    The announcement did not provide details on the content of the agreement but said it “is the fruit of a gradual and reciprocal rapprochement, has been agreed following a long process of careful negotiation, and foresees the possibility of periodic reviews of its application.”

    “The shared hope,” it continued, “is that this agreement may favor a fruitful and forward-looking process of institutional dialogue and may contribute positively to the life of the Catholic Church in China, to the common good of the Chinese people and to peace in the world.”

    Earlier this week, the Global Times (a newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party) reported that Chinese government sources have “stressed that the ongoing negotiations [between the Vatican and China] will stay on the religious level, and will not touch on any diplomatic issue such as the establishment of diplomatic ties between Beijing and the Vatican.”

    Past reports on the deal have indicated the substance could be to give the Chinese government some power over episcopal appointments in exchange for bringing the underground Church above ground, ending the split with the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

    The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association is under the day-to-day direct supervision of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) due to a major change in March 2018 in which the Chinese government shifted direct control of religious affairs to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department (UFWD).

    Some of the bishops appointed by the Chinese government in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association also serve as members of the Chinese Communist Party’s National People’s Congress.

    New regulations on religious practice in China went into effect in February 2018 that codify the increased scrutiny and pressure on religious activities in China. On September 10, the Chinese government placed further restrictions on evangelization, making it illegal for any religious prayers, catechesis or preaching to be published online. This is being enforced via the country’s extensive internet censorship.

  4. Vilnius, Lithuania, Sep 21, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis will arrive in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Sept. 22. During his first day in the city, the pope will take a walk in the streets of the Old City, and he will head toward the Gate of Dawn, one of the ancient points of access to the Lithuanian capital. There, he will pray the Rosary and deliver a speech before an icon of Mary Mother of Mercy.
     
    The speech and the rosary were not initially part of the pope’s schedule in Vilnius. They were a last minute addition to program, and a very meaningful one.
     
    Inessa Caukaskien, a member of the Vilnius pilgrimage center, told CNA that “the Gate of Dawn is one of the most ancient and important place of pilgrimage in Lithuania.”
     
    The Icon of Mary Mother of Mercy is a significant object of devotion. One of the few icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary without the infant Jesus in her arms, it was painted between 1620 and 1630, and dressed and crowned of silver in the 18th century.
     
    The painter is unknown, but the pilgrimage center records more than 8,000 graces obtained thanks to the prayers offered in front of the icon.
     
    It was first known as the painting of the Madonna of the Gate of Dawn Chapel. It was Pope Pius XI who decreed that the name of the icon would become the Icon of the Holy Mother of Mercy.
     
    St. Faustina Kowalska lived briefly in 1929 at the convent of the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy in Vilnius, attracted by this veneration. It was in Vilnius that St. Faustina envisioned for the first time her devotion to Divine Mercy.
     
    Archbishop Gintaras Grusas of Vilnius told CNA that “Sr. Faustina and the image of Divine Mercy are tangibly put together with the Holy Mother of Mercy icon by the fact that the shrine was the first place where the original image of Divine Mercy was exposed for a public veneration.”
     
    He added that “the strong tie with the image of Divine Mercy and the Mother of Mercy Chapel continues to this day, marking Vilnius very much as a City of Mercy.”
     
    “When Saint John Paul II canonized St. Faustina, Grusas continued, “he mentioned the cities where she has been, and among them was Vilnius. He gave a mandate of being apostles of mercy and to continue to spread that message, which is what we are continuing to try to do. This is the city where through St. Faustina, with the help of Bl. Sopocko, we spread around the world the message of mercy, we continue to proclaim that message today.”
     
    St. John Paul II was linked to the Holy Mother of Mercy, too. There is a reproduction of the Icon in the Lithuanian chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica.
     
    “That image,” Grusas told CNA, “is very much beloved by St. John Paul II. As a matter of fact, when he was elected pope, he went to the Lithuanian Chapel to pray in front of the reproduction of the icon. There, he prayed for his papacy. When he came to Vilnius, he also brought his cardinal’s zucchetto here, to fulfill a promise he had made to the Blessed Virgin Mary. So, we have in the sacrity both Cardinal Wojtyla’s zucchetto and also his papal zucchetto, which he left as well.”
     
    John Paul II kicked off his Sep. 4, 1993 visit to Lithuania with the rosary in the Chapel of the  Gate of Dawn. Pope Francis, then, will do the same.
     
    The pope is also scheduled to go to the Shrine of Divine Mercy, where the original image of Merciful Jesus painted under St. Faustina indications is exposed and where perpetual Eucharistic adoration take place.
     
    In this way, Pope Francis will honor his visit to the “city of mercy.”

     

  5. Newark, N.J., Sep 21, 2018 / 09:21 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Newark has announced that he will not attend an October gathering of bishops slated to discuss young adults and vocational discernment. The archbishop cited his pastoral obligations in the archdiocese amid the U.S. Church’s ongoing sexual abuse crisis.

    “This Synod is a uniquely important moment in the life of the Church, and I was honored to have been named by the Holy Father as a member of this special gathering whose topic, Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment, is of vital concern to the Church today and in the future,” Cardinal Joseph Tobin wrote in a Sept. 21 letter to Newark’s Catholics.

    “However, as you are aware, the Archdiocese of Newark suffers greatly as a result of the crisis that continues to unfold. After the revelations of the past summer, I could not see myself absent for a month from our archdiocese and from you, the people entrusted to my care. After prayer and consultation, I wrote to Pope Francis, asking that he dispense me from attending, but assuring him that I strongly support the objectives of the Synod and that I would obey whatever he decided.”

    “The Holy Father responded the next day with a beautiful pastoral and compassionate message. He told me that he understands why I need to stay close to home, and he released me from the obligation to attend the Synod next month,” Tobin added.

    Tobin was a personal appointment of Pope Francis for attendance at the synod of bishops, which will take place Oct. 3-28 in Rome.

    Other U.S. bishops who will attend are Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who was also appointed by Pope Francis to attend, along with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop José H. Gomez, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, and Bishop Robert E. Barron, who were elected as delegates by the U.S. bishops’ conference, and Archbishop William Skurla, leader of the Ruthenian Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, who will participate as an ex officio member of the synod.

    On Sept. 19, Dutch Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, elected by his country's episcopal conference, also announced that he would not attend the synod.

    According to a statement from the Dutch bishops' conference, Mutsaerts "informed Pope Francis that he does not find the time right to keep a synod about young people, in view of the investigations and the news about sexual abuse that has been brought out in America, among others. He therefore chooses not to participate."

    Tobin’s Archdiocese of Newark has been the subject of controversy in recent months. In June, retired Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, formerly of Newark, was revealed to have been credibly accused of serially sexually abusing a teenage boy in the 1970s. McCarrick was subsequently accused of serially sexually abusing another teenage boy, and of sexually coercing and assaulting numerous priests and seminarians for decades.

    Tobin told a journalist in late August that he had heard rumors shortly after his 2017 arrival in the Archdiocese of Newark about McCarrick's sexual misconduct. He said he did not investigate those rumors because he found them unbelievable.

    In August, after reports emerged about homosexual behavior among some Newark priests, and allegations were made public regarding the conduct of a former seminary administrator, Tobin told Newark priests that no priest had “ever spoken to me about a gay subculture in the Archdiocese of Newark.”

    Later that month, Seton Hall University announced an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct at Newark’s Immaculate Conception Seminary, which is connected to the university.

    In his Sept. 21 letter, Tobin said that during a Sept. 14 prayer service at Newark’s cathedral, “I promised that we will act decisively to address the sins and injustices that have been committed against our most vulnerable sisters and brothers and to ensure that victims receive justice. I also acknowledged that rebuilding trust in the leadership of our Church at all levels will require authentic and measurable change.”

    “I am keenly aware that words alone are not enough. We must show by our actions that justice will be done. Never again will we permit the horrific abuses that occurred here and in too many other places in our Church. Never again will we return to ‘business as usual,’ allowing human wickedness, sin or hypocrisy to blind us from the truth or prevent us from doing God’s work.”

    Tobin asked that Newark’s Catholics pray for Pope Francis and the synod, saying that “during the month of October, and throughout the months and years ahead, I will do everything in my power to lead this Archdiocese through processes of renewal and change that break down structures and systems that permit or foster abuse in any form.”

    “I will work for justice, healing and compassion for all.”

     

    Ed. note: This story is developing and has been updated.

     

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