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Atomic bombs contrary to peace: Pope Francis 75 years after Hiroshima attack

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2020 / 10:04 am (CNA).- Nuclear weapons are not compatible with the flourishing of peace, Pope Francis said in a letter to Hiroshima to mark the 75th anniversary of the release of an atomic bomb over the city.

“It has never been clearer that, for peace to flourish, all people need to lay down the weapons of war, and especially the most powerful and destructive of weapons: nuclear arms that can cripple and destroy whole cities, whole countries,” Pope Francis said in a letter to the governor of Hiroshima, Hidehiko Yuzaki.

The year 2020 marks 75 years since the 1945 nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Japanese.

Pope Francis visited the hypocenters of the bombings in Nagasaki and Hiroshima during his apostolic visit to Japan in November 2019.

He said his visit to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial and to Hypocenter Park in Nagasaki allowed him to reflect “on the destruction of human life and property wrought in these two cities during those terrible days of war three quarters of a century ago.”

“Just as I came to Japan as a pilgrim of peace last year, so I continue to hold in my heart the longing of the peoples of our time, especially of young people, who thirst for peace and make sacrifices for peace,” the pope said.

“I carry too the cry of the poor, who are always among the first victims of violence and conflict,” he added.

In his letter, Francis repeated his words in Nagasaki in 2019, that “the use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral.”

“May the prophetic voices of the hibakusha survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki continue to serve as a warning to us and for coming generations!” he said.

“To them, and to all who work for reconciliation, we make the words of the psalmist our own: ‘For love of my brethren and friends, I say: Peace upon you!.’”

Pope Francis has several times condemned the use of nuclear weapons, including in a video message to Japan ahead of his 2019 visit.

Calling use of the weapons “immoral,” he said he was praying they will never be used again.

Japan “is very aware of the suffering caused by war,” the pope said. “Together with you, I pray that the destructive power of nuclear weapons will never be unleashed again in human history. Using nuclear weapons is immoral.”

Pope Francis appoints six women to economy council

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2020 / 06:49 am (CNA).- Pope Francis on Thursday named 13 new members to the Council for the Economy, which oversees Vatican finances and the work of the Secretariat for the Economy.

Among the six women and one man appointed as new members of the Vatican’s top financial oversight body, are high-level experts in banking, finance, asset management, and international law from Spain, Italy, and Germany, as well as a former member of the British cabinet.

The Council for the Economy was established by Pope Francis in 2014 as part of his program of financial reform. According to its statutes, the body “supervises the administrative and financial structures and activities” of the Roman Curia, institutions of the Holy See, and Vatican City State.

Previously, the members of the economy council, overseen since its creation by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, consisted of eight cardinals, six laymen, and a priest secretary.  

The cardinals newly named to the council by Pope Francis are Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark; Anders Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm; Peter Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest; Odilo Pedro Scherer, Archbishop of Sao Paulo; Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec; and Giuseppe Petrocchi, Archbishop of L’Aquila.

Cardinal Tobin is the second American cardinal to be appointed to the body, following Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.

Among the new lay members are German law professor Charlotte Kreuter-Kirchhof and Maria Kolak, president of the National Association of German Cooperative Banks.

Maria Concepcion Osacar Garaicoechea is president of the board of Azora Capital and Azora Gestion, SGIIC, an independent investment manager. Eva Castillo Sanz is on the board of directors of Spanish bank Bankia and elevator manufacturer Zardoya Otis. 

Ruth Mary Kelly served as Great Britain’s Secretary of State for Education under Tony Blair, and later worked for HSBC Global Asset Management. She is currently pro vice chancellor for research and enterprise at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, a role she will leave at the end of the month.

Leslie Jane Ferrar was treasurer to Charles, Prince of Wales, from January 2015 until July 2017. Among other non-executive and trustee roles, she has been a trustee of the Archdiocese of Westminster for 19 years and non-executive director of real estate investment trust company Secure Income REIT for six years. 

The seventh new lay member, Alberto Minali, resigned May 29 after three years as CEO of Italian insurance company, Societa Cattolica di Assicurazioni. According to Italian newspaper Il Corriere del Veneto, Minali is in a legal battle with his former company for compensation of 9.6 million euros for alleged “lack of a just cause” in removing his control of the bank. The company says the claim is “unfounded.”

Minali also previously worked as chief investment officer of the asset management group Eurizon. 

Minnesota bishop retires early while seeking health treatment

CNA Staff, Aug 6, 2020 / 04:09 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has accepted the early resignation of Bishop John LeVoir, who has led the Minnesota diocese of New Ulm since 2008, and took a leave from his position last month to be assessed for physical and psychological concerns.

“I applaud Bishop LeVoir for recognizing his health concerns and making the request for early retirement. I thank him for his devoted leadership during his tenure as the shepherd of our diocese,” Msgr. Douglas Grams, Levoir’s vicar general in the diocese, said in an Aug. 6 press release.

LeVoir was not expected to retire until at least February 2021, seven months from now, when he will turn 75, the age at which bishops customarily submit letters of resignation to the pope. But the diocese said the bishop has been seeking treatment and assessment at a facility in Alma, Michigan, and will remain at the facility until September to begin a “therapy plan.”

The diocese did not specify what conditions afflict the bishop, who said Aug. 6 “it has been a privilege to have served the faithful of the Diocese of New Ulm.”

“As bishop, it has not only been a great honor, but an enriching experience as I have come to know many people throughout this local Church. I have been impressed by their love for Jesus Christ, their willingness to share their Catholic faith, and their concern for the less fortunate. It would not have been possible to serve as their shepherd without their continued support, cooperation, and prayers,” LeVoir added.

LeVoir, a native of Minneapolis, was ordained a priest in 1981 and was appointed bishop of New Ulm, a town southwest of the Twin Cities, in 2008. With a population under 14,000, New Ulm is believed to be the third-smallest diocesan see in the United States, behind Baker City, Oregon and Crookston, Minnesota, which each have fewer than 10,000 people.

The diocese has 35 priests in active ministry and 7 seminarians, who serve 50,000 Catholics in 60 parishes.

In June, LeVoir acknowledged that the diocese is facing financial difficulties.

The diocese declared bankruptcy in March 2017, after several lawsuits were filed against it pertaining to the sexual abuse of clergy. To date, five Minnesota dioceses have filed bankruptcy; in the state only the Crookston diocese has not yet done so.

LeVoir, who is a Certified Public Accountant and taught accounting at the University of Minnesota before becoming a priest, led the New Ulm diocese through its bankruptcy proceeding.

In his June column, written shortly before he went for treatment, LeVoir wrote that while the diocese had come out of bankruptcy in March, it had not “finished with the healing and welcoming that it needs to do with regards to survivors and the lives of all those whom this great tragedy has touched. We are committed to doing what we can to help those harmed as minors by clergy sexual abuse.”

A financial report issued in June 2020 showed that the diocesan financial condition slightly improved in 2019, but Lavoir wrote in June that  the diocese, the parishes, and the Catholic schools are struggling to make ends meet,” and the financial report did not take into account the effect of the pandemic in recent months.

“To navigate the challenges that we all face, we need Jesus Christ. Please pray and do whatever you can to help by putting Catholic social teaching into practice.”

The college of consultors, a group of senior priests in the New Ulm diocese, is expected to elect a temporary diocesan administrator in the days to come. There is no set timeline for the appointment of a new bishop.

 

Vatican: Baptisms administered 'in name of the community' are invalid

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2020 / 04:03 am (CNA).- The Vatican’s doctrinal office issued Thursday a clarification on the sacrament of baptism, stating changes to the formula to emphasize community participation are not permitted.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded to a question about whether it would be valid to administer the sacrament of baptism saying “We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The formula for baptism, according to the Catholic Church, is “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The CDF ruled Aug. 6 any baptisms administered with the formula “we baptize” are invalid and anyone for whom the sacrament was celebrated with this formula must be baptized in forma absoluta, meaning the person should be considered as not yet having received the sacrament.

The Vatican said it was responding to questions on baptismal validity after recent celebrations of the sacrament of baptism used the words “In the name of the father and of the mother, of the godfather and of the godmother, of the grandparents, of the family members, of the friends, in the name of the community we baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The response was approved by Pope Francis and signed by CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria and secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi.

A doctrinal note from the CDF Aug. 6 said “with debatable pastoral motives, here resurfaces the ancient temptation to substitute for the formula handed down by Tradition other texts judged more suitable.”

Quoting the Second Vatican Council document Sacrosanctum Concilium, the note clarified that “no one, ‘even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.’”

The reason for this, the CDF explained, is that when a minister administers the sacrament of baptism, “it is really Christ Himself who baptizes.”

The sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ, and “are entrusted to the Church to be preserved by her,” the congregation stated.

“When celebrating a Sacrament,” it continued, “the Church in fact functions as the Body that acts inseparably from its Head, since it is Christ the Head who acts in the ecclesial Body generated by him in the Paschal mystery.”

“It is therefore understandable that in the course of the centuries the Church has safeguarded the form of the celebration of the Sacraments, above all in those elements to which Scripture attests and that make it possible to recognize with absolute clarity the gesture of Christ in the ritual action of the Church,” the Vatican clarified.

According to the CDF, the “deliberate modification of the sacramental formula” to use “we” instead of “I” appears to have been done “to express the participation of the family and of those present, and to avoid the idea of the concentration of a sacred power in the priest to the detriment of the parents and the community.”

In a footnote, the CDF note explained that in reality, the Church’s Rite of Baptism of Children already includes active roles for the parents, godparents, and the entire community in the celebration.

According to the provisions laid out in Sacrosanctum Concilium, “each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy.”  

The minister of the sacrament of baptism, whether a priest or lay person, is “the sign-presence of Him who gathers, and is at the same time the locus of the communion of every liturgical assembly with the whole Church,” the explanatory note said.

“In other words the minister is the visible sign that the Sacrament is not subject to an arbitrary action of individuals or of the community, and that it pertains to the Universal Church.”

Vatican II not sole controversial council, Catholic theologian says

Denver Newsroom, Aug 5, 2020 / 03:35 pm (CNA).-  

Amid recent controversy over Vatican II, a theologian said that ecumenical councils have a history of provoking conflict, but their expression and explanation of the Catholic faith is protected by the Holy Spirit.

“The Holy Spirit can't be inconsistent with Himself,” Notre Dame theologian John Cavadini told CNA, but “wrongly interpreted, the statements of an ecumenical council may be inconsistent with previous teaching.”

Cavadini was appointed in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI to serve on the Church’s International Theological Commission, and specializes in the intellectual history of Christianity.

The theologian said Church documents sometimes need clarification, but saying so is not the same as claiming, as some recent critics have, that an ecumenical council might teach or contain errors about the Catholic faith.

The Second Vatican Council was an authoritative meeting of the Catholic Church’s bishops, called an ecumenical council, held in Rome from 1962 to 1965. There have been 21 ecumenical councils in the Church’s history, at which, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “the college of bishops exercises power over the universal Church in a solemn manner.”

Vatican II has been the subject of disagreement since it began.

The council was convened to articulate teachings of the Catholic faith in a matter that might be understood in modernity, to grapple with the Church’s relationship to the secular world, and to address some theological and pastoral questions that had arisen in the decades before it.

Since the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, it has become a decades-long theological project of the Church’s bishops to interpret and understand the fullness of its vision, in a manner consistent with the doctrinal teachings of the Church. That project has led to numerous theological and pastoral initiatives, and also to division.

Some Catholics, including some bishops who attended the Council, felt that attempts to “modernize” the Church’s language or catechesis could lead to equivocation on important issues, or a less precise and direct expression of Catholic doctrine and worship.

Some critics of Vatican II have said that documents produced by the council contain errors, others say they need clarification, while many others have criticized the application of the council in the decades following it, while defending the documents themselves. In some cases, those debates have led to official ruptures in the Church.

In recent months debate over the council itself has become more public, and more acute.

In a June interview, and in other recent letters, Archbishop Carlo Viganò, a former papal representative to the United States, offered a set of criticisms against the Second Vatican Council that attracted considerable attention among some scholars and Catholics, especially because of their source: a former high-ranking Vatican official who had been appointed to positions by Pope St. John Paul and Pope Benedict XVI, both supporters of the Second Vatican Council.

Viganò claimed that at the Second Vatican Council, “hostile forces” caused “the abdication of the Catholic Church” through a “sensational deception.”

“The errors of the post-conciliar period were contained in nuce in the Conciliar Acts,” the archbishop added, accusing the council, and not just its aftermath, of overt error.

Viganò has suggested that the Second Vatican Council catalyzed a massive, but unseen, schism in the Church, ushering in a false Church alongside the true Church.

Last month, some Catholics, including priests, media personalities, and some scholars, signed a letter praising Vigano’s engagement on the topic, and claiming that “Whether or not Vatican II can be reconciled with Tradition is the question to be debated, not a posited premise blindly to be followed even if it turns out to be contrary to reason. The continuity of Vatican II with Tradition is a hypothesis to be tested and debated, not an incontrovertible fact.”

In response to Viganò, Cavadini wrote in July that he sympathizes with Catholic frustrations “regarding the evident confusion in the Church today, the attenuation of Eucharistic faith, the banality of much of what claims to be the Council’s inheritance liturgically, etc.”

“Yet, is it fair to blame the Council, rejecting it as riddled with error? But would this not mean the Holy Spirit allowed the Church to lapse into prodigious error and further allowed five Popes to teach it enthusiastically for over 50 years?” Cavadini asked.

“Further, did the Second Vatican Council really produce no good worth mentioning? Viganò mentions none. True, its liturgical reforms were commandeered by banality in the United States. For example, there is the introduction of hymns with no aesthetic merit but containing doctrinal errors especially regarding the Eucharist, hymns that de-catechized the very Catholics who faithfully attend Sunday Mass,” he wrote, while noting that he had experienced beautiful liturgies in African nations that were the fruit of the Second Vatican Council.

Speaking of one such Mass in Nigeria, Cavadini wrote, that “when, after Communion, the whole assembly recited in unison three times, ‘O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine,’ it seemed that the Holy Spirit was making the deepest possible appeal to our hearts, reaching into our souls, helping us to ‘pray as we ought.’”

The theologian also praised the universal call to holiness contained in Lumen gentium, Vatican II’s document on the Church. The council emphasized that sanctity, or closeness to God, is not only the domain of priests and religious, but of all people.

“It is something which seemed so sublime to me when I first read it at age 19 that the desire to live up to it has never worn off even now,” he wrote.

Cavadini catalogued other aspects of Vatican II he said were important theological or pastoral pronouncements. He said claims that documents of Vatican II planted the “seeds” of theological error do not stand up to scrutiny.

“Is Vatican II a bad seed? Or, is the seed in question rather the lopsided choice of theologians to develop one strand of conciliar teaching at the expense of others? Not to mention pastors who have so prioritized the true good of making Christian teaching accessible and intelligible to modern people that they downplay its uniqueness as embarrassingly outmoded?” he asked.

In comments to CNA, Cavadini emphasized that other councils have been misinterpreted and controversial. His essay noted that after some councils, like the Council of Chalcedon, controversies continued for centuries.

“That a statement would need further interpretation is not a unique feature of this council,” Cavadini said.

The theologian raised an example from the Council of Nicea, which took place in the summer of 325. The council, in a discussion about the Trinity, declared that the Son is consubstantial, or homoousios, with the Father.

“There was a widespread reaction against the word,” Cavadini told CNA, by bishops and theologians who equated it with the third-century heresy of Sabellianism, which had been condemned by the Church’s magisterium.

“It was only when the use of the word hupostasis or persona was clarified and distinguished from ousia or ‘substance’ that the ambiguity was clarified. But -- to emphasize -- this was not an error in the teaching itself, far from it! Yet the very act of making a statement sets up a new situation, which often does require further interpretation.”

When Nicea used the word homoousios, “it was taking up a tainted word,” the theologian said.

“Wouldn’t our critics of Vatican II have cried foul? And error? They just don’t remember that even this most famous of councils was bold enough to risk using a tainted word in a new sense with new intent.”

He added that amid efforts to interpret a document, official clarification of unclear language is sometimes important.

On matters of faith “an ecumencial council is preserved from error” he added, “but this does not mean that everything was expressed as well as it could have been or could be, for the Holy Spirit doesn't guarantee that, but simply that the Church, in her authoritative teaching, is preserved from outright statements of error.”

Cavadini urged that Catholics, and especially Church leaders, read seriously the documents of Vatican II, and work to incorporate them in their understanding of the Church.

The recent controversy, he wrote, and Viganò’s letter, have “at least had the virtue of forcing me to emerge from complacency in accepting half-measures in the reception of the Council. Perhaps others will find themselves with me in the same boat as well.”

 

Catholic social teaching is 'fundamental' to tackling world issues, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Aug 5, 2020 / 05:04 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday the Church is not an expert in the global health crisis, but Catholic social teaching is fundamental to healing the issues faced by the world today.

“Although the Church administers the healing grace of Christ through the sacraments, and although she provides health services in the most remote corners of the planet, she is not an expert in the prevention or treatment of the pandemic,” Pope Francis said at his general audience Aug. 5.

Speaking via livestream from the library of the Vatican’s apostolic palace, the pope stated that the Church “helps with the sick, but she is not an expert. Nor does she give specific socio-political indications.”

“However, over the centuries, and in the light of the Gospel, the Church has developed some social principles that are fundamental principles that can help us move forward, which we need to prepare the future,” he continued.

Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of faith in Jesus Christ, who heals not only physical ailments, but also spiritual.

He pointed to the Gospel’s many accounts of miraculous healings performed by Jesus during his public ministry, including the healing of the paralytic at Capernaum, who had to be lowered through a hole in the roof by his friends.

Quoting the Gospel of Mark, Francis said: “Jesus, having regard to their faith, said to the paralytic: Son, your sins are forgiven.”

“And therefore, Jesus heals,” he noted, “but does not simply heal paralysis: Jesus quashes everything, forgives sins, renews the life of the paralytic and his friends.”

“So, we ask ourselves: how can we help heal our world today? As disciples of the Lord Jesus, physician of souls and bodies, we are called to continue ‘his work, a work of healing and salvation’ in a physical, social and spiritual sense,” Francis said, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The pope said this work of healing is facilitated through the closely related principles found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church; he listed the principles of the dignity of the person, the common good, the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of goods, solidarity, subsidiarity, and care for the earth.

“All these principles express, in different ways, the virtues of faith, hope and love,” he explained.

“In the coming weeks, I invite you to tackle together the pressing issues that the pandemic has highlighted, especially social diseases,” he said.

“And we will do it in the light of the Gospel, the theological virtues, and the principles of the Church’s social doctrine. We will explore together how our Catholic social tradition can help the human family heal this world that suffers from serious diseases.”