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From Denver to Uganda, St Joseph facilitates an unexpected connection

null / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Denver, Colo., Jan 27, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

When Daniel Campbell saw an email in his inbox last spring from Soroti, Uganda, his first thought was: Am I being scammed?

Campbell, who directs Denver’s St. John Vianney Seminary Lay Division, had recently announced plans to teach a six-week online course that summer on St. Joseph. 

The email in question was, purportedly, from a Catholic priest, who said he wanted to take the course but couldn’t afford to pay. 

Campbell was understandably sceptical at first. But after a few rounds of Googling, Campbell realized the priest was legit. 

That priest, Father Samuel Okiria, serves in the rural eastern part of Uganda, a small country in East Africa. Okiria has served in various capacities in his diocese, including as a teacher, parochial vicar, the bishop's private secretary, and vice-chancellor of the diocese, and will soon serve as a professor at a national seminary. 

Okiria told Campbell in his email that he had heard about the course from an April 2021 article on CNA, and he very much wanted to take the course, but could not afford the $100 fee. 

"He told me, it's ok, I'll be given free access to the class," Okiria told CNA. 

"And then I had the boldness to ask him: I have some other brother priests….could [they] also have access to this St. Joseph class?"

Campbell was more than happy to oblige. In no time, he had granted ten more Ugandan priests access to his online course. 

“Either this is serious, or it’s the most elaborate scam ever,” Campbell recalled to CNA. 

Father Samuel Okiria. Courtesy photo
Father Samuel Okiria. Courtesy photo

The course that Campbell taught during summer 2021 was billed as an intensive, in-depth study of Christ's foster father, based primarily on Scripture, working through the basic chronology of St. Joseph’s life and explaining the theological significance of events involving him. The impetus for the course was the Year of St. Joseph, which Pope Francis declared for the Church at the end of 2020. 

Campbell told CNA that the course attracted 643 people, about 10% of whom tuned in from outside of Colorado, with about 20 U.S. states represented. 

And of course, 11 of those out-of-staters were participating from ten time zones away, in eastern Africa. The Ugandan priests were young, too— some in their 20s and 30s. 

Okiria said part of the reason he so much wanted to pursue the St. Joseph class, and to share it with his fellow priests, is that many of his fellow priests in his diocese are doing their pastoral work alone, with little or no assistance, and needed encouragement. 

He said taking the course and learning more about St. Joseph has helped to rekindle his fatherly heart, and to encourage him to reach out to the underprivileged, the forgotten, and the hopeless. 

Father Okiria’s parish is in an especially poor part of a largely agrarian region, where cattle farming and crops such as potatoes and cassava dominate. He said the people he serves have found it difficult to access healthcare during the pandemic. 

"The St. Joseph class reawakened in me the priestly consciousness of being humble and being relevant to the people, and giving my life to the people in obedience to God's will…to speak less, and act more,” Okiria said. 

"You know, St. Joseph in the Bible is a silent figure...who now speaks to us in his spirituality, in his silence, in his being a guardian."

Father Okiria told CNA that the 10-hour time difference, combined with internet connectivity problems, made it difficult for some of his priest friends to join the classes consistently. But they made the most of the situation, he said, with those who were able to access the course sharing the information they learned with others at clergy meetings. 

Campbell said he received a lot of positive feedback from participants in the course. In particular, he said, people expressed amazement at how much information can be drawn out about St. Joseph— who famously does not say a single word in the Bible— from Scripture. 

But mainly, he said, Campbell sought to convey what an amazingly heroic life St. Joseph lived, in the hopes of encouraging people to emulate him. 

"You realize, hey...this is an incredibly virtuous man. This is a real hero…what kind of graces and what kinds of gifts and virtues must he have actually had to actually do this in such a beautiful way?" Campbell said. 

For those interested in accessing the course now that it is finished, audio recordings of the lectures are available now for purchase for $50 in total

Both Campbell and Okiria said that the experience of connecting with one another despite the vast distance and cultural differences has illustrated for them the universality of the Catholic faith. 

"We are all fragile. We need one another. We need to support and listen to one another," Father Okiria said. 

"Let us live in peace and harmony, and let us be true Catholics in terms of charity and practice."

Grotto vandalized at parish in Northern Virginia

Removal of the remains of statues destroyed at the grotto of Nativity parish in Burke, Va., Jan. 25, 2022. / Diocese of Arlington

Arlington, Va., Jan 27, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Police are investigating after a grotto at a Catholic parish in Burke, Virginia was vandalized Tuesday evening. 

Nativity Catholic Church, is vowing to raise money to replace the statues, which were damaged beyond repair Jan. 25. The parish’s grotto depicted Our Lady of Fatima speaking to the three child visionaries.

In a Jan. 26 letter to his parish, Fr. Bob Cilinski said he was “so saddened” when the vandalism was discovered.  

“The police were notified and came out to document the vandalism and begin their investigation.  Unfortunately, the statues damaged are not repairable,” said Cilinski. “The statues will be removed and we will work to replace them.” 

The statues have since been removed from the grotto, and the parish and diocese are working with the Fairfax County police to investigate the vandalism. Details about any security camera footage or potential suspects were not made available.  

Cilinski encouraged his flock to “be people of peace who value and respect one another,” and to pray for the person who vandalized the grotto. He described the grotto as “a place of prayer, peace, and healing.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington echoed Cilinski’s sentiments in a statement provided to CNA. 

“The vandalism of a statue of Our Blessed Mother at the Church of the Nativity is a tragic and senseless defacing of the sacred. Mary stands as a symbol of peace in a world that needs her now more than ever,” said Burbidge.

“I ask that others join me in prayer for the perpetrator, as any motive behind such an act reflects a troubled soul in need of Our Lord,” said the bishop. 

A local authority condemned the vandalism as an attack on the Catholic community of Fairfax County. Burke is an unincorporated section of Fairfax County, about 15 miles southwest of Arlington.

“I have been recently made aware of a vandalism that took place at the Nativity Catholic Church in Burke,” Jeffrey McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors said in a Jan. 26 statement. 

“This destruction of property and disrespect to our Catholic community is alarming because, at its core, it makes people feel unsafe,” he said. “In Fairfax County, we know our diversity is our strength and we always look to bring more people into our community and make sure they are heard and represented.” 

“Under all circumstances, we reject this hateful action,” said McKay. “I can assure you we will continue to make Fairfax County a community that is safe for everyone.” 

Church and local officials are encouraging anyone with information regarding the vandalism to contact the Fairfax County Police Department.

Pope Francis to speak with Loyola University Chicago students, others in global livestream

null / Vatican Media.

Denver Newsroom, Jan 27, 2022 / 15:11 pm (CNA).

Loyola University Chicago will host a livestream conversation between Pope Francis and college students from around the world next month as part of the Catholic Church’s preparations for the Synod on Synodality.

“I am honored to share news of an historic event involving Pope Francis as he reaches out directly in dialogue with young people across the Americas, facilitated by Loyola University Chicago faculty,” Jo Ann Rooney, president of Loyola University-Chicago, said in a Jan. 26 internal announcement the university provided to CNA.  

“The Pope and the students will address salient issues facing the Church and the world in our times—communion and participation, migration, and care for the planet,” said Rooney. “We look forward to an energetic and inspiring global conversation and are humbled to play a small part in the journey.”

The event, “Building Bridges: A Synodal Encounter Between Pope Francis and University Students” will be a “direct conversation” between the Pope and university students from North, South, and Central America. The event will be livestreamed Feb. 24 at 12 p.m. Central Time. It will be translated live in Spanish, English, and Portuguese.

Those interested may watch the livestream event by registering at the university’s website.

Hosting the event are the university’s Institute of Pastoral Studies, the Department of Theology, and the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage. 

“Loyola University of Chicago is honored to welcome Pope Francis, the first Jesuit and Latin American pope, and university students from across the Americas committed to social justice, serving others, and finding God in all things,” the university said.

It comes as the Catholic Church is engaged in two-year global consultation process to prepare for the 2023 Synod on Synodality. When Pope Francis launched this process at an Oct. 10, 2021 Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, he said it means “taking time to encounter the Lord and one another.”

According to the university, the event with the pope originated when it reached out to Dr. Emilce Cuda, head of the Office of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, to lead a dialogue on the synodal process. At the university’s suggestion, Cuda invited Pope Francis to participate, and he accepted the invitation.

“The Pope will dialogue with these university students, highlighting the contributions of students who are themselves migrants and children of migrants,” the university said. “The students will share concrete educational projects that seek to justly transform environmental and economic realities and the manifold ways their educational commitments can contribute to integrate and empower existential peripheries.”

The university said more information on the event will be forthcoming.

Loyola University of Chicago, affiliated with the Society of Jesus, has about 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Its spring semester classes are being held online through Jan. 31 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shroud of Turin exhibit to be held at Bible museum in DC

The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. / bakdc/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2022 / 14:54 pm (CNA).

The Museum of the Bible will be opening a new exhibit dedicated to the Shroud of Turin next month.

“Mystery & Faith: The Shroud of Turin” will open to the public Feb. 26, and run until July 31. Admission is included with Museum of the Bible admission. The museum is located in Washington, D.C. 

The Shroud of Turin is an artifact that many believe to be the burial shroud of Christ. It is a 14-by-three-foot long piece of cloth stained with the image of a deceased man who had been tortured and crucified. The actual Shroud of Turin is stored in Turin, Italy. 

“One of the things we’ll do in the exhibit is to highlight the Gospel stories and show how the shroud reflects that, and how it’s depicted in the cloth, reflected in the cloth,” Jeffrey Kloha, Ph.D, the museum’s chief curatorial officer, said in a video posted on the Museum of the Bible’s website.

“It really gives us a great opportunity to allow people who might just have a surface knowledge to want to come and dig deeper,” he added.  

The exhibit will feature five exhibit sections and “eight cutting-edge interactives” to teach visitors “about how the Shroud mirrors the Gospels, its history, and its impact on millions of people.” 

Brian Hyland, a curator at the Museum of the Bible, said that one of the interactive stations will feature a recreation of the Shroud of Turin. Visitors will be able to wave their hands over parts of the shroud, which will trigger an audio explanation of how that specific part of the shroud is connected to the Gospel account of the crucifixion. 

“It mirrors the Gospels in the way that the pattern, the wounds on the shroud, match so closely to the Gospels,” said Hyland. “And that ties in to our mission at Museum of the Bible, of telling stories of the Bible.” 

To celebrate the opening of the exhibit, the Museum of the Bible is hosting a “grand opening celebration” on Feb. 26, featuring presentations from four experts on the Shroud of Turin: Russ Breault, Barrie Schwortz, Fr. Robert Spitzer, and Dr. Cheryl White.

EWTN, the parent company of Catholic News Agency, is one of the event’s sponsors. 

Spitzer, a Jesuit priest, is the host of “Father Spitzer’s Universe” on EWTN, as well as the  founder and president of the Magis Institute of Reason of Faith and the the Spitzer Center of Ethical Leadership.

White is a professor of history at Louisiana State University at Shreveport, and is a member of the American Confraternity of the Holy Shroud, serves on the board of the Shroud of Turin Research and Education Association, and is the co-host of the podcast “Who Is the Man of the Shroud?” 

Breault is the president and founder of the Shroud of Turin Education Project Inc., and has been researching the Shroud of Turin for over three decades. 

Schwortz, a retired technical photographer and scientist, was a member of the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project. At the time, he described himself as a non-practicing Jew. In a 2015 profile by Catholic News Agency, Schwortz said that the “science that convinced me” that the Shroud was not an ordinary artifact. 

"I think I serve God better this way, in my involvement in the Shroud, by being the last person in the world people would expect to be lecturing on what is, effectively, the ultimate Christian relic," he told CNA in 2015. 

"I think God in his infinite wisdom knew better than I did, and he put me there for a reason."

The Museum of the Bible was opened in 2017 and claims to be the "world's largest museum dedicated to the Bible." Its founder Steve Green, who is also the president of the craft chain Hobby Lobby.

When the museum was under construction in 2015, Green touted that the museum's collection of Biblical items was one of the largest private collections in the world. Many of those items have since been revealed to be forgeries. 

In 2017, the Department of Justice filed a civil forfeiture complaint and a stipulation of settlement, in which Hobby Lobby agreed to return approximately 3,500 artifacts to Iraq. 

Green had made the purchase of more than 5,500 cuneiform tablets and other artifacts in 2010 after a trip to the United Arab Emirates, despite warnings from experts that some of the items were likely stolen from archeological sites in Iraq.

Most of the artifacts were shipped into the U.S. by foreign antiquities dealers who made false statements on shipping labels and gave fake provenances and invoices, according to the DOJ.

Pope Francis meets Auschwitz survivor on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Pope Francis meets with Holocaust survivor Edith Bruck at the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta, Jan. 27, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2022 / 11:40 am (CNA).

Pope Francis marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday with an hour-long meeting with Auschwitz survivor Edith Bruck.

The Holy See press office said on Jan. 27 that the pope had “a long and affectionate conversation” with the 90-year-old Hungarian-born Jewish writer at his residence, the Casa Santa Marta.

“In particular, both stressed the inestimable value of transmitting the memory of the past to the youngest, even in its most painful aspects, so as not to fall back into the same tragedies,” the press office said.

The pope visited Bruck at her home in Rome in February 2021.

The writer was born in Hungary in 1931 but has lived in Italy since her early 20s. She survived the Nazi concentration camps in Auschwitz and Dachau, where she was sent with her parents, two brothers, and a sister at the age of 12.

Her parents and a brother died in the concentration camps. Bruck and her remaining siblings were freed from the Bergen-Belsen camp by the Allies in 1945.

Bruck previously thanked the pope for highlighting antisemitism during his visit to Hungary and Slovakia in September 2021.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Pope Francis spoke about International Holocaust Remembrance Day — held on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945 — at his general audience on Jan. 26.

He told pilgrims: “It is necessary to remember the extermination of millions of Jews, and people of different nationalities and religious faiths. This unspeakable cruelty must never be repeated.”

“I appeal to everyone, especially educators and families, to foster in the new generations an awareness of the horror of this black page of history. It must not be forgotten, so that we can build a future where human dignity is no longer trampled underfoot.”

Addressing the permanent council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Jan. 27, a Vatican diplomat highlighted the danger of “distortions, including Holocaust denial and revisionism.”

Father Janusz Urbańczyk said: “These distortions are allowing the threat of antisemitism to lurk in Europe and elsewhere.”

According to Vatican News, Urbańczyk added that Holocaust Remembrance Day helped “memory to play its necessary part in the process of shaping a future in which the unspeakable iniquity of the Shoah will never again be possible.”

In a Jan. 27 statement, Bishop Rafał Markowski, chairman of the Polish bishops’ committee for dialogue with Judaism, paid tribute to Holocaust victims.

He said: “We remember their tragic fates, firmly believing that God is the God of Life, and man lives forever in God.”

“We also commemorate the heroic actions of many people, known and unknown by name, who, like St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, did not let themselves be overcome by evil, but overcame it with the power of good.”

“May their stories motivate us to responsibly strive for peace, for respect for life, dignity and freedom of every person and nation.”

US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer formally announces retirement

US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announces his retirement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, DC, Jan. 27, 2022. / Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2022 / 11:32 am (CNA).

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer formally announced his upcoming retirement from the Supreme Court on Thursday, one day after his plans were leaked by NBC News.

“I am writing to tell you that I have decided to retire from regular active judicial service as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,” said a Jan. 27 letter from Breyer to President Joe Biden (D).

Breyer said that his resignation would go into effect when the Supreme Court enters its summer recess, “assuming that by then my successor has been nominated and confirmed.”

At 83, Breyer is the oldest justice on the Supreme Court. He was appointed to the bench in 1994 by President Bill Clinton (D).

“I enormously appreciate the privilege of serving as part of the federal judicial system - nearly 14 years as a Court of Appeals judge and nearly 28 years as a Member of the Supreme Court,” wrote Breyer. He said that he found judicial work to be “challenging and meaningful” and that he had “warm and friendly” relationships with his colleagues.

“Throughout, I have been aware of the great honor of participating as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and the rule of law,” said Breyer.

Biden and Breyer made a joint appearance on Thursday afternoon to discuss the justice’s retirement announcement.

The president praised Breyer for his “remarkable career of public service, and his clear-eyed commitment to making our country’s laws work for its people.”

Breyer, added Biden, was a “model public servant in a time of great division” and he “patiently sought common ground” during his time on the Supreme Court.

With Breyer’s retirement, Biden is set to make his first nomination to the Supreme Court. In his appearance on Thursday, Biden reaffirmed his campaign pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court.

"I will nominate someone with extraordinary qualifications, charity, experience and integrity,” said Biden. “And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court.”

Biden added that he did not have a specific person in mind for whom he was going to nominate, but said that he would work with both Democratic and Republican members of the Senate while deciding who he would put forward.

The nomination will come “before the end of February,” said the president.

A member of the liberal wing of the Supreme Court, Breyer has consistently supported abortion rights throughout his time on the court.

In 2000, Breyer authored the decision in Stenberg v. Carhart, which found that Nebraska’s law banning partial-birth abortions was unconstitutional as it did not have an exception to preserve the health of the mother. In Hill v. Colorado, which was decided one day before Stenberg v. Carhart, Breyer joined with the majority in upholding a Colorado law prohibiting protests outside of abortion clinics.

Due to Breyer’s age, calls for his retirement have been increasing since Biden’s election, to avoid a repeat of what happened when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September 2020.

In 2020, shortly before the presidential election, Ginsburg, who was considered to be on the court’s liberal wing, died after a battle with cancer. President Donald Trump (R) then appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative, to the Supreme Court, shifting the balance of the court.

Just War Theory and Ukraine: Would war with Russia be in accord with Catholic teaching?

Pope Francis is calling for prayers for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Ukraine. / Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jan 27, 2022 / 11:24 am (CNA).

Pope Francis called for a day of prayer for peace in Ukraine on Jan. 26., amid fears of a potential deeper incursion into the Eastern European country by Russia.

“I make a heartfelt appeal to all people of goodwill, that they may raise prayers to God Almighty, that every political action and initiative may serve human brotherhood, rather than partisan interests,” Pope Francis said on Jan. 23, admonishing all to remember the many lives lost in Ukraine during World War II and inveighing against war. “Please, no more war,” he said, appealing to those in power.

The prospect of war between Ukraine and Russia, and the potential involvement of the United States, brings with it questions about the morality of war. Just what is the Church’s teaching on war?

Unlike the Quakers and other Christian denominations, the Catholic Church is not pacifist in principle. Church teaching on the morality of war is based on a theory expounded by St. Augustine in the 4th century known as just war theory, and recognizes a potentially just reason to engage in war under certain conditions.

In 2019, expert theologians told CNA that applying this theory to modern warfare, which often involves missile and air strikes rather than pitched battles between troops, is more complicated but still normative.  

Kevin Miller, a moral theologian at Franciscan University of Steubenville, explained that the concept was a well-established part of Church teaching and thought.

"The Catechism of the Catholic Church does a nice job of summarizing the criteria for entering into the use of military force for self-defense," Miller told CNA, "though I tend to think of just war as more of a 'doctrine' than a 'theory' in the Church."

In his 2019 interview, Miller said the Church's moral criteria are divided into two categories: the ius ad bellum and the ius in bello, covering the right to war and how it is to be conducted once begun. To be morally licit, a war must be both just in its cause and conducted with justness.

Precisely what constitutes a just cause?

"The first criterion for the use of military force is, of course, a just cause," Taylor Patrick O'Neill, assistant professor of theology at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, told CNA in another 2019 interview.

Paragraph 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that at one and the same time “the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; there must be serious prospects of success; the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.”

According to the Catechism, weighing the above elements “belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.”

As universal shepherds, popes have often sought to influence the prudential judgments about the morality of war made by world leaders. In 2003, Pope John Paul II sent a delegation to dissuade President George W. Bush not to invade Iraq. Pope Francis was joined by his call to prayer for a peaceful resolution to the Ukraine crisis by bishops in the European episcopate and other bishops around the world.

The question of proportionality in war — whether military action causes more evil and disorder than it remedies — is an especially difficult question to answer, according to the theologians interviewed by CNA.

Said Miller: "To have the moral justification and to make some calculus of proportionality, you have to have some good intelligence about who could be harmed. Obviously, there can be unintended consequences, but you have to have a good amount of information about what the effects of a military action could be before you can judge if it is a just response."

Explained O’Neill: "Of course, so much of this is about thinking five or 10 steps down the road, and it is about balancing the need to prevent an escalation while keeping an eye on all the possible unforeseen consequences."

Some European bishops who joined the Holy Father in calling for prayer for peace in the Ukraine this week voiced concerns about escalation. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops conference, said earlier this week that rising tensions with Russia pose “a great danger” to the whole of Europe “which may destroy the progress made so far by many generations in building a peaceful order and unity in Europe.” 

Ukraine, which has a population of 44 million people, borders Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, and Russia.

In addition to satisfying the first set of conditions simultaneously to arrive at a decision that a just cause exists, the war must also be carried out in a just way. The Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes teaches clearly that: “The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between warring parties.”

This means that military actions must meet certain moral conditions. For instance, indiscriminate destruction of cities or civilian life is prohibited, and the basic human rights of non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners of war must not be abrogated.

But serious questions of what military actions constitute ius in bello, or just acts in war, have multiplied in recent years with the advent of drone strikes and other acts of war against infrastructure that serves dual military and civilian purposes.

Modern conflicts often involve remote means of warfare and targets which are of unclear military status, such as governmental intelligence posts, radar stations, or other logistical installations. While the personnel in them might be primarily military, the presence of civilians has to be weighed carefully in discerning military action.

"The classification of people involved can be very difficult to discern in modern conflicts," O'Neill said.

"We don't necessarily see artillery shelling enemy lines. With strikes from distance on military targets, there are people involved who might not be military personnel: they might be government intelligence workers or people in a gray area,” he said. “But then there's the possibility of just the civilian janitor in the building — how do you put them in the balance of proportionality?

“It makes things very difficult."

O'Neill said that with modern means of warfare, there is a very high burden on governments to take all measures possible to limit the loss of potentially innocent human life.

The Russo-Ukrainian War began in February 2014, focused on the east of Ukraine. The conflict has claimed more than 14,000 lives and driven 1.3 million people from their homes, according to Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-based confederation of Catholic charities raising funds for those affected.

The warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in July 2020. But Russia has sent an estimated 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. U.S. President Joe Biden said on Jan. 19 that he expected Russian President Vladimir Putin to order an invasion. 

Since then, tensions have not cooled down. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that Putin will take time to study documents hand delivered by Western leaders regarding the conflict. But, he added, “it cannot be said that our views were taken into account, or that a readiness to take our concerns into account was demonstrated." 


Cardinal in key Synod on Synodality post: ‘Reforms need a stable foundation’

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich celebrates Mass at the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Hungary, Sept. 10, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Freiburg, Jan 27, 2022 / 10:20 am (CNA).

A Jesuit cardinal who will play a central role in the 2023 Synod on Synodality has said that reforms in the Catholic Church require “a stable foundation.”

In a wide-ranging interview in the February edition of the German magazine Herder Korrespondenz, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich was asked whether he could envisage the introduction of women deacons, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

He said: “I would have nothing against it. But reforms need a stable foundation. If the pope were now simply to allow viri probati [the priestly ordination of mature, married men] and deaconesses, the danger of schism would be great.”

“After all, it’s not just about the German situation, where perhaps only a small part would break away. In Africa or in countries like France, many bishops would possibly not go along with it.”

Last July, Pope Francis named Hollerich, the archbishop of Luxembourg, as the relator general of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

The event, commonly known as the Synod on Synodality, has been described as the most important Church event since the Second Vatican Council in 1962-65.

Hollerich told Herder Korrespondenz he believed that Pope Francis was misunderstood.

He said: “The pope has nothing against conservatives if they learn from life. In the same way, he has nothing against the reformers if they keep the whole Church in mind. And the pope does not like infighting in the Church.”

“I sometimes have the impression that the German bishops do not understand the pope. The pope is not liberal, he is radical. From the radicality of the Gospel comes the change.”

The cardinal, who is also the president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), acknowledged that structural reform was necessary, but said it required consensus.

“In any case, we have to take as many people as possible along the way,” he said. “And then it’s not about pastoral workers becoming second-class clergy. There must not be an ordained and a non-ordained clergy, but clericalism must be destroyed. Among the priests, but also among the laity.”

The 63-year-old cardinal also discussed the Latin Mass, which he said had a “very beautiful” text. He explained that he sometimes used Latin when celebrating Mass in his private chapel, but had reservations about doing so in a parish setting.

“I know the people there don’t understand Latin and can’t do anything with it,” he said.

“But I have been asked to do a Latin service in Antwerp [Belgium], in the present rite. I will do that, but I would not celebrate in the old rite.”

Hollerich noted that as a cardinal, he would be expected to wear a cappa magna (“great cape”), a vestment with a long train.

“I would certainly fall because I am not used to walking with such a train,” he said.

“And above all, I would be mortally embarrassed. What would Christ say? Is that how you imagine me following Him? To glide along wrapped in purple? ‘I have said that he who loves me must take up his cross... and follow me, not take up your purple train.’”

“I would have the impression that I was betraying Christ. That is not to say that other people may not be able to do it in a good sense. But I can’t.”

Pope Francis urges Roman Rota to work with ‘synodal spirit’

Pope Francis addresses members of the Roman Rota in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, Jan. 27, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2022 / 07:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday urged members of the Catholic Church’s highest court handling appeals of marriage annulment cases to work with a “synodal spirit.”

In his annual speech to the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota on Jan. 27, the pope recalled that the worldwide Church is engaged in a two-year consultation process ahead of the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

“The synodal path we are currently following also challenges our meeting, because it also involves the judicial sphere and your mission at the service of families, especially those who are wounded and in need of the balm of mercy,” he said in his address in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

The Roman Rota is one of the three courts of the Holy See, along with the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Apostolic Signatura. Among the Rota’s primary responsibilities is considering appeals in marriage nullity cases.

A declaration of nullity — often referred to as an “annulment” — is a ruling by a tribunal that a marriage did not meet the conditions required to make it valid according to Church law.

Thursday’s meeting, which marked the start of the Rota’s new judicial year, began with an address to the pope by Msgr. Alejandro Arellano Cedillo, the Spanish dean of the Roman Rota.

In his speech, the pope referred to the Amoris Laetitia Family Year, which marks the fifth anniversary of the publication of Amoris laetitia, his apostolic exhortation on love in the family. The celebration will end on June 26, with the 10th edition of the World Meeting of Families in Rome.

He said: “In this year dedicated to the family as an expression of the joy of love, we have the opportunity today to reflect on synodality in matrimonial nullity proceedings.”

“Although synodal work is not strictly procedural in nature, it should be placed in dialogue with judicial activity, in order to encourage a more general rethinking of the importance of the experience of the canonical process for the lives of the faithful who have experienced a marriage breakdown and, at the same time, for the harmony of relationships within the ecclesial community.”

“Let us then ask ourselves in what sense the administration of justice needs a synodal spirit.”

The pope said in matrimonial cases it was vital that all parties set aside subjective interests and focus on the same goal: “that of shining the light on the truth about a concrete union between a man and a woman, arriving at the conclusion as to whether or not there is a true marriage between them.”

He said that from the earliest stages of a case, couples should be invited to seek “forgiveness and reconciliation” and not to see a declaration of nullity as “the only objective” or something that is “a right regardless of the facts.”

He underlined that “any voluntary alteration or manipulation of the facts, aimed at obtaining a pragmatically desired result, is not admissible.”

Pope Francis illustrated his point by describing a case that a bishop recently presented to him concerning a disciplinary problem with a priest.

The judge of the national Church court told the bishop that he was prepared to give whatever verdict was desired. “If you tell me to condemn him, I will condemn him; if you tell me to acquit him, I will acquit him,” he said, according to the pope.

“This can happen. It can come to this if there is no unity in the trials even with conflicting sentences,” the pope reflected. “Go together, because the good of the Church, the good of the people, is at stake. It is not a negotiation that takes place.”

In his address, Pope Francis alluded to his 2015 document Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, which made changes to canon law intended to streamline the process by which Church tribunals assess requests for declarations of nullity.

The text said that in each diocese, “the judge in first instance for cases of nullity or marriage for which the law does not expressly make an exception is the diocesan bishop.”

The pope reiterated on Thursday that “the original judge is the bishop.”

He said: “The dean greeted me saying: ‘the pope, universal judge of all…’ But this is because I am bishop of Rome and Rome presides over everything, not because I have another title. Thanks to this.”

“If the pope has this power it is because he is the bishop of the diocese of which the Lord wanted the bishop to be the pope. The real and first [judge] is the bishop, not the judicial vicar, the bishop.”

Returning to the theme of synodality, the pope urged judges to develop their listening skills.

“As in other areas of pastoral care, in judicial activity too, we need to foster a culture of listening, a prerequisite for a culture of encounter,” he said.

“This is why standard answers to the concrete problems of individual persons are harmful.”

He also reminded judges to be open to their colleagues when considering cases as part of a panel.

“In this sense, in your action as ministers of the tribunal, the pastoral heart, the spirit of charity and understanding towards people who suffer from the failure of their married life, must never be lacking,” he said.

“To acquire such a style it is necessary to avoid the cul-de-sac of juridicism — which is a kind of legal Pelagianism; it is not Catholic, juridicism is not Catholic — that is, of a self-referential vision of the law.”

“Law and judgment are always at the service of truth, justice, and the evangelical virtue of charity.”

He said that another important aspect of “the synodality of processes” was discernment.

“It is a matter of discernment based on walking together and listening, and which allows us to read the concrete situation of marriage in the light of the Word of God and the Magisterium of the Church,” he said.

The pope concluded by encouraging members of the Rota in their work and reminding them of the importance of prayer.

He said: “May prayer always accompany you. ‘I’m busy, I have to do many things…’ The first thing you need to do is pray. Pray for the Lord to be close to you. And also to know the heart of the Lord: we know it in prayer. And the judges pray, and must pray, twice or three times as much. Please don’t forget to pray for me too, of course.”

‘There was no real interest in their suffering’: Cardinal Marx apologizes to victims after Munich abuse report

Cardinal Reinhard Marx speaks at a press conference in Munich, Germany, Jan. 27, 2022. / Screenshot from erzbistum-muenchen.de.

Munich, Germany, Jan 27, 2022 / 04:09 am (CNA).

Cardinal Reinhard Marx offered a personal apology to abuse survivors on Thursday, in the wake of a report criticizing the handling of cases in his archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

Speaking at a live-streamed press conference in Munich, southern Germany, on Jan. 27, the 68-year-old cardinal said that the treatment of victims was “inexcusable,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“I am attributed responsibility in this report and I am prepared to take responsibility. Last year I wrote to Pope Francis, and I have also stated elsewhere before, that for me the greatest guilt is to have overlooked those affected. That is inexcusable,” he said.

“There was no real interest in their fate, in their suffering. In my opinion, this is also due to systemic reasons, and at the same time I bear moral responsibility for this as acting archbishop.”

He went on: “Therefore, first of all, I apologize once again personally and also on behalf of the archdiocese to you as those affected for what you have suffered in the sphere of the Church.”

“I also apologize to the faithful in this archdiocese who doubt the Church, who can no longer trust those responsible and whose faith has been damaged.”

The more than 1,000-page report, issued on Jan. 20, accused Marx, one of Germany’s most influential churchmen, of mishandling two abuse cases.

Marx is a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals and the coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. Until 2020, he served as the chairman of the German bishops’ conference.

Marx wrote to Pope Francis in May 2021, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany. The pope declined his resignation in June of that year.

The cardinal told reporters that he intended to remain in office for now, but did not rule out seeking to resign for a second time.

“For me personally, I say once again clearly: As archbishop, I bear responsibility for the actions of the archdiocese according to my moral conviction and in my understanding of my office. I do not cling to my office,” he commented.

“The offer of resignation last year was meant very seriously. Pope Francis decided otherwise and asked me to continue my ministry responsibly. I am ready to continue my ministry if it is helpful for the further steps that need to be taken for a more reliable reappraisal, an even stronger attention to those affected and for a reform of the Church.”

“If I get the impression that I am more of an obstacle than a help, I will seek dialogue with the relevant advisory bodies and allow myself to be critically questioned. In a synodal church, I will no longer make this decision on my own.”

Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, the law firm that produced the study, presented the report’s conclusions at a press conference in Munich.

Marx was not present at the event and Marion Westpfahl, a founding partner of the firm, lamented the cardinal’s absence as she presented the report.

In a brief statement hours after the report’s publication, Marx said that he was “shocked and ashamed” at its findings.

The authors of the “Report on the Sexual Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Adults by Clerics, as well as [other] Employees, in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising from 1945 to 2019” also accused Pope emeritus Benedict XVI of mishandling four cases during his tenure as Munich archbishop from 1977 to 1982.

The 94-year-old retired pope, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to investigators compiling the report.

Addressing the report’s criticisms of his own actions, Marx said he felt it was inappropriate to offer defensive arguments, but promised to examine the cases carefully with experts.

“Not to defend myself,” he said, “but to learn from them and to implement changes. I also see administrative and communicative failures here. But in one case I blame myself for not really actively approaching those affected.”

In April 2021, Marx asked German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier not to bestow the Federal Cross of Merit on him after an outcry among advocates for abuse survivors over the award.

He had been scheduled to receive the Bundesverdienstkreuz, Germany’s only federal decoration, at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin.

Marx, the archbishop of Munich and Freising since 2007, said that he did not want to draw negative attention to other award recipients.

Peter Bringmann-Henselder, a member of the affected persons’ advisory board of Cologne archdiocese, had urged the president to withhold the honor, citing Marx’s handling of cases when he was bishop of Trier in 2001–2007.

The official web portal of the Catholic Church in Germany reported in June 2021 that Marx’s actions in Trier would be “comprehensively investigated” by an independent commission on behalf of the diocese that has been led by Bishop Stephan Ackermann since 2009.

Speaking at Thursday’s press conference, Marx highlighted the German Church’s “Synodal Way,” a multi-year process bringing together bishops and lay people to discuss power, sexual morality, the priesthood, and the role of women in the Church.

He said that “it is now important to push ahead with the reform steps as discussed in the Synodal Way and as they will also be put on the agenda in the synodal process in the worldwide Church. I want to remain committed to this. For without a truly profound renewal, reappraisal will ultimately not succeed.”