The Papacy 2018 –

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Holy Year or holy mess, Vatican and Rome begin dash to 2025 Jubilee with papal bull, construction
(AP) Pope Francis presided over a ceremony in the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica for the reading of the papal bull, or official edict, that laid out his vision for a year of hope: He asked for gestures of solidarity for the poor, prisoners, migrants and Mother Nature.
(The World) The Vatican crosses a key milestone Thursday in the run-up to its 2025 Jubilee with the promulgation of the official decree establishing the Holy Year. It’s a once-every-quarter-century event that is expected to bring some 32 million pilgrims to Rome and has already brought months of headaches to residents of the city. Pope Francis will preside over a ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica for the formal reading of the papal bull, or official edict, that lays out the spiritual theme of hope for the year. The event also kicks off the final seven-month dash of preparations and public works projects to be completed by Dec. 24, when Francis opens the basilica’s Holy Door and formally inaugurates the Jubilee. For the Vatican, the Holy Year is a centuries-old tradition of the faithful making pilgrimages to Rome to visit the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul, and receiving indulgences for the forgiveness of their sins in the process.

8 May
Canada appoints longtime journalist Joyce Napier as ambassador to Vatican
Longtime Ottawa journalist Joyce Napier is headed to the Vatican as Canada’s new ambassador.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced Napier’s appointment and says she will work to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in the new role.

2 April
Pope Francis says he was used to try to block Benedict’s election in 2005
Pope Francis has exposed the political “maneuvers” used to sway votes during the two most recent elections of popes, while denying he is planning to reform the process for future conclaves, in a book-length interview published Tuesday. The confidential revelations are contained in “The Successor: My Memories of Benedict XVI,” in which the Argentine pope reflects on his relationship with the late German pope and settles some scores with Benedict’s longtime aide. The book, written as a conversation with the correspondent for Spain’s ABC daily, Javier Martínez-Brocal, comes at a delicate time for the 87-year-old Francis. His frail health has raised questions about how much longer he will remain pope, whether he might follow in Benedict’s footsteps and resign and who might eventually replace him.

31 March
Pope’s Easter speech renews calls for peace in Gaza, Ukraine
Speaking to tens of thousands of followers in St. Peter’s Square, and millions more across the globe, Pope Francis gave a solemn accounting of a world in crisis Sunday, using the pulpit of his Easter address to renew calls for a cease-fire in Gaza while drawing attention to other conflicts, from Ukraine to Haiti, heightened risks of famine, the threat of climate change and the plight of migrants.
The pope’s Easter address, known as an Urbi et Orbi — or a speech “to the city [of Rome] and the world” — doesn’t often make news but is, along with the speech delivered at Christmas, one of the most important on the papal calendar. His words served to crystallize the ills plaguing a fragile, violent world and found the pontiff of 1.3 billion Catholics fulfilling a role he frequently assumes: humanity’s conscience and moral compass.
Surrounded by the splendor of the Vatican and 35,000 blooms supplied by Dutch florists, Francis appeared steady if occasionally labored while speaking, after skipping or reducing his participation in several events during Holy Week leading up to Easter. The week is considered among the most physically taxing for the 87-year-old and came this year as concerns have mounted about his health.
Following an Easter service marked by pageantry and tradition and celebrated with the aid of a cardinal, however, Francis appeared animated, even jocular, as he shook hands with senior clerics from his wheelchair. He later took to his popemobile to wave at ecstatic worshipers, some of whom yelled out: “Long Live the Pope!”


29 November-1 December
Is the pope’s crackdown on opponents the beginning of the endgame?
Harriet Sherwood
With time possibly ticking on his papacy, Francis appears to be more determined to tackle conservative critics
(The Guardian) As punishments go, it was harsh. This week, Pope Francis decided to strip one of his most vociferous opponents, the retired cardinal Raymond Burke, of his privileges, including financial benefits and a coveted rent-free Vatican apartment.
“If this is accurate, it is an atrocity that must be opposed,” tweeted Joseph Strickland, a Burke ally, fellow conservative and another leading critic of the pope. Strickland knows what it is like to be on the sharp end of papal displeasure: last month, he was forcibly removed as bishop of Tyler, in Texas, after a Vatican investigation into the governance of his diocese.
Pope’s Critics Feel the Sting After His Patience Runs Out
Vatican observers see a leader more willing to crack down on those seeking to derail his agenda for the Roman Catholic Church.
(NYT) There is a sense among some Vatican analysts and conservatives that Francis, who is suffering from a lung inflammation that forced him to pass off his readings at [his weekly general audience] and to cancel an important trip to Dubai this weekend, is increasingly focusing his depleted energies on settling scores and cleaning house.
In the last month, he has turned his focus on two of his most vocal and committed conservative critics in the United States, and in the year since the death of his conservative predecessor, Benedict XVI, he has exiled a previously protected chief antagonist and moved against others who have accused him of destroying the church.
While some have wondered whether his ailing health might be driving his actions, Francis, who from the beginning said he didn’t expect to live long in the job, has often moved with urgency. And when it comes to personnel moves, analysts said, it has always been thus.
While conservatives have long complained that the publicly cuddly pontiff has actually acted as a ruthless and impetuous autocrat, supporters of Francis…say that he has exercised patience far beyond that of his conservative predecessors. But that patience, people close to him say, has limits. And after years of allowing criticism in the interest of allowing good-faith debates, Francis has come to the conclusion that some of the invective is simply politically and ideologically driven.

21 October
The Pope’s New Document on Climate Change Is a ‘Throwdown’ Call for Action
A professor who has studied Francis’ writings on climate says he singles out the U.S. for overconsumption and takes “aim” at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ denialism.
(Inside Climate news) In “Laudate Deum,” or “Praise God,” Pope Francis says the world is “nearing the breaking point,” condemns climate denial, and calls for urgent climate action. The Roman Catholic church he leads is the largest Christian denomination and has over a billion followers around the world.
…whereas Laudato Si’ in 2015, was extensive, it was quite long, it was measured and pastoral and expressive and philosophical, this document, Laudate Deum, is much shorter. And it is super focused on the realities of climate crises, the realism of climate change, anthropogenic climate change in particular, as a moral, ecological social problem, and on the responsibility of all people to take up action in order to address these problems.
So there’s a lot of really specific citation of science, there is a lot of very specific invocations about the kinds of things that need to happen. And then there is a little bit of philosophical and theological framing. But it’s a really punchy document.

4 October
“Laudate Deum”: the Pope’s cry for a response to the climate crisis
(Vatican news) Pope Francis has published an Apostolic Exhortation building on his 2015 encyclical. We’re not reacting enough, he says, we’re close to breaking point. He criticises climate change deniers, saying that the human origin of global warming is now beyond doubt. And he describes how care for our common home flows from the Christian faith.
1. “Praise God for all his creatures”. This was the message that Saint Francis of Assisi proclaimed by his life, his canticles and all his actions. In this way, he accepted the invitation of the biblical Psalms and reflected the sensitivity of Jesus before the creatures of his Father: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these” (Mt 6:28-29). “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight” (Lk 12:6). How can we not admire this tenderness of Jesus for all the beings that accompany us along the way!

1 May
Pope says Vatican involved in secret Ukraine peace mission
(Reuters) – The Vatican is involved in a peace mission to try to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Pope Francis said on Sunday, adding that it was also ready to help repatriate Ukrainian children taken to Russia or Russian-occupied land.
“There is a mission in course now but it is not yet public. When it is public, I will reveal it,” the pope told reporters during a flight home after a three-day visit to Hungary.
The pope added that he had spoken about the situation in Ukraine with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and with Metropolitan (bishop) Hilarion, a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Budapest.

30 April
Don’t shut door on foreigners, migrants, Pope Francis says in Hungary
(Reuters) – Pope Francis on Sunday presided over a big outdoor Mass where he urged Hungarians not to close the door on migrants and those who are “foreign or unlike us,” in contrast to the anti-immigrant policies of nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.


31 December
Benedict XVI, first pope to resign in 600 years, dies at 95
His dramatic exit paved the way for Pope Francis’ election and created the unprecedented arrangement of two popes, living side-by-side in the Vatican gardens
(AP) — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the shy German theologian who tried to reawaken Christianity in a secularized Europe but will forever be remembered as the first pontiff in 600 years to resign from the job, died Saturday. He was 95.
Benedict stunned the world on Feb. 11, 2013, when he announced, in his typical, soft-spoken Latin, that he no longer had the strength to run the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church that he had steered for eight years through scandal and indifference.
His dramatic decision paved the way for the conclave that elected Pope Francis as his successor. The two popes then lived side-by-side in the Vatican gardens, an unprecedented arrangement that set the stage for future “popes emeritus” to do the same.
Former Pope Benedict XVI asks for forgiveness, thanks God in final published letter
CNN Former Pope Benedict XVI, who died Saturday in a monastery in the Vatican at the age of 95, asked for forgiveness for those he has “wronged” in the spiritual testament published following his death.
How Benedict’s death could reshape the Catholic Church
(WaPo) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s death Saturday is an epochal loss for a church that was defined first by his resolute conservatism and later by his radical decision to abdicate power.
Even in retirement, he was embraced by traditionalists as the embodiment of their ideals. His death leaves that movement — which at times is vocal and oppositional to Francis — without a figure of comparable clout. His death also, in the short-term, sets the church on a more conventional path, ending a polarizing 10-year period in which the Vatican had two figures wearing white, a pope and an ex-pope.

25 July
Pope apologizes for ‘evil committed by so many Christians’ in Canada’s residential schools
By Chico Harlan and Amanda Coletta
(WaPo) Pope Francis on Monday began a long-sought act of reconciliation in Canada, decrying the country’s “catastrophic” residential school system for Indigenous children and asking for forgiveness for the “evil committed by so many Christians.”
Other times popes have apologized for the sins of the Catholic Church
Pope Francis on Monday apologized to Canada’s Indigenous community for the role the Catholic Church played in overseeing decades of abuse at some of the nation’s residential schools. The schools, which were run by both churches and Canada’s federal government, removed about 150,000 Indigenous children from their families — and used hunger, sexual violence and religious indoctrination to forcibly assimilate the students.
But it wasn’t the first time Francis — or even his predecessors — has asked forgiveness for the church’s crimes and transgressions. In fact, his remarks were the latest in a string of papal apologies in recent years.
Not all of the pleas have fully implicated the church, instead blaming individuals for wrongdoing or misconduct. Here are some of the more recent apologies given by the heads of the Catholic Church.
Francis is the first Latin American pope and has offered several apologies since becoming the head of the Catholic Church in 2013, most notably for sexual abuse. In a letter to Chilean bishops in 2018, he admitted to “serious errors” in handling a sex abuse scandal. Later that year, he penned a lengthy letter to Catholics worldwide in which he expressed deep regret for the church’s role in the abuse of minors and the subsequent coverup, saying: “We showed no care for the little ones. We abandoned them.”
In 2015, on a trip to Bolivia, Francis apologized for the “many grave sins … committed against the native people of America in the name of God.”
… In 2010, as sex abuse scandals swept the dioceses of Europe, Benedict XVI wrote a letter to the Catholics of Ireland apologizing for decades of “systemic” abuse against children. He criticized church authorities in Ireland but did not discipline any leaders.
… Pope John Paul II’s papacy lasted 27 years, from 1978 to his death in 2005. The first email he ever sent, in November 2001, was an apology for “a string of injustices, including sexual abuse, committed by Roman Catholic clergy in the Pacific nations,” the BBC reported.

7 June
Vatican’s Pius XII archives begin to shed light on WWII pope
(AP) — The Vatican has long defended its World War II-era pope, Pius XII, against criticism that he remained silent as the Holocaust unfolded, insisting that he worked quietly behind the scenes to save lives. A new book, citing recently opened Vatican archives, suggests the lives the Vatican worked hardest to save were Jews who had converted to Catholicism or were children of Catholic-Jewish “mixed marriages.”
… David Kertzer’s “The Pope at War,” being published Tuesday in the United States follows on the heels of Kertzer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Pope and Mussolini,” about Pius’ predecessor, Pius XI. It uses the millions of recently released documents from the Vatican archives as well as the state archives of Italy, France, Germany, the U.S., and Britain to craft a history of World War II through the prism of the Pius XII papacy and its extensive diplomatic network with both Axis and Allied nations.
The 484-page book, and its nearly 100 pages of endnotes, portrays a timid pontiff who wasn’t driven by antisemitism, but rather a conviction that Vatican neutrality was the best and only way to protect the interests of the Catholic Church as the war raged on.
Kertzer suggests Pius’ primary motivation was fear: fear for the church and Catholics in German-occupied territories if, as he believed until the very end, the Axis won; and fear of atheist Communism spreading across Christian Europe if the Axis lost.
To assuage that fear, Kertzer writes, Pius charted a paralyzingly cautious course to avoid conflict at all costs with the Nazis. Direct orders went to the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano not to write about German atrocities — and to ensure seamless cooperation with the Fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini in the Vatican’s backyard.

5 June
An upcoming trip by Pope Francis has rumors swirling about his future at the Vatican
(NPR) Pope Francis added fuel to rumors about the future of his pontificate by announcing he would visit the central Italian city of L’Aquila in August for a feast initiated by Pope Celestine V, one of the few pontiffs who resigned before Pope Benedict XVI stepped down in 2013.
Italian and Catholic media have been rife with unsourced speculation that the 85-year-old Francis might be planning to follow in Benedict’s footsteps, given his increased mobility problems that have forced him to use a wheelchair for the last month.
Those rumors gained steam last week when Francis announced a consistory to create 21 new cardinals scheduled for Aug. 27. Sixteen of those cardinals are under age 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect Francis’ successor.
Once they are added to the ranks of princes of the church, Francis will have stacked the College of Cardinals with 83 of the 132 voting-age cardinals. While there is no guarantee how the cardinals might vote, the chances that they will tap a successor who shares Francis’ pastoral priorities become ever greater.

13 May
Pope Francis to visit Canada in July
The Holy See Press Office on Friday announced that Pope Francis will be travelling to Canada from 24 – 30 July, and will visit the cities of Edmonton, Québec and Iqaluit, having accepted invitations from civil and ecclesiastical authorities, as well as the indigenous communities.

27 April
The pope may pray for Putin — but he’s clinging to neutrality on Ukraine
The Vatican wants to preserve its potential role as a mediator. Some Western officials are frustrated it won’t just call out Russia.
(Politico) When Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council just weeks after the Kremlin rolled tanks into Ukraine, around 140 diplomats walked out. One of the few that stayed: The envoy from the Holy See.
The Holy See’s decision typified what some in the West see as an exasperating tendency by the neutral sovereign entity to sit on the fence rather than naming and shaming Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has used the powerful Russian Orthodox Church’s imprimatur to help legitimize his brutal, revanchist war in Ukraine.
Across several intergovernmental organizations, the sovereign territory has repeatedly abstained on votes condemning Russia’s aggression, even before the invasion of Ukraine. At the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Holy See refused to back a measure condemning the Kremlin’s use of nerve agents. And in March at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which spans several dozen European countries, the Holy See abstained on a vote to investigate possible war crimes in Ukraine.
Instead, Pope Francis has chosen to deplore the war with vivid but non-specific rhetoric. He branded it a “sacrilegious war” and referred to a “potentate caught up in anachronistic claims of national interest.”
But he has avoided naming Vladimir Putin and Russia. Nor has he mentioned the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, a key backer of Putin who has sanctioned the invasion as a “holy war.” And notably, Francis has opposed sending arms to Ukraine, saying a rearming will drive a new “balance of terror.”
For Francis, the dilemma is whether to use his moral standing to explicitly denounce Russia or hold back in the hope of creating space for mediation. One possible constructive role, for instance, might be to engage the Russian Orthodox Church on conflict resolution options.

Putin’s Unholy War
(Atlantic Council) Religion has long been at the heart of the troubled relationship between the two countries, with the Russian Orthodox Church historically serving to strengthen Russia’s imperial authority over Ukraine. In recent years, religious ties played a central role in Putin’s efforts to prevent Ukraine from exiting the Russian sphere of influence.

1 April
Pope apologizes to Indigenous people of Canada for ‘deplorable’ abuses
Pontiff said he felt ‘sorrow and shame’ for ‘the lack of respect’ at Catholic-run schools
(The Guardian) Francis, in an address to Indigenous leaders after meetings with Métis, Inuit and First Nations delegates, also said he hoped to visit Canada in July.
One of the leaders, who want the pope to make the apology directly to their communities on their native lands in Canada, called his words “historic” and another said they reflected the “entirety” of their message to him.


17 December
Gloves come off as Pope Francis pushes for Vatican reforms
(AP) — Pope Francis celebrated his 85th birthday on Friday, a milestone made even more remarkable given the coronavirus pandemic, his summertime intestinal surgery and the weight of history: His predecessor retired at this age and the last pope to have lived any longer was Leo XIII over a century ago.
Yet Francis is going strong, recently concluding a whirlwind trip to Cyprus and Greece after his pandemic-defying jaunts this year to Iraq, Slovakia and Hungary. And he shows no sign of slowing down his campaign to make the post-COVID world a more environmentally sustainable, economically just and fraternal place where the poor are prioritized.
Francis also has set in motion an unprecedented two-year consultation of rank-and-file Catholics on making the church more attuned to the laity.
“I see a lot of energy,” said the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, one of Francis’ trusted Jesuit communications gurus. “What we’re seeing is the natural expression, the fruit of the seeds that he has sown.”
Since his last birthday, Francis ordered a 10% pay cut for cardinals across the board, and slashed salaries to a lesser degree for Vatican employees, in a bid to rein in the Vatican’s 50-million-euro ($57 million) budget deficit.
To fight corruption, he imposed a 40-euro ($45) gift cap for Holy See personnel. He passed a law allowing cardinals and bishops to be criminally prosecuted by the Vatican’s lay-led tribunal, setting the stage for the high-profile trial underway of his onetime close adviser, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, on finance-related charges.

26 July
Get ready for biggest criminal trial in Vatican’s modern history
A cardinal and nine other people are accused of bleeding the Holy See of tens of millions of dollars in donations through bad investments, deals with shady money managers and apparent favours to friends and family.
A cardinal who allegedly induced an underling to lie to prosecutors. Brokers and lawyers who pulled a fast one over the Vatican No 2 to get him to approve a disastrous real estate deal. A self-styled intelligence analyst who bought Prada and Louis Vuitton items with the Vatican money that she was supposed to send to rebels holding a Catholic nun hostage.
Vatican prosecutors have alleged a jaw-dropping series of scandals in the biggest criminal trial in the Vatican’s modern history, which opens Tuesday in a modified courtroom in the Vatican Museums.

16 July
Pope Francis renews restrictions on old Latin Mass, reversing Benedict XVI
Francis’s decision was remarkable, if only because he was taking a major step into the church’s liturgical wars and essentially erasing the decision of his conservative predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who continues to live inside the Vatican’s walls. In 2007, Benedict removed a rule requiring a local bishop’s permission to celebrate the old Latin Mass. Francis not only reinstated that rule but added other restrictions.
In dioceses where groups celebrate the old rite, also known as the Tridentine Mass, bishops must also work to determine that the celebrants “do not deny the validity and the legitimacy” of the Second Vatican Council, which helped shape many church reforms. Among those changes were the popularization of Mass in the vernacular, making worship more accessible to regular Catholics

9 July
Pope Francis’s surgery adds urgency to questions about the remaining years of his papacy
(WaPo) …in Rome and in Catholic circles around the world, what is expected to be a week-long hospitalization has served as a reminder that the pope is reaching an age when people deal more frequently with health problems and become more vulnerable.
For some Catholics, this week’s events have brought urgency to a set of questions that previously seemed at a remove: questions about how Francis will manage his papacy as he nears the second half of his 80s; how long he’ll continue in the role; and whether he might one day step down.
…many also say Francis seems like he would be open to eventually resigning, as Benedict did, rather than holding on as a weakened or even incapacitated pontiff, as John Paul II did in the early 2000s.

Beyond the matter of his health, there are other reasons Francis seems inclined for now to remain pope, insiders say. Some point to long-standing goals that he has yet to complete: a reorganization of the Roman Curia, or an attempted cleanup of financial corruption. Francis also has been handed an epochal challenge by the coronavirus pandemic, which he has termed as a moment for humankind to rethink its priorities.
One other perceived block on Francis stepping down anytime soon is Benedict himself. His decision to abdicate saved the church from one messy situation — being governed by a weakened octo- or nonagenarian. But it created chaos of its own, establishing Benedict, in the eyes of conservatives, as an alternative authority figure. The church is more ideologically divided than it was eight years ago. And in a few cases, Benedict has controversially intervened in church matters, complicating Francis’s papacy.

3 July
Vatican indicts 10 people, including a cardinal, over an international financial scandal
(CNN)The Vatican has indicted 10 people, including an Italian cardinal, for several alleged financial crimes including extortion, corruption, fraud, forgery, embezzlement and abuse of power.
The investigation, which started in July 2019, was carried out by the Vatican in cooperation with Italian authorities and revealed “a vast network of ties between financial market operators who generated substantial losses for the Vatican finances,” a statement from the Vatican said on Saturday.
Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu was indicted “for the crimes of embezzlement, abuse of office … and bribery,” the Vatican added. Becciu allegedly used money from the Vatican to benefit his two brothers’ businesses, according to a detailed report by Vatican News, which is what led the Pope to fire the cardinal last year.
The alleged illegal activities found by the investigation regard investments using charity money into “extremely high-risk financial activity” for personal gains, which include an investment in the fossil fuel industry in Angola, that could amount to more than 200 million, according to a detailed report from Vatican News.
The trial will begin on July 27.

29 June
Indigenous leaders secure papal audience to set stage for residential school apology
National Indigenous leaders will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican in December to set the stage for a formal papal apology in Canada for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools, according to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
A delegation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit will meet with the Pope separately between December 17 and 20, according to the CCCB.

5 June
Pope meets with Canadian Cardinals amid calls for church to act on residential schools
Meeting comes as pressure mounts for the Catholic Church to take action and accept responsibility for the residential school system

6 March
In Iraq, Pope Francis holds historic talks with Shiite ayatollah, decries religious violence at ancient Ur
First in a closed-door meeting with an Iraqi ayatollah, later on a desert stage overlooking ruins dating back to Abraham, Pope Francis on Saturday made a sweeping appeal for the kind of religious coexistence that has long eluded Iraq, while also testing the limits of his influence.
“We need one another,” Francis said from a stage on the desert plain of Ur, said to be the birthplace of Abraham, a patriarch for Muslims, Christians and Jews. In the audience for his message were Catholic prelates and leaders from other faiths.


26 November
The First African American Cardinal Is a Climate Change Leader
Wilton Gregory, as archbishop of Atlanta, asked for an action plan in 2015 to help boost Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change.
Wilton Gregory, soon to be the first African American Catholic cardinal, has distinguished himself among archbishops with his embrace of Pope Francis’s landmark encyclical on the environment and climate change.
Gregory, 72, the archbishop of Washington, has, during his long career in the church, spoken out for racial justice, welcomed LGBTQ Catholics and led the church’s “zero-tolerance” response to sex abuse in the United States after the crisis with priests that emerged in the 1990s.

22 October
Pope Francis backs same-sex civil unions
Pontiff’s endorsement likely to further enrage his conservative opponents in Catholic church
(The Guardian) Pope Francis has given his most explicit support to same-sex civil unions in a move that is likely to further enrage his conservative opponents in the Catholic church.
His comments came in an interview in a documentary film, Francesco, which premiered at the Rome film festival on Wednesday.
He said: “Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”
The feature-length film, directed by Evgeny Afineevsky, tells the story of Francis’s papacy over the past seven and a half years, covering many of the trips he made before the Covid-19 pandemic and his handling of the sexual abuse scandals that have engulfed the church.
Pope Francis backing same sex unions isn’t a surprise. But it’s still a big deal
James Alison
I had no advance knowledge either of Evgeny Afineevsky’s documentary, Francesco, or the interview in it that contains Pope Francis’ new formulation of his earlier position on same-sex civil unions. However, it didn’t come as a surprise to me. Anyone with any pastoral experience knows that in dealing with an individual’s personhood, you start from where they are. Given a very gay and very closeted episcopate in many countries, for whom serene and adult conversation about these things has, until recently, been almost impossible, the question has largely been: how long would it take for the basic good sense of the majority of Catholic people and what they have learned about human sexuality to percolate upwards so that senior clergy needn’t be frightened of it? And it is here that Pope Francis has been so good. He clearly isn’t frightened of the issue.

The pope’s unexpected election message
E.J. Dionne Jr.
We are not accustomed to a hearing from a pope, a month before Election Day, who criticizes “myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalism,” and castigates those who, through their actions, cast immigrants as “less worthy, less important, less human.”
Nor is it in our political playbook that a pope would call out an “every man for himself” worldview that “will rapidly degenerate into a free-for-all that would prove worse than any pandemic.” These are all Pope Francis’s words from his encyclical letter released Sunday, “Fratelli Tutti.” It translates literally “Brothers All,” words drawn from St. Francis of Assisi, although Francis was quick, in his first sentence, to address “brothers and sisters.” His purpose was to advance a worldview that stresses, as he put it, “the communitarian dimension of life” and values “fraternity and social friendship.”
“Political life no longer has to do with healthy debates about long-term plans to improve people’s lives and to advance the common good, but only with slick marketing techniques primarily aimed at discrediting others,” he wrote. “In this craven exchange of charges and counter-charges, debate degenerates into a permanent state of disagreement and confrontation.”
Many Americans will no doubt resist seeing Francis’s political observations as infallible. But as a reminder of how far our politics have swung away from promoting the common good, this document is indispensable.

26 August
The Pope, the Jews, and the Secrets in the Archives
Documents reveal the private discussions behind both Pope Pius XII’s silence about the Nazi deportation of Rome’s Jews in 1943 and the Vatican’s postwar support for the kidnapping of two Jewish boys whose parents had perished in the Holocaust.
(The Atlantic) What comes through clearly in reading the Vatican records is that the prerogatives of the Roman Catholic Church mattered above all else: that, according to Church doctrine, baptism, even against a family’s wishes, gave the Church the right to claim the children.
… It would only be after Pius XII’s death that Church attitudes toward the Jews would change in a meaningful way, thanks to his successor John XXIII, who convened a Vatican Council devoted in part to rooting out the vestiges of medieval Church doctrine on the Jews. The culmination of those efforts came only after Pope John XXIII’s death; in 1965, the Second Vatican Council issued the remarkable declaration Nostra Aetate. Reversing long-held Church doctrine, it called on the faithful to treat Jews and their religion as worthy of respect.
… Although I am not aware that anyone has made the link, it may not be too far-fetched to suspect that the Finaly case played a role in that historic shift and, with it, the abandonment of the Church’s centuries-long vilification of the Jews. The link is John XXIII’s successor, Paul VI, who presided over the council when it considered and then approved its revolutionary new doctrine. This was the same man who—under his given name, Giovanni Montini—had spent months managing the Vatican’s dealings on the Finaly affair a dozen years earlier.
… The Vatican’s behavior in the Finaly case was a nasty business. Did Montini’s involvement on Pius XII’s behalf bother him at the time? Did it leave lasting scars? Did he think about the Finaly case as he was considering the proposals of the Second Vatican Council to change the Church’s long-held attitudes toward the Jews? We may not know the answers to these questions anytime soon; the archives of Paul VI’s papacy will most likely not be opened for many years.

4 February
Pope Francis arranges for 19th century Palazzo Migliori to be converted into a homeless shelter
Sitting on prime real estate just off St Peter’s Square, the building could have generated significant income for the Catholic Church as a luxury hotel, but Pope Francis had other intentions.
On its news website Vatican News, the Vatican said Pope Francis personally directed his Almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski (his officer in charge of distributing services to the poor) to convert it into a homeless shelter.

15 January
Pope names 1st woman to Vatican’s top management position
(AP) — Pope Francis has tapped an Italian lawyer to be the first woman to hold a management position in the Vatican’s most important office, the Secretariat of State.
Francis on Wednesday named Francesca Di Giovanni, a 27-year veteran of the Vatican, as undersecretary for multilateral affairs. In that role, she will be responsible for running a division that coordinates the Holy See’s relations with the United Nations and other intergovernmental organizations.
Francis has called for women to be given greater decision-making roles in the Vatican and the Catholic Church at large, though no women head a Vatican congregation or other important office.


8 September
The Canadian who helped craft Pope Francis’s statement on climate change will be our fourth cardinal
(CBC) Last weekend, Pope Francis named 13 new cardinals — who one day, upon the eventual death or resignation of Francis, will select a new pope.
One of them is Michael Czerny — a 73-year-old Czech-born Jesuit priest who was raised in Montreal. Once the appointment becomes official on Oct. 5, 2019, he will be the fourth Canadian cardinal.
For several years, Reverend Czerny has been one of Pope Francis’s lieutenants, serving as the Vatican’s Undersecretary of the Section for Migrants and Refugees.
He also was instrumental in the drafting of one of Francis’s most celebrated, controversial and debated public pronouncements — the papal encyclical called “Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home” in 2015.
The encyclical outraged hardline conservatives who wish the pope would just stick to the business of celebrating mass and condemning same-sex marriage, and it put climate activists and progressives in the unusual position of saying that we should do what the pope tells us to.

11 April
Ex-Pope Benedict contradicts Pope Francis in unusual intervention on sexual abuse
In his intervention, Benedict did not assess his own role in the crisis, during which he held power for decades, first behind the scenes and then for nearly eight years as pontiff. But the letter bears his hallmark: in particular, a conviction that Catholic teaching can show the way out of a crisis
(WaPo) “There is not one moment of recognition that the abuse crisis was also the result of a collective lapse of judgment by the entire church, including by the Vatican, for a long time,” said Massimo Faggioli, a Villanova University professor of theology.
Faggioli said Benedict “tells a tiny part and a very idiosyncratic version of the story without mentioning his role in the Vatican for almost four decades.”
“He speaks only a little about victims,” said Vito Mancuso, an author who has written books about Catholic theology and philosophy. “It’s almost an excuse for the one thing that he is truly interested in: the traditionalist restoration inside the church.”

4 April
Pope names first African-American to highest U.S. post
(Reuters) – Pope Francis named the first African-American to the Catholic Church’s most senior U.S. position on Thursday… Former Atlanta archbishop Wilton Gregory, 71, was made new head of the Church in the U.S. capital Washington, D.C., and is also likely to become a cardinal eligible to vote in a conclave to elect the next pope after Francis.
He would be the first African-American to hold the rank of cardinal too. The U.S. embassy to the Vatican noted that Gregory’s appointment coincided with the 51st anniversary of the assassination of black rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Gregory, who converted to Catholicism as a teenager, is considered a progressive who prefers dialogue and has largely shunned the U.S. Church’s often strident culture wars over issues such as abortion and homosexuality. , seeking to end a period of upheaval in a job whose previous two occupants were caught in sexual abuse scandals.

22 February
The Corruption of the Vatican’s Gay Elite Has Been Exposed
By Andrew Sullivan
This may seem like hyperbole, but in my view, the last drops of moral authority the Vatican might hope to have evaporate with this book. It is difficult to express the heartbroken rage so many of us in the pews now feel.
(New York) I spent much of this week reading and trying to absorb the new and devastating book by one Frédéric Martel on the gayness of the hierarchy at the top of the Catholic Church, In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy. It’s a bewildering and vast piece of reporting — Martel interviewed no fewer than “41 cardinals, 52 bishops and monsignori, 45 apostolic nuncios, secretaries of nunciatures or foreign ambassadors, 11 Swiss Guards and over 200 Catholic priests and seminarians.” He conducted more than 1,500 interviews over four years, is quite clear about his sources, and helps the reader weigh their credibility. He keeps the identity of many of the most egregiously hypocritical cardinals confidential, but is unsparing about the dead.
The picture Martel draws is jaw-dropping. Many of the Vatican gays — especially the most homophobic — treat their vows of celibacy with an insouciant contempt. Martel argues that many of these cardinals and officials have lively sex lives, operate within a “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture, constantly hit on young men, hire prostitutes, throw chem-sex parties, and even pay for sex with church money. How do we know this? Because, astonishingly, they tell us.
As for me, someone who has wrestled with the question of homosexuality and Catholicism for much of my adult life, this book has, to be honest, been gutting. All the painful, wounding Vatican documents on my “objective disorder” that I have tried to parse and sincerely engage … I find out they were written, in part, by tormented gay men, partly to deflect from their own nature. Everything I was taught growing up — to respect the priests and hierarchs, to trust them, to accept their moral authority — is in tatters. To realize that the gay closet played a part in enabling the terrible, unimaginable abuse of the most vulnerable is a twist my psyche is having a hard time absorbing.

16 February
Ex-cardinal McCarrick defrocked by Vatican for sexual abuse
(WaPost) The Vatican on Saturday said it had defrocked former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, leveling a historic penalty against a onetime church power broker and former archbishop of Washington after the church found him guilty of sexual abuse.
It is the most significant abuse-related punishment given to a former cardinal in the modern history of the Roman Catholic Church.
The defrocking, which strips McCarrick of the rights of the priesthood, marks the conclusion of a closed-door Vatican proceeding and comes just days before Pope Francis plans to gather bishops from around the world for an unprecedented summit on abuse.

Frank Bruni: The Vatican’s Gay Overlords
A sensational new book mines the Catholic Church’s sexual secrets. Will right-wing homophobes exploit it?
Whatever Martel’s intent, “In the Closet of the Vatican” may be less a constructive reckoning than a stockpile of ammunition for militant right-wing Catholics who already itch to conduct a witch hunt for gay priests, many of whom are exemplary — and chaste — servants of the church. Those same Catholics oppose sensible and necessary reforms, and will point to the book’s revelations as proof that the church is already too permissive and has lost its dignity and its way.
Part of my concern about the book is the timing of its release, which coincides precisely with an unprecedented meeting at the Vatican about sexual abuse in the church. For the first time, the pope has summoned the presidents of every Catholic bishops conference around the world to discuss this topic alone. But the book “is also bound to shift attention away from child abuse and onto gay priests in general, once again falsely conflating in people’s minds homosexuality and pedophilia,” said the Rev. James Martin, a best-selling Jesuit author, in a recent tweet. He’s right.

6 February
Pope Francis’s visit was a touching display of unity and common purpose between two great faiths
This historic moment illustrated the core values of the UAE and sent a message of peace and brotherhood to the wider world
It was a sight to behold: Pope Francis, the leader of the world’s estimated one billion Roman Catholics, celebrating Mass in a stadium in Abu Dhabi. Please read that sentence again and reflect upon what it means.
It is easy to lose sight of the importance of what took place in the capital this week. Consider the repeated embraces between the pontiff and Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar – two great men, two great faiths, one enormously significant display of brotherly affection, understanding and respect. The declaration that they signed in Abu Dhabi enshrines this relationship and calls for a more peaceful world.


Open letter to the US Catholic bishops: It’s over
(National Catholic Reporter) Dear brothers in Christ, shepherds, fellow pilgrims,
We address you as you approach this year’s national meeting in Baltimore because we know there is nowhere left to hide.
It’s over.
All the manipulations and contortions of the past 33 years, all the attempts to deflect and equivocate — all of it has brought the church, but especially you, to this moment.
As a class of religious rulers, the loudest among you have become quite good at applying the law and claiming divine authority in marginalizing those who transgress the statutes. The prolonged abuse scandal would suggest, however, that you’ve not done very well taking stock of yourselves.
We have no special insight into why this moment — the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the downfall of Theodore McCarrick — has so captured the public imagination and pushed the church to this outer limit of exposure and vulnerability. There are theories, not least of which is that the opportunists among us are attempting to use this moment to bring down the only pope who has actually dethroned bishops and a cardinal for their crimes and indiscretions. (9 November 2018)

16 November
Bishops continue to define response to sex abuse despite Vatican call for delay
(NCR) As the U.S. bishops’ meeting in Baltimore ends Nov. 15, the most newsworthy happening is still Monday’s last-minute instruction from the Vatican to delay any vote on new procedures to sanction or otherwise deal with bishops who had either abused children or failed to remove abusive priests from ministry.
From any vantage, the Vatican intervention was extremely disappointing. It contradicts everything Francis has said about empowering bishops’ conferences and decentralizing decision-making in the church. It was also a public-relations disaster for the pope, who is already losing the confidence of Catholics on the abuse issue, according to a September poll from the Pew Research Center: Only 31 percent of Catholics thought the pope was doing a good or excellent job handling the sex abuse scandal, down from 55 percent three years ago.
Though DiNardo didn’t release the Vatican’s letter, he and others explained that the Vatican worried that any procedures American bishops agreed on could pre-empt discussions at a meeting of the world’s top bishops called by the pope for February. If the American procedures for dealing with bad bishops became a de facto template for the rest of the world, the congregation also sees the proposed actions as an infringement on its authority, arguing the conference has no authority over bishops.
The day was saved by Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, who suggested that the bishops continue discussing the proposals and treat them as recommendations that DiNardo, as USCCB president, could take to the February meeting.

12 November
Bishops’ meeting bombshell: Vatican says no voting on abuse crisis
(NCR) The plenary meeting of the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops opened with a bombshell. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the conference, announced that the Holy See had insisted the U.S. bishops not vote on any concrete action items regarding the clergy sex abuse crisis, pending the February meeting of the presidents of all episcopal conferences that Pope Francis has announced. DiNardo said he only learned last night of the Vatican’s decision.
People were whispering that the pope should not have intervened, certainly not at such a late date. Is this a case of Rome not grasping the situation in the U.S. or, more worrisome, that Rome still doesn’t grasp the enormity of the sex abuse mess? Obviously, the surprise evidenced by DiNardo shows the lack of healthy and regular communication between the leadership of the conference and the pope. Was Cupich trying to put lipstick on a pig? What is really at work here?
We do not know for sure. … But, the obvious place to start finding an answer came in the address delivered by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio, immediately following the announcement. He did something too few bishops and other commentators have done, or even sought to do, this year: He placed the sex abuse crisis in the broader ecclesiological context.

12 September
Pope Francis Summons World’s Bishops to Meet on Sexual Abuse
(NYT) Pope Francis summoned bishops from around the world to Rome for an unprecedented meeting focused on protecting minors. The order on Wednesday comes as the pope wrestles with a global clerical sexual abuse crisis and explosive accusations of a cover-up that have shaken his papacy and the entire Roman Catholic Church.
The extraordinary meeting marks the first time that presidents of bishops’ conferences worldwide have been summoned for a meeting on a specific topic — more than 100 will be there — and the choice of topic was telling. Just last month, the Vatican’s former ambassador in the United States accused the pope of willfully ignoring a history of sexual misconduct by an American cardinal.
The pope called on the bishops’ conference presidents to gather from Feb. 21 to Feb. 24, the Vatican said.
“It’s a crucial decision by the pope because the conferences play a crucial role in implementing all the prevention measures to protect against sexual abuse in the church,” said Prof. Ernesto Caffo, a member of the pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors.

27-30 August
Conservative media move to front line of battle to undermine Pope Francis
(Reuters) The full extent of journalists’ involvement in the statement – from conception and editing to translation and publication – emerges from a series of Reuters interviews that reveal a union of conservative clergy and media aimed at what papal defenders say is a campaign to weaken the reformist Francis’s pontificate.
Since his election in 2013, conservatives have sharply criticized Francis, saying he has left many faithful confused by pronouncements that the Church should be more welcoming to homosexuals and divorced Catholics and not be obsessed by “culture war” issues such as abortion.
Francis’ supporters say the statement contains holes and contradictions and note that Vigano prepared it with help from two journalists who have been critical of Francis, citing this as evidence that it forms part of an ideological anti-Francis strategy. The journalists deny this.

The Man Who Took On the Pope: The Story Behind the Viganò Letter
While Archbishop Viganò, who was once criticized by church traditionalists as overly pragmatic, has aligned himself with a small but influential group of church traditionalists who have spent years seeking to stop Francis, many of his critics think his personal grudges are central to his motivations.

The ‘coup’ against Pope Francis
(CNN)Even before Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano called for Pope Francis to resign on Sunday, the two men had a history, and it wasn’t good.
Vigano, the former Vatican ambassador to the United States, angered some church officials in 2015 by arranging a meeting at the Vatican’s embassy in Washington between the Pope and Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to sign same-sex marriage certificates.
During his trip to the United States, the Pope had tried to stay above the country’s culture wars. Vigano foisted Francis right into the fray. The Vatican, which tried to distance the Pope from Davis, was displeased. Two years later, Francis quietly accepted Vigano’s resignation.
On Sunday, Vigano struck back.
Pope Francis, the Accusations and the Back Story

The Sex-Abuse Scandal Has Come for Pope Francis
A letter calling for his resignation shows how serious his crisis of credibility has become.
(The Atlantic) Pope Francis’s credibility has taken a major hit as the crisis over clergy sex abuse continues to roil the Catholic Church. Following weeks of horrifying revelations about the Church’s long-standing mismanagement of allegations against priests, the pope visited Ireland this weekend, asking forgiveness for a long list of “abuses” and “exploitation.” Reporters observed that crowds were nowhere near as large for Francis as they were for John Paul II, the last pope to visit Ireland. Protesters also called for more extensive apologies.

24 August
New Catholic sex abuse allegations show how long justice can take in a 16-year scandal
Almost two decades after the Boston Globe’s reporting, secrecy and bureaucracy have delayed justice.
(Vox) The Catholic Church found itself at the heart of one of its most serious crises yet when a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report last week, detailing the extent of child sex abuse allegations by Catholic priests in six of the state’s eight dioceses. The report estimated more than 300 priests across the state abused at least 1,000 known victims, and it condemned the wider clerical culture that allowed senior priests to turn a blind eye to the abuses, often quietly shuffling offending priests into new dioceses, where they would have unfettered access to new victims.
The allegations pointed to a systemic culture of secrecy in the Catholic Church, and implicated a number of church officials — including Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC — in the cover-up.

22 August
Catholics Are Desperate for Tangible Reforms on Clergy Sex Abuse
Pope Francis says he supports a “zero-tolerance” policy, but some insist those words are not enough.
This week, Pope Francis convenes the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, a massive, triennial gathering of Catholics to celebrate “joy for the world.” The timing could not be more awkward. The event comes in the wake of a terrible period for Catholic families amid revelations about clergy sex abuse, including the release of a massive new report detailing years of misconduct and cover-up in Pennsylvania.
These new findings are the latest entry in a long list of scandals from around the world: reports that Theodore McCarrick, the former cardinal in Washington, D.C., sexually harassed children and adults for decades; the mass resignation of Chilean bishops who mishandled sex-abuse allegations in their country; Cardinal George Pell’s return from Rome to his home in Australia, where he is standing trial on several charges of sexual abuse.
A decade and a half after the first major wave of sex-abuse scandals upended the global Church, clergy, theologians, and lay people are desperately calling on the Church to take concrete steps to prevent abuse or cover-ups from happening again. Some say the greatest problem lies in the hierarchical structure of the Church, and are advocating for more power for lay people and an overhauled seminary system.
In an unusually forthright letter “to the People of God” on Monday, Pope Francis himself seemed to agree that the Church’s structure presents a real problem. After calling for “a culture of care that says ‘never again’ to every form of abuse,” he identified what he sees as the major cause of the sex-abuse crisis: clericalism. It’s what you might call the “old-boys’ club” of the Church hierarchy—a system that gives the clergy immense influence over the laity, that exalts them with pomp and pageantry, and that some say has enabled many priests to abuse their power without accountability for too long.
“Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons … supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today,” Pope Francis wrote. “To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism.”
It’s a strong statement from a pope who has been denouncing clericalism for years. But some Catholics argue that this is not enough: New, concrete steps are now needed to reform the Church, an institution with an embedded culture of secrecy that won’t dismantle itself. For many years, the Church failed to report sex-abuse allegations to law enforcement, preferring instead to handle matters internally by shifting accused priests to different dioceses or having them quietly treated at psychiatric clinics, for example. Some Catholic leaders are concerned that the pope’s letter—and the Church itself—lack specific recommendations for preventing this from happening again.

15 August
Scathing report reveals 300 Pennsylvania Catholic priests sexually abused over 1,000 children
The report is a watershed moment in the Catholic child sex abuse crisis

29 July
A Catholic cardinal has weathered sex abuse allegations for years. Now they’re finally public.
Theodore McCarrick has resigned from the College of Cardinals after allegations of abusing both children and adults.
(Vox)  … this week, a former papal nuncio (a position similar to that of an ambassador) has accused Pope Francis of covering up McCarrick’s misdeeds. In an open letter published on a number of Catholic websites, Carlo Viganò, a longtime enemy of Francis’s, wrote that Francis had personally lifted sanctions against McCarrick imposed by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Viganò has since called for McCarrick’s resignation.

19 January
Pope’s Defense of Chilean Bishop in Sex Abuse Scandal Causes Outrage
(NYT) A number of Chilean Catholics reacted with disappointment and anger on Friday, a day after Pope Francis spoke in defense of a bishop who they say protected a pedophile priest. The remarks, made on Thursday just before Francis left Chile for Peru, upended his efforts to rehabilitate the Catholic Church’s reputation while visiting South America.

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