From the Vatican

Protection of Minors: Card. Cupich Accountability, Responsibility, Transparency

Pope 022219By Linda Bordoni

February 22, 2019 (Vatican Media) The 3-day “Protection of Minors in the Church” Meeting, called by Pope Francis to examine procedures to be put in place to enforce responsibility, accountability and transparency in the Church, is in its second day in the Vatican.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, delivered his presentation entitled “Synodality: Jointly Responsible” on the day dedicated to the theme of “Accountability.”

Reflecting on the current exercise in collegiality highlighted by the meeting, he said the bishops must also consider the challenge in the light of synodality, “especially as we explore with the entire Church the structural, legal and institutional aspects of accountability”.

Synodality

Synodality, Cardinal Cupich explained, “Represents the participation of all the baptized at every level - in parishes, dioceses, national and regional ecclesial bodies - in a discernment and reform that penetrates throughout the Church”.

He said this is vital to the Church in this moment, and it’s what will “give rise to the elements of truth, penitence and renewal of cultures that are essential to fulfilling the mandate of protecting the young within the Church, and in turn within the larger society”.

Cardinal Cupich said that a process that merely changes policies, “even if it is the fruit of the finest acts of collegiality, is not enough”.

He called for the conversion of men and women throughout the entire Church, and for the conversion of ecclesial cultures on every continent, saying that “Only a synodal vision, rooted in discernment, conversion and reform at every level can bring to the Church the comprehensive action in the defense of the most vulnerable in our midst to which God’s grace is calling us”.

Sacred bond

Cardinal Cupich proceeded to reflect on a number of points including the need for a structural legal and institutional reform. He spoke of the role of the laity, the need for listening and accompaniment, but he also highlighted the role of the Church as that of a loving mother and compared the “sacred bond” between a parent with a child to that of the Church with its flock.

“Mothers and fathers have called us to account, for they simply cannot comprehend how we as  bishops  and  religious  superiors  have  often  been  blinded  to  the  scope  and  damage  of sexual abuse of minors. They  are witnessing to  dual realities that must  be pursued in our church  today:  an  unceasing  effort  to  eradicate  clergy  sexual  abuse  in  the  church,  and  a rejection of the clerical culture which so often bred that abuse”, he said.

Task ahead

The Cardinal did not shy away from looking to the task ahead and he presented a framework for Institutional and Legal Structures for Accountability focusing on three different aspects: “Setting Standards for Investigation of Bishops”, “Reporting Allegations” and “Concrete Procedural Steps”.

Cardinal Cupich concluded observing that “What remains to be enacted are clear procedures in cases which for “grave reasons” could justify the removal from office of a bishop, eparch or religious superior as defined in the motu proprio “Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela” and the motu proprio, “Come una madre amorevole” (“As a loving mother”)  and he urged his brother bishops to move to establish robust laws and structures regarding the accountability of bishops precisely to supply with a new soul the institutional reality of the Church’s discipline on sexual abuse.

For more information on the Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church and for Cardinal Cupich’s full presentation www.pbc2019.org.

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Protection of Minors: Pastors Need to Touch, Heal the Wounds of Victims

Cardinal Luis TagleBy Robin Gomes

February 21, 2019 (Vatican Media) Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle opened the 3-day Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church on Thursday in the Vatican, speaking about the need for pastors to know and feel the pain of abuse victims and heal their wounds.

The figure of the risen yet wounded Jesus is the inspiration and model for the clergy and bishops of how to heal the wounds of minors abused in the Church.

“The abuse of minors by ordained ministers has inflicted wounds not only on the victims but also on their families, the clergy, the Church, the wider society, the perpetrators themselves and the Bishops,” said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in his presentation at the start of the 3-day Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church, that kicked off on Thursday in the Vatican.

“We humbly and sorrowfully admit, that wounds have been inflicted by us bishops on victims and in fact the entire body of Christ.”

He said that the bishops’ lack of response to the suffering of victims, even to the point of rejecting them and covering up the scandal to protect perpetrators and the institution “has injured our people, leaving a deep wound in our relationship with those we are sent to serve.”  

Shutting eyes on abuse

The Archbishop of Manila said that people rightly point a finger at the pastors of the Church, who are called to have the “smell of the sheep”, but who run away when they find the “stench of the filth inflicted on children and vulnerable people” who they are supposed to protect.

In this regard, the cardinal drew attention to the encounter between the Risen Christ and Thomas, where Jesus insisted His disciple should touch His wounds.

“Wounds remain wounds,” the cardinal said and “the wounds of Christ remain in the wounds of our world.” “How can we profess faith in Christ when we close our eyes to all the wounds inflicted by abuse?” the cardinal asked.

“Each of us and our brothers and sisters at home,” Card. Tagle said, “must take personal responsibility for bringing healing to this wound in the Body of Christ and make the commitment to do everything in our power to see that children are safe in our communities.”

Love and compassion

The Filipino cardinal noted that Jesus allowed himself to be wounded as he touched the wounds of the poor, the sick, tax collectors, women of ill repute, persons afflicted with leprosy, noisy children, outsiders and foreigners.”

“He was crucified because he loved these concrete persons who were themselves wounded by society and religion. By sharing in their weakness and wounds, he became a compassionate brother rather than a harsh judge.”

The 61-year old cardinal pointed out that wounds are often inflicted by the blindness of ambition and legalism and misuse of power that condemned an innocent person to die as a criminal.” He said we need to put aside any hesitation and to draw close to the wounds of our people because “only the wounds of love and compassion can heal.”

If we want to be agents of healing, we have to see and touch the wounds of others, which are Christ´s wounds in the wounded people.   The denial of wounds and death leads to the death of others and to our own death.

Solidarity, accompaniment

Cardinal Tagle explained that justice alone cannot heal the broken heart of survivors of abuse.  “If we are to serve the victims and all those wounded by the crisis,” he said, “we need to take seriously their wound of resentment and pain and the need for healing.”   Resentment can be like a disease, that slowly and steadily infects people, until their enthusiasm and energy are gone. With increasing stress, they are prone to “heightened anxiety and depression, lowered-self-images, interpersonal conflicts that arise from the inner brokenness.”

Regarding the issue of asking the victims to forgive, Card. Tagle said it does not mean they should just let it all go, excuse the abuse and just move on.  Forgiveness, he said, is one powerful and even scientifically supported pathway for eliminating pain and resentment in the human heart.

We as the Church should continue to walk with those profoundly wounded by abuse, building trust, providing unconditional love, and repeatedly asking for forgiveness in the full recognition that we do not deserve that forgiveness in the order of justice but can only receive it when it is bestowed as gift and grace in the process of healing.

Card. Tagle, who is president of Caritas Internationalis, pointed out that sometimes bishops and religious superiors are tempted, and even pressured at times, to “choose between victim and perpetrator”.  But a focus on justice and forgiveness shows that both need attention.

Victims need to be helped to express their deep hurts and heal from them. Perpetrators need to be served justice, helped to face the truth without rationalization, and not neglect their inner world.

Learning from the Risen Lord and his disciples, the cardinal said, we look at and touch the wounds of victims, families, guilty and innocent clergy, the Church and society.  “Beholding Jesus wounded by betrayal and abuse of power, we see the wounds of those hurt by those who should have protected them.”

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Pope Audience: God the Father Loves Us Like No One Else Can

Pope 022019February 20, 2019 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis during his continuing catechesis on the Lord's Prayer at the Wednesday General Audience tells pilgrims, that “when we feel that hunger to love God, we are responding to the invitation to know God as ‘Father’."

Continuing his catechesis on the “Our Father”, on Wednesday, the Pope told the pilgrims gathered in the Paul VI hall that the first step of Christian prayer is to enter into the mystery of God’s paternity.

Pope Francis explained that in order to understand how God is “Father”, we think of our own parents. But, he noted, that no parent is perfect and we all have our defects.

God's love comes from a heavenly Father

The Pontiff went on to say that when we talk about God as “Father”, we need to go beyond the earthly image, because God’s love comes from a heavenly Father. Yet, we only experience this total divine love – in this life – in an imperfect way, for our human love is wounded.

He said, “we always live our relationships of love under the sign of our limitations and also of our own selfishness, so they are often polluted by the desire to possess or manipulate the other".

We are all beggars of Love

"Men and women are eternally Beggars of Love”, the Pope emphasized, “they seek a place where they can finally be loved, but they can't find it.”

God’s love, on the other hand, said Pope Francis, is a perfect kind of love because He loves every single person in a way that no one on earth ever can.

When we feel that hunger to love God, underlined the Pope, we are responding to the invitation to know God as “Father”.

During his catechesis Pope Francis also said, “You can't pray like parrots. Either you enter into the mystery, in the awareness that God is your Father, or you do not pray.”

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Pope at Mass: ‘Cost of War Weighs on the Weak’

Pope 021919February 19, 2019 (Vatican Media) In his homily at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday, Pope Francis reflected on the cost of war, comparing it to the Biblical flood of Noah’s time.

Reflecting on the day’s reading from Genesis (6:5-8;7:1-5,10) in his homily, the Holy Father said there is a golden thread running through the story of the flood and modern-day conflicts.

He said we must ask God for the grace to cry and lament when faced with the world’s calamities and the victims of war, many of whom are starving children, orphans, and the poor who pay the highest price.

God has feelings

Faced with these realities, Pope Francis invited us to have a heart like God’s – capable of anger, pain, and closeness to others – one that is both human and divine.

The Pope highlighted God’s suffering when He sees the evil of men and women, and noted that God “regretted” having created people so much that He decided to erase us from the face of the earth.

This is a God with feelings, said Pope Francis, “who is not abstract” and who “suffers”, calling this “the mystery of the Lord”.

“[These are] the feelings of God, God the Father who loves us – and love is a relationship. He is able to get angry and to feel rage. It is Jesus who comes and gives us the path, with the suffering of the heart, everything… But our God has feelings. Our God loves us with the heart; He doesn’t love us with ideas but loves us with the heart. And when He caresses us, He caresses us with His heart, and when He disciplines us, like a good father, He disciplines us with His heart, suffering more than we do.”

Our times are no better than those of the flood

Pope Francis said our relationship with God is one “of heart to heart, of son to Father who opens Himself, and if He is capable of feeling pain in His heart, then we, too, will be able to feel pain before Him.” The Pope said this is not sentimentalism, but the truth.

Our times, he said, are not so different from those of the flood. There are problems and calamities, poor, hungry, persecuted, and tortured people, “people who die in war because others throw bombs as if they were candy”.

“I don’t think our times are better than those of the flood; I don’t think so. Calamities are more or less the same; the victims are more or less the same. Let’s think about the example of the weakest: children. The many hungry children and children without education cannot grow in peace. [Many are] without parents because they have been massacred in war… child soldiers… Let us just think about those children.”

Cry as Jesus did

Pope Francis said we need to ask for the grace to have “a heart like the heart of God – one made in the likeness of God” that feels pain when witnessing others suffer.

“There is the great calamity of the flood; there is the great calamity of today’s wars, where the price of the party is paid by the weak, the poor, children, and those who have no resources to carry on. Let us consider that the Lord is pained in His heart, and let us draw near to the Lord and speak to Him, saying: ‘Lord, observe these things; I understand you.’ Let us console the Lord: ‘I understand you, and I am with you. I accompany you in prayer and intercede for all of these calamities which are the fruit of the devil who wants to destroy the work of God.’”

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Pope at Mass: “Where is Your brother?”

Pope 021819February 18, 2019 (Vatican Media) “Where is your brother?”  This is the question that God asks each one of us in our hearts regarding our brother who is sick, in prison or hungry.   Pope Francis made this the reflection of his homily at Mass, Monday morning, in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.  

Commenting on the episode of Cain and Abel in the first reading from the Book of Genesis, the Pope explained that mankind, like Cain, often attempts to reply to God’s uncomfortable and embarrassing questions with regard to our neighbors.  “What have I got to do with my brother's life? Am I his keeper? I wash my hands of him….”   The Pope explained that Cain, who killed his brother, tries to escape the gaze of God.

Uncomfortable questions

The Pope went on to explain how Jesus also asked such uncomfortable questions.  He asked Peter three times whether he loved Him.  He asked his disciples what people said about Him and what they themselves thought about Him.

Pope Francis said today the Lord asks each one of us some personal questions such as these:

"Where is your brother who is hungry?" the Lord asks us.  And to save our skin, we answer, “Surely he is at lunch with the parish Caritas group that is feeding him.”  

“What about the other, the sick…?"  “Oh well, he is in the hospital!"   "But there's no place in the hospital! And did you give him any medicine? "  "But, that’s his business, I cannot meddle in the life of others ... and besides, he will have relatives who give him medicine.”  And so I wash my hands of him.

"Where is your brother, the prisoner?"  "Ah, he deserves and is paying for it.”  We are tired of seeing so many criminals on the street.

Perhaps, the Pope said, you never hear such answers from the Lord.  “Where is your brother, your exploited brother, the one who works illegally, nine months a year… with no security, no holiday ...?"

Name and face of a brother

The Holy Father urged each one to put a name to each one of those that the Lord mentions in Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel -   the sick, the hungry, the thirsty, without clothes, the little one who cannot go to school, the drug addict, the prisoner ... where is he?

The Pope said questions are constantly being asked of us. “Where is your brother in your heart? Is there room for these people in our hearts? Or do we try to calm our conscience by giving some alms?” 

"We are accustomed,” he said, “to giving compromising answers in order to escape from the problem, not to see the problem, not to touch the problem".

Pope Francis said that unless we put names to the list in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 25, we will create “a dark life” for us with sin crouching at our door, waiting to enter and destroy us.

When God asked Adam in the Book of Genesis, “Adam, where are you?" - Adam hid himself out of shame.   Perhaps we don’t notice these things, these sufferings, these pains, the Pope said and urged Christians not to hide from reality but to answer openly, faithfully and joyfully to the questions that the Lord asks us about our brothers.

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Angelus: Pope Warns Against idolatry, Jesus Calls Us to Happiness

Pope 021719By Lydia O'Kane

February 17, 2019 (Vatican Media) Before the recitation of the Marian Prayer, the Pope reflects on Sunday’s Gospel reading from Luke in which, he says, Jesus in the form of the beatitudes “opens his eyes to us, makes us see with his gaze, beyond appearances, beyond the surface, and teaches us to discern situations with faith.”

Pope Francis explained how Jesus, “declares the poor, the hungry, the afflicted, the persecuted blessed while he admonishes those who are rich, well fed, who laugh and are acclaimed by people. He went on to say that the "woe to you" phrase, “addressed to those who are doing well today, serves to "awaken" them from the dangerous deception of selfishness and open them up to the logic of love, while they still have time.”

The Pope emphasized that “the passage of Sunday’s Gospel, therefore, invites us to reflect on the profound meaning of having faith, which consists in trusting the Lord totally... he alone can give our existence that much desired fullness, yet one that is difficult to achieve.”

The danger of idolatry

He noted that, even today, “there are many who propose themselves as dispensers of happiness”: They promise success in the short term”, Pope Francis said, “great profits to be had, magical solutions to every problem, and so on. And without realizing, it is easy to slip into sin against the first commandment: idolatry, replacing God with an idol.”

“That is why Jesus opens our eyes to reality, ” the Pope stressed, “we are called to happiness, to be blessed, and we become so from now on in the measure in which we put ourselves on the side of God, of His Kingdom, on the side of what is not ephemeral but endures for eternal life.” He continued, “we are happy if we recognize ourselves as needy before God and, if like Him and with Him, we are close to the poor, the afflicted and the hungry.”

The Beatitudes a decisive message

The Beatitudes of Jesus, Pope Francis concluded, “are a decisive message, which spurs us on not to place our trust in material and transitory things, not to seek happiness by following the sellers of smoke, the professionals of illusion.”

The Lord, he said, “helps us to open our eyes, to acquire a more penetrating look at reality, to heal from the chronic myopia that which the worldly spirit infects us. With his paradoxical Word he shakes us up and makes us recognize what really enriches us, satisfies us, gives us joy and dignity.”

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