A “who’s who” look at papal advisers in Rome this week


VATICAN CITY — This is a big week with new and old cardinals coming to town for 10 days of meetings and ceremonies.

Pope Francis is meeting, for the third time, with his “group of eight” Council of Cardinals yesterday, today and tomorrow to help him in his overhaul of the Roman Curia.

The “Scarlet-G8″ also is meeting with the two new commissions the pope created last year to study the Vatican bank as well as help improve the accounting and administrative procedures of all Vatican offices.

So these new commissions won’t get confusing — who they are and what they do — we created an interactive slideshow to walk you through each one. You can zoom in on any names or details with your scroll-wheel. Move the slides forward with the arrow on the gray bar.

Here’s another screen-grab to give you an idea of what’s inside:

first slide

Just to add to the complexity, other groups of cardinals will be meeting this week and next:

  • All cardinals will meet Thursday and Friday to talk about the pastoral care of the family in preparation for the upcoming synod in October.
  • Council preparing the synod of bishops will meet next Monday and Tuesday to talk about the synod on the family.

Cardinal Kasper to address College of Cardinals on family

VATICAN CITY — Ever since last July, when Pope Francis told reporters that the church’s practices on marriage exemplify a need for mercy in the church today, speculation has been widespread that he might make it easier for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion even without an annulment of their first marriage.

On Feb. 17, the Vatican made an announcement bound to make such speculation even more common.

Cardinal Kasper (CNS/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Kasper (CNS/Paul Haring)

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters that Cardinal Walter Kasper would deliver the opening talk at a two-day meeting of the College of Cardinals, Feb. 20-21. The spokesman did not specify the subject of the talk, but said it would deal with church teaching on the family.

The cardinals’ meeting will focus on preparation for October’s extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization,” which Pope Francis has said will take up the question of giving Communion to the divorced and remarried.

That question is one on which Cardinal Kasper has strong and well-known views. In 1993, when the cardinal was a diocesan bishop in Germany, he and two other bishops issued pastoral instructions telling priests they could give Communion to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics convinced their first marriages were invalid, even if they had not received annulments.

That practice was later ruled out by the Vatican, but last year, the Archdiocese of Freiburg, Germany, made a similar proposal. Even criticism from Cardinal-designate Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has not stopped prominent voices — including Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany, and Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras — from suggesting Freiburg might be allowed to carry out the proposal.

Cardinals Marx and Rodriguez Maradiaga are especially influential these days because they both sit on the eight-member Council of Cardinals the pope named last April to advise him on reform of the Vatican bureaucracy and governance of the universal church.


Meeting with that council Feb. 17, Pope Francis kicked off what Father Lombardi called a “rather full” week and half at the Vatican.

The council is scheduled to meet Feb. 17-19, for its third round of meetings since October.

On Monday morning, the council received a three-member delegation from the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, which the pope established in July to investigate accounting practices in Vatican offices and devise strategies for greater fiscal responsibility and transparency.

Father Lombardi said the commission delivered a report on its work, but he declined to provide any details on the content.

On Tuesday Feb. 18, the council is scheduled to receive a five-person commission Pope Francis established in June to review the activities and mission of the Vatican bank. The commission includes two American members: Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon and Msgr. Peter B. Wells, a top official in the Vatican Secretariat of State.

On Wednesday, the pope and his council will meet with the Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See, a 15-member body that oversees budget making for the Holy See and Vatican City State. (The body will also meet on its own Feb. 24-25.)

On Saturday Feb. 22, the pope will create 19 new cardinals. He will concelebrate Mass with the newly expanded college the following day.

Finally, the secretariat of the Synod of Bishops will meet Feb. 24-25.

A rather full schedule, indeed; so watch this space for full coverage.

Pope to engaged couples: After ‘I do,’ comes ‘May I, Thank you & I’m sorry’

St. Valentine pictured in stained-glass window at basilica in Terni, Italy

St. Valentine in a stained-glass window at the Basilica of St. Valentine in Terni, Italy. CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis had a special date today in St. Peter’s Square with Catholic couples who are preparing to be married this year.

Check out the story with our “Storified” tweets below and the full video of the festive event covered by Vatican television.












This blog is guaranteed to make you hungry!

By Dennis Sadowski

MANILA, Philippines — When in Manila, there’s one place to do as the Romans do.

Where? Try the Ristorante delle Mitre (Restaurant of the Miter) in Manila’s Intramuros, the old city.

Ristorante delle Mitre in Manila’s old city is modeled after a Roman cafe and offers meals named for prelates connected with the Philippines and the Vatican. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

Ristorante delle Mitre in Manila’s old city is modeled after a Roman cafe and offers meals named for prelates connected with the Philippines and the Vatican. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

Among regulars, it’s known as Le Mitre, the Miter. It is located adjacent to the offices of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, across the street from San Augustin Church.

It’s modeled on a Roman cafe near the Vatican that is popular among priests and bishops visiting Rome on vacation or on official business. It certainly has a European feel, right down to the display cases of desserts that greet visitors as they enter.

Most of the restaurant’s dishes are named for Filipino church leaders with a few named for nuncios, priests and other prelates connected with the Vatican.

For instance, there’s the Palo Archbishop John Du Special Lugaw, a Philippine beef tapa served with dried pusit, which is squid. A dish named for Bishop Sofronio Bancud of Cabanatuan features crispy tilapia with coconut milk sauce.

Manila Cardinal Luis Tagle’s sweet tooth is highlighted in his favorite: silvana, a frozen cookie with a layer of buttercream sandwiched between two cashew-meringue wafers coated with cookie crumbs.

Everything is made on premises using locally grown and produced ingredients. Organic is preferred when possible. The menu includes vegetarian dishes. Seafood is a popular offering as well.

Sister Evangeline Paras, a member of the Missionary Catechists of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, supervises the culinary staff. Her background includes cooking for clergy in parish settings.

Costs are deliberately kept low so people of all walks of life can afford a meal. There’s also a special 39-peso meal — that’s less than $1 — for anyone, but especially those who work as a driver for a bishop or who are poor.

Employees have a say in the operation of the restaurant. And there’s a special program through which deaf people are hired in an arrangement with a local social services agency.

On Tuesday I enjoyed a beef pochero, consisting of short ribs cooked in a slightly sweet orange-mango sauce with traditional vegetables named for Bishop Prudencio Andaya of Tabuk. I topped off lunch with a not-too-sweet cinnamon apple cheesecake.

For the historically minded, display cases house artifacts from Philippine bishops. The miters of Archbishop Teofilo Camomot, Bishop Alfredo Maria Obviar  and Bishop Alfredo Verzosa, all proposed for beatification, also are displayed.

Owner Elivra Go opened the restaurant in July 2010. She told me that the effort really was the work of the Holy Spirit.

The idea first for the restaurant arose in 2008. She said now-retired Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu asked her to consider opening a place for bishops to enjoy a good meal at a reasonable cost. “It took me two years to say ‘yes,’” said the long-term lay church leader. “Who was I to say ‘no’ to the bishops?

“It just fell into place once I said ‘yes.’ It was the Holy Spirit at work.”

Go called the business a labor of love, saying it did not matter if it turned a profit or not.

She formerly helped run the candy-making business her father started in Manila in 1937. Her brother now heads the operation while Go, who is single, promotes church events. She also hosts a daily 15-minute radio show and a weekly television program that often features Catholic guests discussing church teaching.

“We want the people to feel that God is taking care of them with a good comfortable place,” Go said, “where the customer will go out smiling.”

Education and the meme generation

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, who spent many years teaching high school students and seminarians, had a lot of great stuff to say today about the importance of education.

I thought it’d be fun to create a couple of memes to help spread, in new ways, what he had to say .

Feel free to share!

education reach out

education meme

“Listen to your grandparents!” and other papal words of wisdom for kids

VATICAN CITY — The success of a kids’ comic book about Pope Francis has prompted its Italian publisher to turn it into an app for the English-speaking world.


Screenshot of a new app released Feb. 9 by Master New Media using comics to make Pope Francis’ words more accessible to children.

Called “Pope Francis Comics,” the app offers a kid-friendly mini-bio of the Argentine pontiff and 13 catchy phrases based on tweets or speeches by the pope. Kids can test how well they remember the messages with a fill-in-the-blank and coloring game.

comic book

Screenshot of a new app released Feb. 9 by Master New Media using comics to make Pope Francis’ words more accessible to children.

There is also a full-color, eight-page comic book meant for older adolescents.

While the story is a bit far-fetched (the pope plots an unrealized late-night escape to help the poor with his assistant, Corrado, and encourages Corrado to reprimand any cardinals he sees giving too little money to people on the street), it gets the point across that charity and prayer are important in a world with so much suffering.

It’s a cute and easy-to-use app, but probably a bit over-priced ($2.99) for the small amount of content and limited features. However, the publishing house tells me the app will have automatic updates and will provide new features. Right now, it feels much like the newsstand magazine it’s based on, but without the cool mazes and fun stickers.

In any case, it’s a nice attempt and a good model for new ways to reach young children with the teachings of a pope whose speaking style is already well-suited for kids.

What faith-based apps do your kids use and love? Share some of their favorites with us here!

Behind-the-scenes during the announcement “of great importance for the life of the church…”

VATICAN CITY — One year ago today was not like any other workday for the Catholic News Service Rome bureau.

Pope Benedict XVI attends meeting at Vatican announcing his resignation

Pope Benedict XVI at a Feb. 11, 2013 meeting with cardinals at the Vatican announcing he would resign at the end of the month. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Today we’d like to look back on that historic day in several ways.

First, be sure not to miss this exclusive behind-the-scenes’ look right here at how the CNS staff in Rome was among the first in the world to hear the pope was planning to retire. It runs as a slide show, so just click on the gray arrow to scroll through.

Another fascinating story from that day was it was the very first day our intern from Villanova University started work at the Rome bureau.

Watch Lauren Colegrove’s story unfold here as she is interviewed by Matt Lauer from NBC’s Today show:


Cardinal Francis Arinze also gave us his engaging first-person account of hearing the pope’s announcement in the Consistory Hall.


And finally, here is the dubbed Vatican television footage of the pope announcing his decision to resign.

Where were you when you heard the news and what thoughts went through your mind?

“Your brother’s blood cries out from the ground!”

Maman Dedeou, in his hometown of Timbuktu in Mali June, 2013. His right hand was amputated by militants in 2012. (CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

VATICAN CITY — “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Pope Francis often holds up Cain’s cynical words and attitude of indifference as a rallying cry against the apathy and outright complicity shown in today’s world to the crime and horror of human trafficking.

At least 21 million people have been forced into modern-day slavery and many of those were caught in the snares of traffickers. Some experts believe human trafficking will soon overtake drug and arms trafficking as the most lucrative criminal activity in the world.


A young woman rests at the entrance of her house in Iquitos, Peru, 2006. (CNS/Walter Hupiu)

The U.S. bishops and Catholics in some parts of the world dedicate a day of prayer and fasting for victims and survivors of trafficking on Feb. 8 — the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child, sold into slavery and dedicated her life to comforting others after she was freed.


A child receives help in Iquitos, Peru, at a center in that supports children, especially those who have been sexually exploited. (CNS/Walter Hupiu)

Pope Francis has repeatedly called human trafficking “a crime against humanity” and condemned the lack of outrage and action to stop this affront to human dignity:

We must unite our efforts to free the victims and stop this increasingly aggressive crime which threatens not only individuals but the basic values of society and of international security and justice, to say nothing of the economy, and the fabric of the family and our coexistence.

Speech to new ambassadors to the Vatican Dec. 12, 2013

It is horrifying just to think that there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day; children being used as soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts; children turned into merchandise in that terrible form of modern slavery called human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity.

Speech to Vatican diplomatic corps Jan. 13, 2014

Congolese family displaced by violence rests in open at camp in Uganda

A Congolese family, displaced by fighting in the Congo, rests at transit camp in Bundibugyo, Uganda, July 2013. (CNS/James Akena, Reuters)

As Church we should remember that in tending the wounds of refugees, evacuees and the victims of trafficking, we are putting into practice the commandment of love that Jesus bequeathed to us when he identified with the foreigner, with those who are suffering, with all the innocent victims of violence and exploitation. We should reread more often chapter 25 of the Gospel according to Matthew in which he speaks of the Last Judgement (verses 31-46).

Speech to Vatican council for migrants May 24, 2013


Three women walk home in Iquitos, Peru, April 10, 2006. Poverty and apathy have contributed to the growing problem of child prostitution in this Peruvian jungle city. (CNS/Walter Hupiu)

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was just as outspoken — especially in his homilies during his annual Mass for victims of trafficking:

Sinning city, suffering city, city that doesn’t know how to weep. Buenos Aires needs to cry, to cry for the enslavement of her children, of so many sons and daughters who have passed through its dump trucks and are left in the garbage. We have set up a throwaway culture in Buenos Aires…

How can this be? … There’s a daily-dose of anesthesia this city knows how to use very well and it’s called bribery, and with this anesthesia, consciences are put to sleep.

Mass with and for victims of forced labor and trafficking Sept. 23, 2011

Pope Francis poses with a group of workers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2011

Then-Cardinal Bergoglio poses with workers in Buenos Aires in this 2011 photo. (CNS/La Alameda Foundation handout via Reuters)

It’s worth fighting so Buenos Aires has no more slavery … That’s what God asks of us today: “Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast.” And let us rub it in the face of all those who invented this infernal machine of exclusion, this infernal machine that disposes of people and let’s curse their conduct and ask God to convert their hearts.

Mass for a world without slavery Sept. 4, 2009

Go here and here for some ways to help.

After Typhoon Haiyan, nightmares continue for kids

By Dennis Sadowski

TANAUAN, Philippines – When Dem Depayso heard that kids across the Visayas in the central Philippines were having nightmares and difficulty focusing on their schoolwork because of vivid scary memories of Typhoon Haiyan, she decided to help.

A nurse who works for Catholic-run St. Louis University in Baguio City, Philippines, Depayso is spending a week of her vacation talking kids through their fears.

Children in Tanauan, Philippines, have been counseled by volunteers to help them overcome fears stemming from November’s typhoon. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

Children in Tanauan, Philippines, have been counseled by volunteers to help them overcome fears stemming from November’s typhoon. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

CNS photographer Tyler Orsburn and I ran across a group of volunteers, Depayso included, who are offering counseling services and group therapy sessions to children in order to help them overcome traumatic visions of their homes and communities being torn apart by the storm’s vicious winds and rising flood waters.

Depayso said she knew kids needed an outlet for their fears. But what she wasn’t sure of was how big the need really was.

Since Sunday, Depayso and the 20 other volunteers have seen 300 children of all ages.

“We talk with the students and let them verbalize their fear and try to see how they are coping now,” Depayso told CNS on the steps of Assumption of Mary School in Tanauan Wednesday morning. Depayso and the volunteers have set up shop while repairs are made to the severely damaged structure.

When she took leave time soon after the storm to start meeting with kids elsewhere in the typhoon zone in December, she recalled that they held deep fears and did not want to talk much about what they saw. Three months after the storm Depayso said she is seeing that kids are beginning to laugh more and are more willing to tell their stories of survival from one of the worst-recorded typhoons to make landfall.

But a lot of fear remains.

“There are students who still have nightmares,” Depayso said. “It’s more the younger children.”

She also has found that children in public schools have harbored more fears than those in church-run schools. She believes faith and the more closer relationship that teachers in church-run schools develop with their children makes a difference.

The volunteers’ work involves a variety of techniques including just plain talking, story-telling therapy and art through which the youngsters can express their experiences and reveal what still frightens them.

“From those we get their feelings, their emotions, how they cope now,” Depayso said. “We try fun things with them and explain to them you can still continue on with your dreams.”

Three months after Haiyan, Filipinos find remains of teen

By Dennis Sadowski

PALO, Philippines — The mood turned somber late this morning in the community known as Barangay San Joaquin as residents uncovered the body of 16-year-old John Steve Cobacha, who had been missing since Typhoon Haiyan tore through the central Phillippines Nov. 8.

The remains of John Steve Cobacha, 16, were discovered Feb. 7, nearly three months after Typhoon Haiyan hit Tanauan, Philippines. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

The remains of John Steve Cobacha, 16, were discovered Feb. 7, nearly three months after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. (CNS/Tyler Orsburn)

A small crowd of supporters stood alongside the main road between Palo and Tanauan to watch about 15 men carefully pick through a large mound of debris after another neighbor found human remains while clearing branches next to his home.

Cobacha’s brother, Gilbert, 23, was among the men removing tree trunks, palm branches and personal belongings washed more than a quarter-mile inland by a 15-foot storm surge and pounding winds.

John Steve was reported missing soon after the storm. The death was the fourth for the Cobacha family, neighbors said. Mother Lorenda, father Leondro and toddler son Santino, 2, also were killed. Their bodies were found soon after the water receded into the ocean once the storm passed through the region.

The volunteers moved debris knowing that more human remains could be in the decaying and water-logged rubble that had been pushed against what was left of a battered concrete block wall of a two-story building.

Barangay council member Fel Rene Bambi Maraya told Catholic News Service 40 people remained missing from the tight-knit community. More than 400 people from the area died in the ferocious storm, he said.

Two middle-age women watched their neighbors struggling to lift some of the debris, silently praying.

Virtually every home in the area of the discovery was covered in tarps donated by various worldwide relief agencies. Twisted metal, broken windows and fallen walls are now trademarks of the once-thriving, if poverty-stricken community.

The site of the discovery is across the road from the grounds of San Joaquin Parish, the site of a mass grave where 352 people were buried immediately after the storm.

Simply crafted crosses of wood and metal marked dozens of slight mounds in front of the church. Candles, photos, large banners and even dolls served as small memorials at nearly every grave.

At one grave, the resting place for 10 members of the Lacandazo family and three others, a group of school children on their way home from morning classes delicately placed a small brown basket filled with colorful plastic flowers. Each one took a turn at arranging it until it looked just right. They stood, looked at their work and slowly continued on their way home.

Visitors constantly entered the makeshift cemetery during the 45 minutes colleague Tyler Orsburn and I were there. Most were women who stopped to pray and remember the events of that horrible day.

The Philippine government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported Jan. 29 that 6,201 people had died because of the typhoon and another 1,785 were missing. Now John Steve Cobacha will be added to the roster of the dead.

But to the residents of the Barangay San Joaquin, John Steve was so much more: a friend, a loving brother, a young man whose life was taken much too soon by the whims of nature.


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