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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Hog wild! Pope’s Harley gear nabs record prices

Pope greets Harley-Davidson biker after Mass at Vatican

Pope Francis greeting a Harley-Davidson biker as he meets with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square June 16, 2013. (CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — A Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide that Pope Francis put up for auction went for a hefty $326,500 today, demolishing its pre-sale appraisal of $16,000.

The record sale was the hit of the day as hundreds of bidders and spectators attending the Paris auction “erupted into applause when the hammer came down,” according to the Bonhams auction house.

bonhams bike sold price

Bidding was fierce, Bonhams said, and lasted a full six minutes. The 2013 autographed bike went to “a private European buyer” who was bidding over the telephone.

A leather Harley jacket, also signed by the pope, sold for $77,644 to someone “overseas,” meaning, not in Europe. A pre-bid estimate had put the 110th anniversary special edition XL jacket at between $1,400 and $2,000.

bonhams jacket sold price

Seems appraisers didn’t factor in how much papal Harley gear was really worth!

Ben Walker, head of motorcycles at Bonhams, said: “It has to be a world record for a twenty-first century Harley-Davidson and certainly for a Harley-Davidson leather jacket.”

– Bonhams press release

All proceeds will go to benefit the renovation of Caritas Rome’s Fr. Luigi di Liegro shelter and soup kitchen. The money looks like it will provide the final funding needed for the project, which had been $270,000 short of its target.

Msgr. Enrico Feroci, head of Caritas Rome, told Bonhams:

“We are delighted with the results of the sale, which far exceeded any of our expectations.

“We would like to thank Bonhams for their professionalism with handling the motorcycle and for all their efforts in helping us to achieve such an amazing result.”

Hark, the heraldry: cracking the coat-of-arms code

book cover coat of arms

Cover of a new book on the heraldic signs and symbols in the church. (CNS/Carol Glatz)

VATICAN CITY — Have you ever wanted to decipher the mysterious signs and symbols on a coat of arms?

An Italian cardinal has just published a book (alas, in Italiano) on cracking the code of heraldry in the church — the unique and personal crest every bishop, cardinal and pope adopts with their episcopal ordination, elevation to the College of Cardinals or election to the papacy.

The author, Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, is an expert on heraldry and created Benedict XVI’s blazon when he was elected pope in 2005.

It gives an in-depth look at the history and “grammar” of a properly designed coat of arms.

2008 FILE PHOTO OF POPE GIVING HOMILY AT YANKEE STADIUM MASS IN NEW YORK

Under a large reproduction of his coat of arms, Pope Benedict XVI giving his homily during Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York in this April 20, 2008 file photo. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Pope Benedict introduced a number of radical changes to the papal crest when he and the cardinal set about designing his papal shield.

The pope’s resignation then prompted Cardinal Cordero to think about how the now-retired pope’s coat of arms should be amended, given his change of status to “supreme pontiff emeritus.”

It was a tough question since there were no precedents to look at. Yes, there were popes who had stepped down, but it was not clear if or how their shields ever reflected that change, the cardinal said in the book.

The coat of arms of a retired pope should retain all the symbolic elements on the shield that reflect his personality and history, the cardinal said.

But, he said the external elements — like the two crossed keys, which symbolize the powers Christ gave to the Apostle Peter and his successors — should be abandoned or altered since they represent an office he no longer holds.

The cardinal includes two hypothetical designs of what he thought the new pope-emeritus shield should look like, replacing the bishop’s miter with a white “galero” with 15 tassels and returning the banner with his episcopal motto: “Cooperatores Veritatis” (“Cooperators of the truth”).

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However, the retired pope passed on any changes. The cardinal said Pope Benedict thanked him for his “interesting study,” but preferred not to alter his papal shield.

Other bits of trivia are highlighted in the book such as the elements in Pope Francis’ coat of arms. It’s the first time the emblem of the Society of Jesus ever appears on a papal blazon, Cardinal Cordero said, and probably the first time the spikenard flower has ever appeared on a coat of arms.

But see if you can catch a very small, yet “inexplicable” detail in Francis’ papal coat of arms. I hadn’t noticed the mistake until the cardinal pointed it out in his book. Happy hunting!

Vatican updates coat of arms of Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ coat of arms. (CNS photo).

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