Vatican UN nuncio calls world to ‘discernment and new thinking’ on climate change

Archbishop Celestino Migliore (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the church official heading the Vatican’s five-member delegation to the U.N. climate change conference, said “discernment and new thinking” are necessary to address the moral crises facing the world.

In addressing the delegates during a Dec. 17 plenary session, the archbishop said people must take personal responsibility to care for the environment and reduce the impact of climate change on the God’s creation.

Here’s an excerpt:

With realism, trust and hope we must assume the new responsibilities which call us to the scene of a world in need of a deep cultural renewal and rediscovery of fundamental values on which to build  a better future. The moral crises that humanity is currently experiencing, be they economic, nutritional, environmental or social — all deeply interlinked — oblige us to redesign our way, to establish new guidelines and to find new forms of engagement. These crises become thus the occasion for discernment and new thinking.

The archbishop also called people to change their living habits. Such steps, he said, would help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases —  a leading cause of climate change, scientists say — pumped into the atmosphere.

These efforts are about working on lifestyles, as the current dominant models of consumption and production are often unsustainable from the point of view of social, environmental, economic and even moral analysis. We must safeguard creation — soil, water and air — as a gift entrusted to everyone, but we must also and above all prevent mankind from destroying itself.

CNS will have more soon. Here’s our story.

A step toward sainthood for John Paul II?

Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day in Denver in 1993. (CNS photo/Joe Rimkus Jr.)

VATICAN CITY — For more than a week, Vatican sources have been predicting that on Saturday Pope Benedict would sign the decree declaring that Pope John Paul II heroically lived the Christian virtues — a major step toward eventual beatification of the late pope.

The decree declaring Pope John Paul “venerable” would confirm a recommendation made by the Congregation for Saints’ Causes after years of study. We reported in November on the congregation’s action here.

It’s premature, but already Vatican officials — and the Roman patrons of my local coffee bar — are talking about a likely beatification ceremony in October of 2010, perhaps on the Oct. 16 anniversary of the late pope’s election in 1978.

Before beatification occurs, however, the Vatican must approve a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul’s intercession.  Church experts are already studying a possible miracle, the cure of a French nun from Parkinson’s disease, the same disease from which Pope John Paul suffered.

In 2005, Pope Benedict set Pope John Paul on the fast track to beatification by waiving the normal five-year waiting period for the introduction of his sainthood cause. That seemed to respond to the “Santo subito!” (“Sainthood now!”) banners that were held aloft at Pope John Paul’s funeral. In April, the church will mark the fifth anniversary of Pope John Paul’s death.

The initial diocesan phase of his sainthood cause was completed in April 2007. In November of 2008, a team of theological consultors to the Congregation for Saints’ Causes began studying the 2,000-page “positio,” the document that made the case for beatification. After their favorable judgment, the cardinal and bishop members of the sainthood congregation met last month and gave their go-ahead for the decree of heroic virtues.

The presumed miracle, meanwhile, is being studied in a five-step process that involves medical experts, a medical board, theological consultors, the members of the congregation and, finally, Pope Benedict.

There’s some speculation that Pope Benedict might be ready to approve the miracle along with the heroic virtues. That happens rarely, but it does happen: in December of 2002, Pope John Paul II signed decrees on the same day affirming the heroic virtues of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and a miraculous cure attributed to her intercession. She was beatified the following October.

Pope Benedict on Saturday is also expected to  formally recognize the miracle needed for the canonization of Blessed Mary MacKillop, the Australian founder of a religious order dedicated to educating the children of the poor.

Archbishop Milingo dismissed from the priesthood

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo at a 2006 press conference. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo at a 2006 press conference. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Three years after excommunicating Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the Vatican has imposed the additional penalty of dismissal from the clerical state.

In a statement issued today, the Vatican said it was forced to take the step after Archbishop Milingo continued to commit “new crimes against the unity of the holy church,” specifically by ordaining bishops against papal orders.

The archbishop in 2001 married Korean acupuncturist Maria Sung in a mass ceremony arranged by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, which is now called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. He later founded the U.S.-based Married Priests Now! movement, which advocates that the Catholic Church allow married priests in active ministry.

Here is the text of the Vatican’s statement announcing his dismissal from the priesthood:


For a number of years the Church has followed with great concern the difficulties caused by the regrettable conduct of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo. Many attempts have been made to bring Archbishop Milingo back into communion with the Catholic Church, including the consideration of suitable ways to enable him to exercise the episcopal ministry. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were directly involved in those efforts and both Popes personally followed the case of Archbishop Milingo in a spirit of paternal solicitude.

In the course of this unhappy series of events, Archbishop Milingo became irregular in 2001 as a result of his attempt to marry Mrs. Maria Sung, and incurred the medicinal penalty of suspension (cf. Canons 1044 § 1, n. 3; 1394 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law). Thereafter, he headed certain groups calling for the abolition of clerical celibacy and gave numerous interviews to the media in open disobedience to the repeated interventions of the Holy See, creating serious upset and scandal among the faithful. Then, on 24 September 2006 in Washington, Archbishop Milingo ordained four Bishops without pontifical mandate.

By so doing, he incurred the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae (Canon 1382) which was declared by the Holy See on 26 September 2006 and is still in force today. Sadly, Archbishop Milingo has shown no sign of the desired repentance with a view to returning to full communion with the Supreme Pontiff and the other members of the College of Bishops. Rather, he has persisted in the unlawful exercise of acts belonging to the episcopal office, committing new crimes against the unity of Holy Church. Specifically, in recent months Archbishop Milingo has proceeded to several other episcopal ordinations.

The commission of these grave crimes, which has recently been established, is to be considered as proof of the persistent contumacy of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo. The Holy See has therefore been obliged to impose upon him the further penalty of dismissal from the clerical state.

According to Canon 292 of the Code of Canon Law, the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state, now added to the grave penalty of excommunication, has the following effects: loss of the rights and duties attached to the clerical state, except for the obligation of celibacy; prohibition of the exercise of any ministry, except as provided for by Canon 976 of the Code of Canon Law in those cases involving danger of death; loss of all offices and functions and of all delegated power, as well as prohibition of the use of clerical attire. Consequently, the participation of the faithful in any future celebrations organized by Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo is to be considered unlawful.

It must be pointed out that the dismissal of a Bishop from the clerical state is most extraordinary. The Holy See has felt obliged to act in this way due to the serious consequences for ecclesial communion resulting from repeated episcopal consecrations carried out without pontifical mandate; nevertheless, the Church hopes that Archbishop Milingo will see the error of his ways.

 As for those recently ordained by Archbishop Milingo, the Church’s discipline in imposing the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae upon those who receive episcopal consecration without pontifical mandate is well-known. While expressing hope for their conversion, the Church reaffirms what was declared on 26 September 2006, namely that she does not recognize these ordinations, nor does she intend to recognize them, or any subsequent ordinations based on them, in the future. Hence the canonical status of the supposed bishops remains as it was prior to the ordination conferred by Archbishop Milingo.

 At this moment, as the Church experiences profound sorrow for the grave acts perpetrated by Archbishop Milingo, she entrusts to the power of prayer the repentance of the guilty party and of all those who – be they priests or lay faithful – have in any way cooperated with him by acting against the unity of Christ’s Church.

Pope to join Sant’Egidio for Holy Family lunch with the poor

VATICAN CITY — After reciting the Angelus at the Vatican Dec. 27, Pope Benedict XVI will travel to Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood to have lunch with the poor, the Vatican announced.

The luncheon will be held at one of the soup kitchens run by the Sant’Edigio Community, a lay movement founded in Trastevere in the late 1960s.

The Basilica of St. Maria in Trastevere filled with people enjoying Christmas lunch last year. (CNS/Courtesty Sant'Egidio Community)

Francesca Zuccari, coordinator of the soup kitchens, said about 200 people will be chosen to represent the average of more than 1,000 people who eat dinner and the 60 volunteers who serve them in the Via Dandolo dining room every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening.

The papal luncheon on the 27th, the feast of the Holy Family, will be something like the major Christmas luncheon offered by the Sant’Egidio Community and its friends to more than 10,000 people throughout the city of Rome. In just the Basilica of St. Maria in Trastevere, more than 2,000 people are expected to sit down on Christmas Day for a traditional Italian Christmas meal, complete with presents.

If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation

Pope Benedict walks in a forested area in northern Italy. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict’s World Peace Day message, released today at the Vatican, is dedicated to environmental themes as seen from a Christian perspective. The full text is here. (UPDATE: Here is our story.) (SECOND UPDATE: The full text also will be available in the next edition of the CNS documentary service, Origins, Vol. 39, No. 29, dated Dec. 24.)

Below are some key excerpts, beginning with the pope’s point that true ecological awareness is linked to faith in God.

The environment must be seen as God’s gift to all people, and the use we make of it entails a shared responsibility for all humanity, especially the poor and future generations. I also observed that whenever nature, and human beings in particular, are seen merely as products of chance or an evolutionary determinism, our overall sense of responsibility wanes.

Pope Benedict notes that previous popes have warned about an environmental crisis, which has grown worse with passing decades.

Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of “environmental refugees”, people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources? All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development.

The pope describes today’s ecological predicament as part of a much wider crisis of values.

It should be evident that the ecological crisis cannot be viewed in isolation from other related questions, since it is closely linked to the notion of development itself and our understanding of man in his relationship to others and to the rest of creation. Prudence would thus dictate a profound, long-term review of our model of development, one which would take into consideration the meaning of the economy and its goals with an eye to correcting its malfunctions and misapplications. The ecological health of the planet calls for this, but it is also demanded by the cultural and moral crisis of humanity whose symptoms have for some time been evident in every part of the world. Humanity needs a profound cultural renewal; it needs to rediscover those values which can serve as the solid basis for building a brighter future for all. Our present crises – be they economic, food-related, environmental or social – are ultimately also moral crises, and all of them are interrelated. They require us to rethink the path which we are traveling together. Specifically, they call for a lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity …

Environmental solutions must cut across the rich-poor divide, he says.

The ecological crisis shows the urgency of a solidarity which embraces time and space. It is important to acknowledge that among the causes of the present ecological crisis is the historical responsibility of the industrialized countries. Yet the less developed countries, and emerging countries in particular, are not exempt from their own responsibilities with regard to creation, for the duty of gradually adopting effective environmental measures and policies is incumbent upon all. This would be accomplished more easily if self-interest played a lesser role in the granting of aid and the sharing of knowledge and cleaner technologies.

The pope insists that concern for the ecology should lead people to reject consumerist lifestyles.

It is becoming more and more evident that the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our life-style and the prevailing models of consumption and production, which are often unsustainable from a social, environmental and even economic point of view. We can no longer do without a real change of outlook which will result in new life-styles, “in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments”.

He underlines that in the church’s view, ecology begins with the human person.

Young people cannot be asked to respect the environment if they are not helped, within families and society as a whole, to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible; it includes not only the environment but also individual, family and social ethics. Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person, considered both individually and in relation to others.

The pope concludes with an invitation to action and prayer.

Protecting the natural environment in order to build a world of peace is thus a duty incumbent upon each and all.  It is an urgent challenge, one to be faced with renewed and concerted commitment; it is also a providential opportunity to hand down to coming generations the prospect of a better future for all.  May this be clear to world leaders and to those at every level who are concerned for the future of humanity: the protection of creation and peacemaking are profoundly linked! For this reason, I invite all believers to raise a fervent prayer to God, the all-powerful Creator and the Father of mercies, so that all men and women may take to heart the urgent appeal: If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.

National Guadalupe shrine is in Pennsylvania

As we approach the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas, it’s worth mentioning that a parish in Allentown, Pa., is home to a national shrine dedicated to her.

 The National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Immaculate Conception BVM Church was dedicated in 1974 after a national search by the U.S. bishops, according to an article on Page 3 of the Nov. 26 issue of The A.D. Times, the diocesan newspaper.

“Our Lady is a protector and continues to love, guide and care for all people,” said Father Harold Dagle, the parish’s retired pastor.

Also last month The Catholic Sun in Phoenix in its Nov. 30 issue had a wonderful feature by reporter J.D. Long-Garcia, who went to Mexico to report on the devotion there to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Inside the John Paul II-Gorbachev meeting

Pope John Paul II meets Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989 (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN CITY  — The release of a transcript of the 1989 meeting between Pope John Paul II and Mikhail Gorbachev offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of one of the more important papal audiences of the 20th century.

It’s a translation of the Russian record of the private meeting, released by the National Security Archive, an independent institute in Washington. For background on this and other documents being made public, look here.

I remember the Dec.  1, 1989, encounter well. I was among the pool journalists allowed inside the Vatican for the event. We chatted with some of Gorbachev’s aides as the two leaders held their closed-door talks. Those talks lasted 76 minutes — an extraordinarily long time for papal audiences — and journalists always wondered how the exchange had gone.

We reported today on the new disclosures, in a story available only to CNS subscribers. Here is the transcript of the meeting provided by the National Security Archive. It picks up when interpreters entered the papal library following about five minutes of one-on-one talks between the pope and the Soviet leader:

Record of Conversation of M.S. Gorbachev and John Paul II

Vatican, December 1, 1989

For the first several minutes the conversation was one-on-one (without interpreters).

Gorbachev: I would like to say that I appreciate your words at the beginning of the conversation regarding the fact that this is a meeting of two Slavic people, among other things. I don’t mean to appear as a pan-Slavist, but I believe in the mission of Slavic people to strengthen the understanding of human values of life, peace, and goodness everywhere.

John Paul II: Yes, this is so. Peace and goodness.

Gorbachev: We welcome your mission on this high altar, we are sure that it will leave a great footprint in history. I am familiar Continue reading