Pope names 15 new cardinal electors, most from global south

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Underscoring the geographical diversity of his selections, Pope Francis named 15 cardinal electors “from 14 nations of every continent, showing the inseparable link between the church of Rome and the particular churches present in the world.”

The pope announced the names Jan. 4, after praying the Angelus with a crowd in St. Peter’s Square, and said he would formally induct the men into the College of Cardinals Feb. 14.

With the list, the pope continues a movement he started with his first batch of appointments a year ago, giving gradually more representation at the highest levels of the church to poorer countries in the global south. According to the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the new cardinals will include the first in history from Cape Verde, Tonga and Myanmar.

The Feb. 14 consistory will bring the total number of cardinals under the age of 80 to 125. Until they reach their 80th birthdays, cardinals are eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope. Blessed Paul VI limited the number of electors to 120, but later popes have occasionally exceeded that limit.

Three of the new cardinal electors hail from Asia, three from Latin America, two from Africa and two from Oceania.

Of the five Europeans on the list, three lead dioceses in Italy and Spain that have not traditionally had cardinals as bishops — another sign of Pope Francis’ willingness to break precedent. While giving red hats to the archbishops of Ancona-Osimo and Agrigento, Italy, the pope will once again pass over the leaders of Venice and Turin, both historically more prestigious dioceses.

None of the new cardinals hails from the U.S. or Canada. Father Lombardi noted that the numbers of cardinals from those countries have remained stable since February 2014, when Pope Francis elevated the archbishop of Quebec. The U.S. currently has 11 cardinal electors and Canada 3.

The continuing geographic shift is incremental in nature. With the new appointments, cardinals from Europe and North America will make up 56.8 percent of those eligible to elect the next pope, down from 60 percent on Jan. 4.

The shift reflects the pope’s emphasis on Africa and Asia, where the church is growing fastest, and on his native region of Latin America, home to about 40 percent of the world’s Catholics.

A number of the selections also reflect Pope Francis’ emphasis on social justice. The new Mexican cardinal leads a diocese that has been hard hit by the current wave of drug-related violence in his country.

And one of the Italian cardinals designate, the archbishop of Agrigento in Sicily, leads the Italian bishops’ commission on migration, an issue on which Pope Francis has placed particular importance. In July 2013, the pope visited the southern Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, a major entry point for undocumented immigrants to Europe, and mourned the many who had died attempting to cross the sea.

Only one of the new cardinals, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, is a member of the church’s central administration, the Roman Curia, which currently accounts for about a quarter of all cardinal electors.

Announcing the appointments, Pope Francis noted that the ceremony to induct the new cardinals will follow a two-day meeting of the entire college, Feb. 12 and 13, “to reflect on guidelines and proposals for reform of the Roman Curia.”

The pope’s nine-member Council of Cardinals is currently working on a major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, including a new apostolic constitution for the curia.

In addition to 15 new electors, Pope Francis named five new cardinals who are over the age of 80 and, therefore, ineligible to vote in a conclave. Popes have used such nominations to honor churchmen for their scholarship or other contributions.

Pope Francis said he had chosen to honor five retired bishops “distinguished for their pastoral charity in service to the Holy See and the church,” representing “so many bishops who, with the same pastoral solicitude, have given testimony of love for Christ and the people of God, whether in particular churches, the Roman Curia or the diplomatic service of the Holy See.”

The five new honorary cardinals hail from Argentina, Colombia, Germany, Italy and Mozambique.

Here is the list of the new cardinals:

— French Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Prefect of the Apostolic Signature, 62.
— Portuguese Patriarch Manuel Jose Macario do Nascimento Clemente of Lisbon, 66.
— Ethiopian Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel of Addis Ababa, 66.
— New Zealand Archbishop John Atcherley Dew of Wellington, 66.
— Italian Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli of Ancona-Osimo, 75.
— Vietnamese Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Hanoi, 76.
— Mexican Archbishop Alberto Suarez Inda of Morelia, 75.
— Myanmar Archbishop Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, 66.
— Thai Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok, 65.
— Italian Archbishop Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento, 68.
— Uruguayan Archbishop Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet of Montevideo, 55.
— Spanish Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, 72.
— Spanish-born Panamanian Bishop Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan of David, Panama, 70.
— Cape Verdean Bishop Arlindo Gomes Furtado of Santiago de Cabo Verde, 65.
— Tongan Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi, 53.
— Colombian Archbishop Jose de Jesus Pimiento Rodriguez, retired, of Manizales, 95.
— Italian Archbishop Luigi De Magistris, 88.
— German Archbishop Karl-Joseph Rauber, 80.
— Argentine Archbishop Luis Hector Villalba, retired, of Tucuman, 80.
— Mozambican Bishop Julio Duarte Langa, retired, of Xai-Xai, 87.

Pope Francis’ suggested New Year’s resolutions

(CNS/Paul Haring)

(CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — When Pope Francis met before Christmas with Vatican employees, mostly lay people with families, he asked them to do 10 things. The list sounded remarkably like suggestions for New Year’s resolutions:

— “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”

— “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention and love.”

— “Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy.”

— “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity and worldly decadence.”

— “Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused others.”

— “Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with a spirit that knows how to thank the Lord.”

— “Be careful of envy, lust, hatred and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people.”

— “Watch out for anger that can lead to vengeance; for laziness that leads to existential euthanasia; for pointing the finger at others, which leads to pride; and for complaining continually, which leads to desperation.”

— “Take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker … the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers, because we will be judged on this.”

UPDATE because we initially didn’t include No. 10:

— Making sure your Christmas is about Jesus and not about shopping.

A few of our favorite Pope Francis moments in 2014

VATICAN CITY — Here are some of the most poignant and stand-out moments from 2014:

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On Christmas, pope urges people to hear the cry of suffering children

Pope Francis prepares to deliver his Christmas blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis prepares to deliver his Christmas blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The crying of the Baby Jesus is not the only cry people should hear on Christmas; many children around the world are crying because of war, maltreatment and abuse, Pope Francis said.

“Baby Jesus,” he said Dec. 25, pausing for effect. “My thoughts today go to all children who are abused and mistreated: those killed before they are born; those deprived of the generous love of their parents who are buried under the selfishness of a culture that does not love life; those children displaced by war and persecution, abused and exploited under our eyes and the silence that makes us accomplices.”

Before giving his solemn Christmas blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world), Pope Francis addressed an estimated 80,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, urging them to pray for peace in Ukraine, in the Middle East, Nigeria, Libya, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Congo.

With thousands of children looking at the Vatican’s Nativity scene and receiving the pope’s blessing with their parents Christmas morning, Pope Francis’ strongest words were about less fortunate children.

“May Jesus save the vast numbers of children who are victims of violence, made objects of trade and trafficking or forced to become soldiers,” he said. He added special prayers for the families of the dozens of children killed Dec. 16 by a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan.

“There are so many tears this Christmas, together with the tears of the infant Jesus,” he said. Children are dying “under bombardment, even there where the son of God was born. Today their silence cries out under the sword of so many Herods,” those who kill children just as Herod did in Jesus’ time.

The pope prayed that Christ’s “divine power, by its meekness,” would “take away the hardness of heart of so many men and women immersed in worldliness and indifference. May his redeeming strength transform arms into ploughshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness.”

In the dark of the night Dec. 24, in a St. Peter’s Basilica filled to capacity, 10 children led Pope Francis toward the altar of the church. Together they stood waiting while a lector read the solemn “Christmas Proclamation” recounting the timing of the birth of Christ in human history.

As the children from the Philippines, South Korea, Belgium, Italy, Lebanon and Syria looked on, Pope Francis removed the cloth that had been covering a statue of the Baby Jesus. He bent over and kissed it gently.

In this homily, the pope said Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet, “announces the rising of a great light which breaks through the night. This light is born in Bethlehem and is welcomed by the loving arms of Mary, by the love of Joseph, by the wonder of the shepherds.”

The birth of the son of God in a lowly manger is the sign of “the humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations.”

Children gather near a figurine of the baby Jesus at the conclusion of Pope Francis' celebration of Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Children gather near a figurine of the baby Jesus at the conclusion of Pope Francis’ celebration of Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Ever since sin entered the world, humanity was yearning for light and for peace, the pope said. The birth of Jesus revealed that “the message that everyone was expecting, that everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness.”

“On this holy night, while we contemplate the infant Jesus just born and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect,” he said. “How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close?”

Put more simply, he said, the key question is: “Do I allow God to love me?”

In the face of difficulties and problems, the pope said, “the Christian response cannot be different from God’s response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness.”

“When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us,” the pope said, “we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: ‘Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict.’”

As the “Gloria” was intoned at the Mass, the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica pealed; those inside the church heard a slightly muffled version, but the thousands of people watching on video screens in St. Peter’s Square got the full effect. Later, during Communion, priests came out of the church to distribute the Eucharist to those unable to get inside.

Another musical note came in the midst of the Gregorian chant of the Creed. After the line, “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven,” an orchestra, conducted by Manfred Honeck of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, began playing. Chen Reiss, an Israeli soprano, sang Mozart’s “Et Incarnatus Est,” which the Vatican said was a special request of Pope Francis.

The pope and the congregation knelt as Reiss sang that Jesus, “by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

Shortly before the Mass, taking advantage of the satellite link of a crew from the Italian bishops’ TV2000, Pope Francis made a telephone call to Christian refugees gathered for Mass in a camp in Ankawa, Iraq.

“You are like Jesus on Christmas night,” he told them. “There was no room for him either, and he had to flee to Egypt later to save himself.”

“You are like Jesus in this situation and that makes me pray even more for you,” he said. “Dear brothers and sisters, I am close to you, very close this evening. With all my heart, I am near you, and I ask Jesus to caress you with his tenderness and I ask his mother to give you much love.”

Text of Pope Francis’ homily at Christmas Mass

VATICAN CITY — Here is the English translation of Pope Francis’ homily at Christmas Mass Dec. 24 in St. Peter’s Basilica:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Is 9:1). “An angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lk 2:9). This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night presents to us the birth of the Savior: as the light which pierces and dispels the deepest darkness. The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in joy and happiness.

We too, in this blessed night, have come to the house of God. We have passed through the darkness which envelops the earth, guided by the flame of faith which illuminates our steps, and enlivened by the hope of finding the “great light”. By opening our hearts, we also can contemplate the miracle of that child-sun who, arising from on high, illuminates the horizon.

 

(CNS photo by Paul Haring)

(CNS photo by Paul Haring)

The origin of the darkness which envelops the world is lost in the night of the ages. Let us think back to that dark moment when the first crime of humanity was committed, when the hand of Cain, blinded by envy, killed his brother Abel (cf. Gen 4:8). As a result, the unfolding of the centuries has been marked by violence, wars, hatred and oppression. But God, who placed a sense of expectation within man made in his image and likeness, was waiting. He waited for so long that perhaps at a certain point it seemed he should have given up. But he could not give up because he could not deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13). Therefore he continued to wait patiently in the face of the corruption of man and peoples.

Through the course of history, the light that shatters the darkness reveals to us that God is Father and that his patient fidelity is stronger than darkness and corruption. This is the message of Christmas night. God does not know outbursts of anger or impatience; he is always there, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, waiting to catch from afar a glimpse of the lost son as he returns.

Isaiah’s prophecy announces the rising of a great light which breaks through the night. This light is born in Bethlehem and is welcomed by the loving arms of Mary, by the love of Joseph, by the wonder of the shepherds. When the angels announced the birth of the Redeemer to the shepherds, they did so with these words: “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). The “sign” is the humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations. The message that everyone was expecting, that everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness.

On this holy night, while we contemplate the Infant Jesus just born and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect. How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? “But I am searching for the Lord” – we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to find me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the Infant’s presence is: do I allow God to love me? More so, do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us, or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today!

The Christian response cannot be different from God’s response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness. When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: “Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict”.

Dear brothers and sisters, on this holy night we contemplate the Nativity scene: there “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1). People who were unassuming, open to receiving the gift of God, were the ones who saw this light. This light was not seen, however, by the arrogant, the proud, by those who made laws according to their own personal measures, who were closed off to others. Let us look to the crib and pray, asking the Blessed Mother: “O Mary, show us Jesus!”

Christmas Miracle: an escape from Nazis on Christmas Eve

Fania Paszt - Photo courtesy of St. Anthony Messenger

Fania Paszt – Photo courtesy of St. Anthony Messenger

In the Dec. 14 issue of St. Anthony Messenger, a rabbi and the magazine’s editor recount the story of a Christmas miracle that happened to a young Jewish woman.

The woman was the mother of the article’s co-writer, Rabbi Abie Ingber, executive director of the Center for Interfaith Community Engagement at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He tells the story of Fania Paszt’s harrowing escape from Nazis which began in August 1942, when she was almost 20 years old and was one of the last survivors of the Lutsk ghetto in Poland.

“No one could ever know why she was spared and her parents, her brothers, and other family members were so brutally murdered. Catholics and evangelical Christians, farmers and peasants, each arriving at a precise lifesaving moment, hid her in attics, cellars, chicken coops, and the flue of a country oven,” the rabbi wrote.

He added that on Christmas Eve 1942 his mother’s luck “seemed to run out” when she was thrown out of the house of the Ukrainian peasant who had been hiding her.

This time there was no savior. She wandered the dirt roads of the Polish countryside, freezing cold in her tattered dress. As night descended, she knew her life was at its end. She recognized the home of the county warden and began to walk up its path. The warden’s dogs jumped on her, ripped her dress, and bit her. The warden, alerted by the barking, came out with a gun in hand.

“Please shoot me,” my mother begged. “Let me share the fate of my family.”

“I cannot kill you tonight,” responded the official. He took her inside, fed her, and gave her a new dress and a place to sleep. The next morning, fearful that he could be killed for saving a Jew, he took her into town and gave her over to a Christian family. Three more righteous Christians were to appear magically in her life until she descended from an attic during the Russian liberation of Lutsk in 1944.

Only decades later did I learn of the Polish expression, “On Christmas Eve, even a stray cat is allowed to live.” Though a series of six righteous Christians had appeared miraculously to try to save my mother’s life, on the evening of December 24, my mother was abandoned like a stray cat in the Polish countryside. At that precise moment, God had to invoke Christmas Eve to save her life.

 

John Feister, editor in chief of St. Anthony Messenger, who co-wrote the article, said that when he and Rabbi Ingber first met they shared a “desire for unity between our traditions” and were also well aware of the obstacles. He said the rabbi had a story to tell, and a desire to share it and he described himself as someone with goodwill who “barely knows where to start.”

In the article, Feister wrote about his visit earlier this year to Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s memorial museum to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, the day after Pope Francis’ visit when he urged Christians and Jews “to reflect deeply on the spiritual significance of the bond existing between us.”

Hope, faith and redemption are themes for Jews and Christians the rabbi wrote. He also said he and Feister “met on the same road, in the pursuit of brotherhood and in the search for miracles in our lives.”

“‘Merry Christmas!’ from a rabbi and his Christian friend,” he wrote.

 

 

When a presidential scandal stole the show from a pope

Pope John Paul II meets Cuban President Fidel Castro Jan. 22, 1998. (CNS/Reuters)

Pope John Paul II meets Cuban President Fidel Castro Jan. 22, 1998. (CNS/Reuters)

WASHINGTON — The announcement of the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations — and Pope Francis’ role in it —  brought back memories of  St. John Paul II’s historic trip to Cuba in 1998.

But if journalism is the “first rough draft of history,” as the saying goes, this piece from the Catholic News Service archives sheds light on how a presidential sex scandal stole the limelight from a trip that might — in history — have bigger implications.

John Thavis, then CNS Rome bureau chief, filed this story Jan. 28, 1998:

HAVANA (CNS) — When Pope John Paul II descended on Cuba, more than 2,000 journalists were waiting to cover what many news media considered the story of the year.

U.S. television networks rented out entire floors of Havana hotels. Camera crews jostled for the best positions on platforms at the airport arrival ceremony. Reporters combed the crowds for quotes. And then everyone went to work on what would surely be the lead story of the week.

A few hours after the pope arrived on Jan. 21, however, the U.S. networks pulled their anchors back home and scaled down their coverage: Allegations were surfacing that President Bill Clinton had had an affair with a White House intern.

Pope John Paul II meets Cuban children during his 1998 visit. (CNS/REUTERS)

Pope John Paul II meets Cuban children during his 1998 visit. (CNS/REUTERS)

It wasn’t long before former intern Monica Lewinsky enjoyed as much notoriety as Fidel Castro, and TV specials on “The Pope in Cuba” were replaced by reports on the presidential crisis.

For reasons that Vatican and Cuban officials may never understand, a Washington sex scandal had bumped the pope from the top of the news.

“I was very disappointed,” said U.S. Archbishop John P. Foley, the Vatican’s top communications official, who was a commentator for NBC News during the papal visit. “I thought it was an unfortunate indicator of priorities.”

Archbishop Foley said the pope’s trip was of tremendous significance for the United States and the world.

“Maybe this other event is historic, too, but I don’t think in the same dimension,” he said.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls made the best of it.

“All the same, we think the message is getting across, in and outside of Cuba,” he said Jan. 24 after being informed of the latest U.S. coverage cutbacks in Havana.

Enough of the media circus remained in Cuba, however, to provide an unprecedented look at Cuban society and its changing relationship with the Catholic Church.

This was a new experience for Cubans, who seemed to relish the attention. They invited reporters into their homes, churches and workplaces, even though most of them would never see or read the final journalistic product.

A nun waves a flag bearing the image of Pope John Paul II during his 1998 trip to Cuba. (CNS/Reuters)

A nun waves a flag bearing the image of Pope John Paul II during his 1998 trip to Cuba. (CNS/Reuters)

Sometimes the media pressure got out of hand. One reporter said he showed up in a private home to witness a small ceremony of “Santeria,” Cuba’s popular mix of Catholicism and African religious rituals, and found the place crowded — with 30 other journalists.

Cuba’s state TV decided at the last minute to provide live national broadcast of all the papal Masses, which Vatican officials termed an important victory. The Communist Party daily Granma led with the pope every day, in bland reports that emphasized the pope’s position against the U.S. embargo and but virtually ignored his defense of basic human rights.

Meanwhile, Granma and the Cuban Catholic Church were engaging in a war of the Web sites, each putting up documentation about the papal visit beginning weeks ahead of the trip. The Granma site won points for layout and its interviews of Vatican officials, but the church site had more complete information and an animated logo that changed from the Cuban national emblem to the papal seal.

The Cubans’ press centers were models of efficiency and — a surprise to many — the phones and TV feeds actually worked. At Mass sites, reporters had security “minders” who tended to follow them around but did not interfere with their work. Cuban telecommunications made a killing, but kept long-distance rates reasonable for the visit.

The juxtapositions were everywhere, as in Santa Clara, where an Italian reporter was seen setting up his satellite phone next to a group of men watching a papal liturgy from a banana tree.

Most of the media would pull out soon after the pope left. But the spotlight they brought to the island appeared to have given Cubans a taste of much-appreciated world attention.

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