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Jesuit superior general: Satan is a 'symbolic reality'

Vatican City, Aug 21, 2019 / 01:44 pm (CNA).- The superior general of the Society of Jesus said Aug. 21 that the devil is a symbol, but not a person.

The devil, “exists as the personification of evil in different structures, but not in persons, because is not a person, is a way of acting evil. He is not a person like a human person. It is a way of evil to be present in human life,” Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, said Wednesday in an interview with Italian magazine Tempi.

“Good and evil are in a permanent war in the human conscience and we have ways to point them out. We recognize God as good, fully good. Symbols are part of reality, and the devil exists as a symbolic reality, not as a personal reality,” he added.

Sosa’s remarks came after he participated in a panel discussion at a Catholic gathering in Rimini, Italy, organized by the Communion and Liberation ecclesial movement.

The Catechism of the Catholic teaches that “Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: ‘The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.’”

Angels, the Catechism says, are “spiritual, non-corporeal beings.”

“They are personal and immortal creatures,” it adds, who “have intelligence and will.”

Sosa, 70, was elected the Jesuits’ superior general in 2016. A Venezuelan, he has a pontifical licentiate in philosophy and a doctorate in political science. He served as a Jesuit provincial superior in Venezuela from 1996 to 2004, and in 2014 began an administrative role at the general curia of the Jesuits in Rome.

Sosa has offered controversial comments about Satan in the past. In 2017, he told El Mundo that “we have formed symbolic figures such as the Devil to express evil.”

After his 2017 remark generated controversy, a spokesman for Sosa told the Catholic Herald that “like all Catholics, Father Sosa professes and teaches what the Church professes and teaches. He does not hold a set of beliefs separate from what is contained in the doctrine of the Catholic Church.”

 

Pope Francis: Self-interest and hypocrisy destroy the Church

Vatican City, Aug 21, 2019 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis decried hypocrisy and self-interest Wednesday, saying that Christian community should always be characterized by generosity and solidarity.

"A life set only on profiting and taking advantage of situations at the expense of others inevitably causes interior death," Pope Francis said Aug. 21 in Paul VI Hall.

“And how many people say they are close to the Church, friends of priests, bishops, while they are only looking for their own interest. These are the hypocrisies that destroy the Church,” he added in a departure from his prepared remarks.

Pope Francis said he asks the Lord to “pour over us His Spirit of tenderness, which overcomes all hypocrisy and puts into circulation that truth which nourishes Christian solidarity.”

The pope said that solidarity is “the inalienable expression of the nature of the Church,” which he called the “tender mother of all, especially the poorest.”

“Being members of the body of Christ makes believers co-responsible for each other. Being believers in Jesus makes us all co-responsible for each other,” he said.

“Among Christians we cannot say: 'Poor person, he has a problem at home, he is going through this family difficulty'. But, I must pray. I carry it with me. I am not be indifferent. This is being a Christian,” Francis explained.

Throughout Pope Francis’ general audience, a young girl who appeared to have a mental disability, danced across the stage clapping her hands in front of the pope in Paul VI Hall.

“We have all seen this beautiful girl - she is beautiful … victim of an illness and does not know what she is doing,” he said.

Pope Francis asked the audience if they had prayed for this young girl and her family. “Whenever we see someone suffering we must pray,” he said.

The pope stressed the importance of concrete acts of generosity in the life of a Christian, particularly with one’s time and money.

“The sign that your heart has converted is when conversion reaches your pockets,” he said. “There  is where we see if one is generous with others, if one helps the weakest, the poorest.”

In the life of the Church, there have always been Christians who stripped themselves of unnecessary things to give them to those who needed them, Pope Francis said.

He pointed to the example of the early Christians described in the Acts of the Apostles.

“A concrete example of sharing and communion of goods comes to us from the testimony of Barnabas: he owns a field and sells it to deliver the proceeds to the Apostles,” Francis said.

“The Christian community is born from the overabundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit and grows thanks to the leaven of sharing between brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a dynamism of solidarity that builds the Church as the family of God,” he said.

Pope Francis also pointed out that there were negative examples of hypocrisy and selfishness among this same community. He described the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira described in chapter 5 of the Acts of the Apostles.

Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of property to give the proceeds to the apostles, but retained for themselves a portion of the purchase price.

To which St. Peter responded, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart so that you lied to the Holy Spirit and retained part of the price of the land? ... Why did you contrive this deed? You have lied not to human beings, but to God.”

Upon hearing these words from Peter, Ananias fell down and died. “This cheating interrupts the chain of free sharing... and the consequences are tragic, are fatal,” Pope Francis said.

“We could say that Ananias lied to God because of an isolated conscience,” he said. “Hypocrisy is the worst enemy of this Christian community, of this Christian love: that of pretending to love each other, but only looking for one's own interest.”

“To fail in the sincerity of sharing … in the sincerity of love, means to cultivate hypocrisy, move away from the truth, to become selfish, to extinguish the fire of communion and turn to the frost of interior death,” the pope said.

Vatican ‘acknowledges the court's decision’ to dismiss Cardinal George Pell's appeal

Vatican City, Aug 21, 2019 / 04:18 am (CNA).- The Vatican said Wednesday it acknowledges the decision by the Court of Appeals in Victoria to uphold the conviction of Cardinal George Pell, while recalling Pell’s insistence of his innocence throughout the judicial process.

The conviction of Cardinal George Pell on five counts of abuse was upheld by the Court of Appeals in Victoria Aug. 21. After an appellate panel announced its decision at a court proceeding, the cardinal was returned to prison.

“While reiterating its respect for the Australian judicial system... the Holy See acknowledges the court’s decision to dismiss Cardinal Pell’s appeal,” Matteo Bruni, Holy See press office director, said Aug. 21.

Bruni stated that “as the proceedings continue to develop, the Holy See recalls that the Cardinal has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process and that it is his right to appeal to the High Court.”

Pell’s legal team has said it will thoroughly examine the over 300-page judgment before deciding whether to petition the Australian High Court in Canberra. Such an effort is expected by legal experts to offer very slim chance of success, given the appeal court result.

Pell’s lawyers have said that he will not petition for a shorter sentence.

Bruni concluded his brief statement Aug. 21 by expressing the Holy See’s closeness to victims of sexual abuse and confirming its commitment to carry out appropriate ecclesiastical procedures against clergy who have committed abuse.

The Vatican announced in March the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would carry out a canonical process against Pell at the conclusion of the judicial process in Australia.

In response to questions, Bruni confirmed to journalists Aug. 21 that the CDF is “awaiting the outcome of the ongoing proceedings and the conclusion of the appellate process prior to taking up the case.”

Bruni also referenced the precautionary measures imposed on Pell on his return to Australia in summer 2017, per Vatican norms: “the prohibition from exercising public ministry and from any voluntary contact whatsoever with minors.”

The cardinal was convicted Dec. 11, 2018, on five charges that he sexually abused two choristers after Sunday Mass while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and 1997.

He was sentenced to six years in prison, of which he must serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible to apply for parole.

The cardinal, 78, who remains an archbishop and a member of the College of Cardinals, was returned to prison immediately after court adjourned. He has been held in solitary confinement for 176 days. Pell is not permitted to celebrate Mass in prison.

He may now be transferred from the intake and evaluation facility at which he is currently being held to a different prison in Victoria.

Pell’s lawyers have said that he will not petition for a shorter sentence.

A statement from the Australian archbishops’ conference Wednesday said the bishops “believe all Australians must be equal under the law and accept today’s judgement accordingly.”

The statement also noted the Australian bishops’ commitment to bringing healing to those who have suffered abuse and to ensuring Catholic spaces are always safe, especially for children and vulnerable adults.

Individual Australian bishops also released statements Wednesday, including Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, who said “reasonable people have taken different views when presented with the same evidence” in Pell’s case, urging people “to maintain calm and civility.”

“I know that there are many in the Catholic community and beyond who will find it difficult to come to terms with this judgment,” Fisher said, “especially those who know the Cardinal and will struggle to reconcile this outcome with the man they know. I thank them for persevering in faith, hope and love.”

“As we wait to hear whether the legal process will continue, I will seek to provide pastoral support to those Catholics who may have found their faith tested,” the archbishop added.

The current Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter A. Comensoli, said in his statement that he knows “the complexity of the search for the truth in this matter has tested many, and may very well continue to do so.”

He expressed his prayers and support for the man who brought the case against Pell before the courts, offering “pastoral and spiritual help, should he seek it.”

Comensoli also said that he will ensure “Cardinal Pell is provided pastoral and spiritual support while he serves the remainder of his sentence, according to the teaching and example of Jesus to visit those in prison.”

Pope Francis: Discover the beauty of prayer in adoration

Vatican City, Aug 18, 2019 / 05:25 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Sunday that prayer in adoration of God and service to others spreads the fire of God’s love, changing the world one heart at a time.

“I invite everyone to discover the beauty of the prayer of adoration and to exercise it often,” Pope Francis said Aug. 18.

Adoration of God in prayer is necessary to allow the fire of love that Jesus brought to the earth to envelop our entire existence, the pope explained.

In his Angelus address, the pope reflected upon this Sunday’s Gospel from Luke in which Jesus says to his disciples, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!”

“These words are intended to help the disciples to abandon any attitude of laziness, apathy, indifference and closure to welcome the fire of God's love; that love which, as Saint Paul reminds us, ‘has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,’” Pope Francis said.

“Jesus reveals to his friends, and also to us, his most ardent desire: to bring to earth the fire of the Father's love, which kindles life and through which man is saved,” he said.

The Gospel is a limitless fire that saves and changes the world beginning with a change inside the heart of each person, Francis said. For this, he explained, it is necessary to adore God and serve others.

“It is a question of not living in a hypocritical way, but of being willing to pay the price for coherent choices - this is the attitude that each of us should look for in life: consistency - paying the price to be consistent with the Gospel,” Pope Francis said.

“It is good to say that we are Christians, but above all we must be Christians in concrete situations, bearing witness to the Gospel which is essentially love for God and for our brothers,” he said.

Pope Francis pointed to the example of communities and groups of young people who dedicate their summers to service to others. The pope said that he admires those who devote themselves to the service of the sick, the poor, and people with disabilities.

“To live according to the spirit of the Gospel it is necessary that, in the face of ever new needs that are looming in the world, there are disciples of Christ who know how to respond with new initiatives of charity,” he said.

“May Mary Most Holy help us to let our hearts be purified by the fire brought by Jesus and to spread it with our lives through decisive and courageous choices,” Pope Francis said.

International scholars express concerns about John Paul II Institute

Vatican City, Aug 15, 2019 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- A group of 49 academics from universities around the world has asked the administrators of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Rome to reinstate several faculty members recently dismissed from the institute.

Contributors to the recently completed Dizionario su Sesso, Amore e Fecondità, an interdisciplinary academic tome on sex, love, and fertility, expressed their view in an Aug. 3 letter to administrators of the institute.

The project, which involved scholars from multiple specializations, was coordinated by recently dismissed John Paul II Institute professor Fr. Jose Noriega.

The scholars said that their work on the project was “a very fruitful and professional scientific collaboration which has highlighted to us the outstanding academic profile of your institute as well as the great scientific and editorial competence of the main curator of the Dizionario, Professor José Noriega.”

“It is therefore with great distress that we learned the news about the sudden dismissals of two full professors, José Noriega and Livio Melina, together with other colleagues: Maria Luisa Di Pietro, Stanisław Grygiel, Monika Grygiel, Przemysław Kwiatkowski, and Vittorina Marini. All of them are scholars of outstanding international reputation and some of them have equally collaborated with us at the Dizionario,” they wrote.

“We cannot see any convincing reason – academic, doctrinal or disciplinary – which justifies their dismissal.”

“If your institute wants to maintain its high academic profile and international reputation, we ask you to revoke these dismissals and to reassume the aforementioned scholars among the faculty of your Institute,” the scholars concluded.

The letter comes during a period of controversy at the institute.

Last month, new statutes were approved for the institute, in response to a 2017 announcement that Pope Francis would legally refound the Institute, and broaden its academic curriculum, from a focus on the theology of marriage and the family to an approach that will also include the study of the family from the perspective of the social sciences.

After the new statutes designed to implement that vision were approved, students, alumni, and faculty raised concerns about the role of faculty members in the institute’s new governing structure, about the reduction of theology courses and the elimination of some theology disciplines, and about the dismissal of some faculty members, including Msgr. Livio Melina and Noriega.

Faculty members have told CNA they do not object to the pope’s desire to expand the school’s mission or approach, but say that the administrators responsible for implementing that mission have acted unfairly.

More than 250 students and alumni of Rome’s John Paul II Institute have signed a letter expressing their concern about the school’s new statutes, and the dismissal of Noriega and Melina. The letter expresses concern that current students will not be able to complete the academic programs in which they are currently enrolled, and the faculty dismissals have taken place without due process.

On July 31, Fr. Jose Granados, the Institute’s vice-president, told CNA that “the identity of the Institute is seriously threatened,” and called for administrators to resume discussion with faculty members about the approach to implementing Pope Francis’ call for an expansion of the school’s approach.

Earlier in July, the Institute’s president, Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, told Vatican News that that although some students have raised concerns about the Institute's direction, others “have already written expressing confidence in the renewal and expansion of research and training in theological-pastoral and anthropological-cultural fields,” at the Institute.

Sequeri lamented the controversy surrounding changes to the Institute’s identity.

“The polemics, more or less malicious, that in this regard, try to involve the many students that look with trust to the project of a truly 'Catholic' knowledge and formation, obviously cultivate other interests. They are not the ones of John Paul II, not the ones of Pope Francis, not the ones of the Institute."

Among the signatories to the letter are John Crosby, a professor of philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville; Ignacio de Ribera-Martin, an assistant professor at the School of Philosophy of the Catholic University of America; and Tracey Rowland, the St John Paul II Research Chair in Theology at Australia’s University of Notre Dame, Australia and member of the International Theological Commission.
 

 

 

 

Pope Francis gives thousands of rosaries to Christians in Syria

Vatican City, Aug 15, 2019 / 05:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis announced Thursday that he is giving 6,000 blessed rosaries to Catholic communities in Syria as a sign of his closeness on the Marian Feast of the Assumption.

“Prayer made with faith is powerful! We continue to pray the rosary for peace in the Middle East and in the whole world,” Pope Francis said Aug. 15 in his Angelus message for the Assumption of Mary.

The pope blessed the rosaries made by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, and said that the Syrian families that lost someone because of the war are close to his heart.

“The Feast of the Assumption of Mary is a call for everyone, especially for those who are afflicted by doubts and sadness,” Pope Francis said. “Today we look at Mary and we see the goal. We see that a creature was assumed to the glory of Jesus, the Risen Christ.”

The Feast of the Assumption, commemorating the end of Mary’s earthly life and assumption into heaven, is a major feast day and a public holiday in many countries. In most countries, including the United States, it is a Holy Day of Obligation, and Catholics are required to attend Mass.

“Mary is assumed in heaven; small and humble, she receives the highest glory first. She, who is a human creature, one of us, reaches eternity in soul and body. And she awaits us there, like a mother waiting for her children to return home,” Francis said.

“Every time we take the rosary into our hands and pray with it, we take a step towards the great goal of life,” he said.

Pope Francis said that Mary exalts in the greatness in the Lord and invites everyone to raise their eyes to the great things that the Lord accomplished in her.

“Mary shows us that if we want our life to be happy, God must be placed first, because he alone is great,” he said.

Mary, as every mother, wants the best for her children, the pope explained. He said that Mary tells each person: “You are precious in the eyes of God; you are not made for the small fulfillment of the world, but for the great joys of heaven.”

“Let us be attracted by true beauty, let us not be sucked into the smallness of life, but choose the greatness of heaven,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis: In times of suffering, know that you are never alone

Vatican City, Aug 13, 2019 / 10:45 am (CNA).- Pope Francis wrote a heartfelt letter Tuesday to an Italian community still suffering one year after a bridge collapse. His message: “Know that you are not alone.”

“Jesus passed before us through suffering and death. He has taken upon us all our sufferings. He was despised, humiliated, beaten, nailed to the cross and brutally killed. God's response to our pain was closeness, a presence that accompanies us, that does not leave us alone,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter published Aug. 13.

Pope Francis’ letter was published in a local newspaper in Genoa to mark the one year anniversary of the collapse of the Morandi Bridge, which killed 43 people.

“Jesus made himself like us, and for this reason, we have Him next to us, to cry with us in the most difficult moments of our lives. We look to Him, we entrust our questions to Him, our pain, our anger,” the pope continued.

“Today I want to tell you one thing first of all: know that you are not alone. Know that you are never alone. Know that God our Father has answered our cries and our questions, not with words, but with a presence that accompanies us, that of His Son,” Francis said.

“I would also like to tell you that Jesus on the cross was not alone,” he said. “Beneath that scaffold was his mother, Mary. Stabat Mater, Mary was under the cross, to share the suffering of the Son.”

“We are not alone, we have a Mother who from Heaven looks at us with love and is close to us. Let us cling to her and say to her: ‘Mother,’ as child does when it is afraid and wants to be comforted and reassured,” he added.

Pope Francis said that the collapse of the Morandi Bridge inflicted a wound on the heart of Genoa, and encouraged solidarity with the local Catholic community.

“The more we are aware of our weakness, of the precariousness of our human condition, the more we rediscover the beauty of human relationships, of the bonds that unite us, like families, communities, civil society,” he said.

“I know that even after a great tragedy that has hurt your families and your city, you have been able to respond, to get up, to look forward,” he said. “Don't lose hope, don't let it be stolen! Continue to stand by those most affected.”

“We are men and women full of defects and weaknesses, but we have a Merciful Father to whom we can turn, a crucified and Risen Son who walks with us, the Holy Spirit who assists and accompanies us. We have a Mother in Heaven who continues to spread her mantle over us without ever abandoning us,” Pope Francis said.

“I would also like to tell you that you are not alone because the Christian community … is with you and shares your sufferings and your difficulties,” he said.

Pope Francis prays for monsoon victims in India

Vatican City, Aug 12, 2019 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis offered prayers and condolences Monday for the victims of monsoon flooding in southern India that has left more than 150 people dead.

“Deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life in the monsoons of recent days in Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat … His Holiness Pope Francis sends his heartfelt condolences to the relatives of the deceased and injured,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote in a telegram on the pope’s behalf Aug.12.

According to local government reports, 152 people are confirmed dead and another 17 missing in India after days of heavy rains.

The Vatican Secretary of State said Pope Francis is praying for the relief efforts underway, mindful of all those who have lost homes and livelihood.

More than 400,000 people were displaced by the floods and mudslides, according to the Associated Press. Many have taken refuge in relief camps set up in the Indian states of Kerala and Karnataka.

“Upon the nation he [Pope Francis] willingly invokes the divine blessings of strength and perseverance,” Parolin said.

Myanmar, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh also experienced heavy rainfall in recent weeks. Landslides in Myanmar killed 53 people and damaged more than 4,000 homes since Aug. 9, according to their government. 

The monsoon season in Southeast Asia typically stretches from June until September. Last summer, flooding in India left nearly 400 people dead and 1 million displaced.

Pope Francis: War is always a loss for all humanity

Vatican City, Aug 11, 2019 / 09:14 am (CNA).- Pope Francis marked the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions Sunday with a message urging the protection of life and human dignity in armed conflicts.

“Let us not forget that war and terrorism are always a serious loss for all humanity,” Pope Francis said Aug. 11 after his Angelus prayer.

The Geneva Conventions are “important international legal instruments that impose limits on the use of force and are aimed at the protection of civilians and prisoners in times of war,” Francis said.

Signed amid the aftermath of World War II on August 12, 1949, the four Geneva Conventions expanded international humanitarian law for the protection of civilian populations during war and further defined protocols for the humane treatment of prisoners of war, as well as for the wounded and the sick.

Pope Francis urged the particular importance of protecting unarmed populations and civil structures today, especially hospitals, schools, places of worship, and refugee camps.

Last month the pope spoke out after an airstrike hit a migrant detention center amid the armed conflict in Libya, killing more than 50 people. “The international community cannot tolerate such serious facts,” Francis said July 7.

Hospitals and schools also became targets during the Syrian civil war. More than 300 healthcare facilities in Syria were attacked in the conflict by 2018, according to Physicians for Human Rights.

Pope Francis said that he hopes that the anniversary of the Geneva Conventions will help countries today to be more “aware of the indispensable need to protect the life and dignity of victims of armed conflicts.”

“We are invited, that is, to live an authentic and mature faith, capable of illuminating the many ‘nights of life,’” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address.

The pope explained that “the lamp of faith needs to be constantly nourished with meeting Jesus heart to heart in prayer and listening to His Word.”

“True faith opens our hearts to others and spurs us towards concrete communion with our brothers, especially those in need,” Pope Francis said.

“The thought of our final encounter with the Father, rich in mercy, fills us with hope, and spurs us to a constant commitment to our sanctification and to build a more just and fraternal world,” he said.

 

Pope Francis: Ordination of married men 'absolutely not' main theme of Amazon synod

Vatican City, Aug 9, 2019 / 06:38 am (CNA).- The ordination to the priesthood of mature, married men, sometimes called viri probati, is among the topics to be addressed at October’s Amazon synod but is “absolutely not” one of the principle themes of the meeting, Pope Francis said.

In an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, published Aug. 9, Pope Francis said the possibility of ordaining viri probati is “absolutely not” among the main topics and is “simply a number of the Instrumentum Laboris.”

“The important themes,” the pope stated, “will be the ministries of evangelization and the different ways of evangelizing.”

Instrumentum Laboris is the name given to the working document published ahead of a synod. The working document for the special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region was published in June and opened the door for a discussion of the ordination of mature, married men.

In the working document, the discussion of viri probati is listed as a suggestion for “new ministries” alongside the promotion of vocations among indigenous and identifying “the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women.”

“Affirming that celibacy is a gift for the Church, it is requested that, for the most remote areas of the region, the possibility of priestly ordination be studied for older people… even if they have an existing and stable family, in order to ensure availability of the Sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life,” one section of paragraph 129 states.

The Amazon synod will be held at the Vatican Oct. 6-27. In the Aug. 9 interview, Pope Francis warned that a synod “is not a meeting of scientists or politicians. It is not a parliament: it is another thing.”

“It comes from the Church and will have an evangelizing mission and dimension. It will be a work of communion guided by the Holy Spirit.”

The pope also called the Amazon synod the “son” of  Laudato Si, adding that those who have not read his 2015 encyclical on the environment “will never understand the Synod on the Amazon.”

Laudato Si, he added, is “not a green encyclial, it is a social encyclical, which is based on a 'green' reality, the care of creation.”

Francis said he chose to hold a synod specifically on the Amazon because of its “decisive contribution to the survival of the planet” through its production of oxygen and biodiverse vegetable and animal life.

Threats to the Amazon region and its safeguarding derive “from economic and political interests of the dominant sectors of society,” he argued, stating that policy should work to reduce corruption and take responsibility for actions which harm the environment.