Out of Africa: latest papal in-flight press conference

f0da3168ba4c4f81bca7210c249d7ee3Following his five-day journey through Kenya, Uganda, and the Central African Republic, Pope Francis spoke with reporters about a wide range of topics on the papal plane.


In Kenya, you met poor families and listened to their stories of exclusion from fundamental human rights such as access to drinking water. What did you feel when you listened to their stories and what needs to be done to end such injustices?

“I have spoken about this problem on a number of occasions. I do not recall the statistics precisely but I seem to recall reading that 80% of the world’s wealth is in the hands of 17% of the population, I don’t know if that’s true. It is an economic system that places money at the centre, the god money. I remember a non-Catholic ambassador once speaking in French and saying “Nous sommes tombeé dans l’idolatrie del’argent”. What did I feel in Kangemi? I felt pain, great pain! Yesterday I went to a children’s hospital, the only one in Bangui and in the whole country. In the intensive care unit there’s no oxygen, there were children that were malnourished. Idolatry is when a man or a woman loses his or her ID card, in other words their identity as God’s children and prefers to seek a tailor-made God. The bottom line is this; if humanity does not change, poverty, tragedies, wars and injustice will continue. Children will go on dying of hunger. What does that percentage of people that holds 80% of the world’s wealth in their hands think of this? This is not communism, it is the truth. And seeing the truth is not easy.”

I would like to know what the most memorable part of the trip was, whether you will return to Africa and where your next visit will be to?

“If this goes well, I think the next visit will be to Mexico, the dates have not been set in stone yet. Will I return to Africa? I don’t know. I’m old and travelling is tiring! The most memorable part of this trip were the crowds, all that joy, that celebratory spirit, the will to celebrate even on an empty stomach. For me, Africa was a surprise. God always surprises us, but Africa surprises us too. I remember many moments, but above all, I remember the crowds… They felt ‘visited’, they are so incredibly welcoming and I saw this in all three nations. Though each country has its own unique identity: Kenya is a bit more modern and developed. Uganda’s identity is shaped by its martyrs: the Ugandan people – both Catholics and Anglicans – venerate the martyrs. The Central African Republic is hungry for peace, reconciliation, forgiveness. Until four years ago, Catholics, Protestants and Muslims lived together as brothers and sisters. Yesterday I went to the Evangelicals who are working so hard and then they came to mass. Today I went to the mosque, I prayed there, the Imam got into the Popemobile to go for a short ride among the refugees. There is one small group that is very violent, I believe they are Christians or they claim to be Christians but it’s not ISIS, it’s something else. Now elections are going to take place, they have chosen an interim President, a woman, and they seek peace: no hate.”

Today, a great deal is being said about the Vatileaks case: Without going into the trial that is underway, I would like to ask you: how important is the free and secular press in uprooting corruption?

“A free, secular and religious, but professional press. The professionalism of the press can be secular or religious: the important thing is for it to be professional and for news not to be manipulated. For me it is important because condemning injustice corruption is a great job. Professional press needs to say it all but without succumbing to the most common sins: misinformation, in other words only telling half of the story and leaving the other half out; slander, when the unprofessional press dishonours people; defamation, which involves ruining a person’s reputation. These are the three  defects that erode the professionalism of the press. We need professionalism. And regarding corruption: looking carefully at the facts and telling things as they are: there is corruption here because of this, this and that. And if a real journalist makes a mistake, he or she apologises.”

Religious fundamentalism is threatening the whole planet, we saw this with the Paris attacks. In the face of this danger, do you think religious leaders should intervene more in the political sphere?

“If intervening in the political sphere means doing politics, then no. They should be priests, pastors, Imams, Rabbis. Their political intervention is indirect, they preach values, real values and one of the greatest values of all is fraternity between us. We are all God’s children, we all have the same Father. I don’t like the word tolerance, we need to live peacefully alongside one another, develop friendships. Fundamentalism is a disease that exists in all religions. In the Catholic Church we have some – many – who believe they possess the absolute truth and they go on sullying others through slander and defamation and this is wrong. I say this because it is my Church. Religious fundamentalism must be combatted. It is not religious, God is lacking, it is idolatric. Hat religious leaders need to do is convince people who have these tendencies. Fundamentalism that ends in tragedy or commits crimes is a bad thing but it exists in all religions.”

How did Mgr. Lucio Vallejo Balda and Francesca Chaouqui come to be members of the COSEA commission? Do you believe you made a mistake?

“A mistake was made. Vallejo joined because of the role he had and did have up until now: he was secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. How did she get in: I am not sure, but I think I am right in saying that it was he who said she was someone who was well acquainted with the world of  business relations. They worked and when the work was complete, COSEA’s members kept some positions in the Vatican. Mrs. Chaouqui did not stay in the Vatican: some say she was angry abou this. The judges will tell us what her real intentions were, how they did it. It did not come as a surprise to me, I didn’t lose any sleep over it because they showed everyone the work begun with the commission of nine cardinals, to root out corruption and the things that are wrong. There’s one thing I want to say, not about Vallejo and  Chaouqui. Thirteen days before John Paul II’s death, during the via Crucis, the then Cardinal Ratzinger, talked about the filth in the Church. He denounced the first one. Then John Paul II died and Ratzinger, who was a dean on the “pro eligendo Pontefice” mass, talked about the same thing.  We elected him because of his openness about things. It is since that time that there has been corruption in the air in the Vatican. Regarding the trial: I have not read the charges in full. I would have liked the whole thing to have been over and done with before the Jubilee but I don’t think that’s possible because I want all the defence lawyers to have time to do their job and the freedom of defence.”

What needs to be done so that incidents of this kind never occur again?

“I thank God that Lucrecia Borgia in longer around! But the cardinals, the commissions and I need to continue the clean-up process.”

AIDS is a serious problem in Africa, the epidemic continues. We know that prevention is the key  and that condoms are not the only means of stopping the epidemic, but it is an important part of the solution. Is it not perhaps time for the Church to change its position with regard to the use of condoms in order to prevent infections?

“The question seems biased to me. Yes, it is one of the methods, the morality of the Church faces a bit of a predicament here. The fifth or the sixth commandment: defend life or a sexual relationship that is open to life. But this is not the problem. There is a greater problem than this: this question makes me think of the question they once asked Jesus: tell me Master, is it acceptable to heal on a Saturday? Healing is obligatory! Malnutrition, exploitation, slave labour, the lack of drinking water, these are the problems. We’re not talking about which plaster we should use for which wound. The great injustice is social injustice, the great injustice is malnutrition. I don’t like making such casuistic reflections when there are people dying because of a lack of  water and hunger. Think about arms trafficking. When these problems cease to exist, then I think we can ask ourselves the question: is it acceptable to heal on a Saturday? Why are arms still being manufactured? Wars are the leading cause of death. Forget about whether it is acceptable or not to heal on a Saturday. Make justice and when everyone is healed, when there is no injustice in this world, then we can talk about Saturday.”

What is the Vatican’s position with regard to the current crisis in relations between Russia and Turkey? Have you considered going to Armenian for the 101st anniversary of the Armenian massacre?

“Last year I promised the three patriarchs I would go. The promise remains. Regarding wars: these grow out of ambition. I am not talking about those which are fought out of just defence against an unjust aggressor. Wars are an industry. Throughout history, we have seen on a number of occasions how a country whose finances are not doing too well, decides to go to war and straighten out its finances. War is a business. Terrorists, do they manufacture weapons? Who gives them weapons? There is a whole network of interests, behind which you find money and power. We have been going through a world war fought piecemeal and each time the pieces are less like pieces, they are geeing bigger and bigger. I don’t know what the Vatican thinks. What do I think? I think wars are sinful, they destroy humanity, they are a cause of exploitation and human trafficking. They need to stop. Twice, both in New York and Kenya, I said to the United Nations: your work should not be that of a declamatory nominalism. Here in Africa, I saw how the Blue Helmets work but it is not enough. Wars are not a thing of God, God is the God of peace, he created a beautiful world. In the Bible, we read about a brother killing a brother: the first world war. And it pains me deeply to say this.”

COP21, the conference of climate change kicks off in Paris today. We hope it will be the start of a solution, are you certain that progress will be made?

“I am not certain but what I can say is that it is either now or never. I think the first conference took place in Tokyo…little was achieved. Every year the problems get worse. At a university meeting on what kind of a world we want to leave behind for our children, one person said: are you sure there will be any children of this generations till around? We are on the verge of suicide, to use a strong word and I am certain that people in Paris are aware of this and want to do something about it. The other day I read that in Greenland, glaciers are losing mass at a rate of billions of tons. In the Pacific, there is a country that is buying another country to move to because in 20 years it will cease to exist. I trust these people will do something. I hope this will be the case and I pray it will.

You have shown many gestures of friendship and respect towards Muslims. What do Islam and Mohammed’s teachings tell today’s world?

“Dialogue is possible, they have many values and these values are constructive. I am also friends with a Muslim, a world leader. We are able to talk. He has his values I have mine, he prays and so do I. Many values; prayer, fasting. You cannot wipe out a religion just because there are some or a number of groups of fundamentalists at one moment in history. It is true, there have always been wars between faiths and we too need to ask for forgiveness: Catherine de’ Medici was no saint and that war that lasted 30 years, St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre… We also need to ask for forgiveness. But they have values and dialogue is possible. Today I went to the mosque, the Imam wanted to come with me. A Pope and an Imam both got into the Popemobile. Think of all the wars we Christians have waged. It wasn’t the Muslims who were responsible for the Sack of Rome.”

We know you are going to visit Mexico. Do you think you might visit Colombia or Peru?

“Travelling at my age is not good, it takes its toll. I am going to Mexico and the first thing I will do is to visit Our Lady, the Mother of America. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have gone to Mexico based on the criterion of the visit; to visit three or four citis a Pope has never been to. I will also visit Chapas, then Morelia and on the way back to Rome, there will almost certainly be a stop in Ciudad Juarez. Regarding other Latin American countries: in 2017 I was invited to Aparecida, another Patroness of America, but Portuguese speaking. And after this I could visit another country, but I don’t know, nothing has been planned yet.”

This was your first visit and everyone was concerned about your safety. What would you say to a world that thinks Africa is nothing but a victim of war and destruction?

“Africa is a victim, Africa has always been exploited by other powers, African slaves were sold in America. There are powers that simply want to take Africa’s great riches – it is perhaps the world’s richest continent – but they do not think about helping countries to grow so that everyone can work. Africa is a martyr of exploitation. Those who claim that all adversities and wars come out of Africa have no idea of the harm certain forms of development are doing to humanity. That is why I love Africa, because it has been a victim of other powers.”


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It’s not a matter of following your conscience

Diana Montagna reports for Aleteia on 30th November:

VATICAN CITY — Earlier this month, Pope Francis stirred controversy when he expressed  comments about intercommunion while addressing a gathering of Lutherans in Rome.

Responding to a question from a non-Italian Lutheran woman who voiced her regret that she couldn’t receive Holy Communion with her Catholic husband, the pope said that while he would never dare give permission for her to receive the Eucharist because it’s not his competence or jurisdiction, he said she should “talk to the Lord and then go forward.”

Owing to confusion over the pope’s words, we asked Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, and Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, for their opinion on the matter.

Cardinal Sarah offered initial comment, saying:  “Intercommunion is not permitted between Catholics and non-Catholics. You must confess the Catholic Faith. A non-Catholic cannot receive Communion. That is very, very clear. It’s not a matter of following your conscience.”

His Eminence also responded to several questions:

Could a priest give Holy Communion to both husband and wife if he knows one is Catholic and one is not?

No, we give Communion to Catholics. Many priests have told me: “I give Communion to everybody.” It’s nonsense.

Sometimes, an Anglican who is very far away from his church for a very long period of time and who desires to receive Communion, can participate in Mass and receive Communion in the Catholic Church, where there is no sin, and he is properly married. Because they believe in the Eucharist, even if in the Anglican church it is not actually the Eucharist because there is no priesthood. But it is rare and would happen under very exceptional circumstances. This is something extraordinary and not ordinary.

But a Catholic cannot receive communion in the Anglican church, because there is no Communion; there is only bread. The bread is not consecrated, because the priest is not a priest. With the break of Henry VIII with the Catholic Church, priestly orders in the Anglican Church became null and void. So the consecration isn’t valid, and therefore it’s not the Eucharist.

And a wife who is Lutheran, or Anglican, and who is married to a Catholic man? If they go to Mass on Sunday, is it ever possible for her to receive Communion?

On the day of their marriage, the priest gave Communion to the Catholic husband and not to the Lutheran or Anglican wife. It’s the same if they go to Mass together, because there is no intercommunion: between Anglicans and Catholics, between Catholics and Protestants. If they go to Mass together, the Catholic can go to Communion but the Lutheran or Anglican cannot.

If we’re not unified in faith and doctrine, do you think opening the doors to intercommunion would undermine belief in the True Presence?

I think it would promote profanation. We cannot do this. It’s not that I have to talk to the Lord in order to know if I should go to Communion. No, I have to know if I’m in accord with the rule of the Church. It’s my conscience that says: “Go.” My conscience must be enlightened by the rule of the Church, which says that in order to communicate, I need to be in the state of grace, without sin, and have the faith of the Catholic Church. … It’s not a personal desire or a personal dialogue with Jesus that determines if I can receive Communion in the Catholic Church. How can I know that the Lord has really said: “Come and receive my Body.” No. A person cannot decide if he is able to receive Communion. He has to have the rule of the Church: i.e., being a Catholic, being in a state of grace, properly married [if married].

But some would say that opening the doors to intercommunion would be a way for the spouses to become more one?

But the Lord helps us to be one if we receive Him correctly. If not, it doesn’t create unity. We will eat our condemnation. St. Paul says: “Let a man examine himself … for anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). Therefore, we don’t succeed in becoming one if they partake with sin, with disregard for the Body of Christ.

Bishop Schneider Responds

Bishop Schneider was similarly forthright about the issue, saying the Church must be “very clear with the Protestants, not hiding anything.”

“We read in the Second Vatican Council document that real ecumenism is not irenicism, but sincere dialogue in which we hide nothing of our identity.” He added that any gesture which is “not clear, not sincere, and ambiguous will never help true ecumenism” on “every level.”

He said “pastors and shepherds” have to be “very careful” in their pronouncements not to “create ambiguity and confusion among the people,” leading them to believe that “Catholic and Protestant doctrine are basically the same, with only minor differences.”

“This is not true. It does not respond to reality or to the Gospel. All the truths of the Catholic Church are the truths of the Gospel. And those Catholic doctrines which Protestants deny are against the Gospel. We have to speak clearly.”

Regarding the pope’s words to the Lutheran woman, he also said it’s important not to exaggerate the infallibility of the popes. In his usual gestures and expressions, the pope doesn’t intend to “oblige, or to impose” the faithful to believe what he is expressing.

“I am convinced that Pope Francis is not against when someone says to him: ‘Holy Father, I do not agree with this expression. You have not said you oblige me to accept this, because it is not your intention to speak definitively. So we can be in a reverent dialogue with you to clear up these issues.’”

He added: “I think we need to be in a climate of dialogue which is free of intimidation. Otherwise, this will be an atmosphere of dictatorship, and I think Pope Francis does not like to be considered as creating an atmosphere of inquisition, dictatorship or persecution of someone who expresses reasoned thoughts and opinions.”

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Roses amid Thorns – (thought for the day from St Thomas À Kempis)


“The custody of the senses is the bedrock of purity, as discipline is of peace and one’s cell is of devotion. When anger takes hold of a person’s thinking, wisdom then departs even from one who is prudent. Whoever speaks in wrath is like a barking dog; but whoever responds with gentleness breaks through the other’s wrath and offers him roses rather than thorns. Blessed is the tongue of the prudent man, for it heals the wounds of one in anger. Whoever struggles against his vices at the very outset, when their motions are first felt, will have greater success in overcoming them than if he delayed until they became rooted.”

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Whence Comes the Special Resistance to Christ?

Screenshot (730) A few days ago, with the civilised world still reeling in the aftermath of the horrific and barbaric Islamic terrorist attacks in Paris, I read this startling post from Canadian ‘knight for truth’, Vox Cantoris. Here is a blogger who never tires of bringing to our notice the numerous betrayals coming from many of those who currently hold the reins of Church governance and public relations. Instead of a solid, authoritative Catholic assertion to the one Truth – that of the  Sovereignty of Christ over all the Earth – as the only solution to the morally weak and vulnerable position in which the West has now been reduced since its leaders and governments forfeited their Christian heritage, we are dealt up waffly, secular nonsense that has little to do with Catholic teaching. In response to this feeble article from Vatican Radio, Vox explodes in defensive fury with these hard-hitting words:

“The modernist and heretical and masonic liars free under Jorge Bergoglio to run amok in the Church and to lie to the world have done it again. “It is through education that horrors can be overcome.” No, you filthy liar, it is through Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

It is only when Man recognises Christ as Sovereign Lord and King, and his Divine Law written into the doctrines of His Bride, the Church, as the only right and true path to follow, that the threats, dangers and ills of the morally weak West (and indeed, the rest of the world) will ever find solutions. Blog11-23-200x300

Vox then goes on to link to the excellent article by Msgr. Charles Pope (part of the title of this post) in which he draws from “an anthology of the writings of Joseph Sobran (1946-2010), long-time editor at National Review and a keen observer of culture and its intersection with faith”, and follows with some of his own wise observations.


[…] Sobran writes beautifully of the strange resistance that the world has for Christ:

Great as Shakespeare is, I never lose sleep over anything he said … By the same token nobody ever feels guilty about anything Plato or Aristotle said … We aren’t tempted to resist them as we are tempted to resist Christ (Subtracting Christianity pp. 1-2).

I have often pondered the world’s special hatred for and resistance to Christ and His Body, the Church; it is unparalleled. Few of the Protestant denominations experience this hatred. The Buddhists don’t seem to be subject to it, nor do the Muslims even despite all the recent terrorism.

There is almost a knee-jerk, visceral reaction to Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church that is so over the top, so irrational, that one has to marvel at it. The world doth protest too much. Why?

Is it fear? Perhaps. But the Church is not powerful enough to “force our views” on everyone, as some who hate us say we do.

There is no rational explanation for the intense fear and hatred of the world for Christ and Catholicism except to echo the words of Christ Himself:

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without cause’ (Jn 15:18-25).

Yes, they hated Him without cause—at least any rational cause. For indeed, there must be a cause. But it is so irrational and hateful that I surmise it must be that Satan himself is interacting with our flesh. Satan hates Christ in a way that he doesn’t hate Mohammed, or Luther, or Deepak Chopra. Christ is a true threat, so Satan rages. And the world and flesh draw from this rage and fear.

Continue reading…


Yes, that is it: “the WORLD and FLESH draw from this rage and fear” [of Satan] and act as his minions when they continue the attack against Christ’s Church. May we finally, Deo volente, wake up to this reality! For Our Lord has told us: “He that is not with me, is against me” – (Matthew 12:30).  

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Lectio Divina: 1st Sunday of Advent, Year C


Advent: Waiting and Visit


(ZENIT.org) Archbishop Francesco Follo

Roman Rite

Jer 33.14-16; Ps 25; 1 Thes 3.12 to 4.2; Lk 21, 25-28.34-36


1) Wait for a visit

The season of Advent has been chosen by the Church to prepare us to celebrate the incarnation of the Word of God. It is a waiting time that does not last long – four weeks in the Roman rite and six in the Ambrosian Rite – ending with the joy of Christmas, a day that celebrates the birth of Jesus among the songs of the angels: “Glory in heaven and peace to those whom God loves ” and the joy of the just (see Antiphon to the Magnificat – Second Vespers of Christmas Day).

Advent is the time that prepares the birth of Jesus. It is the time for Mary waiting for the birth. It is for us the time to educate our heart to a waiting that is real, daily, in constant tension toward the presence of the One who became man for us and saved our lives. But we don’t wait only for the birth of Jesus, we wait for his final return.

This is why the first Sunday of Advent projects us towards the second coming of Christ, when he comes in glory. This is the most important advent, the one to which we must all prepare.

This is why, in the Gospel of the First Sunday of Advent, Jesus tells us not to lose heart and not to burden it with fears and disappointments. “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down” (Lk 21: 34) then “Be vigilant at all times and pray, that you may have strength to escape all that is about to happen and to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk 21, 36).

In fact, it is simplistic to speak only of the Advent as a period of waiting for Christmas, because this liturgical season is also proposed to prepare us to appear before Christ and to meet the Lord that becomes our neighbor. The Christian walk is all aimed to welcome the newness of God that become our neighbor full of love and mercy. God is the Child who tends his arms full of tenderness, the Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep to bring it safe into the pen, the Father who runs to meet his lost son returning, the Samaritan who bends over the injured man, Jesus who died for us on the cross, dramatic cradle chosen to return to the heavenly Life.

For this reason we need to know how to live “waiting for him”, not only in the sense of waiting for God’s coming, but in the sense of tending toward God that bends towards us by sending His Son to visit us.

In fact the expression “advent” includes that of “visitatio (= visitation)” which means “visit”. In this case it is a visit from God”. He enters into our life and wants to come to us” (see Benedict XVI). The coming-visit of the Lord implies vigilance. We must be vigil as Christ says today “Be careful …” (see Lk 21, 34 and 36). Many times he has repeated it in parables, because the Lord comes like a thief in the night or as a Lord returning to see what happened to his assets entrusted to the servants.

2) Waiting for an encounter.

It is true that Advent means first of all waiting, but it is not a waiting vague, general and purely sentimental. It is the waiting for the personal encounter of light. An encounter that is especially clear in the day of the remembrance of His coming, but that can brighten every day and every moment of our lives. Advent is, therefore, the time when we must renew the decision to throw open the window of our heart and our mind to the Savior to enlighten us and illuminate all that we are.

How do we need to prepare for this meeting beside the fact that we keep vigilant our being stretched to Christ?

First of all, by trying to enrich our knowledge (which does not mean only knowledge but taste) of Christ, with honesty and humility. In fact, how can we recognize him when he comes, love him if we do not know him and know him if we do not “taste him”?

Second, by praying asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and support us in our search for the face of the Lord.

This time, therefore, educates the heart and the mind of everyone to a waiting that is real, daily and in constant tension to the presence of the One who became man for us and saved our lives: “The solemnities of the Church certainly recall events of the past, but are also present and alive realization because what happened once in history must be a continuously event in the life of the believer. Then the Lord came for all, but he must come again and again for each one of us “(Benedict XVI).

The three Gospels of St. Mark, St. Matthew and St. Luke speak of this coming just before the story of the Passion of Christ. It is his last preaching. The style is apocalyptic (as I have a briefly explained last Sunday): wars, devastation, natural disasters, destruction of the world. Let these dramatic descriptions not scare us. It is a style particularly used in the East to remind us that in front of Christ everything takes on a new meaning and even the world, which seems stable and eternal, will have an end when the Lord comes to give a new order to all things. So also in the Gospel of St. Luke, that we are going to read in the Year C, the Messiah uses apocalyptic words taking the opportunity from the praise that some were doing of the Temple of Jerusalem, but stating that this temple would be destroyed (Lk 21, 5 – 7) . There would have been warning signs, such as wars of one people against another, persecution of Christ’s disciples (Luke 21, 8-19) and the siege and the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 21,20 – 24). After the suffering caused by men, Jesus in today’s passage speaks of cosmic events and of his coming in glory. The holy fear that can come from listening to these words helps us to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ not only in a sentimental way, but aware that this is a decisive meeting for our existence.

In this the Virgin Mary can be of example. She is a role model in this waiting because Mary is “a simple country girl, who carries in his heart all hope of God” (Pope Francis). With her “yes”, with her “fiat”, the hope of Israel and the whole world became flesh. The season of Advent, which we begin today, gives us the horizon of hope, a hope that does not disappoint because is founded on the Word of God … It is a hope that does not disappoint simply because the Lord never disappoints! He is faithful! “(Pope Francis.).

Virginity is the means chosen by God to give a new start to the world. As in the first creation, even now God creates “out of nothing”, that is from the void of human possibilities, without any help and any support. This “nothing”, this emptiness, this lack of explanation and of natural causes is precisely the virginity of Mary.

In this Advent let’s contemplate Mary’s virginity for a meditation on the perfect chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven.

St. Cyprian wrote to the first Christian virgins “You have begun to be what we all one day will be” (Virgins, 22, PL 4, 475). Such a prophecy, far from being against the married, is instead primarily for them, for their benefit. It reminds them that marriage is holy, beautiful, created by God and redeemed by Christ and the image of the marriage between Christ and the Church, but that’s not all. Christ is everything.

With their “yes” without reserve to God, with their life humble, simple, poor, obedient, and faithful like the one of Mary also in trials and hardships, they make Christ visible. With the gift of their life they hasten the coming of Christ and His Kingdom. With consecration the consecrated women become for all people sign of the love of God and of the eternal blessings that He gives us.


Patristic reading

Golden Chain

On Lk21,34-36

THEOPHYL. Our Lord declared above the fearful and sensible signs of the evils which should overtake sinners, against which the only remedy is watching and prayer, as it is said, And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time, &c.

BASIL; Every animal has within itself certain instincts which it has received from God, for the preservation of its own being. Wherefore Christ has also given us this warning, that what comes to them by nature, may be ours by the aid of reason and prudence: that we may flee from sin as the brute creatures shun deadly food, but that we seek after righteousness, as they wholesome herbs. Therefore said He, Take heed to yourselves, that is, that you may distinguish the noxious from the wholesome. But since there are two ways of taking heed to ourselves, the one with the bodily eyes, the other by the faculties of the soul, and the bodily eye does not reach to virtue; it remains that we speak of the operations of the soul. Take heed, that is, Look around you on all sides, keeping an ever watchful eye to the guardianship of your soul. He says not, Take heed to your own or to the things around, but to yourselves. For you are mind and spirit, your body is only of sense. Around you are riches, arts, and all the appendages of life, you must not mind these, but your soul, of which you must take especial care. The same admonition tends both to the healing of the sick, and the perfecting of those that are well, namely, such as are the guardians of the present, the providers of the future, not judging the actions of others, but strictly searching their own, not suffering the mind to be the slave of their passions but subduing the irrational part of the soul to the rational. But the reason why we should take heed He adds as follows, Lest at any time your hearts be overcharged, &c.

TIT. BOST. As if He says, Beware lest the eyes of your mind wax heavy. For the cares of this life, and surfeiting, and drunkenness, scare away prudence, shatter and make shipwreck of faith.

CLEM. ALEX. Drunkenness is an excessive use of wine; crapula is the uneasiness, and nausea attendant on drunkenness, a Greek word so called from the motion of the head. And a little below. As then we must partake of food lest we suffer hunger, so also of drink lest we thirst, but with still greater care to avoid falling into excess. For the indulgence of wine is deceitful, and the soul when free from wine will be the wisest and best, but steeped in the fumes of wine is lost as in a cloud.

BASIL; But carefulness, or the care of this life, although it seems to have nothing unlawful in it, nevertheless if it conduce not to religion, must be avoided. And the reason why He said this He shows by what comes next, And so that day come upon you unawares.

THEOPHYL. For that day will not come when men are expecting it, but unlooked for and by stealth, taking as a snare those who are unwary. For as a snare shall it come upon all them that sit upon the face of the earth. But this we may diligently keep far from us. For that day will take those that sit on the face of the earth, as the unthinking and slothful. But as many as are prompt and active in the way of good, not sitting and loitering on the ground, but rising from it, saying to themselves, Rise up, be gone, for here there is no rest for you. To such that day is not as a perilous snare, but a day of rejoicing.

EUSEB. He taught them therefore to take heed to the things we have just before mentioned, lest they fall into the indolence resulting therefrom. Hence it follows, Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all those things that shall come to pass.

THEOPHYL. Namely, hunger, pestilence, and such like, which for a time only threaten the elect and others, and those things also which are hereafter the lot of the guilty for ever. For these we can in no wise escape, save by watching and prayer.

AUG. This is supposed to be that flight which Matthew mentions; which must not be in the winter or on the sabbath day. To the winter belong the cares of this life, which are mournful as the winter, but to the sabbath surfeiting and drunkenness, which drowns and buries the heart in carnal luxury and delight, since on that day the Jews are immersed in worldly pleasure, while they are lost to a spiritual sabbath.

THEOPHYL. And because a Christian needs not only to flee evil, but to strive to obtain glory, He adds, And to stand before the Son of man. For this is the glory of angels, to stand before the Son of man, our God, and always to behold His face.

BEDE; Now supposing a physician should bid us beware of the juice of a certain herb, lest a sudden death overtake us, we should most earnestly attend to his command; but when our Savior warns us to shun drunkenness and surfeiting, and the cares of this world, men have no fear of being wounded and destroyed by them; for the faith which they put in the caution of the physician, they disdain to give to the words of God.
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A Little Saturday Nonsense (or not)

I’m sorry – but I couldn’t resist.

(H/T Lawrence England & Guy Bridgeport)


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A Guide for Confession

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Preparing Our Hearts for Advent

Ready is my heart, O God, ready is my heart (Ps. 107:2)


Written by Hannah M. Brockhaus

One of my favorite ways to pray during Advent is by candlelight. Easily distracted by the anxieties and to-do lists of everyday life, the post-Thanksgiving rush to Christmas can sometimes just be too much. As beautiful as the Christmas season is, I need every minute of Advent to gear up for the joyful and noisy time with family, loudly-sung Christmas carols, Midnight Mass, wrapping paper messes and eclectically-trimmed trees.

Which is part of why I love to pray in a dark and quiet space, with only the light of an Advent Wreath to break the silence of that visible peace and calm.

In a time that is often filled with the stress and busyness of gift-buying, decorating and baking, extra family time—and when I was a student, with finals and end-of-term papers—being surrounded by near total darkness helps me to forget my worldly cares and concerns and to focus on the cares and concerns of the heart. The areas of my life, both interior and exterior, that I am not allowing Christ, the Light of the World, to enter.

It sounds a little silly to talk about preparing for something that is already itself a period of preparation, but as much as “winging it,” can often be our go-to style of life, opening ourselves to the repentance and grace of Advent requires a willing and aware cooperation with the opportunities for receiving it.

Just as candles need oxygen to burn, we need the space to be receptive to grace. And sometimes—almost always really—this requires a spiritual purging of whatever might be separating us from the Light of Christ.

Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation is always a good place to start, of course. Giving things up isn’t just for Lent either—Advent is also a penitential season.

So before Advent begins, we should ask ourselves what grime might be dirtying the walls of our heart? And decide what changes we can make to allow room in our lives and in our hearts for God’s grace to work.

Perhaps you struggle with selfishness? Volunteer at a soup kitchen, or rake a neighbor’s leaves. What about hardness of heart? Take some time to really play and spend time with your children or the children of a friend or family member. Or go out of your way to help a family member you find difficult. If it’s gluttony, then give up whatever particular food or drink you find it most difficult not to overindulge in. Laziness? Schedule in and stick to some set-aside prayer time in front of the Eucharist. Wake up earlier to attend daily Mass before work. Feeling spiritually or physically burnt-out? Attend an Advent mission talk at a parish. Put up a Jesse Tree, reading daily Scripture passages as you hang the ornaments.

Are you restless and distracted and busy? Try turning out the lights at night and praying or reading a reflection by only the light of the candles in an Advent Wreath.

About six weeks ago, near the votive candles in a Catholic church in Vienna, I found a small, thin brochure which had printed on the front the words: “Take and Read.” What I found inside was a little reflection on the use and symbolism of candles to aid in prayer, and on the back was this prayer:

a candle stands before me.
It burns restlessly,
sometimes with a small,
sometimes with a larger flame.
Lord, I too am often restless.
Let me find rest in You.

It gives me light and warmth.
Lord, let me too be light for the world.

It burns away and consumes itself in its service.
Lord, may I also be of service to people.

With this candle I can ignite other candles.
Lord, may I also contribute in this way
that others may begin to shine.

We can often get wrapped up in the whirlwind of the secular world’s rush to Christmas. And although the world certainly needs Christmas, the world needs Advent too. So how can we be light for the world during this season. How can we prepare our own hearts in such a way that their light and joy spread?

Interior preparation can be easy to forget or ignore amid all the other preparations because it is just that, interior. We can see the growing pile of gifts under the tree and the number of peanut butter balls multiplying on the counter, but our spiritual readiness cannot be measured.

And this is why it must be as carefully prepared—or perhaps even more carefully prepared—than anything else on our to-do lists this season.

Thus the candles in the Advent wreath, one for each week, are a visible reminder to us of the approach of the birth of Christ, the Light of the World, who dispels all the darkness of our world and cleanses our sins in the fire of his love.

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Of scapulars, devotions and Russian jet fighters

Another excellent post from Fr. John Zuhlsdorf;

Some people are quite disciplined in the matter of wearing a scapular. This comes from Latin scapulae, shoulder blades. Scapulars are garments, usually associated with religious habits, which fall down from the shoulders, mostly over the rest of the habit. Another kind of scapular is small, on strings, which symbolically substitutes for the larger scapular. There are different kinds of scapulars which are spiritual aids in various ways. They generally are a symbol of a relationship through which we derive spiritual protection and aid. Probably the most commonly used scapular is the brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

BTW… once you are “enrolled” and given the brown scapular, if and when your scapular wears out, simply replace it. You don’t have to have the new one blessed.

I am not sure if Eastern Catholics and Orthodox have such things, but a reader alerted me to something which she thought was rather like a Western scapular.

At The Daily Mail there are many photos concerning the destruction of a Russian jet fighter by the Turks. The pilots were killed as they parachuted. Among the photos are the pilots’ effects, including this, which I flipped and cropped:


Lots of people wear religious items without necessarily being devout in any way.

I hope that this young man was indeed devout and that Our Lady helped him to his end.

That said, reflect now for a moment on your own end, your death, which could come at any moment, whether you regularly are in “harm’s way” or not.

Use well the sacramentals that Holy Church provides for your spiritual benefit.  Devout use of the brown scapular is a common devotion because it is an effective devotion.

Use well the sacraments that Holy Church provides.  Examine your consciences and GO TO CONFESSION.  Make good Holy Communions.  Call upon the graces of the your Confirmation and Matrimony and Holy Orders.

Use well other devotional practices which can be of spiritual benefit to you and others.  Perform indulgenced works, such as making the Way of the Cross, reading Scripture, praying the Rosary.

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Shocking Desecration

In Spain, a deeply troubled “artist” designed a blasphemous “work of art” using 242 consecrated hosts that he pilfered by attending Masses over a period of time and receiving Holy Communion in the hand. (One news source here.)

With those consecrated hosts, he spelled the word “pederastia” (English: pederasty).

What is also shocking is that the Bishop of the place, though issuing a strongly-worded condemnation (in Spanish), has only indicated one solitary Mass of reparation in the face of such a grave scandal! No word in his public statement about the issue of communion in the hand, either!

I’m genuinely surprised that he didn’t order a series of Masses of reparation in every parish in the diocese – or that there even be Eucharistic processions in reparation for such a grave offense. He might also have instructed all the parishes to have ushers to keep an eye on those receiving in the hand, to ensure they consumed the host (so that things like this could not happen again). He might have issued a catechesis on why it is better to receive on the tongue in the first place and why communion in the hand is generally ill-advised practice, even setting grave abuses like this aside.

Now I know that I’m not there in Spain and that more might be happening on the local level. But in today’s day and age, news of such scandals travel the globe at break-neck speed. There needs to be a vigorous public response. This is not just an offense against the Faith; it’s a grave assault against our Lord, Jesus Christ, who is really and truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament!

Let us pray! Join me in making some acts of reparation?

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Pray for Mother Angelica

Mother Angelica, the Franciscan nun known for her zeal and feistiness in regards to spreading the faith is on a feeding tube and her overall health is declining according to the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery Family Newsletter, see link below in the sources.  Mother founded the Eternal World Television Network in 1981 which has helped millions around the world learn the faith and brought many more back to the Catholic Church.  She has been a blessing for the Church despite being attacked by Cardinal Mahony and others who felt she overstepped her role as a religious nun.

We all miss Mother on television and are grateful for the sharing of her faith with all of us. In my opinion, mother is a good strong case for a female priesthood (obviously not possible/hypothetically speaking) since she takes her faith seriously unlike some clergy we have today who seem to see the priesthood as a career.   I learn a lot about the faith during my atheist years. Where well-known priests such as Alberto Cutie, John Corapi, Marcial Maciel, Cardinal O’Brien, Thomas Williams, Francis Stone etc have failed us, mother stood firm all these years showing her faith is unbreakable. This by itself is inspirational even without her presence on television.

We ask the Lord almighty to bless Mother Angelica, give her good health, strength and prepare us all for when He has to take her back home.  Amen.

– See more at: http://www.sacerdotus.com/2015/11/pray-for-mother-angelica-she-is-on.html#sthash.5B2iEwEw.dpuf

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Don’t mess with “gay marriage”

Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula.

Quite a few places in Australia’s south bear pretty French names, largely due to the fact that Britain and France were in a race in the 18th century to chart or lay claim to bits of the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit. Shortly after Captain Arthur Phillip made land in Botany Bay in 1788 Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de La Pérouse, also came ashore to bid the commoner (later-) first British governor of New South Wales a most courteous and gallant, “Bonjour, mon capitaine!”. Later in the same year the noble count and his ships vanished off the coasts of the Santa Cruz Islands, a group now in the Solomon Islands.  (Any interested in the Anglo-Gallic rivalry in the South Seas can read more on page 4 here.) And Botany Bay is now where Sydney’s crumby airport is.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, the Most Reverend Julian Porteous, has been slapped with a notice that the official anti-discrimination peeps in Tasmania have accepted a complaint from a “transgender” election candidate of the Greens party (with an Irish name) that the archbishop’s distributing of a statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference on marriage among Catholic schools and parishes infringed the state’s anti-discrimination provisions and that action will ensue. Grrrrumphhhh!

Michael Cook, boss editor of the mercatornet website in Australia, picks up the tale and notes, or suggests anyway, that it may be virtually impossible in Tasmania for anyone to publicly oppose “gay marriage” there. The amended anti-discrimination provisions in Tasmania, let through by a coalition of Labour and Greens, may have seen to that.

This may be interesting as the whole of Australia may soon be facing a plebiscite on the “gay marriage” nonsense. However, it would appear that in Tasmania (population 515,000), anyway, it will be illegal for anyone to speak against it.

Let us hope that the Tasmanian provisions cannot catch any on CP&S for expressing their sincere views.

The offensive document from the Australian Bishops’ Conference can be viewed in all its horror here.

Michael Cook’s article is here.

Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart

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Archbishop Gänswein praises Cardinal Sarah for his prophetic witness

By Edward Pentin at the National Catholic Register:

Screen_Shot_2015-11-21_at_16.52.00-1-255x183Cardinal Robert Sarah’s boldness in proclaiming the Gospel and resisting the Zeitgeist is a prophetic witness reminiscent of a 5th century North African Pope who laid the foundations for healthy church-state relations, Archbishop George Gänswein has said.

In a well-received speech in Rome Nov. 20 at the launch of the German edition of the book ‘God or Nothing’ — an interview with Cardinal Sarah by Nicolas Diat — the personal secretary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI compared the cardinal favorably to Pope Galasius I whom the Church, by coincidence, commemorated on Nov. 20.

Gelasius’ letter to the Emperor Anastasius I of Constantinople in 494 put spiritual and secular power on an equal footing and helped pave the way for Western democracy.

Commenting on the book, Archbishop Gänswein, who also serves as prefect of the Pontifical Household, said every generation faces giving in to a “totalitarian temptation” that always accompanies the history of the Church “like a shadow”.

Today, he said, it is manifested in the West’s attempt to “overturn, step by step, the natural law at the behest of globally active pressure groups”.

He mentioned gender ideology as an example, adding that the intolerance of secularism is “nothing more than a new pseudo-religion” which once again “takes up where the totalitarian ideologies of the last century left off.” Similarly, he warned that when the state becomes a religion, it is “horrifically expressed in the so-called Islamic State.”

But neither the state nor the Zeitgeist “has the right” to claim omnipotence, Archbishop Gänswein said. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Absolutely. But unto God what is God’s! It is on this distinction that Cardinal Sarah today insists; a solitary, frank and intrepid voice.”

Archbishop Gänswein went on to say that ‘God or Nothing’ is a radical book in the sense of taking us back to the “roots of our faith.” It “opens our eyes” to the fact that “new forms of indifference to God are not just mental deviations one can simply ignore”, but represent “an existential threat to human civilization par excellence.”

Actively proclaiming the Gospel is “gaining urgency” in this “precarious situation”, the German prelate said, and “in this hour he [Cardinal Sarah] arises, prophetically.” Revelation, he reminded those present, “must not be adapted to the world” as the world “wants to devour God.” But God, on the other hand, “wants to attract and convince us and the world.”

He stressed that the book is neither “a manifesto nor a polemic” but a “guide to God who has shown his face in Jesus Christ”. He also said it is a Vademecum (handbook) for the upcoming Jubilee Year which can teach “valuable lessons about the nature of mercy.”

“Mercy and rigor of teaching can only exist together,” Archbishop Gänswein said, quoting the great Dominican theologian, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. “The Church is in her principles intolerant, because she believes, and she is tolerant in practice, because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant with regards to the principles because they do not believe, and they are intolerant in practice because they do not love”.

Cardinal Sarah, Archbishop Gänswein said in closing, “is someone who loves”, a man who shows us “how and which masterpiece God wants to shape us into if we do not oppose His artist’s hands.”

During the recent Synod on the Family, Cardinal Sarah gave one of the strongest interventions of the three week meeting, comparing gender ideology and the Islamic State to “apocalyptic beasts”. 


Here below is the full text of Archbishop Gänswein’s speech:

GenTo the Roots!

By Georg Gänswein, 20 November 2015

Most Reverend Cardinal Sarah! Eminences, Your Excellencies, Dear Brothers, Dear Ladies  and Gentlemen!

As I was reading the galleys of your book “God or nothing” this past summer, your candour repeatedly reminded me of the boldness with which Pope Gelasius I in the Rome of the year 494 wrote a famous letter to the Emperor Anastasius I of Constantinople. When at last a suitable date for the presentation of this book here in the Anima was found, I discovered that it is today of all days, on the 20th of November, that the Church commemorates this pope. Today the Church celebrates Pope Gelasius from North Africa. Allow me therefore to briefly say a few words about his letter from the year 494.

Eighteen years before it was written, in the year 476, Germanic tribes had overrun the ancient capital. The Völkerwanderung – the mass migration of peoples – had begun, which brought about the end of the Western Roman Empire. Of that once so powerful empire there remained only the powerless Church of Rome.

It was in this situation that Pope Gelasius wrote the following to the East Roman emperor in Byzantium: To govern the world there is not just one power but two. This we know since the Lord gave to his apostles, after the Last Supper (Luke 22:38), the mysterious information, “two swords”, which they had just handed to him, were “enough”. However, these two swords would have to be, according to his conception, shared by the Emperor and the Pope throughout history. In other words, with this letter Pope Gelasius I put spiritual and secular power on an equal footing. There should be no more omnipotence. Pope and Emperor were – for the benefit of all people! – considered as partners before God.

This constituted a paradigm shift. But there was more. For Gelasius added to this that the Emperor of Constantinople, by divine right, was a little bit subordinate to him, the Successor of Peter in Rome. For did not even the supreme rulers have to humbly receive the sacraments from the hand of every priest? How much more should then the emperor be obliged to be humble vis-à-vis the pope, whose chair after all towered over every other bishopric?

The claim was outrageous. No wonder then that the Byzantine emperor at the time all but shrugged off the suggestion.

But the “two swords doctrine”, as the claim was named after this letter, would describe the relationship between church and state for about 600 years. Its indirect effects lasted infinitely longer. The gradual emergence of Western democracies is inconceivable without this claim. Because here not only the foundation for the sovereignty of the Church was laid – but also for any legitimate opposition.

Europe in any case has painfully grown and matured from this time onward. The history of the Catholic Church as a civilizing force is unthinkable without the example that Gelasius I. set in opposing the pursuit of omnipotence by Emperor Anastasius I. The subsequent separation of church and state and the system of a “balance of power” began with this letter, when the powerless pope suddenly, fearlessly, denied the most powerful ruler of the world the right to claim to also reign over the souls of his subjects. It was a time of turmoil and the migration of peoples, as I said, during which the Roman Church became the decisive authority of the West.

Of all this today, as quite suddenly a mass migration is again flooding Europe from the East, the historically-minded Cardinal Sarah is very much aware, hailing, just like Gelasius, from Africa, that most vital and dynamic part of the universal, global Church. Probably, therefore, the groundbreaking “African” Synods of Carthage from the 3rd to the 5th century are as present to him as any subsequent councils up to the Second Vatican. Quite certainly he sees clearly – as only few others will – that many states today once more lay claim, with all their might, to that “spiritual power” that the Church once wrested from them in a long process for the benefit of society as a whole.

For when the states of the West today attempt to overturn, step by step, natural law at the behest of globally active pressure groups; when they want to adjudge, for themselves, on the very nature of man (as in the highly ideological programs of Gender Mainstreaming), then this is more  than just a fatal relapse into the rule of the arbitrary. It is primarily a new submission to that totalitarian temptation that has always accompanied our history, like a shadow.

Every generation knows this temptation, even though it manifests itself in a new form and language in every era. Cardinal Sarah today confidently and forcefully insists that the Church must not be allowed to dissolve into the Zeitgeist, even where this spirit comes disguised and camouflaged as science, as we already know it did with racism and Marxism.

Never again should there be any institution whatsoever of omnipotence. Neither the state nor the Zeitgeist has the right to claim it for them – and neither, of course, does the Church. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Absolutely. But unto God what is God’s! It is on this distinction that Cardinal Sarah today insists; a solitary, frank and intrepid voice.

The state must be not a religion, as it is currently horrifically expressed in the so-called Islamic State. Equally, the State may not prescribe to the people Secularism as a supposedly neutral world view, as it is nothing more than a new pseudo-religion, which once again takes up where the totalitarian ideologies of the last century left off in attempting to denounce and ultimately extinguish Christianity (and every other religion) as outdated and useless.
That is why this book by Cardinal Sarah is radical. Not in the sense in which we usually use the word today, but in the original sense of the word. The Latin radix is called “root” [Wurzel]  in German. In this sense, the book is radical. Because this book takes us back again to the roots of our Faith. It is the radicalism of the Gospel that inspired this book. The author is “convinced that one of the most important tasks of the Church is to let the West rediscover the radiant face of Jesus.”

It is for this reason that he has no hesitation to talk anew about the incarnation of God and the radical nature of this good news, which he contrasts with an unsparing analysis of our time. He opens our eyes to the fact that the new forms of indifference to God are not just mental deviations one can simply ignore. He recognizes an existential threat to human civilization par excellence in the moral transformation of our societies.

There is no question that the mission of actively proclaiming anew the Gospel is gaining urgency in this precarious situation. In this hour he arises, prophetically. He knows that the Gospel which once transformed cultures is now in danger of being transformed by so-called “realities of life”. For two thousand years, the Church has cultivated the world with the power of the Gospel. Conversely, it will not work. Revelation must not be adapted to the world. The world wants to devour God. But God wants to attract and convince us and the world.

In this struggle, this book is therefore not a fleeting contribution to a certain debate. It is also not a reply to specific points of view of others. To say this would not do justice to the depth and brilliance of this witness of Faith. Cardinal Sarah is not concerned with individual points of debate, but with faith as a whole. He demonstrates how an individual issue is to be understood by correctly understanding the entirety of our Faith. And how, conversely, every theological attempt to isolate sub-questions damages and weakens the whole.

Yet this book has neither turned out a manifesto nor a polemic. It is a guide to God, who has shown his human face in Jesus Christ. It is a Vademecum for the start of the Holy Year.

On the 20th of November, 2016 – today in one year’s time – this jubilee year dedicated to the “Face of Mercy” will already be over. Until then, we can learn most valuable lessons about the nature of mercy from this book. For “mercy and rigor of teaching can only exist together,” Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange wrote already in 1923. He continued: “The Church is in her principles intolerant, because she believes, and she is tolerant in practice, because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant with regards to the principles because they do not believe, and they are intolerant in practice because they do not love”.

Cardinal Sarah is someone who loves. And he is a man who shows us here how and which masterpiece God wants to shape us into if we do not oppose His artist’s hands. This book is a book of Christ. It is a confession of faith. We must imagine its title as a joyful sigh: God or nothing!


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Francis, a Pope left alone at the command?


How, pray God, did we come to this?

from: Monday Vatican http://www.mondayvatican.com

Marked by shock over the Paris attacks, the past week began with Pope Francis’ visit to the Christuskirche Lutheran Church in Rome on Sunday, November 15. What he said during the visit – completely off the cuff – has apparently established the primacy of conscience over doctrine and over things Pope Francis called “interpretations.” A more in depth interpretation of that meeting and those words, in fact, provides another impression: that Pope Francis is not merely a Pope alone in command, but that he has been left alone in command by those who are supposed to advise him. At the same time, the “hidden Vatican”, comprised of people who silently and tirelessly work on behalf of the mission of the Church, is still marginalized.

During his visit to the Lutheran Church in Rome, Pope Francis spoke off the cuff, answering three questions and preaching during a religious service. It was a fortunate coincidence that the reading of the day was the passage of the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 25) that Pope Francis loves, as he considers it “the protocol on the basis of which we will be judged.”

While the Lutheran pastor, Jens-Martin Kruse, outlined ecumenical dialogue on the basis of a common gazing upon Christ, Pope Francis focused on the common commitment to the poor, and on a sort of “ecumenism of conscience”. In his words, the theological debate seemed something relegated to the second tier of ecumenical activity, while charity and common prayer were given as priorities.

Pope Francis’ improvised discourse included many deprecating criticisms. Sometimes, theology was considered as (“speeches for theologians”), sometimes he even underestimated the theological issues (“life is larger than interpretations”). The Pope also seemed to under-estimate the reason why Catholics and Lutherans cannot take sacramental Communion together, and he seemed willing to leave the issue open to each person’s conscience.

The impression in the end is that Pope Francis has left everything open to the individual’s good will, without emphasizing the common gazing upon Christ which represented “the common gift of faith,” the only ecumenical gift that Pope Benedict XVI brought to Lutherans during his 2011 trip to Germany.

Whereas the off-the cuff-speech offered some criticisms, the prepared text offered even more of them. The prepared text highlighted the primacy of charity (not in the sense of ‘love’, but in the sense of ‘charitable activity’) over prayer and theology. The prepared text stated that ecumenical dialogue “cannot but start with the preoccupations and problems of man today.”

Above all, the prepared speech also proposed a “re-evaluation of Martin Luther” in view of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, to be celebrated in 2017.

The proposal of a re-evaluation of Luther is part of the Pope’s often-noted pushes for the “Protestantization” of the Catholic Church. This Protestantization is characterized by the notion that the Church should adapt itself to the signs of the times. “Signs of the times” thus becomes a topic of relevance to the Church.

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, highlighted this problem. He visited Chile from November 6-10, and gave an important speech to the Chilean bishops, stressing that faith risks being relativized on the basis of the signs of the times.

Cardinal Mueller is one of those working to provide the current debate with theological substance. During this past week, he gave other lectures, all of them pivotal to understanding the issues at stake. During the international symposium on the 10th anniversary of Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Deus Caritas Est,” Mueller interpreted the theological notion of charity on the basis of the notion of love. He proposed that the Christian is not merely committed to performing works of charity, but to living his faith. And this faith is a love that must necessarily be based upon reason. Faith and reason are intertwined, Cardinal Mueller explained, and this is the reason that everything in faith has a particular meaning. He grounded all of his reasoning on the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, is also working to give theological roots to the current discussion. In his speech at the same conference (and also in other occasions), he maintained that the current crisis is above all a crisis of faith. This is the real challenge in order to guarantee the Church a future.

Also last week, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, gave a lecture at the Pontifical Lateran University with the aim of fostering the cultural impetus of Catholic world. Universities, and especially Catholic universities – Cardinal Bagnasco said – must be places where people resist totalitarian and individualistic thought. This is the thought that erodes the reasons of faith.

These visible signs of the Church, expressed by Cardinals Mueller, Sarah and Bagnasco, are supported by the “Hidden Vatican,” that is the individuals who work behind the scenes in this pontificate, shape it on the basis of continuity with an already planned reform process, while they also project a wide-ranging vision: that is, a Church – supported by the Roman Curia – which does not have as its goal to accept and respond to the signs of the times, but one that is able to forecast the signs of the times and to provide prophetic responses to them.

Pope Francis is left alone at the very moment that he needs prophetic views. Let’s be clear. Pope Francis personally made this decision. He is a decision-maker. He listens to everyone, but then he acts on his own. His project is not that of reforming the Roman Curia, but that of reforming the profile of bishops. He has in mind a Church whose guidelines are “pastoral”, not doctrinal. Prophecy, according to the Pope, is not found in issuing a long-term project. Prophecy, for Pope Francis, the Church as a “field hospital,” that heals wounds as soon as they appear.

These guidelines can be glimpsed at through the choice of new bishops and cardinals. Pope Francis always prefers those who have impressed him in personal meetings, or those who are presented as bishops with a major pastoral touch and only a minor impact on the cultural-political environment. According to Pope Francis, getting directly into the political and cultural fray could harm dialogue, and build walls instead of bridges.

Obviously, Pope Francis’ choices are supported by a number of advisers (not so many, in fact). But how much do these advisers care for the Catholic Church in the long term? Or do they instead exploit the Pope’s wish to be both Pope and parish priest at the same time in order to propose, as bishops and cardinals, those candidates who fit the papal profile, but who, at the same time, could water down doctrine?

It is paradoxical that the Catholic Church is seemingly less prophetic now. The Church is 200 years behind; it is not able to look forward, to further developments of the Second Vatican Council, to a new way of being in the world while fostering a dialogue on the basis of a strong identity without forfeiting a single Catholic principle.

The Church today has forfeited its distinctive language, and it did so at the very moment that it gained enormous popularity, thanks to Pope Francis. But such a change can raise suspicions that this popularity is backed by those who want to take advantage of Pope Francis in order to dismantle the Church.

That there is a long-term campaign against the Church seems evident. Under Benedict XVI, there was a very long period of attacks against the Church because of priestly pedophilia, followed by a period of attacks aimed at Vatican finances. This long period of attacks against Vatican finances resulted in a new season of Vatileaks. Of them all, this latest episode constitutes the weakest Vatileaks, since the Vatican financial system actually works and bears fruit. However, this latest Vatileaks chapter allows us to understand the final goal of the individuals behind it: if the mission and the prophecy of the Church are impervious to attack, it becomes important to put the Church’s financial support at risk, so that it does not have the means to carry forward its mission.

The final goal of the last two books of leaks are the “8 per mille” campaign (that is, the public financing of the Catholic Church in Italy), and Peter’s Pence, that is, the contributions sent to Rome by the faithful since the time that anti-clerical Italian troops conquered Rome in the 19th century and Blessed Pope Pius IX found himself exiled in Castel Sant’Angelo.

This anti-Catholic campaign takes advantage of the isolation of the Pope and of the internal divisions within the Catholic Church. The gang war within the Vatican, in fact, helps the external campaigns against the Church. And many of these campaigns find strength and impetus in the personal attacks that take place within the Catholic Church.

Under Benedict XVI, the main target of these attacks was Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, his Secretary of State, who is still a target. Under Pope Francis, the attacks over financial issues are aimed at Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, who took over the control and development of Vatican finances. In both cases, the two cardinals demonstrated a certain naivety in their manner of relating to the Curia and in their attempts to “enlarge” their areas of interest. In a world held together by quibble and small power struggles, enlarging competences is not seen as a good will effort. It is rather perceived as a declaration of war.

Pope Francis’ expansive curial reform was supposed to take shape following a major reform of the State Secretariat. As first envisioned, the Secretariat of State was supposed to become a department for diplomatic coordination, while its first section, concerning general affairs, was supposed to be separated from the Secretariat and refashioned as a distinct department to coordinate the functioning of the other Vatican dicasteries. In the end this design was not followed.

Today the Secretariat of State has regained its de facto central role in the Curia. Moreover, Pope Francis has reaffirmed the central role of the Secretariat in a recent letter which re-establishes the status quo of curial operations until the curial reform is complete.

This is how Cardinal Pietro Parolin, via rescripts and papal documents and letters, has restored the competences of an originally to-be-dismantled State Secretariat. In the meantime, the Curia of former times has regained its influence, and diplomats have once again taken over a key role in the Roman Curia.

This “return to the ancien regime” makes it seem as if Benedict XVI’s pontificate should be put between parentheses.

The mission of the Church suffers more than anyone or anything else on account of this internal power struggle. Even diplomatic texts are written in a sort of paste-and-copy manner, while Pope Francis is left alone. After the attacks on Paris there was a meeting at the United Nations on November 17 about the maintenance of international peace and security. In his speech, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, reiterated that more development is needed for peace, but he used the UN terms “sustainable development”, referring to sustainable development goals. No mention was made in the speech of “integral human development”, the pillar of the social teaching of the Church that Pope Francis placed at the center of his speech to United Nations.

On another diplomatic note, it is remarkable that Pope Francis did not immediately issue any response to the Paris attack. On the day after, a telegram signed by the Secretary of State in the name of the Pope was delivered to Paris, and two days after that the Pope made a public appeal during the Angelus. Beyond that, there was no official statement. Yet there was an occasion in which a statement could have been made: his meeting with Jesuit Refugee Service on November 17. That speech – already focused on the disasters of wars – would have been the ideal place to include a strong condemnation of the Paris attacks. But instead it was read the speech already prepared in advance. Pope Francis’ response was left to an interview with a journalist friend who directs the Italian Bishops’ Conference television station. In the end, it was a papal stance, but it cannot be considered an official stance.

These details concerning his response to the Paris attacks support the idea that Pope Francis has been left alone by the very people who backed his election because of their personal agenda. This network of interests is now focused on a gang war with the intention of hardening its position within the Vatican, and looking forward to the next pontificate.

In the meantime, the misinterpretation of Pope Francis’ pontificate continues unabated. The rationale behind this popular misinterpretation is to create a breach between this and the previous pontificate. This operation became evident during the last US Bishops’ plenary assembly, when the 4 year-old document “Faithful Citizenship” faced a vote.

Two bishops, Gerald Kicanas of Tucson and Robert McElroy of San Diego, criticized the way the document had been drafted. They underscored that “many things have changed,” since the document was written, while insisting that it missed a clear reference to the new Pope’s priorities, that is, global poverty, environmental degradation and the criticisms of the economic order that fuels it. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Vice-president of US Bishops’ Conference, explained that the working document followed the “hermeneutic of continuity,” and other bishops supported the document. The discussion was described in almost negative terms by the Jesuit-run magazine, “America,” one of the most active in backing the “revolution of mercy”. Some in the Jesuit world have clearly taken a key role in developing and interpreting this pontificate. However, this uprise of the “left wing” of the American Church did not find any ground.

In spite of these factors, there is always a Hidden Vatican at work, even though Pope Francis does not take it into account. A major outcome of this work behind the scenes was the speech Pope Francis gave to the German bishops during their ad limina visit this past week.

In that speech, Pope Francis confirmed the crisis of the Church in Germany, taking on board many of the views that Benedict XVI outlined in his speech to the German bishops in Freiburg at the close of his pastoral visit in September 2011. Speaking about a Church whose number of faithful is decreasing and whose members barely go to Confession, Pope Francis asked the bishops to preserve the Catholicity of institutions, told them that even Catholic faculties of theology should “feel united with the Church” (sentire cum ecclesia) and underscored that too many structures are being created, while they are barely filled by the faithful.

Pope Francis also criticized the organizational anxiety of the Church in Germany, and asked for more focus on the sacraments and less promotion of laypeople in central roles within religious services, while he insisted that “with no priest, there is no Eucharist.”

That speech was written with the German Church in mind, the Church from which the winds of the revolution blow, and from which the idea is promoted that there should be no central and Roman Church, but a Church composed of many local realities, detached from Rome even in doctrinal terms. Cardinal Mueller, in his speech to Chilean bishops, warned about this “localism”. The Church is one, and cannot have many doctrines, nor can it allow divergent disciplinary choices. Otherwise it would no longer be a Catholic Church. The Church should not turn into a Protestant ecclesial communion. Nor should it become just another among many evangelicals sects, which are spread so widely in South America. Nor should it turn into an NGO, empty of values, the very opposite of what Pope Francis says he wants.

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The astonishing prayer of Fatima

by Stephen Bullivant (and first published in the ‘Catholic Herald’)

A pilgrim walks on her knees at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal

A pilgrim walks on her knees at the Marian shrine of Fatima in central Portugal

Surely the ‘O my Jesus’ prayer is too deep for three shepherd children to have invented all by themselves?

On Sunday the Bullivant family went to Barnes, to visit the touring relics of Blessed Jacinta and Francisco, the little shepherd seers of Fátima fame. Fátima means a lot to me: I visited in 2005, when still an unbaptised atheist.

So I’ll no doubt be writing more about it as we move through the imminent Year of Mercy and then into the apparitions’ centenary in 2017. (Incidentally, this is a happy coincidence of dates that can scarcely have escaped our Holy Father’s notice.)

The three 'seers' of Fatima

The three ‘seers’ of Fatima

One thing that has always struck me about Fátima – amongst a great deal that is nothing if not striking – is the sheer profundity of the most famous prayer that bears its name: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, and save us from the fires of Hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those with most need of thy mercy.

The theological depth of these brief lines alone would likely convince me of their revealed nature, even without the testimony of the sun dancing in the sky.

Consider just the first three words. ‘O my Jesus’ is not a mode of address that comes naturally to us. For how could it? Who dares to speak to the ‘Lord of glory’ (1 Corinthians 2.8) in so familiar, so intimate a fashion? Who would presume to be on first-name terms with the ‘saviour of the universe’ (St Athanasius)?

In the gospels, not a single one of our Lord’s closest followers addresses him directly by name. Most often, they call him Kyrios: ‘sir’ or ‘Lord’. Peter, for example, thinks it suitable for all occasions, from expressing mortal panic (Matthew 14.30), to pledging his enduring love (John 21.17). Even when actually arguing with Jesus – ‘God forbid it, Lord!’ (Matthew 16.22) – he is nevertheless careful to signal his deference with a sufficiently respectful title.

Other such honorifics, used by the disciples and others, play a similar role: rabbi, rabbouni, didaskolos.

Jesus is by name several times, however. Most of these occasions fall into two main types: demons, revealing their supernatural insight to who precisely he is and why he has come (e.g., Mark 1.24); and strangers, humbly begging Jesus to have mercy on them.

Luke has his lepers implore ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ (17.13; see also 18.38; Mark 10.47-8). Note that in each of these cases, even though Jesus is indeed named, some other, more formal mode of address is swiftly added.

But there is nothing like that in the Fátima prayer: just ‘O my Jesus’. Peter and the disciples, Mary Magdalene, the desperately hoping for a personal cure, even the demons… not one is so bold as to speak so informally with ‘my Lord and my God’ (John 20.28). So how then can we?


At the end of Luke’s gospel, God himself, scourged and humiliated, hangs dying on two rough planks of wood. Perversely, in this degradation he is surrounded by titles and terms of respect. His claims to be the Saviour, indeed ‘the Christ, the chosen one of God’ (23.35), are turned against him in mockery. Above his head, a sign sarcastically proclaims him ‘the king of the Jews’.

It is only now, alone within the entire gospel witness, that the Messiah is addressed by just his first name: ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (23.42).

These words, of course, come from the repentant thief. They are spoken out of true humility. He acknowledges his own guilt, and regards himself as justly condemned. He is beyond hope of reprieve. Offered the opportunity to ask the Christ for anything at all, he asks not for rescue or redemption, but merely to be remembered.

And yet the one that miserable thief speaks to, the one whom he believes will soon ‘come into his kingdom’, is likewise a condemned criminal. Jesus is indeed the ‘Christ, the chosen one of God’, he is ‘the king of the Jews’. But he is these things precisely because he can be addressed as a social equal by an abject, and justly condemned, sinner. The two men – one executed, the other murdered – hang side-by-side as social equals.

This is, of course, precisely the point of the incarnation: God himself comes to hang beside us, as a ‘man among men’ (St Irenaeus); the only one who can offer us the mercy we need, beside us as one whom we might actually dare to ask mercy of.

And this is, more or less, the over-riding message of Fátima: that while we – all of us – are in dire need of mercy, we’re on first-name terms with him on whom we have to call. Now that’s a rather deep bit of theology for three illiterate shepherd-children to have come up with all by themselves.

O my, Jesus!

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