Current Issue
July, 2019
Volume 45, Number 2
19 March 2013
Greg Kandra

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, right, walks with Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, after attending Pope Francis’ inaugural Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 19 March. For the first time since the Great Schism of 1054, the Orthodox ecumenical patriarch attended a pope’s inaugural Mass. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Tags: Pope Francis Ecumenism Christian Unity Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

19 March 2013
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis greets the crowd before celebrating his inaugural Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 19 March. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope begins his ministry with a Mass rich in symbolism (CNS) Although attempts were made to simplify the ceremony, Pope Francis officially inaugurated his ministry as pope and bishop of Rome in a liturgy filled with biblical symbolism and signs of the universality of his mission. But before the solemn rites began on 19 March, Pope Francis — known for choosing public transport over chauffeur-driven limousines — took his first spin in the popemobile, blessing the tens of thousands of people who arrived in St. Peter’s Square as early as 4 a.m. to pray with him. He waved and, at one point, gave a thumbs-up to the faithful. He also kissed three babies held up to him by the chief of Vatican security, Domenico Gianni, and other officers. But he climbed out of the open jeep used as a popemobile to kiss a severely disabled man…

Below is video of the pope receiving his pallium and ring:

Homily of Pope Francis at inaugural Mass (Vatican Radio) The full text of the Holy Father’s homily…

While in Rome, patriarch meets with Lebanese leaders (Fides) Today consultations are continuing in Rome between the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter of Antioch and political leaders of the Lebanese delegation, who arrived in the city to attend the opening Mass of the Petrine ministry of Pope Francis. Discussions will focus on the impasse on the electoral law that is paralyzing the political life in Lebanon, while there is a growing risk that the Syrian conflict destabilizes Lebanon…

Syria rebels, regime blame each other for first alleged chemical weapons attack (CBS News) Syrian state media accused rebels of firing a chemical weapon for the first time on Tuesday in the north of the country, killing at least 15 people in the war-torn Aleppo province. Rebels quickly denied the report and accused regime forces of firing a chemical weapon on a long-range missile…

Car bombs strike Iraq on 10th anniversary of US invasion (Reuters) Car bombs and a suicide blast hit Shiite districts of Baghdad and south of Iraq’s capital on Tuesday, killing at least 50 people on the 10th anniversary of the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. Sunni Islamist insurgents tied to al Qaeda have stepped up attacks on Shiite targets since the start of the year in a campaign to stoke sectarian tension and undermine Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s government. Tuesday’s car bombs exploded near a busy Baghdad market, close to the heavily fortified Green Zone and in other districts across the capital…

Tags: Iraq Pope Francis Lebanon Syrian Civil War Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter

18 March 2013
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

Workers prepare the altar in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 18 March, the day before Pope Francis’ installation Mass. (photo: CNS/Paul Hanna, Reuters)

With the election of Pope Francis, a relatively unknown person appeared center stage in the Catholic Church. A great deal is made about his “firsts” — the first Jesuit, the first pope from the Western Hemisphere. There is a great deal of curiosity regarding who he is and what kind of a pope he will be. People, it seems, are falling over themselves to find and interpret “signs” which will tell the world who Pope Francis is.

A bit of context might help. It is estimated that the median age of the world’s population is 28.4 years. Pope John Paul II became pope on 16 October 1978 — that is, 35 years ago. This means that more than half of the world’s population has known only Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was a fairly well-known entity when he was elected pope in 2005. Thus, for more than half the world’s population, the election of an unknown entity to the See of Peter is something new. In the long run of the church’s history, it is not that unusual. But it is to us, and hence the curiosity.

The inauguration of a pope is a very important time. It happens relatively rarely and is filled with symbolism — some of which is easily recognizable and some of which may be more arcane to the average observer. I was present in St. Peter’s Square when Pope John Paul I was inaugurated as pope and bishop of Rome. The ceremony is moving and impressive. While each new pope will necessarily inject elements of his own personality into the ceremony of his inauguration, the ceremony is not ad-libbed by any means. It is not the personal show of any pope.

Because the inauguration of any pope is so highly structured and even orchestrated, if one is to search for “signs” and insights into the new pope’s personality and even agenda, those signs are going to be very, very subtle. They will be so subtle, in fact, that observers will come up with contradictory “signs.” Papal observers run the very real risk of being too clever by half. Nonetheless, a papal inauguration is by no means totally devoid of indications of what the future might bring. (The Vatican has released details of tomorrow’s liturgy on its news website.)

If I were to come up with a significant indication in the inauguration of Pope Francis, it would be the presence of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. Since 1054 the Eastern and Western churches have not only been divided; they have all too often been hostile to each other. There has not been a patriarch of Constantinople at a pope’s inauguration or a pope at a patriarch of Constantinople’s installation for well over a thousand years. This is significant.

In a world where the Arab Reawakening continues to cause great alarm among Christians in the Middle East, Pope Francis’ decision to postpone his first public audience in order to meet with the Catholic patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern churches is also significant. This might be an indication that Pope Francis is concerned about the unity of the church. It might be a sign also that he is concerned about the catholicity of the church in a way that we have not seen for a while. Yet in all this, only time will tell.

It is still probably better to participate in and observe Pope Francis’ inauguration as a believer rather than as a detective.

Tags: Pope Francis Catholic Pope Patriarchs Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

18 March 2013
Greg Kandra

Women hold candles and pictures of newly elected Pope Francis during a Mass of thanksgiving in his honor at a church in Kolkata, India, on 17 March. (photo: CNS/Rupak De Chowdhuri, Reuters)

Tags: India Pope Francis Indian Christians Indian Catholics

18 March 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, pictured above in a 2009 photo, will be attending the inauguration of Pope Francis — the first time an ecumenical patriarch has done so since the Great Schism. (photo: CNS/Larry Downing, Reuters)

Ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople to attend pope’s inauguration (AsiaNews) In an unprecedented gesture, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will attend Pope Francis’s inaugural Mass. The Ecumenical Patriarchate Press Office informed AsiaNews about the decision, noting that this is the first time such an event has occurred since the Catholic-Orthodox split in 1054 — an important sign for Christian unity. Relations between Catholics and Orthodox have been improving since the Second Vatican Council through mutual visits, acts of friendship and theological dialogue…

Palestinians hope new pope will continue Vatican support for them (Al Monitor) Palestinians and peoples of the Middle East have been searching hard in the new pontiff’s history to try and figure out where he will stand on the issues that are of concern to them. Two issues were prominently talked about in this regard. The Jesuit background of the new pope was quickly seen as a good sign; in the Middle East, Jesuits are known to have established schools of higher education and other projects supporting the poor. His status as a non-European also ensures, many believe, a more international perspective at the Vatican. The Vatican has generally been supportive of Palestinian rights and the need to end the occupation of Palestine. But, equally, the leaders of the Catholic Church have placed tremendous efforts to improve relations with Israel…

Patriarch: Serbs must return to Kosovo (B92) “One of the first … items in the talks, today and tomorrow, a condition and request we need to set is the return of a large number of Serbs to Kosovo and Metohija,” Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej said at a ceremony marking the ninth anniversary of the March Pogrom in Kosovo. Patriarch Irinej noted that 240,000 Serbs had been expelled from Kosovo and that it was the country’s obligation to help those who still lived in Kosovo and the displaced to return to their homes. “If we survived five centuries under Turks, we will survive this as well. We must not despair”…

Bulgarian Orthodox Church nominated for Nobel Peace Prize (Novinite) The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has been nominated by for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize by MP Lachezar Toshev. The occasion is the 70th anniversary of Bulgaria rescuing its Jews from deportation to Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Toshev says he wants to make the above fact more popular and globally known, stressing the involvement of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in the rescue of Jews is unprecedented on international scale and must be recognized…

After two years of Syrian violence, religious sisters continue aid (EWTN) While the world marks the second anniversary of demonstrations that began what is now the Syrian civil war, the Sisters of Charity of Besancon continue to help the poor of the country’s capital. “Everybody is afraid. They don’t know how long they have to live,” Sister Marie-Joseph Chanaa told Aid to the Church in Need on 13 March. “When someone goes to work he doesn’t know if he’ll come home again.” Sister Chanaa and five other Sisters of Charity work and pray in Damascus to care for their neighbors, who are caught in the midst of war. She said that they pray daily for peace and she encourages those she helps to maintain hope…

Tags: Pope Francis Syrian Civil War Palestinians Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Bulgarian Orthodox Church

15 March 2013
Greg Kandra

Pope Francis addresses the College of Cardinals in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall on 15 March. Young people need the wisdom and knowledge of older people, whose insight is like “fine wine that gets better with age,” he told the cardinals. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Pope

15 March 2013
Greg Kandra

Newly elected Pope Francis breaks the seal to enter his residence at the Vatican on 15 March. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

Pope meets with College of Cardinals (CNS) Never give in to the devil’s pessimism, discouragement and bitterness, Pope Francis said; Christians need to share the Gospel message with joy and courage because it will truly answer people’s deepest needs. Young people also need the wisdom and knowledge of older people, whose insight is like “fine wine that gets better with age,” he told the College of Cardinals on 15 March. His remarks came during a meeting in the Clementine Hall in the apostolic palace with all the cardinals who were present in Rome, including the non-elector cardinals who were over the age of 80 and did not vote in the conclave…

Pope reaches out to Jews (Associated Press) Like his predecessor, Pope Francis reached out to Rome’s Jewish community at the very start of his pontificate, pledging to continue to strengthen the increasingly close ties between Catholics and Jews. Just hours after he was elected the first non-European pope in history, Pope Francis sent a letter to Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo di Segni, saying he hoped to “contribute to the progress that relations between Jews and Catholics” have seen since the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council. Jewish leaders welcomed the election of a pontiff seen as an ally when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. Israeli President Shimon Peres said the pope would be a “welcome guest in the Holy Land” while Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, said the new pope “always had an open ear for our concerns”…

Pope will meet with Eastern rite delegates (VIS) Announcing the pope’s schedule for next week, the Vatican notes: “On Wednesday, 20 March, he will hold an audience with fraternal delegates representing the heads of the various Eastern-rite churches, so there will not be a General Audience”…

Egyptian Christians look to new pope for comfort (Euronews) In Egypt, which has one of the largest Christian communities in the region, our reporter asked Bishop Krikor Augustinos Coussan, primate of the Armenian Catholic community there, what Christians were hoping from Pope Francis: “We ask the pope to use all his power to bring a comprehensive and equitable peace especially in the Middle East, the country of Jesus and the apostles who carried the Gospel of Christ and his teachings to the whole world”…

A humanitarian perspective on the new pope (Vatican Radio) One organisation that has warmly welcomed the new Holy Father is CAFOD, the official aid agency for England and Wales. It said that, “This choice of pope puts service to the poor and tackling injustice at the forefront of the church’s mission in the world.” Speaking to Lydia O’Kane about the new pope, Tom O’Connor, CAFOD’s director of communities, said: “There’s a real tangible sense of enthusiasm…”

Tags: Pope Francis Middle East Christians Middle East Ecumenism Catholic-Jewish relations

14 March 2013
Greg Kandra

A sand sculpture of the newly-elected Pope Francis, created by Indian artist Sudarshan Patnaik, adorns a beach in Puri, India, on 14 March. (photo: CNS/Reuters)

Tags: India Pope Francis Pope Art

14 March 2013
Greg Kandra

Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, waves after praying at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome on 14 March. At right is Cardinal Agostino Vallini, papal vicar for Rome. (photo: CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope Francis makes visit to Marian basilica in Rome (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis, elected in the conclave Wednesday evening, made his first and officially unscheduled visit to the Rome Basilica of Saint Mary Major early Thursday, surprising residents and children on their way to a nearby school…

(You can watch a video of his visit below.)

Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio? Read his official biography (VIS) Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ordinary for Eastern-rite faithful in Argentina who lack an Ordinary of their own rite, was born on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires. He studied as and holds a degree as a chemical technician, but then chose the priesthood and entered the seminary of Villa Devoto…

India welcomes Pope Francis as ‘a man of dialogue and charity’ (Fides) “All the people of India, Hindus and Christians, welcome with joy Pope Francis. We believe he will be a man of dialogue and charity,” says Msgr. Felix Machado, Bishop of Vasai, expressing the feelings of the Indian Church. The bishop says the received a large number of phone calls and messages of congratulations from Christian faithful, priests, and nuns. He also received messages from Hindus, he says, noting “The first to call and congratulate me was a well-known Hindu religious leader who said ‘We also prayed for the new pope, we are happy with you, he is also our pope’ ”…

Missionary world celebrates the election of a pope who is close to the poor (Fides) “Pope Francis is a man of great pastoral ability of strong faith, a man of prayer and very close to the priests, the elderly, the poor, and above all, a man who emphasized the missionary commitment of the Church in our community and in our city.” This is what the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Msgr. Joaquín Sucunza points out in a note sent to Fides Agency…

Russian Orthodox Church welcomes election of new pope (Voice of Russia) The Russian Orthodox Church welcomes the election of the new pontiff, Pope Francis. The 76-year-old Argentinean, Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected by a Conclave of 115 voting cardinals after five ballots. The head of the press-service of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, Deacon Alexander Volkov said that “the Russian Orthodox Church welcomes the decision of the conclave of cardinals of the Roman Catholic church, and, as before, hopes that relations between the Orthodox and Catholic churches will develop in a positive spirit”…

Peres: New pope brings spirit of hope and peace (Jerusalem Post) President Shimon Peres on Thursday welcomed the announcement of the new pontiff, saying Pope Francis brings with him “a spirit of hope and peace.” Peres made his remarks to a delegation of 14 Polish bishops who are rounding up a weeklong spiritual renewal in Israel. “The new pope will be welcomed in the Holy Land with love and appreciation by Jews, Muslims and Christians as one,” Peres said…

Patriarch Sviatoslav on Pope Francis: ‘He knows our Tradition very well’ (Religious Information Service of Ukraine) RISU correspondent in Rome, Oksana Shkodziska, took the following comments of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk about Pope Francis: “The newly-elected Pope Francis was mentored by one of our priests, Stepan Chmil who is now buried in the basilica of St. Sophia in Rome,” the patriarch said. “Today’s pope, during his time as a student of the Salesian school, awoke many hours before his classmates to concelebrate at our Divine Liturgy with Father Stepan. He knows our Tradition very well, as well as our Liturgy. The last time I had an opportunity to see him was as I was preparing to leave Argentina for Ukraine. I asked him to bear witness to the process of beatifying Father Stepan Chmil, to which, he gladly agreed. The Holy Father very well knows not only of our Church, but also our liturgy, our rites, and our spirituality…”

Report: Iran stepping up weapons lifeline to Syria (Reuters) Iran has significantly stepped up military support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in recent months, solidifying its position alongside Russia as the government’s lifeline in an increasingly sectarian civil war, Western diplomats said. Iranian weapons continue to pour into Syria from Iraq but also increasingly along other routes, including via Turkey and Lebanon, in violation of a U.N. arms embargo on Iran, Western officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Iraqi and Turkish officials denied the allegations…

70,000 Indian children exploited in coal mines (Fides) From a bamboo ladder, children descend into humid wells up to 60 feet deep. They crouch to get into a hole and crawl in the mud before starting their long day of work in extracting coal. We are talking about children of the state of Meghalaya in northeast India who work as miners, that every day are faced with death and live in fear of that the place where they are forced to work in inhuman conditions might collapse and bury them alive…

Tags: India Pope Francis Vatican Russian Orthodox Church Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

13 March 2013
Greg Kandra

Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, greets the crowd from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. The 76-year-old Jesuit is from Buenos Aires, Argentina — making him both the first pontiff from the Americas and the first Jesuit pope. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Tags: Pope Francis Vatican Pope Papacy

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