28 April 2014
A large crowd is seen as Pope Francis celebrates the canonization Mass for Sts. John XXIII and John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 27 April. (photo: CNS/Evandro Inetti)
News networks last weekend were filled with stories about the canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. A commonly recurring theme was the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who had come to witness this historic event in St. Peter’s Square. It seemed as if people from all over the world had converged on Rome.
But were they pilgrims or tourists? Anyone who has gone to Rome during the tourist season knows how crowded it can get with souvenir-hunting, camera-toting tourists, even in places like St. Peter’s Basilica.
However, that was not the case last weekend All of the many people interviewed were clear why they had come to Rome: the canonization of two popes. Tourism, if it played any role at all, was clearly secondary to the desire to witness and take part in a ceremony believers found holy. Rome was packed with pilgrims.
In a world of high speed transportation and tourism as a “mega-industry,” pilgrims and pilgrimages may seem quaint and a bit outmoded. Nevertheless, the draw of holy places is strong and ancient, going back thousands of years.
I wrote more about this phenomenon in a web-exclusive essay for the online edition of ONE:
Pilgrimage is deeply rooted in the religious imagination.
The desire to visit places — especially distant ones — that are seen as endowed with transcendence and spiritual power is evidenced in many of the world’s great religions. Since many faiths employ words denoting a journey — “road,” “walking,” “path” — to describe their religious practice, perhaps it is natural for the pilgrimage to provide a metaphor of that greater pilgrimage: the life of the believer. In fact, the notion of pilgrimage is deeply rooted in the three great monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — but in very different ways.
To discover more about the importance of pilgrimage to these three religions, read Pilgrim People in the current online edition of ONE.
2 May 2013
Tags: Vatican Pilgrimage/pilgrims Pope Pope John Paul II Saints
The helicopter carrying Pope Benedict XVI passes the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica as the retired pope returns to the Vatican on 2 May. The pope will live in a monastery in the Vatican Gardens. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Today CNS shares an unprecedented moment:
For the first time in history, the Vatican is home to a pope and a retired pope.
Pope Francis welcomed his predecessor, retired Pope Benedict XVI, to the Vatican May 2 outside the convent remodeled for the 86-year-old retired pontiff and five aides. Pope Francis and Pope Benedict entered the convent’s chapel together “for a brief moment of prayer,” said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.
Pope Benedict had been staying at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo since retiring on 28 February. Pope Francis traveled to the villa 10 days after his election to visit, pray and have lunch with Pope Benedict; the new pope also has telephoned his predecessor on at least two occasions.
In response to questions about the fact that Pope Benedict seemed to be much frailer than he was two months ago, Father Lombardi told reporters, “He’s an elderly man, weakened by age, but he is not suffering from any illness.”
In the last year of his pontificate, Pope Benedict was seen walking with a cane on more and more public occasions; after Pope Benedict retired, Father Lombardi confirmed that he had had a pacemaker inserted before becoming pope in 2005 and had undergone a brief procedure in November to replace the battery.
While the Vatican is now home to a pope and his predecessor, neither lives in the papal apartments of the Apostolic Palace. Pope Francis continues to live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse just south of St. Peter’s Basilica where the cardinals stayed during the conclave; the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery where Pope Benedict is living is just to the north of the basilica.
Read more here.
11 April 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Catholic Pope
A groom and bride hold hands on their wedding day. (photo: CNS/Jon L. Hendricks)
The Vatican is taking a closer look at the challenges facing couples from different faiths who marry:
Catholics need to know that marrying someone from a different Christian community or, even more so, from a different religion will create extra challenges in their marriage, but church leaders also must learn how to help people in mixed marriages meet those challenges, a Vatican official said.
“We can express a positive judgment only when the conditions are met for a family life where the values and purposes of marriage are respected, and where a common faith in God helps the spouses to weave together an authentic communion of life and love,” said Bishop Jean Laffitte. …
He was commenting, in part, on a research project conducted by the Catholic bishops of Lebanon, which looked at the realities and challenges of marriages between Christians of different traditions and between a Catholic and a Muslim.
In an interview for the family council’s website — www.family.va — Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter, the Maronite patriarch, said Lebanon “is a mixed society: in schools, universities, towns and cities. We all live together,” and, naturally, that has given birth to many mixed marriages.
The study said there are positive experiences of marriages between a Christian and a Muslim in countries like Lebanon, where followers of the two faiths have lived side by side for centuries. The diversity of the country is one of its riches, which is reflected in the number of mixed marriages and strengthened by them as members of the communities grow closer, the study said. However, it also found that different understandings of the family, conjugal life and the roles of men and women can make Catholic-Muslim marriages a challenge.
The cardinal said that in Lebanon, “the judgment about mixed marriages is positive,” because they contribute to peaceful coexistence, including on a social and political level.
However, he also said, “we try not to encourage mixed marriages in order to preserve the faith and traditions” of the various communities, because studies show that often couples handle belonging to different faith communities by one or both of them limiting or eliminating their involvement in the community.
18 March 2013
Tags: Lebanon Unity Interreligious Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai Interfaith
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.
19 February 2013
Tags: Pope Francis Catholic Pope Patriarchs Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
Over the next several weeks, we’ll be hearing a lot of names and locations mentioned in connection with the conclave to elect the next pope.
This morning, Catholic News Service released the brief video below. It offers what the producer calls a “slow melodic” look at “faces and places” that will figure in this historic drama. It may even offer a peek at the next pope.
Take a look:
13 February 2013
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Pope Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan Cardinal Leonardo Sandri
A Swiss Guard salutes as Pope Benedict XVI leaves his general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on 13 February. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Dear CNEWA friends and supporters,
Pope Benedict’s resignation as pontiff has taken us all by surprise: We are not used to such public renunciations of power and status. But through his actions, our Holy Father is once again teaching us about humility and selflessness:
After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.
However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.
On Ash Wednesday, the pope told a large crowd of pilgrims that he “decided to renounce the ministry that the Lord gave to me … for the good of the church.” For the good of the church. Throughout Benedict’s pontificate, he has worked tirelessly for the people of God. Despite his age, and deteriorating health, our pope has tackled some serious challenges, issues that threaten the future of humanity.
He has been particularly present in CNEWA’s world, traveling to Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Palestine, where he pressed for peace and justice. He has called for greater dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews. His love for the Christians of the Middle East prompted a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops to address their concerns. During his visit to Lebanon last September, I was privileged to witness firsthand his message of peace. There, not far from the violence in Syria, he offered loving guidance in an exhortation the significance of which is still not yet fully understood.
My dear friends and CNEWA family, please pray for him, and for his successor as Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Servant of the Servants of God.
Join me in thanking our Holy Father for his life of loving and gentle service to the church. Consider making a gift in his honor to CNEWA. Together, we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope.
Msgr. John E. Kozar
12 February 2013
Tags: CNEWA Pope Benedict XVI Msgr. John E. Kozar
Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation yesterday at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
After Pope Benedict XVI’s historic announcement yesterday, the world has been asking a lot of questions about what the days ahead will bring.
John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter has posted a very good Q&A primer, which includes some speculation about how a former pontiff might spend his time:
What will Benedict’s role being in the election of his successor?
To hear [Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico] Lombardi and others tell it, he won’t have any role at all.
“Benedict XVI will surely say absolutely nothing about the process of election,” Lombardi told the media. “He will be retired and will not interfere in any way in the process. You can be assured that the cardinals will be completely autonomous in their decision.”
That said, Benedict’s imprint is nevertheless destined to be on the conclave in two ways.
First, he has by now appointed the majority of the cardinals who will elect his successor (67 out of 117 who will be under 80 when the sede vacante begins and thus hold the right to vote). In that sense, one can expect these are men who mostly share his outlook on things.
Second, because he’s still alive, at least some cardinals may feel special pressure not to do anything that would be perceived as a repudiation of Benedict’s papacy, or that they suspect would cause him consternation. How that might translate into choices inside the conclave isn’t entirely clear, but it’s a piece of the puzzle worth considering.
What will Benedict do after the new pope is on the job?
Here we’re really in the realm of the hypothetical, because the only honest answer is that we just don’t know.
It’s reasonable to think that after some period of near-complete withdrawal to make it clear that the new pope is fully in charge, Benedict might want to resume writing on the scholarly and spiritual topics that have always been his passion.
Lombardi hinted at that possibility Tuesday, saying Benedict’s long-awaited encyclical on faith (timed to coincide with the Year of Faith, and completing a triptych with his earlier works on love and hope) would not be ready to go before he steps down. He left open the possibility, however, that Benedict might be able to make use of this material in another form in a private capacity.
Whether Benedict will publish writings while he’s still alive, however, or whether he’ll take appointments, appear at Vatican events, or otherwise play some sort of public role, is all apparently still being pondered.
What are the implications of all this for future popes?
Once again, Vatican officials have been at pains to say that Benedict’s is an “absolutely personal” choice, and that because every situation is different, it’s impossible to say what future popes might do.
Lombardi made a special point today of stressing that Benedict wouldn’t do anything to tie his successor’s hands. He said, for instance, that while Benedict clearly wants a pope to be present at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July, it will be up the next pontiff to freely decide if he wants to go or not.
Read it all at the NCR link.
24 October 2012
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Pope Papacy Holy See
On 7 August 2012, CNEWA President John Kozar, left, met with Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church on his visit to our New York office. Today, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the major archbishop will become a cardinal in November. (photo: Erin Edwards)
Surprising a crowd of some 20,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI today announced the creation of six new cardinals, including two with whom CNEWA works closely.
Cardinal-designate Patriarch Bechara Peter guides more than 3.2 million Maronite Catholics, more than half of whom live outside the church’s traditional center in Lebanon. For decades, the patriarch has been a close advisor, friend and partner of CNEWA, forging partnerships and promoting projects and plans to benefit all Lebanese, Christians and non-Christians alike.
Cardinal-designate Baselios Mar Cleemis leads some 430,000 Syro-Malankara Catholics from his see in southwestern India. A tireless advocate for the poor, Mar Cleemis witnesses the love of Christ through acts of compassion, charity and simple piety.
“We do that,” he said during a visit to our offices in August, “through education, through health care, through caring for those with H.I.V. and leprosy. It has to do with human dignity. I am proud and happy of how our people give witness with how they live.”
Both cardinals lead an Eastern Catholic church of the Syriac tradition — neither Greek nor Latin — both of which are rooted in the earliest Jewish-Christian traditions of the church.
27 August 2012
Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Kerala Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
Bishop Boris Gudziak was ordained yesterday at St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv, Ukraine.
(photo: Press Office of Ukrainian Catholic University)
On Sunday 26 August, Father Boris Gudziak, a long-time friend of CNEWA and former professor of mine, was ordained a bishop for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Bishop Boris was born in 1960 in Syracuse, New York. After completing his Ph.D. in Slavic and Byzantine History at Harvard University, he went to Ukraine and in 1992 founded the Institute of Church History. He played a key role in reestablishing the Lviv Theological Academy, which in 2002 became the Ukrainian Catholic University, the only Catholic university in the former Soviet Union. From 2002 to 2012, he was the university's rector.
Bishop Boris’s consecration took place at St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv, Ukraine, and his Principal Consecrator was His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The new bishop is appointed as the Apostolic Exarch for the Ukrainian Greek Catholics of France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
Two weeks from now, Bishop Boris, along with all other bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, will participate in the Church’s Synod in Winnipeg, Canada.
5 July 2012
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Canada
Young Ukrainians travel on foot and on horseback for a pilgrimage from Lviv to Univ.
(photo: Petro Didula)
Last year, writer Mariya Tytarenko looked at how a new generation of priests is helping rejuvenate the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church — and in the process, they are also helping to make pilgrimage scenes like the one above more common:
Subdeacon Ostapyuk and Father Prokopets celebrate liturgies for the children and staff in chapels in or near the orphanage schools. If there is no chapel in the vicinity, they improvise. In the summer, they often celebrate the liturgy outdoors. In addition, they explain the meaning of the liturgy to the youngsters as well as teach them lessons from the Bible and about Christian values.
Each summer, the men also help run the Druzhba Camp for orphaned children and youth, some of whom have disabilities, in the village of Svirzh, 39 miles southeast of Lviv. For the rest of the day, they and a group of volunteers oversee a daily agenda of outdoor activities, crafts and games.
Read more about young Ukrainian men Answering the Call to the priesthood in the November 2011 issue of ONE.
Tags: Pilgrimage/pilgrims Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Eastern Europe Seminarians