Browsing articles tagged with " Benedict Xvi"
On February 28, Pope Benedict XVI became the first Pope in nearly 600 years to resign from the position citing declining health as the reasoning behind the move. Following his resignation, Pope Francis of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected by the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13 in what was the shortest papal conclave in the history of the Catholic Church.
The selection of Pope Francis has historical significance as he is the first Pope to be selected from a country outside of Europe as well as the first Jesuit Pope. The following is an interview with Quinnipiac University’s professor of sociology Grace Yukich. Professor Yukich is a sociologist of religion who has studied Catholicism specifically.
Q: How significant is the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to the Roman Catholic Church and its followers?
A: I think it’s pretty significant. His resignation seemed to shock the world and certainly shocked most Catholics. I think one of the things that really surprised people about it is now they are going to have to completely rethink the whole idea of whether a Pope is always a Pope because now you have a situation where there are two living Popes. We don’t really know what that is going to look like and if there is going to be any conflicts in the halls of power.
Q: Do you believe Pope Benedict’s health is the only reason for his resignation, or does the story go deeper?
A: I know there has been some speculation about whether there are some scandals that might have led to him stepping down. I don’t know if that’s the case or not but I think it’s possible but it’s doubtful that that’s what made him step down. I think he has been very taxed by those situations and all those scandals just wore him out whereas other recent Popes haven’t had to deal with those issues on such a large scale.
Q: Has Pope Francis differentiated himself at all from the traditional view of a Pope?
A: He is certainly different from Pope Benedict although I feel like he has more in common with Pope John Paul II in that John Paul was more of a pastor than Benedict who was more of a theologian. Certainly the thing that really sets him apart is that he is the first Pope in 1200 years that is not from Europe. If you look at where most Catholics live today and where Catholicism is growing the most, it is in Latin America, Africa and Asia. There are fewer Catholics in Europe and the United States then there used to be. So I think that was an intentional choice on the part of the Cardinals and I think it was a good choice to be honest.
Q: How will having a Pope outside of Europe affect Catholicism around the world?
A: I think it could really affect Catholicism in Latin America because one of the things that has been happening over the last 30 years across Latin America is people have been converting to Evangelical Protestantism and so the Catholic Church has been losing a lot of its members to these other Christian traditions. Having a Pope from Latin American could put a hold on that because there may be some people who just feel so proud that the Church has picked someone from their part of the world and as a result, feel affirmed as Catholics.
More importantly, I think this reaffirms for all Catholics around the world that the Church is a universal church. It is not just a church for Europeans, it’s not just a church for Americans, it’s a church for the world and this decision helps to affirm that.
Q: What are some areas of the Church Pope Francis will chose to focus on first?
A: We have already seen Pope Francis distinguishing himself as really having a focus on the poor which could have a really important impact on the Church. So if he really sticks to that and really tries to get Catholics to focus more on the teachings of Jesus and how you are supposed to treat the poor, then that could potentially transform the Church but I don’t know if he will continue his focus on that or not.
Q: Pope Francis has been vocal with his stance against gay marriage. How, if at all, will this affect the social viewpoints of Catholics around the world?
A: When it comes to issues on gender and sexuality certainly his is orthodox regarding those issues. I think there are going to be some people who are really happy about that and some people that will be upset about that. In the United States I think his stances will be relatively unpopular. According to a recent Gallup poll, 87 percent of Catholics said that birth control is completely morally acceptable and he is taking a different stance. If Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul didn’t convince them that birth control is wrong then I don’t think Francis will either. In fact, it might make them more irritated with the Church.
It is the same thing with gay marriage. At least in the United States over half of Catholics say that they support gay marriage or civil unions for same sex couples. I don’t think this Pope is going to change their minds about this especially with things moving in that direction so strongly. People in other parts of the world aren’t as supportive of these issues as Americans are so they may see Pope Francis stance on these issues as wonderful and be really happy about it.
Q: How do you believe Pope Francis would define a successful term as Pope?
A: From his point of view, I think that a successful term as Pope was one where he was a pastor to people. He seems like he really does care about people, and if he is able to properly convey that to people then he will see that as a successful papacy. I also think that he recognizes how important it is to address the sex abuse scandal and I certainly think that if he is able to do that then he will view that as being successful. The other thing I would say is that Pope Francis is really concerned with the poor, and whether that be trying to make a different through state policy or simplifying the Vatican itself, but if he is able to do one of those two things then that would be a success for him.
I don’t think a day has passed since March 13 without a student, colleague, fellow church member, family member, or friend asking what my perspective is on the election of Pope Francis, especially since they know that I was a member of the Baptist World Alliance delegation to our recent five-year dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church and have otherwise written on ecumenical themes. Nearly a week of such conversations has helped me have a better idea of what it is that I think!
Much of what I think would merely echo perspectives that have already been widely aired in the media. Here I’ll restrict myself to my initial thoughts regarding what the pontificate of Pope Francis may mean for Baptists.
While I don’t think the pontificate of Benedict XVI should be regarded negatively where Baptist-Catholic relations are concerned, I think Baptists have good reason to be encouraged by the election of Pope Francis.
One encouraging sign is the admiration Pope Francis seems to have for Walter Cardinal Kasper, who played a key role in making possible and encouraging the second series of conversations between the Baptist World Alliance and the Roman Catholic Church from 2006 through 2010, the report of which will be officially published this summer. In his first public “Angelus” address in St. Peter’s Square on March 17, Pope Francis said this:
In these days, I have been able to read a book by a cardinal—Cardinal Kasper, a talented theologian, a good theologian—on mercy. And it did me such good, that book, but don’t think that I’m publicizing the books of my cardinals. That is not the case! But it did me such good, so much good… Cardinal Kasper said that hearing the word mercy changes everything. It is the best thing that we can hear: it changes the world. A bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand God’s mercy well, this merciful Father who has such patience…
Cardinal Kasper was Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in the years before and during our conversations. When the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the controversial document Dominus Iesus in 2000 that seemed to say (though there are other more nuanced ways of reading it) that many non-Catholic churches including Baptist churches should not be really regarded as churches, Cardinal Kasper worked behind the scenes to repair the damage. One thing he did toward that end was to encourage the global leadership of the BWA to respond positively to the invitation for dialogue and to promote its desirability within the Vatican. While having an audience with Pope Benedict XVI was certainly a highlight of our five-year series of conversations, in many ways my most cherished memories of the dialogue will remain the lunch in 2007 that we had with Cardinal Kasper and the afternoon dialogue session in 2009 in which he spoke to us at length about his perspectives on ecclesiology and ecumenical relations and then responded at length to our questions. I am greatly encouraged to know of Pope Francis’ theological admiration for this influential theological friend of Baptists within the leadership of the Catholic Church.
Another reason for Baptists to be optimistic about this papacy is the warm and open relationship Pope Francis seems to have had with evangelicals in Argentina. Baptist-Catholic tensions in Latin America belong to a larger pattern of Evangelical-Catholic tensions there and were evident in some opposition among Latin American Baptists to approval of the report of the first series of conversations between the BWA and the Catholic Church (1984-1988) and in some initial resistance to the prospect of a second series of conversations. Francis may succeed in alleviating some of those tensions, and that can be a good thing for Baptists.
Many Baptists may be hoping that Pope Francis may be able to reform the Catholic Church in certain directions. The fact that Pope Francis belongs to the Jesuit order may be encouraging to those who hope for certain new developments, for historically the Jesuits have sometimes been on the outs with the Vatican and have themselves tended to be critical of the Curia.
Yet Baptists should expect the pope to be Catholic, which means that all the changes they might want to see happen within the Catholic Church may not come about during this papacy. But the history of the Catholic Church is one in which change has happened incrementally and symbolically, and there are good reasons to hope for incremental and symbolic changes during the pontificate of Pope Francis.
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Steven R. Harmon teaches Christian Theology at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. His most recent book is “Ecumenism Means You, Too: Ordinary Christians and the Quest for Christian Unity” (Eugene, Ore.: Cascade Books, 2010). Dr. Harmon blogs at Ecclesial Theology.
This is proving to be an historic year for the Catholic Church. In an unexpected move, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation in February, becoming the first pontiff to step down in nearly 600 years. His successor is a Jesuit from Latin America — a first for both — who will lead more than one billion Catholics worldwide.
In light of these monumental changes, we caught up with Matthew Butler, associate professor of modern Mexican history with research interests in Latin American Catholicism, to discuss the influence of Pope Francis and what the future holds for the Catholic Church.
A recent census indicates that only 65 percent of Brazilians identify as Catholic, down from more than 90 percent in 1970. What sparked this decline?
From the mid-20th century the Church faced real religious competition from new institutional rivals. It also faced a rapidly changing social context, one that sometimes it was slow or ill-equipped to understand. Protestantism — which in countries like Brazil, Chile and now even Mexico accounted for big depletions in the numbers affiliated to the Catholic Church — made enormous inroads in some indigenous communities and urban diasporas, the last of which grew prodigiously from the mid-20th century.
Slippage in Catholicism has been driven by the search for spiritual alternatives in emerging social constituencies that saw orthodox Catholicism as remote or irrelevant, combined with enormous increases in the variety of religious goods on offer. Some new religious actors proved themselves far more agile than the Catholic clergy in embedding themselves in these new sectors. You could even say that secularization in Latin America has really just meant, at least until now, the fragmentation of religious identities, rather than outright loss of faith. It is only the most recent census returns, at least for Mexico, that show significant numbers of people saying they have no religious affiliation at all.
Will a Latin American pope lure some of those Catholics back to the fold?
The short answer is “no.” The longer one is “wait and see.” People haven’t left the Catholic Church because popes were Italians or Polish, but because for some the Church was too rigid and ceased to express their spiritual and social yearnings adequately or at all. So, it would be naïve to expect the Latin American Church to revitalize itself on a wave of identification with an Argentine pope.
The success of Francis’s papacy from a Latin American perspective will depend on what kind of a pope he turns out to be rather than any kind of nationalistic or regional identification. The media coverage in Latin America — which shifted within a matter of hours from a congratulatory tone expressing surprise and excitement at the election of the first Latin American pope to a far more critical appraisal of Francis’s social mission and political trajectory — gave instant evidence of that. In Argentina and Mexico, for instance, there were critical reflections almost at once on Francis’s affection for celebrating Mass among Catholics in the poorest barrios in Buenos Aires, his opposition to gay civil marriage or his stance during Argentina’s military juntas, with which the Argentine Church maintained bitterly controversial ties.
There has been much discussion about the uniqueness of a papal resignation. Will there be more?
It’s always possible, but I doubt it. The papacy is a kind of elected sacral-monarchical office for which there are clear rules of succession. Benedict’s resignation seems to reflect a specific conjuncture of circumstances, including ill health. The change is ad hoc, not a permanent innovation.
Pope Francis has been described as a champion of the poor. Why is it important for the pope to advocate human rights?
It will depend on which rights, and on whose behalf, Francis decides to advocate. If he can steer the Latin American Church beyond its current fixation on moralistic issues and touch on broader social questions, this role could still be important. A lot has been made of the fact that Francis has chosen the name of the saint of the poor, which might suggest that he will privilege their concerns.
Less has been made of the fact that the followers of St. Francis were also the first friars to begin evangelizing the Americas in the 1520s. It would be exciting if Francis turned out to be a rebuilder of the American Church in that tradition and allowed the Church to speak with a more independent voice from the grassroots of Latin American society.
Matthew Butler is the author of “Popular Piety and Political Identity in Mexico’s Cristero rebellion: Michoacán, 1927-1929” (Oxford, 2004), and editor of “Faith and Impiety in revolutionary Mexico” (New York, 2007). He has published numerous articles on 20th-century Latin American religious history, with special emphasis on the history of the Catholic Church in revolutionary Mexico.
For a longer version of this interview, visit Life and Letters.
After his conversion, Allam founded a small right-wing political party that lost badly in Italy’s general elections last April.
Writing on Monday in the right-wing daily Il Giornale, Allam explained that he considers his conversion to Catholicism finished “in combination with the end of (Benedict’s) pontificate.”
“The’papolatry’ that has inflamed the euphoria for Francis I and has quickly archived Benedict XVI was the last straw in an overall framework of uncertainty and doubts about the Church,” he wrote.
On Friday, Francis pledged to “intensify dialogue among the various religions,” particularly Islam.
Allam, who has called Islam an “intrinsically violent ideology,” said his main reason for leaving the church was its perceived “religious relativism, in particular the legitimization of Islam as a true religion.”
“Europe will end up being subjugated to Islam,” he warned in Il Giornale, unless it “finds the courage to denounce Islam as incompatible with our civilization and fundamental human rights,” and to “banish the Quran for inciting hatred, violence and death towards non-Muslims.” Europeans also need to “condemn Sharia as a crime against humanity” and to “stop the spread of mosques.”
Allam said he would remain a Christian but that he didn’t “believe in the church anymore.”
Allam’s surprise conversion was orchestrated by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, currently head of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, who “personally accompanied” the Muslim intellectual’s approach to the Catholic faith.
At the time, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, stressed that the conversion was the result of Allam’s “personal journey” and was not intended as a direct message to Muslims.
A leading Muslim intellectual involved in interfaith dialogue with the Vatican, Aref Ali Nayed, criticized the public conversion ceremony as a “triumphalist way to score points,” and said it raised “serious doubts” about the Catholic Church’s policy toward Islam.
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High profile Muslim convert quits Catholic Church
25 March 2013
Magdi Cristiano Allam, an Egyptian-born Muslim whom Pope Benedict publicly baptised at Easter five years ago in St Peter’s Basilica has announced that he is leaving the Church because it has taken too soft a stand against Islam.
“My conversion to Catholicism, which came at the hands of Benedict XVI during the Easter Vigil on 22 March 2008, I now consider finished in combination with the end of his pontificate,” Mr Allam wrote on Monday in the right-wing Milan daily, Il Giornale.
The 61-year-old journalist and right-wing politician has long been an Italian citizen. He said he had pondered his decision to leave the Church for some time. However, he affirmed that the “last straw” was the election of Pope Francis, which he said was proof that the Church is “troppo buonista” – excessively tolerant.
“The ‘papolatry’ that has inflamed the euphoria for Francis I and has quickly archived Benedict XVI was the last straw in an overall framework of uncertainty and doubts about the Church,” he wrote.
“The thing that drove me away from the Church more than any other factor was religious relativism, in particular the legitimisation of Islam as a true religion,” he said. Mr Allam said Islam was “an intrinsically violent ideology” that had to be courageously opposed as “incompatible with our civilisation and fundamental human rights”. “I am more convinced than ever that Europe will end up being subjugated to Islam just like what happened beginning in the seventh century on the other side of the Mediterranean,” he warned.
The journalist’s baptism in St Peter’s Basilica was a highly guarded secret until the day it occurred. Mr Allam said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, head of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation, “personally accompanied” him to accept and be instructed in the Catholic faith. His godfather and confirmation sponsor was Maurizio Lupi, a high-ranking member of the Forza Italia party founded by former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
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By John Heuertz
“ … They called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith …” (Acts 14:27).
Billed as “The Year of Faith: A Faith Professed, Celebrated, Lived and Prayed,” the Institute for Religious Life held its Midwest regional meeting last Saturday at the Franciscan Prayer Center in Independence.
In proclaiming the “Year of Faith” that began last October 11, Pope Benedict XVI asked the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to study and reflect on the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to deepen their knowledge of the Catholic faith.
Catholics living a consecrated life as religious brothers, sisters and nuns have a key part in this deepening. “It’s a great day for religious to come together in solidarity to better understand their role in the Church’s New Evangelization of the world,” IRL Executive Director Michael Vick.
“The Institute for Religious Life … continues to carry out a wonderful work of the Church, providing sound teaching and formation for Religious, and inspiration for us all,” said Bishop Robert W. Finn in his homily during Mass for the 200 religious and laity at Saturday’s meeting.
IRL National Director Fr. Thomas Nelson, O.Praem. discussed “Deepening the Virtue of Faith in This Year of Faith.” He recalled Benedict XVI’s teaching that Christ opened the door of faith for the whole world by his Passion and Death, and that the door to faith is always open to all.
“Faith is like a door to a home of love, security and a network of relationships – a door to the Church,” he said. “The Church is like a family.”
Christ opens this door, enabling us to “see that God is also a man who reveals Himself as a triune God of love.”
But first we must believe in Christ, and “give humble assent to His word.”
Anyone with a humble mind, a trusting heart and an obedient will can give this assent. All the saints model it.
The Blessed Virgin Mary was the model of the perfect faith. “That’s why Saturdays are hers. The Apostles lost their faith on Friday and regained it on a Sunday.”
Atchison Benedictine Fr. Thomas Habiger, OSB discussed “The Essential Role of Consecrated Religious in Shaping and Evangelizing the Culture.”
He taught partly from Pope John Paul II’s 1996 Apostolic Letter “Vita Consecrata,” which says that both Catholic and Orthodox institutes of religious life flourish everywhere because “the choice of total self-giving to God in Christ is in no way incompatible with any human culture or historical situation.”
Fr. Habiger said that Catholics living a consecrated life express this total self-giving through competence in mission, a renewed commitment to the Church’s intellectual life, and especially through the prophetic dimension of religious life, since that life imitates the total self-giving of the Lord’s life in this world.
Catholic clergy and religious only make up one-tenth of one percent of the whole Church. “Our role is to bring the teachings of Jesus and the principles of the rightly lived Christian life to the 99.9 percent, and to encourage them to go out and live it,” Fr. Habiger said.
Benedictine College’s Dr. Jeremy Sienkiewicz echoed this sentiment when he spoke on “Vatican II and the Salvation of Modern Man.” As a fruit of Baptism rather than a separate Sacrament, “The religious life … moves people from saving one’s own soul to helping those in the Church save their souls to helping all humanity save theirs.”
This hierarchy of goals is key to the radical transformation of one’s own life that drives the New Evangelization, which aims to transform the world in Christ.
“Modern man thinks Christianity is all about bringing joy to people, but it’s not,” he said. “To Catholics, our religion is about the will and the intellect.”
“We have to get others to believe the Catholic faith is something to die for, and live that belief in our own lives.”
Because they’re the leaven in the Church’s New Evangelization, it’s especially important for consecrated Catholics to know what the Catechism and the documents of the Second Vatican Council actually say.
“We should read them because they’re magisterial and because they’re beautiful,” Dr. Sienkiewicz said. “And because they’re for us.”
Personal holiness is even more important. “Everyone is called to be a saint. To not be a saint is to be less than human.” o
Founded in 1974, the IRL is a collaborative effort of Catholic bishops, priests, religious and laity to foster and strengthen vocations to the consecrated life. For more information, visit the web site at www.religiouslife.com.
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Prominent Italian Muslim convert renounces Catholic faith
CWN – March 25, 2013
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Magdi Allam, a prominent Italian journalist who converted from Islam to Christianity, has announced that he is leaving the Catholic Church because Catholic leaders have not been strong enough in their opposition to Islam.
Allam was baptized by Pope Benedict XVI in March 2008, and his conversion prompted angry denunciations from Muslim leaders. A few months later, the new convert caused headlines again when he criticized Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran was saying that terrorist violence is a betrayal of the true Islamic faith. In fact, Allam countered, “Islamic extremism and terrorism are the mature fruit” of that religious tradition.
Eight years after his conversion, Allam said that the “euphoria over Pope Francis” convinced him that Catholicism is not strong enough to counter the “intrinsically violent ideology” of Islam.
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Castel Gandolfo (CNN) — Pope Francis is having lunch Saturday with his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in what the Vatican said was the first such encounter in the history of the Catholic Church.
Francis, who was inaugurated as the new head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics on Tuesday, has made some changes since taking the helm — most notably by adopting a simpler, personal style and calling for the Church to focus on serving the poor and needy.
The new pontiff was flown to Castel Gandolfo by helicopter for the lunch date.
He was greeted at the helipad by Benedict XVI, and the pair exchanged an embrace, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. They rode in a car together to the Castel Gandolfo residence, the Vatican said.
Both men wore simple white cassocks but only Francis wore the white papal mantle and sash over his robe.
The two then prayed together, side-by-side, in a chapel before meeting in a library at the residence for 45 minutes of talks ahead of lunch.
Relations between Francis and his predecessor were warm and cordial, Lombardi said. Francis presented the latter with the gift of a painting he said reminded him of Benedict’s gifts to the Church.
Seen, but not heard
Lombardi declined to tell reporters what the pair discussed, saying only that they were private talks.
Vatican observers believe that one item on the agenda will have been the contents of a 300-page dossier presented by three cardinals to Benedict in the wake of the so-called Vatileaks scandal.
Benedict passed on the report — ordered after leaks last year revealed claims of corruption within the Vatican hierarchy — to his successor.
Italian media reports suggested the cardinals had uncovered a series of scandals involving sex, money and power, but the Vatican press office sought to tamp down what it called a rash of “often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories.”
The pair may also talk about possible appointments by Francis. The people he chooses to hold key roles may give an indication of his priorities for the Church at a time when some are calling for reform and modernization of its hierarchy.
They have spoken several times by telephone since Francis was elected 10 days ago but this is their first face-to-face meeting, the Vatican said.
Crowds who had gathered in the small town’s central square waved and clapped as the white papal helicopter twice passed overhead before landing. Some chanted “Francesco, Francesco” — the pope’s name in Italian.
According to police at Castel Gandolfo, the crowds numbered between 1,500 and 2,000.
Many had gathered in the hope of seeing Francis appear at a balcony to wave but Lombardi said this was not scheduled to happen.
Francis was elected on March 13 after Benedict became the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign, citing age and frailty. A new pope usually takes the reins only following the death of his predecessor.
The hilltop castle overlooking a lake is the summer papal residence and has been home to Benedict since he left Vatican City on February 28.
Benedict’s last public appearance was at a window of the castle, when he blessed the crowds below before retiring into seclusion.
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The pope emeritus is expected to move back to Vatican City at the end of April, once restoration work on a small monastery within its grounds is complete. There, he will devote himself to prayer and study.
Before resigning, he pledged his obedience to the new pope.
Benedict “has attentively followed the events of recent days,” including Francis’ inauguration Mass before crowds of well wishers and dignitaries, the Vatican said.
When the last pope to resign, Gregory XII, stepped down in 1415 it was to help resolve the worst institutional crisis in the Church’s history — a schism that had led to three rival claimants to the papacy.
And when former hermit Pope Celestine V resigned in 1294 after less than six months in office, he was imprisoned soon afterward by his successor, Pope Boniface VIII.
Busy week ahead
Pope Francis, meanwhile, is starting to get to grips with his new role now that the pomp and ceremony of his inauguration is out of the way.
On Friday, he met with the Vatican diplomatic corps and thanked them for the work they do to “build peace and construct bridges of friendship and fraternity” with some 180 states around the world.
“Through you I encounter your peoples, and thus in a sense I can reach out to every one of your fellow citizens, with their joys, their troubles, their expectations, their desires,” he said.
The coming week, which leads up to Easter Sunday, will be a busy one for the new pontiff, starting with Palm Sunday Mass.
On Thursday, Francis will break with tradition by celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper — which is centered on the gesture of the washing of feet — at the Casal del Marmo youth detention center, the Vatican said.
The service has in past years been held at the grand Basilica of St. John Lateran, the official seat of the bishop of Rome.
“In his ministry as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio used to celebrate the Mass in a prison or hospital or hospice for the poor and marginalized,” the Vatican said in a statement.
“With this celebration at Casal del Marmo, Pope Francis will continue his custom, which is characterized by its humble context.”
It will not be the first time Francis visits the prison. He was there in March 2007 to celebrate Mass.
CNN’s Hada Messia and Ben Wedeman reported from Castel Gandolfo and Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported from London.
Last week, 115 cardinals of the Catholic Church – the vast majority old, white men – locked themselves in a room and voted by paper ballot until one of them was elected as the 266th pontiff. When the selection was made, they sent up a smoke signal.
Yes, this is an organization in need of a technological upgrade.
The man they selected, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, has 40,000 followers on his Facebook page. As Pope Francis, one of his first acts was to reinstate the papal Twitter account, @Pontifex, that had been shuttered since Benedict XVI decided to retire. The former pope had only tweeted 40 or so times in the past year.
But helping the Vatican move into the 21st century goes a lot further than just hoping they update their status a little more. As any pundit was more than happy to tell you on Wednesday evening – when Francis was announced as pope – the Catholic Church faces serious problems.
Mass attendance is on a steady decline around the world, especially in the US. There are fewer young men entering the priesthood. Corruption and largesse are rampant in Rome. The sex abuse scandal will not go away, flaring up again in Europe in the past few years. Catholics feel disconnected with the Church in general, and the Vatican in particular, and seem to be voting with their feet and wallets.
The new pope needs to get creative or risk losing even more of his flock. And, as we know, the world’s greatest source of creativity is now in technology. Here are some simple ways for Francis and his followers to leverage our new technologies to reach more of the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world.
By early accounts, the new pope is a man of the people who chose to ride the bus into work back in Buenos Aires rather than take the parish limo. There is no reason why a man like that cannot participate on social media on a regular basis. When Benedict tweeted, it came off for what it was – a photo op. He was a grumpy old man to whom television still seemed like new technology.
Pope Francis doesn’t have to be as forthcoming about his personal life as some of our more famous celebrities, but everyone would like to get to know their spiritual guide a little better as a man. It’s time for the Church to drop the curtain and give more to the people who, after all, finance the Vatican in the first place. I’m not expecting Francis (or, as the New York parish will inevitably call him, “Frank”) to live-tweet the Oscars next year, but a little insight would be nice.
Second, what is a Catholic mass but a grandiose lecture? And when we talk about lectures in this day and age, you inevitably start talking about massive online open courses (or MOOCs) like the ones Stanford offers online to free. I’m not saying that Francis should give a TED talk (although he’s more than welcome, and would probably have some fascinating opinions), but every mass emanating from Rome and any other parish with the means should start filming their “lectures” for the greater populace and posting them online. The Vatican should also start having infrequent, informal masses and broadcast them as a way to reach today’s more informal generation.
Although some of the components of a mass form a tradition that goes back thousands of years, there is no harm in having a mix of the new and the old. The Vatican is also known for its vast educational structure. Some of their more interesting seminary classes should also be put online for general consumption. Connection can only come from greater understanding of all of the components that make up the Church.
Leveraging the Internet could also help the Church financially. The idea of an offering will never go away, as it is one of the Church’s oldest traditions, but here is where a little more transparency might do the Vatican a world of good.
The Catholic Church, for over a millennium, has done some really remarkable charity work around the world. Pope Francis himself chose his name from St. Francis of Assisi, the legendary champion of the poor. Not only do those good works get lost in the shuffle of a 24-hour news cycle, but even regular participants of mass rarely see them. To kill two birds with one stone, the Vatican should authorize parishes to fund their charitable works on Kickstarter.
Say a parish gets an idea for some work that needs to be done at the local homeless shelter. They post on Kickstarter and then furnish the people who donated pictures and videos of the work as it’s being done. They probably stand to raise more money than simply relying on the week’s offerings because Kickstarter is available to everyone, even non-Catholics, and it provides a level of oversight that makes the benefactors feel better about donating money to the vast bureaucracy of the Catholic Church.
Old traditions, like the election of a new pope, give the world a touchstone in the complicated times in which we live. Now that the election is over, it’s time for the Church to make a greater effort to meet us where we live: online.
0White smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel of the Apostolic Palace and bell chimes announced to the world that a new pontiff had been elected. St.Peter’s Square in the Vatican, resonating with the excited voices of dozens of thousands of pilgrims and non-believers who had converged on Rome to witness the momentous occasion for the catholic world, erupted in a chorus of joyous exclamations: “Long Live the Pope! Long Live the Pope!” The flags of different countries could be seen unfurled above the milling crowd… A short while later, Cardinal-Archdeacon Jean-Louis Tauran appeared on the balcony to solemnly announce: “Habemus papam!” a Latin phrase meaning “We have a Pope.” The newly-elected Pontiff has chosen the name of Francis I. As soon as Pope Francis appeared on the balcony, he pronounced his first “Urbi et Orbi” – an address and Apostolic Blessing to the City of Rome, and to the world.
0“The Conclave was to give the world a new Pope, and the cardinals seem to have done everything in their powers. And here I am. But above all, I would like to pray for Pope Benedict XVI. May the Holy Virgin watch over him and protect him. I would also ask you all to pray to Our Lord for me, so that our journey together be one of fraternity, love and trust.”
0The election of Cardinal Bergoglio was most unexpected, confessed art critic and Vatican expert Yekaterina Santoni-Sinitsyna in an interview for the Voice of Russia.
0“When white smoke above the Sistine Chapel appeared, everyone thought the new Pope would be either Cardinal Bertone, or Cardinal Scola – Archbishop of Milan. So it was a tremendous surprise for us all. However, in 2005 it was Cardinal Bergoglio who was the main rival in the election of Benedict XVI. This is a highly educated man, born in Argentine, but with Italian heritage. He was the youngest of five children, majored in chemistry and in 1969 was ordained a priest. He graduated from the seminary, and became a cardinal in February 2001. We are happy that he was the one elected; he certainly produces a most favorable impression. And in another important detail: he chose the name Francis I. In the history of the pontificate this is the first case when a secular name is chosen. The name of Francis was not always well received by the Roman Catholic Church. Mostly chosen were names of monarchs. The newly elected Pope is a Jesuit. In the history of the Roman Catholic Church there were four Franciscan Popes. The current one is Jesuit. And when a Jesuit chooses a Franciscan name, I believe that is a good sign. Most likely the Church is in for a period of reforms.”
0Jesuit Jorje Mario Bergoglio is known as a skilled theologian and a moderate conservative, strongly opposing abortions and euthanasia, a staunch opponent of gay marriage, frequently voiced support for programs in aid of the impoverished, and publicly expressed doubts about the justification of free market policies. Apparently, the Vatican deemed the Church required just such a pontiff today, since the new Pope will be facing a number of urgent problems requiring solution.
0Prior to the election of the new Pontiff, vaticanists claimed the new Pope would ascend the throne of St.Peter at a difficult time for the Church. Numerous scandals that have relentlessly pursued the Vatican of late, and numerous outstanding issues were not resolved by the previous pontiff – Benedict XVI, who stepped down on February 28. Evil tongues even went as far as to claim these issues were the main reason for the resignation of Cardinal Ratzinger. This was also the case of the notorious “Vatileaks,” investigation into which the retired Benedict XVI chose not to make public, passing it on to the new pontiff, as well as the problem of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, and dwindling numbers of churchgoers. Another issue the new Pope will have to tackle is the strengthening positions of Islam in the EU countries, and the need to staunchly defend the traditional Christian values in the contemporary world.