@Pontifex Names 17 New Cardinals, Steering Ship South

Woman portraying figure in Nativity scene puts lamb around neck of Pope Francis during visit to Rome church
Today in Rome, Pope Francis announced 17 new cardinals from 11 different countries; 13 are eligible to vote for the next pope. Another action to steer the ship of the Catholic Church toward the “southern cross.” Most Catholics live in the majority world. Francis aims for the college of cardinals to reflect that orientation.

According to Josh McElwee in the National Catholic Reporter, “November’s consistory will be Francis’ third, following his creation of 20 cardinals in February 2015 and 19 in February 2014. After the upcoming consistory, Francis will have named 44 of 123 cardinals able to vote in a papal conclave.”

Below is an excerpt from a 2014 article I wrote for Sojourners on the tremendous shift Pope Francis is bringing to the college of cardinals.

There’s a new sheriff in town: Pope Francis wants deputies, not darlings.

“The cardinalship does not imply promotion,” the pope wrote in a personal letter to his fresh picks; “it is neither an honor nor a decoration; it is simply a service that requires you to broaden your gaze and open your hearts.”

Until now [2014], the influential college was dominated by the Northern minority, from Europe and North America; only about 25 percent were from the global South. This made sense in 1910, when France and Italy had the highest population of Catholics. Now, Brazil and Mexico top the list—and Catholicism’s growing center is in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. If not for the church’s historical connection to Rome, the Vatican might relocate to Rio de Janeiro or Lagos!

Ten of the 19 cardinals Francis chose are from the majority world—including three from the poorest countries: Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Haiti. Like Quevedo, they are pastors rather than administrators, “shepherds who have the smell of their sheep.” Francis is putting the poorest at the center, steering the way toward a Southern majority…. –Rose Marie Berger

Read the rest of A Shift in Priorities?

 

Synod on Family: Like Watching Sausage Getting Made


As an editor, I’m always interested when the fine art of copy editing gets political! I decided to run a “compare docs” program on the first and second versions of the report from the Synod on the Family currently going on at the Vatican. (See above. Scroll down to Part III in document for the “juicy” stuff.)

In case you are just catching up, on Monday, 13 Oct, the Vatican released an update from the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Basically, at the half-way point, they wanted to let folks know what was going on.

Pope Francis is trying a “sunshine strategy” at the notoriously closed-door Vatican. Parts of the synod were even “live-streamed”! He seems to believe that many of the worlds 1.1 billion Catholics — and certainly most of its priests can handle the truth of how things are done, that they can handle spirited discussion, that they can handle more than one idea at a time. (This seems generally to be true, except for one or two really piqued U.S. cardinals.)

Pope Francis trusts that people are complex and intrinsically beautiful and that so is truth. In this, he is totally in sync with his predecessors.

After the first update on Monday, 13 October, the document went to small groups (based on language groups) for review. The agreed upon changes were then entered into a new document, which was released on Thursday, 16 October. (The final document will probably be released next week.)

You’ll recognize it by edits that now identify some families as “broken” (not “wounded”) and calling churches to “provide for” homosexuals (not “welcome”). These changes were ONLY made in the English language version, not the official Italian version.

Theology, like politics, can be messy to watch being made. However Pope Francis may be recalling the words of he predecessor a few years ago when Pope Benedict XVI said at Christmas in 2012 :

“I would say that the Christian can afford to be supremely confident, yes, fundamentally certain that he can venture freely into the open sea of the truth, without having to fear for his Christian identity. To be sure, we do not possess the truth, the truth possesses us: Christ, who is the truth, has taken us by the hand, and we know that his hand is holding us securely on the path of our quest for knowledge. Being inwardly held by the hand of Christ makes us free and keeps us safe: free – because if we are held by him, we can enter openly and fearlessly into any dialogue; safe – because he does not let go of us, unless we cut ourselves off from him. At one with him, we stand in the light of truth.”

Here’s the link to the original English version as of 13 Oct 2014, prior to the small group review. (Scroll down about halfway through the post.)

Here are the links to the 3 English-speaking small group (Circuli Minori) reviews: English Group (Circulus Anglicus) “A” – Moderator: Card. Raymond Burke English Group (Circulus Anglicus) “B” – Moderator: Card. Wilfrid Napier, OFM English Group (Circulus Anglicus) “C” – Moderator: Mons. Joseph Kurtz

Here’s the link to the English version current as of 17 October 2014.

Serve up some buns and sauerkraut with that sausage!–Rose Marie Berger

Pope Francis to Organized Crime: ‘Repent, So You Do Not End Up in Hell’

14hp0126Last week Pope Francis addressed the families of those killed by the Italian mafia. After expressing his sorrow, hope, and solidarity with the victims, he went on to address directly those engaged in mafia economics, corruption, and violence:

“I feel that I cannot finish without saying a word to those who are absent today, to the absent protagonists: to the men and women of the mafia. Please, change your lives, convert, stop what you are doing, stop doing harm. And we pray for you. Convert, I ask you this on my knees; it is for your own good. This life you are living now will not bring you pleasure, it will not bring you joy, it will not bring you happiness. Power, the money you have now from your many dirty dealings, from your many mafia crimes, is blood money, it is power that is stained with blood, and you will not be able to take it with you to the next life. Repent, there is still time, so as not to end up in hell. This is what awaits you if you continue on this path. You have a father and a mother: think of them. Cry a little, and repent.”–Pope Francis

Leaping Pointy-Headed Clerics in a Single Bound?

pope-as0super-man-650

“Pope Francis as superman, flying through the air with his white cape billowing out behind him, the image graffitied by an anonymous artist onto a wall in Rome was tweeted by the Vatican today.

Speeding forwards with his fist raised, the heroic pontiff – crucifix swinging in the wind – carries his trademark black bag, with the word “values” written across it, in Spanish, in white letters.

“We share with you graffiti found in a Roman street near the Vatican,” the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from the Holy See said on its official Twitter page.”

Read Pope as superman: Vatican tweets graffiti of hero pontiff

Pope Francis: ‘Let Everything that Breathes Praise the Lord’

old-bushman-woman-holding-a-baby

“We must all care for life, cherish life, with tenderness, warmth … to give life is to open our hearts, and to care for life is to give oneself in tenderness and warmth for others, to have concern in our hearts for others. Caring for life from the beginning to the end. What a simple thing, what a beautiful thing…

Calling to mind the teaching of Saint Irenaeus that the glory of God is seen in a living human being, [I] encourage all of you to let the light of that glory shine so brightly that everyone may come to recognize the inestimable value of all human life. Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in [God’s] own image, destined to live for ever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect. [I] pray that the Day for Life will help to ensure that human life always receives the protection that is its due, so that ‘everything that breathes may praise the Lord.’ So, go forth and don’t be discouraged. Care for life. It’s worth it.”–Pope Francis

Pope Francis Drives Ford Focus

Pope FrancisWhen Pope Francis needs to get from one place to another in his domain of Vatican City, the smallest state in the world, he drives a “humble” Ford Focus. On Saturday, he encouraged new priests and nuns to adopt humility in their choice of transportation and gadgets–a word, I think, that applies to all Christians.

As part of his drive to make the Catholic Church more austere and focus on the poor, Francis told young and trainee priests and nuns from around the world that having the latest smart phone or fashion accessory was not the route to happiness.

“It hurts me when I see a priest or a nun with the latest model car, you can’t do this,” he said.

“A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world,” he said. …

The ANSA news agency said the pope’s car of choice for moving around the walled Vatican City was a compact Ford Focus.–Read whole story here

There was no word yet on whether the Vatican’s Ford Focus fleet was electric or not.

Franciscans on Moral Discernment in an Election Season

In the middle of this crazy election season, I’ve appreciated the thoughtful leadership of the Franciscans in how to approach difficult decisions.

The Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Directorate is presenting short pieces to help introduce particularly Franciscan and Catholic approaches to the decision-making process. Here’s an excerpt from their first installment. I urge you to read the whole article:

In the election sphere today, there is often an attempt to link our Catholic faith squarely with one political party. Although most religious leaders assert that our faith is not adequately represented or served by the platform of any particular political group, some, overtly or tacitly, strain to demonstrate how one party is the only morally acceptable choice. Such effort is wasted. The world is a morally complex and ambiguous place, especially when it comes to political decisions.

Taking a wider view as Catholics inspired by the Franciscan path of following Jesus, how can we approach the elections? Is there a political party or candidate for whom it would be morally unacceptable to vote? Does our faith compel us to pull a particular lever in the ballot box? If not, is it all just relativism?

The problem is not the clarity of our moral foundations; these are clear. The challenge comes from the complexity of our globalized world, the pluralistic society that is our nation, and the limitations of our fallen, yet still blessed, human condition. While our faith tradition offers us principles by which to live in a complex world, they don’t translate into a litmus test for choosing between candidates. Rather, our faith invites us to engage in moral reasoning—weighing the pressing issues of our day in the light of our tradition. While this is a process that often yields no categorical answers, it does provide us a method of discernment to guide us through troubling ambiguity as we make our decisions.

Our Franciscan tradition offers us a framework of five interconnected parameters that can guide our discernment: care for creation, consistent ethic of life, preferential option for the poor, peacemaking and the common good. …

Read the rest of “Franciscans are not ‘party animals'” (Part 1).

Richard Rohr: Antidote To ‘The Dirty Rotten System’?

Police flank Dorothy Day, seated at a farm workers picket line in Lamont, California, in 1973.

“We are all complicit in and benefitting from what Dorothy Day called ‘the dirty rotten system.’ That’s not condemning anybody; it’s condemning everybody because we are all complicit and enjoying the fruits of domination and injustice. (Where were your shirts and underwear made?) Usually the only way to be really non-complicit in the system is to choose to live a very simple life. That’s the only way out of the system!

Thus most of the great wisdom teachers like Gandhi, Saints Francis and Clare, Simone Weil, Dorothy Day, Jesus and Buddha—lived voluntarily simple lives. That’s almost the only way to stop bending the knee before the system. This is a truly transfigured life in cultures which are always based on climbing, consumption, and competition (1 John 2:15-17).

Once we idealize social climbing, domination of others, status symbols, power, prestige and possessions, we are part of a never ending game that is almost impossible to escape. It has its own inner logic that is self-maintaining, self-perpetuating, and self-congratulating as well as elitist and exclusionary. It will never create a just or happy world, yet most Christians never call it into question. Jesus came to free us from this lie which will never make us happy anyway, because it’s never enough, and we never completely win.”–Richard Rohr, ofm

Adapted from Spiral of Violence by Richard Rohr

Jesus of the Billboard: Catholic Sisters Launch Midwest Campaign

Pro-immigrant billboard campaign in Iowa

As Iowa considers taking up anti-American laws targeting immigrants modeled after Arizona, Catholic sisters in throughout the Midwest are leading a public education campaign about what Jesus says about the situation.

“Rooted in the Gospel and the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare,” say the Franciscan sisters of Dubuque, “we publically proclaim that immigrants have God-given rights to be treated with respect and dignity, to work and to access services that satisfy their basic needs. Basic human rights, the right to life and to migrate in search of the means to sustain life, are conferred not by citizen ship but by person hood. We support comprehensive immigration reform that will respect these right.”

Read more below:

Iowa Billboards Show Sisters Support for Immigration Reform

Catholic Sisters Launch ‘Welcoming Communities’ For Immigration Reform

Ten Communities of Catholic Sisters Launch Immigration Campaign

Mural at Christ in the Desert Monastery

The mural above is found in the refectory at Christ in the Desert Benedictine monastery near Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Rubilev's Trinity

Based on Rubilev’s famous Trinity icon, it depicts the Sarah and Abraham welcoming the three angel guests at the Oak of Mamre.

“The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day”–Genesis 18:1

In the center of the Christ in the Desert mural is a large scale version of the Rubilev’s icon of the Trinity, represented by three angels, seated at table.

To the viewer’s right is Sarah and to the viewer’s left is Abraham. Behind Abraham is St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Juan Diego, Mary, and the Burning Bush.

Behind Sarah is St. Scholastica, St. Clare, Blessed Kateri Tekatwitha, St. John the Baptist, and an “Agnus Dei” representation.

California activist-theologian reflects on “Abraham under the ‘teaching oak’” saying:

The real plot of the Bible is about the liberation of both humanity and nature from our folly. God’s voice does not come through the centre of civil power but from an imperial defector in Moses, through a burning bush and from a dissident prophet Elijah in the wilderness. These ancient traditions portray a God who needs to be encountered through nature. The Bible also offers numerous peons to creation as a mirror of the creator’s glory. There is a lot of talk these days about our need to rediscover enchantment in nature. Let us take Abraham’s first encounter
with God which occurred under the oak tree of Moreh, an “oracle giver” which taps into an apparently universal tradition of the Tree of Life. Then God appears to Abraham as certain strangers under the oaks of Mamre; and later in Judges, the warrior Gideon is given courage by an angel under the oak at Ophrah.

At Christ in the Desert monastery the electricity and water-pumping at the monastery is solar-powered, as sunshine is plentiful throughout the year.

The mural art reflects a tradition now set in the context of the Chama Canyon wilderness in northwestern New Mexico, but the monks whose quiet cenobitic lives are shaped daily by the art also vitalize the mural through their own daily desert encounters with angels, trees, rivers, saints, bread, wine, work, and surprise.