Browsing News Entries

Amazon synod bishops sign new version of Vatican II 'Catacombs Pact'

Rome, Italy, Oct 21, 2019 / 08:50 am (CNA).- In the Roman catacombs Sunday morning, some bishops participating in the Amazon synod signed a pact about how they want to conduct their particular churches in the Amazon region, following the style of a similar Catacombs Pact from during the Second Vatican Council.

The two-page document is called “Pact of the Catacombs for the Common Home,” and says it is “for a Church with an Amazonian face, poor and servant, prophetic and Samaritan.”

Quoting a line from Pope Francis’ homily at the opening of the Amazon synod, it says, “so many of our brothers and sisters in the Amazonia are bearing heavy crosses and awaiting the liberating consolation of the Gospel, the Church’s caress of love. For them, with them, let us journey together.”

It was signed by an estimated 40 bishops after a Mass celebrated with about 250 people in the Catacombs of Domitilla in the south of Rome in the early morning Oct. 20. The Mass’ main celebrant was Cardinal Claudio Hummes, who holds the position of relator, or chairman, of the Amazon synod.

Hummes is the archbishop emeritus of San Paolo, Brazil and the president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), a driving force behind the synod.

Crux reported that Emeritus Bishop Erwin Krautler of Xingu, Brazil, was the impetus behind developing the Catacombs Pact during the Amazon synod.

The Oct. 20 declaration was modeled after the Pact of the Catacombs: A Poor Servant Church, an agreement signed by 42 bishops on Nov. 16, 1965, near the close of the Second Vatican Council.

The 11 points of the 1965 Pact of the Catacombs mostly centered on the commitment to avoid wealth and to live “according to the ordinary manner” of their people in regards to food, housing, transportation, and related things, and to renounce symbols of power.

The document, which was later circulated and adopted by about an additional 500 bishops, was likewise signed after a Mass in Rome’s Catacombs of Domitilla.

The signatories of the 1965 “pact” included many Latin American bishops, and is said to have had an influence on the development of “liberation theology,” much of which has been condemned by the Church.

In 1984 and 1986, while prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger issued two instructions, approved by Pope St. John Paul II, denouncing many aspects, tendencies, and conclusions of liberation theology.

The Oct. 20 declaration notes a gratitude for the bishops of the Second Vatican Council who signed the 1965 Pact of the Catacombs for the poor, and says they remember “with veneration” all those “who shed their blood for this option for the poor, for defending life and fighting for the protection of our Common Home.”

They state their decision “to continue their struggle with tenacity and courage” in the midst of a “feeling of urgency that prevails in the face of aggressions that today devastates the Amazon territory, threatened by the violence of a predatory and consumerist economic system.”

Invoking the Holy Spirit, they commit themselves “personally and communally” to 15 points, including the commitment “to abandon... all types of colonist mentality and posture,” instead “welcoming and valuing cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity in a respectful dialogue with all spiritual traditions.”

The signatories denounce violence against the autonomy and rights of native people and their ways of life and state a commitment to “announce the liberating novelty of the Gospel of Jesus in welcoming the other and the one who is different.”

A commitment was also stated to “walk ecumenically with other Christian communities in the inculturation and liberating proclamation of the Gospel with other religions and people of good will…”

They promise to establish “a synodal lifestyle” in their particular churches, in which representatives of native people, missionaries, and other lay people have a “voice and vote” in everything “that concerns the governance of the communities.”

They commit to recognize and value the work already being done in ecclesial ministries in their communities and to move from “pastoral visits to pastoral presence,” “ensuring the right to the Table of the Word and the Table of the Eucharist…”

The bishops promise, as well, to recognize the service and “real diakonia” of women in the Amazon, and to “consolidate them with an adequate ministry of women leaders in the community.”

Several of the points refer to the protection of our “Common Home,” making the promise to live a simple and “happily sober lifestyle” in the face of consumerism and “extreme global warming and the depletion of natural resources.”

They promise to “defend the Amazon jungle” by cutting down on their production of waste and their use of plastic, and by using public transportation whenever possible.

The bishops who signed the pact call themselves not “the owners of Mother Earth, but rather the sons and daughters,” and commit themselves “to an integral ecology in which all is interconnected, the human race and all creation, because all beings are sons and daughters of the earth and over them the Spirit of God moves (Gen 1:2).”

They declare their commitment to renew the preferential option for the poor in their churches, especially for native peoples, and to help them to “preserve their lands, cultures, languages, stories, identities and spiritualities.”

The signatories also promise to “cultivate true friendships with the poor, visit the simplest people and the sick, exercise the ministry of listening, comfort and support that bring encouragement and renew hope.”

The pact closes by saying they place themselves under the protection of the prayers of the Church, and they request to be helped with the intercession, affection, and “when necessary, with the charity of fraternal correction,” of their ecclesial communities.

Amazon synod's controversial carved figures thrown into Tiber River

Rome, Italy, Oct 21, 2019 / 08:15 am (CNA).- A video uploaded to YouTube on Oct. 21 shows two men taking several wooden figures of a nude pregnant woman from a church near the Vatican and throwing them into the Tiber River.

The figures have been present at several events connected to the Vatican’s Amazon synod, and have been the subject of considerable controversy: some have characterized them as images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, others as the indigenous religious figure “Pachamama,” while Vatican spokesmen have characterized them more vaguely as symbols of “life.”

From the four-minute video it appears the event took place around dawn Oct. 21, when a person holding the video camera appears to enter the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina. The church is in the immediate area of the Vatican, and has been the location of events at which the controversial carved figure of a woman has been present.

Inside the church, a man is seen entering a side chapel and then leaving with a figure. The two people then exit the church and the video shows them carrying five of the carved images of the woman toward Castel Sant’Angelo. The men throw the figures from the side of the Sant’Angelo bridge into the Tiber River.

No faces are shown and the video was uploaded to YouTube under an anonymous account. As of publication, the video had amassed over 12,000 views.

Video has emerged of two men entering a church near the Vatican and stealing indigenous statues. They then filmed the statues being thrown into the Tiber River. #AmazonSynod #SinodoAmazonico pic.twitter.com/IXx5NgFDZN

— EWTN News (@EWTNews) October 21, 2019  

The same YouTube account uploaded a second video of the event Oct. 21. The second video is shorter, of higher video quality, and has been edited with music added.

In the caption beneath the second video, it says the action was taken “for only one reason: Our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, his blessed Mother, and everybody who follows Christ, are being attacked by members of our own Church. We do not accept this! We do not longer stay silent! We start to act NOW!” [sic]

“Because we love humanity, we can not accept that people of a certain region should not get baptised and therefore are being denied entrance into heaven,” the caption continues. “It is our duty to follow the words of God like our holy Mother did. There is no second way of salvation. Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat!”

Asked about the event at a press conference Oct. 21, Paolo Ruffini, head of Vatican communications, called it a “stunt.”

He said it is difficult to be asked for a Vatican reaction to something that had happened only a short time earlier, adding that “to steal something from a place and, in sum, to throw it away, is a stunt.”

Recalling comments he had made last week that the figure “represents life, fertility, the earth,” Ruffini said Oct. 21  that discarding the statues “is a gesture that seems to me to contradict the spirit of dialogue that should always animate everything.”

“I don’t know what else to say. It was a theft,” Ruffini added.

Fr. Giacomo Costa, a communications official for the Amazon synod, said Oct. 21 the carved figure represents life in the Amazon in the same way a “glass of water” or “parrots” represent life in the region.

Focus on the statues, and the gesture of throwing them into the Tiber river, “doesn’t make sense,” Costa said.

The priest added that “really, however, it is never constructive to steal an object.”

The controversial image was part of a tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican Oct. 4 and an Amazonian Via Crucis Oct. 19. The same figure has been present in the vicinity of the Vatican at various events happening during the synod, under the “Casa Comun” initiative, many of which have taken place at the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina.

The Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian region is a meeting on the life and ministry of the Church in the Amazon. It is taking place at the Vatican Oct. 6-27.



A small group of people supporting an alleged Marian visionary in Texas were also present outside the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina Oct. 21, protesting the Amazon synod. Four people stood outside the church, two of whom held signs with “the synod is heretical” written in English, Italian, and Latin.

The group handed out small slips of paper to passersby with the text: “Christ and Mary have come with new words and warnings The Amazon synod is heretical Do not miss the signs”

Both the signs and the slips of paper pointed people to visit the website of a group supporting an alleged Marian apparition, which supporters call “Our Lady Mystical Rose of Argyle.” The Bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, Michael Olson, said in August the alleged apparitions are not real, and released video evidence of the alleged visionary hiding a rose she later claims to have been manifested by the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Supporters of the alleged apparitions say that Satan is trying to discredit their visions.

The protestors, among them the alleged visionary, were present outside Santa Maria in Traspontina at around 1:00 pm Oct. 21, but by 3:00 pm were no longer seen there.

 

This story was updated at 8:46 MDT Oct. 21, 2019.

Amazonian 'Way of the Cross' prayed during Vatican's Amazon synod

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2019 / 06:30 pm (CNA).- An “Amazonian Stations of the Cross” was prayed outside the Vatican Saturday, organized as part of a set of semi-official events connected to the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon.

 

Imágenes del Via Crucis Panamazónico #SinodoAmazonico #sinododelaamazonia pic.twitter.com/XVu27S3O8g

— Walter Sánchez Silva (@WSanchezSilva) October 19, 2019  

The “Via Crucis Amazonico” Oct. 19 was held as part of the “Casa Comune” project, an initiative promoting more than 115 events hosted by a loose network of groups, connected in varying degrees to the Catholic Church.

Among the organizations involved in the project are an advocacy organization backed by bishops’ conferences in Latin America; two aid and development organizations of the German bishops’ conference; and a Brussels-based confederation of social justice groups.

 

Algunas imágenes del Via Crucis Panamazónico esta mañana en el Vaticano #SinodoAmazonico #SinododelaAmazonia pic.twitter.com/x3CeO2u2bB

— Walter Sánchez Silva (@WSanchezSilva) October 19, 2019  

The Saturday Stations of the Cross were attended by people indigenous to the Amazon region and their supporters, along with religious, priests, and bishops participating in the synod on the Amazon, an Oct. 6-27 Vatican meeting of bishops called to discuss the Church’s pastoral ministry in the Amazon region.

Among the participating bishops were Cardinal Pedro Barreto, Archbishop of Huancayo and vice president of the Ecclesial Network of Panama (REPAM) - the principal organizer of the Casa Comune project, along with Bishop Roque Paloschi , Archbishop of Porto Velho and president of the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) - another one of the organizations sponsoring the Casa Comune initiative.

The Stations of the Cross, like most of the events organized by the Casa Comune project, included both traditional Christian symbols and the use of symbols and images derived from the culture of indigeneous Amazonian groups.

 

Via Crucis Amazónico este sábado en el Vaticano #SinodoAmazonico #sinododelaamazonia pic.twitter.com/ZsJLBMPXSF

— Walter Sánchez Silva (@WSanchezSilva) October 19, 2019  

The Way of the Cross began near the Castel Sant’Angelo, roughly one kilometer from St. Peter’s Square, and concluded outside St. Peter’s Basilica.

Participants carried objects symbolic of Amazonian culture, among them a large canoe, bowls with food, indigenous musical instruments, along with the controversial, and now familiar, image of a naked pregnant woman, which has been described variously as a Marian image, as an indigenous religious symbol of Pachamama, or Mother Easter, or as a symbol of life.

As the stations began, participants placed on the ground the canoe, the image of the woman, and photographs of the “martyrs of the Amazon,” among whom was Saint Oscar Romero, the only one of the persons represented who has been canonized by the Catholic Church.

 

Via Crucis Panamazónico #SinodoAmazonico #sinododelaamazonia pic.twitter.com/gZEvREObT1

— Walter Sánchez Silva (@WSanchezSilva) October 19, 2019  

The other persons identified as “Amazonian martyrs” were Sister Cleusa Coelho, Marçal de Souza, Josimo Morales, Fr. Vicente Cañas, Sister Inés Arango, Galdino Pataxó, Fr. Alcides Jiménez, Sister Dorothy Stang, Msgr. Alejandro Labaka, Fr. Ezequiel Ramín, Father Rodolfo Lunkenbein, Father Simao Bororo and Chico Mendes.

After initial chants, the meaning of the celebration was explained: “Remember the martyrs of the way, the lives given by the Kingdom of life. We also remember our lives, the joys and hopes that brought us here, and the sadness and anguish of our people of Panamazonía and the earth. ”

Then, the smoke of some plants that burned in a bowl was spread among the attendees with a feather.

After this initial ceremony, the “Way of the Cross” itself began with its 14 stations, plus an added 15th station dedicated to the resurrection. A large wooden cross, in which a rosary and photographs of the martyrs were nailed, headed the entourage.

The 14 stations were adapted from the traditional Stations of the Cross, and each station was accompanied by a phrase or theme: "human rights," "the great projects of 'development' in the Amazon Basin," "reconciliation," "encounter," "the cultures of Panamazonía," " a call for all,” “ the destruction of nature,” and others.

At the end of each station, a different person read a brief reflection. Among the messages that were conveted was thatt “Mother Earth weeps for the excessive exploitation that is committed in the 9 countries of the Panamazonía.”

Forgiveness was also requested “for the mistakes made as a Church and as humanity; especially through of the abuses of colonization, the systematic violence to human rights and the ethnocide carried out of so many peoples throughout the continent.”

One reflection warned that "scientists and environmentalists presage darkness and shadows of death for our land if we do not stop the indiscriminate use of resources." Therefore, "the call as Church is to announce the Gospel of Jesus and denounce the abuses that Sister Mother Earth experiences."

 

Imágenes del Via Crucis Panamazónico realizado hoy en el Vaticano #SinodoAmazonico #sinododelaamazonia pic.twitter.com/dBA6JDGWua

— Walter Sánchez Silva (@WSanchezSilva) October 19, 2019  

Upon arriving at St. Peter's Square, while meditating on the final station, some participants lay on the ground, upon the photographs of the so-called martyrs of the Amazon, pretending to be dead. At the end of the 15th station, dedicated to the Resurrection, the people lying on the ground rose, conveying resurrection from the dead, and raising their hands to heaven in thanksgiving.

Finally, one woman’s face was painted with Amazonian signs, and adorned her with a crown of feathers, and then raised overhead in a canoe, amid songs and applause from participants.

 

A version of this story was first reported by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Vatican documents detail suspicious investments at Secretariat of State

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2019 / 04:33 pm (CNA).- A confidential report from the Vatican’s anti-corruption authority shows that the Secretariat of State has used about $725 million, most of which came from the pope’s charity fund, in off-books operations.

Italian weekly L’Espresso published a report Oct. 20, revealing information from three confidential Vatican documents, one of which is a report from the pope’s anti-corruption authority, called the Office of the General Auditor, claiming to have found serious financial crimes and corruption within the Secretariat of State.

The documents, L’Espresso reported, detail the use and management of extra-budgetary funds by the Secretariat of State, “deriving in large part from the donations received by the Holy Father for charitable works and for the sustenance of the Roman Curia.”

At least most of the money was drawn from Peter’s Pence, the annual collection through which Catholics are invited to support the charitable activities of the pope.

L’Espresso reported these funds are being used “in reckless speculative operations,” and that the same report by the General Auditor says about 77% of the assets (about $558 million) were put into Swiss and Italian branches of the investment bank Credit Suisse.

A second confidential document acquired by L’Espresso is the 16-page decree authorizing the Oct. 1 search of the offices of the Secretariat of State and the Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF). The raid was ordered by the Vatican City’s prosecutors, called “promoters of Justice,” and led to the suspension of five Vatican officials and employees.

At the time of the raid, a Vatican statement said documents and devices were taken in connection to an investigation following complaints made last summer by the Institute for Religious Works (IOR)— commonly called the Vatican Bank— and the Office of the Auditor General.

The search decree indicates, according to L’Espresso, that the complaints indicated by the Vatican originated from the general auditor and the director of the IOR, Gian Franco Mammi. In the same document, the prosecutors, Gian Piero Milano and Alessandro Diddi, state that they believe they have found “serious indications of embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, money laundering and self-money laundering.”

Other reports provide details into the Vatican’s 200 million euro ($223 million) investment purchase of a 17,000 square meter apartment building in London.

L’Espresso said that documents show a connection with Italian financier Raffaele Mincione, who was reportedly first approached and asked to invest 200 million euros, on behalf of the Vatican, in an oil company in Angola.

This was the idea of Cardinal Angelo Becciu, then bishop and second-ranking official of the Secretariat of State, according to L’Espresso. Becciu is a former papal nuncio to Angola.

When this project fell apart, Mincione reportedly proposed instead making the investment in the London property, converting a former Harrod’s warehouse into luxury apartments.

The deal went through with the Vatican purchasing 45% of the property in 2012 through Mincione’s Athena Capital Global fund. When the London real estate market took a downturn, the Vatican, in 2018, pulled out of Mincione’s fund and purchased the remaining 55% of the property.

CNA asked Becciu this week for comments about allegations made in relation to his role in the London real estate transaction; the cardinal has not yet responded.

The London property deal was reportedly signed by Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, at the time an official at the Secretariat of State, in November 2018. The Vatican’s London investment was then given over to a different Italian investor, Gianluigi Torzi.

Those are the investments which IOR director general Gian Franco Mammi supposedly reported to the Vatican prosecutors in 2018, leading to the investigation and this month’s raid on the Secretariat of State and subsequent suspension of five officials and employees.

The L'Espresso report claimed that another person involved in the deal was Fr. Mauro Carlino, once a personal secretary of Cardinal Becciu, who was one of the five employees suspended from the Secretariat of State this month.

Carlino was named head of information and documentation at the Secretariat of State by Pope Francis this summer. 

The L’Espresso report was written by Italian journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi, one of five people investigated and charged by the Vatican for the publication of confidential documents in the 2015 scandal referred to as “Vatileaks II.” Fittipaldi and a fellow journalist were later acquitted on the basis of a lack of jurisdiction.

The Secretariat of State is the central governing office of the Catholic Church and the department of the Roman Curia which works most closely with the pope. It is also responsible for the governance of the Vatican City state. The Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Authority oversees suspicious financial transactions, and is charged with ensuring that Vatican banking policies comply with international financial standards.

On World Mission Day, pope urges Catholics to share Christ's love with all

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2019 / 04:48 am (CNA).- Jesus Christ desires that all people know him and his love, and every Catholic has the mission of sharing this love with the world, Pope Francis said Sunday at Mass for World Mission Day.

“Those who bear witness to Jesus go out to all, not just to their own acquaintances or their little group. Jesus is also saying to you: ‘Go, don’t miss a chance to bear me witness!’” the pope said Oct. 20.

“My brother, my sister, the Lord expects from you a testimony that no one can give in your place,” he continued. “‘May you come to realize what that word is, the message of Jesus that God wants to speak to the world by your life…. lest you fail in your precious mission.’”

Pope Francis spoke about the missionary mandate of the Church during a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Mass also falls during the Church’s celebration, in October, of the Extraordinary Missionary Month.

The Mass also took place during the Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian region, a meeting of bishops and others at the Vatican Oct. 6-27, to discuss the Church’s life and mission in the Amazon region.

In his homily, Pope Francis emphasized the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

He noted other occasions when scripture refers to God’s desire for all people to be saved, such as in 1 Timothy, when St. Paul writes that God desires “all to be saved,” and in Isaiah and the Psalms, when it says, “all peoples.”

“The Lord is deliberate in repeating the word all. He knows that we are always using the words ‘my’ and ‘our:’ my things, our people, our community... But he constantly uses the word all. All, because no one is excluded from his heart, from his salvation,” Francis stated.

He told Catholics to consider whether they take the time to have a personal encounter with the people they run across in their daily lives. “Do we accept the invitation of Jesus or simply go about our own business?” he asked.

The instruction Catholics have received from the Lord, to “make disciples,” is simple, he said, but care must be taken to make people “his disciples, not our own.”

The Church must live out this discipleship herself in order to proclaim the Gospel well, he said, explaining that a disciple “follows the Master daily and shares the joy of discipleship with others.”

This does not mean “conquering, mandating, proselytizing,” he stated, but “witnessing, humbling oneself alongside other disciples and offering with love the love that we ourselves received.”

The pope acknowledged that this is not easy, like climbing a mountain, but requires prayer and effort, as well as a shedding of the unessential. “To proclaim, you must first renounce,” he said.

A credible proclamation of the Gospel requires striving after an “exemplary life,” he said. “a life of service that is capable of rejecting all those material things that shrink the heart and make people indifferent and inward-looking; a life that renounces the useless things that entangle the heart in order to find time for God and others.”

Francis said: “We can ask ourselves: how am I doing in my efforts to go up? Am I able to reject the heavy and useless baggage of worldliness in order to climb the mountain of the Lord?”

Catholics must think about God and about their brothers and sisters, the pope said, because “this is our mission: to give pure and fresh air to those immersed in the pollution of our world.”

Concluding his homily, he urged Catholics to “have courage!” saying “Jesus expects so much from you!”

The Lord wants everyone to know they are his beloved children, he said. “Do you want to quell Jesus’ concern? Go and show love to everyone, because your life is a precious mission: it is not a burden to be borne, but a gift to offer. Have courage, and let us fearlessly go forth to all!”

Following Mass, Pope Francis shared a brief message and prayed the Angelus from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

In his message, the pope said the day’s celebration of World Mission Day is a good time for all the baptized to consider the necessity of their participation in proclaiming the Word of God, and to make a renewed commitment to do so.

“Believers are called to bring everywhere, with new enthusiasm, the good news that, in Jesus, mercy overcomes sin, hope overcomes fear, fraternity overcomes hostility,” he said. “Christ is our peace and in Him every division is overcome, in Him alone is there the salvation of every man and every people.”

Francis added that to share Christ effectively, however, prayer is “indispensable,” and asked Catholics to pray in a special way for the Church’s missionaries, including those who go to far places to share God’s Word.

 

Pope Francis at Ethnological Museum: 'Beauty unites us'

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2019 / 06:25 am (CNA).- Pope Francis paid a visit Friday to the renovated wing of the Vatican Ethnological Museum, which he praised for being “a place where everyone can feel represented.”

“Beauty unites us. It invites us to live human brotherhood, countering the culture of resentment, racism, nationalism, which is always lurking,” Pope Francis said at the “Anima Mundi” museum Oct. 18.

“I think the Vatican Museums are increasingly called to become a living home, inhabited and open to everyone, with the doors wide open to the people of the whole world ... a place where everyone can feel represented,” the pope said.

The Anima Mundi Ethnological Museum contains 80,000 artistic works and objects from non-European cultures throughout history ranging from prehistoric artifacts to current gifts given to the pope. Among its displays are works of art from Islamic civilizations and the indigenous peoples of America.

“All peoples are here, in the shadow of the dome of St. Peter, close to the heart of the Church and of the pope,” Pope Francis said.

“Whoever enters here should feel that in this house there is also room for him, for his people, his tradition, his culture: the European as the Indian, the Chinese as the native of the Amazon or Congolese forest, of the Alaskan or the Australian deserts or the Pacific islands.”

The pope’s visit to the Vatican Ethnological Museum coincided with its exhibition dedicated to the Amazon: “Mater Amazonia - The deep breath of the world.”

The Amazon exhibit -- on display in the Vatican museum until January 2020 -- includes portraits and names of some of the Catholic missionaries who lived among the Amazonian peoples, as well as objects from everyday life in the rainforest.

Pope Francis said that in the museum one should feel that God’s art has the same value and is treated and preserved with the same passion that is reserved for Renaissance masterpieces or for Greek and Roman sculptures.

“Since works of art are the expression of the spirit of peoples … one must always look at each culture, at the other, with an open mind and with benevolence,” he said.

Pope Pius XI first organized an exhibition to display “the artistic and spiritual traditions of all peoples” in 1925. After the temporary exhibition drew over one million visitors, the pope decided to make it a permanent exhibit in the Lateran Palace. The collection was transferred to the Vatican Museums in the 1970s as the Missionary Ethnological Museum.

“May this Ethnological Museum preserve its specific identity over time and remind everyone of the value of harmony and peace between peoples and nations. And may the art gathered here make the voice of God resonate in those who visit this collection,” Pope Francis said.

Amazon synod discussion groups support married priests, female deacons

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2019 / 10:26 am (CNA).- At least four of the 12 language groups at the Amazon synod overtly propose the ordination of married men to the priesthood in summary reports published by the Vatican Friday, with the majority of the discussion groups expressing openness to the idea.

“We ask, Holy Father, that you accept, for the Pan Amazon region, men to the priestly ministry and women to the diaconate, preferably indigenous, respected and recognized by their community, even if they already have a constituted and stable family, in order to assure the sacraments that accompany and sustain the Christian life of the community,” Portuguese language group A, moderated by Bishop Jesús Maria Cizuarre Berdonces of Bragança do Pará, stated in their report Oct. 18.

The Vatican released summary reports in Spanish and Portuguese from the Amazon synod’s 12 “circoli minori,” small synod discussion groups divided by language: five in Spanish, four in Portuguese, two in Italian, and one in English/French.

All four of the Portuguese discussion groups express openness to the possibility of the ordination of viri probati – a term referring to mature, married men – in remote areas of the Amazon to the priesthood.

“The ordination of the viri probati was considered necessary for Panamazonía. Married men candidates for ordination, after a fruitful diaconate must meet the following criteria, among others: life of prayer and love of the Word of God and the Church, Eucharistic life that is reflected in a life of donation and service, community experience, missionary spirit,” Portuguese group B stated in their summary report.

The Portuguese group moderated by Archbishop Pedro Brito Guimarães of Palmas proposed that the implementation the ordination of married men as priests could be delegated to the bishops’ conferences in the region or entrusted to the local bishops.

The first Italian group noted that there has been concern among some synod fathers that that the proposal of married priests in the Amazon would have implications for the Church in other regions of the world.

“Other synod fathers believe that the proposal concerns all continents, that it could reduce the value of celibacy, or make the missionary impulse to serve the most distant communities be lost. They believe that, in virtue of the theological principle of synodality, the subject should be placed before the opinion of the whole Church and therefore suggest a universal Synod in this regard,” the Italian group A report stated.

The majority of Spanish groups also expressed open support for ministerial alternatives for women, including female deacons.

“Given the tradition of the Church, it is possible to recognize women's access to the existent ministries of the lectorate and the acolyte, as well as the permanent diaconate,” Spanish language group C, moderated by Bishop Jonny Eduardo Reyes Sequera, Vicar Apostolic of Puerto Ayacucho, stated.

Spanish group E, however, stated it was against the ordination of female deacons, but proposed instead some other ministerial alternative for women. This language group is moderated by Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.

Italians participating in the Amazon synod proposed in their report the development of an “Amazonian Rite” that would open a path for married priests and female deacons.

The group, moderated by Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that the creation of an “Amazon Rite” would “express the liturgical, theological, disciplinary and spiritual heritage” of the local culture.

The Synod of Bishops on the Amazon is an Oct. 6-27 meeting on the Church’s life and ministry in the Pan-Amazonian region.

“These are not final texts,” Fr. Giacomo Costa, a communications official for the Amazon synod, said at the synod press conference presenting the language group reports Oct. 18.

“Everybody has something important to say … The synod must consider everyone’s contribution,” he added.

The synod drafting committee will meet over the next week to assemble into a document the recommendations of the language groups into the final document of the Amazon synod.

The final document of the synod will then be voted on by synod members, on the penultimate day of the gathering. Per synod norms, it must pass with a 2/3 majority.

The document of synod recommendations will then be given to Pope Francis for him to use, or not, as he desires, in the writing of a post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

“The final document of the synod is offered exclusively to the Holy Father who is then going to do with it what he thinks fit,” Costa said.

Vatican denies Indian nun's appeal of dismissal from religious life for disobedience

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2019 / 02:22 pm (CNA).- The Congregation for the Oriental Churches has rejected the appeal of Sister Lucy Kalapura, who was dismissed from religious life in August for several acts of disobedience, including a protest of the handling of another nun's accusation that a bishop serially raped her.

The congregation's Sept. 26 decree denying recourse to the nun of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation  was conveyed in an Oct. 11 letter from the apostolic nunciature in India.

Sr. Lucy has the right to further appeal to the Apostolic Signatura.

However, she told the BBC that “I don't see any point in doing that since they have made up their mind. I will now go to court on behalf of all the people who are being suppressed and facing illegal behaviour from authorities of the congregation.”

She maintained: “I am not going to leave the convent. The lifestyle I lead is as per the rules and regulations.”

Sr. Lucy was sent a letter Aug. 5 from the superior general of the FCC, Sr. Ann Joseph, notifying her she had been dismissed from the community, which decision had been confirmed by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

Sr. Lucy has led a life against the principles of religious life, the community says, by disobeying a transfer order, publishing poems after having been denied permission to do so, buying a vehicle, withholding her salary from the congregation, and participating in a protest against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur, who has been charged with several instances of raping a nun of a different congregation.

The letter from Sr. Ann Joseph said that Sr. Lucy “did not show the needed remorse and you failed to give a satisfactory explanation for your lifestyle in violation of the proper law of the FCC.”

Sr. Lucy had been sent a letter of warning Jan. 1, asking that she appear before Sr. Ann by Jan. 9 to explain her disobediences, or face expulsion from the congregation.

In January Sr. Lucy said that the congregation was trying to silence her, and denied any wrongdoing.

She was sent a second letter of warning in February, and India Times reported that she “failed to respond to a notice issued against her in March”.

The congregation's General Council, held May 11, voted unanimously to dismiss Sr. Lucy, and asked for confirmation from the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

In the January letter of warning sent to Sr. Lucy, the superior general wrote that she joined a protest regarding Bishop Mulakkal “without the permission of your superior. You have published articles in some non-Christian newspapers and weeklies … gave interviews to 'Samayam' without seeking permission from the provincial superior. Through Facebook, channel discussions and the articles, you belittled the Catholic leadership by making false accusations against it and tried to bring down the sacraments. You tried to defame FCC also. Your performance through social media as a religious sister was culpable, arising grave scandal.”

The letter also said Sr. Lucy failed to obey a transfer order given her in 2015 by her provincial superior, and that she published a book of poems despite being denied permission to do so, and used 50,000 Indian rupees ($700) from the congregation's account “without proper permission” to do so.

Sr. Kalapura is also accused of buying a car for about $5,670 and learning to drive without permission, and failing to entrust her salary from December 2017.

Sr. Ann Joseph called these acts “a grave infringement of the vow of poverty.”

The superior general added that Sr. Kalapura has been corrected and warned several times by her provincial over her “improper behaviour and violations of religious discipline.”

“Instead of correcting yourself, you are simply denying the allegations against you stating that you have to live your own beliefs, ideologies and conviction. You are repeatedly violating the vows of obedience and poverty. The evangelization and social work you do should be according to the FCC values, principles and rules. The present mode of your life is a grave violation of the profession you have made,” Sr. Ann Joseph wrote.

Another nun of the FCC, Sister Lissy Vadakkel, was transferred earlier this year from Muvattupuzha to Vijawada.

Sister Alphonas Abraham, superior of the FCC's Nirmala Province, said in February that Sr. Lissy's transfer was unrelated to her acting as a witness in the case against Bishop Mulakkal.

In April, Bishop Mulakkal was charged with rape.

Analysis: A pink dolphin, a carved image, and inculturation at the Amazon synod

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2019 / 12:40 pm (CNA).- At a “moment of Amazon spirituality” Oct. 16, in a church just down the street from St. Peter’s Square, a woman told the Amazonian folk tale of a pink river dolphin who seduced a village girl.

The story, and the conversation that ensued, is a poignant example of questions raised about the Vatican’s Amazon synod, and about the meaning of calls to “inculturate” the Gospel.

She was seated on a low stool, on a cloth mat, in the aisle leading to the sanctuary of Santa Maria in Traspontina, a Carmelite Church built five centuries ago. Two indigeneous people sat behind her. Between them was a now-controversial wooden figure of a pregnant woman, along with carved bowls filled with water, pieces of woven netting, and small carved statues.

The storyteller’s version of ancient mythical story in the Amazon goes like this:

There is a pink river dolphin deep in the Amazon. When he hears the sound of drums, he sometimes emerges from the water, to enter villages and to dance with village people. He takes to land to seduce young women in the villages.

To young girls the dolphin appears as a handsome stranger, a foreigner, a white man. To everyone else he still looks like a dolphin.

Eventually, the mysterious stranger seduces a young woman from the village. In some tellings, she becomes pregnant. In other versions, she simply falls in love. But in every case, she finds herself compelled to the river. She has fallen under a spell. If the spell can’t be broken, sometimes by a local shaman, she will throw herself into the river, and there she will become a mermaid.

When she finished telling her story, the storyteller asked those gathered in the church to share what the story means to them.

“What does it mean to you?” is not the same question as “What does it mean?” Both questions have merit, of course. And mythical and folkloric tradition has a place in every culture, in which new meanings and ideas can emerge from old stories.

 

At today’s Amazon spirituality gathering at Santa Maria in Traspontina. #AmazonSynod pic.twitter.com/J0C4wenh0m

— JD Flynn (@jdflynn) October 16, 2019  

Still, the critics of the liturgies, ceremonies, and rituals surrounding the Amazon Synod say those events have been plagued by ambiguity, by a sort of postmodern subjectivism, and by an absence of the proclamation of the Gospel and reference to sacred revelation.

Some of that criticism is hyperbolic and overwrought. And, in fact, synod-connected events expressing Amazon spirituality, including the controversial Oct. 4 tree-planting attended by Pope Francis, have included readings from scripture, obviously Catholic prayers, and reflections or preaching on the saving mystery of Jesus Christ.

But the identifiably Christian aspects of the rituals have often taken place alongside unidentified images and sculptures, and with the incorporation of rituals of unclear origin. That has led to confusion.

Journalists asking “What does this mean?” have heard, in response, another question: “What does this mean to you?”

On Oct. 16, a journalist asked for clarity at a Vatican press conference about the carved image, first seen at the tree-planting ceremony, and featured at other events connected to the synod. The image had been described by at least one western Catholic journalist as the Virgin Mary and by Getty International as a pagan goddess.

Fr. Giacomo Costa, a synod spokesman, said the image is not the Virgin Mary, but a female figure representing life. Paolo Ruffini, a Vatican communications officially, said that in his personal view, the image seems like that of a tree, which is, he said, a kind of “sacred symbol.”

Ruffini committed to learning more, but offered a qualifier that has become a familiar line at the Amazon synod: “We know that some things in history have many interpretations.”

A journalist asking bishops about the image Oct. 7 got a more nebulous answer.

“We all have our own interpretations: the Virgin Mary, the Mother Earth...probably those who used this symbol wished to refer to fertility, to women, to life, the life present among these Amazonian people and Amazonia is meant to be full of life. I don’t think we need to create any connections with the Virgin Mary or with a pagan element,” Bishop David Martínez De Aguirre Guinea of Peru said at a Vatican press conference.

Among the journalists, observers, and other interested parties watching the synod, there are clearly two perspectives on the carved image, and the controversy surrounding it.

One camp seems to say that this kind of ambiguity represents the ordinary process of inculturation. They see in the ambiguity the complicated reality of proclaiming the Gospel in an unfamiliar context, and they are eager to affirm points of similarity between Amazonian spirituality and Christianity. If a carved image highlights those points, they say, it should be celebrated, even if every question doesn’t have a clear answer. Being unduly dogmatic, they suggest, is a kind of hostility to the good will of the synod and its participants.

The other camp, those who would usually be classified as conservatives, are more skeptical. They have begun to ask whether the synod’s participants have thought through the limits of inculturation, or the consequences of ambiguity on issues that seem close to religious syncretism or even tacit consent to functional idolatry.

That camp is concerned that legitimate inculturation has been reduced to an ambiguous and undirected blending of Christian and local customs, with very little rational explanation of the theology behind emerging praxes. Some ask whether the result of such a process can really be Christianity at all.

The more skeptical observers say that the Catholic Church teaches that subjective reflection must be complemented by rational analysis and coherent proclamation, especially in the context of religious practice, where meaning, fundamentally, is derived from revelation. They say that while inculturation is important, the haphazard blending of customary and Christian symbols leads to religious rituals that can only be interpreted subjectively.

While the lines among the various camp followers are clear, it’s not clear what most of the synod participants think, in large part because the flow of information at the Amazon Synod is tightly controlled, and the messaging from the press office has for the most part seemed curated.

Even the synod participants who have talked about inculturation, and the controversy surrounding the image and the Amazon spirituality events, have not done so with particular theological depth.

At an Oct. 12 press conference, Bishop Rafael Cob García of Ecuador told CNA that inculturation is a process, not something that happens overnight.

Inculturation requires “trying to get into their frame of mind, and then, after a very long time, you can see what is connected with the Gospel,” Brazilian Bishop Adriano Ciocca Vasino added.

This is done always, he said, “with reference to Christ.”

Bishops have not commented on the desired results of inculturation, or the principles that should guide it, or way to prevent it from becoming syncretistic, or undermining evangelization. Their failure to do so has made the skeptical camp all the more skeptical.

What bishops have explained is that inculturation, however they understand it, takes a long time.

“If you follow a long pathway, trying to understand and respect, to the point of understanding the soul of their spirituality, then you get really interesting results,” Vasino said. “To understand, we must delve deeply.”

Catholics at the Vatican synod may soon give more thought to the story of the pink dolphin.

They’ll ask whether the synod fathers have been attracted by the idea of inculturation without seeing its dangers. They’ll wonder if the Church must throw herself into a river to understand how the story of a rapacious pink dolphin is “connected with the Gospel.” The answers have not yet been forthcoming.

 

Brazilian bishop: Lack of holiness among clerics an obstacle to vocations

Vatican City, Oct 16, 2019 / 11:01 am (CNA).- A bishop in Brazil who is a member of the Amazon synod said Wednesday he believes a major obstacle to increasing priestly vocations in the region is a lack of personal holiness among the ordained, rather than the discipline of celibacy.

Bishop Wellington de Queiroz Vieira of Cristalandia said Oct. 16 that the proposal to combat priest shortages in the Amazon region by ordaining mature, married men – called viri probati  – to the priesthood does not address a greater problem.

Noting that he does not speak for all synod fathers, but that he knows many of them share his views, de Queiroz said the real obstacles to increasing local priestly vocations are scandals and a lack of holiness in bishops, priests, and deacons.

Bishop de Queiroz, 51, spoke at a press conference on the Amazon synod, which is taking place at the Vatican Oct. 6-27, and is addressing the Church’s ministry in the region. His Diocese of Cristalandia was elevated from a territorial prelature in July; it is located in Tocantins state, which includes both part of the Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado savanna.

The bishop said clergy need to be close to their people as Pope Francis says: “But very often we do that, but do not convey the perfume of Christ. And we are not able to convey the real message.”

Instead, clerics often drive people away from Christ, he said, or very easily are “proclaimers of ourselves.”

“We are not always holy priests and holy bishops in our own Churches,” he said, adding that before talking about changing as a Church, people should think about changing themselves.

Bishop de Queiroz said the instrument to reawaken vocations lies in the holiness of the evangelizers. “I am convinced that if I live a holy life, I will not lack ordained ministers,” he said, because young people are looking for models of holiness and will be drawn to it when they see it.

“We have an obligation to provide examples of holiness.”

He described holiness as including simplicity of life, openness to dialogue, respecting differences, unwavering proclamation of the Christian life, compassion for those who suffer, charity, and accepting challenges.

The bishop said he thinks there should be consideration of another solution to priest shortages in the Amazon, which is an unequal distribution of priests. He said in some areas there is a higher concentration of priests than in others, but they lack a “missionary spirit” to leave and travel to the more remote and challenging areas of the Amazon. “We need to change this mentality,” he said.