Pope: There may be something Catholic, even outside the Catholic Church

October 1, 2012 by  
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Pope: There may be something Catholic, even outside the Catholic ChurchVatican, September 30, 2012:  Christians should not be jealous of the good that is done outside of the Catholic Church. Instead, the good that is done by the various ecclesial realities within the Church should be respected and appreciated. Using wealth “in solidarity and for the common good, ensuring equality and morality, at all levels.” Appeal for refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tomorrow the Pope returns to the Vatican.

“Just as one can find that which is not Catholic in the Catholic Church – that is, in the Church -, one can also find something that may be Catholic outside of the Catholic Church “: this quote from St. Augustine (On Baptism, Against the Donatists: PL 43 , VII, 39, 77) was at the center of reflection that Benedict XVI offered to pilgrims gathered today in the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo during the Angelus. The Pope – as he often does – was referring to the episode narrated in the Gospel of the Sunday Mass (Mark 9: 39-41): “a man, who was not the followers of Jesus had cast out demons in his name. The Apostle John, young and zealous, wants to stop him, but Jesus will not allow him. ”

“Jesus – continues the pope – is inspired by the opportunity to teach his disciples that God can bring about good and even miraculous things, even outside of their circle, and that one can cooperate with the Kingdom of God in several ways, even by offering a simple glass of water to a missionary (v. 41). ”

Thus Benedict XVI underlined the “ecumenical” teaching of Jesus in our time: “Church members should not feel jealous, but rejoice if someone from outside the community does well in the name of Christ, provided this is done with right intention and with respect “. At the same time, he insisted that often jealousy and the desire to block the action of someone also exist within the Church: “Even within the Church it – he added – it can sometimes happen that one can have difficulty in appreciating and recognizing, in a spirit of profound communion, the good things done by the various ecclesial realities. Instead we should all be able to always appreciate and respect each other, praising the Lord for the infinite ‘fantasy’ with which he acts in the Church and in the world. ”

The pope also commented on the second reading of today’s Mass, taken from the Letter of St. James, which concerns “the invective… against the dishonest rich, who put their trust in the riches accumulated by dint of abuse” (cf. Jas 5.1 to 6).

“The words of the Apostle James – said the pope – while they warn against the vain desire for material goods, are also a powerful call to use them in the perspective of solidarity and the common good, always acting with fairness and morality, at all levels “.

After the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI launched an appeal for the situation in Congo-Kinshasa, an African country with a large Catholic community, characterized by abundant natural resources, but also highly unstable in political and ethnic terms. In a series of recent developments, the UN has accused Rwanda of supporting guerrilla groups within the borders of Congo. “I follow with affection and concern – said the pope – the situation of the people in the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in these days the object of a high-level meeting at the United Nations. I am particularly close to refugees, to the women and children, who because of persistent armed clashes undergo suffering, violence and deep distress. I invoke God, for peace paths of dialogue, protection for these innocent people so that peace, based on justice, may soon be restored and for the restoration of fraternal coexistence for this sorely tried population, as well as the entire region. ”

The pope also bid farewell to the faithful at Castel Gandolfo, because tomorrow he returns to take up residency in the Vatican.

– asianews

Cardinal Gracias appointed Synod Father

September 19, 2012 by  
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Cardinal Oswald Gracias

Cardinal Oswald Gracias

Vatican City, September 19, 2012: Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, as one of the 34 Synod Fathers for the next month’s Bishops Synod in Rome.

Another Indian in the list is Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, prior general of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate congregation.

The 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops scheduled for October 7-28 will address the theme “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”

The Synod Fathers include 10 cardinals, one patriarch, 11 archbishops, eight bishops and four priests.

The other Asian in the list is Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle of Manila, Philippines.

The participants in the Synod of Bishops are called the Synod Fathers.

They include patriarchs, major archbishops, metropolitans of the Eastern Catholic Churches, bishops elected by the Eastern Catholic Churches, bishops elected by the Episcopal Conferences, ten representatives of clerical religious institutes, the heads of the departments of the Roman curia, and other representatives appointed by the Pope.

Pope Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops on September 15, 1965 in response to the desire of the participants of the Second Vatican Council to foster the spirit of collegiality they experienced at the council.

The Synod opens with the celebration of Mass and the hymn, Veni, Creator Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit).

The Synod sessions are closed to the public and the Synod Fathers are bound by secrecy about the proceedings and the votes.

If needed, the Commission for Information on the Synod holds press conferences about specific matters related to the Synod.

The last synod held four years ago addressed the theme, “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

– visnews

Pope Benedict XVI Takes Message of Tolerance to Lebanon

September 17, 2012 by  
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Pope Benedict XVI, standing next to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, waves to the crowd at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday. The pope urged peace during a time of great turmoil in the Middle East.

Pope Benedict XVI, standing next to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, waves to the crowd at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday. The pope urged peace during a time of great turmoil in the Middle East.

Lebanon, September 14, 2012: • Such revolutions, “there is always a danger of forgetting a fundamental aspect of liberty: tolerance for others and the fact that human liberty is always a shared liberty.” “We must do everything possible” to encourage tolerance and “reconciliation.”Pope

Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Lebanon on Friday with a message of tolerance that took on wider resonance as protests over an anti-Muslim video produced in the United States spread to about 20 countries.

Soon after the pope’s plane touched down in Beirut for his first visit to the region since 2009, protesters 50 miles away attacked American restaurant chains in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. Soldiers opened fire on the protesters, killing one and wounding more than two dozen other people, officials said.

As the pope stepped onto the tarmac, looking tired and using a cane, he was welcomed by cheering crowds and children bearing flowers. Benedict, who has stumbled in the past when speaking of Islam, made no mention of the protests, instead praising Lebanon as an example of cooperation among faiths.

“Like me, you know that this equilibrium, which is presented everywhere as an example, is extremely delicate,” he said. “Sometimes it seems about to snap like a bow which is overstretched or submitted to pressures which are too often partisan.”

He added, “This is where real moderation and great wisdom are tested.”

The Vatican had played down security concerns, saying the pope would be warmly welcomed for his three-day visit to Lebanon, where more than 30 percent of the population is Christian and posters bearing his likeness lined the highway. On his plane en route to Lebanon, Benedict told reporters, “Nobody has advised me to cancel this voyage,” according to an informal transcript provided by the Italian daily La Stampa. “I never thought of it,” he said, “because I know that the more complicated a situation becomes, the more necessary it is to send this signal of fraternity, encouragement and solidarity.”

In keeping with Benedict’s longstanding plan for the trip, the message appeared to be aimed principally to bolster Christians in the region, an ancient community whose numbers have dwindled in recent decades because of wars, occupations and discrimination.

At a meeting with religious leaders at St. Paul’s Basilica outside Beirut on Friday evening, the pope signed a Vatican document on the state of Christians in the region.

“A Middle East without Christians, or with only a few Christians, would no longer be the Middle East,” Benedict said in the document, “The Church in the Middle East,” which is the product of a meeting of bishops at the Vatican in 2010.

Benedict said that Christians in the Middle East should be allowed “full citizenship” and not considered “second-class citizens or believers,” adding that their steady decline in the region was leading to “human, cultural, and religious impoverishment.”

The pope also focused on the war in Syria, a deepening civil conflict that has left thousands of people dead and poses a growing threat to regional stability. Adding emphasis to his previous calls for an end to the violence, he called for a halt to arms imports by both sides in the conflict.

“The importing of arms cannot continue,” the pope said. “Instead of importing arms, which is a grave sin, one should import ideas of peace, creativity, find solutions for accepting everyone in his otherness.”

Those comments, which seemed aimed at the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the growing number of militias fighting to topple him, also served as a sharp rebuke to regional powers, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which continue to funnel arms into Syria.

The pope also spoke for the first time about the wave of uprisings that have transformed the region since his last visit. “I would say it’s a positive thing: it’s the desire for more democracy, more liberty, more cooperation and a renewed Arab identity,” Benedict said.

But he also added that amid such revolutions, “there is always a danger of forgetting a fundamental aspect of liberty: tolerance for others and the fact that human liberty is always a shared liberty.” He added, “We must do everything possible” to encourage tolerance and “reconciliation.”

In a dark moment in his papacy in 2006, Benedict angered Muslims when on a visit to Germany he quoted a Byzantine emperor who called Islam “evil and inhuman.” In response, Muslims demonstrated around the world, and an Italian nun was killed in Somalia. The pope later apologized.

This week, amid the spreading unrest over the anti-Muslim video, the Vatican has walked a fine line to prevent causing similar offense. On Wednesday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement that focused on the video, saying that “unjustified offense and provocations” against Muslims produce “sometimes tragic results” that yield “unacceptable violence.” The statement came after news emerged of the death ofJ. Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, but before the United States confirmed it.

On Thursday, Father Lombardi issued a statement denouncing the ambassador’s death, saying that it called “for the firmest possible condemnation on the part of the Holy See.”

“Nothing, in fact, can justify the activity of terrorist organizations and homicidal violence,” the statement said.
But by Friday evening, the spokesman sought to distance the pope from the growing controversy and any comment that could cause distress. “The visit,” Father Lombardi said, “is a message in itself.”

Kareem Fahim reported from Beirut, and Rachel Donadio from Rome and Vatican City. Hania Mourtada and Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.

– reuters

Pope: Prayer & communion with Jesus gives strength to face persecution

May 4, 2012 by  
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Vatican City, May 02, 2012: Benedict XVI speaks of the witness and the prayer of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Our prayer must be the contemplation of Jesus as “Lord of our, of my daily existence.” In Him “we may be able to turn to God with the trust and abandonment of children who turn to a Father who loves us infinitely.”

Nourished by Scripture and communion with Jesus and his Church, prayer enables one to face life’s difficulties and even persecution. This is the teaching that comes from “the witness and prayer” of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, which Benedict XVI today offered 40 thousand people in St. Peter’s Square for the general audience.

Stephen, “one of the seven chosen for the service of charity”, the Pope recalled, was brought to court, before the Sanhedrin, accused of having said that Jesus would destroy the temple of Jerusalem, and subverted the customs handed down by Moses. Jesus had actually spoken of the destruction of the temple, which he would rebuild in three days, but “he was speaking of his body.”

“Stephen’s discourse before the court, the longest of the Acts of the Apostles develops from this prophecy of Jesus, who is the new temple, who inaugurates the new cult and replaces the ancient sacrifices with the offering of himself on Cross. Stephen wants to show how unfounded the accusation made against him of having subverted the Law of Moses and illustrates his vision of the history of salvation, the covenant between God and man. He thus re-reads the biblical narrative, the itinerary contained in the Holy Scripture, to show that it leads to the “place” the ultimate presence of God, which is Jesus Christ, especially His Passion, Death and Resurrection. In this perspective, Stephen also reads his being a disciple of Jesus, following him to martyrdom. ”

His meditation on Sacred Scripture allows Stephen to understand his present reality. “In his speech Stephen begins with the call of Abraham, a pilgrim to the land indicated by God and which was only a promise; he then passes to Joseph sold by his brothers, but assisted and freed by God, to arrive at Moses, who becomes an instrument of God to free his people, but who also on several occasions encounters the rejection of his own people. In these events narrated in Sacred Scripture, which Stephen religiously listens to, God, who never tires of encountering man despite often finding stubborn opposition, always emerges.”

“In all this he sees a foreshadowing of the story of Jesus, the Son of God made flesh, who – like the ancient Fathers – encounters obstacles, rejection and death.” In his meditation on the action of God in salvation history, Stephen highlights the perennial temptation to reject God and his action and says that “Jesus is the Just announced by the prophets; in Jesus, God himself is present in such a unique and definitive way: Jesus is the true place of worship.”

Stephen, therefore, does not deny the importance of the temple, “but stresses that God does not dwell in houses made by human hands. The new temple in which God dwells is his Son, who took on human flesh, it is the humanity of Christ, the Risen One who gathers the people and unites them in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood.”

“The life and discourse of Stephen is suddenly interrupted by his stoning, but his very martyrdom is the fulfillment of his life and his message: he becomes one with Christ.” Before he died, he asks for Jesus to receive his spirit, and like Jesus asks God “not to hold this sin” against those who stoned him.

The testimony of St. Stephen offers us some indications to our prayer and our lives. The first is that St. Stephen drew the strength to face his persecutors to the point of the gift of himself “from his relationship with God” and “meditation on the history of salvation, from seeing the action of God, which in Jesus Christ came to the summit.” So “our prayer must be nourished by listening to the Word of God.”

The second is that the martyr “sees foreshadowed, in the history of the relationship of love between God and man, the figure and mission of Jesus He – the Son of God – is a temple” not made with human hands ” where the presence of God the Father came so close as to take on our flesh to bring us to God, to open up the gates of Heaven to us. Our prayer, then, must be the contemplation of Jesus at the right hand of God, of Jesus as Lord of our, of my daily, existence. In him, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we too can turn to God – concluded the Pope – with the trust and abandonment of children who turn to a Father who loves them infinitely “.

– asianews

Indian Chaplaincy’s Celebrations of Holy Week – 2012 in the Holy Land *The church is not a political party but…

March 28, 2012 by  
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Venue: JERUSALEM: Shrine of Palms, Bethpage to Basilica of the Agony, Gethsemane 

8.15  am     Arrival to the Shrine of Palms, Bet-phage  
8.45  am     Reading of the Gospel
9.00  am     Blessing of the Palms by His Paternity V.Rev. Fr.Custos of the Holy Land 
              Followed by the Solemn Procession towards Mount of Olives Palm Sunday Routes

Entering the Basilica of Agony through the main entrance. 
10.00 am     Holy Eucharist of the Passion in the Basilica of the Agony, Gethsemane, Jerusalem
12.00 am     Conclusion of the Celebrations

PARTICIPANTS:  More than 1000 from Haifa, Tel Aviv, Herzylia,  Nof Yam, Jerusalem

7.00 pm     Celebration of the Paschal Meal of our Lord Jesus Christ,
            The ceremony of the Washing of the feet and sharing of the bread
8.30 pm     Solemn   Procession of the Blessed Sacrament & Adoration

06.04.2012  GOOD  FRIDAY
9.30 am     Arrival to Cenacle, Mount Zion
9.45 am     Introducing the Passion of our Lord: 
                      Pre-experience of the passion in the Last Supper       
10.00am   Way of the Cross: Meditation on the Stations of the Cross
            First Station Caenaculam  
            II.  Galli Canthu
            III. Entrance of the City of David
            IV.  Eastern Wall Corner
            V.   Monument of Absalom
10.30 am    Other stations in and around the Kedron Valley, Gethsemane, Jerusalem
11.00 am    Celebration of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ  in Konkani
12.30 pm    Veneration of the Crucifix  
                Liturgy of the WORD OF GOD
        Liturgy of BAPTISM AND BAPTISM OF INFANTS: Aaron & Gloria 
               Liturgy of the EUCHARIST & Communion
Joy of the Glorious Resurrection of our L.J.C. : SHARING OF GREETINGS AND SWEETS            

10.00 am   Solemn Mass at St.Joseph’s Latin Parish Hall in Haifa
Malayalam Speaking Faithful

Palm Saturday
9.00  am  Solemn Procession with Palms from Bethfage 
10.00 am Mass at  Gethsemane Garden

Holy Thursday:
In the evening celebrations of Paschal Meal of the Lord at St.Peter’s  Church, Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv

Holy Friday:
10.30am   Celebration of the Passion of the Lord  at Gethsemane Garden
1.00pm    Way of the Cross at Via Dolorosa

Holy Saturday:
10.00am   Celebration of the Pascha  at the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate Church at  4th Station, Jerusalem(Oriental Rite)
9.00 pm   Easter Vigil at St.Peter’s Church   Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv (Latin Rite)

– fr. jayaseelan ofm

The church is not a political party but…


Vatican City, 24 March 2012: Yesterday morning, before boarding his flight for Mexico, Benedict XVI was greeted at Rome’s Fiumicino airport by Mario Monti, prime minister of Italy. Later, during the course of the journey, the Holy Father participated in the traditional in-flight press conference with the more than seventy journalists accompanying him on the plane. He answered questions on a wide range of subjects, from drug trafficking and violence in Mexico to the social situation in Cuba and new evangelisation on the Latin American continent.

The Pope noted that his journey was taking him in the footsteps of John Paul II, who had made five visits to Mexico and one to Cuba, and that he hoped to continue the work begun by his predecessor. “I share the joys and hopes, but also the suffering and difficulties” of the Mexican people, he said. “I am going to bring encouragement but also to learn, to bring comfort in faith, hope and love; a commitment to goodness and to the struggle against evil. Let us hope that the Lord will help us”.

A Mexican journalist pointed out that great social inequalities persist in Latin America and that the at times the Catholic Church is not sufficiently encouraged to intervene in this field. “The Church must of course ask if she does enough for social justice on that great continent”, the Pope replied. “It is a question of conscience which we must always pose ourselves. … What must the Church do? What can she not do? What must she not do? The Church is not a political power, she is not a party but a moral entity, a moral power. … I reiterate what I have already said. The Church’s first concern is to educate minds in both individual and public ethics, thus creating the necessary sense of responsibility. Here perhaps there are some shortcomings. In Latin America, as elsewhere, no small number of Catholics show a kind of schizophrenia between individual and public morals. … We must educate people to overcome this schizophrenia, educate them not only in … individual morality, but also in public morality. This we must seek to do with the social doctrine of the Church because, of course, such public morality must be a reasonable morality, shared and shareable by non believers.

Another journalist recalled the words used by John Paul II on his trip to Cuba, “may Cuba open to the world and, and may the world open to Cuba”, and noted that many defenders of human rights had spoken out in anticipation of Benedict XVI’s visit to the island.

The Pope reiterated the continuity of his ideas with the words of John Paul II “which are still highly relevant”. The visit marked, he said, “the beginning of a journey of collaboration and constructive dialogue, a long journey which requires patience but which is moving forward. It is clear today that Marxist ideology as it was conceived no longer responds to reality. … In order to build a new society new models must be discovered, patiently and constructively. In this process, which requires patience but also firmness, we wish to make our contribution in a spirit of dialogue, in order to avoid traumas and facilitate the way to a fraternal and just society for all people. Obviously, the Church is always on the side of freedom, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion. … The faithful can also contribute to the progress of this journey”.

Finally the Holy Father responded to a question about new evangelisation in Latin America, in the light of the Aparecida Conference.

“The path of new evangelisation began with Vatican Council II. This was the fundamental intention of Blessed John XXIII, it was also emphasised by John Paul II and its importance in a world undergoing such great changes has become even more evident. The Gospel must be expressed in new ways. … There is a condition which exists throughout the world: secularisation, the absence of God, the difficulty of seeing Him as a reality which concerns us. … It is today, in the context of modern day rationality, that we can rediscover God as a fundamental guide for life, the fundamental hope for life, the foundation of the values upon which our society rests. … I think it is very important to announce a God Who responds to our reason. … However, we also have to take account of concrete reality. It is important to bear in mind that, in Latin America as a whole, religion is a question not of reason but of the heart. … Yet this intuition of the heart must be linked to the rationality of faith, and to the profundity of faith that goes beyond reason. We must not lose the heart, but unite heart and reason, … only in this way is the human being complete”.

– vis

Iran church threatened with bombing if… *Vatican Nuncio: Syrian Church must not stand & watch

March 20, 2012 by  
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Armenian Church in TehranIran, March 19, 2012: Another church in Tehran has been ordered to stop holding services in the Iranian national language on Fridays, and has been threatened with a bomb attack if it does not comply.

Officers of the Islamic Court served the notice, which came into effect as of Friday 24 February, to the Armenian Anglican Church in the country’s capital. They threatened that if the order is ignored, the church building will be bombed “as happens in Iraq every day”.

It comes after two other Tehran churches, Emmanuel Protestant Church and St Peter Evangelical Church, were also ordered to stop holding services in Farsi on Fridays.

Friday is the main weekend-day in Iran, so it is easier for people to attend a church service on this day than Sunday, which is a work day.

The Armenian Anglican Church was one of the few established churches in Iran that was still allowed to hold Persian language services.

A report by Farsi Christian News Network said:

It now seems likely that the Islamic authorities have imagined that with this new restriction they will somehow hold back the rapid, and evidently extremely worrying, spread of Christianity amongst the people under their yoke.

In a further attempt by the authorities to clamp down on the rapidly growing Iranian Church, they have permanently shut discipleship classes for new Christians run for decades by the Tehran Central Assembly of God Church on Saturdays.

Security agents have been rounding up Christians in a sweep of arrests across the country since Christmas.

– barnabas team

Vatican Nuncio: Syrian Church must not stand & watch


Syria Prayer Greek CatholicVatican-Syria, March 16, 2012: In an interview with AsiaNews, Mgr. Mario Zenari, for the past three years nuncio in Damascus, described all the elements that make up the tangled skein of Syria. The deep division between Sunnis and Alawites (Shiites) and the growing hatred. The too fearful Christians must commit themselves to building a society where there is respect for man and his rights, equality for women, equality among all citizens, freedom of religion and of conscience. Being in Syria is a mission. At Homs a priest talks with the rebels and with the army to provide aid to the poor, to save the lives of the inhabitants, to bury the dead that nobody wants to touch. In a year of violence at least 800-900 children have been killed. The majority were shot in the streets by unknown snipers. Syria is changing and there’s no turning back.

“This is the Christians’ hour”; there has begun “a new historical process in Syria” from which it will never turn back and “Christians cannot miss this rendezvous with history”: Msgr. Mario Zenari, for three years now the Vatican nuncio in Damascus, speaks almost excitedly as he recalls the Christians’ missionary efforts of Christians, which is to be “like sheep among wolves”, but with an identity and a task. Precisely because in Syria the gap between the different components of society is widening more and more, he sees an urgent need for Christians to come out into society and build bridges of reconciliation, defending the values typical of the Church’s social doctrine: human dignity, rejection of violence, equality between men and women, fundamental freedoms, freedom of conscience and religion, the separation between religion and state.  “It is urgent”, he said, “to go out into the open, on the attack, and not to sit back and watch.” Mgr. Zenari, 66, tells stories of ordinary heroism of some priests who have remained in Homs during this months’ bombing and violence. While sharing in the mourning for the tragedy of the Belgian children killed in a car accident in Switzerland, he reminds us that in Syria 800-900 children have already been killed, mostly shot “in the head and the heart” by strangers: “Their murder is an atrocity” and it is necessary that the international community ensure “justice for these children.” Here is the full interview which Mgr. Zenari gave via telephone to AsiaNews.

Your Excellency, what is it like is to be in Syria at this moment?

My heart is sad. This is the fourth spring that I’ve lived in Damascus and this year I still haven’t seen spring arrive. They’re expecting the fruits of Kofi Annan’s mission, but there are fears that the parties will say “Yes, but …”,   where the “but” is more important than the “yes”. Instead it is urgent that both parties make a tremendous effort.  The distances between them have become huge and are widening every day. For this reason it’s necessary for both parties to jump through hoops to rebuild the dialogue. A reversal is necessary, a conversion… The climate is so deteriorated that a fair amount of heroism is needed, perhaps a bit more from one particular side. Hopefully the help of the international community will bear fruit, so it will make them make great gestures, but it’s a bit difficult.

Before, the international community accused only the regular army. Now Annan has called for an end to the violence from both sides;  Britain hopes for a peaceful solution; France is doubtful about sending weapons to the rebels…

Yes, this is true. The request has to come from 360 degrees, from all sides. Maybe at the beginning the media exaggerated about only one of the sides. But both parties are called upon to make gestures of goodwill and put an end to violence. At first, perhaps driven by enthusiasm for the Arab spring in other regions, the riots were seen in a very idealistic manner; and then going forward, we saw many other aspects come into play. To date, Syria is a tangled skein, and there are many elements to watch.

Could you list these elements?

Initially there were demonstrations for more democracy, more respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, with peaceful demonstrations that were suppressed. But then so many factors were added: first, the fact that 75% of the society here is composed of Sunnis; then, that it is governed by 12% of the population who are the Alawites.  This tension between Sunnis and Alawites today is decisive, without forgetting the other aspects. History will assess how the relationship between Sunnis and Shiites has gone (the Alawites are somehow linked to the Shiite world).

There is also an attempt to internationalize the conflict.

We are neighbors with Iraq, with Israel, with Lebanon; and we’re not far from Iran… and so in Syria ingredients come in from all sides and complicate the mess.

There is a risk that the international community use Syria as a chessboard for its interests: the West, Saudi Arabia and Qatar against Iran; Israel against Hezbollah; Turkey against Syria … But the needs of the Syrian people are forgotten.

There are various readings. There is the simplistic one of the regime which claims that a foreign conspiracy is present. It’s impossible to evaluate fully how much is true and how much is propaganda.

The Syrian Christians, 10% of the population, seem caught in the crossfire.

For me there is a place for Christians and they cannot afford to miss this appointment with this new historical process. There is no doubt that Syria is changing: a new process has begun and there’s no going back. Where should the Christians place themselves? I would answer based on the Psalms, a wisdom that is at least 2500 years old. And one Psalm says:  Do not lean on a falling wall [Ps 61 (62), 4]. And neither should a man stand by, gazing out the window. Christians are in society and must roll up their sleeves. In the past there have been faithful who have made a glorious contribution in the field of culture, art, politics: one of the founders of the Baath Party was a Christian. Woe, therefore, if they miss this appointment. What’s more, Christians start off with an advantage. The Pope, a few months ago, at the Syrian ambassador’s presentation of credentials [June 9, 2011], pointed out that there are exemplary relations between Christians and Muslims. The Christians in Syria also have a good elite: cultural figures, academics, lawyers, presidents of hospitals… It’s time to live out our task and make our contribution, reclaiming our dignity and our identity, based on the Gospel and the social doctrine of the Church: human dignity, rejection of violence, equality between men and women, fundamental freedoms, freedom of conscience and religion, the separation between religion and state, etc… It is urgent to go out in the open, on the attack, and not to sit back and watch.

Three years ago I presented my credentials to President Assad. And I was impressed that for following 15 minutes during the personal interview, the president continued to speak of the importance that Christians have for Syrian society. He truly admired the Christian components in the country. In this phase of transformation, one cannot look back and think about some protection from the outside: we must work for a rule of law, in which all citizens are equal, have the same rights and duties.

Another thing I noticed is that at every level Christians serve as a bridge. In many mixed villages, Alawites and Christians live in peace, Sunnis and Christians the same, Druze and Christians live in harmony… In these times, with the conflict, sometimes there has been friction and confrontation, but until now, no church has ever suffered even a scratch. In any case, we Christians can have a function of reconciliation among all the groups living in the country. The idea is going around that the fate of Christians in Syria is likely to be similar to what happened in Iraq. But Syria is not Iraq, and it’s not even Egypt: it has its own characteristics, with a tradition of good tolerance.

The Gospel tells us: I send you out as sheep among wolves. And the wolves are not only in Damascus but also in Frankfurt, New York, London, Paris …. only somewhat more subtle and refined. Being in the midst of wolves is part of our mission and we need not fear. The Gospel also says: “Do not be afraid.”

I have continually before my eyes outstanding examples of this mission. In these days Homs is hell. Everyday I phone three priests who have remained there. As we speak, we hear gunfire because the Christian quarter is between in the crossfire. One of them is remarkable for what he is able to do: he talks to the rebels to halt the violence, asking them permission to let pass the trucks with food aid for the poor. On the other hand, from the other side, he asks the army not to shoot, in order not to hit the neighborhoods where there are still inhabitants, or sacred buildings. And he serves as a bridge, like a sheep among wolves. Several days ago there were the bodies of three soldiers in front of the cathedral. They had been there for 10 days. No one dared to recover them because there was the risk of being killed. So he went to the rebels and asked for clemency for these bodies. The rebels at first were angry, shouting: “What do we care for these pigs?” But he said: “No, after we are dead we are not pigs, we are all equal.” And he managed to get them to listen:  they loaded the bodies onto a truck and dumped them onto a piece of road where it was easier for their fellow soldiers to recover them.

The Church can do a lot, on a practical, charitable level, and with our choices, focusing on the defense of the human person, above party lines. We must give attention to the hungry, the wounded, the dead… So many people have been killed and no one knows by whom. We must go out, denounce, give our testimony in favor of the human person.

These days the world has been impressed by the tragedy of that bus that crashed in a tunnel in Switzerland. 22 Belgian children died and the emotion that it aroused is understandable. Here in Syria, until 2 weeks ago, according to the UN there have been 7500 killed, but now we are up to 9500. Of these, at least 500 are children! This means that out of every 15 deaths, one was a child. Some of them died crushed by the rubble caused by bombs, but the majority died in the street and not because they stumbled or fell, no: they were shot in the heart or the head with bullets. I hope that the international community can do something to ensure justice for these children. It is good and fitting to be moved over 22 children, but here there are 800-900 who have died. It is urgent to denounce these crimes. Human life is sacred, that of those who wear the military uniform, like that of the rebels, but even more so that of children. Their murder is an atrocity.

The road Syria is on is long, difficult and painful, like that of a river: it may deviate, go right or left, but it reaches the sea. The Synod for the Middle East prompted the bishops and the faithful to witness to the faith and work together to build the city of man along with the others. The Church must speak its position, meet, comfort, clean up these disfigured faces. Being in this country is a mission.

What can we Catholics do in the rest of the world? The Custody of the Holy Land, for example, has launched a campaign to help the Christians of Syria…

We must begin by thanking you for your generosity and solidarity, which is much needed. I hope that with Caritas and other institutions we can alleviate all the suffering in the country. It is also necessary try to understand the situation of the Christians. It’s one thing is to reason at a table, and another thing to get carried away by sentiment. We must understand even the feelings and listen.

What worries me most is the growing hatred in society. For now it isn’t manifest, but it’s burning. The bullets that the two groups are exchanging are only the tip of the iceberg. We are walking on embers that can ignite at any time. For our part, we Christians witness to charity. It’s the Christians’ moment, we must act and go on the offensive in defense of the human person: it is important not to miss this historic moment.

– asianews

Obama admin lists Vatican as ‘potential money-laundering center’ *Jesus not political but prophetic, Pope says

March 16, 2012 by  
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Vatican money launderingUSA, March 09, 2012: The US State Department has added an unlikely name to the list of countries that are considered money-laundering centers – the Vatican. The listing was published Wednesday in the 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, and lists 190 countries.

The list is divided into three categories, primary concern, concern, and monitored. The Vatican has been listed with 67 other countries which also includes Poland, Egypt, Ireland, Hungary, and Chile.

A State Department official did confess that the Vatican had recently established programs to prevent money laundering.

The apology continued, as Susan Pittman of the State Department explained, “To be considered a jurisdiction of concern merely indicates that there is a vulnerability to a financial system by money launderers. With the large volumes of international currency that goes through the Holy See, it is a system that makes it vulnerable as a potential money-laundering center.”

In plain English, there is no accusation of wrongdoing, nor even evidence of it. The State Department merely sees the Vatican as a possible risk because of the large volumes of money processed through its banking system.

Meanwhile, the Vatican has taken robust steps to ensure that money is handled in accord with strict integrity and in compliance with all international regulations. In fact, the Vatican is asking for inclusion on the “white list” of states that fully comply with international standards against fraud and money-laundering. The Vatican may be listed on the white list as early as June.

The Vatican Bank has operated independently for 30 years, after untangling itself from the Banco Ambrosiano, which itself had become the target of scandal. Since then, there has been no question raised by anyone that the Vatican Bank has operated safely and securely with the highest degree of integrity, State Department pronouncements notwithstanding.

– catholic online

Jesus not political but prophetic, Pope says


Pope Benedict XVIVatican City, March 11, 2012: Jesus was a prophetic voice but not a violent political revolutionary, Pope Benedict XVI said in Sunday comments on Christ’s expulsion of the animal sellers and money changers from the temple in Jerusalem.

“It is impossible to interpret Jesus as a violent person. Violence is contrary to the Kingdom of God, it is a tool of the Antichrist. Violence never serves humanity, but dehumanizes,” said the Pope in his March 11 Angelus address at the Vatican.

His remarks criticized the occasional interpretation of this episode in a political revolutionary sense that places Jesus in line with the Zealot movement.

The Zealots were a Jewish political movement who were “zealous” for God’s law and “ready to use violence to enforce it,” the Pope explained. They were waiting for a Messiah who would liberate Israel from Roman rule. Jesus, however, “disappointed them in this” to the extent that “some disciples deserted him and even Judas Iscariot betrayed him.”

Though Jesus was not being political he was being prophetic, said the Pope. The prophets “in the name of God, often denounced abuses, and they did so sometimes with symbolic gestures.”

The key to understanding the actions of Christ, the Pope said, is to listen to Jesus’ words during the event: “Take these things and make not my Father’s house a market!”

These words reminded the disciples of Psalm 69: “Zeal for your house consumes him.”

This psalm is “a cry for help in a situation of extreme danger because of the hatred of enemies,” the Pope said. This is the same situation that Jesus will experience in his passion. It is “zeal for the Father and for his house” which therefore led Jesus to the cross.

His zeal, though, is “the zeal of love that pays personally, not that of a person who wants to serve God through violence.” In fact, the “sign” that Jesus gave as proof of his authority was his own death and resurrection when he said he would “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it.” This “temple” was his own body.

“With Easter Jesus begins a new cult, the cult of love, and a new church which is Christ himself, the Risen Christ, by which every believer can worship God the Father ‘in spirit and truth,’” the Pope concluded.

“Dear friends, the Holy Spirit has begun to build this new temple in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Through her intercession, we pray that every Christian becomes a stone of this spiritual house.”

– cna/ewtn news

Solidarity with Christians in the Holy Land

March 3, 2012 by  
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Holy LandVatican City, March 01, 2012: Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world concerning the traditional Good Friday collection for the Holy Land. The letter, which also bears the signature of Archbishop Cyril Vasil S.J., secretary of the congregation, has the purpose of sensitising the Catholic Church around the world with regard to the Holy Land, and of promoting initiatives of prayer and fraternal charity towards Christians of Jerusalem, Israel, Palestine and neighbouring countries.

“The Son of God made man, after having crossed this land announcing the Kingdom and confirming the word with mighty works, wonders and signs, went up to the Holy City to immolate Himself”, reads the English-language version of the letter. “From that time, every Christian finds himself at home in that City and in that Land. This is possible thanks to the pastors in this place, who, by the will of the Lord Jesus, continue in our day also to gather our brothers and sisters in the faith to celebrate the love of Him Who ‘makes all things new’.

“The Congregation for the Oriental Churches hereby reminds the bishops of the entire world of the unceasing request of Pope Benedict XVI that the mission of the Church in the Holy Places be generously supported. Although specifically pastoral, this mission at the same time offers a praiseworthy social service to all without exception. In this way, fraternity, which can overcome division and discrimination, increases and gives renewed impetus to ecumenical dialogue and inter-religious collaboration. This constitutes an admirable work of peace and reconciliation, which is all the more necessary today, as we share the Holy Father’s preoccupation ‘for the people of those countries where hostilities and acts of violence continue, particularly Syria and the Holy Land'”.

“This year, Good Friday seems more fitting than ever as a sign of the needs of both pastors and faithful, which are bound up with the sufferings of the entire Middle East. For the disciples of Christ, hostility is often the daily bread which nourishes the faith and sometimes makes the echo of martyrdom. Christian emigration is exacerbated by the lack of peace, which tends to impoverish hope, changing it into the fear of facing alone a future that seems to exist only in the abandonment of one’s own country.

“Nonetheless, as was the case for the Gospel’s grain of wheat, so the trials of Christians in the Holy Land prepare without doubt a brighter tomorrow. The dawning of this new day, however, requires support now for schools, medical assistance, critical housing, meeting places, and everything else that the generosity of the Church has devised”.

“We have the duty to restore the spiritual patrimony which we have received from these Christians’ two millennia of fidelity to the truth of the faith. We can and must do this by our prayer, by concrete assistance, and by pilgrimages. The Year of Faith, which marks the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican Council II, will provide particular motivation for us to direct our steps towards that Land. … Next Good Friday, around the Cross of Christ, let us be conscious of being together with these brothers and sisters of ours. May the loneliness that is at times strongly felt in their situation be overcome by our fraternity”.

Also made public today was a report prepared by the Custody of the Holy Land (a province of the Order of Friars Minor with responsibility for the Holy Places), listing the works carried out with the proceeds of the Good Friday collection of 2011. Restoration and maintenance has been carried out on numerous shrines, churches and convents in the Holy Land including such places as Bethlehem, Jerusalem (Gethsemane and the Shrine of the Flagellation, among others), Jaffa, Magdala and Mount Tabor. Other initiatives sought to improve welcome services for pilgrims.

A significant part of the proceeds was used to fund student scholarships, to help small business, and to build houses, schools and areas for children. Other recipients of aid included families, parish communities, the poor and cultural institutions.

– vatican info

New Cardinals Must Love God, the Church and their fellow men

February 21, 2012 by  
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New Cardinals Must Lover God, the Church and their fellow men_PopeVatican City, February 18, 2012: Titular or diaconate church assigned by the pope to Cardinal George Alencherry is the title of San Bernardo alle Terme. With the creation of twenty-two new cardinals in this morning’s consistory, the College of Cardinals now has 213 members of whom 125, being under the age of eighty, are eligible to vote in an eventual conclave for the election of a new Pope. The non electors, that is cardinals over the age of eighty and ineligible to vote in a conclave, now number 88. Benedict XVI has created eighty-four cardinals in the four consistories of his pontificate. The current members of the College of Cardinals come from seventy-one States, distributed as follows: Europe 119, North America (U.S.A. and Canada) 21, Latin America 32, Africa 17, Asia 20 and Oceania 4.

In St. Peter’s Basilica at 10.30 a.m. this morning, Benedict XVI celebrated the fourth ordinary public consistory of his pontificate, during which he created twenty-two new cardinals. Following the opening prayer and the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father pronounced his homily, extracts of which are given below:

“‘Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam’. … With these words the entrance hymn has led us into the solemn and evocative ritual of the ordinary public consistory. … They are the efficacious words with which Jesus constituted Peter as the solid foundation of the Church. On such a foundation the faith represents the qualitative factor: Simon becomes Peter – the Rock – in as much as he professed his faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God”.

“The words Jesus addressed to Peter highlight well the ecclesial character of today’s event. The new cardinals, in receiving the title of a church in this city or of a suburban diocese, are fully inserted in the Church of Rome led by the Successor of Peter, in order to cooperate closely with him in governing the universal Church. … In carrying out their particular service in support of the Petrine ministry, the new cardinals will be called to consider and evaluate the events, the problems and the pastoral criteria which concern the mission of the entire Church. In this delicate task, the life and the death of the Prince of the Apostles, Who for love of Christ gave Himself even unto the ultimate sacrifice will be an example”.

“It is with this meaning that the placing of the red biretta is also to be understood. The new cardinals are entrusted with the service of love: love for God, love for His Church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters, even unto shedding their blood, if necessary, as expressed in the words of placing the biretta and as indicated by the colour of their robes. Furthermore, they are asked to serve the Church with love and vigour, with the transparency and wisdom of teachers, with the energy and strength of shepherds, with the fidelity and courage of martyrs. They are to be eminent servants of the Church that finds in Peter the visible foundation of unity.

“In the Gospel we have just heard proclaimed there is offered a model to imitate and to follow. … Serving God and others, self-giving: this is the logic which authentic faith imparts and develops in our daily lives and which is not the type of power and glory which belongs to this world”.

Today’s Gospel reading in which James and John asked Christ to be allowed to sit with Him in His glory, one on His right and one on His left, “gives Jesus a way to address each of the disciples and ‘to call them to Himself’, almost to pull them in, to form them into one indivisible body with Him, and to indicate which is the path to real glory, that of God: ‘You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all’.

“Dominion and service, egoism and altruism, possession and gift, self-interest and gratuitousness: these profoundly contrasting approaches confront each other in every age and place. There is no doubt about the path chosen by Jesus: He does not merely indicate it with words to the disciples of then and of today, but He lives it in His own flesh. He explains, in fact, ‘For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many’. These words shed light upon today’s public Consistory with a particular intensity. They resound in the depths of the soul and represent an invitation and a reminder, a commission and an encouragement especially for you, dear and venerable brothers who are about to be enrolled in the College of Cardinals.

“According to biblical tradition, the Son of man is the One Who receives power and dominion from God. Jesus interprets His mission on earth by combining the figure of the Son of man with that of the suffering servant, described in Isaiah. … His service is realised in total faithfulness and complete responsibility towards mankind. In this way the free acceptance of His violent death becomes the price of freedom for many, it becomes the beginning and the foundation of the redemption of each person and of the entire human race.

“Dear Brothers who are to be enrolled in the College of Cardinals, may Christ’s total gift of self on the Cross be for you the foundation, stimulus and strength of a faith operative in charity. May your mission in the Church and the world always be ‘in Christ’ alone, responding to His logic and not that of the world, and may it be illumined by faith and animated by charity which comes to us from the glorious Cross of the Lord. On the ring which I will soon place on your finger, are represented Sts. Peter and Paul, and in the middle a star which evokes the Mother of God. Wearing this ring, you are reminded each day to remember the witness which these two Apostles gave to Christ even unto martyrdom here in Rome, their blood making the Church fruitful. The example of the Virgin Mother will always be for you an invitation to follow her who was strong in faith and a humble servant of the Lord”.

“Dear brothers and sisters, pray that [the new cardinals’] lives will always reflect the Lord Jesus, our sole Shepherd and Teacher, Source of every hope, Who points out the path to everyone. And pray also for me, that I may continually offer to the People of God the witness of sound doctrine and guide holy Church with a firm and humble hand”.

Following his homily the Pope pronounced the the formula of creation of the new cardinals, their names and the diaconate or presbyteral order to which they have been assigned. The new cardinals then recited the Creed and swore their faithfulness and obedience to the Pope and his successors. They then received their biretta and ring from the hands of the Pope who also assigned them their title or diaconate.

Following the ceremony Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, introduced the ordinary public consistory for the canonisation of the following blesseds: Jacques Berthieu, French martyr and priest of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits); Pedro Calungsod, Filipino lay catechist and martyr; Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth and of the Congregation of the Humble Sister Servants of the Lord; Maria del Carmen (nee Maria Salles y Barangueras), Spanish foundress of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching; Maria Anna Cope (nee Barbara), German religious of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Syracuse U.S.A.; Kateri Tekakwitha, American laywoman, and Anna Schaffer, German laywoman. The Holy Father has decreed that the canonisation ceremony will take place on Sunday 21 October. The consistory concluded with the apostolic blessing.

– vis

Note from Holy See Press Office Director on leaked Vatican documents *Letter claims pope would die within 12 months

February 15, 2012 by  
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Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Frederico Lombardi S.JVatican City, February 14, 2012: Given below is the text of a note written by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Frederico Lombardi S.J. and released late yesterday afternoon by Vatican Radio, concerning the recent leaking of a series of Vatican documents.

“Nowadays we must all have strong nerves, because no one can be surprised at anything. The American administration was affected by Wikileaks, now the Vatican too has its disclosures, its leaked documents, which tend to create confusion and bewilderment, and to throw a bad light on the Vatican, the governance of the Church and, more broadly, on the Church herself.

“We must, then, remain calm and keep our nerve, make use of reason, something which not all media outlets tend to do. The documents in question are of different kinds and importance, drawn up at various times and for differing situations. One thing is the discussion of the improved economic management of an institution such as the Governorate, which has many different activities; another are notes on current juridical and legislative questions, about which it is quite normal that there should be contrasting opinions; quite another are delirious and incomprehensible reports about plots against the Pope’s life. Yet, putting them all together helps to create confusion. Serious reporting should be capable of distinguishing the issues and understanding their differing importance. It is obvious that the economic activities of the Governorate have to be managed wisely and rigorously. It is clear that the IOR and financial activities must be correctly integrated into international anti-recycling norms. These are of course the Pope’s instructions. At the same time, it is evident that the story about a plot against the Pope, as I said immediately at the time, is nonsense, madness, and does not deserve to be taken seriously.

“There is something very sad in the fact that documents are dishonestly passed from the inside to the outside in order to create confusion. Both sides bear responsibility: firstly the suppliers of documents of this kind, but also those who undertake to use them for purposes that certainly have nothing to do with pure love of truth. We must, therefore, stand firm, not allowing ourselves to be swallowed up by the vortex of confusion, which is what ill-intentioned people want, and remaining capable of using our reason.

“In a certain sense – according to an ancient expression of human and spiritual wisdom – the emergence of more powerful attacks is a sign that something important is at stake. The series of attacks against the Church on the issue of sexual abuse has been justly met with serious and profound commitment to far-sighted renewal; not a myopic response but purification and rehabilitation. We have now taken control of the situation and are developing a powerful strategy of healing, renewal and prevention, for the good of society as a whole. At the same time, there is a serious commitment to ensure authentic transparency in the working of Vatican institutions, also from an economic perspective. New norms have been issued and channels have been opened for international monitoring. And yet a lot of the recently leaked documents tend to discredit precisely those efforts. This, paradoxically, constitutes another reason to continue them with determination, not allowing ourselves to be cowed. If many people insist on attacking us, the issue is obviously important. Whoever thinks he is discouraging the Pope and his collaborators in their commitment is mistaken.

“As for the issue of the supposed power struggles in view of the next conclave, I would invite everyone to note that all the Pontiffs elected during the last hundred years have been people of exalted and unquestioned spiritual merit. Cardinals have naturally sought, and still seek, to elect someone who deserves the respect of the people of God, someone who can serve humankind in our time with great moral and spiritual authority. Reading these events as an internal power struggle depends to a large extent on the moral coarseness of those who provoke them and those who see them as such, people often incapable of seeing anything else. Fortunately, those who believe in Jesus Christ know that – whatever may be written in today’s newspapers – the true concerns of those with positions of responsibility in the Church are the serious problems facing the men and women of today and tomorrow. Not for nothing do we also believe in, and speak of, the assistance of the Holy Spirit”.

– vatican info service

Letter claims pope would die within 12 months


Letter claims pope would die within 12 monthsVatican City, February 13, 2012: An unsigned letter published in an Italian daily has claimed that Pope Benedict XVI would die within 12 months, driving the country to frenzy.

The newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano published the letter, written in German, which spoke of a death plot against the pope and quoted Archbishop Paolo Romeo of Palermo as predicting that the pontiff would die within 12 months.

The anonymous missive, dated December 30 and marked “strictly confidential for the Holy Father”, claims to report comments Cardinal Romeo made on a trip to Beijing last year.

The letter was delivered in early January to the Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and the pope’s private secretary Georg Ganswein by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia, according to the daily.

The paper suggested it had been written in German to avoid attracting the attention of certain Vatican officials while communicating clearly and directly with close advisers to the pope, who is a German.

The detailed letter reports several conversations that Cardinal Romeo allegedly had with Italian businessmen in Beijing on a trip November last and suggested the pope’s replacement would be Archbishop Angelo Scola of Milan.

“This seems something so far from reality and not serious that I don’t want to even comment,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said when asked for comment by the paper.

– timesofindia / sydney morning herald

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