November 24, 2014

Letter #65: Meeting with Peres

Today is the Feast of Pope St. Pius V (1504-1572), the Pope responsible for codifying the Tridentine rite of the Mass in 1570. He also declared St. Thomas Aquinas a Doctor of the Church.

In Rome, several important stories are “trending”:

1. Pope Francis to visit Israel? In the Vatican today, Pope Francis met with the President of Israel, Shimon Peres. The two men discussed the general Middle East situation, including the tragic civil war in Syria which has caused great suffering to the very ancient Christian community there, largely Orthodox. Peres invited Pope Francis to visit Israel, and Francis accepted the invitation, though with no date yet set. This suggests there could be a papal visit to the Holy Land in the not-too-distant future, perhaps already in 2014, a year from now. As Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service reported today: “Talk about a possible papal trip to Israel already circulated in March after Pope Francis met Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Several news reports said the Orthodox patriarch suggested that he and the Pope meet in Jerusalem in 2014 to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic first step in Catholic-Orthodox rapprochement: the 1964 meeting there between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.”
2. Will John Paul II soon be made a saint? It is being rumored that the canonization of Blessed Pope John Paul II could occur as early as Sunday, October 20, later this year. This is not official! But rumors in recent days have been insistent that a second extraordinary healing attributed to John Paul’s intercession was recently approved in Rome, opening the way for a decree of canonization only 8 years after the Polish Pope’s death in 2005.

3. Reform of the Roman Curia? Many are wondering what changes Pope Francis may choose to make in the personnel and functioning of the Roman Curia. And in today’s April 30 edition, the Osservatore Romano published a wide-ranging interview on the matter with Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, 64, the current Substitute for General Affairs since his appointment by Pope Benedict XVI on May 10, 2011. (Becciu had previously been nuncio to Cuba.) Becciu says the Pope is moving without haste, deliberately, and that many observers are imagining changes that will not occur. He also says the Vatican Bank, contrary to some rumors, will not be closed by the new Pope.

4. The Return of Emeritus Pope Benedict to the Vatican. Two months and four days — so, 64 days — after he left the Vatican by helicopter for the summer papal palace in the small town of Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome, Emeritus Pope Benedict will return to the Vatican, by helicopter, on the evening of Thursday, May 2. He will live in a restored convent in the Vatican Gardens on a hill which rises behind St. Peter’s Basilica. This will bring him physically much closer to Pope Francis — about a 12-15 minute walk, depending how fast one walks — who is still living in the Domus Santa Marta, a Vatican guest house, and not in the Apostolic Palace which rises above St. Peter’s Square. There is no official word on what the relationship of the two men will be, whether they will meet to discuss theology and Church government, or not. Shortly before his February 28 renunciation of the papal throne, Benedict, now 86 (note that his brother, Georg, is 89 and in good health), stated that he would be “withdrawing into prayer” and would live out his remaining days “hidden from the world” (“nascosto dal mondo“). Benedict wears a white cassock with no a cape; Francis wears a white cassock with a short cape, the traditional clothing for a Pope.

5. Francis and his Marian Devotion. On Saturday, May 4, Pope Francis will go back to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, across Rome from St. Peter’s Basilica, to recite the Rosary. He went there on the first morning of his pontificate, on March 14. Also, on May 13 in Fatima, Portugal, the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo, at the repeated urging of Pope Francis, will consecrate Pope Francis’s papacy to Our Lady of Fatima.

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Here is a brief, clear overview of the Pope Francis-Shimon Peres meeting in a Rome Reports video:

April 30, 2013. (Romereports.com) A month and a half after his election as Pope, Francis welcomed the president of Israel Shimon Peres at the Vatican. Soon after their greeting, Peres asked the Pope to pray for his country.

As camera flashes went off, Peres joked with the Pope that now those sounds of camera shutters follow them everywhere.

“It is part of our life now.”

They then met in private for about half an hour, using an interpreter to communicate. According to the Vatican press release, the Pope and the president spoke about the current political and social situation in the Middle East, peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and the importance of the city of Jerusalem. The Pope also expressed his concern for the conflict in Syria.

Pope Francis and Shimon Peres also highlighted the improvements in relations between Israel and the Holy See, since the creation of a bilateral permanent working commission 14 years ago.

Peres is on a three day tour to Italy, and will also meet with the Italian president and the new government. He will also receive the Medal of Honor for Peace at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Peres told the Pope he would pray for him there.

The Israeli president gave the Pope a Bible of Jerusalem with black leather binding, in Hebrew and English.

“It is the Holy Bible with a quotation.”

“Thank you very much.”

In the first pages of the Bible, Shimon Peres wrote verses from the Book of Kings: “To His Holiness, Pope Francis, I hope you will prosper in everything that you do and wherever you go.”

“From the Book of Kings. With deep esteem. Signed by Shimon Peres, president of Israel. April 2013.”

The Pope gave the president a small white case with three commemorative medals of his pontificate.

Before saying goodbye, Peres invited the Pope to visit Israel.

“I am waiting for you in Jerusalem, and not just me, but all the people from Israel.”

Shimon Peres is the eighth president that has met in person with Pope Francis at the Vatican, since his election on March 13.

Here is the video, which is worth watching:

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Here is the official Vatican communique issued after the Pope Francis-Shimon Peres meeting:

Today in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Francis received in audience His Excellency Mr. Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel. President Peres then went on to meet with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial talks, the political and social situation in the Middle East—where more than a few conflicts persist—was addressed. A speedy resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians is hoped for, so that, with the courageous decisions and availability of both sides as well as support from the international community, an agreement may be reached that respects the legitimate aspirations of the two Peoples, thus decisively contributing to the peace and stability of the region. Reference to the important issue of the City of Jerusalem was not overlooked. Particular worry for the conflict that plagues Syria was expressed, for which a political solution is hoped for that privileges the logic of reconciliation and dialogue.

A number of issues concerning relations between the State of Israel and the Holy See and between state authorities and the local Catholic communities were also addressed. In conclusion, the significant progress made by the Bilateral Working Commission, which is preparing an agreement regarding issues of common interest, was appreciated and its rapid conclusion is foreseen. (link)

Link to complete text of Osservatore Romano interview with Shimon Peres

Here are excerpts from a Cindy Wooden/Catholic News Service report on the Becciu interview on the reform of the Roman Curia:

Vatican official says curia reform needs time, dismisses bank rumors

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Amid widespread speculation about a complete and quick reorganization of Vatican departments and rumors in the Italian media that Pope Francis was going to close the Vatican bank, a top Vatican official told everyone to calm down.

“It’s a bit strange; the pope still has not met the group of advisers he chose and already the advice is raining down,” said Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the substitute secretary for general affairs in the Vatican Secretariat of State.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, ran a front-page interview April 30 with Archbishop Becciu, whose job is similar to a chief of staff.

Asked about rumors that Pope Francis intended to close the Institute for Religious Works, commonly called the Vatican bank, Archbishop Becciu said, “The pope was surprised to see attributed to him phrases that he never said and that misrepresent his thought”…

As for the panel of eight cardinals Pope Francis named April 13 to advise him on “the governance of the universal church and to study a plan” to reorganize the Roman Curia, Archbishop Becciu said, “at this moment it is absolutely premature to advance any hypothesis about the future structure of the Curia.”

“Pope Francis is listening to everyone, but wants to hear first of all from those he chose as advisers,” the archbishop said. The eight cardinals — including Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal George Pell of Sydney — are supposed to hold their first formal meeting in October.

In the meantime, Archbishop Becciu said, Pope Francis has asked all the heads of Vatican congregations and councils to stay on “for now”…

“This shows the desire of the Holy Father to take the time he needs for reflection — and for prayer, let’s not forget — in order to have a complete picture of the situation,” he said.

Archbishop Becciu was asked about a commentator’s opinion that by appointing a group of advisers Pope Francis was putting in jeopardy the primacy of the papacy. The archbishop dismissed the claim.

“It’s a consultative body, not a decision-making one, and I truly do not see how Pope Francis’ decision could put primacy into question,” he said…

Link to complete text of the Becciu interview.

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A critique of the Vatican Curia comes from the editor of ucanews, Father William Grimm, based in Tokyo, Japan. Here are excerpts:

Reforming the Vatican is like nailing jelly to a wall
Is it optimistic to think it might actually happen this time?

Fr William Grimm MM, Tokyo
Japan
April 29, 2013

Among moves we can expect to see under Pope Francis will be an attempt to reform the Vatican Curia. The pope has appointed eight cardinals from around the world to advise him in making that reform happen…

A half-millennium of attempts to reform the central administration of the Catholic Church has not succeeded. Hopes that the Operations Octet will perform better against entrenched special interests than others have in the past are probably excessively optimistic.

The most radical, and therefore probably the most effective and necessary reform of the Curia would be its abolition. Most, if not all, of what it claims as its scope of authority could and should be handled by regional, national and local bishops’ conferences and synods of leaders and laity…

Over the centuries, Vatican officialdom has usurped various functions that need not and should not be dealt with there. The translation or even the creation of liturgical texts, annulling marriages, dispensing clergy from ministry and such should be within the competence of the communities that celebrate those liturgies, witness those marriages or ordain their clergy…

Failing that, the second-best alternative is to move the administrative functions of the Church out of Rome…

Today, the language of the curia is Italian, which has been called “a corrupt provincial dialect of Latin,” spoken almost exclusively in one small country. The talent pool that can work in that language is limited to Italians…

The solution is not to start teaching three-year-olds to speak Latin so that we can restore the past. The solution is to make one or more of the world’s international languages that function as Latin once did the administrative language of the Church. Then the Church could once again draw upon a world of talent, knowledge, information and experience without being limited to clerical natives of one country or careerists…

A Church that claims to be global must globalize. That means that, like the United Nations, it must have major parts of its operations outside the headquarters, in places where communications, international transportation and a global ethos make for efficiency and a broader vision. New York, Brussels, Nairobi, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, London and many more places come to mind…

So, scatter the administrative offices of the worldwide Church across the world. If officials can be convinced to make use of modern communications tools, it is likely that cooperative communication among the components of administration will improve. Apparently, they cannot get worse…

Is such a change impossible? No. Is it likely? No. But I would love to be proved wrong on that point.

Fr William Grimm MM is publisher of ucanews.com and is based in Tokyo

(Link)

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