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At a European conference on the emancipation of homosexuals in The Hague, an Amsterdam alderman has called for all religious leaders in the world to take their responsibility regarding the acceptance of homosexuals and transgendered people.
“As long as the Pope and most Muslim leaders do not accept homosexuality as a sexual orientation, millions of people will consider violence against gays, lesbians and transgendered people to be justified,” Andrée van Es (pictured), who holds the diversity and integration portfolio in the Amsterdam city council, said. This sweeping generalisation, putting religious leaders in all their diversity in the same corner, is not only a gross misrepresentation of reality, but also a worrying example of the imposition of one society’s political philosophy on others.
Writing as a Catholic and as a blogger with some knowledge of Catholic teachings on these matters, I will limit myself to the Church and her faith, leaving Muslim thoughts about homosexuality aside.
To begin with the very first words of the statement quoted above, I must explain that the Church does accept homosexuality as a sexual orientation: she accepts that it exists, that people can experience sexual attraction to people of the same gender. However, she does not accept it as a true expression of the ordered nature of man as created by God. That is why she will always be opposed to same-sex marriage, for example, as it is an impossibility. However, that is far from the same thing as advocating violence against homosexuals. The Church always upholds that ancient teaching of hating the sin, loving the sinner. Whatever a person’s sexual orientation, he or she has an innate dignity and should always be treated in accordance with that dignity that all men have been given. The Church will always defend that dignity, which is most visibly in her pro-life attitude, but also in her pastoral relations between individual faithful, laity and clergy alike.
However, and this is an important distinction that is often misunderstood or overlooked, this loving understanding of people’s equality in their human dignity is far from the same as accepting everything a person does (not is or has, but does). Indeed, when we love someone, we are bound to correct that person if he or she makes mistakes, and we should guide and help them in their lives, whatever the difficulties are that they may face over the course of it. Be it illness, poverty, social issues or a disordered sexuality, we must be there to stand with them, help them in their lives, to achieve the fulfillment of life as God has willed it. We are people with a purpose, created for that purpose, and God has given us the possibility to achieve that purpose, to live in unity with Him for all eternity, despite the obstacles and barriers that we find on our path. He has given us the means to overcome them, and we often find those means through the help of others.
That reality governs the actions of the Church. God has willed to reach out to us through her, that she may be there to lead us to Him. As members of His Church, we are called to make that possible. We do so through the love that Christ has showed us, and that is not a sappy kind of love which sees everything through rose-tinted glasses and accepts everything. No, that love wants the best for its object: us. And therefore it guides, corrects, teaches.
The Church accepts reality, but does not accept that that is all there is. We can and must always strive for something better, for the very best. God is that very best, and He is what we strive for.
All of the above commits us to something which is not easy, certainly not in our modern society. It can come across as discriminatory, hateful even. But just like a parent correcting a child, there can be no hate between God and man. The Church does not hate homosexuals. She loves them like she loves all men, and she teaches them through the faculties given to her by the Lord, in love, like a parent teaches, guides and sometimes has to correct a child.
When suggesting someone to do something, the first step to is to make sure you know what you are talking about. Ms. van Es has clearly failed to do this, as she so clearly links the Pope, and thus the Catholic Church, to violence. A cursory search soon comes up with Paragraph 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
In 2008, while offering some criticism, the Holy See welcomed
“the attempts made in the statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity – presented at the UN General Assembly on 18 December 2008 – to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them” [source].
In 2009, the Permanent Mission to the UN reiterated much the same sentiments:
“The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person. The murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State” [source].
Three quotes found through a short search via Google and Wikipedia. Ms. van Es could and should have known much better.
Photo credit: Gemeente Amsterdam
In his address to media representatives yesterday, Pope Francis pointed out that, while the Petrine ministry is of course important, it is not what the Church is ultimately about:
“Christ is the Church’s Pastor, but his presence in history passes through the freedom of human beings; from their midst one is chosen to serve as his Vicar, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Yet Christ remains the centre, not the Successor of Peter: Christ, Christ is the centre. Christ is the fundamental point of reference, the heart of the Church. Without him, Peter and the Church would not exist or have reason to exist. As Benedict XVI frequently reminded us, Christ is present in Church and guides her. In everything that has occurred, the principal agent has been, in the final analysis, the Holy Spirit. He prompted the decision of Benedict XVI for the good of the Church; he guided the Cardinals in prayer and in the election.”
In these days and weeks it is only understandable that much time and energy is devoted on the Pope. We need and should take the time to get to know him, and that will go on for some time yet. But let’s not limit ourselves to his person. After all, he is simply the shepherd who will lead us to the Good Shepherd.
No shepherd is a carbon copy of other shepherds. Pope Francis is not Pope Benedict XVI. But their ministries do compliment each other. We can’t see them in isolation, nor should we engage in competitions to see who is the better shepherd.
In many of his recent words, as in the quote above, Pope Francis reminds us of what his predecessor taught. In a sense, he is building his own ministry on that of Benedict, and that means we can’t put everything the latter taught and did behind us. Just like we can’t ignore what John Paul II taught, or Paul VI, or John XXIII…
The pontificate of Pope Francis exists in a continuity, and that continuity is the journey of “the Holy People of God … to encounter Jesus Christ.”
As the enthusiasm, even in the secular media, for Pope Francis hasn’t much waned since his election, here are some interesting facts about the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church.
First of all there is his choice of name. No other Pope before him was called Francis. The last time a Pope chose a name that had not been used before was in 1978, when Pope John Paul I was elected, although he chose a combination of two existing names. For a fully new name, we have to go back to 913, when Pope Lando started his reign of less than a year. Unlike John Paul I, Pope Francis does not have a “I” after his name, since there is no other Pope Francis in past or present to confuse him with. John Paul I did add the “I” to indicate that he was neither John XIV or Paul VII.
Pope Francis is also the first Pope from the Jesuit order. The last Pope to come from a religious order was Leo XIII in 1878. He was a Secular Franciscan. The last Pope to have made public religious vows was Gregory XVI in 1831, who was a Camaldolese monk.
Pope Francis’ age is only slightly noteworthy. At 76, he is two years younger than Benedict XVI was at his election. In fact, he is the second-oldest Pope since Blessed John XXIII, who was some 7 months older at his election. In general, Popes have rarely been in their 70s when elected. The aforementioned John XXIII, Benedict XVI and Francis are among them, but the next one we encounter if we go back in history is Pope Clement XII, who was 78 when he was elected in 1730.
As has been widely reported, Pope Francis is the first Pope to hail from the New World. None before him have come, as he himself put it in his first public words after his election, “from the ends of the earth”. The last Pope from outside Europe was St. Gregory III in 731. He came from what is now Syria. Pope Francis is the third Pope in a row from outside Italy, although he does have Italian roots.
Lastly, in the style of my earlier overview of modern conclaves:
12-13 March 2013: 115 cardinals elected Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as Pope Francis. The election took 5 ballots.
Photo credit: l’Osservatore Romano
Since no one but the cardinal electors and about 90 people who work in support of the ongoing conclave will have any sense of what goes on during the sessions in the Sistine Chapel, we depend on the chimney atop the chapel and the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica. So at what times should we pay special attention?
Today, the first smoke will emanate sometime between 7 and 7:30pm (All the times I list are the local times in Rome, which is in the GMT+1 time zone). This will undoubtedly be black, as it nigh-impossible for a Pope to be elected in the very first ballot. No cardinal can as yet expect 77 votes, I would think.
Tomorrow, and the remaining days of the conclave, will see four rounds of voting. If the first round yields a positive result, we’ll see white smoke at around 10:30 in the morning. Regardless of the result of the second ballot, we will see smoke between 11:30 and noon: black if there is no Pope, white if there is. For the evening the times will be 6pm if there is a Pope and between 6:30 and 7, regardless of the result.
In short, keep those eyes peeled on the chimney, via the Vatican video player, for example, at 10:30am, between 11:30 and noon, at 6pm and between 6:30 and 7pm. Smoke is guaranteed in the second and fourth time slots.
Photo credit: CNS/Reuters
The cardinals have wrapped up their final General Congregation and we are now only one day away from the big event. And to think that only one month ago Pope Benedict surprised us all with his announcement that he would abdicate. It’s been quite the ride.
Now to look forward to the coming days. In his blog - a companion piece to that great resource GCatholic.com – Gabriel Chow presents the main events of the conclave. Apart from tomorrow, a typical conclave day will consist of four voting rounds – the “scrutinies” or ballots.
Tomorrow, the first day of the conclave, is taken up by several preparatory events. In the early morning the cardinals will move from their current lodgings all over Rome to the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where they will live throughout the conclave. Rooms were assigned by lot. At left a view of the simple suites available to the cardinals.
At 10am tomorrow, the cardinals, electors and non-electors alike, will offer a Mass “Pro eligendo Romano Pontifice”, or for the election of the Roman Pontiff. The Dean of the College, Angelo Cardinal Sodano will give the homily and the Mass will be chiefly in Italian. The booklet for the celebration is available here.
Tomorrow afternoon, the cardinals will head to the Pauline chapel in the Apostolic palace. At 4:30pm, they will walk to the Sistine Chapel, where they will all take the oath and the first round of voting will take place. The cardinals will be seated according to precedence, as they have during the General Congregations, but they will enter the Sistine Chapel in reverse order. This means that James Cardinal Harvey, the junior Cardinal Deacon will be first, and Giovanni Cardinal Re will close the line. Dutch Cardinal Wim Eijk will be fairly forward in the line, after the 30 Cardinal-Deacons and 8 Cardinal-Priests that come after him in precedence. Immediately preceding and following him are Cardinals Betori and Duka. At right, a photo of workmen readying the Sistine Chapel for the conclave.
The long form of the oath, as presented below, will be recited by all cardinals together. Each cardinal will then come forward and, with his hand on the Gospels, confirm the oath.
“We, the Cardinal electors present in this election of the Supreme Pontiff promise, pledge and swear, as individuals and as a group, to observe faithfully and scrupulously the prescriptions contained in the Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, Universi Dominici Gregis, published on 22 February 1996. We likewise promise, pledge and swear that whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the munus Petrinum of Pastor of the Universal Church and will not fail to affirm and defend strenuously the spiritual and temporal rights and the liberty of the Holy See. In a particular way, we promise and swear to observe with the greatest fidelity and with all persons, clerical or lay, secrecy regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman Pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election, directly or indirectly related to the results of the voting; we promise and swear not to break this secret in any way, either during or after the election of the new Pontiff, unless explicit authorization is granted by the same Pontiff; and never to lend support or favour to any interference, opposition or any other form of intervention, whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree or any group of people or individuals might wish to intervene in the election of the Roman Pontiff.”
“And I, N. Cardinal N., do so promise, pledge and swear. So help me God and these Holy Gospels which I touch with my hand.”
Unlike I mentioned before, the “extra omnes!” will then be called by the Papal Master of Ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini, and the doors be closed. Only then, will Cardinal Grech address the cardinals “concerning the grave duty incumbent on them and thus on the need to act with right intention for the good of the Universal Church”.
The first vote can then take place, although this is optional. The first ballot may be postponed to Wednesday. It is expected that the cardinal will pray Vespers together at 7 and return to the Domus Sanctae Marthae half an hour later.
We will most likely see the first puff of smoke – if there has been a vote – from the chimney at 8pm, and no one expects it to be anything else than black.
Part of the events, such as the Mass, the walk to the Sistine Chapel and the chimney smoke can be viewed live via the Vatican player. I will share any other means of watching the proceedings via Twitter as they become available.
Photo credit:  Fr. Tim Finigan,  Vatican Radio
The timing of the upcoming conclave seems to me rather fitting. A start date of the 12th may well lead to the inthronisation of the new Pope to take place on the 19th, which is the feast day of Saint Joseph. He is the patron of the Catholic Church, which is reason enough to note this (near) coinciding of events, but, as some readers may know, St. Joseph is of special significance to me as well. I took his name for my baptismal name and his intercession has been evident several times. One of the most notable examples did not even involve me directly: my fiancée, before our relationship started, prayed a novena to St. Joseph that I might return her feelings for me, which was exactly the rapid result. I only heard of this until after we got together.
The Pope emeritus’ birth name is Joseph, so perhaps Cardinals Josip Bozanic, Giuseppe Betori, Giuseppe Versaldi, Giuseppe Bertello or José Policarpo should be especially prepared… ?
All joking aside, I gladly follow Cardinal Dolan’s example in praying a novena to St. Joseph, starting tomorrow, and I will share it on the blog. A novena is a nine-day prayer for a special intention. Our intention can be that the conclave may be successful according to God’s will, that the cardinals may be open to the Holy Spirit and that the new Pope’s reign may start as and remain a blessing for the Church and the world.
The prayer and intention for the day will be published every morning from tomorrow until the 19th on this blog.
“We’ve got to keep in mind — you know what, even more important than the pope is what we’re doing right now. The life of the church goes on, and the life of the church centers around what we’re doing right now.”
It may not have seemed like it over the past days, but the above quote from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, spoken in his homily last Sunday, is right on the money. The selection of the Church’s new supreme shepherd is undoubtedly important, but it – and he – are only so, literally, by the grace of God.
If the Church can be said to have a core business, it is to lead people to God, and that doesn’t change when there is no Pope. Cardinals, even when they’re getting ready for the conclave, are still tasked with that all-encompassing duty, as is made especially clear on every Sunday. New York’s Cardinal Dolan was just one of, by now, 142 cardinals who have arrived in Rome, and who offered Masses throughout the city.
In these hectic days, it is important to remember that everything we do as Catholic Christians is rooted in the sacrifice of Christ, made present every day in the Eucharist. In that light, the conclave is not a popularity contest or the selection of a new CEO. In the Gospel of John, Jesus gives St. Peter the triple command to take care of His sheep. That very same command is handed down through the centuries to every successor of St. Peter, including whoever the future Pope may be. That is who we are talking about these days: the shepherd of Christ’s flock, acting according to the example of the Good Shepherd. In that way, the conclave and every blog post, article, speculation and discussion about it must be rooted in Christ. Without Him, there are no sheep and there is no need for a shepherd.
Photo credit: Alejandro Bermudez/CNA
And here we go… Today we enter the last two days of the 265th papacy. As Benedict undoubtedly looks forward to starting the twilight years of his service to the Church, in St. Peter’s Square, the crowds have been lining up since the early hours of the morning to get their final glimpse of our Holy Father.
Set to begin at 10:30 local time, Pope Benedict XVI’s final general audience promises to be only a slight departure from the norm. The Holy Father will teach one last time, but we’ll have to wait and see what his choice of topic will be. He will take an extra long tour across the square before returning to the Apostolic Palace, where he will meet with some of the dignitaries who have travelled to Rome today. There will be no brief meetings with visiting prelates and pilgrim groups at the end of the audience this time around.
And at the same time this will be like no other general audience before. It will be a historical event: an abdicating Pope bidding farewell to his flock – present in the tens of thousands in Rome, and in the hundreds of millions across the globe. And without doubt it will be emotional. Unavoidable distant in space, the Holy Father is still close in the hearts of many, not least mine.
Sure, we will see him in images and video tomorrow, as he bids his farewells to the cardinals and the Curia, with Cardinal Bertone seeing him off from the Vatican, and Cardinal Sodano greeting him one last time on the helicopter pad at 5pm tomorrow afternoon. Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the Governor of the Vatican City State, will welcome the Pope at Castel Gandolfo. Appearing on the balcony of the traditional papal summer residence, we will what now seems to be our last glimpse of the Pope, hours before he becomes Pope Emeritus. at 8pm. At that point the Swiss Guards will salute and depart - tasked as they are with the protection of the Roman Pontiff, and tomorrow evening there will be no such person…
And after that rollercoaster ride the next will probably stand ready on Monday, as the cardinals will start their General Congregations in preparation of the conclave.
Photo credit: Looking more tired than we have seen him before, Pope Benedict XVI sits before his last Angelus prayer on Sunday [l'Osservatore Romano].