Paul and Francis – a selective reading of two Popes

Paul-VIIn this month’s edition of our diocesan magazine I came across an odd statement: Pope Francis has freed the Church from the strict doctrines regarding human sexuality and procreation as laid down by Pope Paul VI (pictured) in the encyclical Humanae Vitae. The same Pope Francis who has beatified Paul VI and repeatedly called him a courageous prophet, exactly for Humanae Vitae

Where do these claims come from? It isn’t the first time I’ve come across similar statements. Pope Francis is undoubtedly a people’s person, even more so than Saint John Paul II was, I suspect. But Pope Francis is also Catholic, and is unafraid of underlining even the unpopular teachings: he is staunchly opposed to abortion and euthanasia, continuously speaks of the dangers of sin and the devil, and, like I said above, is fully in line with the teachings of Blessed Pope Paul VI.

It is risky business to isolate Popes from one another. Humanae Vitae does not show us the full person of Paul VI, and today’s General Audiences don’t tell us everything about Francis. Both those parts of their teaching and person are important, but if we do not look any further, we run the risk of making such faulty and misleading statements as the one that opened this blog post.

In the case of Pope Francis, let his open personality be an invitiation to find out more about him and thus about the faith. His appreciation for Paul VI should likewise be reason to read Humanae Vitae anew. The papacy is no popularity contest, and nor does it revolve around superficial niceties. It is a teaching office, and sometimes that teaching reaches across the years, decades and centuries. And sometimes it is expanded or we look at it from a new perspective. In the case of Paul VI and Humanae Vitae, it is more than policy, more than old-fashioned opinions that need correcting. On the contrary, as Pope Francis has said, it is prophetic.

From the front row – new interview with Archbishop Gänswein

An interesting interview in Christ & Welt, a weekly supplement to Die Zeit in Germany, with Archbishop Georg Gänswein yesterday. It sheds some interesting lights on recent developments in the Vatican, such as Pope Francis’ Christmas talk to the Curia, the Pope’s relationship with the media, the Synod and also retired Pope Benedict XVI and some personal touches. Worth a read:

Cgänswein&W: At Christmas Pope Francis caused some furore with his talk about fifteen diseases of the Roman Curia. You were seated directly next to the Pope. At what point did you stop counting?

Georg Gänswein: As Prefect of the Papal Household I sat, as ever on such occasions, at the Pope’s right. And as ever I had a copy of the talk in my briefcase, but I hadn’t had the time to read it beforehand. When the list of diseases began I thought to myself, “Now it’s going to be interesting”, and it became ever more interesting. I counted until the ninth disease…

What went through your head?

Normally the Pope uses the Christmas reception for the Curia to look back on the past year and look ahead to the coming one. It was different this time. Pope Francis preferred to hold up a mirror of conscience to the cardinals and bishops, among them a few who were retired…

Did you feel like it appealed to you?

Of course I asked myself, “Who does this concern? What disease affects you? What needs to be corrected?” At one point I had to think of my many moving boxes.

Do you mean the anecdote about the moving of a Jesuit with countless possessions? Francis had said that moving was a sign of the “disease of hoarding”.

Exactly. Since leaving the Apostolic Palace after the retirement of Pope Benedict in February of 2013 more than a few of my things are still in boxes in a storeroom. But I can’t see a sign of disease in that.

What did Pope Francis intend with this act of flagellation? It could be demotivating.

That is a question that many of my colleagues also asked. Pope Francis has been in office for almost two years now and knows the Curia pretty well. He obviously thought it necessary to speak clearly and to cause an examination of conscience.

What were the reactions?

It was a treat for the media, of course. During the talk I could already see the headlines: Pope castigates Curia prelates; Pope reads his coworkers the law! Sadly, outwardly it gave the impression that there was a rift between the Pope and the Curia. That impression is deceiving, and does not coincide with reality. But the address drowned that out.

Was the talk criticised internally?

The reactions ranged from surprise to shock and incomprehension.

Perhaps with Francis, the Curia needs to adjust to permanent spiritual exercises?

It has long been adjusted to that. Pope Francis makes no secret of his religious formation. He is a Jesuit, shaped through and through by the spirituality of the founder of his order, Saint Ignatius of Loyola.

What are your thoughts about Francis, two years after his election?

Pope Francis is a man who has made it clear from the outset that he deals differently with things that he sees differently. That is true for his choice of living, the car he drives, the entire process of audiences in general and especially for protocol. One could think that he was getting used to things in the beginning and wanted a significant degree of flexibility. By now it has become standard. The Holy Father is a man of extraordinary creativity and Latin American zest.

Many still ask where we are going?

If you listen attentively to the words of the Pope, you will hear a clear message in them. Nevertheless, the question continuously arises of where Francis wants to lead the Church, what is his goal?

One year ago you said, “We are still waiting for substantial standards.” Can these now be seen?

Yes, much more clearly than a year ago. Consider the Apostolic Letter  Evangelii gaudium. In it he has presented a compass for his pontificate. In addition he has published important documents and given major addresses over the course of the year, such as in Strasbourg for the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. Contours have become clearly visible and clear priorities were set.

Such as?

The most important priority is mission, evangelisation. This aspect is like a red thread. No internal navelgazing, no self-reference, but sharing the Gospel with the world. That is the motto.

Do you understand Francis George, the retired archbishop of Chicago, who criticised the fact that the words of the Pope are often ambivalent?

There have indeed been cases in which the Vatican spokesman had to clarify matters after specific publications. Corrections are necessary when certain statements lead to misunderstandings which can be collected from certain sites.

Does Francis have a better grip of the media than his predecessor Benedict?

Francis deals with the media offensively. He used them intensively and directly.

Also more skilful?

Yes, he uses them very skilfully.

Who are actually his closest advisors?

This questions always and consistently goes around. I don’t know.

With the Synods on the pastoral care for families this past and the coming autumn, Francis created a focal point. Especially the question of allowing divorced and remarried faithful access to the sacraments causes much disagreement. Some also have the impression that Francis is more concerned with pastoral care than with doctrine…

I do not share that impression. It creates an artificial opposition which does not exist. The Pope is the first guarantor and keeper of the doctrine of the Church and at the same the first shepherd, the first pastor. Doctrine and pastoral care are not in opposition, they are like twins.

Do the current and the retired Pope take opposite views in the debate about divorced and remarried Catholics?

I know of no doctrinal statements from Pope Francis which are contrary to the statements of his predecessor. That would be absurd too. It is one thing to emphasise the pastoral efforts more clearly because the situation requires it. It is something else entirely to make a change in teaching. I can only act pastorally sensitive, consistent and conscientious when I do so on the basis of full Catholic teaching. The substance of the sacraments is not left to the discretion of pastors, but has been given to the Church by the Lord. That is also and especially true for the sacrament of marriage.

Was there a visit of some cardinals to Benedict during the Synod, with the request that he intervene to rescue the dogma?

There has not been such a visit to Pope Benedict. A supposed intervention by the Pope emeritus is pure invention.

How does Benedict respond to the attempts by traditionalist circles to recognise him as an antipope?

It was not traditionalist circles who attempted that, but representatives of the theological profession and some journalists. Speaking of an antipope is simply stupid, and also irresponsible.  That goes in the direction of theological arson.

Recently there was excitement surrounding a contribution in the recently published fourth volume of the Collected Works of Joseph Ratzinger. The author changed some conclusions to the topic of the divorced and remarried in a stricter sense. Does Benedict want to involve himself with this in the Synod debate?

Not at all. The revision of said article from 1972 was completed and sent to the publisher long before the Synod. It must be remembered that every author has the right to make changes in his writings. Every informed person knows that Pope Benedict has not shared the conclusions of said contribution since 1981, which is more than 30 years! As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he has expressed this clearly in various comments.

The timing of the publication of the new edition to coincide with the Synod was then anything but happy…

The fourth volume of the Collected Works, in which the article is printed, was supposed to be published in 2013. The publication was delayed for various reasons and happened only in 2014. That a Synod on the topic of the family would take place at that time, was absolutely unforeseen when the planning of the publication of the separate volumes was made.

Upon his retirement, Benedict XVI said that he would be living “hidden from the world”. He continues to make appearances, however. Why?

When he is present at important Church events, it is because he is personally invited by Pope Francis, for example when he took part in the consistory of last February, the canonisation of John Paul II and John XXIII in April and also the beatification of Paul VI in October. He has also written a greeting for the inauguration of the Auditorium Maximum of the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, which was named after him. Pope Benedict was invited for that, but did not accept that invitation.

In the greeting, which you read out on his behalf at the time, he however makes clear theological statements. “The elimination of truth is lethal for the faith,” he wrote.

The greeting was an impressive contribution to the topic of “Truth and Mission”. You could hear a pin drop, it was so quiet during the reading in the crowded auditorium. Content-wise, it was a theological classic. Pope Francis, who had received the text from Benedict beforehand, was much impressed and had thanked him for it.

Does Benedict sometimes speak about his retirement? Is he relieved?

He is at peace with himself and convinced that the decision was right and necessary. It was a decision of conscience that was well prayed and suffered over, and in that man stands alone before God.

You struggled with Benedict’s historical retirement in February of 2013. How do you look back on this step now?

It is true that the decision was difficult for me. It was not easy to accept it internally. I struggled to cope. The fight is now long since over.

You swore to be loyal to Benedict to the death. Does that also mean that you’ll remain at his side, and also in the Vatican?

On the day of his election as Pope I promised to help him in vita et in morte. Of course I did not take a retirement into account at that time. But the promise is still true and remains valid.

Bishops should be shepherds. As archbishop in the Roman Curia, do you sometimes feel like a shepherd without a flock?

Yes, sometimes. But I am getting more and more invitations for confirmations, anniversary Masses and other celebrations. Initially I responded somewhat defensive to those and accepted only a few. But that has changed lately. Direct contact with the faithful is very important. That is why I accept pastoral duties whenever it is possible and compatible with my other obligations. That is both good and necessary. And it is also the best medication against one of the diseases of the Curia mentioned by Pope Francis: the danger of becoming a bureaucrat.

On Catholic rabbits

francis papal visitHeadlines again about the Pope saying something new. Or is it? Apparently, we learn from many media, we Catholics are no longer obliged to produce as many children as possible. Reality is, of course, somewhat different.

First, here is the relevant part of the answer that Pope Francis gave during the press conference on the flight back from Manila (full text here).

“That example I mentioned shortly before about that woman who was expecting her eighth child and already had seven who were born with caesareans. That is a an irresponsibility. That woman might say ‘no, I trust in God.’ But, look, God gives you means to be responsible. Some think that — excuse the language — that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can search; and I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this.”

“God gives us means to be responsible”. That’s the important bit, and it reminds me of the joke of a man who refused to be saved from a house fire because he trusted in God coming to rescue him. Of course, he dies, and complains to God once he arrives through the pearly gates. “What do you mean?” God replies. “I sent you three fire crews to rescue you.”

We have responsibility and we must make use of our means to take on that responsibility. That is true for the house fire in the joke, and also for being parents. Responsible parenthood is not a new invention by Pope Francis, although he is very right in emphasising its importance. Pope Saint John Paul II spoke much about it, and Blessed Paul VI also addressed it in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. The latter writes, among other things:

“With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.” [N. 10]

In the end, responsible parenthood is a logical consequence of Catholic thought, from our nature as free human beings with our responsibility, a responsibility we have, not in the last place, for our children. Responsibility does not end at birth, but continues in the upbringing, education and eventually the children of our own children as well.

So, no, we should not be like rabbits, but like free and responsible human beings, free and responsible towards ourselves, towards God and towards our children.

“Sincere, modest and humble” – Cardinal Lehmann congratulates Cardinal-designate Rauber

One of the new cardinals is Archbishop Karl-Josef Rauber, who comes from Germany and has been closely involved with the Church in Belgium and Luxembourg. Reason enough to share the congratulatory message from Karl Cardinal Lehmann on the website of the Diocese of Mainz.

Archbishop Rauber was a priest of the Diocese of Mainz from 1959 to 1982 and will be the eleventh German cardinal (five of whom, including Rauber, will be non-electors). He was the previous Nuncio to Belgium and Luxembourg, succeeded in 2009 by Archbishop Giacinto Berloco. In some circles Archbishop Rauber is seen is somewhat of a liberal, but in difficult situations, such as the commotion that followed comments by Pope Benedict XVI that condoms are not the resolution to the AIDS epidemic in Africa (which Rauber experienced firsthand as Nuncio in Uganda), he was able to explain the meaning of what happened correctly and underlined the importance of quotations in context and understanding the subject matter. But Archbishop Rauber has not always been careful: he spoke about the preparatory work he did for the appointment of the new archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels in 2010, and revealed that the general consensus was that Bishop Jozef de Kesel was to be appointed. Pope Benedict XVI instead chose André-Joseph Léonard. Some saw this openness as a sign of Archbishop Rauber’s frustration that his work was for naught. Likewise, his transfer from Switzerland to Hungary in 1997 was seen as a result of his role in the conflict surrounding then-Bishop Wolfgang Haas of the Diocese of Chur.

In Belgium and Luxembourg, Archbishop Rauber also oversaw the appointment of Bishops Guy Harpigny of Tournai, Patrick Hoogmartens of Hasselt and Johan Bonny of Antwerp.

lehmann rauber“Congratulations to the Apostolic Nuncio Karl-Josef Rauber
on the occasion of his elevation to cardinal by Pope Francis

Among the (arch)bishops that Pope Francis has appointed as cardinals is – as one of the five gentlemen over the age of 80 – the German-born former Apostolic Nuncio Dr. Karl-Josef Rauber. He is a priest of the Diocese of Mainz.

Archbishop Rauber was born on 11 April 1934 in Nuremberg, went to school at the Benedictine gymnasium in Metten in Bavaria and studied Catholic theology at the then new University of Mainz. On 28 February 1959 he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Albert Stohr in Mainz cathedral. He worked for three years in Nidda, where he got to know well the diaspora situation in Oberhessen.

In 1962, the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, he started his PhD studies in canon law in Rome and attended the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. From 1966 to 1977 he worked as one of the four secretaries of Archbishop Giovanni Benelli, the later cardinal from Florence, who was very influential in the Secretariat of State and the Curia. He and especially Pope Paul VI had a lasting impact on Rauber. In those eleven years in the Curia, and in close proximity to the Pope, he received a comprehensive experience of the Church.

In 1977 Rauber began his extensive diplomatic work at the Nunciatures in Belgium, Luxembourg and Greece, and later as Nuncio in Uganda. In 1983, on 6 January, the feast of the Epiphany, he was consecrated as a bishop by Pope John Paul II.

In 1990 Nuncio Rauber was tasked with the governance of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome. In 1993 he once again returned to diplomatic service as Apostolic Nuncio in Switzerland and Liechtenstein (1993-1997), in Hungary and Moldova (1997-2003) and in Belgium and Luxembourg (2003-2009), where he had begun his foreign diplomatic career in 1977. Aged 75, Rauber retired in 2009 and has served the Schönstatt sisters in Ergenzingen in the Diocese of Rotternburg-Stuttgart both pastorally and spiritually.

As Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Rauber was faced in some situations with difficult challenges for the Church: in Uganda he encountered the beginning of the AIDS epidemic among the population; in Switzerland he had to help resolve the conflicts in the Diocese of Chur; in Hungary it was the long-term consequences of the relations between Church and state in the Communist era; in the political landscape of Belgium the Church did not have an easy time; in Brussels the Holy See also established its diplomatic mission to the EU: Rauber was the right man for a sensible coordination and division of work for both missions in one place.

So we may be glad that Pope Francis chose to include, from the ranks of former papal diplomats, Karl-Josef Rauber among the especially honoured emeriti in this creation of cardinals. He has especially excelled in service to the world Church and the Pope in the second half of the twentieth century: by incorruptibility and independent judgement, candor and sincerity in dealing with others and modesty and humility in his actions. Through more than a few conversations over the past decade in Rome I know that many of his colleagues think highly of him and are happy to see him in Rome and elsewhere. True to his overall program Pope Francis has highly honoured a selfless diplomat in service to the Church. One may certainly see this is a somewhat belated recognition.

In the years of his high-level work in Rome and for the world Church, Nuncio Rauber has always maintained an active relationship with his native Diocese of Mainz, and the diocese has always accompanied him on his way. That was especially visible in his participation in many happy but also painful events in the diocese. On 13 April 2014 we celebrated his 80th birthday in Mainz.

On Sunday 4 January I congratulated him with his appointment: we are happy with and for him. We thank him for his great service and pray for him for God’s blessing for body and soul.”

Photo credit: Bistum Mainz/Blum

For Red Hat 2, Pope Francis looks even further beyond the expected

Well, at least I guessed one new cardinal right… With Pope Francis, it turns out that it is exceedingly difficult to see who he wants to see as new cardinals. Today, he appointed 20 new cardinals, the majority of whom will come from places few people will be familiar with, let alone associated with the red hat. In his first consistory he appointed only one cardinal who was not an archbishop, but this time around there are four. This consistory class is perhaps even more peripheral than the previous one, in the good and Franciscan sense of the word. And one of the new cardinals hails from Germany, and has links to Belgium and Luxembourg.

Some interesting facts that appear with a glance at the list of names. But who are the new cardinals? First, a list of those who are below 80 and can thus participate in a future conclave and will hold offices in the Curia:

  • mambertiArchbishop Dominique François Joseph Mamberti: Appointed by Pope Francis as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and President of the Supreme Court of the Vatican City State. This office is traditionally held by a cardinal. Cardinal-designate Mamberti was born in Marrakech, Morocco, but has French nationality. He was a priest of the Diocese of Ajaccio, and has a diplomatic career behind him as Apostolic Nuncio in Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea, followed by six years as Secretary for the Relations with States (something like the foreign secretary of the Holy See).
  • macario do nascimento clementePatriarch Manuel José Macário do Nascimento Clemente: Also a recent appointment and a traditional cardinalatial see, Patriarch Manuel has been the archbishop of Lisbon in Portugal since May of 2013. Before that he was an auxiliary bishop of Lisbon from 1999 to 2007, and Bishop of Porto from 2007 to 2013. He is a prolific author and early adopter of social media in Portugal.
  • souraphiel20Church1[1]Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel: The Archdiocese of Addis Abeba, which is part of the Ethiopic Rite of the Catholic Church, gets his second cardinal in this 66-year-old Lazarist bishop. Archbishop Souraphiel has been archbishop of the Ethiopian capital since 1999. Before that he was Provincial Superior of his order from 1990 to 1994, Vicar Apostolic of Jimma-Bonga from 1994 to 1997 ad Apostolic Administrator of Addis Abeba from 1997 to 1999. He is also the Chancellor of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.
  • JohnDewArchbishop John Atcherley Dew: The archbishop of Wellington in New Zealand stands in a tradition of cardinals: his three immediate predecessors were all cardinals as well. Archbishop Dew was Auxiliary Bishop of Wellington from 1995 to 2004, Coadjutor Archbishop of the same see from 2004 to 2005 and ultimately Archbishop.
  • menichelliArchbishop Edoardo Menichelli: The archbishop of Ancona-Osimo since 2004 is not the first cardinal from this see, but he is the first in 110 years. Before this, he was Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto between 1994 and 2004.

 

  • nguyen van nhonArchbishop Pierre Nguyễn Văn Nhơn: Sure to have an influence on the relations between the Holy See and Vietnam, the appointment of the Archbishop of Hanoi gives the Vietnamese capital its fourth cardinal and Vietnam as a whole its second. Before his appointment as archbishop of Hanoi, Archbishop Nguyễn (Pierre is his Christian first name, Văn Nhơn his Vietnamese, which comes after the family name) was Coadjutor Bishop of Đà Lat from 1991 to 1994, Bishop of the same diocese from 1994 to 2010, and Coadjutor Archbishop of Hanoi in 2010.
  • suárez indaArchbishop Alberto Suárez Inda: The first Archbishop of Morelia in Mexico to be made a cardinal, Archbishop Suárez Inda has held the office since 1995. Before that he was Bishop of Tacámbaro since 1985. Morelia, west of Mexico City, is an area marked by drug violence, which may be an indication for why Pope Francis chose to make the bishop there a cardinal.
  • maung boArchbishop Charles Maung Bo: The Catholics in Myanmar are slowly winning more freedom, and see this recognised by the Archbishop of Yangon being made a cardinal, the first in the country’s  history. Archbishop Bo has been Archbishop of Yangon since 2003. Before that, he was Bishop of Lashio from 1990 to 1996 and Bishop of Pathein from 1996 to 2003.
  • kriengsakArchbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij: Neighbouring Myanmar, Thailand also gets a cardinal, its second one. Arcbishop Kriengsak Kovithavanij was Bishop of Nakhon Sawan from 2007 to 2009, after which he was made Archbishop of Bangkok.
  • montenegroArchbishop Francesco Montenegro: In an apparently clear reference to the Mediterranean refugee crisis, the Archdiocese of Agrigento in Sicily gets its first cardinal since the 17th century. The archdiocese includes the island of Lampedusa, where many refugees from Africa first arrive. Archbishop Montenegro was Auxiliary Bishop of Messina-Lipari-Santa Lucia del Mela between 2000 and 2008, before coming to Agrigento.
  • sturla berhouetArchbishop Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet: The Archbishop of Montevideo was appointed by Pope Francis in February of last year and will be the second cardinal of the Uruguayan capital. He was Auxiliary Bishop of Montevideo between 2011 and 2014. It is said that one Fr. Jorge Bergoglio was involved in protecting Sturla Berhouet from the dictatorship in Uruguay.
  • blazquezperezricardoArchbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez: The first Archbishop of Valladolid to be made a cardinal in almost a century, Archbishop Blázquez Perez  is the current President of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference. He was Auxiliary Bishop of Santiago do Compostela from 1988 to 1992, Bishop of Palencia from 1992 to 1995, Bishop of Bilbao from 1995 to 2010, and Archbishop of Valladolid since then.
  • lacunza maestrojuanBishop José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán: Only the third bishop and first cardinal from the Diocese of David in Panama. He will also be the first Panamanian cardinal. His diocese is located in the west of Panama, near the border with Costa Rica. In all senses a peripheral appointment, except for the fact that Bishop Lacunza Maestrojuán is the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Panama. Before coming to David, he was Auxiliary Bishop of Panama from 1985 to 1994, and Bishop of Chitré from 1994 to 1999.
  • gomes furtadoBishop Arlindo Gomes Furtado: From the island nation of Cape Verde, off the western African coast and closely connected to former coloniser Portugal, comes this bishop, the first cardinal in the country’s history. Cape Verde is largely Catholic, and Bishop Gomes Furtado is the Bishop of Santiago de Cabo Verde, the oldest of the nations two dioceses.
  • Bishop MafiBishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi: In the Pacific lies the island nation of Tonga, home to some 16,000 Catholics in one diocese. That diocese’s bishop is now being made the nation’s first cardinal. He is the President of the largest bishops’ conference in the world by territory, that of the Pacific, which covers almost all populated islands of the southern Pacific. Bishop Mafi was Coadjutor Bishop of Tonga from 2007 to 2008, and Bishop since 2008.

In addition to these cardinals, Pope Francis has also named five non-electors, cardinals over the age of 80 who are created in recognition of their work. They are:

  • pimiento rodriguezArchbishop José de Jesús Pimiento Rodriguez: Archbishop emeritus of Manizales in Colombia. He is the first cardinal to come from Manizales and the fourth living Colombian cardinal overall. He participated in all session of the Second Vatican Council. An Auxiliary Bishop of Pasto from 1955 to 1959, Bishop of Monteriá from 1959 to 1964, Bishop of Garzón from 1964 to 1975, and Archbishop of Manizales from 1975 to 1996.
  • De-MagistrisArchbishop Luigi de Magistris: Pro-Penitentiary of the Apostolic Signatura from 2001 to 2003, after having been Regent of the same tribunal since 1979.

 

  • rauberArchbishop Karl-Josef Rauber: The German retired diplomat whose last position, from 2003 to 2009, was that of Apostolic Nuncio to Belgium and Luxembourg. Archbishop Rauber was involved with preliminary investigations into the succession of Cardinal Danneels as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and was almost called to explain to the Belgian government what Pope Benedict XVI meant with his comments about condom use in Africa to combat AIDS. Before coming to Belgium and Luxembourg, Archbishop Rauber was Nuncio in Uganda, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, Moldova and Hungary. He is currently residing in the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, where he is active in administring the sacrament of Confirmation.
  • villalbaArchbishop Luis Héctor Villalba: From Pope Francis’ native Argentina comes this retired Archbishop of Tucumán, which has never before had a cardinal. He was an auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires from 1984 to 1991 (before Pope Francis was archbishop there), Bishop of San Martín from 1991 to 1999 and Archbishop of Tucumán from 1999 to 2011.
  • Bishop Julio Duarte Langa:  Only the second native son of Mozambique to be made a cardinal, he was bishop of Xai-Xai from 1976 to 2004.

It seems that Pope Francis’ focus when it comes to cardinals is on the local situation: he does not feel limited by tradition, but appoints cardinals where he thinks they’ll do good. Of course, the contribution they can make to the Roman Curia is also an important factor, but that body in itself does not warrant the creation of cardinals except where necessary.

In this list, several appointment seem to support this: The archbishops of Hanoi, Yangon, Morelia and Agrigento all come from areas where the Church is in some situation of struggle or confronted with pressing social needs, such as drug violence in Morelia and the Mediterranean refugee crisis for Agrigento.

And the list of new cardinals is highly representative of the world Church: Africa, Asia, Latin America and even Oceania set the tone, with Europa represented with two Italians, and no North Americans on the list.

With the new cardinals, the total College of Cardinals will number 228, with 125 electors among them. That slightly exceeds the maximum of 120 set by Blessed Pope Paul VI, but that is the Pope’s prerogative. Barring any deaths, the limit of 120 will be reached again in February of 2016.

The upcoming consistory will include both the youngest and one of the oldest cardinals: Bishop Soane Mafi of Tonga is 53, more than 2 years younger than Cardinal Thottunkal, who is the youngest now; Archbishop José Pimiento Rodriguez is 95 and there are only two cardinals older than he is: Giovanni Canestri and Loris Capovilla.

Titles and deaconries

Of the twenty new cardinals, there will be one Cardinal-Deacon (Mamberti), while the rest will be Cardinal-Priests. As ever, the Pope si free to create new titles and deaconries for new cardinals, but in practice most will be given churches that are currently vacant. Among the deaconries there are 11 vacancies, while there are only 5 vacancies among the cardinal title churches. So we will undoubtedly see new title churches being created or cardinal deaconries being elevated to title churches. Anything’s possible, but still, some guesses:

  • San Antonio in Campo Marzo was the title of Cardinal Policarpo, the previous Patriarch of Lisbon, so the title may be given to his successor, Patriarch Macário do Nascimento Clemente.
  • San Marco has been the title of the Patriarchs of Venice since 1933, so it will probably remain vacant for now.
  • Santa Maria in Vallicella has previously been held by two cardinals from Oceania, so it is possible that this tradition will continue and it is given to Archbishop Dew of Bishop Mafi.
  • San Girolamo della Carità is a deaconry that may be elevated to a title church and given to Archbishop Villalba, as it was previously also held by an Argentinean, the recently deceased Cardinal Mejía.

Christ and the Church

francis, solemnity of maryIn his homily for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on 1 January, Pope Francis emphasised why we not only need personal faith in Christ, but also the Church. Starting from the point that we can’t understand Jesus’ incarnation without understanding Mary, he continues that Mary’s motherhood is the motherhood of the Church, since Mary and the Church are as inseparable as Mary and Jesus.

To separate Jesus from the Church would introduce an “absurd dichotomy”, as Blessed Paul VI wrote (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 16). It is not possible “to love Christ but without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but outside the Church” (ibid.). For the Church is herself God’s great family, which brings Christ to us. Our faith is not an abstract doctrine or philosophy, but a vital and full relationship with a person: Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God who became man, was put to death, rose from the dead to save us, and is now living in our midst. Where can we encounter him? We encounter him in the Church, in our hierarchical, Holy Mother Church. It is the Church which says today: “Behold the Lamb of God”; it is the Church, which proclaims him; it is in the Church that Jesus continues to accomplish his acts of grace which are the sacraments.”

So many people today are willing to profess a belief in Christ, but want nothing to do with the Church. But there is a great risk in such an attitude, the Pope explains:

“Without the Church, our relationship with Christ would be at the mercy of our imagination, our interpretations, our moods.”

The Church’s entire being is inconceivable without Christ. She is not a human construct, but a divine one built up out of human followers of the Lord. Christ reaches out to us and wants to be known. He has tasked the Church with making this possible, to be known from one human being to the next. Answering to this invitation to enter into a relationship with Him, we look to the Church, the greater body of faithful, greater than just ourselves, and to the sacraments He has given her to allow people to come to Him. This is what Christ has done, an achievement far greater than any human work or person.

The bigger question – Bishop Mutsaerts on the Synod

The Dutch bishops have not yet spoken much in public about the upcoming Synod, but today Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, auxiliary of ‘s Hertogenbosch, does. And he makes a point that has been emphasised before by both Cardinal Kasper and Cardinal Burke: the Synod is not about divorce, remarriage and admission to the Eucharist. The question is a bigger one, as Bishop Mutsaerts explains:

Bisschop Rob Mutsaerts“With the extraordinary Synod of the Family which opens on 5 October, Pope Francis mostly aims for a greater appreciation of the Christian marriage as a sacrament. It is clear that in today’s culture the Biblical vision on marriage and family is considered to be virtually unattainable, and is seen more as a burden than as good news. Perhaps that is the reason for Pope Francis to have scheduled the beatification of Paul VI at the end of the Synod, as a closing statement.

Paul VI was a staunch defender of Christian marriage. His famed and infamous encyclical Humanae Vitae, however, achieved the opposite according to public opinion. The Biblical ideal was almost completely forgotten. It is to be hoped that October’s  Synod will not result in a repetition of Humanae Vitae. Expectations, after all, are high. Some fervently hope that the Pope will change the Church’s teaching about divorced and remarried people; others fear he will. That would result in a repetition of Humanae Vitae. And that is exactly what Pope Francis is afraid of: “I have not been happy that so many people – even church people, priests – have said: “Ah, the Synod will be about giving communion to the divorced”, and went straight to that point”, the Pope told reporters on the return flight from Israel.

The questions is much broader. The family is in crisis. Young people rarely choose marriage. They choose others ways of living together. The family is in crisis because marriage is in crisis, according to the firm opinion of Francis.

I hope that the Pope will get the Synod he has in mind, and not the Synod which is mainly concerned with the single question of divorced and remarried faithful. That is certainly a genuine problem, but a far more complex problem lies at its root: few understand marriage as a Christian vocation, strengthened by sacramental mercy. Not without reason did the Pope give  it “The pastoral challenges for the family in the context of evangelisation” as title, and he placed it as such emphatically within the context of evangelisation. Evangelisation is without meaning if we consider it without the Gospel. The words of Jesus to both the Samaritan woman and the woman caught in adultery was hard to accept for those who heard it then and those who hear it now. Don’t forget that the Apostles thought that Jesus’ teachings about marriage were so difficult that it would be better not to marry. If the Synod is true to the Gospel – can she be otherwise? – she can expect the same response, and it will be her duty to inspire confidence that the Christian marriage is still recommendable.

Pope Francis is keen to emphasise that Christian marriage is a sacrament. Much of the confusion surrounding marriage and divorce arises when we lose sight of the fact that marriage is a sacrament. Marriage is not indissoluble because two people make a promise for life. The Church can dispense people from their promises. That is een true for the vows of religious. But the Church can’t undo a sacrament. Marriage is indissoluble for the same reason that we have tabernacles: a consecrated host can’t be ‘deconsecrated’, just like Baptism or the ordination of a priest can’t be undone. Even a priest who has ben laicised remains a priest, even though he can’t exercise the office of priest (although he can hear confessions in emergencies). Nobody, no Synod and also no Pope, can undo a valid sacrament. That’s simply how it is. We shouldn’t therefore expect a relaxation of rules regarding divorced and remarried people in regard to their receiving Holy Communion. Those who do expect this will be disappointed from the outset.

Most Catholics are unaware of the sacramental character of their marriage. Marriage, by the way, is the only of the seven sacrament which is not administered by a priest or deacon, but by lay people, by husband and wife when they say yes to each other. This is the sacrament that gives strength and mercy to be able to keep promises. That is what it is about for the Pope.”