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Pope Francis appoints delegate to oversee Communion and Liberation’s consecrated laity

Pope Francis at his general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace May 5, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2021 / 07:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis appointed Friday a special delegate to oversee Memores Domini, the lay consecrated branch of the Communion and Liberation movement.

Archbishop Filippo Santoro of Taranto, Italy, will temporarily assume the governance of the association “in order to safeguard its charism and preserve the unity of the members,” the Vatican announced Sept. 24.

In addition, the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life maintains its appointment of Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J., as the pontifical assistant for canonical matters relating to Memores Domini.

Ghirlanda, a specialist in canon law, was previously appointed by the dicastery in June 2020 to guide the revision of the association’s statutes.

Fr. Luigi Giussani, Communion and Liberation’s late founder, helped to establish the Memores Domini in 1964 for lay members dedicated to “living the Gospel in the world.”

The Pontifical Council for the Laity recognized the Memores Domini as an international association of the faithful in 1988.

Four female members of Memores Domini worked in Benedict XVI’s papal household and also moved with him to the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery after his retirement.

Archbishop Santoro will take over governance of the association starting Sept. 25, when the current general government of the association will be dissolved.

Thirty-seven years ago, Santoro was asked by Giussani to help Communion and Liberation in Brazil as a fidei donum priest, a diocesan priest sent to carry out a temporary service.

Santoro then became responsible for Communion and Liberation in Latin America from 1988 to 1996.

Benedict XVI later appointed Santoro as the metropolitan archbishop of the southern Italian city of Taranto, Puglia, in 2011.

Since then, the 74-year-old bishop has also taken on a leadership position in the Italian bishops’ conference as president of the bishops’ social justice commission.

Italian media reported in 2015 that Santoro wrote to Pope Francis after the pope gave a speech to Communion and Liberation members in which he spoke about what it means to be faithful to one’s charism.

“Faithfulness to the charism does not mean ‘to petrify it’ -- the devil is the one who ‘petrifies,’ do not forget. Faithfulness to the charism does not mean to write it on a parchment and frame it,” Francis said.

“Fr. Giussani would never forgive you if you lost the liberty and transformed yourselves into museum guides or worshippers of ashes. Pass on the flame of the memory of that first encounter and be free,” he said.

After the speech, Santoro reportedly replied to the pope in a letter that thanked him for his words on charisms, with the comment that the “Jesuits have made more mistakes in their admirable history as missionaries and saints than us.”

Pope Francis met with representatives of lay Catholic associations, movements, and new communities last week at the Vatican, and gave a speech warning that the desire for power and recognition are temptations that could hinder their call to serve the Church.

The pope underlined that governance in the Church is “nothing but a call to serve.”

He highlighted the Vatican decree issued on June 11 that set term limits for the leaders of international associations of the faithful and new communities. The pope said that it was implemented because “the reality of the last few decades has shown us the need for the changes.”

“The exercise of government within associations and movements is a theme that is particularly close to my heart, especially considering ... the cases of abuse of various kinds that have also occurred in these realities and which always find their root in abuse of power,” Pope Francis.

“Not infrequently the Holy See, in recent years, has had to intervene, starting not easy processes of reorganization. And I think not only of these very bad situations, which make noise; but also to the diseases that come from the weakening of the foundational charism, which becomes lukewarm and loses the capacity of attraction.”

Pope Francis meets with newly elected Armenian Catholic patriarch

Patriarch Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian. / Courtesy photo.

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2021 / 06:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met Friday with the newly elected patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church.

Patriarch Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian was elected as the 21st Catholicos-Patriarch of Cilicia of Armenian Catholics during the Eastern Catholic Church’s synod in Rome this week.

The 74-year-old succeeds Patriarch Gregory Peter XX Ghabroyan, who died last May at the age of 86.

“The election of Your Beatitude took place at a time when people are particularly tested by various challenges,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter to the patriarch on Sept. 23.

“I am thinking of the sufferings of Syria and Lebanon -- countries where the Church of Cilicia of the Armenians is present -- as well as of the pandemic, which is still far from being overcome in many parts of the world.”

The pope wrote that he wished “to join in the joy” of the Armenian Catholic Church and the universal Church at the election of the new patriarch, to which Pope Francis said he gladly granted the required ecclesiastical communion in accordance with tradition.

Before his election as patriarch, Minassian served as the bishop of Armenian Catholics in Eastern Europe since 2011.

He told CNA earlier this year that he felt uncomfortable being addressed as “Your Excellency.”

“I leave everything to divine providence because I’m a very simple clergy working for the Church,” he explained. “‘Excellency,’ etc., are for other people, not for me,” he said in an interview last January.

As patriarch, Raphaël is now responsible for the more than 700,000 members of the Armenian Catholic Church throughout the world.

The Armenian Catholic Church is one of 23 Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris [of its own right] and in full communion with the Catholic Church under the leadership of the pope.

On the day of the patriarch’s meeting with the pope, Sept. 24, the delegation of Armenian Catholics that accompanied him prayed in St. Peter’s Basilica and sang a hymn in front of the tomb of St. Peter.

The main cathedral of the Patriarch of Cilicia is the Cathedral of St. Elias and St. Gregory the Illuminator, in Beirut.

Minassian was born to an Armenian family in Lebanon on Oct. 24, 1946. He was ordained in 1973 in Beirut as a priest of the Patriarchal Congregation of Bzommar, an Armenian Catholic religious congregation of priests founded in 1750.

From 1990 to 2006, he served as a pastor in California, where he helped to create a foundation supporting humanitarian projects in Armenia. He also initiated the construction of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Catholic Church in Glendale.

In 2005, he was appointed leader of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Jerusalem and Amman. In 2009, he established perpetual Eucharistic adoration at the church marking the Fourth Station of the Way of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.

When he was appointed as bishop of Armenian Catholics in Eastern Europe nine years ago, he decided to prioritize the Catholic Church’s social and spiritual mission.

He told CNA that Armenian Catholics show the utmost respect for members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, one of the six ancient Oriental Orthodox Churches and Armenia’s national church.

"There is no difference in the proclamation of the faith between the Armenian Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church. They have the same creed. They have the same liturgy. They have the same prayer,” he said.

He added that, while some clergy emphasized the differences between the two communions, “we don’t have any difficulty or any problematic situation working with everybody and assisting everybody.”

In Pope Francis’ letter to the patriarch, the pope encouraged Armenian Catholics to walk to meet the “Crucified One who is Risen.”

“We know the Armenian people as experts in suffering because of the many trials throughout the more than 1,700 years of Christian history, but also because of its inexhaustible capacity to flourish and bear fruit, through the holiness and wisdom of its saints and martyrs,” the pope wrote.

“The Church which Your Beatitude has been called to lead is fully inserted in the affairs of the Armenian people, preserving their memory and traditions, and at the same time deeply linked to the Successor of the Apostle Peter: I entrust to you the care of the younger generations, the promotion of vocations, and the wise harmony that you must be able to find among the different branches of your community,” he said.

Pope Francis confirms Cardinal Woelki in post after apostolic visitation of Germany’s Cologne archdiocese

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne. / Jochen Rolfes/Archdiocese of Cologne.

Cologne, Germany, Sep 24, 2021 / 04:25 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has ruled that Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki should remain in charge of Germany’s Cologne archdiocese after a Vatican investigation into his handling of abuse cases, the Holy See announced on Friday.

The Vatican said on Sept. 24 that the pope had asked the 65-year-old cardinal to continue leading the archdiocese in western Germany after a period of leave, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The statement explained that the investigation had found no evidence that Woelki acted unlawfully in relation to abuse cases.

“Nevertheless, Cardinal Woelki has also made major mistakes in his approach to the issue of coming to terms with abuse overall, especially at the level of communication,” it said.

“This has contributed significantly to a crisis of confidence in the archdiocese that has disturbed many of the faithful.”

The Holy See noted that the pope and Woelki had “a long conversation” last week.

It said: “The Holy Father is counting on Cardinal Woelki, acknowledging his loyalty to the Holy See and his concern for the unity of the Church.”

“At the same time, it is obvious that the archbishop and the archdiocese need a time of pause, renewal and reconciliation. This has prompted Pope Francis to grant Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, at his own request, a period of spiritual leave, beginning in mid-October until the start of Lent next year.”

“Until his return, [Cologne auxiliary bishop] Rolf Steinhäuser, as apostolic administrator sede plena [while the post remains filled, rather than vacant], will ensure the proper administration and, above all, that the archdiocese, for its part, finds itself in a spiritual process of reconciliation and renewal.”

In a Sept. 24 statement, Woelki said: “I go this way with the clear message of the Holy Father that we have cleared up seriously and comprehensively and have not covered up anything. I would like to ask you to pray for the archdiocese and for me in the coming weeks. I also promise you my fervent prayer.”

Steinhäuser commented: “I have great respect for the magnitude of the task. We will continue the path of reconciliation in the archdiocese of Cologne already initiated by Cardinal Woelki.”

Pope Francis ordered the apostolic visitation in May amid fierce criticism of the archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases.

The archdiocese said in a May 28 statement that the pope’s apostolic visitors would evaluate “possible mistakes” made by Woelki.

The apostolic visitors were Cardinal Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, and Bishop Johannes van den Hende of Rotterdam, president of the Dutch bishops’ conference.

“During the first half of June, the Holy See’s envoys will visit the archdiocese to get a comprehensive picture of the complex pastoral situation in the archdiocese,” the statement said.

It added that the visitors would also examine possible errors committed by Archbishop Stefan Heße of Hamburg, who was Cologne archdiocese’s vicar general from 2012 to 2015, and the Cologne auxiliaries Bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp and Bishop Ansgar Puff.

The apostolic nunciature in Berlin announced on Sept. 15 that the pope had asked Heße to remain as archbishop of Hamburg, northern Germany.

Commenting on Schwaderlapp and Puff on Sept. 24, the Holy See said: “In the case of both bishops, there are isolated deficiencies in the handling of procedures in their previous responsibilities, but not an intention to cover up abuse or ignore those affected.”

“Bishop Ansgar Puff will resume his regular ministry immediately. Bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp has asked to be allowed to work for one year as a pastor in the Archdiocese of Mombasa, in Kenya, before returning to his ministry as auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Cologne. The Holy Father has granted this request.”

Cologne archdiocese said that Puff would donate part of his salary to a fund for those affected and continue to work in pastoral care for the homeless.

Woelki said in December 2020 that he had asked Pope Francis to review the decisions he took regarding an accused priest -- identified only as “Pastor O.” -- in 2015.

Woeki, who was appointed archbishop of Cologne in 2014, has faced calls to resign since the archdiocese controversially declined to publish a report by the Munich law firm Westphal Spilker Wastl.

In January 2019, the archdiocese commissioned Westpfahl Spilker Wastl to examine relevant personnel files from 1975 onwards to determine “which personal, systemic or structural deficits were responsible in the past for incidents of sexual abuse being covered up or not being punished consistently.”

After lawyers advising the archdiocese raised concerns about “methodological deficiencies” in the law firm’s study, Woelki commissioned Cologne-based criminal law expert Professor Björn Gercke to write a new report.

The 800-page Gercke Report was published in March. It covers the period from 1975 to 2018 and examines 236 files in detail with the aim of identifying failures and violations of the law, as well as those responsible for them.

In June, Pope Francis declined the resignation of another German Church leader, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising.

The 67-year-old cardinal wrote to Pope Francis in May, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany.

Marx is a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals and the coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. Until last year, he served as the chairman of the German bishops’ conference.

In a June 10 letter to the cardinal, the pope wrote: “We will not be saved by the prestige of our Church, which tends to conceal its sins; we will not be saved by the power of money or the opinion of the media (so often we are too dependent on them).”

“We will be saved by opening the door to the Only One who can do it and confessing our nakedness: ‘I have sinned,’ ‘we have sinned’... and weeping, and stammering as best we can that ‘depart from me, for I am a sinner,’ a legacy that the first pope left to the popes and bishops of the Church.”

Catholics should debate issues, not debase each other, cardinal says

ROME (CNS) -- Honest and open debate about different points of view in the Catholic Church are fundamental, but Catholics should not be demonizing the individuals with those views, Cardinal George Pell said.

Asked about the different polarized positions among Catholics that can be found online, he said that many of the issues being discussed are "very important, and I don't think there can be any compromise on the fundamental issues of what is the apostolic tradition.”

The church's stance on issues should be clearly explained, but there is "a hierarchy of truths, not everything is equally important," which means Catholics "should not be disagreeing violently over too much at all but certainly not over matters which are of less importance," he said in an interview in Rome streamed live Sept. 23 and uploaded the next day by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

As Catholics try to choose among many sources and offerings online, what they should be looking for and contributing to "is regular courtesy, a regular commitment to the truth, to dialogue, debating, arguing about the issues" themselves and not attacking the people who hold a different point of view, said the cardinal, who is the former prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy and retired archbishop of Sydney.

The interview was part of the university's biennial "The Church Up Close" seminar offered to journalists who report on the Catholic Church. This year's seminar was held online and focused on “Covering Catholicism in the Age of Francis.”

The interview with Cardinal Pell covered a wide variety of topics, including Cardinal Pell's experience in an Australian prison for 13 months on child sex abuse charges until he was cleared by a unanimous decision of the High Court in 2020 and the vital importance of due process for both victims and the accused.

"Denouncing somebody in the press so they've got almost no chance of defending themselves is, I think, a violation of due process," he said.

"Everybody has a right to the truth, and in the long term it is the best protection for the victims too," because any manifestly false accusation “poisons public opinion against the genuine victims," he said.

"We need to follow the commandments, we need to practice what Christ taught, if we did that there would have been no sexual abuse. The authorities would have faced up to the problem in truth," he said.

"What the church was doing in terms of muddle and cover-up 20 years ago was generally done in all of society -- now that is not excusing it, but it is setting it in context," he said.

Cardinal Pell also noted that many countries have seen a "dramatic fall" in the number of reported incidents since the 1990s.

"Very often we're not given credit for that" and, in terms of prevention, "we broke the back of the problem," he said.

The late St. John Paul II "was a powerful antidote" to scandals in the church because of his teachings about moral truths, the cardinal said. "He made it quite clear that he believed there was such a thing as right and wrong.”

Cardinal Pell praised retired Pope Benedict XVI as "a prodigious intellect, a dear friend" and said he never imagined the pope would resign, adding, "I never really approved of it either.”

Pope Francis has "a great gift of empathy and sympathy" and a great capacity to show closeness to people who are suffering and those who care for them, he said.

Asked why there is so much opposition to Pope Francis among conservative Catholics, Cardinal Pell said, "I think a lot of conservative Catholics feel a little bit confused, a little bit uncertain, they wonder just what is being taught.”

Pope Francis, he said, has "a great gift, like Jesus did, of reaching out to those on the peripheries and 'sinners,' and categories that are not always seen in the front row at church and that can and has confused people.”

However, the papacy is something that is willed by Christ, "we have to respect the office," have reverence for the man who holds that office, and "obey the papal directions," he added.

When asked about the polarization in some Catholic media, he said, "we shouldn't get into personal abuse, demonizing people who have a different point of view.”

He listed a number of well-known Catholic authors who have different analyses and approaches for living the faith today, encouraging they be read even if one disagrees.

For example, he said he did not agree with the so-called "Benedict Option," which, according to the book by Rod Dreher, calls for building a small Christian community that can act as a protective "ark" against the flood of a morally weakened society.

"I'm not sympathetic to just a small little elite church. I would like to keep as many of the semi-religious slobs like myself in the stream," he said. To want a church made up of just heroes and martyrs is "not the Catholic tradition.”

Archbishop Gallagher: Not enough to feed the hungry, long-term resources are needed

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher sends a video message to the United Nations Food System Summit, and assures participants of the Holy See's full collaboration in reaching food equality in the world.

Cardinal Woelki takes time out from archdiocese, retains Pope’s confidence

Having reviewed the results of the apostolic visit to the German archdiocese of Cologne concerning the handling of abuse cases, the Pope accepts Cardinal Woelki’s request to have a break. At the same time, the Holy Father rejected the resignation of two auxiliary bishops of Cologne.

Venezuelan Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino dead at age 79

After a monthlong battle with COVID-19, Venezuelan Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, who led the Archdiocese of Caracas for 13 years, died at the age of 79.

Pope keeps German archbishop criticized over abuse scandal

Pope Francis has decided to leave in office a prominent German archbishop who faced criticism for his handling of the church’s sexual abuse scandal.

Pope to new Armenian Patriarch: closeness to Syria, Lebanon

In a letter, Pope Francis has granted the “Ecclesiastica Communio” to the new Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church, who was elected on September 23. The Pope received His Beatitude Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian of Cilicia in the Vatican on Friday.

Germany: Political parties rally supporters ahead of election

As Germans prepare to go to the polls in a national election on Sunday, political parties are using the last two days of this campaign to win over undecided voters.