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Vatican office altered photo of Benedict’s comments on Francis

March 14, 2018 CNA Daily News 2

Vatican City, Mar 14, 2018 / 01:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Vatican office has acknowledged blurring portions of a letter written by Benedict XVI regarding Pope Francis’ philosophical and theological formation, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The Secretariat for Communications released the photo March 12 along with a press release announcing a “personal letter of Benedict XVI on his continuity with the pontificate of Pope Francis.”

Altered photo of a letter from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, released March 12 by Vatican Secretariat of Communications. Credit: Vatican Media


The AP’s Nicole Winfield wrote March 14 that the Vatican has admitted “that it altered a photo sent to the media of a letter from retired Pope Benedict XVI about Pope Francis. The manipulation changed the meaning of the image in a way that violated photojournalist industry standards.”

Winfield added that “The Vatican admitted Thursday [sic] that it blurred the two final lines of the first page … The Vatican didn’t explain why it blurred the lines other than to say it never intended for the full letter to be released. In fact, the entire second page of the letter is covered in the photo by a stack of books, with just Benedict’s tiny signature showing, to prove its authenticity.”

The full text of the letter was published March 13 by Sandro Magister, an Italian journalist who has long followed the Vatican.

The text shows that Benedict’s letter, dated Feb. 7, was written to acknowledge receipt of the gift of a series of 11 volumes on “The Theology of Pope Francis,” and to respond to a request that the Pope Emeritus write a theological reflection on the books.

The series is published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana, the Vatican publishing house overseen by the Secretariat.

“I applaud this initiative which is intended to oppose and react to the foolish prejudice according to which Pope Francis would be only a practical man devoid of particular theological or philosophical formation, while I would be solely a theoretician of theology who could understand little of the concrete life of a Christian today,” Benedict wrote.

“The little volumes demonstrate, rightly so, that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation, and they therefore help in seeing the interior continuity between the two pontificates, albeit with all the differences of style and temperament.”

The Pope Emeritus then added, “Nonetheless, I do not feel that I can write a brief and dense theological page about them because for my whole life it has always been clear that I would write and express myself only on books that I had also truly read. Unfortunately, even if only for physical reasons, I am not able to read the eleven little volumes in the near future, all the more so in that I am under other obligations to which I have already agreed. I am sure that you will understand, and I extend to you my cordial greeting.”

Though it was written in early February, the letter was not released by the Secretariat for Communications until mid-March when the book series was released, on the eve of the anniversary of Pope Francis’ election as Bishop of Rome.

The secretariat’s press release quoted portions of the letter praising the booklets, but did not include Benedict’s admission that he has not read them in full.

The letter was presented at a press conference announcing the series of booklets on Pope Francis’ theology.

The prefect of the communications secretariat, Monsignor Dario Viganò, read portions of Benedict’s letter at the press conference, “including the lines that were blurred out”, the AP reports. The portion of the letter which was blurred out is the beginning of Benedict’s explanation that he has not in fact read all the volumes which were sent him.

Msgr. Viganò, who was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Milan, has been prefect of the Secretariat for Communications since that office was established in June 2015.

The secretariat was formed as part of Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia, and is meant to consolidate the Vatican’s media arms and to increase their presence among digital platforms.

The secretariat oversees all of the Vatican’s communications offices, including Vatican Radio, L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Television Center, the Holy See Press Office, Vatican Internet Service, the Vatican Typography office, the Vatican’s Photography Service, and Libreria Editrice Vaticana.



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Pope: In praying the Our Father, do you know who you’re talking to?

March 14, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Mar 14, 2018 / 06:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of the recitation of the Our Father at Mass, asking if when we pray it, we understand who we are praying to and the relationship we are called to have with him.

“How many times there are people who say, ‘Our Father,’ but do not know what they say!” the Pope said March 14.

“Do you feel that when you say ‘Father,’ that he is the Father, your Father, the Father of humanity, the Father of Jesus Christ?” he asked. “Do you have a relationship with this Father?”

When we pray this prayer, we are connecting with a loving Father, he continued, explaining that it is the Holy Spirit which gives us this connection with him, the feeling of being God’s child.

What better prayer can there be for giving us sacramental Communion with God, he asked, than the one taught by his son, Jesus?

Pope Francis continued his general audience catechesis on the part of the Mass called the Rite of Communion, which begins with the recitation of the ‘Our Father,’ followed by the sign of peace, the breaking of the host by the priest, and the invocation of the “Agnus Dei,” or “Lamb of God.”

In particular, the Pope noted the appropriateness of the Lord’s Prayer as a preparation for receiving Holy Communion, because in the prayer we pledge our forgiveness of others and ask God to forgive our own sins.

This request opens our hearts to God, but “also disposes us to fraternal love,” he said, noting that this is not always an easy thing to say.

“It’s not easy to forgive those who have hurt us. It’s a grace to say: Forgive me as I have forgiven [others]… it’s a grace…” the Pope said. “The Lord gives us peace, he also gives us the grace to forgive.”

“The peace of Christ cannot take root in a heart incapable of living fraternity and of repairing it after having wounded it,” he said.

In the prayer we also ask God to “deliver us from evil,” which is another cause of separation between us and God and us and our brothers and sisters, he continued. Each of these “are very suitable requests to prepare us for Holy Communion.”

He also pointed to the line where we ask God to “give us our daily bread,” which is something “we need to live as children of God.”

After the ‘Our Father,’ we exchange the sign of peace with those around us, a concrete sign expressing “ecclesial communion and mutual love,” Francis said, quoting from the Roman Missal.

He also emphasized that this peace is Christ’s gift to us – a different peace from that offered by the world, it helps the Church to grow in unity and peace “according to his will.”

Next in the Mass, the priest breaks the host, which has already been consecrated and transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and places it in the chalice. This is accompanied by our prayer to the “Lamb of God.”

“In the Eucharistic Bread, broken for the life of the world, the prayerful assembly recognizes the true Lamb of God, that is Christ the Redeemer, and begs him: ‘Have mercy on us… give us peace,’” the Pope said.

“‘Have mercy on us,’ ‘give us peace,’” he continued, “are invocations that, from the prayer of the Our Father to the breaking of the Bread, help us to dispose our mind to participate in the Eucharistic banquet, a source of communion with God and with our brothers.”

He concluded by asking everyone to pray the Our Father together, each “in their own language.”

In his speech, the Pope did not mention the line of the Our Father which says in English, “lead us not into temptation.”

In an interview he gave in December 2017, Francis said that he believes the Italian translation of this line, which says, “non ci indurre in tentazione,” is incorrect, because God does not actively lead us into temptation.

He also praised in the interview a new translation of this line by the French bishops’ conference, which says “et ne nous laisse pas entrer in tentation” – “let us not enter into temptation.” It replaces the previous translation “ne nous soumets pas à la tentation” – “do not submit us to temptation.”


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Catholic leaders reflect on Pope Francis’ 5-year anniversary

March 13, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Mar 13, 2018 / 03:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- March 13, 2018 marks the 5-year anniversary of Pope Francis’ election as Bishop of Rome. In recognition of the anniversary, CNA asked Catholic leaders around the US for their reflections on the past five years and their thoughts on what the coming years might hold. Here is what they said:

Prayers and congratulations to Pope Francis on the 5th anniversary of his election to the throne of St. Peter. Pope Francis, by his words and his deeds, is calling us to a deeper friendship with Jesus and to a renewed commitment to missionary discipleship. His profound love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Church, and his filial devotion to her, reminds us of the importance we all have to cultivate a deeper love and fidelity to Holy Mother Church. Ad multos annos.
-Bishop James Conley of Lincoln

Over the past five years, we have all been blessed by the focus and attention Pope Francis has given to the crucial issues of our time such as refugees and migrants, and stewarding our resources in Laudato Si. His call, to focus on the poor and to go out into the world, has been truly motivational. Long may his voice continue to speak out for the poor and oppressed in our world.
-Sean Callahan, president and CEO, Catholic Relief Services

I am delighted that Pope Francis has signaled loud and clear to the world the Catholic Church’s option for the poor and the immigrant. I hope the coming years will also reveal a noticeable movement forward on incorporating more women into church leadership and helping especially the poorer to achieve marital stability and permanence.
-Helen Alvare, chair, Catholic Women’s Forum

I thank God every day for the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. I hope that in the next five years of Francis’s papacy we keep in mind that the unity of the Church is entrusted to the pastoral care of the pope and the bishops in communion with him.
-John Garvey, president, The Catholic University of America

If I could sum up the first 5 years of Pope Francis’ vision for the Church, I would do it with one word ‘integrity’ – Better integrating the mind with the heart, better integrating humanity with our mission to be stewards of creation. My hope for the next five years is the fulfillment of this desire. A Magisterium united to the laity and a Church shepherding God’s creation through the Joy of the Gospel. I am grateful to Pope Francis for giving the Church and the world the Year of Mercy. I believe the Church continues to unpack the graces from that momentous season. May the words of the 266th vicar of Christ continue to resound throughout the whole world: God is always waiting for us. He never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence and hope – always!
– Martha Reichert, president, ENDOW

“I offer prayerful best wishes to Pope Francis as he marks the 5th anniversary of his Petrine ministry. I’ve admired and respected his keen focus on service to the poor since we first met as young bishops delegated to the 1997 Special Assembly for the Americas … He’s repeatedly challenged us to bear witness to Christ through concrete action—by serving the poor, by helping immigrants, by preserving families, and by protecting the sanctity of life. It’s the kind of challenge we can and should answer with a hearty yes each day. May God bless Pope Francis and may the Holy Spirit grant him wisdom as shepherd of the Universal Church.”
-Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia [excerpted from a public statement]


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Pope Francis sends condolences for death of controversial German cardinal

March 12, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2018 / 12:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday Pope Francis sent condolences for the death of Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the retired archbishop of Mainz, Germany, who died March 11.  

Expressing his condolences for the death of the prominent cardinal in a letter to Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz March 12, Francis said he learned of Cardinal Lehmann’s death “with pain,” and is praying for him “who the Lord has called to himself after a serious illness and suffering.”

Cardinal Lehmann, who served as the bishop of Mainz for nearly 33 years, died in his home on the morning of March 11 at the age of 81. He retired in 2016, and in September 2017 suffered a stroke which left his health in serious decline.

His funeral Mass will take place March 21 at the Mainz Cathedral.

Cardinal Lehmann served as president of the German bishops’ conference for 20 years. Pope Francis said that in this long period of activity he “helped shape the life of the Church and of society.”

“He always had a heart open to the questions and challenges of the times, and to offering answers and orientations starting from the message of Christ, to accompany people along their path, seeking what unites…” he continued.

Lehmann was born on May 16, 1936 and ordained a priest for the diocese of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany in 1963. He was appointed bishop of Mainz in 1983 and served until his retirement in 2016. He was made a cardinal by St. Pope John Paul II in 2001.

While bishop of Mainz, he became a member of the circle for dialogue between representatives of the German bishops’ conference and the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

From March 1986-1988 he also became a member, and later president, of the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue between the World Lutheran Federation and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Lehmann was at the center of numerous controversies involving the Vatican.

During his tenure as president of the German bishops’ conference he clashed with Pope John Paul II over abortion. After years of political conflict, first-trimester abortion became permissible in Germany in 1995, as long as a women received counseling first from a state-approved counselor.

Lehmann supported the Church’s participation in the compulsory counseling through church counseling centers, despite objections from Pope John Paul II. In 1998, the pope banned the Church’s participation in the state’s counseling system.

In 1993, Lehmann was also one of three German bishops, alongside Walter Kasper and Oskar Saier, who issued a pastoral letter arguing that there should be room to allow divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics to receive communion “in particular situations.”

The bishops also proposed that the decision to receive the Eucharist should be left to the individual’s judgment, in discussion with a priest.

Following the promulgation of the letter, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, called the bishops to attend a series of meetings at the Vatican.

The CDF also issued a corrective letter in October 1994, reaffirming Church teaching that the divorced-and-civilly-remarried may not receive Holy Communion “as long as this situation persists,” unless the couple decides to live in continence.

In  2015 Lehmann was identified as having belonged to a group of progressive reformer cardinals, who are said to promoted alternative candidates at the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, and are rumored to have promoted the election of Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis.   
It was dubbed the “St. Gallen Group,” after the host of their discussions, the Bishop of St. Gallen, Switzerland, Ivo Furer.

The group is said to have also included Cardinals Godfried Danneels, Walter Kasper, Ad van Luyn, and Achille Silvestrini, as well as the now-deceased Cardinals Basil Hume, Jose da Cruz Policarpo, Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Carlo Martini, and Lubomyr Husar.  

It met primarily between 1995 and 2006, discussing various topics, including papal primacy.

The group’s meetings were first revealed in an authorized biography of Cardinal Danneels. At the book’s launch in Brussels in Sept. 2015, Danneels said the group called themselves “the mafia.”

In 2005 Lehmann participated in the papal conclave that elected Benedict XVI, and in the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis.