The Vatican on Thursday shared the first photos of the private ritual for the closing of Benedict XVI’s coffin.
The casket was closed in St. Peter’s Basilica on the evening of Jan. 4 after three days of public visitation to the late pope’s body.
Before the wooden coffin was closed, Benedict XVI’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, and Monsignor Diego Giovanni Ravelli, the Vatican’s lead master of ceremonies for papal liturgies, placed a white veil over the late pope’s face. The action is part of the funeral rites for popes.
“Almighty God, Lord of life and death, we believe that the life of the Holy Father Benedict XVI is now hidden in you … May his face contemplate your beauty,” the prayer for the rite says.
Cardinals Giovanni Battista Re, Pietro Parolin, Angelo De Donatis, Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, Edgar Peña Parra, Mauro Gambetti, and the consecrated women of the pope emeritus’ household were present for the closing of the coffin.
Before the casket was closed, a one-page summary in Latin of Benedict XVI’s papacy, called a “rogito” in Italian, was rolled into a metal cylinder and placed inside.
Gänswein kissed the top of the closed coffin, made of cypress.
Benedict XVI’s funeral and burial in the Vatican crypt took place on the morning of Jan. 5.
Before the wooden coffin is closed, Benedict XVI’s personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein and Monsignor Diego Giovanni Ravelli, the Vatican’s lead master of ceremonies for papal liturgies, place a white veil over the late pope’s face. The action on Jan. 4, 2023, is part of the funeral rites for popes. Vatican Media
Benedict XVI’s personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein kisses the former pope’s closed coffin during a private ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 4, 2023. Vatican Media
Benedict XVI’s personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein signs an official document after the casket of the former pope was closed during a private ceremony on Jan. 4, 2023, in St. Peter’s Basilica. Vatican Media
Monsignor Diego Giovanni Ravelli, the Vatican’s lead master of ceremonies for papal liturgies, signs an official document after the coffin of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was closed in a private ceremony on Jan. 4, 2023, in St. Peter’s Basilica. Vatican Media
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The Community of Sant’Egidio, a group founded in Rome and known for mediating conflicts worldwide, shared a petition Jan. 23, 2024, urging Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to halt the execution of convicted murderer Kenneth “Kenny” Eugene Smith. / Credit: Alabama Department of Corrections
CNA Staff, Jan 23, 2024 / 17:50 pm (CNA).
A lay Catholic community dedicated to peace efforts has expressed concern about an execution scheduled in Alabama for Jan. 25, set to be carried out using a relatively untested method called nitrogen hypoxia.
The Community of Sant’Egidio, a group founded in Rome and known for mediating conflicts worldwide, shared a petition Jan. 23 urging Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to halt the execution of convicted murderer Kenneth “Kenny” Eugene Smith.
Smith is scheduled to die Thursday after being convicted for the 1988 murder of Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett, whom Sennett’s husband, a Protestant pastor, had paid Smith to kill. The state of Alabama attempted in November 2022 to execute Smith by way of lethal injection but postponed his execution after an attempt to administer the injection was unsuccessful.
Sant’Egidio, which has advocated for many years for an end to the death penalty, says that Smith will be the first person in the world to be executed using nitrogen hypoxia, which involves the fitting of a mask over the condemned person’s face and pure nitrogen — a normally harmless gas — being pumped through it, leading to suffocation.
“We are asking that this execution be stopped because the world cannot afford to regress to the stage of killing in a more barbaric way,” said Mario Marazziti, who heads Sant’Egidio’s death penalty abolition group, as reported Tuesday by ABC News.
The United Nations Human Rights Office warned this month that the novel execution method — which is controversial due to a lack of data on what the inmate could experience during the execution — could amount to torture under international human rights law. In a Jan.16 press release, Ravina Shamdasani, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, noted that nitrogen gas has never been used in the United States to execute human beings.
“The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends giving even large animals a sedative when being euthanized in this manner, while Alabama’s protocol for execution by nitrogen asphyxiation makes no provision for sedation of human beings prior to execution,” the U.N. high commissioner noted.
Catholic Mobilizing Network, a Catholic advocacy group that demonstrates against the death penalty, urged Catholics to speak out against Smith’s scheduled execution and the method being used.
“Kenny should not be subjected to a second execution, especially with the uncertainty that surrounds this new, untested method,” the group said.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Alabama introduced nitrogen hypoxia as a method of execution in August 2023 and is the first state to create and release a protocol for using the method. “Lethal gas” is authorized as an execution method in seven states, though only three have specifically authorized the use of nitrogen, the center states.
Alabama’s death penalty has been under scrutiny for the past several years because of a number of failed executions. A notable botched execution took place in 2018 when Doyle Lee Hamm was strapped to a gurney for two and a half hours as prison medical officials were unable to find a suitable vein for the lethal injection.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday denied Smith’s request to review the constitutionality of his death sentence, the AP reported.
Bishop Robert Barron speaks to EWTN’s Colm Flynn about evangelizing the culture today. October 2023. / Credit: Word on Fire
Vatican City, Oct 26, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).
Bishop Robert Barron said he regrets the Catholic Church’s “hand-wringing” in recent decades over how to share the Christian message with a secular culture.
In an exclusive interview with EWTN News this week, the 63-year-old bishop of Winona-Rochester said he wants to see the Church today embrace sharing the Gospel with the same gusto and confidence as when Sts. Peter and Paul evangelized Rome.
“Much of my adult life — and I say this with regret — the Church has been in a kind of hand-wringing mode of, ‘Well, what do we know, and who are we to tell you? And we’re here, really, to learn more from you.’ Come on!” Barron said during an interview at the North American College in Rome.
“Peter and Paul came to this town a long time ago and they weren’t here just to listen to Roman culture,” the bishop continued. “They were here with a message: ‘euangelion,’ there’s good news, and it’s good news that will change the world. And in fact it worked.”
“The fact that over there [St. Peter’s Basilica], Peter lies buried to this day, but dominating this once imperial capital is the cross of Jesus. That didn’t come welling up from Roman culture. That came from a message that these [apostles] brought. We should do our work with the same energy and the same panache and the same confidence,” Barron encouraged.
Bishop Robert Barron speaks to EWTN’s Colm Flynn in Rome, October 2023. Credit: Word on Fire
Barron, founder of the Word on Fire media apostolate, is in Rome to participate in the Oct. 4–29 session of the Synod on Synodality.
He said despite the apparent decline in faith and rise in what have been described as spiritual “nones” — people with no belief whatsoever — he still has hope in Christ and in the message of the Catholic Church.
“Being here in Rome with the synod, every day, people from all corners of the world — well, that means there’s something in Catholicism that is still very compelling to people, and that when it’s laid out in a way that’s intellectually satisfying and aesthetically pleasing and morally compelling, they respond to it,” he argued.
The bishop said he does not believe the “new atheist nonsense” will hold people’s hearts and minds in the long run.
“And the Church?” Barron added. “I look out at the city of Rome here: [The Church has] been around for a long time and we’ve been through a lot worse than we’re going through right now. So we will endure.”
“So Christ gives me hope and the Holy Spirit gives me hope,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot worse and there’s still nothing better on the table. There’s no fresher fish on the market than Christianity. It’s still the most beautiful, compelling message that we’ve got.”
The popular speaker and writer also said he does not think disagreements in the Church are worse than they were in the ’60s, ’70s, or ’80s.
People are not only critical of Pope Francis, he said, noting that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were also attacked during their papacies, though without social media so it may not have been as much on people’s radars.
Barron also attended the Synod of Bishops on young people in October 2018.
Practically speaking, he said, the synodal assembly this month is more comfortable than the youth synod.
Prior synods were held in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall, which has theater-like seating. Barron described it as “a somewhat claustrophobic room” and like sitting in “the middle seat on an airplane.”
He added that the larger space of the Paul VI Hall, with tables and chairs, as well as wearing suits instead of cassocks every day, is also “more comfortable, more humane … easier to get through.”
“The best part of [the Synod on Synodality]” is being with Catholics from all over the world, he said.
He recalled the “cacophonous sound” of hundreds of people speaking in different languages at the three-day retreat held ahead of the synodal assembly in a town outside Rome.
“It was the universality of the Church in all of us,” he said, “a kind of cacophonous wonder. There’s no other group or society in the world, I don’t think, that could muster that kind of international universality, and that is an extraordinary thing.”
Watch EWTN’s full interview with Bishop Barron below.
Vatican City, Dec 13, 2019 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A senior official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has defended clerical celibacy in the wake of the abuse crisis.
In an essay published in a Spanish magazine, Fr. Jordi Bertomeu Farnós said that there is “no evidence” celibacy has any relation to instances of sexual abuse, and warned that priests have been unfairly branded a suspect class.
In the essay, published in Palabra Dec. 10, Fr. Farnós laid out the context of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, noting that the high-profile nature of the scandals has resulted in a number of mistaken presumptions about the causes of abuse.
“Although unfortunately, in all social classes, professions, ethnic groups and, of course, religions, there is the phenomenon of child abuse, Catholic priests are seen or even increasingly treated as ‘suspects’ of having committed this horrible crime.”
Speaking against attempts to link the discipline of celibacy to crimes of sexual abuse, Farnós said that “regardless of other circumstances and arguments that have emerged in the recent Synod for the Amazon,” “this conclusion does not present any logical connection with the problem we are dealing with here: there is no scientific data that demonstrates that a married life would put an end to the deviant behavior of these few priests with this sexual disorder.”
“There is no evidence that priestly celibacy directly causes any deviant sexual addiction, as evidenced by those cases of men or women who, due to life’s circumstances, must live as celibate.”
“In addition,” he added, “celibacy has never been considered as a relevant parameter to identify abusers. Rather, most abusers are married men. Priests, mostly celibate men are… usually characterized precisely for their psychological balance, for their availability and selfless delivery to all, not only to the Catholic faithful.”
Farnós went on to offer a strident defence of the discipline of celibacy which, he said, was often unintelligible to modern society.
“According to some, in a sexually uninhibited and eroticized society… with numerous cases of addiction to all kinds of pornography and sexual deviations or paraphilias, priestly celibacy would be a pernicious life option,” he said.
According to this mindset, Farnós argued, celibacy is only recognized as “perpetual self-censorship of sexual desire,” and must lead to “psychological problems related to immaturity” that result in pedophilia.
“If the experience of celibacy has always been countercultural,” Farnós says, today it is “even more” so.
“Our society needs many young people to show everyone the goodness of living a true, chaste and free love. Living the consecration as ‘anointing’ and not simply ‘function’ encourages everyone, particularly those who have received the marriage vocation, to surrender without fainting despite daily difficulties,” he said.
“Priests are called, therefore, to surrender with a totalizing love to be ‘signs’ of a more real love than any utopia.”
Pointing to other examples of institutions rocked by abuse scandals, Fernós said that attempts to link celibacy to abuse lacked evidence.
“The data offered by other Christian and non-Christian churches, without celibate sacred ministers, belies that claim,” he said, pointing to the example of the Unity Church of Australia, which has 240,000 members, no hierarchy, and which elects married male and female clergy, but has recently made headlines for 2,500 cases of child abuse.
“Contrast such data with the Catholic Church, with 466,000 priests and 6,000 cases reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” he said.
In the essay, Farnós pointed out that while the vast majority of cases of sexual abuse occur in the family, no one draws the conclusion that family members are ipso facto prone to abuse.
“If 73% of sexual abuse of minors seems to occur in the family environment, it cannot be affirmed that ‘being a father or being a mother predisposes to abuse,’” he said.
Farnós said that media coverage of the scandals had rightly highlighted the seriousness of all cases, but given rise to “certain statements destined to provoke the social panic and discredit of the Church, unfairly stigmatizing the social group of the clergy.”
Noting that the CDF has received approximately 6,000 cases of abuse world-wide, “an excessive number that shames us as Christians and particularly as priests,” Farnós said that priest account for only 3% of abuse cases reported to civil authorities.
“In the last two decades, we have attended with pain, particularly in some regions of the Catholic world, to an unworthy, improper, inconsiderate and even vexatious treatment of priests for the mere fact of [their] being [priests],” he said, pointing to “irresponsible” coverage of clerical abuse by the media.
The CDF official did, however, acknowledge that the vast majority of sexual abuse cases in the Church, some 80%, involve men preying on boys or young men, but warned against drawing any causal link between homosexuality as an orientation and a disposition to abuse.
Despite what Farnós called “certain ultraconservative ideological positions,” the data available to the CDF showed that “there is no direct relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia or between the latter and a ‘progressive style’ of clergy.”
“Affirming the direct connection of homosexuality with pedophilia from the data […] not only involves the commission of a great injustice, but also the criminalization of a certain sexual identity,” Farnós said, while at the same time observing that cultures of active homosexuality were a contributing factor to sexual abuse.
“It is […] possible to affirm that a certain homosexual subculture typical of some clerical groups and present in certain seminars or novitiates, with the consequent tolerance towards active homosexual behaviors, can lead to pedophilia.”
These, Fornós said, “deserve greater attention from pastors, who have the pastoral and disciplinary means to invite [clerics] by example, the word and even coercion to a chaste life that does not pose a danger or scandal for the priest himself and for the Church.”
Offering his own reflections on preventing future abuse, he said that bishops need to focus on the selection of candidates for the priesthood, moving away from “a superficial predisposition to welcome all,” and identifying men “capable of living loneliness as a moment of grace and maturation, integrating aggressiveness and maintaining healthy relationships with adult people for a long time.”
“We should insist on candidates for ministry [suitable for] their future public and social role,” he said.
“They will be moral reference points and, therefore, should be exercised from the first moment of their formation in great self-control, with the aim of never scandalizing or even moving anyone away from the faith, the great gift that sustains us.”