Pope Francis is 80 on Saturday – the age at which cardinals must retire from the electoral college, which will choose the next leader of the world’s 1.2bn Roman Catholics. Will Francis also go at 80? In the past, popes ignored the watershed. They went on until they died. But Benedict XVI changed things when he became the first leader of the Catholic church to resign in more than 500 years. Francis has indicated that he might retire too. It is vital, not just for the church but the world, that he does not.
The two popes before Francis were conservatives.… Seguir leyendo »
Mother Teresa once went to a cash-and-carry-in London. She filled a huge trolley with food for her hostel for homeless men in Waterloo. At the till she was told the total was more than £500. “It’s for the poor,” she said. “Very admirable,” said the store’s owner, repeating the total. “No, you don’t understand,” she said. “It’s for the poor.”
The shopkeeper told the nun that it was she who did not understand: she still had to pay. To the embarrassment of the English volunteer who had driven her to the shop, a standoff ensued, with the nun and the owner reiterating their positions over and over.… Seguir leyendo »
“Santo subito.” The Italian words mean “make him a saint now.” This was the cry of the crowds at the funeral of Pope John Paul II — a demand swiftly acted upon by the church authorities in Rome. The words are echoing around the world again now. This time, the call comes from Catholics shocked at the death of the Rev. Jacques Hamel, the priest whose throat was cut as he officiated at morning prayers on Tuesday in a small French town near Rouen.
The demand to put the slain French priest on the fast track for sainthood was made by a prominent Italian politician, Roberto Maroni, the president of the Lombardy region.… Seguir leyendo »
Even by Vatican standards the timing is spectacularly inept. The six Oscar nominations for the movie Spotlight have refocused the attention of the world on the issue of paedophile priests inside the Catholic church – almost certainly the biggest scandal to plague the institution in the past century. And yet, with disdain or disregard for world opinion, just two weeks before the Oscars the most outspoken member of the pope’s commission to combat sex abuse has been sacked.
Pope Francis is busy elsewhere. After Friday’s historic meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church – the first for almost 1,000 years – he has been about his usual business: visiting prisoners, migrants, indigenous people and the families of victims of the violence of drug traffickers, this time in Mexico.… Seguir leyendo »
Pope Francis, now safely back in Rome, missed a major opportunity on his trip to Africa. His pleas for peace and reconciliation between the continent’s Christians and Muslims were well-received, by both faiths. His castigation of the indifference of the rich, as he stood amid a cardboard slum, was apt. He was widely applauded when he warned of catastrophe if this week’s Paris climate negotiations do not succeed. But when it came to the way gay people are treated on a continent in which homosexuality is illegal in many countries, he offered only a deafening silence.
His defenders will say that gay rights are a Western obsession and that it would have been counterproductive for Francis to raise the matter on such a brief visit to a continent which is hostile to the pope’s desire to make the Roman Catholic Church more welcoming to people who are gay, or divorced or cohabiting without being married.… Seguir leyendo »
Corrupt and secretive Vatican locks up whistleblower. First scandal of Pope Francis era. Good story, but the narrative is wrong. The pope is quite right to have ordered the detention of the cleric alleged to be behind the leaking of the latest juicy revelations about cardinals living in luxury apartments and the dishonest use of charitable funds.
The latest allegations about dodgy dealings at the Holy See are revealed in two books published this week. They are based on leaks from the reformers tasked by Francis with cleaning up the Catholic church. It has been billed as Francis’s first scandal because the reforming pope has responded by locking up the two Vatican insiders thought to be responsible for the leak.… Seguir leyendo »
Anyone who wants to understand the message Pope Francis will bring to the United States should visit the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Detroit. In one classroom is a photograph of the pope sending a dove aloft; in the art room, a picture of a smiling Francis with a lamb draped across his shoulders; in the Spanish-language room, an image of him sporting a sombrero. Alongside these informal snaps is one formal portrait.
The photographs weren’t collected by the staff or students. They were sent by the pope himself, in apology for not being able to include the school in his recent “virtual audience” with people in three American cities ahead of his arrival in Washington on Tuesday.… Seguir leyendo »
The document takes its inspiration, like its name, from the writings of Francis of Assisi. The 13th-century saint, like his 21st-century namesake, combined a love for the poor, for peace and for nature. But if the saint’s theology was new, the pope’s is traditional. Moreover, he has taken care to locate his text firmly in the substantial body of teaching set out by previous popes, including two beloved by American conservatives, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Francis also made a point — highly unusually — of referencing the pioneering eco-theology of the Orthodox Church, as well as citing no fewer than 18 teaching documents from Catholic bishops’ conferences around the world.… Seguir leyendo »
The assassinated Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero is at the final milestone of a tortuous road to sainthood with his beatification by the Roman Catholic Church on Saturday. The occasion has brought celebrations of the highest order in his native El Salvador. But the event calls for much wider rejoicing — for it reveals a victory over malign influences within the church and provides further evidence of the radical nature of the revolution Pope Francis is forging in Rome.
Archbishop Romero was shot and killed at the altar as he celebrated Mass in San Salvador in 1980. His assassin was from one of the death squads propping up an unholy alliance among rich landowners, the army and sections of the Catholic Church as the country moved toward civil war.… Seguir leyendo »
Pope Francis grabbed headlines recently when he announced that Rome had lifted the block on sainthood for Archbishop Óscar Romero of San Salvador, who was shot dead while saying Mass in 1980. But much less attention was given to another of the pope’s actions, one that underscores a significant shift inside the Vatican under the first Latin American pope in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
Archbishop Romero was assassinated after speaking out in favor of the poor during an era when right-wing death squads stalked El Salvador under an American-backed, military-led government in the 1970s and ’80s. For three decades Rome blocked his path to sainthood for fear that it would give succor to the proponents of liberation theology, the revolutionary movement that insists that the Catholic Church should work to bring economic and social — as well as spiritual — liberation to the poor.… Seguir leyendo »
It looked extremely dramatic when Pope Francis fired the entire board of the Vatican’s financial watchdog last week. But that was only the half of it. The seismic changes that are underway behind the scenes in Rome are even more radical than public appearances suggest. And they offer illuminating insights into the steely character of the man who likes to present himself to the world as a model of smiling humility.
The body known as Rome’s Financial Information Authority (F.I.A.) supervises everything from the Vatican Bank to the real estate of the Holy See, its staff salaries and even the Vatican pharmacy.… Seguir leyendo »
Two popes will become saints this week. On Sunday, Pope Francis will officially add to the Roman Catholic canon the names of two of his recent predecessors: Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII. It would be better if he were not doing so.
Francis has had no choice in the case of John Paul II, the most popular pope ever in terms of the sheer numbers who flocked to see him during the 26-and-a-half years of his globe-trotting pontificate. He has been made a saint faster than anyone in history, in a process that began only days after his death in April 2005.… Seguir leyendo »
Boys have been raped. Priests have lied. Bishops have been complicit in cover-ups. Evidence has been shredded, whistle-blowers undermined, silence has been bought and victims given false promises. And yet for all that, the blistering critique of the United Nations report on sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church may end up doing more harm than good.
The case against the church is clear. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child refers to tens of thousands of crimes by priestly abusers over several decades. It calls on the church to remove all abusers from active ministry, report them to the police and open its archives on the 4,000 cases which have been referred to the Vatican.… Seguir leyendo »