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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Pope's return flight to Rome: fundamentalism is a sickness that afflicts all religions

Vatican City, 1 December 2015 (VIS) – During his return flight following his apostolic trip to Africa, the Pope answered questions from the journalists accompanying him on the aircraft. The following are extensive extracts from questions posed and the Holy Father's answers regarding his impressions of Africa, the Vatileaks case, his upcoming trips and COP 21.

The first question was from a Kenyan journalist who wanted to know the Pope's views on the stories told by poor families in the Kangemi slum regarding exclusion from fundamental human rights due to avarice and corruption.

Pope Francis: “I understand that 80 per cent of the world's wealth is in the hands of 17 per cent of the population; I do not know if this is true, but it is likely, as this is how things are. … It is an economic system in which money, the god of money, is at the centre. … And if things continue in this way, the world will not change. … In Kangemi, where I spoke clearly about rights, I felt great suffering. … Yesterday, for example, I visited a paediatric hospital, the only one in Bangui and in the country! And in intensive care they do not have the instruments to provide oxygen. There were many malnourished children, many. And the doctor told me, 'Here the majority will die, as they have malaria and they are malnourished. … And those people who hold 80 per cent of the world's wealth – what do they think of this?”

The second question regarded the most memorable moment of the Pope's trip to Africa.

Pope Francis: “For me Africa was a surprise. I thought: God surprises us, but also Africa surprises! … They have a great sense of welcome. … Then, each country has its own identity. Kenya is a little more modern, more developed. Uganda has the identity of martyrs: the Ugandan people, both Catholic and Anglican, venerate the martyrs. … The courage of giving life for an ideal. And the Central African Republic: there is the desire for peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness”.

The third question touched on the issued of Vatileaks and the importance of the press in denouncing corruption wherever it encounters it.

Pope Francis: “A free press, both secular and confessional, but professional ... is important to me, because the denouncement of injustice and corruption is good work. … And then those who are responsible must do something: form a judgement, constitute a tribunal. But the professional press must say everything, without falling prey to the three most common sins: disinformation, or telling half a story but omitting the other half; slander, or when the press is unprofessional and seeks to soil others with or without truth; and defamation, or rather, to damage a person's reputation … and these are the three defects that undermine the professionalism of the press. We need professionalism”.

A French journalist asked whether, faced with the danger of fundamentalism, religious leaders should intervene in the political arena.

Pope Francis: “If this means participating in politics, no. Being a priest, a pastor, an imam, a rabbi – this is the vocation of a religious leader. But political influence is exercised indirectly by preaching values, true values, and one of the greatest values is fraternity between us. … Fundamentalism is a sickness that we find in all religions. Among Catholics there are many, not a few, many, who believe to hold the absolute truth and they go ahead by harming others with slander and defamation, and they do great harm. … And it must be combated. Religious fundamentalism is not truly religious. Why? Because God is missing. It is a form of idolatry, in the same way as worshipping money is idolatry. Being political in the sense of convincing these people who have this tendency is a policy that we religious leaders must adopt”.

An Italian journalist asked why two of the defendants in the Vatileaks case, Msgr. Vallejo Balda and Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, had been appointed.

Pope Francis: “I think it was a mistake. Msgr. Vallejo Balda entered via the role he had has had until now. He was secretary of the Prefecture of Economic Affairs. I am not sure how he entered but if I am not mistaken, it was he who presented [Chaouqui] as a woman who knew the world of commercial relations. … They worked and once they had finished their task, the members of the Commission, COSEA, remained in various places in the Vatican. The same applied to Vallejo Balda. Ms. Chaouqui did not remain in the Vatican because she entered for the purposes of the Commission and then left. Some say that she was angry about this, but the judges will tell us the truth of the situation. … For me [what came out] was not a surprise, it did not cause me to lose any sleep, because they have shown the work that began with the Commission of Cardinals – the 'C9' – to seek out corruption and things that are not going well. And here I want to say something … on the word 'corruption'. Thirteen days before the death of St. John Paul II … in the Via Crucis, the then-cardinal Ratzinger spoke about corruption in the Church. He was the first to denounce it. And when St. John Paul II died, in the 'pro eligendo Pontefice' Mass – he was the dean – he spoke about the same thing, and we elected him for this, his liberty to say these things. Since then there has been an air of corruption in the Vatican. … With respect to the judgement, I have given the concrete accusations to the judges, because that is what is important for the defence, the formulation of the accusations. I have not read them, the concrete, technical accusations. I would have liked this to finish before 8 December, for the Year of Mercy, but I do not think this will be possible, as I would like the lawyers who defend them to have to time to defend; they must have the freedom to prepare a full defence”.

A South African correspondent commented on the devastation caused by AIDS in Africa, where the epidemic continues, and where prevention is still the key. He asked the Pope whether or not it was time to change the Church's position on the use of condoms.

Pope Francis: “The question seems to me to be too narrow, or rather a partial question. Yes, it is one of the methods; the morality of the Church finds itself before a perplexity: it is the fifth or the sixth commandment, defending life, or that the sexual relationship must be open to life? … This questions makes me think about what they did to Jesus once. 'Tell me Master, is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?'. It is obligatory to heal! … But malnutrition, the exploitation of people, slave labour, the lack of drinking water: these are the problems. Let us not ask if we can use this sticking plaster or another for a small wound. The great wound is social injustice, the injustice of the environment, the injustice that I have mentioned such as exploitation and malnutrition. … I do not like to make reference to such specific cases when people die for lack of water or hunger, because of their habitat. … When everyone has been healed, when there are no longer these tragic diseases caused by mankind, either by social injustice or to earn more money. … Then we can ask the question, 'is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?'. Why do they continue the production and trafficking of weapons? Wars are the greatest cause of mortality. … I would say, do not think about whether or not it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. I would like to say to humanity: ensure justice, and when everyone is healed, when there is no more injustice in this world, we can talk about the Sabbath”.

An Italian journalist wanted to know if the Pope had considered going to Armenia to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the tragedy that afflicted the population, as he did last year in Turkey.

“Last year I promised the three Patriarchs that I would go: the promise is there. I do not know if it will be possible to do so, but the promise stands. … As for wars, wars are due to ambition. I am talking about wars that are not a legitimate defence against an unjust aggressor, but rather wars, wars are an 'industry'! … War is a business, a weapons business. Terrorists, do they make their weapons? Perhaps the odd small one. Who gives them the weapons for warfare? There is a network of interests involved, and behind this there is money, or power: imperial power, or economic power. … But we have been at war for many years, some times more than others: the pieces of the war are smaller, then they become bigger. … I don't know what the 'Vatican position' is, but what I think is that wars are a sin against humanity. They destroy humanity, they are the cause of exploitation, of human trafficking, of so many things. … Wars are not of God. God is the God of peace”.

Another issue was whether the Conference on Climate Change in Paris will be the beginning to a solution to the environmental problem.

Pope Francis: “I am not sure, but I can say that it is now or never. Every year the problems grow more serious. … We are at the brink of suicide, to put it bluntly. And I am sure that almost all those who are in Paris, at the COP 21, are aware of this and want to do something. … I am trustful. I trust these people, that they will do something; because, I would say, I am sure that they have the goodwill to do so, and I hope it is so. And I pray for this”.

An American journalist asked what he thought Islam the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed had to say to today's world.

“It is possible to enter into dialogue; they have values. Many values. And these values are constructive. … Prayer, for example, and fasting. Religious values, and also other values. One cannot cancel out a religion because there are some groups, or many groups, at a certain historic moment, of fundamentalists. It is true that there have always been wars between religions throughout history, always. We too must ask forgiveness. … And the Thirty Years War, the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. … We too must ask forgiveness, for fundamentalist extremism and for religious wars”.

The Pope's visit to Mexico and other Latin American countries was the theme of the next question.

Pope Francis: “I will go to Mexico. First of all, I would like to visit Our Lady, the Mother of America, and so I will go to Mexico City. If it were not for the Virgin of Guadalupe, I would not go to Mexico City, as I would prefer to visit three or four cities that had not been visited by Popes. But I will go to visit Our Lady. Then I will go to Chiapas, in the South, on the border with Guatemala; then I will go to Morelia, and almost certainly, on the way back towards Rome, I will spend a day or less in Ciudad Juarez. With regard to visiting other Latin American countries, I have been invited to go to Aparecida in 2019, the other Patroness of America, for Portuguese speakers. … and from there perhaps I will be able to visit another country – but I do not know, there are no plans”.

The final question was from a Kenyan journalist, who asked: “What do you say to the world, which thinks that Africa is simply ravaged by wars and full of destruction?”

Pope Francis: “Africa is a victim. Africa has always been exploited by other powers. From Africa, slaves were taken to America, and sold. There are powers that seek only to take the great wealth of Africa. I don't know, it is possibly the richest continent. … But they do not think of how to help countries grow, to promote work, so that everyone has work. … Exploitation! Africa is a martyr. She is a martyr to exploitation in history. Those who say that from Africa is the home of all calamities and all wars do not understand well, perhaps, the damage that humanity has done to certain forms of development. And it is for this reason that I love Africa, because Africa has been a victim of other powers”.

Cardinal Parolin at the COP 21: Reach a global and transformational agreement

Vatican City, 1 December 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin spoke yesterday at the opening of the 21st Conference of States Parties to the Convention COP 21, held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December. After communicating Pope Francis' greetings and encouragement to the the participants in the hope of a fruitful outcome, the Cardinal mentioned the Holy Father's address to the United Nations Office at Nairobi on 26 November, when he expressed his hope that the Paris conference result in the adoption of a “global and transformational” agreement, based on the principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation, orientated towards the attainment of three complex and interdependent objectives: mitigating the effects of climate change, combating poverty, and promoting the dignity of the human person.

He went on to list the three pillars of this “global and transformational” agreement. “The first consists in the adoption of a clear ethical orientation, inspiring the motivations and aims of the Agreement to be implemented. We are well aware that the people most vulnerable to the impact of the phenomenon of climate change are the poorest and future generations, who suffer the gravest consequences, often without bearing any responsibility. … Faced with the urgency of a situation that requires the broadest collaboration possible so as to reach a common plan, it is important that this Agreement be focused on the recognition both of the ethical imperative to act in a context of global solidarity, and of the common but differentiated responsibilities of all actors in accordance with their respective capacities and conditions”.

“The second pillar regards the fact that the Agreement should not only identify the methods for its implementation, but should also and above all transmit clear signs to guide the behaviour of all the actors involved, beginning with governments, but also local authorities, the world of business, the scientific community and civil society. … This necessitates undertaking with conviction the road towards a low-carbon economy and full human development. … In this regard, the countries with greater resources and capacities should set a good example, contributing resources to those countries in greater need so as to promote sustainable development policies and programmes. For instance, the promotion of renewable energy and dematerialisation, as well as the development of energy efficiency, come to mind, or the correct management of forests, transport and waste; the development of a circular model for the economy; the implementation of appropriate, sustainable and diversified programmes for food safety and to combat food waste; strategies against speculation and ineffective or indeed at times harmful subsidies; and the development and transfer of suitable technologies”.

The third and final pillar is the vision of the future. “COP 21 is not a moment of arrival or a starting point, but rather a crucial path in a process that without doubt will not end in 2015”, emphasised Cardinal Parolin. “An agreement with a long term perspective of this type should provide for processes for the revision of commitments and transparent, effective and dynamic follow-ups, able to progressively increase the level of ambition, as well as to guarantee suitable control. Furthermore, it is necessary to take into serious consideration the implementation of sustainable models of production and consumption, new attitudes, and new lifestyles. Here we enter the fundamental fields of education and training, unfortunately often situated at the margins of negotiations for international agreements. Technical solutions are necessary, but they are not enough if they do not consider education in sustainable life styles and responsible awareness”.

How did the Council Fathers experience Vatican Council II?

Vatican City, 1 December 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present the International Study Convention “Vatican Council II and its protagonists in the light of the archives” (Vatican City, 9 to 11 December 2015), organised by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. The speakers were Fr. Bernard Ardura, O. Praem., and Professor Philippe Chenaux, respectively president and member of the Committee.

Fr. Ardura explained that the event is a follow-up to the Convention held in 2012, with the collaboration of the Centre for Research and Study on the Council, on the theme “Vatican Council II: starting again from the archives”, which offered the exceptional opportunity to bring together archivists and university teachers to present the very diverse situations of conservation, cataloguing and use of the legacy of the conciliar Fathers. This second event is dedicated instead to the protagonists of the Council, “casting light on the various networks of opinions that had a not insignificant role in forming the convictions of many Council Fathers, both at the level of the episcopal conferences, and at the level of communities of thought. Indeed, the personal notes of many of the Council Fathers enable us at times to follow the evolution of their thought and their opinions gradually over the passage of time, highlighting the guiding themes that were consolidated in the sixteen documents drawn up by the Council”.

“In the programme of this Convention, we have also tried to take into account not only the diversity, but also the divergences which emerged during the Council. The unanimity Paul VI strongly desired for the approval of the conciliar documents left in the shade the opinions of a minority that was however well-organised; therefore we wanted some of the protagonists of this current to be presented in these days”.

Philippe Chenaux reiterated that the most arduous task for the historian in the interpretation of this event is the change of majority between the beginning and the end of the council. “To explain this 'inversion of tendency', without falling into the trap of conspiratorial hypotheses, reference to the concept of the 'conciliar experience' would appear fundamental. As St. John Paul II said a number of times, the council had an unique and unrepeatable meaning for those who took part. This represented, for many bishops, not only an extraordinary experience of fraternal communion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but also a school of theological renewal”.

“How did the Council Fathers experience the Council? What was their personal experience of the event? In what way did the conciliar experience condition their way of understanding the Church and their way of being bishops? Should we speak about a simple 'evolution', or a full 'conversion'?” are some of the questions that this Convention endeavours to answer. “Solving the great 'interpretative enigma' – 'what happened during Vatican Council II? - means the precise and meticulous reconstruction of the activity of its protagonists”, comments Chenaux.

The first session on 10 December is entitled “The protagonists revealed in the archives”. The second session on the same day will be dedicated to “Networks of contacts and opinions”, and will evaluate the consistency of the networks for contact and the exchange of opinions established between the participants. The third session, on 11 December, is entitled “Evolutions during the Council”, and will explore the theme of the evolution of thought among participants. There will be two further working sessions, the inauguration and introduction, and the conclusion, appraising the three sessions mentioned above.

In the inaugural session on 9 December, after Fr. Ardura's introduction, five reports of a general nature will be presented: by Cardinal Laurent Monsegwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, who will speak on Cardinal Malula and his “African vision” of the Council; Bishop Filaret of Lviv and Galicia, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, will speak about Vatican Council II and the Russian Orthodox Church; and three historians, Professors John O'Malley of Georgetown University (United States of America) Michael Quisinsky of the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), and Philippe Chenaux.

The final session on 11 December will commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Council. There will be a round table discussion chaired by Fr. Ardura, with interventions by Cardinal Georges Cottier, O.P., theologian emeritus of the Papal Household, and representatives of various Christian churches: Bishop Filaret, Fr. Alexei Dikarev, delegate of the Department for External Ecclesiastical Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow; His Grace Archbishop David Moxon, representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Holy See and director of the Anglican Centre in Rome; and Philippe Chenaux. A message from the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, will also be read.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 1 December 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Nueve de Julio, Argentina, presented by Bishop Martin de Elizalde, O.S.B., upon reaching the age limit. He is succeeded by Bishop Ariel Edgardo Torrado Mosconi, currently coadjutor of the same diocese.

- appointed Fr. J. Victor Alejandro Aguilar Ledesma and Fr. Herculano Medina Garfias as auxiliaries of the archdiocese of Morelia (area 18,000, population 2,612,300, Catholics 2,455,618, priests 565, religious 1,268), Mexico.

Bishop-elect Aguilar Ledesma was born in San Guillermo, Mexico in 1965 and was ordained a priest in 1989. He holds a licentiate in family pastoral ministry from the Pontifical Lateran University and has served in a number of pastoral roles, including parish vicar, chaplain of the Clarissian Sisters and diocesan coordinator of family pastoral ministry. He is currently parish priest, episcopal vicar, member of the college of consultors and professor at the major seminary of Morelia.

Bishop-elect Medina Garfias was born in Rincon de Cedenos, Mexico in 1967, and was ordained a priest in 1996. He holds a licentiate in social doctrine of the Church from the Padre Alberto Hurtado University in Santiago, Chile. He has served in a number of roles, including spiritual director and professor in the archdiocesan seminary and chaplain of various religious communities. He is currently bursar of the major seminary of Morelia.
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