Entries in Catholic Church (6)


Pope Francis Delivers Message of Mercy to Massive Crowd

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- Before an astounding crowd of some 300,000 in and around St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis delivered his first angelus as pontiff on Sunday, urging the faithful to be merciful and forgiving.

Hours earlier, the humility and spontaneity of the 76-year-old Argentine was on display when he greeted onlookers near the edge of Vatican City.

As the pope was entering a mass in St. Anna Parish, he decided to stop and greet a crowd of people awaiting his arrival. Walking up to the crowd, Francis shook hands, held a baby, and even motioned for two priests he recognized in the crowd to bypass the barricades and approach him.

It was the latest sign of the informality of the new pontiff. In the days since he was selected by his fellow cardinals to lead the Roman Catholic Church, Francis has shunned the fancy red shoes of his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in favor of simple black shoes, declined a ride in a limousine in favor of a mini-van, and donned simple white robes and a wooden cross. The new informal style has been welcomed by followers and colleagues worldwide.

"I think just the way he is behaving is very discreet. It is very ordinary," Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa said. "It's very much like, 'I am the pope, but I can still sit down at any table with anybody. I can share my stories. I can talk about my life. I can share about my ministry.'"

In St. Peter's Square today, Americans in the crowd marveled at the pope's humility.

"He just seems very humble in the way that he presents himself," said Christina Senour, who now lives in Rome.

"It has really struck me that he is so without frills," added her brother-in-law, David Uebbing.

Uebbing's wife Jennifer predicted that the pope's displays of modesty will help the church grow.

"I think he's working very honestly and simply to transmit his humility to the world and to set an example, to say 'here is the church, it's not rich and grand and aloof, but it is down with the people and for the people,'" she said.

On Tuesday morning, Francis will return to the square for his papacy's inaugural mass.

Vice President Joe Biden is set to arrive in Rome Sunday afternoon to attend the mass. On Monday, Francis is scheduled to meet the president of his homeland, Christina Kirchner, whom he has criticized in the past.

Next weekend, Francis will meet with his predecessor, in a unique and historic meeting between the current pope and a fellow living pope.

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia told reporters Sunday that Francis is delivering a similar message to that delivered by Benedict, who earlier this year became the first pope in nearly six centuries to resign.

"He's pronouncing the same message of God's mercy. That is what is so important," Rigali said of Francis. "But he is doing it in his way, just as Benedict did it in his way.

"We all have our gifts," he added.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio



Catholic Church Growing in Third World, but European Cardinals Control Power

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  As Catholics across the globe begin the holy season of Lent, many look toward Rome and wonder if the Vatican will break with tradition and choose the first pope from outside Europe in modern times.

The Catholic laity is growing outside Europe, while shrinking in the traditional strongholds of Italy, France, Spain, Poland, and Germany, homeland to the resigning pope, Benedict XVI.

In fact, according to Pew, the number of European Catholics has shrunk by more than half over the past century.

"The church in the developing world, like South America, like Africa, is of great joy and momentum and of numbers," said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. "Therefore, attentiveness to the developing churches is going to be, I'm sure, on the docket of the cardinals as we meet for the conclave."

Modern popes all have been from Europe. St. Peter, who Catholics consider the first pope, was, of course, Jewish and from a part of the Roman Empire at the northern tip of modern-day Israel.

Nowadays, however, more than 40 percent of the world's Catholics are located in North or South America, according to Pew. Brazil has the biggest representation, with more than 130 million Catholics, followed by Mexico, with approximately 96 million, and the USA, with 74 million.

DiNardo told reporters this week that it is unlikely the next pope will come from the United States. But, he said, the Vatican has to recognize the New World growth.

"It is a democratic process to have representatives from all the churches," DiNardo said. "Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have tried to enlarge the College of Cardinals to include cardinals from everywhere all over the world."

Nevertheless, as cardinals gather to vote on the next pope, the leadership numbers are starkly different than the make-up of the Catholic masses. There are 115 cardinals from Europe, compared to only 30 from Latin America.

"In my dealings with people in the developing world ... they have a much more joyous practice and love of the Catholic faith than you might see in some of the developed world," said DiNardo, one of the 118 cardinals under the age of 80 allowed to vote for the next pope. "It is fascinating."

Amid their fervent faith, Catholics in the developing world have shown great interest in where the next pope will come from and whether the pope could come from among their ranks.

That attentiveness to the selection of the next pope, Dinardo said, "says something about the growing importance of that world" to the Catholic Church.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Vatican Threatens to Excommunicate Chinese Priest Backed by Beijing

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(ROME) -- The Vatican has threatened a Chinese priest with excommunication if China moves ahead with his government-backed bishop ordination, which has not been approved by the Holy See.

The Chinese government-backed appointment of Rev. Yue Fusheng in the northern Chinese city of Harbin on Friday is aggravating already-tense relations between the Vatican and the Chinese government.

In a statement Wednesday, the Vatican asserted that Rev. Yue Fusheng is aware that his ordination was not approved by the pope and thus “unlawful” and “illegitimate.”  The punishment for unlawful ordination is excommunication, according to the Vatican’s Code of Cannon Law.

The statement also warned that the Chinese government-backed appointment was an infringement on religious freedom and would “create confusion and divisions among the Catholic community in China.”

A spokesperson for the State Administration for Religious Affairs in China responded that the Vatican’s public threats and accusations were “outrageous and shocking,” restrictive of freedom, and detrimental to the development of the Chinese and universal Catholic Church.

Since its formation over 60 years ago, the Communist Party of China has mandated that religions only operate under government control, subsequently cutting ties with the Vatican, expelling foreign clergy, and creating the state-funded Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPA).  The refusal of the CPA and the Holy See to recognize each other’s authority has created points of contention between the two, particularly over the installation of bishops without papal approval as well as the issues of abortion and contraception.

While the CPA is the only legal Catholic organization in China, millions of Chinese Vatican loyalists continue to worship in “underground” churches.

Catholicism has existed in China for over eight centuries.  While the Chinese government reports that the country has 5.7 million Catholics, unofficial estimates range from 12 million to over 60 million.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Catholic Mass To Undergo Changes

Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- Worshippers at English-Speaking Catholic churches around the world will soon notice some minor changes to the Mass.

Starting November 26, Mass will sound a little different.

Although the language of Mass has gone untouched since 1974, this newly revised translation of the Roman Missal will mark the third time it has ever undergone changes.

The most notable change will be in the response from the people, not the Bible translations or Gospel readings.

For example, now when the priest says, “the Lord be with you,” the traditional response, “and also with you” will be replaced with “and with your spirit.”

Proponents say the new version will express a more precise reflection of the original Latin.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Spain's Stolen Babies: A 50 Year Trafficking Scandal Revealed

Hemera/Thinkstock(MADRID) -- A new BBC documentary sheds light on a chilling practice that took place in Spain beginning under General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in the 1930’s. From this time to as late as the 1990s, thousands of mothers were told by doctors and nurses that their newborn babies had died, when this was not the case.

This practice of removing children from parents deemed “undesirable” and placing them with “approved” families was believed to have first been motivated by ideology, but it soon seemed to change. Newborn babies were taken from parents who were considered “morally” or economically “deficient” and then sold for as much as $8,000 to new parents.

The scale to which this baby trafficking was carried out was largely unknown until this year, when two childhood friends from a town near Barcelona discovered that they had been bought from a nun. It was not until the father of one of these men was on his deathbed, that he finally confessed to have bought him from a nun as a newborn baby.

After the pair went to the press with their story, more and more mothers around the country said they experienced eerily similar situations, and adoption lawyers agreed that they had come across cases similar to theirs more than just a few times.

One of the reasons why this scandal was hidden for so many years, is because it is closely linked to the Catholic Church, which held a hugely prominent role in Spain during Franco’s reign.

Nuns and priests were heavily involved in compiling waiting lists of would-be adoptive parents, while doctors allegedly lied to mothers about what happened to their children.

One doctor in particular, Dr. Eduardo Vela, has come up in a number of investigations, but he insists he has always acted within the law.

A Spanish magazine has even published photos of a dead baby stored in a freezer at the San Ramon Clinic, where Dr. Vela works, that was said to have been used to show mothers that their babies had died.  

Parents whose children were stolen after birth are now threatening to go to the European Court of Human Rights to urge the government into launching a national investigation. According to lawyers, there could be a total of 300,000 cases of stolen babies.

The BBC documentary by journalist Katya Adler is called Spain's Stolen Babies; it airs on Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


German Catholic Church to Investigate Sex Abuse

Franco Origlia/Getty Images(BERLIN) -- Catholic Church leaders in Germany are planning to initiate a comprehensive investigation into the reported sexual abuse of children by clergy, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Church leaders will work with a group of independent criminology researchers to conduct a "systemic, empirical" investigation that will help them understand how the cases of abuse happened and better handle any reports going forward, WSJ reports.  The probe will begin with an audit of the personnel files of priests and other staff from the past decade, according to Church officials.

The timing of the investigation should be noted.  Pope Benedict XVI is expected to visit his native Germany in September and will likely feel pressured to confront the Church's handling of sexual abuse.

In Ireland, Prime Minister Enda Kenny has criticized the Vatican for resisting the methods of civil law in handling reported abuse, according to British newspaper The Guardian.  Kenny received a detailed report Wednesday that abuse had taken place as recently as 2009, The New York Times reports.

Kenny hopes to see stricter laws that will make it more difficult -- even for the leaders within the Roman Catholic Church -- to sidestep legal obligation in reporting cases of child abuse.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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