Thursday, June 13, 2013


Vatican Radio REPORT May the Lord grant us the grace to watch our tongues and be careful of what we say of others, because through our weakness and sin, we often find it easier to insult and denigrate than say or do good. This was the lesson at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily Thursday morning at Mass, which he celebrated in his native Spanish. Greeting the men and women who work at Argentina’s embassies and consulates to Italy and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome, Pope Francis noted “It’s the first time I have celebrated Mass in Spanish since February 26th!, adding “it feels good!”.

As is tradition, Pope Francis’ homily was inspired by the Gospel of the day, in particular Christ’s words to his disciples "unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven."

The Pope noted how this Gospel follows the Gospel of the Beatitudes and Jesus promise that He had not come to dissolve the law but to fulfill it. Pope Francis said that Christ wants “reform in continuity: from the [planting of the ] seed up to the fruit”.

Pope Francis warned that anyone who "enters Christian life" will have “greater demands made of them than others" and not “greater advantages". He said Jesus mentions some of these demands, in particular the problem of “bad relations among brethren". If our heart harbors “bad feelings” towards our brothers, the Pope said, "something is not working and we must convert, we must change." Pope Francis noted that "anger towards a brother is an insult, it’s something almost deathly ", "it kills him." He then observed that, especially in the Latin tradition, there is a "wonderful creativity" in inventing epithets. But, he cautioned, "when this epithet is friendly this is fine, the problem is when there is another kind of epithet”, when the "mechanism of insult" comes into play, which is "a form of denigration of others."

“Y no hace falta ir al psicologo...”

Pope Francis continued: “There is no need to go to a psychologist to know that when we denigrates another person it is because we are unable to grow up and need to belittle others, to feel more important." This, he said, is "an ugly mechanism". Jesus, "with all the simplicity says: "Do not speak ill of one another. Do not denigrate one another. Do not belittle one another”. The Pope noted, "in the end we are all travelling on the same road", "we are all travelling on that road that will take us to the very end." Therefore "if we do not choose a fraternal path, it will end badly, for the person who insults and the insulted". The Pope noted that "if we are not able to keep our tongues in check, we lose”. “Natural aggression, that of Cain toward Abel, repeats itself throughout history." Pope Francis observed that it is not that we are bad, rather "we are weak and sinners." That's why it is "much easier", to "resolve a situation with an insult, with slander, defamation instead of resolving it with good means".

“Yo quisiera pedir al Señor que...”
Pope Francis concluded: “I would ask the Lord to give us all the grace to watch our tongues, to watch what we say about others." “It is a small penance - he added - but it bears a lot of fruit." "Sometimes, we go hungry and think, ‘What a pity I didn’t taste the fruit of a tasty comment against another person." But, he said, "that hunger bears fruit in the long run is good for us." That's why we ask the Lord for this grace: to adapt our lives "to this new law, which is the law of meekness, the law of love, the law of peace, and at least 'prune' our tongues a little, ‘prune’ the comments that we make of others and outbursts that lead us to an easy anger or insult. May the Lord grant us all this grace".


Vatican City, 13 June 2013 (VIS) – In the Vatican Apostolic Palace this morning, the Holy Father Francis received in audience the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia, Her Excellency Ms. Alenka Bratusek. Prime Minister Bratusek subsequently went on to meet with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., secretary of State, accompanied by Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, under-secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States.
During the course of the cordial conversations, the good relations existing between the Holy See and the Republic of Slovenia were evident and the common desire to pursue constructive dialogue on issues pertaining to bilateral relations between the ecclesial and civil communities was confirmed, with particular reference given to the Catholic Church’s historical contribution in the country’s life and to the importance that the protection of religious freedom has for the harmonious development of Slovenian society today.
As the talks continued, focus was placed on the challenges that the country must face in the current economic crisis and on the assistance that the Catholic community, in collaboration with state institutions, can provide for the social support of the population and for the education of the young. Finally, some challenges and problems of an international nature were briefly reviewed.
Vatican City, 13 June 2013 (VIS) – This morning the Pope received members of the 13th Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, gathered in Rome to help the pontiff choose the theme of the next Ordinary General Assembly.
The 13th assembly of the synod took place last October in the Vatican and was dedicated to “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”. “There is a close connection,” the Pope said, “between these two elements: the transmission of the Christian faith is the purpose of the new evangelization and of all the Church's evangelizing work, which exists precisely for this. The expression 'New Evangelization', therefore, highlights the increasingly clear awareness that, even in countries with an ancient Christian tradition, a renewed proclamation of the Gospel is necessary to bring us back to the encounter with Christ that truly transforms our lives and that isn't superficial or marked by routine. This has consequences for pastoral activity.”
In this context, the Bishop of Rome quoted the words of Paul VI's address to the College of Cardinals in June of 1973: “The conditions of the society in which we live oblige all of us therefore to revise methods, to seek by every means to study how we can bring the Christian message to modern man. For it is only in the Christian message that modern man can find the answer to his questions and the energy for his commitment of human solidarity.”
“I would like,” Pope Francis added, “to encourage the entire ecclesial community to be evangelizing, to not be afraid to 'go out' of themselves to proclaim, above all trusting in the merciful presence of God who guides us. The techniques are certainly important, but even the most advanced ones couldn't substitute the gentle but effective action of He who is the principal agent of evangelization: the Holy Spirit. It is necessary to let yourselves be led by him, even if He takes us along new paths. It is necessary to let yourselves be transformed by him so that our announcement might be made with words that are always accompanied by the simplicity of our lives, our spirit of prayer, and our charity towards all, especially the lowliest and poorest, by our humility and self-detachment, and by the holiness of our lives.”
The Synod of Bishops “has been one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council. Thanks to God that, in these almost fifty years, we have been able to feel the benefits of this institution that, in a permanent way, is at the service of the Church's mission and communion as an expression of collegiality. … Open to the grace of the Holy Spirit, the soul of the Church, we are confident that the Synod of Bishops will know further developments to facilitate even more the dialogue and collaboration between the bishops and between them and the Bishop of Rome,” concluded the Holy Father.
Vatican City, 13 June 2013 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father:
   - appointed Fr. Noel Antonio Londono Buitrago, C.Ss.R. As bishop of Jerico (area 3,000, population 256,000, Catholics 251,000, priests 86, permanent deacons 2, religious 122), Colombia. The bishop-elect was born in Quimbaya, Quindio Department, Colombia, in 1949 and was ordained a priest in 1973. Since ordination he has served in several academic and administrative roles, most recently, since 2011, as coordinator of the Redemptorist Missionaries of Latin America. He succeeds Bishop Jose Roberto Lopez Londono, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
   - appointed Fr. Jaya Rao Polimera as bishop of Eluru (area 6,800, population 8,300,000, Catholics 315,157, priests 226, religious 1,292), India. The bishop-elect was born in Dharmasagar, Andhra Pradesh, India, in 1965 and was ordained a priest in 1992 for the Diocese of Warangal. Since ordination he has served in several pastoral roles, most recently, since 2009, as director of the Diocesan Youth Centre and a member of the College of Consultors for the Presbyteral Council and the Diocesan Tribunal.
   - appointed Bishop Franco Mulakkal as bishop of Jullundur (area 51,120, population 49,227,000, Catholics 139,897, priests 136, religious 802), India. Bishop Mulakkal was previously auxiliary of Delhi and titular of Chullu.
   - accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the Diocese of Pueblo, Colorado, USA presented by Bishop Fernando Isern, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.


Vatican Radio REPORT The post-Synodal Exhortation on the new evangelization will be ready in time for the close of the Year of Faith. This was just one of the things Pope Francis said to the members of the XIII Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops on Thursday. Comprised of 15 Members, 12 of whom are elected from the Synod and 3 of whom are designated by the Roman Pontiff, the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat is formed at the end of each ordinary general synodal assembly.

Putting aside his prepared remarks, Pope Francis engaged the Council members in a broad-ranging session, during the course of which he touched on a number of themes, including the post-Synodal Exhortation and the much-anticipated Encyclical letter on faith begun by Benedict XVI, the nature of ecclesial collegiality and the synodal structure in the service of the Church's universal mission and in cooperation with the Petrine ministry, the crisis of the family, care for the created order, and the recovery of a whole and wholesome understanding of human being. About the encyclical, Pope Francis said the draft pages he received from his predecessor are extremely powerful, and that the work “of four hands” is nearly complete. He also told the Council members that he would be working on the post-Synodal Exhortation during the month of August, and that the document will be ready for the closing of the Year of Faith. The Holy Father also discussed the need to recover a sane vision of the family and a healthy anthropology, saying that the crisis of the family is a serious problem that needs to be addressed by the Church’s pastors and teachers acting in concert.

Below, please find Vatican Radio’s English translation of Pope Francis’ prepared remarks.


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I greet you most cordially, thanking in a special way Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, Secretary General, for the words he addressed to me. Through you, my greeting extends itself to the particular Churches that are entrusted to your pastoral care. I am grateful for the help offered to the Bishop of Rome, in his office of President of the Synod of Bishops, for the elaboration and implementation of what has emerged in the Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly. It is a precious service to the universal Church, one which requires readiness, commitment and sacrifice, even [calling on members] long journeys. A sincere “Thank you!” to each!

I would like to emphasize the importance of the theme of that Assembly: The new evangelization for the transmission of the faith. There is a close connection between these two elements: the transmission of the Christian faith is the purpose of the new evangelization and the entire evangelizing work of the Church, which exists precisely for this [purpose]. The term "new evangelization", then, highlights the increasingly clear awareness that even in countries with an ancient Christian tradition the need has arisen for a renewed proclamation of the Gospel, to lead [people] back to an encounter with Christ that transforms life and really is neither superficial nor by rote. This has consequences for pastoral activity. As the Servant of God Paul VI observed, "The conditions of society force us to revise methods, to seek by every means to study how to bring the Christian message to modern man, in which alone he can find the answer to his questions and strength for his commitment of human solidarity. (Address to the College of Cardinals, June 22, 1973)". The same Pontiff, in Evangelii nuntiandi, a rich text that has lost none of its relevance, reminded us, "[The commitment to proclaim the Gospel] is without any doubt a service rendered to the Christian community, but also to humanity. (n. 1)" I would encourage the whole ecclesial community to be evangelizing, not to be afraid of "going out" to announce themselves, trusting especially in the merciful presence of God to guide us. Techniques are certainly important, but even the most advanced [technique] could not replace the discreet but effective action of Him, who is the principal agent of evangelization: the Holy Spirit (cf. ibid., 75). We need to let ourselves be led by Him, even if He takes us on new roads; we need to let ourselves be transformed by Him, in order that our [gospel] proclamation be made through words that are always accompanied by simplicity of life, by a spirit of prayer, of charity towards all, especially the young and the poor, by humility and detachment from self, by holiness of life (cf. ibid., 76). Only in this way will it be really fruitful!

A thought on the Synod of Bishops: it has certainly been one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council. Thank God, in these nearly fifty years, we have been able to experience the benefits of this institution, which, is placed permanently at the service of communion and the mission of the Church, as an expression of collegiality. I can also attest to this, on the basis of my personal experience, having participated in several Synod assemblies. Open to the grace of the Holy Spirit, soul of the Church, we are confident that the Synod of Bishops know further developments to facilitate even further the dialogue and collaboration between the Bishops and between them and the Bishop of Rome. Dear Brothers, your meeting this week in Rome has for purpose to help me in choosing the theme of the next Ordinary General Assembly. Thank you for the proposals submitted by the institutions with which the General Secretariat of the Synod is in correspondence: Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris; the bishops’ conferences; the dicasteries of the Roman Curia; the Presidency of the Union of Superiors General. I am sure that with discernment accompanied by prayer, this work will bring abundant fruits to the whole Church, which, faithful to the Lord, want to proclaim with renewed courage Jesus Christ to the men and women of our time. He is "the way, the truth and the life, (Jn 14, 6)" for one and all.

Entrusting your ecclesial service to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the new evangelization, I cordially impart to you, to your employees and to your particular Churches Apostolic Blessing.


CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF IRELEAND RELEASE: A time to uphold the right to life: Statement by the Catholic Bishops of Ireland
On the second day of the June General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth, the following statement has been issued:
A time to reflect
On Saturday last, tens of thousands of women, men and children gathered in Dublin to express their support for the equal right to life of mothers and their unborn children.
We are at a defining moment for our country.
The Gospel of life is at the heart of the message of Jesus.  He came that we may have life and have it to the full (Jn 10:10).  The Gospel challenges us to work for a world in which the dignity and beauty of every human life are respected.
A time to uphold the right to life
The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights; it is the foundation of all other rights.  No individual has the right to destroy life and no State has the right to undermine the right to life.
Yet the Irish Government is proposing abortion legislation that will fundamentally change the culture of medical practice in Ireland.  For the first time legislation will be enacted permitting the deliberate and intentional killing of an unborn child. This represents a radical change. Every citizen, not just people of faith, should be deeply concerned.
We value the skill and efforts of our doctors, nurses and other care professionals who have helped to earn Ireland’s place as one of the safest countries in the world for mothers and their babies during pregnancy.
Catholic Church teaching is clear: where a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are ethically permissible provided every effort is made to save both the mother and her baby.
This is different from abortion, which is the direct and intentional taking of the innocent life of the unborn.  No matter what legislation is passed in any country, abortion is, and always will be, gravely wrong.
A time for clarity and truth
The Government is under no obligation to legislate for the X case.  People are being misled. We challenge repeated statements that this legislation is about saving lives and involves no change to the law or practice on abortion. Legalising the direct and intentional destruction of the life of an unborn baby can never be described as ‘life-saving’ or ‘pro-life’.
Contrary to clear psychiatric evidence, this legislation proposes abortion as an appropriate response to women with suicidal feelings during pregnancy.  It is even possible to envisage as a result of this legislation the deliberate destruction of a child, who could otherwise be saved, right up to and including the moment of birth.
Furthermore, we challenge assurances that the proposed legislation will provide limited access to abortion.  As published to date, the legislation will allow for a very wide margin of subjective professional assessment by which the deliberate destruction of an unborn baby can be legally justified. As we have learned from other countries, such legislation opens the door to ever wider availability of abortion.
We remain convinced that enhanced medical guidelines, which do not envisage the direct and intentional killing of the unborn, could provide the necessary clarity as well as a morally, legally and medically acceptable way forward.  While good health can normally be restored, life, once taken, can never, never be restored.
A time for freedom of conscience
Freedom of conscience is a fundamental human right.  A State that truly cherishes freedom will respect the conscience of its citizens, including its public representatives, on such an important human value as the right to life.
It is ethically unacceptable to expect doctors, nurses and others who have conscientious objections to nominate others to take their place.  Neither should any institution with a pro-life ethos be forced to provide abortion services.
A time to decide: a time to act; a time to pray
We call on citizens to exercise their right to make their views known respectfully to our public representatives and to leave them in no doubt about where they stand on this issue.
We ask our public representatives to uphold the equal and inviolable right to life of all human beings, even if this means standing above other pressures and party loyalties.
We also invite our priests and people to continue to pray the Choose Life prayer at Mass and in the home that the dignity and value of all human life will continue to be upheld in this country.
Some mothers today are facing difficult or crisis pregnancies. Other people who have had, or who have assisted with abortions, may be re-living what happened in the past.  They deserve to receive all the love, support and professional care that they need.
As Bishops we will join this weekend in prayerful solidarity with millions of Catholics all over the world in the Year of Faith celebration of Blessed John Paul II’s Encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).
Every human life is precious, every human life is beautiful, every human life is sacred. Choose life!


Cardinal Pell: 'I’m not sure that Vatican Radio needs to be quite so expensive' (CNS)
Cardinal Pell: 'I’m not sure that Vatican Radio needs to be quite so expensive' (CNS)
When the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was elected Pope in March, big changes in the Vatican were predicted. The new Pope did not disappoint when in April he chose seven cardinals from the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia plus one Vatican official as outside advisers. The formation of this group – immediately dubbed the “Vatican Eight” or “V8” – showed that Francis was reaching out far beyond the walls of the Vatican to the wider global Catholic community. But so far there has been no hint of any major reforms. Nothing official has been added since the initial Vatican announcement which just said the eight will be advising the Supreme Pontiff “in the government of the universal Church and to study a plan for revising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia”.
This lack of change in the Vatican provoked a lengthy article in the New York Times last Saturday. It went so far as to say: “Francis has not yet begun making concrete changes or set forth an ambitious policy agenda in a Vatican hierarchy that was gripped by scandal during the papacy of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.”
In the hope of obtaining some indication of what might be expected from the V8, I spoke to one of its members, Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney and Australia’s most senior ranking Catholic cleric. While he is said to be the most doctrinally conservative of the group, he is also known for his down-to-earth, sometimes blunt, manner and knowing his way around both Rome and the Vatican. Indeed, this year marks the 50th anniversary of his first stay in Rome. It is also the 10th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II creating him a cardinal.   
When I asked him what might emanate from the V8, leaning slightly forward he replied: “They are calling it the G8 out here. A lack of imagination!”
He smiled. Cardinal Pell certainly has an engaging manner and, despite his tall man’s stoop, looks much younger than his 72 years – probably because he is still swimming laps and because of his former prowess in both football and rowing. “The big change is that, at the moment, we will be a formal organisation to give advice.” 
Balancing a cup of tea and Italian biscuit, he added: “We will have three full days with the Holy Father in October.
“It’s a bit easier to say what it isn’t,” he continued. “In no sense is it a cabinet, so the Holy Father is not answerable to us. And in no sense are we an executive. It is vitally important that the prerogatives of the Successor to St Peter are preserved. There is no doubt that the present Pope is giving every indication of being a strong man, so that this will be the case.” 
If the V8 were only going to be advisers it seemed it would not be as effective as some commentators had hoped for. I didn’t dare ask the cardinal if there was an analogy between one of his youthful theatrical roles and the Pope’s new group. In the 1960s the young George Pell, a good baritone, had been on the stage in both Australia and in Rome, singing the part of Pooh-Bah – also known as Lord-High-Everything-Else – the hollow character in Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera The Mikado. Despite the term “Poo-bah” now sometimes being a pejorative term, it is frequently used to refer to those with little authority or influence who nevertheless hold impressive titles. 
By chance, Cardinal Pell did happen to use a completely different analogy – one set in the time of the Second World War – to further explain the purpose of the V8.  Stressing that all popes must have up-to-date knowledge of what is happening in the vast and complex Catholic world, along with diverse channels of information, he explained: “The Holy Father – like all popes – needs access to information, not just through official sources. I sometimes use the example of Field Marshal Montgomery in the war. He had a core of middle-ranking officers who worked with him in Headquarters mostly on motorbikes and cycles.”  
Cardinal Pell then went on to describe how, during a battle, Montgomery would send these speedy officers out on their motorbikes “to find out what was going on so he could check this against what his generals and the senior officers were saying”. He concluded the anecdote by saying: “It’s an inappropriate military metaphor, but the Holy Father needs that sort of information.” 
The need to be up-to-date and informed prompted him to explain that, although the late Pope John Paul II had not created any committees similar to Pope Francis’s new group, he had been constantly in touch with a wide variety of people from many countries. Cardinal Pell added that Pope John Paul had “regularly dined with people – and also had all sorts of friends and such talking to him. It’s not a substitute for the official channels but it’s complementary.”
Cardinal Pell speaks as only insiders to the Vatican can. Being fluent in Italian, with a PhD from a Roman university and another from Oxford, over the past decades he has been invited to serve on many different Vatican committees, including two on which Pope Francis was also a member: the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. 
Again, I attempted to prod the cardinal about where we might see modifications and changes in the Vatican under Pope Francis. But he was cautious in his reply.
“I am very loath to go too far. The Vatican has made giant strides in communications. I would like to see that continue and develop.” He explained that by this he meant means of technology should be used: “The whole gamut, Vatican Radio, the internet, the Osservatore – every instrument that is used to communicate the Church which is based in the Vatican should be developed further.”
This prompted me to suggest that he may also be referring to a need for greater transparency. 
“No,” he replied. “I mean better coordination, so it will all function more efficiently. And there are some real chances to reduce expenditure.” Giving a few examples, he said: “I’m not sure that in this day and age that Vatican Radio needs to be quite so expensive, because in many parts of the world the radio has been superseded by the internet.  That is just one example.  However, in some parts of the world, such as in some parts of Africa, the Vatican Radio is very much needed.”
When I asked the cardinal about the content of what should be broadcast, he replied: “That’s an entirely different matter,” and went on to speak of better spreading the Gospel.   
As the cardinal is known to have an enviable expertise in business, management and money, it was no surprise when he suggested: “There need to be changes in the economic area – not just with the so-called Vatican Bank – but more generally there is work there to be done. “There is also a need to ensure that things are being properly done. But beyond that I wouldn’t like to venture at this stage.”  
Looking after money is something all Australian archbishops know about. In Australia, Catholicism is not only the continent’s largest religion, but with its vast network of schools, hospitals, old people’s homes and diverse charitable institutions, it is said to be the largest private property owner and the largest non-government employer.
When I suggested to Cardinal Pell that many Australians were proud that he had been chosen out of all the 205 cardinals in the world to be a member of the V8 he was self-effacing. “I don’t think I am an Australian representative. We are five million Catholics in this country. We don’t count when there are a billion Catholics in the world. Oceania is absorbed into Asia. It certainly wouldn’t be insignificant that I am Australian, but obviously Australia would have no claim to a position on that body. I think it is significant that I am an English speaker.”
Cardinal Pell’s ability to see things from a fresh angle was again obvious when I asked him if any members of the clergy in Australia were taking measures to emulate Pope Francis’s example in thrift and modesty. He side-stepped my question politely. Instead, he pointed out the enormous differences between parish priests and members of religious orders.
“The Holy Father is a Jesuit. He is vowed to poverty. Members of religious orders take a vow of poverty. Diocesan clergy don’t. But the clergy – we – shouldn’t be living extravagantly. I think that the name he took of Francis is an inspired choice. When he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires he lived with an elderly gentleman whom he helped to look after.”
Cardinal Pell looked reflective as he added: “These are all important, symbolic gestures and they are much appreciated by people. The Holy Father has a New World capacity for expressing simple ideas very clearly.” 
As our meeting was taking place at the end of a major three-day conference on the Second Vatican Council in Sydney, I asked him if he thought that any member of the V8 would be recommending another Council similar to Vatican II. “Well, I won’t be!” he replied quickly.  
“Look at the turmoil which has followed Vatican II – none of it intended by Vatican II. But we are still assimilating the teaching of the Council into Catholic life. I think there is a lot of work to be done on that before we branch out into another council.” Pausing, he then continued saying: “I can’t see any doctrinal reasons why there should be a council.”
I asked if he thought that the results of Vatican II had been productive. “I don’t think that any of the changes weren’t worthwhile,” he replied. “The bad things that happened after the Council were not a direct result of the Council.” 
Some of the positive results from Vatican II he spoke of included the greater role for the laity, collegiality, religious freedom so that the state cannot coerce religious belief and the celebration of the Mass in the vernacular instead of Latin.
Cardinal Pell then spoke warmly about the enormous change that had come from the Catholic endorsement of ecumenical and interfaith dialogue and how this had changed Australian life. “A lot of the old Catholic versus Protestant antagonism has gone… 50, 60, 70 years ago, job advertisements saying: ‘Catholics and Jews need not apply’ were not entirely unusual.”
Switching the subject to the practical problems of holding another Ecumenical Council, the cardinal put forward the argument of space and accommodation. “There are now over 5,000 bishops. Any future councils will be unwieldy unless they limit those who participate. In the previous Council there were 2,000 bishops. It might have even been more: even around 2,500.”
A sociable man, Cardinal Pell is at ease in crowds. At World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008 there had been more than half a million young people, with around 600 bishops and cardinals, as well as Pope Benedict. With immense enthusiasm he told me that he would be going to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July. “We will be taking 450 to 500 from the archdiocese from Sydney alone. Four hundred Australians will then go on to work in the slums.”
The previous night at a gala dinner for the Great Grace Conference on Vatican II I watched Cardinal Pell mix freely with guests, walking around and leaning over the backs of chairs to talk to those he knew. A friend of his told me: “George isn’t often going to catch a bus, but he’s an easy, informal knockabout guy. Raised in a pub in the Victorian town of Ballarat, he doesn’t insist on formality.” 
During our interview, with almost boyish enthusiasm, Cardinal Pell talked about the vibrant atmosphere in a pub in Parramatta where, a few days earlier, he had been the guest speaker at a session of “Theology on Tap”.  He explained that these meetings, organised by students, have become a venue where somewhere between 200 and 400 young people have a few drinks and talk about faith in everyday life. Describing the informal hours he had enjoyed with the students, he added casually: “Priests there hear Confessions in corners of the pub – anywhere.” 
When we parted I was left with a better impression of him than the Australian media usually portrays. He clearly accepts and welcomes many changes, but as a strong believer in the doctrines of the Church Cardinal Pell is adamant that they will never be altered.
Four days after we met in Sydney he appeared as a witness in Melbourne in front of Victoria’s Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Organisations. He acknowledged that the Catholic Church within Australia had covered up the “foul crime” of child abuse and that in some cases members of the clergy had been placed above the law. It was reassuring to observe that, as a pillar of the Church he was open, direct and also humble. One can see why he will be a welcome member of Pope Francis’s new committee.


by Mathias Hariyadi
Members of the Islamic Defenders Front stopped an interfaith meeting by force. The images caught on video were posted on YouTube. Complicit with the violent protesters, police detain event organisers. Orthodox Christian activist notes the conference had the right permits, bemoans rising intolerance.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - A group of extremists from to the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) stormed a Christian-Muslim conference on religious freedom and peaceful coexistence between the two faiths, disrupting its activities. The raid, which took place on Tuesday afternoon, was due to the fact that the meeting, planned initially for a public venue, was underway in a place of worship owned by the Diocese of Surabaya (East Java). Christian activists noted that the police did not intervene to fend off the attack, showing a complicit attitude towards the extremist group, confirming a growing climate of intolerance in the country.
A video taken with a mobile phone and posted on YouTube (click here to view) shows the Islamist group attacking an organiser of the event at the front desk, as he welcomed arrivals.
In the days leading up to the meeting, police warned organisers against holding the event, asking them to cancel it because the issues it addressed, like better "relations between Christians and Muslims", were too sensitive.
Members of 'Gus Dur' groups were among those who sponsored the meeting. They are followers of the late former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, also known as Gus Dur, an iconic figure in the country's human rights community, and a man who promoted peaceful coexistence in the country.
Christian and Muslim activists from Surabaya and Sampang (Madura Island) were expected to participate in the event as well.
Towards the end of the conference, which was going smoothly, FPI militants led by a local branch chief stormed the assembly, interrupted its activities and threatened all those present despite the fact that it had all the necessary permits. In Indonesia, public gatherings require a permit from police.
Bambang Noorsena, an Orthodox Christian who spoke at the conference, toldAsiaNews that "the permits were in order," but on the day of the conference, police cancelled them.
The meeting's aim was to "improve Muslim-Christian relations", but police showed partisan behaviour that left the field open to the attackers.

In fact, police later detained meeting organisers and kept them in custody for several hours. By contrast, no action was taken against the members of the Islamist group, who were able to go home unhindered.


UCAN/LA STAMPA REPORT: South Korean priest describes his forays to the north
<p>(North Korea image: <a href="" target="_self">Shutterstock</a>)</p>
(North Korea image: Shutterstock)
  • Vatican Insider staff
  • Korea
  • June 13, 2013
  • We suspect that after the long period of persecution there are still about 10,000 people who will remember in their hearts their Catholic faith.” But “I find it difficult to believe that there is an organised underground Church in North Korea,” Fr. Lee Eun-hyung, the General Secretary of the Catholic "Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People", said in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (the foundation that supports pastoral action in areas where Catholics suffer persecution).
During the interview, Fr. Eun-hyung described the tragic conditions the North Korean population is living in and spoke about his travels, the last being a visit to the capital of North Korea in 2011. “On each visit I celebrated Holy Mass in the Catholic church of "Jangchung", named after the city district where it is located. North Korean believers attended. Nevertheless the North Korean authorities told me it was strictly forbidden for me and those working with me to contact the country's citizens personally.” Fr. Eun-hyung explained that the church of Jangchung was unique in that its faithful were led by a layman who celebrated the Liturgy of the Word every Sunday.” This must be true because “as far as I know” he said “there are no Catholic priests living in North Korea at present.”
When asked how many Catholics remained in North Korea, Fr. Eun-hyung said “It's difficult to say.” “The North Korean authorities told us that there are 3,000 Catholics in the country. But we don't know whether this figure is correct, or how it was arrived at.” The last time any accurate figures were obtained was back in 1945, when Koreas was divided in two. “There are old documents which show that there were about 50,000 Catholics living in the north before the division of the country.” “A very lively missionary work went out from here. The mother of the dictator Kim Il-sung (1948-1994), for example, came from a very pious Protestant family,” the priest said. There were also many Christians churches around at the time but almost all of these –except the church of Jangchung – were destroyed during the war of 1950-53 or used for other purposes under the regime.
Today, North Korea is one of the biggest culprits of religious freedom deprivation, but despite the years of religious persecution, Fr. Eun-hyung believes “there are still about 10,000 people who will remember in their hearts their Catholic faith.” This seems to be confirmed by the testimonies of a number of North Korean refugees, who speak of elderly women setting in circles counting beans and murmuring, as if they were reciting the Rosary. But the priest claims it is unlikely an underground church exists in North Korea, although some say there is one close to the border with China.
When I passed the demarcation line by truck it was like travelling in a time machine. I felt like I'd gone back 40 or 50 years … Apart from the great problem of food, North Korea suffers from a major lack of heating material,” Fr. Eun-hyung remarked. “Many North Koreans therefore clear the wooded mountains and burn the trees for heating purposes. This means that the mountains of North Korea are becoming increasingly bare. This in turn gives rise to various natural disasters such as flooding and landslides. The effect of this on agriculture is devastating and just makes the food problem even worse.So that people don't have to sit in the cold, we launched winter actions in 2007 in which we have to date brought 300,000 coal briquettes in trucks to near Kaesong in other words a few kilometres behind the military demarcation line,” he said. “He went on to say that although “personal contact with the residents of North Korea was strictly forbidden,” the voluntary workers eventually got talking to the locals and listened to their problems.
But in May 2010 “the government in Seoul suspended its relief to North Korea.” “At the present time our relief efforts for North Korea have to remain in abeyance. As soon as the present crisis has passed, we will wait until the policy in South Korea takes a different turn to that of the government of President Lee Myung-bak (2008 to February 2013) with regard to the North,” the priest said. The Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People keeps on receiving requests for aid through Catholic Association Joseon, the only one that is recognised by the Kim Jong-uk regime. And the church of Jangchung is in urgent need of renovation work.
After months of tensions, North Korea recently expressed a wish to resume talks with Seoul. Fr. Eun-hyung believes dialogue between the two Koreas is the only solution. The tensions have made life worse for the North Korean people. And the South Korean economy is also suffering as a result. “The way out of this nightmarish situation for South and North Korea is dialogue and agreements, collaboration and exchange Fr.” Eun-hyung said in conclusion.


Agenzia Fides report - Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez has made an urgent appeal to the Government authority and Congress so that the health care reform, currently under discussion is carried out in a dignified, complete and transparent manner in order to bring real change for the benefit of the community.
"Health is considered an economic issue, the only criterion taken into consideration is gain. The fact that it is a right of the person who should be cared for and protected by the State has been completely lost," said Cardinal Salazar in a statement sent to Fides Agency.
The statement reports that private economic interests and corruption have become a 'cancer' in the health care system. The Cardinal hopes that the health care system reform carries out "a profound ethical change in particular towards the poor".
In Colombia, health care service is largely in the hands of privates. What is at stake is a mixed system, public - private, that takes into account the economic possibilities of every citizen. In the meantime, the poor pay the price of the severe limitations of the current system. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 13/06/2013)