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Posted on 10/2/2023 20:15 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Oct 2, 2023 / 16:15 pm (CNA).
The Vatican has released Pope Francis’ original responses to a set of dubia on highly-charged doctrinal questions submitted by five cardinals earlier this summer — and criticized the cardinals for going public with the matter just days before the start of the Synod on Synodality.
The pope’s responses, originally issued July 11, responded to requests for doctrinal clarification on the nature of the development of doctrine, the Church’s inability to bless same-sex unions, the authority of the upcoming synod, the impossibility of sacramentally ordaining women, and the necessity of repentance to be sacramentally absolved. They were made available on the Vatican’s website earlier today, only hours after the cardinals publicly announced that the pope had not answered a revised set of questions meant to elicit more clear answers.
“While it doesn’t always seem to me to be prudent to respond to questions directed specifically to me, and it would be impossible to address them all, in this case, it seemed appropriate to do so due to the proximity of the synod,” the pope wrote in response to the cardinals’ July 10 dubia, addressing them as “dear brothers.”
The five cardinals — German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, American Cardinal Raymond Burke, Chinese Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun, Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah — submitted a revised set of dubia to the pope on Aug. 21 because, as they said in a statement to the National Catholic Register earlier today, his original responses were not in the customary “yes” or “no” format, and “have not resolved the doubts we had raised, but have, if anything deepened them.” The cardinals went public with their dubia earlier today after the pope did not respond to their revised set of questions.
However, a high-ranking Vatican official sharply criticized the five cardinals for not simultaneously releasing the pope’s original responses, which he provided to them “despite his many occupations.”
“Instead of publishing those answers, they now make public new questions, as if the pope were their slaves for errands,” Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, the new head of the Vatican’s doctrine office, told the Spanish news agency ABC.
The five cardinals said they did not publish the pope’s responses because they were addressed specifically to them, and therefore itwould not be appropriate to share publicly.
The pope’s response
In his newly released July 11 responses, the pope provided lengthy, multi-part responses to each submitted question.
In response to the cardinals’ dubium regarding the blessings of same-sex sexual unions, the pope underscored that the Church “avoids any rite or sacramental that may contradict” its conviction in marriage as “an exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to procreation.”
“However,” the pope wrote, “in dealing with people, we must not lose pastoral charity,” going on to state that “pastoral prudence must discern properly if there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not convey a mistaken conception of marriage” and, citing his 2015 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, “do not necessarily have to become a norm.”
In addressing the cardinals’ question related to the development of doctrine and the possibility of contradiction, Pope Francis wrote that while “cultural changes and new challenges in history do not modify revelation,” the Church must always strive to interpret texts in a way that “allows us to distinguish their perennial substances from cultural conditioning,” with special attention to the interpreting texts in light of “the perennial truth of the inalienable dignity of the human person.”
Because there can be no change to “what has been revealed ‘for the salvation’ of all,” the Church must constantly discern what is essential for salvation and what is secondary or less directly connected to this goal,” which can inevitably “lead to a better expression of some past affirmations of the magisterium.”
On the topic of the upcoming synod’s authority, the pope reaffirmed his teaching that the Church is inherently synodal, implying “real participation” by all its members in ways that “must make their voice heard and feel part of the Church’s journey,” but he did not appear to directly address the cardinals’ question regarding the extent of the synod’s authority.
Regarding the Church’s ordination of only men to the priesthood, Pope Francis wrote that the Church’s established teaching on the matter “must be accepted by all,” despite the fact that a “dogmatic definition” on the issue has not been provided. However, while no one can publicly contradict this teaching, it can still be “the subject of study, as is the case with the validity of ordinations in the Anglican Communion.”
The pope also added that failing to recognize that the priesthood is “wholly ordered to the holiness of the members of Christ” would make it “difficult to accept that the priesthood is reserved only for men.”
Finally, the pope affirmed the necessity of repentance for the validity of sacramental absolution but noted that “there are no mathematics here” and that ordained ministers must “make room in pastoral care for the unconditional love of God,” especially in cases where a penitent’s psychological state or “deeply wounded self-esteem” may inhibit their ability to follow typical practices in the confessional.
The public back-and-forth over the cardinals’ dubia and the pope’s response comes just two days before the start of the Synod on Synodality’s universal assembly, which runs from Oct. 4–29.
The cardinals expressly stated that they decided to submit their concerns “in view of various declarations of highly placed prelates” made in relation to the upcoming synod that have been “openly contrary to the constant doctrine and discipline of the Church.”
Vatican organizers have insisted that the synod — which includes an additional assembly in October 2024 — is not focused on doctrinal questions but on how the Church can enhance the participation of all its members in its communion and mission.
Posted on 10/2/2023 19:55 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Oct 2, 2023 / 15:55 pm (CNA).
During a retreat for participants in the Synod on Synodality assembly this week, delegates were urged to listen to one another and to come together despite “different understandings of the Church.”
“We may be divided by different hopes,” Father Timothy Radcliffe said in a retreat meditation on Oct. 1. “But if we listen to the Lord and to each other, seeking to understand his will for the Church and the world, we shall be united in a hope that transcends all our disagreements.”
Hundreds of synod delegates are meeting in a retreat center in Sacrofano, 20 miles north of Rome, for the three-day retreat ahead of the opening of the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican on Oct. 4.
In the livestreamed retreat meditations, delegates have been urged to embrace their differences, express their doubts, and cast away their fears — whether it is the fear that the synod will dramatically change the Church or the “fear that nothing will change.”
Radcliffe began the first meditation of the retreat on Oct. 1 by saying: “I’m deeply aware of my personal limitations. I’m old, white, western, and a man. And I don’t know which is worse. … All these aspects of my identity limit my understanding, so I ask your forgiveness for the inadequacy of my words.”
He urged the delegates to “journey towards a Church” where people who “do not yet feel at home in the Church” are placed at the center.
“Our lives are nourished by beloved traditions and devotions. If they are lost, we grieve. But also we remember those who do not yet feel at home in the Church: women who feel that they are unrecognized in a patriarchy of old white men like me! People who feel that the Church is too Western, too Latin, too colonial. We must journey towards a Church in which they are no longer at the margin but at the center,” Radcliffe said.
The retreat master spent the first two meditations looking at two “sources of division” in the Catholic Church, which he described as “conflicting hopes and different visions of the Church as home.”
“Different understandings of the Church as home tear us apart today. For some it is defined by its ancient traditions and devotions, its inherited structures and language, the Church we have grown up with and love. It gives us a clear Christian identity. For others, the present Church does not seem to be a safe home. It is experienced as exclusive, marginalizing many people, women: the divorced and remarried. For some it is too Western, too Eurocentric,” he said.
The retreat master, whose statements on homosexuality have previously sparked controversy, highlighted how the document guiding synod discussions, the Instrumentum Laboris, “mentions also gay people and people in polygamous marriages.” He said: “They long for a renewed Church in which they will feel fully at home, recognized, affirmed, and safe. For some the idea of a universal welcome, in which everyone is accepted regardless of who they are, is felt as destructive of the Church’s identity. … They believe that identity demands boundaries. But for others, it is the very heart of the Church’s identity to be open. Pope Francis said, ‘The Church is called on to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open.’”
Radcliffe described how the 365 voting members have “different hopes” and fears for the three-week assembly on synodality.
“Some hope that the Church will change dramatically, that we shall take radical decisions, for example about the role of women in the Church. Others are afraid of exactly these same changes and fear that they will only lead to division, even schism,” he said.
“So let us begin by praying that the Lord will free our hearts from fear. For some this is the fear of change and for others the fear that nothing will change. But ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,’” he added.
Each day of the synod retreat at the Fraterna Domus retreat center Oct. 1–3 begins with morning prayer and concludes with Mass. Benedictine Mother Ignazia Angelini offers two daily meditations, as does Radcliffe, with the afternoons set aside for “group meetings for conversation in the Spirit.”
Australian Bishop Anthony Randazzo of Broken Bay gave the homily for the Mass on Oct. 2 and Canadian Bishop Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jérôme–Mont-Laurier preached at the Oct. 1 Mass.
“The world is in need to see a Church thriving to be faithful to unity. Therefore, the search for unity must be put into practice on a daily basis,” Poisson said in his homily.
“The synod we are undertaking is like a school in which we learn to listen to one another … Let us be a Church with open arms like those of her Lord on the cross and let us become true witnesses of God’s love for the world.”
Radcliffe also underlined the need for unity in his meditations on the second day of the retreat, urging participants to “leap across the boundaries, not just of left and right, or cultural boundaries, but generational boundaries, too.”
The 78-year-old British priest reflected: “Many religious and priests of my generation grew up in strongly Catholic families. The faith deeply penetrated our everyday lives. The adventure of the Second Vatican Council was in reaching out to the secular world. French priests went to work in factories. We took off the habit and immersed ourselves in the world. One angry sister, seeing me wearing my habit, exploded: ‘Why are you still wearing that old thing?’”
“Today many young people — especially in the West but increasingly everywhere — grow up in a secular world, agnostic or even atheistic. Their adventure is the discovery of the Gospel, the Church, and the tradition. They joyfully put on the habit. Our journeys are contrary, but not contradictory. Like Jesus I must walk with them, and learn what excites their hearts,” he added.
He encouraged synod delegates to befriend one another and to openly “share their worries and doubts.”
“The foundation of all that we shall do in this synod should be the friendships we create. It does not look [like] much. It will not make headlines in the media. ‘They came all the way to Rome to make friendships! What a waste!’ But it is by friendship that we shall make the transition from ‘I’ to ‘we.’ Without it, we shall achieve nothing,” he said.
Radcliffe commented a few times on how he expects the media will interpret the synod. He said: “During our synodal journey, we may worry whether we are achieving anything. The media will probably decide that it was all a waste of time, just words. They will look for whether bold decisions are made on about four or five hot-button topics. But the disciples on that first synod, walking to Jerusalem, did not appear to achieve anything.”
The priest described the synod retreat as an experience like the Gospel experience of the Transfiguration, which he called “the retreat Jesus gives to his closest disciples before they embark on the first synod in the life of the Church when they walk together (syn-hodos) to Jerusalem.”
He said that the hope that the disciples glimpsed on the mountain in the transfigured Lord “makes the conflict between our hopes seem minor, almost absurd.”
“If we are truly on the way to the kingdom, does it really matter whether you align yourselves with so-called traditionalists or progressives?” he added.
“Let us ask the Lord to give us hope, too: the hope that this synod will lead to a renewal of the Church and not division; the hope that we shall draw closer to each as brothers and sisters,” he said.
Posted on 10/2/2023 18:46 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
CNA Staff, Oct 2, 2023 / 14:46 pm (CNA).
Five cardinals have sent a set of questions known as “dubia” to Pope Francis to express their concerns and seek clarification on points of doctrine and discipline ahead of this week’s opening of the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican.
Dubia are questions brought before the pope and the appropriate Vatican office that seek a simple “yes” or “no” response in order to clarify disputed matters of Catholic teaching and practice.
The prelates — German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, American Cardinal Raymond Burke, Chinese Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun, Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah — had submitted an earlier version of their dubia on July 10 and received a reply the following day.
Because the pope answered at length — and not with the customary “yes” or “no” — the group resubmitted their dubia in August in order to get clarification. The pope has not responded to the August set of dubia.
Below are the July dubia with Pope Francis’ response to each one:
1. Dubium about the claim that we should reinterpret divine revelation according to the cultural and anthropological changes in vogue.
After the statements of some bishops, which have been neither corrected nor retracted, it is asked whether in the Church divine revelation should be reinterpreted according to the cultural changes of our time and according to the new anthropological vision that these changes promote; or whether divine revelation is binding forever, immutable and therefore not to be contradicted, according to the dictum of the Second Vatican Council, that to God who reveals is due “the obedience of faith” (Dei Verbum, 5); that what is revealed for the salvation of all must remain “in their entirety, throughout the ages” and alive, and be “transmitted to all generations” (7); and that the progress of understanding does not imply any change in the truth of things and words, because faith has been “handed on ... once and for all” (8), and the magisterium is not superior to the word of God, but teaches only what has been handed on (10).
Pope Francis’ response: a) The answer depends on the meaning you give to the word “reinterpret.” If it is understood as “to interpret better,” the expression is valid. In this sense the Second Vatican Council affirmed that it is necessary that with the work of the exegetes — I would add of the theologians — “the judgment of the Church may mature” (Cone. Ecum. Vat. II, Const. Dogm. Dei Verbum, 12).
b) Therefore, while it is true that divine revelation is immutable and always binding, the Church must be humble and recognize that she never exhausts its unfathomable richness and needs to grow in her understanding.
c) Therefore, she also matures in the understanding of what she herself has affirmed in her magisterium.
d) Cultural changes and the new challenges of history do not modify the revelation, but they can stimulate us to make more explicit some aspects of its overflowing richness, which always offers more.
e) It is inevitable that this may lead to a better expression of some past statements of the magisterium, and indeed it has happened throughout history.
f) On the other hand, it is true that the magisterium is not superior to the word of God, but it is also true that both the texts of Scripture and the testimonies of tradition need an interpretation that allows us to distinguish their perennial substance from cultural conditioning. It is evident, for example, in biblical texts (such as Ex 21:20-21) and in some magisterial interventions that tolerated slavery (cf. Nicholas V, Bull Oum Diversas, 1452). This is not a minor issue given its intimate connection with the perennial truth of the inalienable dignity of the human person. These texts are in need of interpretation. The same is true for some New Testament considerations on women (1 Cor 11:3-10; 1 Tim 2:11-14) and for other texts of Scripture and testimonies of tradition that cannot be repeated literally today.
g) It is important to emphasize that what cannot change is what has been revealed “for the salvation of all” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 7). For this reason the Church must constantly discern between what is essential for salvation and what is secondary or less directly connected with this goal. In this regard, I would like to recall what St. Thomas Aquinas affirmed: “the more we descend to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects” (Summa Theologiae 1-11, q. 94, art. 4).
h) Finally, a single formulation of a truth can never be adequately understood if it is presented in isolation, isolated from the rich and harmonious context of the whole of revelation. The “hierarchy of truths” also implies situating each of them in adequate connection with the more central truths and with the totality of the Church’s teaching. This can ultimately give rise to different ways of expounding the same doctrine, although “for those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion. But in fact such variety serves to bring out and develop different facets of the inexhaustible riches of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). Each theological line has its risks but also its opportunities.
2. Dubium about the claim that the widespread practice of the blessing of same-sex unions would be in accord with revelation and the magisterium (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2357).
According to divine revelation, confirmed in sacred Scripture, which the Church “with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, … listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully” (Dei Verbum, 10): “In the beginning” God created man in his own image, male and female he created them and blessed them, that they might be fruitful (cf. Gen. 1:27-28), whereby the apostle Paul teaches that to deny sexual difference is the consequence of the denial of the Creator (Rom 1:24-32). It is asked: Can the Church derogate from this “principle,” objectively sinful such as same-sex unions, without betraying revealed doctrine?
Pope Francis’ response: a) The Church has a very clear conception of marriage: an exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the begetting of children. It calls this union “marriage.” Other forms of union only realize it “in a partial and analogous way” (Amoris Laetitia, 292), and so they cannot be strictly called “marriage.”
b) It is not a mere question of names, but the reality that we call marriage has a unique essential constitution that demands an exclusive name, not applicable to other realities. It is undoubtedly much more than a mere “ideal.“
c) For this reason the Church avoids any kind of rite or sacramental that could contradict this conviction and give the impression that something that is not marriage is recognized as marriage.
d) In dealing with people, however, we must not lose the pastoral charity that must permeate all our decisions and attitudes. The defense of objective truth is not the only expression of this charity, which is also made up of kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness, and encouragement. Therefore, we cannot become judges who only deny, reject, exclude.
e) For this reason, pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not transmit a mistaken conception of marriage. For when a blessing is requested, one is expressing a request for help from God, a plea for a better life, a trust in a Father who can help us to live better.
f) On the other hand, although there are situations that from an objective point of view are not morally acceptable, pastoral charity itself demands that we do not simply treat as “sinners“ other people whose guilt or responsibility may be due to their own fault or responsibility attenuated by various factors that influence subjective imputability (cf. St. John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 17).
g) Decisions which, in certain circumstances, can form part of pastoral prudence, should not necessarily become a norm. That is to say, it is not appropriate for a diocese, an episcopal conference or any other ecclesial structure to constantly and officially authorize procedures or rites for all kinds of matters, since everything “what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule,“ because this “would lead to an intolerable casuistry“ (Amoris Laetitia, 304). Canon law should not and cannot cover everything, nor should the episcopal conferences claim to do so with their various documents and protocols, because the life of the Church runs through many channels in addition to the normative ones.
3. Dubium about the assertion that synodality is a “constitutive element of the Church“ (Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis Communio, 6), so that the Church would, by its very nature, be synodal.
Given that the Synod of Bishops does not represent the college of bishops but is merely a consultative organ of the pope, since the bishops, as witnesses of the faith, cannot delegate their confession of the truth, it is asked whether synodality can be the supreme regulative criterion of the permanent government of the Church without distorting her constitutive order willed by her Founder, whereby the supreme and full authority of the Church is exercised both by the pope by virtue of his office and by the college of bishops together with its head the Roman pontiff (Lumen Gentium, 22).
Pope Francis’ response: a) Although you recognize that the supreme and full authority of the Church is exercised either by the pope because of his office or by the college of bishops together with its head, the Roman pontiff (cf. Cone. Ecum. Vat. II, Const. dogm. Lumen Gentium, 22), nevertheless with these dubia you yourselves manifest your need to participate, to give your opinion freely and to collaborate, and you are claiming some form of “synodality” in the exercise of my ministry.
b) The Church is a “mystery of missionary communion,” but this communion is not only affective or eternal, but necessarily implies real participation: that not only the hierarchy but all the people of God in different ways and at different levels can make their voice heard and feel part of the Church’s journey. In this sense we can say that synodality, as a style and dynamism, is an essential dimension of the life of the Church. On this point St. John Paul II has said very beautiful things in Novo Millennio Ineunte.
c) It is quite another thing to sacralize or impose a particular synodal methodology that pleases one group, to make it the norm and obligatory channel for all, because this would only lead to “freezing” the synodal journey, ignoring the diverse characteristics of the different particular Churches and the varied richness of the universal Church.
4. Dubium about pastors’ and theologians’ support for the theory that “the theology of the Church has changed” and therefore that priestly ordination can be conferred on women.
After the statements of some prelates, which have been neither corrected nor retracted, according to which, with Vatican II, the theology of the Church and the meaning of the Mass has changed, it is asked whether the dictum of the Second Vatican Council is still valid, that “[the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood] differ from one another in essence and not only in degree” (Lumen Gentium, 10) and that presbyters by virtue of the “sacred power of orders, to offer sacrifice and forgive sins” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2), act in the name and in the person of Christ the Mediator, through whom the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect. It is furthermore asked whether the teaching of St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which teaches as a truth to be definitively held the impossibility of conferring priestly ordination on women, is still valid, so that this teaching is no longer subject to change nor to the free discussion of pastors or theologians.
Pope Francis’ response: a) “The common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood differ essentially” (Cone. Ecum. Vat. 11, Const. Dogm. Lumen Gentium, 10). It is not convenient to maintain a difference of degree that implies considering the common priesthood of the faithful as something of “second category” or of lesser value (“a lower degree”). Both forms of priesthood mutually enlighten and sustain each other.
b) When St. John Paul II taught that it is necessary to affirm “definitively“ the impossibility of conferring priestly ordination on women, he was in no way belittling women and granting supreme power to men. St. John Paul II also affirmed other things. For example, that when we speak of priestly power “we are in the area of function, not of dignity or holiness“ (St. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, 51).
These are words that we have not sufficiently accepted. He also clearly maintained that while the priest alone presides at the Eucharist, the tasks “do not give rise to superiority of one over the other“ (St. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, note 190; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Inter Insigniores, VI). I likewise affirm that if the priestly function is “hierarchical,“ it should not be understood as a form of domination, but “this structure is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members.“ (St. John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, 27). If this is not understood and the practical consequences of these distinctions are not drawn, it will be difficult to accept that the priesthood is reserved only to men and we will not be able to recognize the rights of women or the need for them to participate, in various ways, in the leadership of the Church.
c) On the other hand, to be rigorous, let us recognize that a clear and authoritative doctrine has not yet been exhaustively developed about the exact nature of a “definitive statement.“ It is not a dogmatic definition, and yet it must be observed by all. No one can publicly contradict it and yet it can be the object of study, as is the case with the validity of ordinations in the Anglican Communion.
5. Dubium about the statement “forgiveness is a human right“ and the Holy Father’s insistence on the duty to absolve everyone and always, so that repentance would not be a necessary condition for sacramental absolution.
It is asked whether the teaching of the Council of Trent, according to which the contrition of the penitent, which consists in detesting the sin committed with the intention of sinning no more (Session XIV, Chapter IV: DH 1676), is necessary for the validity of sacramental confession, is still in force, so that the priest must postpone absolution when it is clear that this condition is not fulfilled.
Pope Francis’ response: a) Repentance is necessary for the validity of sacramental absolution, and implies the intention not to sin. But there is no mathematics here, and once again I must remind you that the confessional is not a customs house. We are not owners but humble stewards of the sacraments that nourish the faithful, because these gifts of the Lord, more than relics to be guarded, are aids of the Holy Spirit for the life of the people.
b) There are many ways to express regret. Often, in people who have a very wounded self-esteem, pleading guilty is a cruel torture, but the very act of approaching confession is a symbolic expression of repentance and seeking divine help.
c) I would also like to recall that “at times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity” (Amoris Laetitia, 311), but we must learn to do so. Following St. John Paul II, I maintain that we should not demand from the faithful overly precise and certain proposals for amendment, which in the end end up being abstract or even egotistic, but that even the predictability of a new fall “does not compromise the authenticity of the intention” (St. John Paul II, Letter to Cardinal William W. Baum and the participants in the meeting of the cardinal’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. William W. Baum and the participants of the annual course of the Apostolic Penitentiary, 22 March 1996, 5).
d) Finally, it should be clear that all the conditions that are usually placed on the confession are generally not applicable when the person is in a situation of agony, or with very limited mental and psychological capacities.
Posted on 10/2/2023 15:50 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
CNA Newsroom, Oct 2, 2023 / 11:50 am (CNA).
The publication of a new set of questions addressed to Pope Francis by five longtime cardinals has once again turned the focus of Catholics to the place of “dubia” in the life of the Church.
What are dubia?
The word “dubia” — plural for a “dubium” — literally means, from the Latin, “doubts.” But another way of translating it is to see the word meaning “questions that seek clarification.” A dubium, then, is a request for clarity from a dicastery or office of the Roman Curia or even of the Holy Father himself on a matter of Church teaching, a liturgical issue, or a fine point of interpreting canon law. The questions most often arise from the daily issues of Church governance and liturgical and sacramental practice. In fact, dubia are a regular feature of the interaction between the Vatican’s various dicasteries and Catholic dioceses around the globe.
What questions are submitted?
A dubium is most often sent to one of three Vatican offices: the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and especially the Dicastery for Legislative Texts, which is asked to interpret the meaning or applicability of a canon in the Code of Canon Law.
Dubia can cover almost every imaginable topic. A few of the questions asked in recent decades include: “Can the title of minor basilica be granted to a cathedral?”, submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship; “Are Mormon baptisms valid?”, sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and “Are already-married candidates for the permanent diaconate required with their wives to practice perfect and perpetual continence after ordination?”, submitted to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
Most often, dubia are submitted by bishops, bishops’ conferences, or religious communities, but any Catholic may send them, as was shown in 2021 when three German lay Catholics from the Diocese of Essen submitted a dubium to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asking if the Church in Germany is in a state of schism as a result of the German Synodal Way.
Who responds to dubia?
The three German Catholics expressed at the time a realistic expectation about hearing back from the Vatican dicastery, saying to EWTN News’ German-language news agency CNA Deutsch that they had “no sense of entitlement” to a reply. The laypeople were correct in their expectation, as the Vatican offices are not required to respond to any dubium sent for consideration. Certainly, the submission of dubia by bishops and bishops’ conferences is more likely to elicit a response, as are questions that emerge out of matters of grave importance to the Church. Members of the College of Cardinals, such as the so-called dubia cardinals of 2016 and now 2023, can also have some anticipation of a response given they are by tradition considered close advisers to the pope. Nevertheless, the Holy Father is not required to respond and might also reply in a manner or through a representative of his choosing.
By custom, when a Vatican dicastery does answer a dubium, it is through a “Responsum ad dubium” (literally, a response to the doubt), and customarily, the response can be answered in the affirmative or the negative, “yes” or “no.” Almost always, the terse reaction is accompanied by a fuller explanation or commentary.
Very often as well, the answer from a dicastery is considered a “private response,” meaning it is not universally applicable nor can it be applied to address a situation in some other forum, even if the facts or circumstances are similar. How the response is issued matters as well, as a private reply by way of a letter has far less weight and far narrower applicability than a formal instruction or notification. Traditionally, the Dicastery for Divine Worship has published its “responsa” in the Notitiae, a publication issued bimonthly that until recently contained all important statements, documents, and responses pertaining to the liturgy and the sacraments. For those questions that require a formal statement, dicasteries will issue them publicly.
What are some of the most notable dubia?
Over the decades, there have been several controversial or important dubia and responsa. In 1995, for example, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith answered a significant dubium with a resounding yes: “Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.” Its prefect, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, included a brief explanatory note affirming further that the “teaching requires definitive assent” by the faithful.
Similarly, in early 2021, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made public its negative responsum to a dubium, asking: “Does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” The declaration and accompanying explanatory note were widely criticized by Catholic progressives, but included in that explanatory note by the prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, was the line: “The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, at the audience granted to the undersigned secretary of this congregation, was informed and gave his assent to the publication of the above-mentioned Responsum ad dubium, with the annexed explanatory note.”
That same year, following the publication of Pope Francis’ apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes that limited the use of the so-called Traditional Latin Mass, the Congregation for Divine Worship received several requests for clarification on how it should be applied. The response, which was posted on the congregation’s website, noted that questions had been raised “from several quarters and with greater frequency,” and so it was deemed necessary to give a response to the 11 most-asked questions. Like the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith earlier that year, the prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Arthur Roche, declared that the responses were published after “having informed the Holy Father and having received his assent.” Notably, the “responsa ad dubia” were addressed to the presidents of the world’s episcopal conferences.
Finally, there were the now famous dubia submitted to Pope Francis in 2016 by four cardinals who asked five questions about the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ controversial apostolic exhortation on love and its approach to Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. To this date, as is his right, Pope Francis has chosen not to respond. The Holy Father did choose to answer the latest dubia from the cardinals.
Posted on 10/2/2023 08:30 AM (USCCB News)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church, in pursuit of "pastoral prudence," should discern if there are ways of giving blessings to homosexual persons that do not alter the church's teaching on marriage, Pope Francis said.
Writing in response to a "dubia" letter delivered to him by five cardinals seeking clarification on doctrinal questions, the pope addressed issues surrounding the authority of the synod, women's ordination and blessing homosexual unions in a letter made public Oct. 2.
Marriage is an "exclusive, stable and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to conceiving children," wrote the pope. "For this reason, the Church avoids all kinds of rites or sacramentals that could contradict this conviction and imply that it is recognizing as a marriage something that is not."
But pastoral charity also is necessary, and "defense of the objective truth is not the only expression of that charity, which is also made up of kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness, encouragement," he added. "For that reason, pastoral prudence must adequately discern if there are forms of blessing, solicited by one or various persons, that don't transmit a mistaken concept of marriage."
Pope Francis added that decisions made in specific circumstances should not necessarily become a norm regulated by a diocese or bishops' conference, noting that "the life of the Church runs through many channels in addition to regulatory frameworks."
The pope's comments came in response to a "dubia" letter dated July 10 seeking clarification on doctrinal questions written by five retired cardinals: U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah and Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen.
The pope's response is dated July 11, but it was made public on the website of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith only Oct. 2 after the cardinals released a follow-up letter. They had given the pope the second letter Aug. 21 with rephrased questions to solicit "yes" or "no" answers but did not receive a response from the pope.
"Given the gravity of the matter of the dubia, especially in view of the imminent session of the Synod of Bishops, we judge it our duty to inform you, the faithful, so that you may not be subject to confusion, error and discouragement," the cardinals wrote in an open letter explaining their decision to make the document public Oct. 2.
"The pope already responded to them," Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, told the Spanish newspaper ABC the day the letter was released. "And now they publish new questions as if the pope were their slave for running errands."
The cardinals had asked the pope about St. John Paul II's declaration that "the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women."
"Nobody can publicly contradict" the church's current rules prohibiting women's ordination, the pope wrote, "however it can be a subject of study, as is the case with the validity of ordinations in the Anglican Communion."
The letter asked if synodality could form part of the church's governing structures as an exercise of the church's supreme authority, to which Pope Francis replied that synodality "as a style and energy, is an essential dimension in the life of the Church." He noted that the church's mission "implies real participation: not just the hierarchy but all of the People of God to make their voice heard and feel part of the church's journey in different ways and at different levels."
Besides, he told the cardinals, "with these very questions you manifest your need to participate, to freely express your opinion and to collaborate, thus calling for a form of synodality in the exercise of my ministry."
The pope also answered a question on whether divine revelation should be reinterpreted "according to the cultural changes of our time and according to the new anthropological vision that these changes promote."
"Divine Revelation is immutable and always binding," the pope responded, though "the Church must be humble and recognize that it never exhausts its unfathomable wealth and needs to grow in its understanding."
"Cultural changes and new challenges of history do not modify Revelation, but they do encourage us to better explain some aspects of its boundless richness which always offer more," he wrote.
Responding to a question on the need for repentance to receive absolution in the sacrament of reconciliation, Pope Francis said that "we should not demand overly precise or certain proposals of reform from the faithful that end up being abstract or even egocentric."
The pope underscored that priest "are not owners, but humble administrators of the sacraments that nourish the faithful."
Posted on 10/2/2023 06:34 AM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
National Catholic Register, Oct 2, 2023 / 02:34 am (CNA).
Five cardinals have sent a set of questions to Pope Francis to express their concerns and seek clarification on points of doctrine and discipline ahead of this week’s opening of the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican.
The cardinals said they submitted five questions, called “dubia,” on Aug. 21 requesting clarity on topics relating to doctrinal development, the blessing of same-sex unions, the authority of the Synod on Synodality, women’s ordination, and sacramental absolution.
Dubia are formal questions brought before the pope and the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) aimed at eliciting a “yes” or “no” response, without theological argumentation. The word “dubia” is the plural form of “dubium,” which means “doubt” in Latin. They are typically raised by cardinals or other high-ranking members of the Church and are meant to seek clarification on matters of doctrine or Church teaching.
The dubia were signed by German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, 94, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; American Cardinal Raymond Burke, 75, prefect emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura; Chinese Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun, 90, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong; Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, 90, archbishop emeritus of Guadalajara; and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, 78, prefect emeritus of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
The same group of senior prelates say they submitted a previous version of the dubia on these topics on July 10 and received a reply from Pope Francis the following day.
But they said that the pope responded in full answers rather than in the customary form of “yes” and “no” replies, which made it necessary to submit a revised request for clarification.
Pope Francis’ responses “have not resolved the doubts we had raised, but have, if anything, deepened them,” they said in a statement to the National Catholic Register, CNA’s partner news outlet. They therefore sent the reformulated dubia on Aug. 21, rephrasing them partly so they would elicit “yes” or “no” replies.
The cardinals declined the Register’s requests to review the pope’s July 11 response, as they say the response was addressed only to them and so not meant for the public.
They say they have not yet received a response to the reformulated dubia sent to the pope on Aug. 21.
The Register sought comment from the Vatican on Sept. 29 and again on Oct. 1 but had not received a response by publication time.
The cardinals explained in a “Notification to Christ’s Faithful” dated Oct. 2 that they decided to submit the dubia “in view of various declarations of highly placed prelates” made in relation to the upcoming synod that have been “openly contrary to the constant doctrine and discipline of the Church.”
Those declarations, they said, “have generated and continue to generate great confusion and the falling into error among the faithful and other persons of goodwill, have manifested our deepest concern to the Roman pontiff.”
The initiative, the cardinals added, was taken in line with canon 212 § 3, which states it is a duty of all the faithful “to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church.”
The practice of issuing dubia has come to the fore during this pontificate. In 2016, Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller along with late Cardinals Carlo Caffarra and Joachim Meisner submitted a set of five dubium to Pope Francis seeking clarification on the interpretation of Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, particularly regarding the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to the sacraments. They did not receive a direct response to their questions.
In 2021, the DDF issued a “responsa ad dubium” giving a simple “no” to a dubium on whether the Church has “the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex.” That same year, the Dicastery for Divine Worship issued a responsa ad dubia on various questions relating to the implementation of Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis’ motu proprio restricting the Traditional Latin Mass.
Then in January of this year, Jesuit Father James Martin directly sent Pope Francis a set of three dubium seeking clarification of comments the Holy Father had given the Associated Press on the issue of homosexuality. The pope replied to the questions with a handwritten letter two days later.
What both dubia contain
The first dubium (question) concerns development of doctrine and the claim made by some bishops that divine revelation “should be reinterpreted according to the cultural changes of our time and according to the new anthropological vision that these changes promote; or whether divine revelation is binding forever, immutable and therefore not to be contradicted.”
The cardinals said the pope responded July 11 by saying that the Church “can deepen her understanding of the deposit of faith,” which they agreed with, but that the response did “not capture our concern.” They reinstated their concern that many Christians today argue that “cultural and anthropological changes of our time should push the Church to teach the opposite of what it has always taught. This concerns essential, not secondary, questions for our salvation, like the confession of faith, subjective conditions for access to the sacraments, and observance of the moral law,” they said.
They therefore rephrased their dubium to say: “Is it possible for the Church today to teach doctrines contrary to those she has previously taught in matters of faith and morals, whether by the pope ex cathedra, or in the definitions of an Ecumenical Council, or in the ordinary universal magisterium of the bishops dispersed throughout the world (cf. Lumen Gentium, 25)?”
In the second dubium on blessing same-sex unions, they underscored the Church’s teaching based on divine revelation and Scripture that “God created man in his own image, male and female he created them and blessed them, that they might be fruitful” (Gen 1:27-28), and St. Paul’s teaching that to deny sexual difference is the consequence of the denial of the Creator (Rom 1:24-32). They then asked the pope if the Church can deviate from such teaching and accept “as a ‘possible good’ objectively sinful situations, such as same-sex unions, without betraying revealed doctrine?”
The pope responded July 11, the cardinals said, by saying that equating marriage to blessing same-sex couples would give rise to confusion and so should be avoided. But the cardinals said their concern is different, namely “that the blessing of same-sex couples might create confusion in any case, not only in that it might make them seem analogous to marriage, but also in that homosexual acts would be presented practically as a good, or at least as the possible good that God asks of people in their journey toward him.”
They therefore rephrased their dubium to ask if it were possible in “some circumstances” for a priest to bless same-sex unions “thus suggesting that homosexual behavior as such would not be contrary to God’s law and the person’s journey toward God?” Linked to that dubium, they asked if the Church’s teaching continues to be valid that “every sexual act outside of marriage, and in particular homosexual acts, constitutes an objectively grave sin against God’s law, regardless of the circumstances in which it takes place and the intention with which it is carried out.”
Question about synodality
In the third dubium, the cardinals asked whether synodality can be the highest criterion of Church governance without jeopardizing “her constitutive order willed by her Founder,” given that the Synod of Bishops does not represent the college of bishops but is “merely a consultative organ of the pope.” They stressed: “The supreme and full authority of the Church is exercised both by the pope by virtue of his office and by the college of bishops together with its head the Roman pontiff (Lumen Gentium, 22).”
The cardinals said Pope Francis responded by insisting on a “synodal dimension to the Church” that includes all the lay faithful, but the cardinals said they are concerned that “synodality” is being presented as if it “represents the supreme authority of the Church” in communion with the pope. They therefore sought clarity on whether the synod can act as the supreme authority on crucial issues. Their reformulated dubium asked: “Will the Synod of Bishops to be held in Rome, and which includes only a chosen representation of pastors and faithful, exercise, in the doctrinal or pastoral matters on which it will be called to express itself, the supreme authority of the Church, which belongs exclusively to the Roman pontiff and, una cum capite suo, to the college of bishops (cf. can. 336 C.I.C.)?”
Holy Orders and forgiveness
In the fourth dubium, the cardinals addressed statements from some prelates, again “neither corrected nor retracted,” which say that as the “theology of the Church has changed,” so therefore women can be ordained priests. They therefore asked the pope if the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which “definitively held the impossibility of conferring priestly ordination on women, is still valid.” They also sought clarification on whether or not this teaching “is no longer subject to change nor to the free discussion of pastors or theologians.”
In their reformulated dubium, the cardinals said the pope reiterated that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is to be held definitively and “that it is necessary to understand the priesthood, not in terms of power, but in terms of service, in order to understand correctly Our Lord’s decision to reserve holy orders to men only.” But they took issue with his response that said the question “can still be further explored.”
“We are concerned that some may interpret this statement to mean that the matter has not yet been decided in a definitive manner,” they said, adding that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis belongs to the deposit of faith. Their reformulated dubium therefore comprised: “Could the Church in the future have the faculty to confer priestly ordination on women, thus contradicting that the exclusive reservation of this sacrament to baptized males belongs to the very substance of the sacrament of orders, which the Church cannot change?”
Their final dubium concerned the Holy Father’s frequent insistence that there’s a duty to absolve everyone and always, so that repentance would not be a necessary condition for sacramental absolution. The cardinals asked whether the contrition of the penitent remains necessary for the validity of sacramental confession, “so that the priest must postpone absolution when it is clear that this condition is not fulfilled.”
In their reformulated dubium, they note that the pope confirmed the teaching of the Council of Trent on this issue, that absolution requires the sinner’s repentance, which includes the resolve not to sin again. “And you invited us not to doubt God’s infinite mercy,” they noted, but added: “We would like to reiterate that our question does not arise from doubting the greatness of God’s mercy, but, on the contrary, it arises from our awareness that this mercy is so great that we are able to convert to him, to confess our guilt, and to live as he has taught us. In turn, some might interpret your answer as meaning that merely approaching confession is a sufficient condition for receiving absolution, inasmuch as it could implicitly include confession of sins and repentance.” They therefore rephrased their dubium to read: “Can a penitent who, while admitting a sin, refuses to make, in any way, the intention not to commit it again, validly receive sacramental absolution?”
The public release of the documents, obtained by the Register and other news outlets, comes two days before the opening of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, a pivotal and highly controversial event in the Catholic Church.
The gathering in Rome marks a historic moment for the Church because for the first time in its history, laypeople, women, and other non-bishops will participate as full voting synod delegates, though the pope will ultimately decide whether to accept any of the assembly’s recommendations.
Pope Francis, either directly or through the Roman Curia, has previously addressed the topics brought up by the five cardinals and their dubia.
On the issue of the development of doctrine and possible contradictions, Pope Francis has frequently described a vision of doctrinal expansion grounded in a particular understanding of St. Vincent of Lerins’ maxim that Christian dogma “progresses, consolidating over the years, developing with time, deepening with age.” The pope has said doctrine expands “upward” from the roots of the faith as “our understanding of the human person changes with time, and our consciousness deepens.”
For instance, the Holy Father has said that while the death penalty was accepted and even called for by previous Catholic doctrine, it is “now a sin.” “The other sciences and their evolution also help the Church in this growth of understanding,” the pope said. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis said that this kind of approach might be considered “imperfect” by those who “dream of a monolithic doctrine defended by all without nuance,” but “the reality is that such variety helps us to better manifest and develop the different aspects of the inexhaustible richness of the Gospel.”
On the topic of blessing same-sex unions, which have been pushed for in places like Germany, the Vatican’s chief doctrinal office, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, weighed in on the matter in 2021, clarifying that “the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex.” However, some have speculated that, in spite of the DDF text referencing his approval, Pope Francis was displeased by the document. Relatedly, Antwerp’s Bishop Johan Bonny claimed in March that the pope did not disapprove of the Flemish-speaking Belgian bishops plan to introduce a related blessing, although this claim has not been substantiated and it is not clear that the Flemish blessing is, in fact, the kind explicitly disapproved by the DDF guidance.
Regarding the DDF text, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin cited it in his criticism of the German Synodal Way’s decision to move forward with attempted blessings of same-sex unions, but he also added that the topic would require further discussion at the upcoming universal synod. More significantly, new DDF prefect Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, a close confidant of Pope Francis, stated in July that while he was opposed to any blessing that would confuse same-sex unions with marriage, the 2021 DDF guidance “lacked the smell of Francisco” and could be revisited during his tenure.
Regarding the authority of the forthcoming synod, although Pope Francis has expanded voting rights in the Synod of Bishops beyond the episcopacy, he has also repeatedly emphasized that the synod “is not a parliament” but a consultative, spiritual gathering meant to advise the pope. The pope did adjust canon law in 2018 to allow for the final document approved by a Synod of Bishops to “participate in the ordinary magisterium of the successor of Peter,” though only if “expressly approved by the Roman pontiff.”
On the possibility of the sacramental ordination of women, Pope Francis reaffirmed in 2016 that St. John Paul II’s clear “no” via Ordinato Sacederdotalis (1994) was the “final word” on the subject. In 2018, then-DDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria confirmed that the male-only priesthood is “definitive.” In a 2022 interview with America magazine, Pope Francis again affirmed that women cannot enter ordained ministry and said that this should not be seen as a “deprivation.”
The pope has established two separate commissions to consider the question of a female diaconate, but the first, historically-based commission did not come to any definitive consensus and the second, focusing on the issue from a theological perspective, seems similarly unlikely to offer univocal support for a female diaconate. However, the synod’s Instrumentum Laboris does ask if “it is possible to envisage” women’s inclusion in the diaconate “and in what way?”
Finally, regarding withholding absolution in the confessional, the pope has previously referred to priests who refrain from offering absolution for certain moral sins without the bishop’s permission as “criminals” and told the Congolese bishops in February that they must “always forgive in the sacrament of reconciliation,” going beyond the Code of Canon Law to “risk on the side of forgiveness.”
Jonathan Liedl, senior editor of the National Catholic Register, contributed to this story.
Posted on 10/1/2023 18:34 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
ACI Prensa Staff, Oct 1, 2023 / 14:34 pm (CNA).
Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the Vatican’s new chief of doctrine, predicts that “those who expect big changes” to come out of this month’s Synod of Bishops will be “disappointed.”
But the Argentinian prelate, speaking Saturday in an exclusive interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, left the door open to such changes happening at a later date.
Fernández, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, made the remarks during the traditional courtesy visits that took place after he and 20 others received their “red hats” as cardinals from Pope Francis at a consistory in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 30.
Speaking just days before the Oct. 4 opening of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, he predicted that those on both sides of the Church’s polarized wings will not get what they want, or fear.
“People who are afraid of strange or misplaced doctrinal advances, and people who, on the other hand, expect great changes, are going to be really disappointed,” he said.
The Synod on Synodality, he said, “is not conceived in this vein.”
“At least not this year,” he added. “Afterwards, we will see what emerges, and next year we will see what happens, but for this synod, this year, we cannot expect too much.”
Nothing for the headlines
What can be expected, the new cardinal assured, is “deepening of our self-awareness, of what we are as Church, what the Lord is asking of us, and what the world of today expects as well, and how we can better reach people with the same message we have always had.”
“If we manage to attain a light that guides us, that orients us, for the future of what we have to be before the people of God and before the world, I think that would already be immense, but it will not attract anyone’s attention. You can’t make a headline out of it,” he reflected.
The former archbishop of La Plata, Argentina, who since September holds what is perhaps the most powerful position in the Vatican after the Holy Father, suggests that “everyone, including journalists” should “lower their expectations” because, he asserted, “there will not be much new” from this synod.
Profoundly spiritual call
As for being named a cardinal, the 61-year-old Fernández told ACI Prensa that his appointment to the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith was “more shocking.”
“It implies very intense work, which I do with pleasure, because for the most part, it involves theology, which is something I am passionate about,” he explained. “I dreamed that after I turned 65, I would return to studying and teaching. In reality [with this post,] I am not going to teach, but I do have to study, and that is something I enjoy.”
The cardinal went on to praise his “very good team” of specialists and theologians at the dicastery, which, he said, gives him “more security.”
But the cardinal’s hat, “it seems to me, wasn’t indispensable,” Fernández added. “As Pope Francis has ‘his own ideas,’ he could have left me as a prefect without this title.”
Nevertheless, the call to be a cardinal has “that symbolic meaning of the donation of blood,” he said. “A call to a fuller, more courageous [surrender], more liberated from one’s own ego and one’s own needs.”
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 10/1/2023 14:15 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Rome Newsroom, Oct 1, 2023 / 10:15 am (CNA).
Pope Francis on Sunday announced a meeting with children to be held at the Vatican on Nov. 6.
The event in the Paul VI Audience Hall, sponsored by the Dicastery for Culture and Education, will be dedicated to the theme “Let us learn from boys and girls.”
“It is an event to show the dream we all have: To go back to having the pure sentiments of children because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them,” the pope said after praying the midday Angelus on Oct. 1.
Accompanied by five children from five continents, the pope on Sunday said that children “teach us how to be transparent in relationships, how to welcome strangers, and how to care for creation.”
Sunday’s Angelus, which drew a large crowd of pilgrims to St. Peter’s Square on a sunny afternoon, came during an especially busy weekend at the Vatican.
On Saturday morning the pope elevated 21 new cardinals from 15 different countries during a consistory in St. Peter’s Square. Later in the day, he led an ecumenical prayer vigil, a prelude to the 16th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, also known as the Synod on Synodality, which begins Wednesday and continues through October. The synod’s participants began a three-day retreat Sunday led by Father Timothy Radcliffe. The Dominican priest interrupted his opening meditation, which was livestreamed by the Vatican, for the Angelus.
Sunday also marked the feast day of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose “little way” of holiness is the subject of a new apostolic letter Pope Francis will publish on Oct. 15. Following his Gospel reflection the pope spoke briefly about the document, calling the “Little Flower” a saint of trust. “May St. Thérèse help us to trust and to work for the missions,” he said.
The apostolic exhortation will be released on the feast of the saint for whom Thérèse is named, St. Teresa of Avila.
Pope Francis also touched on the beginning of the month of the rosary and expressed his attention to the “dramatic situation of the displaced” in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, renewing his call for dialogue “with the hope that conversation, with the support of the international community, can enable a lasting resolution that will put an end to the humanitarian crisis.” He promised his prayers for the dozens of people killed in an explosion at a crowded gas station in the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh last week.
Parable of the two sons
His reflection on Sunday’s Gospel — Matthew’s account of Jesus’ parable of the two sons — was a call to avoid the hypocrisy of corruption, even if in our weakness, we will continue to sin.
The parable is more about sincerity than obedience, the pope observed. “Even though neither of the sons behaves impeccably, the first lies, while the second makes a mistake but remains sincere,” he noted.
The first son, who breaks his promise to his father to go work in the vineyard, “gets by without conflict, but he cheats and deceives his father, disrespecting him in a way that is worse than had he responded with a blunt ‘no,’” the pope said. He warned that “there is always the hope of redemption for a sinner; for the corrupt, instead, it is much more difficult.”
The Holy Father said the honesty of the second son, on the other hand, leads him to examine himself and repent, whereas those like the first son “disguise their disobedience without welcoming any honest dialogue or feedback.”
The pope invited the faithful to an examination of conscience in light of the parable. “When I make a mistake, am I willing to repent and retrace my steps?” he asked. “Or do I pretend everything is okay and go through life wearing a mask, concerning myself only about appearing good and righteous?”
Speaking of the special focus on Mary during October, the pope urged the faithful to experience “the beauty of praying the rosary.”
“Together with Mary, let us contemplate the mysteries of Christ’s life and invoke her intercession for the needs of the Church and the world,” he said, highlighting in particular the need for peace, evangelization, and the Synod of Bishops.
Posted on 09/30/2023 18:15 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Sep 30, 2023 / 14:15 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis told those gathered at an ecumenical prayer vigil days before the opening of the Synod on Synodality that silence is essential for Christians.
“In a world full of noise, we are no longer accustomed to silence; indeed sometimes we struggle with it, because silence forces us to face God and ourselves. Yet it lies at the foundation of the Word and of life,” the pope said in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 30.
Before thousands of young people and Christian leaders from around the world, Francis emphasized the importance of silent prayer.
“Silence is essential in the life of the believer,” he said. “Indeed, it lies at the beginning and end of Christ’s earthly existence. The Word, the Word of the Father, became ‘silence’ in the manger and on the cross, on the night of the Nativity and on the night of his Passion.”
Pope Francis spoke near the end of a two-hour prayer vigil held on the eve of the Oct. 4 opening of the 16th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The first of two sessions of the synod is taking place at the Vatican throughout October.
The prayer service, called “Together,” which was organized by the ecumenical community Taizé, included eight minutes of silence for personal prayer.
“Like the great crowd in the Book of Revelation, we prayed in silence, listening to a ‘great silence,’” Francis said. “Indeed, silence is important and powerful: It can express unspeakable sorrow in the face of misfortune, but also, in moments of joy, a gladness that goes beyond words.”
Three other heads of churches attended the prayer vigil together with other Catholic and Christian leaders: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, primate of the Anglican Church Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, and Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II. The three leaders also had individual private meetings with Pope Francis the morning of Sept. 30.
The two-hour service featured the singing of Taizé hymns and other songs, Scripture readings, testimonies by young Christians from around the world, a reenactment of the parable of the Good Samaritan, and a prayer called “The Way of God the Creator,” which reflected on the gift of God’s creation as spoken about in the Bible.
There were also intercessory prayers introduced by Christian church leaders and read by fraternal delegates to the synod. Fraternal delegates are synod participants from other Christian traditions. Unlike most delegates, they do not have the right to vote.
After the prayer vigil on the evening of Sept. 30 through the evening of Oct. 3, the synod’s participants will take part in a spiritual retreat in Sacrofano, Italy, about 15 miles north of Rome.
In his reflection, Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of silence for the Synod on Synodality.
“Silence, in the ecclesial community, makes fraternal communication possible, where the Holy Spirit draws together points of view,” he said. “What is more, silence enables true discernment, through attentive listening to the Spirit’s ‘sighs too deep for words’ (Rom 8:26) that echo, often hidden, within the people of God.”
He added that silence is also essential for the journey of Christian unity.
“Indeed, [silence] is fundamental to prayer, and ecumenism begins with prayer and is sterile without it. Jesus himself prayed that his disciples ‘may all be one’ (Jn 17:21),” he said.
Pope Francis emphasized that silence is also an important aspect of evangelization, because “truth does not need loud cries to reach people’s hearts.”
“God does not like declarations and shouting, gossiping and noise: rather, he prefers, as he did with Elijah, to speak in the ‘still small voice’ (1 Kgs 19:12), in a ‘thread of resounding silence,’” he said.
“We too, then, like Abraham, like Elijah, like Mary, need to free ourselves from so much noise in order to hear his voice. For only in our silence does his word resound,” the pope said.
During the prayer vigil, copies of the Marian icon “Salus Populi Romani” and the San Damiano Cross — before which St. Francis of Assisi received the Lord’s commission to rebuild the Church — were present on the terrace in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.
After the formal end of the service, people were invited to approach the cross and icon for a moment of personal prayer and meditation while the song “Jesus, Remember Me” was played.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of Christian young adults from around Europe participated in workshops and a praise and worship service organized by the Diocese of Rome at the Basilica of St. John Lateran before walking about three miles to St. Peter’s Basilica for the ecumenical prayer vigil.
Posted on 09/30/2023 16:45 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, Sep 30, 2023 / 12:45 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis created 21 new cardinals for the Catholic Church on Saturday. The men, whose ages range from 49 to 96, come from 15 different countries and five continents.
And while some of the cardinals pastor churches in the countries they are from, others have lived in places other than their home while serving the Church as diplomats.
From digital communication to hope to listening to the Gospel, here is what 12 of the cardinals told CNA they think is needed to evangelize the modern world:
Cardinal Grzegorz Ryś, 59, archbishop of Łódź, Poland: Listening
Ryś said there are two keys to evangelizing the modern world: “The first one is to listen to the Gospel as the living Word. So that means that we listen to Christ and the Holy Spirit. And the second thing is to listen to the people, otherwise there is no evangelization. Because evangelization, in the end, is the meeting of a person with a person: the person of the fellow living with us and the person of Christ coming to him. So you need to listen to both sides, otherwise there is no meeting.”
Cardinal Américo Aguiar, 49, bishop of Setúbal, Portugal: Digital communication
“We have to find the balance in this digital world … and the way of living, the mode of relating, of young people, is different than us,” Aguiar said, noting that the digital revolution has changed the culture almost on the scale of the Industrial Revolution.
“It’s a new world: It’s not better or worse, it’s different,” he said. “Communication is diverse. … We, at Mass, in conferences, speak, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, too much, blah, blah, blah. And we have quoted the Vatican documents, the pope’s documents, and everything … We, as pastors, have to convert to this new culture, because Christ and the Gospel are always the same. As John Paul II said ... the new evangelization had to be new in ardor, methods, and expressions. And I think we are still there, in discovering, adapting, converting to new methods and expressions, because Christ and the Gospel are always the same.”
Cardinal Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla, 59, archbishop of South Sudan: Dialogue
“In our time, I think the most important thing for us to have is dialogue,” Mulla said. “Without dialogue among ourselves it will not be easy to live together. But where there is dialogue there is always the possibility of bringing our ideas together and sharing them and taking a common step. But without dialogue then our lives get complicated in society and even in the family.”
Cardinal Christophe Pierre, 77, apostolic nuncio to the United States: Kerygma
It’s very difficult to transmit Christian values today, Pierre said. “The challenge for the Church [in evangelization] is to reach out to the people — this is what Pope Francis tells us all the time — we are to reach out to people where they are, to understand them, to dialogue with them, and to propose to them the Good News, but in a new context. … We have to find ways to announce the Good News, the kerygma, in a new context.”
Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, 58, patriarch of Jerusalem: Jesus
“What I see that we need as a Church today, at least what I say to myself, is to tell the people that, to me, Jesus is the most wonderful thing that can happen in my life.”
Cardinal Agostino Marchetto, 83, retired apostolic nuncio and curial official: Love
Marchetto said to evangelize today, the thing most needed is “love, true love, love that keeps in mind what man is. Love that is not just a feeling, but has respect for the person, knows what it means to give of one’s self, what it means to not be self-centered. … Let’s not forget that God is love, and we discover, as he says, ‘to love one another, as I have loved you.’”
Cardinal Ángel Sixto Rossi, SJ, 65, archbishop of Córdoba, Argentina: Closeness
“What the pope insists on a lot is closeness. You cannot serve if you are not close and listen: Listening to the joys, the sorrows, the anguish of our people in order to be able to give an answer, not one that is up in the air, but one that responds to the concrete need. So I believe that the pope insists on this, on closeness. Not only physical closeness but existential closeness, spiritual closeness. It means knowing how to listen so that the language is from heart to heart.”
Cardinal José Cobo Cano, 58, archbishop of Madrid, Spain: Hope
Cobo said to evangelize the modern world, the Church needs “to listen to the word of God” and evangelize together, “not each one with his own idea, but together and in the diversity that we have in today’s world.”
“Our call is to transmit the hope of God, that which we live communally in the midst of our world, which is a little bit the exercise that the synod wants us to do ... Learn to walk together to listen to what God wants at this moment. That is the message. And I believe that our world right now needs a lot of hope, good news, to give meaning and soul to the things we do, I think sometimes we have lost the soul of things.”
Cardinal Stephen Brislin, 67, archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa: Reaching out
Brislin said he thinks the Church’s biggest challenge today is how to evangelize, how to bring Christ to people. “That in trying to discern together, and to listen to each other, we need to develop ways of trying to reach out to others, particularly young people, who face so many different voices, so much noise in their lives, to be able to present the faith in a way that impacts on them and they can understand. I hope that will be a fruit of the synod, for a start, but I also believe that that is what we’ve got to work to together, saying, ‘How can we reach out to those who are dropping away from the faith, losing their faith, but most especially young people,’ because I think they really feel a need in their lives and we somehow aren’t answering that need.”
“It’s been wonderful that the present pope, and a number of the previous popes, have really tried to emphasize that we are all meant to evangelize people, and we evangelize people not only by speaking to them, but particularly by how we live our lives, and how our conduct and our ethical behavior proclaims who we are and what we are.”
Cardinal Claudio Gugerotti, 67, prefect of the Dicastery for Eastern Churches: The Gospel ‘sine glossa’
What is necessary to evangelize today, Gugerotti said, is “to let the Gospel speak. Try to avoid comments as much as possible. This is the only thing. The Gospel has been written for very simple people and its demand was to touch the heart. Whenever we start building systems of fault or politics on this we are spoiling the Gospel, and so the Gospel is diluted into a series of mental problems that have nothing to do with it. Let the Gospel speak without any comment: Evangelium ‘sine glossa.’”
Cardinal Stephen Chow Sau-yan, SJ, 64, archbishop of Hong Kong, China: Helping people know God
“I think it is important that we say Pope Francis made a distinction,” Chow said. “Evangelization is really to help people to understand the love of God — and the love of God without the agenda of turning them into Catholics — because that shouldn’t be the focus, as that focus would be very restrictive. So for them to come to understand [that] our God means love, means goodwill and a better life. And that’s important. Without that, you cannot help them to understand us. So evangelization should be really coming to know God who is love.”
Cardinal Luis José Rueda Aparicio, archbishop of Bogota, Colombia: Striving for peace
Rueda said the Church “was born to evangelize and to serve humanity,” adding that in Colombia specifically, evangelization “has a very strong and deep commitment to the search for reconciliation, justice, peace, and respect for life.”
“Because we have suffered the wounds of a seven-decade conflict, aggravated by the whole issue of drug trafficking in Latin America ... Therefore, the great challenge is to continue what other bishops, priests, laypeople, and catechists have done, which is to opt for the poor, for civil society, for life, and for peace.”
Courtney Mares, Jonathan Liedl, and Almudena Martínez-Bordiú contributed to this report.