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Award to pro-abortion politician a matter of protocol, Vatican says

Vatican City, Jan 16, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The conferral of the Vatican’s Order of St. Gregory the Great to Dutch politician and pro-abortion activist Liliane Ploumen was part of an ordinary diplomatic exchange of honorific titles, and does not mean that the Vatican supports Ploumen’s abortion campaigns, a Vatican spokesperson explained Jan. 15.
 
Responding to requests of clarification, Paloma Garcia-Ovejero, deputy director of the Holy See Press Office, said that “the honorific of the St. Gregory the Great Pontifical Order that Liliane Ploumen, then Minister for Development received in June 2017, during the visit of the Dutch Royals to the Holy Father, is part of the diplomatic praxis of the exchange of decorations among delegations during official visits between heads of state and government to the Vatican.”
 
Garcia-Ovejero said that the decoration “cannot be by any way considered an endorsement to the pro-abortion and birth control politics advocated by Mrs. Ploumen.”
 
Liliane Ploumen, a Dutch politician, served as Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation from Nov. 5, 2012 to Oct. 26, 2017.
 
In that capacity, she was part of a delegation of the Dutch monarchy that visited Pope Francis on June 22.
 
On that occasion, the Vatican returned the Dutch Royal Family a stick belonging to William I, Prince of Orange, that had previously been lost in the Jesuit Catalan archives.

The stick – in fact a scepter – depicts the coat of arms of William of Orange. The stick was used by Louis of Nassau, the brother of William of Orange, during the 1574 Mookerheyde battle in 1574. It was lost, came into the hand of a Spanish general and eventually the superior of the Jesuits. Eventually, it got lost in the Catalan archives.
 
The occasion included an exchange of honorary titles, an element of diplomatic praxis that usually grabs no headlines.
 
Diplomatic visits to the Vatican are highly choreographed affairs.
 
During an official state visit to the Vatican, the most solemn kind of diplomatic meeting, protocol dictates that a solemn procession from St. Peter’s Square, into the Vatican, to the Cortile San Damaso, which accesses the Apostolic Palace.
 
The procession is greeted by three blasts of trumpets, and then the delegation enters the Apostolic Palace and walks through the rooms.
 
There is even a specific protocol for walking through Apostolic Palace. The procession toward the Papal Library, where the meeting takes place, is led by a Swiss Guard sergeant, follow by 6 Sediari Pontifici, ceremonial servants, in the case of head of state and 8 Sediari Pontifici for monarchs.
 
These details explain that a royal family enjoys a sort of “right of precedence” in Vatican protocol, and for that reason the visit of a Royal Family is a serious and solemn event.
 
The visit of the King William Alexander and Queen Maxima was not an official state visit, but a mere audience, and so an exchange of honorifics would not ordinarily to take place. However, the presence of the royal family, and the solemnity of returning of the Dutch stick, might have suggested to the Secretariat of State a protocol designed to highlight the audience, including the conferral of honors, a Vatican source explained to CNA.  
  
In some cases, the Vatican can ask not to proceed with an exchange of awards or honors, especially when some of the members of the other delegations can be controversial, a source close to the Vatican diplomatic service told CNA Jan. 15.
 
However, the exchange of decorations took place during the Dutch visit.
 
The presence of Ploumen in the Dutch delegation has sparked controversies because she is an abortion advocate.

In 2017, Ploumen launched an international campaign to support abortion, designed to counter the Trump administration’s decision to cut off funds for NGOs that facilitate abortion. Ploumen’s organization, named “She Decides,” collected nearly $400 million.
 
However, news of her award did not grab any headlines until Ploumen herself showed off the medal in a recent interview to the Dutch television BNR.

In the interview, the Dutch politician presented the decoration as a personal award, and said that while her the pro-abortion campaign ““was not mentioned” as the reason for the decoration, but, she said, “the Vatican knows that I founded ‘She decides’, but this did not prevent them from awarding me.”

“It is interesting,” she added.  

The honorific was apparently given without significant previous consultation. In a statement released Jan. 15, Cardinal Wilhelm Ejik, Archbishop of Utrecht and Primate of the Netherlands, stressed that he “was not involved” in the process that decided “to give the decoration of Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order St. Gregory the Great, which the former minister Ploumen received last year.”

Cardinal Ejik said that he had not initially been aware that the decoration had been given to the minister.
 
Established in 1831, the Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great is one of the five orders of knighthood of the Holy See, and can be bestowed to Catholic men and women, but also – in rare cases – to non Catholics. The honor is a recognition of personal service to the Holy See and to the Church.

In Chile, Pope says Beatitudes aren't 'cheap words', but sources of hope

Santiago, Chile, Jan 16, 2018 / 06:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On his first full day in Chile, Pope Francis told Catholics in the country that the Beatitudes aren't just a simple piece of advice from someone who purports to know everything, but are a source of hope which impels people to leave their comfort zone and follow the path given by Jesus.

“The Beatitudes are not the fruit of a hypercritical attitude or the 'cheap words' of those who think they know it all yet are unwilling to commit themselves to anything or anyone,” the Pope said Jan. 16.

People with this attitude, he said, “end up preventing any chance of generating processes of change and reconstruction in our communities and in our lives.”

The Beatitudes, then, “are born of a merciful heart that never loses hope. A heart that experiences hope as a new day, a casting out of inertia, a shaking off of weariness and negativity,” he said.

By proclaiming blessings to the poor, grieving, afflicted, patient and merciful, Jesus casts out “the inertia which paralyzes those who no longer have faith in the transforming power of God our Father and in their brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable and outcast.”

The Beatitudes, he said, are the fruit of Jesus' encounter with people, who saw in him “the echo of their longings and aspirations,” and found in him the “horizon towards which we are called and challenged to set out.”

Pope Francis spoke during his homily for Mass at O'Higgins Park in Santiago on his first full day in Chile. He is currently in the first step of a two-country visit to South America, which will also include a stop in Peru.

He will visit various cities in Chile, including Temuco and Iquique, and on Jan. 18 will travel to Peru, where he will visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo.

In his homily for Mass, Pope Francis focused on the day's Gospel reading from Matthew in which Jesus speaks on the Beatitudes.

The Beatitudes, he said, are not the product of the “prophets of doom who seek only to spread dismay,” and nor do they come from “those mirages that promise happiness with a single 'click,' in the blink of an eye.”

Rather, the Beatitudes “are born of the compassionate heart of Jesus, which encounters the hearts of men and women seeking and yearning for a life of happiness,” he said, noting that these are men and women who know what it means to suffer and who appreciate “the confusion and pain of having the earth shake beneath their feet” or seeing their life's work washed away.

Chileans themselves know from personal experience how to rebuild and start anew, he said, adding: “How much you know about getting up again after so many falls! That is the heart to which Jesus speaks; that is the heart for which the Beatitudes are meant!”

Francis said the Beatitudes represent a “new day” for all those who look to the future and dream, and who allow themselves to be moved and sent forth by the Holy Spirit.

Contrary to “the resignation that like a negative undercurrent undermines our deepest relationships and divides us,” Jesus provides a more positive message, telling the people that “blessed are those who work for reconciliation. Blessed are those ready to dirty their hands so that others can live in peace.”

“Do you want to be blessed? Do you want to be happy? Blessed are those who work so that others can be happy. Do you want peace?” he asked. “Then work for peace.”

Peace, the Pope added, is sown by closeness and by “coming out of our homes and looking at peoples’ faces...This is the only way we must forge a future of peace, to weave a fabric that will not unravel.”

A true peacemaker, he said, “knows that it is often necessary to overcome great or subtle faults and ambitions born of the desire for power and to gain a name for oneself, the desire to be important at the cost of others.”

Quoting Chilean Saint Alberto Hurtado, he said a good peace-maker knows that “it is very good not to do wrong, but very bad not to do good.”

He closed his homily asking that Mary would help all to both live and desire the Beatitudes “so that on every corner of this city we will hear, like a gentle whisper: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

First Option - First Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13

1 The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons."
2 And Samuel said, "How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me." And the LORD said, "Take a heifer with you, and say, `I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.'
3 And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me him whom I name to you."
4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, "Do you come peaceably?"
5 And he said, "Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice." And he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they came, he looked on Eli'ab and thought, "Surely the LORD'S anointed is before him."
7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."
8 Then Jesse called Abin'adab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one."
9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one."
10 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, "The LORD has not chosen these."
11 And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?" And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here."
12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. And the LORD said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is he."
13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.

First Option - Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 89:20-22, 27-28

19 Of old thou didst speak in a vision to thy faithful one, and say: "I have set the crown upon one who is mighty, I have exalted one chosen from the people.
20 I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him;
21 so that my hand shall ever abide with him, my arm also shall strengthen him.
26 He shall cry to me, `Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.'
27 And I will make him the first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth.

First Option - Gospel: Mark 2:23-28

23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.
24 And the Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?"
25 And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him:
26 how he entered the house of God, when Abi'athar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?"
27 And he said to them, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath;
28 so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath."

Second Option - First Reading: 1 Corinthians 4:9-13

9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men.
10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.
11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless,
12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;
13 when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things.

Second Option - Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 126:1-6

1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."
3 The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.
4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb!
5 May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy!
6 He that goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Second Option - Gospel: Matthew 10:16-22

16 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
17 Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues,
18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles.
19 When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour;
20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21 Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;
22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

Don’t let fear keep you from welcoming the stranger, Pope says

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2018 / 04:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At a special Mass Sunday for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis said that while it is normal to be afraid of the unknown, we can’t let this direct how we respond to newcomers in our midst, who should be treated with respect and generosity.

It’s not easy to put ourselves in another person’s shoes, especially those very different from us, and this can cause us to have doubts and fears, Francis said Jan. 14.

“These fears are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view. Having doubts and fears is not a sin.”

“The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection,” he continued. “The sin is to refuse to encounter the other, to encounter the different, to encounter the neighbor, when this is in fact a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord.”

Pope Francis gave this homily at a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the 104th celebration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The theme for this year was: “Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees.”

Present at the Mass were immigrants and refugees from around the world who are now part of the Diocese of Rome.

In his homily, Francis quoted a line from his message for the day, published Aug. 21: “Every stranger who knocks on our door is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ, who identifies himself with the foreigner who has been accepted or rejected in every age (cf. Mt 25:35-43).”

He emphasized that in welcoming the migrant or refugee, we have an opportunity to welcome Jesus.

The communities that receive migrants and refugees aren’t the only ones with fears and doubts. Migrants and refugees themselves, who have just arrived in a new place, also have fears, such as the fear “of confrontation, judgment, discrimination and failure,” the Pope said.

Francis explained how in the Gospel reading for the day, Jesus calls his disciples to “Come, and see,” and how today this invitation is addressed to all of us.

“It is an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her. It is an invitation which offers the opportunity to draw near to the other and see where and how he or she lives.”

Entrusting the world’s migrants and refugees to the care of Mary, Most Holy, the Pope concluded by asking her intercession, that “responding to the supreme commandment of charity and love of neighbor, may we all learn to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves.”

Following the Mass, Pope Francis led the usual Sunday Angelus from a window in the Casa Santa Marta for pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

Following the prayer, he announced that “for pastoral reasons,” the World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be moved from Jan. 14, as established by Pope St. Pius X in 1914, to the second Sunday of September. Therefore, the next celebration of the day will take place Sept. 8, 2019, he said.

In his Angelus message the Pope also spoke about the importance of not leaving our knowledge of Jesus to “hearsay,” but how we need to really encounter him “in prayer, in meditation on the Word of God and in the frequenting of the Sacraments.”

“Only a personal encounter with Jesus generates a journey of faith and discipleship,” he said.

“We could have many experiences, accomplish many things, establish relationships with many people, but only the appointment with Jesus, at that hour that God knows, can give full meaning to our lives and make our projects and initiatives fruitful.”

Analysis: Why will Pope Francis visit the Ukrainian parish in Rome?

Vatican City, Jan 12, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- On Jan. 28, Pope Francis will visit the Basilica of Saint Sophia, the Greek Catholic Ukrainian parish in Rome. While there, he will pray in front of the tomb of Bishop Stefan Czmil, who served as a missionary to Argentina, and was a childhood mentor to the young Jorge Bergoglio.
 
The news of the visit was released today by the Holy See Press Office. Beyond the personal attachment the Pope has for Bishop Czmil, the visit is meant as a pastoral visit and a sign of closeness to the Ukrainian Catholics living in Italy, and in general abroad.
 
It will be a short visit: the Pope will meet with the Greek Catholic Ukrainian community in the Basilica, and will speak after an address delivered by the Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk. After the speech, he will go down to the crypt, for a moment of prayer in front of the tomb of Bishop Czmil, as well as in front of the tomb of Cardinal Slipyi.

St. Sophia was modeled on the designs of medieval Ukrainian churches in Kiev, and is home to about 14,000 Ukrainians living in the Diocese of Rome. Its symbolic importance goes far beyond the Diocese of Rome.

The Church was built in 1963, thanks to a collection launched by the then Archeparch Josip Slipyi, who went to Rome after he had spent 18 years in Soviet prison camps in Siberia and Mordovia.  

The basilica has, for decades, been considered the “home” for Greek Catholic Ukrainians sent into diaspora during Soviet rule.
 
In 1946, the Soviet authorities convoked a false “Synod” of Lviv, revoking the Union of Brest - the Council that put the Greek Catholic Church in union with Rome – and forced Ukrainian Catholic parishes and eparchies into the hierarchical structure of the Orthodox Church. The Ukrainian Catholic Church survived clandestinely and in exile.
 
After the “Synod,” the church built in Rome was a welcome point of unity and solidarity for the members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
 
Saint Sophia was consecrated Sep. 28, 1969 by Blessed Paul VI. The Pope wanted to concretely show his own solidarity with the persecuted Church of the Ukraine. Years earlier, in 1963, Paul VI made the decision to move the body of Saint Josaphat, the patron of the Ukrainian Church, under the Altar of Confession in St. Peter’s Basilica, to symbolize the union between Eastern and Roman rites.
 
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the biggest of the sui iuris Catholic Churches, the eastern ritual Churches in full communion with Rome.
 
Pope Francis’ presence will strengthen this union with Rome. According to Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Greek Catholic Ukrainian Community, Pope Francis’ visit is “a sign of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, and a way to show closeness with Ukrainian migrants to Italy, who consider Saint Sophia’s Basilica their home, and a link to their native land.”
 
In fact, Pope Francis’ visit might be considered far more than that, considering the political situation in the Ukraine.
 
During a speech delivered Jan. 8 to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, the Pope made a clear mention of the Ukrainian conflict.
 
The Pope said that “a shared commitment to rebuilding bridges is also urgent in Ukraine,” as  “the year just ended reaped new victims in the conflict that afflicts the country, continuing to bring great suffering to the population, particularly to families who live in areas affected by the war and have lost their loved ones, not infrequently the elderly and children.”
 
The “forgotten conflict” of the Ukraine has been one of the main focus of the Holy See diplomacy so far. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of State, visited the country in June 2016. His reports were decisive to launch the program “The Pope for Ukraine,” which began with an extraordinary collection Apr. 24, 2016.
 
The Holy See has kept a balanced position between the Ukrainian and Russian claims over the territory of Crimea, according to Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of external relations in the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow. For this reason, the Pope has not yet scheduled a trip to Ukraine, although Eastern Europe is clearly at the center of the Pope’s attention – the Pope will likely travel to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in Sep. 2018.
 
For all of these reasons, Pope Francis’ visit to the basilica of St. Sophia in Rome will also be a sign of pastoral concern toward the Ukrainian people during a time of national difficulty. It is not a political visit, nor it should be treated as one. However, the Pope will give strength to the Ukrainian population who endured diaspora, and to those who face a continuing conflict over eastern Ukraine.

The Pope knows the history of the Greek Catholic Ukrainians thanks to Bishop Czmil, the first Ukrainian Salesian sent on a mission to Argentina. Czmil was very important to Pope Francis, as the Pope himself explained Nov. 9, 2017 to the students of the College St. Josaphat, the Ukrainian seminary in Rome.
 
The Pope said that “it was Fr. Czmil who taught me how to participate in the Ukrainian rite of the Mass, opening me to a different liturgy.”