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Pope urges 'examination of conscience' on treatment of the poor

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2018 / 05:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his message for this year's World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis challenged Catholics on their attitude toward the impoverished, asking whether they really listen to and love the needy, or engage in charity only to please themselves.  

“The condition of poverty cannot be expressed in a word, but becomes a cry which crosses the heavens and reaches God. What does the cry of the poor express if not their suffering and solitude, their delusion and hope?” the pope said in his message.

“How it is that this cry, which rises to the presence of God, is unable to penetrate our ears and leaves us indifferent and impassive?” he asked, saying the World Day of the Poor is a call “to make a serious examination of conscience in order to understand if we are really capable of hearing them.”

Francis stressed the importance of being silent in order to really listen to those in need, saying that speaking too much of oneself will make a person deaf to the voice and the cry of the poor.

The pope expressed concern that at times initiatives aimed at helping the poor, which in themselves are “meritorious and necessary,” are carried out with an intention “more to please those who undertake them than to really acknowledge the cry of the poor.”

“If this is the case, when the cry of the poor rings out our reaction is incoherent and we are unable to empathize with their condition. We are so entrapped in a culture which obliges us to look in the mirror and to pamper ourselves that we believe that a gesture of altruism is sufficient without compromising ourselves directly.”

Pope Francis' message, titled “This poor man cried and the Lord heard him,” is based on Psalm 34 and was published June 14 in anticipation of the second World Day of the Poor, which he instituted at the close of the Jubilee of Mercy.

The event now takes place throughout the world on the 34th Sunday of ordinary time, which this year falls on Nov. 18.

In his message, Pope Francis said that when it comes to serving the poor, “the last thing we need is a battle for first place.”

Rather, one must humbly recognize that it is the Holy Spirit who inspires people to be a concrete sign of God's closeness, since he is the one who opens eyes and hearts to conversion.

The poor, he said, “have no need of protagonists, but of a love which knows how to hide and forget the good which it has done.” The true protagonists, he said, “are the Lord and the poor. He who desires to serve is an instrument in God’s hands in order to make manifest His presence and salvation.”

Pointing to St. Paul's affirmation in the First Letter to the Corinthians that “the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you,'” Francis said this phrase goes not only for the different charisms of the Church, but it also goes for the poor and vulnerable in society.

True disciples of Christ, then, must not harbor “sentiments of contempt or pietism towards the poor,” but instead are called “to honor them, giving them precedence, out of the conviction that they are a real presence of Jesus in our midst.”

Francis also highlighted three verbs used by King David, the author of psalm 34, which are “to cry,” “to answer” and “to free.”

Not only are Christians called to hear the cry of the poor, but they must also answer, he said, noting that God's answer to the poor is highlighted throughout salvation history.

“God’s answer to the poor is always an intervention of salvation in order to heal the wounds of body and soul, restore justice and assist in beginning anew to live life with dignity,” he said, adding that this response is also an appeal for believers to do the same.

The World Day of the Poor is “a small answer” which the entire Church gives to poor people throughout the world as a sign of solidarity and shared concern, he said, and stressed the importance of having a personal encounter with those in need.

“It is not delegated power of which the poor have need, but the personal involvement of as many hear their cry,” he said, adding that “the concern of believers in their regards cannot be limited to a kind of assistance – as useful and as providential as this may be in the beginning – but requires a loving attentiveness which honours the person as such and seeks out his best interests.”

Pope Francis also spoke of the need to free the poor from the causes of poverty, which are frequently rooted in “selfishness, pride, greed and injustice.”

“These are evils as old as man himself, but also sins in which the innocents are caught up, leading to consequences on the social level which are dramatic,” he said.

To help migrants escape pride and injustice, then, means to free them from “the snare of the fowler” and to “subtract them from the trap hidden on their path, in order that they might proceed expeditiously and look serenely upon life.”

Like the poor blind man Bartimaeus from Mark's Gospel who was sitting on the side of the road begging when Jesus passed by, many poor people today are also sitting by the road waiting for someone to come and listen to their needs,  Francis said.

“Unfortunately, often the opposite happens and the poor are reached by voices rebuking them and telling them to shut up and to put up.”

These voices, the pope said, are “out of tune” and are guided by “a phobia of the poor, considered not only as destitute, but also as bearers of insecurity and instability, detached from the habits of daily life and, consequently, to be rejected and kept afar.”

By distancing oneself from the poor, one also distances oneself from God, he said, and urged greater solidarity on the part of Catholics through initiatives such as sharing a meal with the poor and needy.

Pope Francis closed his message saying it is often the poor who “undermine our indifference, which is the daughter of a vision of life which is too imminent and bound up with the present.”

Only by becoming rich before God, putting material wealth in secondary place, can a person truly grow in humanity and become capable of sharing with others, he said, and urged both consecrated persons and laity to “make tangible the Church’s response to the cry of the poor.”

“The poor evangelize us, helping us to discover every day the beauty of the Gospel,” he said. “Let us not waste this opportunity for grace.”

Papal advisors finish first draft of new constitution on the Roman Curia

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2018 / 07:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In their latest round of meetings, Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals has finished and approved the first draft of what will be a new apostolic constitution outlining the role and functions of the Roman Curia.

The tentative title of the document is “Predicatae Evangelium,” meaning “Preach the Gospel.” The new constitution will eventually replace “Pastor Bonus,” the apostolic constitution issued by St. John Paul II in 1988, which currently governs the Roman Curia.

In comments to the press, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the title of the new constitution is subject to change, as is the rest of the text, a first draft of which was voted on and presented to Pope Francis by his Council of Cardinals during their June 11-13 meeting at the Vatican.

Burke stressed that there is “a lot of work to do still” on the text, and that right now the cardinals “are refining” it. The pope, he said, will make whatever changes he sees fit and “can give it to whomever he wants as an expert” for either opinions or contributions.

The bulk of this week’s round of meetings was dedicated to finalizing the draft of Predicatae Evangelium, though updates were given on the status of both the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and the Council for the Economy.

British Msgr. Brian Ferme, secretary for the Vatican's Council of the Economy, gave the group an update on the reform of the financial structures of the Holy See and the Vatican Governorate, which is economically independent from the Holy See and oversees the Vatican museums, the Vatican gardens, and the gendarmerie.

Ferme outlined the goals and fundamental principles of the Vatican’s financial reform, among which are the avoidance of waste, promoting transparency, ensuring that accounting principles are properly applied, and ensuring that international standards and the principle of dual control are followed.

Ferme also highlighted several positive aspects of the reform to date, which include a gradual change in mentality on the need for transparency and accountability; a uniform procedure for preparing budgets and final balances; a greater attention to waste and a greater cooperation with and understanding of the financial reform currently in progress.

Each of the nine members of the pope’s advisory body were present for the meeting, with the exception of Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, who is currently in Australia preparing to face trial for charges of historical sexual abuse, to which he has pled “not guilty.”

Established by Pope Francis shortly after his election in 2013, the Council of Cardinals – colloquially known as the “C9” – is an advisory body on Church governance and reform.

Their next round of meetings will take place Sept. 10-12 at the Vatican, shortly before Pope Francis leaves for a Sept. 22-25 trip to the Baltic states. 

Pope taps Lansing priest as new bishop for Salina diocese

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2018 / 05:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis has named Michigan-native Msgr. Gerald Vincke as the new bishop of the Diocese of Salina, Kan., pulling him from several roles in the Diocese of Lansing, Mich.

In a June 13 statement on Vincke's appointment, Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing said the diocese is “very happy” about the priest's nomination.

“The priests of our diocese as well as myself will deeply miss our brother priest as he moves into this new ministry,” he said, and voiced his “love and gratitude” to Pope Francis for the appointment.

Vincke “is a fine priest, a man of deep faith in Jesus Christ, and a gentle soul,” he said, adding that Lansing's loss is Salina's gain.

Born in Saginaw, Mich., in 1964, Bishop-elect Vincke is the ninth of 10 children and has a degree in public relations and marketing from Ferris State University in Big Rapids.

He studied philosophy at the Thomas More College in Crestview, Ken., before going on to study theology at the Athenaeum Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, and at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Lansing June 12, 1999, after which he served in various pastoral roles. In 2003 he was named as the diocese's Director of Seminarians and Vocations Director, roles he held until his 2010 appointment as spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

Vincke was given the title “monsignor” by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, and in 2015, while still in Rome, he obtained a licentiate in Sacred Theology. The title of his thesis, which places an emphasis on spiritual theology, is “Following the Path of St. John Vianney for the New Evangelization with Evangelii Gaudium as a Guide.”

After returning to Lansing later in 2015, he was assigned as pastor to Holy Family parish in Grand Blanc. He currently serves on the diocese's Presbyteral Council and the College of Consultors.

The date and time of Vincke's ordination as a bishop and installation have yet to be announced.

What is the biggest threat young people face? Mediocrity, Pope says

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2018 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that the greatest danger modern youth face is not the array of problems that surround them, but rather, the temptation to mediocrity – preferring to stay immobile rather than making a leap toward the next step.

Pointing to the Gospel reading from Mark in which a rich young man kneels in front of Jesus and asks how to obtain eternal life, the pope said this question “is the challenge of every existence: the desire for a full, infinite life.”

Many young people today seek life, but end up destroying themselves by pursuing worldly desires, he said, noting that some people would say it is better “to turn this impulse off, the impulse to live, because it's dangerous.”

However, “I would like to say, especially to young people: our worst enemy is not concrete problems, no matter how serious or dramatic: the greatest danger is a bad spirit of adaption, which is not meekness or humility, but mediocrity, timidity.”

A young person who is mediocre has no future, Francis said in off-the-cuff remarks, explaining that “they don't grow, they won't be successful” because they are “afraid of everything.”

“We need to ask the heavenly Father for the youth of today to receive the gift of a healthy restlessness, the ability not to be satisfied with a life without beauty, without color,” he said, adding that “if young people are not hungry for an authentic life, where will humanity end up?”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his weekly general audience, during which he began a new series of catechesis dedicated to the Ten Commandments.

The dialogue between Jesus and the rich young man in Chapter 10 of Mark's Gospel, the pope said in his address, is “a pedagogical process” in which Jesus wants to guide the man from youth into maturity, beginning with a question about the commandments, and ending with an invitation for the man to sell his belongings.  

This process of maturity, Francis said, can only take place “when one begins to accept their own limits. We become adults when we become aware of what is lacking.”

When Jesus asked the man to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, the man could not do it, and was forced to recognize that what he was able to give could not go beyond a certain limit.

The truth of mankind's limits is one that has been rejected throughout history, often with “tragic consequences,” the pope said, noting that in the Gospels, Jesus offers his help, saying he did not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to “fulfill them.”

“Jesus gives fulfillment, he comes for this,” he said, adding that the rich man was taken to “the threshold of a leap, where the possibility was opened of ceasing to live for himself and his own works, his own goods, and – precisely because he lacked eternal life – to leave everything to follow the Lord.”

The invitation to the man to sell everything he owned was not a proposal of poverty, but rather “of wealth, the true kind,” Francis said, asking: “who, being able to choose between an original and a copy, would choose the copy?”

“This is the challenge: to find the original, not the copy. Jesus does not offer surrogates, but true life, true love, true wealth!”

In his closing remarks, Pope Francis also prayed for the beginning of the World Cup, which will take place June 14-July 15 in Russia.

Francis offered his greeting to the players and organizers of the games, as well as those who will watch the matches on television or through social media. He prayed that the event would be “an occasion of encounter, of dialogue and fraternity between different cultures and religions, favoring solidarity and peace among nations.”

Fr. James Martin to give keynote at World Meeting of Families

Dublin, Ireland, Jun 12, 2018 / 12:55 pm (CNA).- The World Meeting of Families being held in Dublin this August will include a presentation from American author Fr. James Martin, S.J., who will discuss ways “parishes can support families with members who identify as LGBTI+.”

Fr. Martin's presentation was included among the highlights of the event during a June 11 press conference in Maynooth, about 20 miles west of Dublin. Another highlighted address is on the meaning of Pope Francis' phrase “throwaway culture,” by Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila.

The World Meeting of Families will be held in Aug. 21-26 with the theme “The Gospel of the Family, Joy for the World.” It is organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and will include the participation of Pope Francis.

Fr. Martin is an editor at America Magazine, and in 2017 was appointed a consultor to the Vatican Secretariat for Communications.

He is also author of “Building a Bridge,” which addresses the Church's engagement with those who identify as LGBT and which has drawn significant criticism.

Some critics say the book does not directly address Catholic teaching on celibacy and chastity or engage with Catholics who identify as LGBT while observing the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

Fr. Martin has suggested that same-sex attraction should be referred to as “differently ordered” rather than “intrinsically disordered,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states.

“We have to be sensitive to the language we use. We can't pretend that language like that isn't harmful,” Fr. Martin told CNA in September 2017.

The priest's book has drawn praise from Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, as well as Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who said the book “marks an essential step in inviting Church leaders to minister with more compassion, and in reminding LGBT Catholics that they are as much a part of our Church as any other Catholic.”

New Ways Ministry, a dissenting Catholic group that has been the subject of warnings from the U.S. bishops and the Vatican for confusing Catholic teaching, awarded Fr. Martin in 2016 for having “helped to expand the dialogue on LGBT issues in the Catholic Church.”

In September 2017, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia wrote an essay saying that “perceived ambiguities in some of Fr. Martin’s views on sexuality have created much of the apprehension and criticism surrounding his book. There’s nothing vindictive in respectfully but firmly challenging those inadequacies. Doing less would violate both justice and charity.”

“Clear judgment, tempered by mercy but faithful to Scripture and constant Church teaching, is an obligation of Catholic discipleship – especially on moral issues, and especially in Catholic scholarship,” the archbishop added.

The Irish government has exerted pressure on the World Meeting of Families, with one government minister warning it should not express “intolerance” of LBGT groups or same-sex couples.

“There should be a welcome for all. And never again should public statements or remarks which seek to isolate certain families be tolerated,” said Katherine Zappone, the Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, according to the Irish Times.

Cardinal Farrell has noted his hopes for the meeting, saying that the event should revitalize family life and will not exclude anyone.

“This encounter… is to promote the Christian concept of marriage, and the Catholic concept of marriage, and will focus on that. All people are invited, we don’t exclude anybody,” stated Cardinal Farrell.

Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia is the guiding theme of the World Meeting of Families and of all the topics chosen for presentation during the event.

In a May 2017 interview with CNA, Cardinal Farrell had said in reference to Amoris laetitia that the document is about the beauty of marriage and the family, and that “we need to say what our teaching is, and that’s not a yes and no answer.”

The World Meeting of Families developed after St. John Paul II requested an international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration for families. The first took place in Rome in 1994. It is held every three years.


Former Vatican diplomat to face trial for possession of child pornography

Vatican City, Jun 11, 2018 / 03:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Former Vatican diplomat Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella is facing trial this month after having been indicted by the Holy See on charges of alleged possession and distribution of child pornography.

Capella, who was a former Vatican diplomat to Washington, was recalled from the U.S. Nunciature in Washington, D.C. last September, after the U.S. State Department notified the Vatican of a “possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images” by a diplomat.

Canadian police, after having investigated Capella for almost two years, also said he had allegedly been uploading child pornography to various websites in December 2016.

The 50-year-old priest, who was arrested by the Vatican in April, is expected to face trial on June 22 for possessing and sharing “a large quantity” of child pornography, according to Reuters. He could face charges from both the Catholic Church and the Holy See.

Capella was one of four staff members who has immunity from U.S. prosecution, and the Vatican has denied U.S. efforts to prosecute Capella in an American court. However, the U.S. State Department’s information regarding Capella has been passed along to the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice.

If convicted, Capella could face dismissal from the clerical state as a priest and criminal penalties, including time in prison and over $10,000 in fines. Other penalties could also apply.

Capella, who was ordained a priest in Milan in 1993, is from Italy’s northern city of Carpi. In 2004, he was admitted into the Vatican’s corps of diplomats, where he served in India, Hong Kong, and the Vatican. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI gave him the title of monsignor.

He is currently being held in a cell in the barracks of the Vatican Gendarmerie.

In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI added the possession of child pornography to the list of “most grave delicts,” which are crimes handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and can result in dismissal from the clerical state.

Pope accepts resignation of Juan Barros, bishop at the center of Chilean abuse scandal

Vatican City, Jun 11, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced Monday that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid from his post in the diocese of Osorno, after being accused of covering-up for Chile's most notorious abuser priest, Fernando Karadima.

The announcement came in a June 11 communique from the Vatican, along with the resignation of two other Chilean bishops who had reached the age of retirement.

Barros submitted his resignation to Pope Francis alongside every other active bishop in Chile at the close of a May 15-17 meeting between the pope and Chilean prelates, during which Francis chastised the bishops for systematic cover-up of abuse throughout the country.

Taking over as in Barros' stead is Bishop Jorge Enrique Conchua Cayuqueo, O.F.M., auxiliary bishop of Santiago, who will serve as apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Osorno.

In addition to Barros, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Cristián Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt, naming Fr. Ricardo Basilio Morales Galindo, provincial for the Order of Mercy in Chile as apostolic administrator.

He also accepted the resignation of Bishop Gonzalo Duarte García de Cortázar of Valparaíso, naming Bishop Pedro Mario Ossandón Buljevic, auxiliary bishop of Santiago, as apostolic administrator.

Both Caro and Duarte had reached the normal retirement age for bishops, at which it is customary for bishops to submit their resignation.

Francis had summoned the bishops of the country to Rome following an in-depth investigation and report into the Chilean clerical abuse crisis carried out by Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in February, resulting in a 2,300 page report on the scandal.

The decision of whether to accept the bishops' resignations is up to Pope Francis. So far Barros, Caro and Duarte are the first bishops whose resignation Pope Francis has formally accepted.

The announcement of Barros' resignation coincides with the announcement that Scicluna and Bertomeu will make another visit to Chile June 12-19, this time traveling to the diocese of Osorno, which Barros has led since 2015. The investigators will spend June 14-17 in Osorno, and the remainder of their time will be spent in Santiago.

Pope Francis' appointment of Barros to Osorno in 2015 was met with a wave of objections and calls for his resignation. Dozens of protesters, including non-Catholics, attempted to disrupt his March 21, 2015 installation Mass at the Osorno cathedral.

Opponents have been vocal about their opposition to Barros ever since, with some of the most outspoken being victims of Karadima, who in 2011 was found guilty by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of sexually abusing several minors during the 1980s and 1990s, and sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude.

Barros maintained his innocence, saying he didn't know the abuse was happening. Pope Francis initially backed him, refusing to allow Barros to step down from his post and calling accusations against him “calumny” during a visit to Chile in January.

However, after Scicluna and Bertomeu's investigation, the pope in April apologized for having made “serious mistakes” in judging the case due to “a lack of truthful and balanced information.”

Since then, he has met with two rounds of abuse survivors in addition to his meeting with Chilean bishops.

Blasphemy is the gravest sin, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jun 10, 2018 / 09:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis discussed the incomprehension Christ faced during his earthly ministry, from both the scribes and his own family.

The scribes’ assertion that Christ drove out demons by the power of demons led him to “react with strong and clear words, he does not tolerate this, because those scribes, perhaps without realizing it, are falling into the gravest sin: negating and blaspheming the Love of God which is present and working in Jesus.”

“And blasphemy, the sin against the Holy Spirit, is the only unpardonable sin - so Jesus says - because it starts from a closure of the heart to the mercy of God acting in Jesus,” the pope said June 10 in St. Peter’s Square.

The scribes who blasphemed were sent from Jerusalem to discredit Christ, Francis said, “to make the office of talkers, discredit the other, remove authority, this ugly thing.”

“This episode contains a warning that serves all of us,” he reflected. “It may happen that a strong envy for the goodness and for the good works of a person can lead one to accuse it falsely. Here there is truly a deadly poison: the malice with which, in a premeditated way, one wants to destroy the good reputation of the other.”

If we find this envy in us during our examination of conscience, “let us immediately go to confession,” he advised, “before it develops and produces its evil effects, which are incurable. Be careful, because this attitude destroys families, friendships, communities, and even society.”

Francis then turned to the incomprehension of Christ’s extended family, who “were worried because his new itinerant life seemed crazy to them. In fact, he showed himself so available to people, especially to the sick and sinners, to the point that he no longer even had time to eat. Jesus was like this: people first, serving people, helping people, teaching people, healing people … His family, therefore, decide to bring him back to Nazareth, to his home.”

When told his family was outside looking for him, Christ replied that “who does the will of God, he is a brother, sister and mother for me.”

Christ “formed a new family, no longer based on natural bonds, but on faith in him, on his love that welcomes us and unites us among us, in the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis said. “All those who accept the word of Jesus are sons of God and brothers among themselves. Welcoming the word of Jesus makes us brothers among us, makes us the family of Jesus.”

But “gossiping about others … makes us the family of the devil.”

The pope noted that Christ’s response to his family looking for him “is not a lack of respect for his mother and his family.”

“Indeed, for Mary it is the greatest recognition, because she is the perfect disciple who has obeyed the will of God in everything. May the Virgin Mother help us to live in communion with Jesus, recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit acting in him and in the Church, regenerating the world to new life.”

Pan-Amazonian synod doc leaves door open to married priests proposal

Vatican City, Jun 8, 2018 / 10:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A preparatory document for next year's Pan-Amazonian synod was released Friday, indicating that key themes for the meeting will be the role of women in the Church, the rights and traditions of indigenous people, and efforts to find “new ways” to provide greater access to the Eucharist.

“Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology,” was published June 8 as the official preparatory document for the October 2019 synod on the Pan-Amazonian region of South America, which includes parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela and Suriname.

The document highlighted several priorities for the upcoming synod discussion, one of which was the need for greater pastoral presence in the Amazonia region.

One of the main areas of discussion, it said, will be “the cry of thousands of communities deprived of the Sunday Eucharist for long periods of time.”

The text stressed the importance of creating the possibility “for all the baptized to participate in the Sunday Mass.”

The document noted “an urgent need to evaluate and rethink the ministries that today are required to respond to the objectives of a Church with an Amazonian face and a Church with a native face.”

It further stressed that “new ways should be considered for the People of God to have better and more frequent access to the Eucharist, the center of Christian life.”

In March 2017, Pope Francis suggested openness to the possibility that married men might be ordained priests in some Roman Catholic dioceses where there are few priests. His comments sparked speculation that the Pan-Amazonian synod could open the door to the ordination of viri probati- a term referring to mature, married men.

The ordination to the priesthood of viri probati is thought by some to be a possible solution to a shortage of priestly vocations in Brazil.

During a June 8 press conference presenting the preparatory document, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, declined to answer questions about the ordination of viri probati directly, but said there is a need for “new paths” responding to the needs delineated in the text.

“New paths above all will impact the ministries of the liturgy and theology,” he said, quoting the text, adding that “we did a big investigation...and we have seen these needs.”

In terms of what these “new paths” might entail, he said the synod of bishops has simply outlined the needs, and that answers to this question will depend on the proposals from local bishops in the Amazonia region.

He noted that the term viri probati was not used in the text- that “ministries” were discussed instead, because “we want to decant this expression [viri probati], which continually comes back.”

“We let people say [viri probati], but not demanding that we have to say it,” he said, noting that there is currently no formal declaration from the Holy See on the possibility of ordaining of viri probati.

“We let the people take their course with this topic, and we'll see what could happen,” he said, referring to the synod discussion.

Canon law for the Latin Catholic Church prohibits the ordination of married men to the priesthood, though there are already some limited exceptions to this, especially regarding the ordination of formerly Anglican and Protestant ecclesial leaders who have converted to Catholicism.

Another priority highlighted in the text was the need to specify “the contents, methods, and attitudes necessary for an inculturated pastoral ministry capable of responding to the territory’s vast challenges,” and to propose “new ministries and services for the different pastoral agents, ones which correspond to activities and responsibilities within the community.”

To this end, the text called for a deeper reflection reflection on “indigenous theology” based on local practices and traditions, as well reflections on what official ministries can be carried out by women given the “central role” they play in the Amazonian Church. The text also urged the encouragement of more local, indigenous vocations to the priesthood.

On the role of women, Baldisseri underlined the need to “create space for women in the Church at all levels,” but stressed that these spaces “are the ones that the doctrine of the Church teaches and the current discipline.”

The Church, he said, is “very prudent” and will leave it up to the discussion to decide what new ministries and spaces can be created for women in the region, but always in line with “her classic position, her teaching and discipline on priesthood from the Latin Church.”

The document also stressed the importance of having greater respect for the dignity and rights of indigenous populations in the area, and of caring for the diverse terrain characteristic of the Amazon region.

The preamble of the text, which is divided into three parts dedicated to the “see, judge (discern), and act” model, says the main goal of the gathering is to listen to indigenous people in the area and make them the the “first interlocutors” of the discussion.

To do this, “we want to know the following: How do you imagine your serene future and the good life of future generations? How can we work together toward the construction of a world which breaks with structures that take life and with colonizing mentalities, in order to build networks of solidarity and inter-culturality? And, above all, what is the Church’s particular mission today in the face of this reality?”

The first part of the document outlined the historical, social and ecological context of the Pan-Amazonian region, praising the rich cultural and bio-diversity of the area, and condemning the “culture of consumerism and waste turns the planet into one giant landfill.”

“New ideological colonialisms hidden under the myth of progress are being imposed, thereby destroying specific cultural identities,” it said, and cautioned against “distorted” policies which seek to conserve nature without taking into consideration the needs and rights of the people who live there.

Specific concern was raised about the many Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation (PIAV), who have chosen to live in a way that is distant from the outside world and, at times, from other indigenous populations.

These people, the document said, are the most vulnerable population in the area, since they “do not possess the tools required for dialogue and negotiation with the outsiders that invade their territories.”

The second part of the document, dedicated to discernment, touched on the social, ecological, sacramental and ecclesial-missionary needs of the area, with specific attention placed on the role of local faithful and their unity with their pastors.

It stressed the unity of humanity's relationship with God, with others and with creation, saying these three “vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us.”

To evangelize, then, means “promoting the dignity of each individual, the common good of society, social progress, and care for the environment.”

The document also stressed the importance of unity between Catholic laity in the area and their bishops, saying “the upholding of Church tradition – carried out by the whole people of God – requires the unity of the faithful with their pastors when examining and discerning new realities.”

It emphasized the importance of bishops accompanying their pastors, saying the synod discussion will require “an extensive exercise in reciprocal listening, especially between the faithful and the Church’s magisterial authorities.”

The document closed with a questionnaire consisting of three sets of questions related to each section of the text which will be sent out to bishops in the region, the answers to which will help form the basis of the synod's working document.