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Vatican officials offer guidance for German church gathering

IMAGE: CNS photo/Harald Oppitz, KNA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The German bishops' plans for a two-year process of consultation and deliberation on key issues facing the Catholic Church must conform to universal church law and must be approved by the pope, said the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect, sent a letter dated Sept. 4 to Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising and attached an analysis by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of proposed statutes for the German "synodal way."

The pontifical council said that, in proposing a process that would include "binding deliberations" on new rules for the church in Germany, the bishops were, in effect, planning a "plenary council," which would require prior approval by Pope Francis.

Matthias Kopp, spokesman for the German bishops' conference, said Sept. 13, "The assessment of the pontifical council deals with the draft version of the statutes as of June 2019 and does not yet take into account the version updated in July and after the meeting of the permanent council (of the bishops' conference) in August."

The most recent draft, he said, "no longer contains some passages to which the assessment refers." Kopp added that Cardinal Marx has been in touch with Cardinal Ouellet and would meet with him "in Rome next week to clear up any misunderstandings."

In his letter, which the German bishops posted on their website, Cardinal Ouellet referred to the letter Pope Francis wrote to German Catholics in June "to repeat some basic principles for an effective 'synodal journey' lived in harmony with the universal church."

Cardinal Ouellet said he hoped the pontifical council's assessment of the earlier statutes -- an assessment the German bishops also posted -- "could contribute to the regulation of the work of the 'synodal journey' so that such an important event for the people of God in Germany, celebrated in communion with the entire church, would reinforce the ecclesial roots and relaunch the evangelizing mission of the church in that country."

The German bishops began discussing plans for the gathering in September 2018 after they published a study that revealed an estimated 3,700 cases of sexual abuse had been reported in the German church from 1946 to 2014.

In response to the study and to a widespread sense that something needed to change, the bishops and Catholic lay leaders began discussing holding a national gathering of Catholics in a "synodal" style where the experience and voice of everyone would be welcome and where bishops wouldn't be the only ones making decisions.

The preparations focused on four key areas: the exercise of power and authority in the church; sexual morality; the priesthood, including the issue of mandatory celibacy; and the role of women in the church, including the possibility of opening more areas of ministry to them.

In response, the pontifical council asked, "How can a particular church deliberate in a binding way if the themes dealt with touch the entire church?"

The pontifical council also objected that the initial draft of the statutes seemed to imply that the bishops' conference and the lay Central Committee of German Catholics "are equal" and would send an equal number of participants, would share the duties of presiding over the assemblies and would have an equal vote.

"This equality between bishops and laypeople cannot exist ecclesiologically," the pontifical council said. While all Catholics are called to active participation in the church, "that does not mean that the church is structured democratically and that decisions are made by a majority of the faithful."

In a diocesan synod, a plenary council or the German "synodal way," the council said, study, consultation and decision-making are separate tasks belonging to different members of the church based on their role.

And, while the bishops are the only ones who can make binding decisions on most matters, if the question impacts the wider church, only the pope can decide, the pontifical council explained.

In his letter to German Catholics in June, Pope Francis insisted the process the German church is embarking upon must focus on strengthening people's faith and the church's witness.

In trying to resolve problems and shortcomings, the pope warned, there is the temptation to think that "the best response would be to reorganize things, to make changes and 'fixes' that would allow the life of the church to be put in order and in tune."

Instead, he said, the church must adopt an attitude that "seeks to live and make the Gospel transparent and breaks with the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the church in which everything proceeds normally but, in reality, faith wears out and degenerates into pettiness."

In early September, meeting with the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Pope Francis said consultation with laypeople is an essential part of the deliberation of bishops, not so they can change church teaching, but so they can preach the Gospel more effectively.

"There is a danger," the pope said, which is "thinking today that making a synodal journey or having an attitude of 'synodality' means investigating opinions -- what does this one and that one think -- and then having a meeting to make an agreement. No! The synod is not a parliament!"

 

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The Goldfinch

Dorian recovery work shows 'we are your brother's keeper,' says volunteer

IMAGE: CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- As catastrophic as Hurricane Dorian was, the characteristic optimism of Bahamians will help soften the painful recovery to come, according to a hurricane-preparedness volunteer in Nassau.

"There was nothing we could have done to prepare (for Hurricane Dorian), but when you talk to me again five years from now, I will be happy to tell you we will be back on our feet again because we are very resilient people," said Basil Christie, a former religious education director for the Archdiocese of Nassau in the Bahamas.

Now a retired insurance executive, he said he regularly assists the Catholic Church with hurricane preparedness and recovery. He spoke by phone Sept. 10 with the Florida Catholic, Miami's archdiocesan newspaper.

Christie is a native of the Bahamas and for the past 15 years in his retirement, he has traveled to the country's many islands to coordinate and promote volunteer hurricane preparedness programs and follow-up recovery efforts after many lesser hurricanes touched parts of the nation.

He estimates that each year at least some part of the Bahamas has suffered hurricane damage and that although the country has high building code standards, Dorian's 200-mph wind gusts and considerable storm surge means those building codes will have to be revisited.

"Normally the maximum wind is 110 mph and restricted to the southern islands," he said.

Also, in previous years, hurricane winds blew off roofs, but Dorian blew homes off their foundations on the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, "so it is a different situation," he added.

"There are lessons to be learned from this: Our building code needs to be augmented, and we will need better shelters," Christie said, adding that so many families have stories of watching family members get washed out to sea in the storm.

In the days since Hurricane Dorian, he has been helping coordinate volunteer efforts from Nassau, where cellphone communications are working, and he planned to travel soon to Grand Bahama Island.

He said evacuated families arriving in Nassau are being placed in ad hoc housing situations including gymnasiums, orphanages, convents, hostels and hotel rooms with sometimes four and five people to a room.

"We are having to create as we go," he said, noting that many evacuees have families in Nassau, but those who don't are staying in local Catholic and public schools.

Christie echoed concerns that the official death toll, at least 50 as of Sept. 12, is likely to soar, particularly from shantytown communities of undocumented people reportedly living in the Abaco Islands.

"There are a lot of dead bodies and it is the first time in our history that we had to initiate mass graves whereas others were simply taken out to sea by the (storm surge)," he added.

Christie praised the local generosity of business and organizations in the Bahamas, the international cruise lines as well as other Caribbean nations and agencies in Florida and the United States for sending material and financial support following the hurricane.

"This has brought out the good in people and the notion that we are your brother's keeper," Christie said.

"Naturally, the politicians are lashing out at the government, but an astonishing and overwhelming thing is that all these people are coming to Nassau and they are finding them a place to stay, " he said.

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Editor's Note: Donations for recovery efforts in the Bahamas can be sent to Catholic Relief Services here: https://support.crs.org/donate/hurricane-dorian and to Catholic Charities USA here: https://app.mobilecause.com/form/RTKRvQ?vid=1snqm.

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Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Church must seek new paths in Amazon, synod secretaries say

IMAGE: CNS photo/Robert Duncan

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops for the Amazon will help the Catholic Church make its presence felt and voice heard in a region that is dangerously approaching "a point of no return," said the special secretaries of the synod.

"It is a great and continuing challenge for the Catholic Church to make the original Amazonian peoples feel part of it and contribute to it with the light of Christ and the spiritual richness that shines in their cultures," Cardinal-designate Michael Czerny and Bishop David Martinez De Aguirre Guinea wrote in an article published Sept. 12 in La Civilta Cattolica, the Jesuit journal.

Cardinal-designate Czerny, undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Bishop Martinez, apostolic vicar of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, said the synod will take place at a time when "both human and natural life are suffering serious and perhaps irreversible destruction."

The synod, scheduled for Oct. 6-27, will focus on "Amazonia: New paths for the church and for an integral ecology."

The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

As special secretaries, Cardinal-designate Czerny and Bishop Martinez will assist Brazil's Cardinal Claudio Hummes, synod relator general, in providing a comprehensive outline of the synod's theme at the beginning of the meeting and summarizing the speeches of synod members before work begins on concrete proposals for the pope.

In the article, titled "Why the Amazon merits a synod," the prelates said that the synod for the Amazon is an effort to implement "'Laudato Si' in this fundamental human and natural environment."

Much like Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical "Rerum Novarum" recognized the exploitation of workers in the early days of the industrial revolution, Pope Francis' observations on the "gross inequality and cruel marginalization" caused by financial and consumerist greed call "for a new attitude toward nature and the social environment."

"This new synthesis is a wake-up call to the entire world, to all of humanity," they wrote. "But it also suggests a new socio-pastoral orientation and dynamic for the church, which must understand the challenges faced by individuals and families and groups within these various dimensions."

However, Cardinal-designate Czerny and Bishop Martinez wrote that the church "cannot give spiritual guidance and pastoral care if people are understood in isolation from -- i.e. not integrated with -- how they live and function within the actual natural, economic and social conditions that they face."

They also noted that the crisis facing the region is not limited only to environmental problems such as pollution, privatization of natural goods and trafficking.

"Mercantilism, secularization, the throwaway culture and the idolatry of money" coupled with decreasing numbers of priests and religious "is endangering the presence of the Catholic Church among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon."

Such challenges, they added, require a response that moves from a "ministry of visits to a ministry of presence."

"This is why, during the October Synod, the entire world should walk with the people of the Amazon; not to expand or divert the agenda, but to help the synod to make a difference," the prelates wrote. "The Amazon region is huge, and its challenges are immense. If destroyed, the impacts will be felt worldwide."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Update: Cardinal's 2011 comments on 9/11 attacks still resonate today

IMAGE: CNS photo/Brendan Mcdermid, Reuters

By

NEW YORK (CNS) -- In preparing to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said part of his message came from the pastor of St. Peter's Church in Lower Manhattan.

The church became a staging ground for first responders after two hijacked planes crashed in to the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 2001.

"(That priest) said something that really sticks with me," the cardinal remarked in a Sept. 9, 2011, interview. "He said, 'Here in New York, we just don't remember 9/11 -- we celebrate 9/12,' and what he meant is that the nation was not locked into a paralysis of fear, depression, discouragement, somberness."

"This community did not become frantic in (an) unhealthy way," Cardinal Dolan said. "This community did not dwell on revenge and anger. This community immediately began to rescue and rebuild and renew and that's what Sept. 12 stands for."

Each Sept. 11, in New York City, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Catholic and other religious leaders join with the faithful and community members for moments of silence and special prayers.

The deadliest terrorist attacks ever seen on American soil -- and perpetrated by four hijacked planes -- claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people.

In an early morning tweet Sept. 11, 2019, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington said: "On the anniversary of this tragic day in our nation's history, we pray for all those who died and for ongoing strength and consolation for their loved ones. Pray that God will protect us and our country and fill all the world with the peace that only he can give."

In the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, a midday solemn march and Mass paid tribute to members of the Fire Department of New York and all those who lost their lives in the terror attacks.

Cardinal Dolan's comments on the 10th anniversary of the attacks still resonate today. In 2011, he was asked to reflect on 9/11 in an interview with a television station in Milwaukee, where he was archbishop before being named to head the New York Archdiocese in 2009.

When the 2001 attacks occurred, Cardinal Dolan was an auxiliary bishop of St. Louis. That morning, he recalled, he had just begun celebrating Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Church for a group of schoolchildren when he got word of what had happened.

"I began to see that that parish had a lot of firemen and policemen, and all of a sudden I kind of saw them come in (to the church) kind of frantic," he told Milwaukee's WISN-TV. "In retrospect it was because of the panic" about the nation being under attack.

"One of them came up to me on the altar while one of the little kids was doing the reading to tell me what was happening ... that there was some tragedy in New York, that the twin towers had been struck by airplanes," the cardinal said, so he called the children to prayer.

"There is nothing more powerful than the prayers of children," he added.

He admitted that when he first heard the news, he felt "some fear," wondering like many Americans if the nation was in for a more "extended attack." There was "some anger" and "an immediate spontaneous desire for revenge," he added, but there also was "obviously solicitude for those who were hurt and their families and how the nation was going to recover."

"Those were all sentiments that I can remember being there at the surface," Cardinal Dolan said, "but I wanted to turn those into prayer and take those to the Lord, and I was inspired by the people around me who were doing that."

He added that when there's time of crisis -- when there's time of famine, depression, war, plague, whatever it might be, there (are) two ways you can go" in response.

You can go away from God and "curse him," he said. "You can give in to depression, feeling sorry for yourself, responding with whining, cynicism, sarcasm."

Or "you can go closer to God, trusting in him and serving his people," Cardinal Dolan said, and in response to 9/11, "the great majority chose" this option.

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Update: South African archbishop compares nation's xenophobia to Nazi Germany

IMAGE: CNS photo/Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters

By Mwansa Pintu

LUSAKA, Zambia (CNS) -- Zambia's bishops urged South African leaders to do more to stop xenophobic attacks, and a South African archbishop warned of a rising tide of hatred and violence in the country.

"Xenophobia and its resultant chaos are not just criminal but cruel, barbaric and abominable," Zambia's bishops said in a Sept. 7 statement titled, "You were once foreigners in a foreign land."

At least 10 people were killed, two of them foreign nationals, in a wave of riots and xenophobic attacks that began in late August in Pretoria and spread to nearby Johannesburg.

"We are facing a rising tide of hatred and intolerance, no different to the rising tide of hatred in Nazi Germany," said Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg, noting that, "If we do not take urgent action to stop it, there will be nothing left."

Pope Francis, speaking to journalists on the flight from Madagascar to Rome Sept. 10, also made a reference to the Nazis.

A journalist from Mozambique asked Pope Francis to comment on recent expressions of xenophobia afflicting the continent.

The pope said he had read about the violence in the newspapers, "but it is not just an African problem. It's a human sickness like measles. It's an illness that enters a country, a continent" and causes people to try to build walls. "Walls leave those who build them all alone; yes, they keep a lot of people out, but those who build walls end up alone and, at the end of history, defeated."

"Xenophobia is an illness" that those infected try to justify, he said. They say they are acting for "'the purity of the race,' to mention a xenophobia from last century. And the (forms) of xenophobia often hitch a ride on so-called political populism. A week or so ago, I said that sometimes I hear things in some places that remind me of the speeches of Hitler in '34."

Africa also has the cultural problem of tribalism, he said, and Africans must learn to resolve it. "What is needed is education," he said, and ways of "bringing people together so that from different tribes a nation can be formed."

"We just commemorated the 25th anniversary of the tragedy in Rwanda; it was an effect of tribalism," he said. Tribalism is "domestic xenophobia, but xenophobia nonetheless."

Zambia's bishops said they were "deeply saddened" by the attacks.

"We fear that if this trend is not curtailed, it may lead to ... alienation of the citizens of South Africa from the rest of the continent," they said in a statement signed by Bishop George Lungu of Chipata, president of the Zambian bishops' conference.

South Africa's leaders should not exacerbate the situation by turning a blind eye to the attacks or making inflammatory statements against African immigrants, they said. "What we are witnessing is a violation of the fundamental human rights" that everyone has, regardless of "religion, race, color, ethnicity and nationality."

While "respecting people's right to hold peaceful marches," Zambia's bishops urged "all Zambians to restrain themselves from any acts of violence or vengeance against South African nationals and their property or businesses."

In early September, students in Zambia's capital, Lusaka, protested outside the South African high commission and also targeted South African-owned shops. In Nigeria's capital, Abuja, and largest city, Lagos, South African-owned businesses were targeted by protesters, who started fires and looted properties. Football federations in Zambia and Madagascar announced that they will not be sending teams to play South Africa, and Air Tanzania has suspended flights to Johannesburg because of the violence.

Zambia's bishops urged South African leaders "to inculcate the spirit of ubuntu" (I am because we are and, because we are, I am) in young people "as this will help them appreciate the spirit of coexistence."

Archbishop Tlhagale, who heads the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference migrants and refugees office, noted reports that South African authorities did "very little to protect the victims" of the latest attacks.

"We received reports of police standing by idly in Pretoria while shops were looted and people attacked," he said.

"Let us be absolutely clear -- this is not an attempt by concerned South Africans to rid our cities of drug dealers" nor "the work of a few criminal elements," he said. "It is xenophobia, plain and simple."

Church teaching "is direct and uncompromising," Archbishop Tlhagale said, noting that God "isn't just concerned about the foreigners. He loves them."

"I appeal to all people of faith, and all people of good will, to speak out and take action," he said.

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Contributing to this story were Bronwen Dachs in Cape Town, South Africa, and Cindy Wooden aboard the papal flight from Madagascar to Rome.

 

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Africa trip planted new seeds of hope, pope says at audience

IMAGE: CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Having gone to Africa as a pilgrim of peace and hope, Pope Francis said he hoped the seeds planted there by his visit would bear abundant fruit for everyone.

Following in the footsteps of evangelizing saints before him, the pope said he sought to bring with him "the leaven of Christ" and his Gospel, which is "the most powerful leaven of fraternity, justice and peace for all people."

Speaking to some 12,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square Sept. 11, the pope recalled his fourth apostolic journey to Africa. He dedicated his general audience talk to a review of some of the highlights from his visit to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius Sept. 4-10.

The pope said he wanted to "sow the seeds of hope, peace and reconciliation" in Mozambique, which had experienced two devastating cyclones recently and 15 years of civil war.

While the church continues to guide the nation along the path of peace, the pope made special mention of the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio, which had facilitated the mediation process that resulted in the nation's 1992 peace agreement.

Speaking off-the-cuff, the pope said, "I would like to take a moment to thank" the lay community for their hard work in this peace process.

He said he also encouraged Mozambique's leaders to keep working together for the common good, and he noted how he saw that kind of cooperation in action at a hospital he visited that helps people, especially mothers and children, with HIV and AIDS.

"I saw that the patients were the most important thing" at the Sant'Egidio-run center, which was staffed by people of different religious beliefs, including the director of the hospital, who was Muslim, he said.

Everyone worked together, "united, like brothers and sisters," he said.

Reflecting on Madagascar, the pope noted how beautiful and rich in natural resources the country is, but that it is still marked by tremendous poverty.

He said he asked that the people there would be inspired by their "traditional spirit of solidarity" in order to overcome the obstacles they face and foster development that respect both the environment and social justice.

In fact, "one cannot build a city worthy of human dignity without faith and prayer," he said when he spoke to contemplative religious women.

Pope Francis said he wanted to visit Mauritius because it has become "a place of integration between different ethnicities and cultures."

Not only was interreligious dialogue well-established there, he said, there were strong bonds of friendship among the leaders of different religions.

"It would seem strange to us, but they have this friendship that is so natural," he said, explaining how touched he was to find a large bouquet of flowers sent to him by the grand imam "as a sign of fraternity."

He said he encouraged government leaders to stay committed to fostering harmony and to protecting democracy.

In his audience talk, the pope also explained why -- before and after every trip -- he always visits Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray before the basilica's Marian icon "Salus Populi Romani" (health of the Roman people).

He said he prays that she "accompany me on the trip, like a mother, tell me what I must do" and help "safeguard" everything he says and does.

 

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Update: Memories of 9/11 attacks linger for fire department chaplain

IMAGE: CNS/Reuters

By Allyson Escobar

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- Msgr. John Delendick, a longtime New York Fire Department chaplain who is currently pastor of St. Jude Church in Brooklyn, remembers Sept. 11, 2001, vividly.

At the time of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Msgr. Delendick had just finished celebrating Mass at St. Michael's Church in Brooklyn where he was pastor. He jumped in his car and drove as close as he could get and then walked to the scene.

When he got to the twin towers, he ran into other fire department colleagues, including first deputy commissioner William Feehan, who was later killed in the collapse. He also gave absolution to a police officer who ran to him amid a dark cloud of debris and smoke, asking the priest to hear his confession.

He also recalls learning that his colleague and fellow fire chaplain, Franciscan Father Mychal Judge, was among the first known victims of the South Tower's collapse.

"That day, I don't even know the order of what all happened ... Someone just handed me (Father Judge's) helmet and told me he was killed," he told The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

The hardest thing of that day, he said, was people asking him if he had seen their friends, fathers, brothers and sons -- firefighters and first responders at the scene -- and not knowing how to respond. It wasn't until after returning from ground zero that the priest and many families would realize that their friends and loved ones had died.

Msgr. Delendick didn't get back to his parish until 2 a.m. Sept. 12.

As fire department chaplain, in between celebrating memorial Masses for the fallen, Msgr. Delendick would visit "the pile" at ground zero in the months that followed, accompanying families in their search for loved ones.

That first year after 9/11, he doesn't remember how many funerals and memorial Masses he said.

"It's just, you get so many of these funerals, and it just gets to you after a while. ' I love the job, but I also hate it," he said. Every year since the attacks, the New York Fire Department remembers and honors the heroes, especially those who have died years later from illnesses attributed to 9/11.

This Sept. 6 the department added the names of 22 firefighters and recovery workers to the New York Fire Department World Trade Center Memorial Wall inside its Brooklyn headquarters.

One victim of a 9/11 illness honored on the memorial wall was Lt. Timothy O'Neill, a Catholic who died in April after battling pancreatic cancer for two years. O'Neill worked for several months at ground zero during the cleanup efforts.

"My husband risked his life, and he paid the ultimate sacrifice 18 years later," said his widow, Paula O'Neill. "It was a complete shock because he never had any symptoms, but then one day he went for a CT scan. ' He always thought he would get sick after breathing in everything, sometimes without a mask. He just didn't really talk about it, and we never expected the severity of the cancer."

With the help of the federally funded September 11th Victims Compensation Fund, O'Neill was able to be receive treatment for his cancer from his Florida home.

"I still have firemen to this day calling, crying to me," Paula said.

At the Brooklyn ceremony, Father Joseph Hoffman, pastor of St. Barbara in Brooklyn, who also is a New York Fire Department chaplain, read a Bible passage which said: "The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces."

The priest said that working with the fire department is "like serving another parish" and he is honored to work with these men and women.

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Escobar is a reporter for The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

 

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'Just the facts,' pope tells reporters, commenting on news media

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM MADAGASCAR (CNS) -- No one really knows what the future of the news media will be, but it will have no future if reporters and the public cannot distinguish between facts and fiction, Pope Francis said.

Honoring a request from the Spanish news agency EFE to contribute to its collection of views about the future of the media, Pope Francis responded publicly during his flight Sept. 10 from Madagascar to Rome.

When he was a boy, he said, his family did not have a television; instead they listened to the radio and read newspapers. Sometimes, depending on the government in power, they were "clandestine newspapers," distributed under cover of night.

"Compared to today's news industry, it all seems very precarious," he said. But today's media may look just as precarious when people in the future look back.

"What remains, however," he said, is the ability and responsibility of the news media "to inform the audience of an event and to distinguish these facts from narrative," fiction or opinion.

"It is extremely easy to move from the facts to narrative," he said, "and this damages the news industry. It's important to stick to the facts."

Pope Francis said the Catholic Church and its media are not exempt from that danger. "Within the church, when there is a fact, it goes around the corner, and then it gets adorned, it gets embellished. Everyone adds their own contribution, and not even in bad faith."

But "the mission of the journalist is to always stick to the facts: 'The facts are these. My interpretation is this. I was told this.' It distinguishes you from the storyteller."

And if a news report includes an account of something an individual or group believes is true, but the reporter has not witnessed, the reporter must inform readers or listeners, he said. "This is what being objective is all about, and this is one of the values that the news industry needs to retain."

Pope Francis also said journalists must remain human, humane and "constructive."

"The news industry cannot, for example, be used as an instrument of war, as this is inhumane, it destroys," the pope said. "Think back to the propaganda of the dictatorships of the past century. There were dictatorships that communicated well, that tried to sell you the moon. ... They were well structured, they communicated well. They encouraged war, destruction; they were not humane."

 

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Ideological fixation, not 'loyal criticism,' feeds possibility of schism, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM MADAGASCAR (CNS) -- Pope Francis told reporters he hoped and prayed the Catholic Church would not experience a new schism, but human freedom means people always have had and will have the "schism option."

"I pray that there not be schism, but I am not afraid," Pope Francis told reporters flying from Africa back to Rome with him Sept. 10.

Schisms have occurred throughout church history, he said, and one thing they all have in common is having such a focus on an ideology that they begin reading church doctrine through the lens of that fixation.

A schism is triggered when "an ideology, perhaps a correct one, infiltrates doctrine and it becomes 'doctrine' in quotation marks, at least for a time," he said.

As an example of ideology, the pope cited those who say, "The pope is too communist" because of his criticism of unbridled capitalism and its negative impact on the poor. "The social things I say are the same things John Paul II said. The very same. I copy him."

When ideology takes the place of doctrine, he said, there is the danger of a split in the Christian community.

Pope Francis said small groups of Catholics in the United States are not the only people who criticize him -- there are even people in the Roman Curia who do -- but he tries to learn from the criticism and to find a way to dialogue with critics who are open.

"Criticism always helps," Pope Francis said. "When one is criticized, the first thing to do is to reflect, "Is this true, not true, to what extent" is it valid?

"Sometimes you get angry," he said, but "there are always advantages" to be drawn from listening to critics.

During the inflight news conference, which was briefly interrupted because of turbulence, Pope Francis responded mainly to questions about issues that arose during his visit Sept. 4-10 to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius. The topics included the contested U.S. military base, Diego Garcia, in the Chagos archipelago, and his teaching on ecology.

But the pope also was asked to respond more fully to an informal comment he made on the flight to Mozambique Sept. 4, when he said that it is "an honor when Americans attack me."

French writer Nicolas Seneze had given the pope a copy of his book, "Comment l'Amerique veut changer de pape," which can be translated as "how America wanted to change popes." Seneze's thesis is that a small group of wealthy U.S. Catholics is engaged in a concerted effort to cast doubt on this pontificate.

"The criticism is not coming just from America, but a bit from everywhere, including the Curia, but at least those who are doing it have the courage" to be public about it, the pope said on the flight back to Rome. What isn't acceptable is when one "smiles so much he shows you his teeth," and then lists criticisms "behind your back."

Criticism is healthy when it is open and when the person doing the critique is willing to listen to the other's reasoning and to dialogue. "This is real criticism," he said.

"Throwing a rock and then hiding your hand" is something else, the pope said. "This isn't useful. It only helps closed little groups who don't want to hear the response to their criticism."

On the other hand, he said, "loyal criticism" can include saying, "I don't like this about the pope" as long at the critic gives an explanation and is willing to hear a response.

Not waiting for or wanting a response "is to not love the church," he said. "It is to follow a set idea (like) changing the pope or changing his style or creating a schism."

He spoke about another ideology he calls "rigorist," which he told reporters is "the ideology of an antiseptic morality" that takes no account of the real lives of the faithful and the obligation of pastors to guide them away from sin and toward living the Gospel.

"There are many schools of rigidity within the Catholic Church today which are not in schism, but are pseudo-schismatic Christian paths, which will not end well," he said.

On the question of the Diego Garcia military base, which is on territory in the Indian Ocean claimed by Mauritius and the United Kingdom, Pope Francis said the nations that belong to and support the United Nations and international courts have an obligation to accept their decisions. The U.N. General Assembly recently adopted a resolution calling on Britain, which leases the base to the U.S. military, to cede the territory to Mauritius.

"I don't know if this is true in this case," the pope said, but a common phenomenon has been that when a people wins its independence and colonizers are forced to leave, "there's always the temptation of taking something in their pockets," like recognizing a new government, but trying to maintain control over the extraction of natural resources.

"In the collective consciousness, there has been the idea that Africa is there to be exploited," the pope said. "We, humanity, must revolt against this."

Pollution, deforestation and desertification are all signs of that kind of attitude, he said.

Recognizing that the earth and its biodiversity are essential for life, Pope Francis said everyone must take action, beginning with small steps. For example, he added, the Vatican recently banned the sale of single-use plastic, such as water bottles, on its territory.

 

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