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Vatican City, Oct 20, 2014 / 10:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Monday's consistory of cardinals focused on the plight of Christians in the Middle East, especially in light of the rise of the Islamic State, and it also decided on two causes for canonization.

Cardinals and patriarchs from the Middle East together with top officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State and interested dicasteries attended the Oct. 20 summit with the Pope, which was called a ‘public ordinary consistory’.

A consistory is a meeting of cardinals which can be public, semi-public or secret. During a consistory, new cardinals may be created, or it is possible to vote for cause of canonization, or to discuss of topics of general concern.

Initially set in order to proceed with the causes of canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz and Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception, the consistory schedule was enlarged by Pope Francis, who wanted it to be dedicated to the discussion of the plight of Christians, taking advantage of the presence of Middle Eastern patriarchs in Rome, on the heels of the synod.

In his opening address, Pope Francis stressed that “we are facing terrorism on a scale that was unimaginable,” and that “we cannot resign ourselves to think of a Middle East deprived of Christians, who have been settled there for 2,000 years.”

The Pope maintained that “so many of our brothers are persecuted and had to leave their homes,” adding that “it seems the value of human life is not considered anymore, that the person does not count and may be sacrificed to other interests.” He denounced that “many remain indifferent” while this happens.

After the Pope’s initial address, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, took the floor and reported to cardinals and patriarchs about the situation in Middle East and the outcomes of the Oct. 2-4 meeting among the top officials of the state secretariat, dicasteries, nuncios to the Middle East, and the Holy See Permanent Observers to the United Nations in New York and Geneva.

Articulated in six points, the speech stressed that the present situation – broadly speaking and in particular as it regards the Christian communities present in the region – is unacceptable.

“We have listened with commotion and great worry to the testimony of the atrocities perpetuated by many in the region, particularly by the fundamentalists of the self-proclaimed group Islamic-State, an entity that .. uses terroristic means in an attempt to expand its power,” Cardinal Parolin affirmed.

The Secretary of State reaffirmed the right of refugees to return to their homes, and reiterated that “it is licit to stop an unjust aggressor,” but that “the military response cannot be the only one” put into action.

“In the specific case of the violations and the abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State, the international community, through the United Nations and the appropriate bodies, will have to act in order to prevent possible and new genocide and to assist the numerous refugees.”

Cardinal Parolin made a quick summary of the political situation in the Middle East, urged for a durable political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, praised Iran for its involvement in the resolution of the Iraq and Syria crisis and in combatting the Islamic State; and expressed concern about political instability in Lebanon, which the Holy See attentively watches because of the impact Christians have there in public life.

Regarding the humanitarian drama of refugees and displaced persons in the Middle East, Cardinal Parolin underscored that the Church urges the international community “to generously face this tragedy” and at the same time provides help through local relief services.

The Secretary of State once more asked religious leaders – both Christian and Muslim – for a mutual commitment in interreligious dialogue, and underscored that “of peculiar importance is the commitment of Muslim leaders” in order to address the Islamic State and condemn its acts.

In general, the international community is urged to commit in helping refugees and displaced persons and in defending Christians and other religious minority to defend human rights, especially that of religious freedom.

After Cardinal Parolin’s speech, there was a free discussion. According to Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, all the Middle East patriarchs voiced their concerns.

Among them was Ignatius Joseph III Younan, the Syriac Patriarch of Antioch.

Patriarch Younan recounted to CNA Oct. 20 that participants in the consistory “spoke about the situation of Christians who are facing a very, very critical phase in their history after this event of the so-called ‘Islamic State,’ and after the crisis in Syria and that of Iraq, and tensions in Lebanon.”

The consistory also approved two causes of canonization.

The cardinals did not set a date for the canonization of Bl. Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception, an Italian religious who founded, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Congregation of the Sisters, Expiatory Victims of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The Pope himself will canonize Blessed Joseph Vaz, a native of Goa who evangelized Sri Lanka, whose Canonization Mass will take place Jan. 14, 2015, during the papal voyage to Sri Lanka.

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2014 / 07:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bl. Paul VI was the first 'modern man' to be elected Bishop of Rome, and he put the Church in conversation with the world in order to build a dialogue of salvation, a cardinal who was one of Montini's collaborators said.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, 84, had served for 12 years in the Secretariat of State during Bl. Paul VI’s pontificate. He later served, from 1979, as pro-president of the Secretariat for Non-Believers, renamed in 1988 the Pontifical Council for Culture.

“Paul VI was the first modern man to be elected Pope,” Cardinal Poupard told CNA Oct. 17.

Cardinal Poupard remembered that “during the homily of the Mass of the beginning of his Petrine ministery, he addressed the voices of the modern world, and asked if the Church would be able to listen to them.”

This question led to the publication of his first encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, on the Church.

“Paul VI was a very good friend with the French philosopher Jean Guitton. In a walk in the gardens of the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo, the Pope asked Guitton which subject he would have chosen for an encyclical, if he had been Pope. Guitton said he would have chosen truth. And the Pope responded: ‘You are right on the final scope, since the papal Magisterium deals with transmitting truth. But, to partake truth with others, to transmit truth to the world, we have to dialogue.'”

“Paul VI’s Church is a Church that listens to people before speaking, makes conversation and dialogue with the world. But it is a dialogue of salvation, in order to bring the world to salvation,” Cardinal Poupard commented.

This dialogue was somehow broken, since Bl. Paul VI said in 1968 that “from some fissure, the smoke of Satan has entered the Church.”

Cardinal Poupard recounted: “I lived this very intense moment. Paul VI’s claim came by the fact that the Council had gone toward the modern world to convert it. But this missionary effort had turned into a general protest. In the name of the Council, a counter-Council was being held.”

This counter council led to a “haemorrhage in the big religious orders; many people left the Church. It was a horrible suffering for the Pope. Paul VI was in this sense a martyr of the Church, because he lived a suffering for the Church, coming from the Church herself.”

In 1968, Bl. Paul VI issued his last encyclical, Humanae vitae, which has been taken as a model for the Synod of Bishops on the family.

The encyclical reaffirmed the teaching of the Church on the regulation of birth, but received many protests, even from inside the Church.

After that, Bl. Paul VI did not promulgate any other encyclical, though he remained Pope for another 10 years.

Cardinal Poupard remembered the times of the preparation of Humanae vitae, the establishment of the commissions that had to study the issues at stake, the many expectations around the Pope’s decision.

“Paul VI told me: ‘Things are difficult, complex. The Pope must meditate before making a decision… since when a decision is made, it is irrevocable.''

After the issuance of the encyclical, “there was a sort of refusal of it by the western world, and even entire bishops' conferences distanced themselves from it.”

Cardinal Poupard said: “I would read the decision this way: after the protests against Humanae vitae, the Pope did not want to expose the Church to this worrying and painful distance from the bishops' conferences. So he continued his Magisterium through apostolic letters and other means.”

The cardinal also revealed that “the first telegram we received in the state secretariat after the publication of Humanae vitae was that of Bishop Helder Camara.”

Bishop of Recife, in Brazil, Helder Camara was well known for his commitment to and advocacy for the poor.

“He wrote to the Pope: ‘Thank you, Holy Father, for defending us in the third world, since the rich world is attacking its only richness: children’,” Cardinal Poupard remembered.

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2014 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While some countries face family issues such as divorce and polygamy, the synod’s Indian participants have voiced concern for interreligious marriages, which pose pastoral concerns across Asia.

“We have got this whole thing of mixed marriages, there are many marriages in India which are between (a) Catholic and somebody who is not baptized, a Hindu, a Muslim, or a Buddhist, and that is what specifically came out of India,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay told CNA Oct. 10.

While marriage between a Catholic and an unbaptized person would normally be invalid, the local ordinary can dispense from this impediment, and thus allow such a marriage to be validly contracted (canon 1086).

Cardinal Gracias, who is part of Pope Francis' 'council of cardinals', explained that when faced with the difficult situations interreligious marriages can present, it’s always necessary to have a “positive pastoral approach” to the couples and families involved.

The cardinal was accompanied to the synod by Fr. Cajetan Menezes, who is director of the Bombay archdiocese's Snehalaya Family Service Center.

Fr. Menezes has served as an auditor for the synod, and spoke to CNA Oct. 15 saying the topic of interreligious marriages was one of the three points he brought up when he addressed the synod fathers.

With the number of interreligious marriages on the rise across Asia, the priest said that it is an important issue, and one with which the Church needs to have a “very specific pastoral care.”

“We need to reach out to them rather than look at them as problems. (They are) an opportunity to evangelize, and we need to take them on board,” he said, explaining that interfaith couples are often “ostracized by their own families because they are going against family tradition.”

“That creates more problems for them in their marriage, and that is not conducive for their marriage to grow and do well,” he observed.

Although other countries might not share the pastoral difficulties caused by interreligious marriages, Fr. Menezes observed that “this is a big issue in Asia because we are a minority,” and cited  India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Japan as being countries with a high percentage of interreligious couples.

Thus there is a need to specifically address the issue and to give interreligious families more help and support, particularly in light of the challenges the couples face due to the differing traditions of their families, the priest explained.

Fr. Menezes said that the synod’s emphasis on welcoming and inviting those who are far from the Church or who find themselves in situations that could be problematic is also a way of embracing those who have been ostracized because of interreligious challenges.

“I think it’s the first time I noticed (them) speaking a different (kind of) language, and I think that’s a very positive influence of Pope Francis, (who) is reaching out, welcoming, and also looking at not only those who are at the center, but at the periphery,” the priest continued.

By reaching out to the marginalized, the synod fathers are making great progress in their attempt to “get everybody on board,” including members of the gay community and those who are divorced and remarried.

Cardinal Gracias, who has taken part in numerous synods before this, praised the free spirit in which discussion has taken place.

Even though each synod is free in its own way, the cardinal explained that when talking about the family “there is nothing which is taboo, nothing that you can't speak about, no one is frightened to say ‘ok, this is a problem, we have got to face it.’”

To have differing opinions is important and essential, he said, and helps participants to reach more concrete, effective solutions.

“We have another synod next year which will be bigger (and) with more participation, and probably we will come to clearer conclusions at that particular moment of time,” the cardinal noted, but for now he is happy that “it is working well.”

Returning to the situation in India, Cardinal Gracias said that while Indians have traditionally maintained strong family ties, this is being influenced negatively by outside sources, including the film industry.

“I think that people are beginning to feel that this is not the best thing and we have got to try to reinforce the family,” he said, noting that although a zero percent breakdown rate is impossible, “it should not be 50 percent.”

However, he explained that much of a lasting family dynamic will depend on the preparation of the couple before marriage, as well as the process of accompanying them after the sacrament is contracted.


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