Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Marriage tribunals must provide justice and pastoral care, pope says

VATICAN CITY — Members of a marriage tribunal, including the official responsible for defending the bond of marriage, must aim to provide justice but also pastoral care to the couples involved, Pope Francis said.

"Workers involved in the ministry of church justice" act "in the name of the church," the pope said Nov. 11 during a meeting with members of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, the church's highest tribunal.

"The service of justice is a commitment of apostolic life," he said, and "must be exercised with one's gaze kept fixed on the icon of the Good Shepherd, who bends down toward the lost and wounded sheep."

The Apostolic Signature, in addition to hearing appeals of lower court decisions and administrative decisions by Vatican congregations, oversees the functioning of church tribunals and procedures.

Part of that responsibility, Pope Francis said, is to help diocesan bishops identify and train "ministers of justice," including the marriage tribunal official known as the "defender of the bond."

The advocates of those seeking annulment must present evidence that the marriage was null from the beginning; the defender of the bond, on the other hand, seeks to prove that an indissoluble marriage bond exists.

While Pope Francis has been seeking advice from bishops on making the annulment process quicker and more merciful, he told members of the Apostolic Signature that truth and justice must be protected.

"The defender of the bond who wants to serve well cannot stop at a quick reading of the acts, or at bureaucratic and generic responses," the pope said. "In his delicate task, he is called to harmonize the prescriptions of the Code of Canon Law with the concrete situations found in the church and society."

Pope Francis asked members of the Apostolic Signature, which is headed by U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, to "persevere in the search for a transparent and correct exercise of justice in the church in response to the legitimate desires that the faithful address to their pastors, especially when they ask for an authoritative clarification of their status."

— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Pope asks parishes to be inclusive of the sick, value their gifts

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VATICAN CITY — Parishes and Catholic organizations must be "pastorally inclusive" of the fragile and sick, who are a "spiritual resource" and not simply the object of Christian charity, Pope Francis said.

Especially at a time when modern societies seem so intent on "hiding physical frailty and seeing it only as a problem," he said, Catholic parishes and associations must help the sick and physically challenged feel "fully part of the life and mission of the church."

PICTURED: Pope Francis greets people in wheelchairs during a meeting with UNITALSI, an Italian Catholic association for the transportation of sick people to Lourdes and other Marian shrines, in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 9. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catho lic Press Photo)

The pope made his comments Nov. 9 during a meeting with several thousand people involved in an Italian Catholic pilgrimage association. The group, known by its Italian acronym UNITALSI, brings the sick and volunteers together for prayer and pilgrimages to Lourdes and other Marian shrines.

PICTURED: Pope Francis greets people during a meeting with UNITALSI, an Italian Catholic association for the transportation of sick people to Lourdes and other Marian shrines, in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 9. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo )

"We must truly value the presence and witness of fragile and suffering people, not only as the objects of evangelization work but also as active subjects of apostolic activity," the pope said.

"You have a place, a specific role in the parish and in every sphere of the church," Pope Francis told the sick and those with disabilities. "Your presence, which is silent but more eloquent than most words, your prayers, your daily offering of your suffering in union with that of Christ crucified for the salvation of the world, and your patient and even joyful acceptance of your condition, are a spiritual resource."

"Never be ashamed of being a precious treasure for the church," the pope said before spending more than an hour talking to and blessing individual members of the group.11112013 pope kids

Pope Francis said UNITALSI volunteers don't turn away when they see someone in pain or difficulty. "On the contrary, you try to be a gaze that welcomes, a hand that helps and accompanies, a word of comfort and an embrace of tenderness."

PICTURED: Pope Francis greets children during a meeting with UNITALSI, an Italian Catholic association for the transportation of sick people to Lourdes and other Marian shrines, in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 9. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

"Continue to give your time, your smile and your love to brothers and sisters in need," the pope said. "May every sick and fragile person see the face of Jesus in your face, and may you recognize the body of Christ in those who are suffering."

Children involved in UNITALSI drew portraits of Pope Francis, which they copied, enlarged and bound into two supersized books. During the audience, he autographed the copy they will keep.

— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Cardinal Bartolucci, former Sistine Chapel Choir director, dies at 96

11112013 choir directorVATICAN CITY — Italian Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci, who had devoted most of his priestly life to music and served as director of the Sistine Chapel Choir for more than 40 years, died Nov. 11 at the age of 96.

In a telegram of condolence to Cardinal Bartolucci's family and friends, Pope Francis described him as a "dear and esteemed priest, illustrious composer and musician, who exercised his long ministry particularly through sacred music, which is born of faith and expresses faith."

PICTURED: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, greets newly installed Italian Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci, retired director of the Sistine Chapel Choir, 93, during a reception after the consistory at the Vatican in the 2010 file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope said Cardinal Bartolucci valued and promoted polyphony, "aimed at elevating the heart in praise of God."

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, was scheduled to preside over Cardinal Bartolucci's funeral Nov. 13 in St. Peter's Basilica. Pope Francis was to join mourners at the end of Mass and preside over the final commendation.

Cardinal Bartolucci had retired from the Sistine Chapel post in 1997, but he continued composing music, including "Benedictus," a piece written and performed in 2011 for retired Pope Benedict XVI, who had named him to the College of Cardinals a year earlier.

Already a student of music and an assistant choir director, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1939 and the same year earned a diploma in composition and orchestra direction from the Florence Conservatory of Music. In 1942, he went to Rome to refine his knowledge of sacred music and soon was helping direct the choir at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
After a brief term as a parish priest near Florence, he was called back to Rome to serve as choir director at the Basilica of St. Mary Major and to teach composition at the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music. In 1952, he became the assistant director of the Sistine Chapel Choir.
Appointed director of the choir by Pope Pius XII in 1956, he reorganized its musical program, formed the Sistine Chapel boys' choir, took the group on the road to give concerts around the world, and continued composing works for both choir and orchestra.
His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 200 members, 109 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.

— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

'Putrid' hypocrisy worse than mere sin, pope says

VATICAN CITY — God loves and forgives sinners but abhors and condemns "putrid" hypocrites who lead others to sin, Pope Francis said.

The pope spoke Nov. 11 during a morning Mass he celebrated in the Vatican guesthouse, where he lives.

"We should all call ourselves sinners, yes, all of us," he said, but "not corrupt people. The corrupt man is stuck in a state of self-importance, he doesn't know what humility is," Pope Francis said, according to a report by Vatican Radio.

"Jesus spoke to these corrupt men of the 'beauty of being whitewashed tombs' (Mt 23: 27), which appear beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead bones and putrefaction," the pope said.

"We all know someone in this situation, and how much harm they do to the church," he said.

"Corrupt Christians, corrupt priests. How much harm they do to the church, because they don't live in the spirit of the Gospel, but in the spirit of worldliness."

The pope took as his text the day's Gospel reading (Lk 17:1-6), in which Jesus enjoins his disciples to forgive those who wrong them, but says of someone who leads others to sin, "it would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea."

Pope Francis posed the question of the difference between mere sin and scandal.

"The difference is that one who sins and repents, asks forgiveness, recognizes his weakness, feels like a child of God, humbles himself and asks Jesus for salvation," he said.

"But what is scandalous about the other?" the pope asked. "That he doesn't repent. He continues to sin but pretends to be Christian, (he leads) a double life."

The pope then assumed the voice of such a person, whom he imagined protesting: "'But I am a benefactor of the church. I put my hand in my pocket and give to the church.'

"But with the other hand, he robs, from the state, from the poor," Pope Francis said. "He is an unjust man. This is a double life.

"And this merits -- Jesus says so, not I -- that they put a millstone around his neck and throw him into the sea," the pope said. "(Jesus) doesn't talk about forgiveness here."

— Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service

God may scold, but He never slaps, pope says

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VATICAN CITY — God's hands are never used for violence, Pope Francis said.

"I can't imagine God slapping us," the pope said. "Scolding us, yes, that I see, because he does do that, but he never, ever hurts us."

PICTURED: Pope Francis greets people during a meeting with UNITALSI, an Italian Catholic association for the transportation of sick people to Lourdes and other Marian shrines, in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 9. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

God shows love and tenderness, "even when he must scold us; he does it with a caress because he is (our) father," the pope said in his homily Nov. 12 during his morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"Let us put ourselves in the hands of God, like a child puts himself in his daddy's hands. That is a hand that is sure," the pope said, according to a report in Vatican Radio.

People should put their trust in God, who is reliable, loving and firm, and brings people life and healing, Pope Francis said.

"Many times we hear from people who don't know whom to trust: 'I put myself in God's hands,'" which is good because it offers "maximum security," he said. "It's the security of our father who loves us very much."

"We have been in God's hands since the beginning," the pope said. The Bible gives "a beautiful image" of God fashioning man from clay with his hands -- "God the artisan," who created humanity and will never abandoned his creation.

And the Bible stories show how, like a father, God accompanied his children, walking with them, holding their hands, he said. God, "our father, like a father with his child, teaches us to walk. He teaches us to take the path of life and salvation."

God also uses his hands to comfort people, the pope said. "He caresses us in times of pain" because "he loves us very much."

That love came with a price when Jesus died for the sins of humanity, he said; "the hands of God are hands wounded out of love and this gives us much consolation."

"We think about Jesus' hands when he touched the sick and healed them. They are the hands of God: They heal us," even healing people's "spiritual sickness."

— Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service