By Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI said in an interview that he
felt a "duty" to resign from the papacy because of his declining
health and the rigorous demands of papal travel.
While his heart was set on completing the Year of Faith, the
retired pope told Italian journalist Elio Guerriero that after his visit to
Mexico and Cuba in March 2012, he felt he was "incapable of
fulfilling" the demands of another international trip, especially with
World Youth Day 2013 scheduled for Brazil.
"With the program set out by John Paul II for these
(World Youth) days, the physical presence of the pope was indispensable," he told
Guerriero in an interview, which is included in the journalist's upcoming
biography of Pope Benedict. "This, too, was a circumstance which made my
resignation a duty," the pope said.
An excerpt of Guerriero's book, "Servant of God and Humanity: The Biography of Benedict
XVI," was published Aug. 24 in the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica.
Pope Benedict said that although he was moved by the
"profound faith" of the people of Mexico and Cuba, it was during his
visit to the two countries in 2012 that he "experienced very strongly the limits of my
Among the problems with committing to the grueling schedule
of an international trip was the change in time zones. Upon consulting with his
doctor, he said, it became clear "that I would never be able to take part
in the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro."
"From that day, I had to decide in a relatively short
time the date of my retirement," he said.
Guerriero noted that while many believed the pope's
retirement was a defeat for the church, Pope Benedict continues to seem "calm and
confident." The retired pope said he "completely agreed" with
the journalist's observation.
"I would have been truly worried if I was not convinced
-- as I had said in the beginning of my pontificate -- of being a simple and
humble worker in the Lord's vineyard," he said.
retired pope added that while he was aware of his limitations, he
accepted his election in 2005 "in a spirit of obedience" and that
despite the difficult moments, there were also "many graces."
"I realized that everything I had to do I could not do
on my own and so I was almost obliged to put myself in God's hands, to trust in
Jesus who -- while I wrote my book on him -- I felt bound to by an old and more
profound friendship," he said.
The retired pontiff spends his days in prayer and
contemplation while residing at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in Vatican City. For 19 years, different contemplative orders
took turns living in the monastery with a mission focused on praying for the
pope and the church.
Benedict said that
upon learning that the Visitandine
nuns would be leaving the residence, he realized "almost naturally that
this would be the place where I could retire in order to continue in my own way
the service of prayer of which John Paul II had intended for this house."
Among the visitors
Pope Benedict receives is Pope Francis, who "never fails to visit me
before embarking on a long trip," he said.
Asked about his personal
relationship with his successor, Pope Benedict said they shared a
"wonderfully paternal-fraternal relationship" and he has been profoundly
touched by his "extraordinarily human availability."
receive small gifts, personally written letters" from Pope Francis, he said. "The
human kindness with which he treats me is a particular grace of this last phase
of my life for which
I can only be grateful.
What he says about being open toward other men and women is not just words. He
puts it into practice with me."
Pope Francis, who
wrote the book's preface, expressed his admiration for the retired pope and said his spiritual bond
with his predecessor "remains particularly profound."
"In all my
meetings with him, I have
been able to experience not only reverence and obedience, but also
friendly spiritual closeness, the joy of praying together, sincere brotherhood,
understanding and friendship, and also his availability for advice," Pope Francis
The church's mission
of proclaiming the merciful love of God for the world, he added, has and
continues to be exemplified in the life of Pope Benedict.
"The whole life
of thought and the works
of Joseph Ratzinger have
focused on this purpose and -- in the same direction, with the help of God -- I
strive to continue," Pope Francis wrote.
- - -
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IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via EPABy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After a strong earthquake struck
central Italy and with the early news reporting many deaths and serious damage,
Pope Francis turned his weekly general audience Aug. 24 into a prayer service.
While the pope and some 11,000 pilgrims and tourists recited
the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary in St. Peter's Square, six Vatican
firefighters were on their way to the town of Amatrice, about 85 miles east of
Rome, to help search for victims under the rubble. The pope sent six Vatican
police officers to join them the next day.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.2 quake had
an epicenter close to Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict and home to a
monastery of Benedictine monks, who are attracting a growing number of visitors
because of their solemn prayer life and beer brewing business. The monks and
their guests were all safe, but the monastery and Basilica of St. Benedict
suffered serious structural damage.
Smaller temblors -- at least two of which
registered more than 5.0 -- continued even 24 hours after the main quake.
By early Aug. 25, Italian officials said the death toll had reached 247 and the
number of people hospitalized with quake-related injuries was more than 260.
When Pope Francis arrived in St. Peter's Square for his
general audience just six hours after the main quake, he set aside his prepared
audience talk and instead spoke of his "heartfelt sorrow and my
closeness" to everyone in the earthquake zone, especially those who lost
loved ones and "those who are still shaken by fear and terror."
"Having heard the mayor of Amatrice say, 'The town no
longer exists,' and knowing that there are children among the dead, I am deeply
saddened," Pope Francis said.
Assuring the people in the region of the prayers and
"the embrace of the whole church," the pope asked the crowd at the
audience to join him in praying that "the Lord Jesus, who is always moved
by human suffering, would console the brokenhearted and give them peace."
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky,
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked U.S. Catholics also
to pray the rosary for the victims in Italy, as well as for the victims of
other natural disasters, including those suffering because of the flooding in
"Knowing all too well the personal toll of natural
disasters in our own country, let us join with the Holy Father in prayer for
everyone suffering from Louisiana to central Italy," the archbishop said
in a statement Aug. 24.
Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti, the diocese that includes
Amatrice, said he received a phone call from Pope Francis at 7 a.m. the morning
of the earthquake. The quake and first big aftershock were felt in Rome and
woke the pope up, he said, adding that Pope Francis said he had celebrated Mass
for the victims shortly after 4:30 a.m.
Caritas Italy and its diocesan affiliates mobilized
immediately with volunteers rushing to the impacted towns, helping with the
search and rescue operation, providing food and blankets and helping to staff
the tent cities erected by the Italian government outside the damaged towns.
The Italian bishops' conference immediately pledged 1 million euros ($1.1
million) for relief efforts and asked all parishes to take up a special
collection at Masses Sept. 18 to aid the victims.
In Amatrice, one of the hardest-hit towns, three nuns and
four of the elderly guests they host in the summer were still missing as of
Aug. 25. Four nuns were rescued.
Many of the small towns in the region have few residents who
live there all year. But in the summer, people return to their families' native
towns to visit grandparents and escape the heat of the big cities. The victims
of the quake included dozens of children who were spending the last weeks of
August with their grandparents.
Government officials said an estimated 14,000 people were
left homeless by the quake. In addition to houses and apartment buildings
turned into rubble, dozens of churches and convents in the region crumbled or were
At the Benedictine monastery in Norcia, the 15 monks and five
guests were already awake when the first quake hit, Benedictine Father Benedict
Nivakoff told Catholic News Service. Aug. 24 is the feast of St. Bartholomew
and "on feast days we get up earlier" to pray, he said.
Within a half hour of the first quake, Father Nivakoff said,
the square outside the monastery was filled with people "because it is the
safest place in town -- around the statue of St. Benedict."
While no buildings collapsed, "the facade seems to have
detached" from the rest of the basilica and major repairs are likely, he
said. The monks announced later Aug. 24 that two Benedictines would stay in Norcia,
sleeping in tents outside the city walls, but the rest of the
community would move temporarily to Rome as a "precautionary measure"
as the aftershocks continued.
Assisi is just 45 miles from Norcia and, according to
Franciscan Father Enzo Fortunato, the quake was felt strongly at the convent
and basilica that suffered major damage from an earthquake in 1997.
While the quake woke all the friars, many of whom ran to the
Basilica of St. Francis, no damage was visible, he told ANSA, the Italian news
agency.- - -Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
By Cindy WoodenROME (CNS) -- When it comes to the Christian life, too many
seminaries teach students a rigid list of rules that make it difficult or
impossible for them as priests to respond to the real-life situation of those
who come to them seeking guidance, Pope Francis said.
"Some priestly formation programs run the risk of
educating in the light of overly clear and distinct ideas, and therefore to act
within limits and criteria that are rigidly defined a priori, and that set
aside concrete situations," the pope said during a meeting with 28 Polish
Jesuits in Krakow during World Youth Day.
The Vatican did not publish details of the pope's meeting
July 30 with the Jesuits, but -- with Pope Francis' explicit approval -- a
transcript of his remarks to the group was published in late August by Civilta
Cattolica, a Jesuit journal reviewed at the Vatican prior to publication.
According to the transcript, the pope asked the Jesuits to
begin an outreach to diocesan seminaries and diocesan priests, sharing with
them the prayerful and careful art of discernment as taught by St. Ignatius of
Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.
"The church today needs to grow in the ability of spiritual
discernment," the pope told the Polish Jesuits.
In his spiritual exercises, St. Ignatius provided steps for
helping people recognize -- or discern -- where God is working in their lives
and what draws them closer to God or pushes them further from God. For St.
Ignatius, knowing what is moral and immoral is essential, but knowing what is
going on in people's lives helps identify practical ways forward.
Without "the wisdom of discernment," the pope said
in Krakow, "the seminarians, when they become priests, find themselves in
difficulty in accompanying the life of so many young people and adults."
"And many people leave the confessional disappointed.
Not because the priest is bad, but because the priest doesn't have the ability
to discern situations, to accompany them in authentic discernment," the
pope said. "They don't have the needed formation."
While some laypeople also are called to provide spiritual
direction, priests are more often "entrusted with the confidences of the
conscience of the faithful," so seminarians and priests particularly need
to learn discernment.
"I repeat, you must teach this above all to priests, helping
them in the light of the exercises in the dynamic of pastoral discernment,
which respects the law but knows how to go beyond," the pope said.
"We need to truly understand this: in life not all is
black on white or white on black," he said. "The shades of grey
prevail in life. We must them teach to discern in this gray area."
Pope Francis did not mention his apostolic exhortation on
the family, "Amoris Laetitia," ("The Joy of Love"), in his
talk with the Jesuits in Krakow, but the document repeatedly referred to the
importance of discernment for families and for their spiritual guides.
Father Salvador Pie-Ninot, a Spanish professor of
ecclesiology, wrote in the Vatican newspaper Aug. 24 that the pope referred to
the need for discernment 35 times in the exhortation.
Especially when dealing with individual Catholics who have
been divorced and civilly remarried, Pope Francis wrote, discernment recognizes
that, "since the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases, the consequences
or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same. Priests have the
duty to accompany (the divorced and remarried) in helping them to understand
their situation according to the teaching of the church and the guidelines of
- - -
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IMAGE: CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, ReutersBy Ann RodgersPITTSBURGH (CNS) -- The Pittsburgh
Diocese said Bishop David A. Zubik is making every effort to achieve a swift
negotiated solution to the diocese's dispute with the federal government over
religious freedom in relation to the federal contraceptive mandate, as directed
by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We have always been willing to
meet with representatives of the government to negotiate a mutually agreeable
solution to our impasse over religious freedom," said a diocesan statement
issued Aug. 10.
In a May 16 unanimous decision
in Zubik v. Burwell, a
consolidated case of challenges to the contraceptive mandate filed by several
Catholic and other religious entities, the Supreme Court sent the case back to
lower courts, vacated earlier judgments against those parties opposing the
mandate, and encouraged the plaintiffs and the federal government to resolve
Zubik v. Burwell involves the
Little Sisters of the Poor, Priests for Life, the Pennsylvania dioceses of
Pittsburgh and Erie, the Archdiocese of Washington, and other Catholic and
faith-based entities challenging the Affordable Care Act's mandate that most
religious and other employers must cover contraceptives, sterilization and
abortifacients through employer-provided health insurance -- even if the
employers oppose the coverage on moral grounds. They see the mandate, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, as a violation of their religious freedom.
"Zubik" in the case
name is Bishop Zubik, and "Burwell" is HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews
The plaintiffs, who do not fit
the narrow exemption to the contraceptive mandate the government gives to
churches, argue that providing contraceptive coverage even indirectly through a
third party, as the Obama administration allows through what it calls an
accommodation, still violates their religious beliefs.
The government argues its
existing opt-out provision for these employers does not burden their free
exercise of religion.
"Our counsel and counsel for the
other Supreme Court litigants had a meeting with representatives of the
Department of Justice, at which we attempted to engage in the kind of
resolution talks that the Supreme Court intended in its order," the Pittsburgh
Diocese said in its statement. "The government has been slow to offer anything
of substance to pursue a negotiated solution, except to mention openness to
Bishop Zubik initiated the
lawsuit against the government on behalf of Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh,
arguing that it is a violation of religious freedom to force a religious
organization to facilitate access to anything that it teaches is immoral.
After Bishop Zubik won an
initial victory in the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh in November 2013, the
case was appealed until it reached the Supreme Court this year.
In its May decision, the high courts
urged the lower courts to give the litigants time to find a negotiated
solution. The high court also affirmed that the diocese and the others could
not be fined during those negotiations.
However, the diocese has learned
that the Department of Justice is pressuring secular insurance companies that
have contracts with the diocese, and with other religious organizations, to
begin providing church employees with the objectionable coverage.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh, along
with several neighboring dioceses, is self-insured through the Catholic
Benefits Trust. Catholic Benefits Trust hires secular insurance companies to
handle the administration and claims for its plans.
Those companies have told the
diocese that they recently received letters from the Department of Justice
directing them to provide the disputed coverage at their own expense, said
Christopher Ponticello, general counsel of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
"Since the Supreme Court issued
its ruling strongly directing that the parties negotiate a mutually agreeable
resolution to this matter, we have remained hopeful and open to those talks,"
told the Pittsburgh Catholic diocesan newspaper.
"It is discouraging to see this
aggressive action taken by the government," he said. "We hope to prevail upon
the Department of Justice to stop this latest action without having to pursue
additional litigation. We have believed from the beginning that an agreement
could be reached that would allow the government to accomplish its goals
without involving the church in the process."
The diocese has not paid
anything for its legal representation in Zubik v. Burwell. All costs associated
with the litigation have been donated by the legal firm of Jones Day.
Mickey Pohl, one of the Jones
Day attorneys who has been representing Bishop Zubik, the diocese, Catholic
Charities and other religious organizations in this litigation, said: "It is
extremely disappointing that the Department of Justice is trying to pressure
insurers to steamroll the religious objections of Catholics and other people of
faith who have been part of this litigation. It is also troublesome that these
assaults on freedom of religion have not been the subject of inquiry by the
mainstream media during this election cycle."
The Aug. 10 statement from the
diocese said that "we are aware that the government has made an extremely
aggressive interpretation of the court's order in the Zubik case and is
apparently trying to take over -- to force our third-party administrators to
include the objectionable coverage in our self-insured plans.""We think that is
an erroneous reading of what the Supreme Court said," it continued. "Furthermore, as the
government seems to acknowledge, because we are self-insured there is no obligation
or authority for the third-party administrator to provide the objectionable
If the fines for not
facilitating the coverage were imposed, Ponticello said, they would bankrupt
Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh. Each year that agency provides about $10
million in services, such as free medical and dental care, and support to
homeless women and veterans, to people of all faiths in southwestern
"The Supreme Court also made
clear that we cannot be fined or penalized for refusing to comply with the
government's current regulations," the statement said. "Therefore, we believe
the government's position is wrong. In order to avoid future litigation, we
will try to work through these issues with our insurers, third-party administrators
and the government. Our counsel is actively working on this endeavor, and we
remain in prayer for a mutually agreeable solution."
In late July, the Obama
administration opened a public-comment period seeking input on ways the
government can comply with religious employers' refusal on moral grounds to
cover contraceptives for employees and at the same time make sure those
employees get such coverage.
- - -
Rodgers is general manager of
the Pittsburgh Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Michael KellyDUBLIN (CNS) -- The trustees of Ireland's national seminary
have agreed to bring in a specific policy to protect whistleblowers after
serious allegations were made about life in the college.
The Aug. 23 announcement also followed a decision by Dublin Archbishop
Diarmuid Martin to pull his students from St. Patrick's College, Maynooth,
after publicly raising misgivings about the life and governance of the 221-year
The archbishop referred to claims of what he described as a "gay
culture" in the seminary and further allegations that some seminarians
have been using a gay dating app. Archbishop Martin said some of the
allegations had been shown to be true.
The seminary trustees -- 13 senior Irish bishops, including
Archbishop Martin -- said in a statement that "there is no place in a seminary
community for any sort of behavior or attitude which contradicts the teaching
and example of Jesus Christ."
The statement said the trustees "share the concerns
about the unhealthy atmosphere created by anonymous accusations, together with
some social media comments which can be speculative or even malicious."
The trustees agreed to "review current policies and
procedures for reporting complaints with a view to adopting best practice
procedures for 'protected disclosures' (whistle-blowing)."
They said they would ask the Irish bishops' conference to
conduct an independent audit and report of governance and statutes in the three
Irish seminaries: Maynooth, the Pontifical Irish College in Rome and St.
Malachy's College in Belfast, Northern Ireland. They also agreed to reassess
future personnel and resource needs for the seminary.
The statement said "the trustees accept their
responsibility for ensuring that the national seminary adheres to best practice
in all areas of training for priesthood and that college staff are trained to
the highest level in accordance with requisite professional standards and the
requirements of the Holy See."
Archbishop Martin first raised concerns publicly in early
August when he said "there seems to an atmosphere of strange goings-on
there (Maynooth); it seems like a quarrelsome place with anonymous letters
being sent around.
"There are people saying that anyone who tries to go to
the authorities with an allegation are being dismissed from the seminary,"
the archbishop said.
"I don't think this is a good place for students,"
There was no immediate reaction from Archbishop Martin to
the trustees' meeting and no indication as to whether he would change his mind
as a result of the trustees' intervention.
In early August, he said he had offered to provide an
independent person for whistleblowers to approach, but the response to this
offer was the publication of more anonymous letters. At the time, the
archbishop said authorities in Maynooth "have to find a way to let people
come forward with solid evidence to substantiate the allegations."- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.