Friday, May 31, 2013

Enniscorthy Eucharistic Gathering/ Faith Festival parishes of St Aidan’s and St Senan’s in Enniscorthy town jointly present the Enniscorthy Eucharistic Gathering/ Faith Festival.

The celebrations will be officially opened by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and closed by Bishop Denis Brennan. 

During the week-end Enniscorthy castle will play host to an exhibition of various religious artefacts and photographs showcasing the celebration of faith in the diocese throughout the ages.

The weekend will also be packed with a wide range of events including witness talks by top speakers Mr John Waters and Micky Harte (Tyrone Football Manager), Maeve Carlin and Bishop Brendan Leahy. We will also have youth events and school programs. 

The aim of the Eucharistic Gathering is to reach out to everyone not only in our own Diocese but further afield and encourage them to join with us as we celebrate our faith.

I have attached the programme of events for the week-end and for more information please check our website at

Priest at centre of child sex abuse claims leaves Scotland to go back to his native Ireland

Pat McEwan says he was abused by paedophile priests
A PRIEST at the centre of child sex abuse claims has left the country.

The clergyman moved back to his native Ireland. Police have started an investigation but have not questioned him.

Catholic Church officials claimed the priest’s move was pre-planned and had nothing to do with the claims.

The clergyman, who is in his 80s, has been accused of being part of a ring of paedophile priests who abused Pat McEwan as a boy more than 50 years ago.

Pat, now 63, claimed the priests molested him many times.

He alleged one priest raped him near the holy shrine of Carfin Grotto in Motherwell.

Police Scotland confirmed they are still investigating the claims.

The priest, who is understood to be in poor health, returned to Ireland around eight weeks ago.

Frank Cassidy, chancellor of Motherwell Diocese, said: “This was pre-planned. He had retired and decided he wanted to get back home. We tried to dissuade him because we felt that we had the opportunity to look after him here. But he wanted to go back and that was facilitated. He was completely unaware of any inquiries about him.”

Pat first made allegations of abuse by priests in 1998 but no one was arrested.

Last month, we revealed how police had re-opened the investigation into his claims that he was abused by two priests, now in their 80s, between 1958 and 1961.

A third priest, also accused by Pat, died in 1963.

Pat claims he was eight when the alleged rape at Carfin Grotto happened.

This month, Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell said Pat was “living in a fantasy world”.

But Pat is backed by Alan Draper, who quit his role at the Catholic Church as an adviser on child abuse after dealing with his case.

Pat said: “I was very saddened by Bishop Devine’s lack of compassion. He felt the need to discredit me rather than reaching out to me and other victims.”

Garry O'Sullivan: Bishop's threat to politicians sounded medieval to many heated as the abortion debate in Ireland has become, there was palpable embarrassment and unease among many Catholics at the raising of potential excommunications and public refusal of communion at Mass for politicians who vote for abortion legislation.
This embarrassment was compounded by Cardinal Brady's failure to rule the threat out in the future and his successor Primate elect Archbishop Eamon Martin's clear statement that politicians who vote for abortion are excommunicating themselves and should not approach the altar rails for communion. 

The intervention sounded medieval to many and a politicisation of the Eucharist. For those hostile to the church, it was, they said, a return to the type of ecclesiastical bullying of politicians common in the past.

Recently elected Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin seemed to agree, saying while politicians have to think seriously, they were nervous about politicising the Eucharist. So was this a mis-step by the heir apparent in Armagh?

Archbishop Eamon Martin appeared to be taking the line laid down in 2004 by then Cardinal Ratzinger in a letter of 'General Principle', which states that where a Catholic politician consistently campaigns and votes for 'permissive' abortion, he is to be cautioned that unless he changes his 'sinful' ways, he will be denied communion at Mass. It says that a Catholic who votes for such a politician because of his stand on abortion also cannot approach for communion.

When this letter was written in 2004, the US bishops were struggling to figure out how to deal with Catholic politicians who voted for abortion. Ratzinger's letter taken to its ultimate conclusion in the US, where some 46pc of the United States' 67 million Roman Catholics identify as pro-choice, would mean excommunicating 32 million people, something the church is not prepared to do. It is claimed that when the American Cardinal McCarrick received the letter, he failed to show it to the other US bishops until it was eventually leaked in Rome.

Yet even Ratzinger's letter, which has some weight but is not church law, provides for a level of discretion in these matters to avoid a public politicisation of the Eucharist. He says that a politician's pastor should meet with him and instruct him and warn him. In other words, whether a Catholic should or should not attend communion is between the priest/bishop and the individual.

Archbishop Eamon Martin's public utterings in this matter failed to emphasise the private pastoral nature of all of this. Otherwise the impression is given, and many took it to mean this, that bishops are using the threat of excommunication and refusal of the Eucharist to impose their political will, thereby fighting politics at the altar rails.

The Pontifical Academy for Life at the Vatican takes a clear line. Speaking to this correspondent this week, a senior expert on abortion said that issues such as excommunication should belong in the private forum and the bishop or priest should approach the politician privately.

He also stated that excommunication was a pastoral issue, where the politician who votes for abortion has pushed themselves outside of the Catholic community and that the church wants him or her to reflect, change their ways and come back.

So where does all this leave Irish Catholic politicians? If they vote for pro-abortion legislation, they are, it seems, automatically excommunicated. Their priest or bishop would need to tell them that until they change their stance, they should not present for communion. This suggests that there must be a dialogue between politician and priest.

There may be an arguable case for the politician that he is voting for medical abortion where the life of the mother is at risk. This would not fall under the heading of Ratzinger's 'permissive abortion' criteria.

What is certain is that the Vatican will not be excommunicating any Irish politicians and it is very unlikely that the Irish bishops will either.

Politicians are invited as Catholics to explore their conscience.

Could we see Taoiseach Enda Kenny being refused communion at the Mass to inaugurate the new Archbishop of Armagh? It is unlikely, as Mr Kenny will have made his own arrangements with his own priest/bishop, and for another priest or bishop who wasn't aware of those discussions to deny communion to Mr Kenny or anyone else would be an abuse of the Eucharist and a political statement at the altar rails.

Garry O'Sullivan is Vatican Correspondent for 'The Irish Catholic'

Pope urges Mafia to convert their hearts celebrated the beatification of Father Giuseppe Puglisi on Saturday, and Pope Francis used it as an occasion to pray for the conversion of the Mafia, reports the Catholic News Agency.

After he recited the Angelus on May 25, Pope Francis noted that F. Puglisi – a priest who was killed in 1993 by the Mafia – was beatified in Palermo on Saturday.

“Don Puglisi was an exemplary priest, devoted especially to youth ministry. He was teaching children according to the gospel and taking them out of the mob, and so they tried to defeat him and killed him. In reality, though, it is he that won, with Christ Risen,” the Pope told the crowd in St Peter’s Square.

These gangs “cause so much pain to men, women and even to children,” he said, mentioning prostitution as one type of slavery or social pressure used by the mafia.

Pope Francis urged the faithful in the square to “pray for these gangsters so that they convert.”

The murder of Fr Puglisi was a turning point for the Church in how it dealt with the Mafia.

Blessed Puglisi pursued a course of winning people away from the influence of the mob, as opposed to a protest model of resistance, which was more common among clergy at the time.

Catholic Church pamphlet says claim of no change to law on abortion ‘untrue’ newsletter being circulated by the Catholic Communications Office at Maynooth says it is “untrue” to state “that there is no change to the law on abortion in Ireland” being planned by the Government.
It adds: “If there was no change this legislation (Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill) would not have been published. The proposed legislation gives practical effect to the X case decision which permits abortion up to birth where suicide is threatened. Ireland is about to cross a fundamental moral rubicon – the direct and intentional killing of the innocent.”

Vatican corrects infallible pope: atheists will still burn in hell

The Vatican has just announced that, despite what Pope Francis said in his homily earlier this week, atheists are still going to hell.

What a relief.

For a brief moment there it was possible to imagine a brave new world of compassion, generosity and acceptance, not qualities we have come to associate with the Holy See.

Said Pope Francis this week: 'The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!'

That seemed like a pretty clear admission that people of other faiths and none have intrinsic worth to God and will be saved alongside the faithful. But this turned out to be wishful thinking.

Although they are otherwise good, moral people they are still doomed to burn in a lake of fire for having the temerity to have been born outside of Catholicism or having chosen to remain so.

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, spelled it out for the world on Thursday. People who know about the Catholic church 'cannot be saved' if they 'refuse to enter her or remain in her,' he said.

So that's one tall order of eternal hellfire for the rest of us, then.

It makes for an interesting spectacle to see the infallible pope being corrected by his handlers, doesn't it? 

For a moment it was possible to recall the welcoming and indulgent style of the short lived Pope John Paul I in the unexpectedly all-embracing words of Pope Francis. 

But you'll recall how quickly John Paul I was replaced by the much more doctrinaire John Paul II.

There's no question that Pope Francis sees the divinity in all human beings, but that's a message that comes with caveats. God may make them all, Jew and Gentile, but unless they're Catholic they're ultimately kindling. 

The Vatican waited 24 hours to correct him, but they corrected him.

Yes, yes, the Council of Trent clearly taught that Jesus Christ, humanity's one and only Redeemer, redeemed both Jew and Gentile. 

But there is a huge difference between redemption and salvation. See how that works? Judas Iscariot was redeemed by Christ's death on the cross, but he was not saved - Catholics believe he is damned in hell.

To be justified requires faith - and that faith must be Catholic. You see where this is going?

If I was Pope Francis, I'd be employing a food tester right about now.

Lost memoir tells how James Connolly returned to his faith before execution manuscript found in an old filing box of documents in England has revealed that in the hours before he was executed in Dublin in 1916, the Citizens' Army leader James Connolly returned to his Catholic faith.

The manuscript with the title Daring All things – My Story was the unpublished autobiography of British Army chaplain George Kendall OBE (pictured) and gives a first-hand account of the capture of the rebel leaders.

Kendall, my grandfather, was chaplain to the 59th division of the British Army who were sent to Dublin to help put down the Rising. He describes in his memoir, completed in 1961, shortly before his death, the capture and execution of rebel leader James Connolly.

"I saw James Connolly twice whilst he was in hospital, the second time being on the eve of his execution.

"Speaking to me on the first visit, he said in answer to a question of mine about his attitude – 'You must know the saying.' 'What saying?' I asked. And he replied: 'The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.' This too was the saying I heard as I spoke to his men in the Dublin Castle hospital.

"Listening, I felt it was not my duty to condemn, or argue. Connolly was, for years, a professed agnostic, but at the hour of death, he returned to the faith of his fathers. That night a Catholic priest was admitted to the hospital and he administered Holy Communion to Connolly and gave him absolution.

"Asked to pray, at the end, for the soldiers about to shoot him, he said: 'I will say a prayer for all brave men who do their duty.'

"And so he died, the last of the Sinn Feiners to be executed," he wrote in his memoir.
Born in a small Yorkshire village, George Kendall became a Primitive Methodist Minister. In 1913, while canvassing for new members for his church outside Windsor Castle, he was invited to tea by Queen Mary and became a lifelong friend of the British royal.

He was among the reinforcements rushed to Dublin in the aftermath of the 1916 Rebellion on Easter Sunday.

"Personally, I was fond of the Irish people and therefore overwhelmed by this tragedy caused by the misguidance of the leaders of the rebellion," he wrote in his memoir, never before seen until I uncovered the book.

"But there was another cause. Many loyal and committed men told me it was their considered opinion that the outbreak would have been impossible but for the gross and unpardonable laxity, long continued, of the Irish government at that time."

He then goes on to describe the drama of the unfolding Rising and eventually the capture of its leaders.

"The Mad Rising, as it was called by the Irish people, was a black one not only for Dublin and Ireland but for the whole of our empire of those days and our allies ... I stood in the middle of blazing streets with snipers' bullets whizzing around ... I entered Liberty Hall when it was captured ... I visited Dublin Castle and talked to our wounded and the Sinn Feiners. They were lying in the same wards and receiving the same treatment."

After witnessing the capture of Markievicz "in her brilliant green male uniform", he was given her fur rug – and kept it for years "until it perished of moth".

Kendall also briefed the British prime minister Herbert Henry Asquith when he came to Dublin in the aftermath of the Rising.

Although he put some of his experiences in the memoir, including a brief chapter on Dublin in the aftermath of the Rising, he said, "half my story will remain untold" because of the confidential nature of his work.

The family have never known about the book even though my parents honeymooned in Ireland and, in 1994, I flew all over the country by helicopter to photograph it for my own book, Ireland from the Air.

Now I am hoping to have my grandfather's book published and his story of the First World War will be featured in a British television special later in the year.

China tightens rules for appointment of bishops in Catholic Church

Chiesa cineseIn a move destined to further complicate, and even worsen relations between Beijing and the Vatican, the Chinese authorities have revised significantly the regulations governing the process for the election and ordination of bishops for the Catholic Church in mainland China.

The revised regulations give the government-backed Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) “overarching control” and the final say on who can become a bishop in the mainland, Church observers in China told UCA News, the main Catholic news agency in Asia, which broke the news on May 22.   

The BCCCC is a body established by Beijing, but not recognized by the Holy See as a Bishops’ Conference.    

The new ruling was approved in April but has only been made public now, UCA News stated.  It replaces a less strict regulation that had been in place since 1993 regarding the process for the election of bishops in the Church. 

The 1993 text had 6 regulations whereas the new one has 16.  The revised text includes a demand that Catholic bishops must support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and its socialist system.

Under the 1993 regulations, a diocese was only required to fulfill the procedure at a provincial level and, unless they were faced with pressure from Beijing, local officials would often turn a blind eye to this process if the local diocese had good relations with the local authorities.  That will no longer be the case.

The new regulations specify that a diocese has to seek agreement from the Beijing-based BCCCC and the Bureau for Religious Affairs to begin the process of electing and ordaining a new bishop, Anthony Lam Sui-ki, senior researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong, told UCA News.  It seems these revised regulations are aimed at strengthening the authority of those two state entities. The regulations also dictate how to set up an election committee.
“The revision is a regression as it blocks the normalization of Church life in China,” Anthony Lam said. He interpreted the revision as a reminder to bishops approved by the Holy See that they have “to be brave and not to be frightened by the authorities.”  

Given the revised regulations, “Some dioceses might be forced to ordain their bishops secretly to prevent an illicit bishop presence in Vatican-approved Episcopal ordinations,” Kwun Ping-hung, a Church observer, told UCA News.

Four years ago, in 2009, the Holy See and China seemed to be close to reaching a basic agreement on the appointment of bishops, a subject that has been one of the major obstacles – though by no means the only one – to harmonious relations between the two sides.  That agreement could not be concluded, however, due to Beijing’s underlying insistence that while the Pope could raise objections over a candidate to be bishop, and the final decision would remain with the Chinese.

Since then, and especially since 2011, Sino-Vatican relations have deteriorated.  Some bishops have been ordained without the Pope’s approval and in spite of the Holy See’s objections, illegitimate bishops have been inserted into ordinations that had papal approval, and Shanghai’s new bishop, Ma Daqin, was deposed by the Chinese authorities at the end of 2012. 

This latest move by Beijing will certainly not contribute to the improvement of relations between the Holy See and China. While it is not clear how much the new leadership in Beijing is actually behind this revision of the regulations, in any case, their publication has come as a cold shower on those who were beginning to nurture the hope that the path to rapprochement between the two sides might be opened again given that there is a new political leadership in Beijing and a new Pope in the Vatican.

El Salvador eagerly awaits Mgr. Romero’s beatification
The Vatican communiqué issued after the meeting between Pope Francis and the President of El Salvador, Carlos Mauricio Funes Cartagena, expressly mentions the late archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. 

If any further confirmation was needed about the speeding up - since the arrival of the new Pope – of the beatification cause for the prelate who was gunned down by death squads in 1980, that arrived promptly. 

And not just in the form of a statement by some influential figure or other, but with a phrase written in black and white on a high-level, official document, like those which are published after visits by heads of state to the Vatican.

“During the cordial talks, satisfaction was expressed for the good relations between the Holy See and the nation of El Salvador. In particular, the Servant of God Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez of San Salvador, and the importance of his witness for the entire nation were spoken of,” the Vatican note - published in English, Italian and Spanish – said. 

It is highly unusual for a person to be mentioned specifically in this kind of communiqué so this alone shows how high El Salvador’s hopes are for Romero’s beatification. This was strongly illustrated by Funes’ gift to Pope Francis: a relic of a bloodstained piece of the priestly vestments Romero was wearing when he was gunned down on 24 March 1980.

The very day after Bergoglio was elected Pope, the Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador, Gregorio Rosa Chavez – who had worked closely with the late archbishop – said he knew for certain the new Pope considers Romero a martyr. 

A day or so later, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia made a statement announcing that the beatification cause had been “unblocked” after a meeting with Francis.

The Vatican communiqué states that after President Funes’ meeting with the Pope and Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, “appreciation was also expressed for the contribution that the Church offers for reconciliation and the consolidation of peace, as well as in the areas of charity, education, and the eradication of poverty and organized crime. Some ethical issues, such as the defence of human life, marriage, and the family, were also discussed.”

It is important to point out that the Catholic Church in El Salvador has done a great deal in recent years to solve the problem of the maras, the young gangs that are responsible for a spiral of violence in the country’s streets. 

Military ordinary, Mgr. Fabio Colindres managed to negotiate a truce between El Salvador’s two major street gangs which brought the country’s death toll down considerably.

China Renews Tension with the Vatican

In the wake of China’s 18th National Congress of the Communist Party, held in November 2012, the Party has renewed its dedication to asserting its ideology. 

Beijing has redrawn the line between the Church in China and Vatican authority, recently revising its regulations for how China’s Catholic bishops are selected and ordained.
The state-controlled Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), which is not recognized by the Holy See, has been assigned even more authority over the election and consecration of Catholic bishops in China. 

Previously, the Vatican has gained a significant voice in the approval of China’s bishops, but as of April each diocese must first seek the approval of the BCCCC and the Bureau for Religious Affairs before ordaining a new bishop, and the new prelate must now render public support for the Chinese Communist Party.
Until now no Chinese bishop has been required to express such an explicit support for the Communist Party, which they know places them in conflict with the teachings of the Church. 

In Pius XII’s famous encyclical against Communism in 1937, the Pope declared Communism “the most persistent enemy of the Church,” and among the concerns of Catholics in the pew in China is that the government’s new hard-line will result in a return to “underground” ordinations and worship.
At the end of his general audience on May 22, Pope Francis called all Christians to pray on May 24 for the suffering Church in China: “I urge all Catholics around the world to join in prayer with our brothers and sisters who are in China, to implore from God the grace to proclaim with humility and joy Christ, who died and rose again; to be faithful to His Church and the Successor of Peter and to live everyday life in service to their country and their fellow citizens in a way that is consistent with the faith they profess.”

And then the Holy Father recited the prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan, China, written by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI: “Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China, who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love. May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world, and of the world to Jesus.”

Vatican punishes French priest for being a Freemason

Father Pascal Vesin outside his church in Megeve, 24 MayA Roman Catholic parish priest at an elite French ski resort has been stripped of his Church functions for refusing to renounce Freemasonry.

Father Pascal Vesin was ordered by his bishop to cease his work in the Alpine resort of Megeve, the parish said.

Bishop Yves Boivineau had warned Fr Vesin about his "active membership" of the Grand Orient de France lodge.

Freemasonry has been condemned as anti-Christian and anti-clerical by various popes through history.

Bishop Boivineau ordered the priest to cease his functions "at Rome's request", the parish said.

In March, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - effectively the Church's watchdog - asked for the priest's departure.

Three members of the diocese of Annecy then met him but Fr Vesin said he would not leave the lodge.

A statement from the diocese quoted by Le Figaro newspaper stressed that the penalty imposed on the Freemason priest was not final and could yet be lifted because "mercy goes hand in hand with truth".

Fr Vesin has been parish priest of Sainte-Anne d'Arly Montjoie in Megeve since 2004, according to another French newspaper, Le Messager.

In an interview in January, he set out liberal views of the Church's role. He said he favoured allowing some priests to marry and said he had refused to endorse a demonstration against same-sex marriage in Paris.

Conspiracy theories and controversy have dogged the Freemasons throughout their existence, fuelled by their secretive image, though for some they are just a gentleman's club devoted to charitable giving.

Church's safeguarding chief calls for public inquiry into abuse chairman of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission for England and Wales (NCSC) and leading victims' groups have backed The Tablet's call for a public inquiry into child sexual abuse.

The NCSC chairman Danny Sullivan said a national inquiry would give victims of abuse "in any institution" the chance to be heard and offer a "genuine calling to account of those responsible."

Anne Lawrence, spokeswoman for Minister and Clergy Sex Abuse Survivors (MACSAS), and Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) have also backed the idea of a public inquiry.

They were responding to a leader in last week's Tablet that called for Britain to follow Australia's example of setting up a royal commission to examine the causes of sexual abuse against children, and possible solutions.

Spain reinstates RE as core subject's bishops have succeeded in boosting the importance of religion in the school curriculum through education reforms approved by the Government.

The reforms make it obligatory to study either Religious Education (RE) or an alternative on cultural and social ethics in secondary school. 

In future RE will be a mainstream subject, equivalent in weight to all other academic subjects, with RE students gaining credits that can be used towards their final average and for grant applications.

The reforms, approved on 17 May, also put an end to citizenship classes and lessons on values, which Madrid Cardinal Antonio Rouco had denounced as an "invasion" of religious freedom and the rights of parents to demand a moral education for their children.

Pope receives WYD kit as he gets ready to travel to Rio, Brazil!

Beneath the hype, Rio a major test for Francis

In exactly two months, Pope Francis will make his first overseas trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for World Youth Day. 

It shapes up as the biggest Catholic blowout of the early 21st century, a massive celebration of history’s first Latin American pope folded into what’s already the Catholic version of Lollapalooza.

At one level, it’s tempting to start writing success stories now. 

The crowds will be huge and enthusiastic, Brazil desperately wants the event to go well to showcase its status as the emerging superpower of the developing world (and as a trial run for both the World Cup next year and the Summer Olympics in 2016), and Francis has already proven that he’s more than ready for prime time.

Beneath the hype, however, there are four challenges awaiting the new pontiff on this outing, and however many beguiling visuals and moving testimonials the trip generates, triumph is hardly a foregone conclusion.

Church/State Relations

The broad recent trend in Latin American politics is what analysts have called the “Pink Tide,” referring to the success of center-left parties representing a break with the “Washington consensus” in favor of open markets and privatization. 

Typically, these regimes blend a sort of managed capitalism with moderate-to-progressive positions on women’s issues, reproductive policies and gay rights.

Of the 21 nations regarded as constituting Latin America, 14 of them are presently ruled by left-leaning parties, including Francis’ host nation of Brazil.

The key question facing the church is whether it can carve out constructive relations with these governments, or whether ties will be ruptured by disputes over social policy. 

Francis carries some experience on this front, having had a notoriously ambivalent relationship with the government of Cristina Kirchner in Argentina, especially over gay marriage.

In many ways, Brazil is an ideal test case.

When President Dilma Rousseff was elected in 2010, it was over the perceived opposition of the country’s Catholic bishops, primarily rooted in fears that she would legalize abortion. 

(Abortion is permitted in Brazil only in cases of rape and threats to the life of the mother.) 

The Guarulhos diocese, for instance, issued a statement during the campaign referring to Rousseff as the “candidate of death.”

Things became so tense at one stage that an aide to former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Rousseff’s mentor, warned the bishops the church’s concordat might be revised if they kept up their attacks. 

When Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Luis Carlos Eccel of Huntingdon in November 2010, it was widely perceived as punishment for his support of Rousseff. 

(Eccel was only 58 at the time, and did not step down for reasons of health.)

Since the election, however, there really haven’t been any titanic church/state rows. 

Rousseff has backed away from support for expanding abortion rights, and last year she pushed through a controversial national registry of pregnancies that was blasted by pro-choice groups for a variety of reasons, including that it defines a fetus as a person.

Moreover, Rousseff also opposes gay marriage, favoring civil unions instead – basically the same position that then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio took in Argentina. 

Many analysts credit pressure not only from Catholics, but also from Brazil’s increasingly influential Evangelical and Pentecostal movements, with driving Rousseff to the center.

In terms of economic policy, a pope who famously longs for a “poor church for the poor” should see a fair bit to applaud.

Although Brazil set records for income inequality in the 1990s, it’s made significant progress over the last decade. 

According to the World Bank, the income of the country’s bottom 10 percent grew at almost 7 percent per year, nearly three times the national average of 2.5 percent. 

Meanwhile, the income of the country’s richest 10 percent grew at only 1.1 percent per year. 

Government statistics say that 28 million people have been lifted out of poverty, while 36 million Brazilians have entered the middle class. 

In the main, that’s been achieved without sacrificing competitiveness; despite a recent downturn, Brazil averaged 4.5 percent GDP growth a year over the last decade.

All things considered, Rousseff and her Workers’ Party profile as the sort of center-left regime with which this pope ought to be able to do business. 

The signals he sends on the trip, especially in his July 22 meeting with Rousseff, could lay a template for church/state relations more broadly on his watch.      

The Evangelical and Pentecostal Challenge

Arguably the biggest religious realignment of the late 20th century was Latin America’s transition from a homogeneously Catholic region to a competitive religious marketplace, driven primarily by massive gains among Pentecostals and Evangelicals. 

At one stage during the 1990s, the Latin American bishops estimated they were losing 8,000 people every day to these various Protestant movements.

This reality poses three distinct tests for Francis.

First, the Latin American bishops reflected on the new realities of the continent in a document adopted at their 2007 meeting in Aparecida, Brazil, the heart of which was the call for a “Great Continental Mission.” 

The idea was to revive the evangelical energies of the Catholic church, breaking with the clericalist model of opening the doors and waiting for people to show up, instead stealing a page from the Pentecostals in terms of street-level missionary hustle.

Bergoglio was one of the primary authors of that document and it remains close to his heart, reflected in the fact that he’s presented a copy to every Latin American leader he’s met since becoming pope.

To date, however, the “Great Continental Mission” remains more an ambition than an accomplished fact. 

It remains to be seen whether Francis can inspire a new missionary spirit in Latin America, and the trip to Rio looms as an initial shakedown cruise.

Second, the rise of Evangelicals and Pentecostals is also pressing the Catholic church to develop new models of ecumenism. 

The post-Vatican II paradigm for relations with other Christians has been dialogues with Orthodoxy and the established churches of the Reformation, especially Anglicanism. 

It’s a point of pride in Rome that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Patriarch of Constantinople have become fixtures at major Vatican events.

Statistically speaking, however, those denominations are basically footnotes to the Christian story of the times.

The Anglican Communion has a worldwide following of 80 million, while the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople – including not just Turkey but the Orthodox diaspora – can claim no more than 3 million. 

(Although Constantinople is “first among equals” in the global Orthodox universe of 250 million, it’s far from given that the other Orthodox churches are willing to follow its lead.)

Pentecostalism, meanwhile, has an estimated following of 300 million, and if you add the charismatics in mainline churches, the global footprint of Pentecostal-style spirituality expands to over 500 million.

To date, Catholicism’s relationships with the Evangelical and Pentecostal world remain underdeveloped, partly because there’s no official leadership structure to engage, partly because there’s a strong anti-Roman streak in some Evangelical and Pentecostal circles.

Yet on many fronts, Catholics, Evangelicals and Pentecostals have common interests, especially vis-à-vis the mounting weight of secularism. 

In Brazil, for instance, the growth of Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism has cooled, while the most rapidly expanding religious cohort in the country is the “nones,” i.e., Brazilians who say they have no religious affiliation at all.

In some ways, it seems a situation tailor-made for the shift from theological to “inter-cultural” dialogue laid out by Benedict XVI.

How well Francis is able to reorient ecumenical outreach toward the most consequential form of non-Catholic Christianity in the world today will be a key measuring stick for the success of his papacy. 

At present there’s no ecumenical encounter on the pope’s itinerary, which can’t help but seem a fairly glaring omission. 

It remains to be seen if he can do or say something apart from the official program to generate new ecumenical momentum.    

Third, the Catholic church in Latin America also faces the challenge of learning a new language. It can no longer speak as the quasi-official arbiter of public morality. 

It’s now one actor among many on a complex religious landscape, albeit still representing the religious sentiments of a substantial bloc of the population.

The authority of establishment, in other words, must give way to the authority of witness. 

In Buenos Aires, Bergoglio was among the pioneers in navigating this transition, positioning the church as a credible social force based not so much on magisterial pronouncements as its effectiveness in ministering to the most neglected strata of society.

Now he faces the task of “scaling up” this approach across the continent, with Rio shaping up as his breakout performance.

The media and the message

So far Francis is still basking in a love affair with the press, largely because the early imagery of his papacy has been irresistible – spurning the papal apartment, calling up his cobbler in Buenos Aires to order his own shoes, and so on.

It’s also striking that since Francis took office in mid-March, the usual stream of Vatican leaks in the Italian media has largely dried up. That suggests he’s successfully following his script from Buenos Aires, making decisions himself, playing his cards close to the vest, and consulting only those he can trust not to let the cat out of the bag.

To date, however, Francis’ exposure to the media has been mostly on his own terms, coming at Vatican events and in anecdotes that his friends have chosen to reveal. 

Rio will mark the first time that others have a hand in setting the pope’s agenda, and while he can certainly count on the authorities in Brazil to promote a positive storyline, the same can’t necessarily be said of the media.

If things hold to form, Francis will take some questions from reporters aboard the papal plane, which will be especially interesting if he indulges his penchant for speaking off the cuff. 

Benedict XVI learned the hard way that even having the questions in advance doesn’t necessarily prevent headaches; his 2009 trip to Africa was capsized by controversy over his remark on the plane that condoms make the problem of HIV/AIDS worse.

Benedict’s 2007 outing to Brazil, the last time a pope visited the country, also brought a rough moment when he said that the arrival of Christianity “did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture.” 

That stirred controversy among indigenous groups and Brazilians with bitter memories of the colonial period, and the pope was forced a week later to acknowledge that “unjustifiable crimes” had been committed in the European conquest.

Francis has already had a taste of the hot water that unreflective ad-libs can generate when he told a group of 800 nuns on May 8 that they should be mothers rather than “spinsters,” which some took as a derogatory reference to women religious.

That potential land mine didn’t really explode, in part because the mere fact of meeting nuns was seen as a gesture of rapprochement, in part because in-house critics are still inclined to give Francis the benefit of the doubt. 

(As a thought experiment, imagine what might have happened if Benedict had said it!)

In Rio, it’ll be interesting to track whether this “extemporaneous pope,” who loves to veer off-script, manages to avoid stepping on his own message during the biggest public outing of his young papacy.

Youth appeal

To predict that a pope will be well received at a World Youth Day is a bit like forecasting that Rush Limbaugh would get a warm welcome at CPAC, or Gloria Steinem at a National Organization for Women rally. 

Given the kind of young Catholics who show up, they’re going to be thrilled to be in the presence of the pope no matter who it is.

That said, some popes establish a livelier bond with youth than others, John Paul II being the most obvious example of a pontiff who connected. 

Since Francis wants to inspire a more missionary church, his ability to galvanize young apostles will be critical, and Rio shapes up as the first clear test of his capacity to reach that cohort.

Francis has never attended a World Youth Day before, either as a priest or a bishop. He wasn’t even present for the 1987 edition in Buenos Aires, the first held outside Europe, which coincided with a period when then-Fr. Bergoglio was in Germany for studies on Romano Guardini.

In response to an NCR inquiry, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson, said May 14 that Francis never attended World Youth Days primarily because of his preference only to travel out of “strict necessity,” noting that as a bishop and cardinal he only came to Rome when it was absolutely required.

His absence at previous World Youth Days, Lombardi said, “should not be connected to a lack of concern for pastoral work with young people,” saying there are “many significant testimonies” to his concern for youth.

If you’re going to make a debut at World Youth Day, showing up as pope is obviously a singular way to do it. 

Francis already profiles as the “pope of the poor.” 

The question now is whether after Rio, he’ll also come off as the “pope of the young.”

New leader of Friars Minor says pope has energized Franciscans

The new minister general of the Order of Friars Minor said the Franciscans are united, energized and challenged by the ministry of the new pope, whose name honors their founder, St. Francis of Assisi.

Pope Francis "has energized us, but he also has challenged us just by who he is," said U.S. Franciscan Father Michael Perry, who was elected May 22. 

The pope's "authenticity is challenging us to rediscover our own authenticity, and calling us to simplify our lives and to speak less and demonstrate more who we are."

It's not a matter of promoting the Franciscan "brand," Father Perry said, but of demonstrating that "simplicity of life means greater life for all people, it means greater access to all that people need to have dignity and survive on this small, tiny planet we have. It means respecting creation so that we do not destroy the environment in which we live."

Father Perry said he was at the Franciscan headquarters March 13, watching television coverage of the announcement of the new pope.

"When I heard the name that he chose, I physically started shaking," he said, "because this man has taken the name of the person we hold as a model who calls us to live faithfully the Gospel. And I started thinking how short we fall sometimes in living the Gospel."

Many Franciscans quickly went on the Internet and began doing research on the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to find out if what he was saying and doing was "something being invented to make everything look good," Father Perry said. What they found was that "in fact, this man has lived for a very long time what he is calling all of us to take on."

Father Perry, 58, who had served as the order's vicar general since 2009, was elected minister general by the order's general council and 27 Franciscans representing different parts of the world.

He was chosen to serve until 2015, completing the six-year term of Spanish-born Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, who in April was appointed secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Father Perry said the speed of his election -- just 25 minutes -- "was amazing. It demonstrated that we are together; there is a unity among us."

Even if it is not always easy to live as brothers, he said, "we know each other, we know each other's strengths and weaknesses."

Before the election, he said, the friars discussed the challenges and possibilities facing the order, a discussion that helped them focus on what they needed in a minister general. The election demonstrated "we have a common purpose, we have a sense of identity and a common history -- not to pull us backward but really to push us forward."

Although the 14,000 Franciscan Friars Minor represent only half the members the order had at its height in the 1960s, he said those who enter and stay today seem to have a stronger understanding of why they are making a commitment as Franciscans and what they want to do as Franciscans, especially in serving the poor, promoting peace and safeguarding creation.

St. Francis calls "us to see all of creation not as something inanimate, something outside of us, but it is part of who we are; it has a personality, it has a dignity," Father Perry said.

The Franciscan superior said he and his brothers don't mind at all that other Christians, people of other religions and even non-believers love and respect St. Francis and hold him up as an example for all sorts of good and holy causes.

St. Francis "brings us back to the very core of who we are as human beings," Father Perry said. "Francis is a convener of humanity, he helps people come together and see what really matters for their lives and that we can live together in peace, we can care for one another and we can care for our world."

In 2008, less than a year before his election as vicar general, Father Perry was elected provincial of the Franciscans' St. Louis-based Sacred Heart Province.

Father Perry had worked on African development for Catholic Relief Services, as an international policy adviser for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and as head of the Africa desk at Franciscans International at the United Nations. He spent 10 years as a pastor, teacher and development director for Franciscan programs in Congo.

A native of Indianapolis, Father Perry holds a doctorate in religious anthropology, a master's of divinity in priestly formation and a bachelor's in history and philosophy. He entered the Franciscans in 1977 and was ordained a priest in 1984.

Gauchos and God: Pope draws life lessons from Argentine cowboy culture

Dressed in a woolen poncho, leather boots and silver spurs, the traditional gaucho was the cowboy of Argentina's immense plains, herding cattle and living a simple, hard life far from family and close to nature.

Though a little rough around the edges, gauchos were generally known to be respectful, loyal, honest and proud, rooted to a code of ethics that valued work and solidarity.

"The gaucho culture is an attitude toward life, and I believe Pope Francis is highlighting precisely this aspect in his current mission," said Roberto Vega Anderson, an Argentine gold- and silversmith who is the curator of a newly opened exhibit at the Vatican.

The show, "Argentina, the Gaucho: Tradition, Art and Faith," opened May 17 and runs until June 16 in the Vatican's Braccio di Carlo Magno -- a hall next to St. Peter's Basilica.

Planning for a Vatican exhibit on Argentine gauchos had begun last summer, well before Pope Benedict XVI announced plans to resign and cardinals convened to elect the first pope from Latin America.

Organizers said it was "providential" and "lucky" the show opened under a new pope from Argentina.

Pope Francis, like most Argentines, is no stranger to the gaucho culture.

The hardworking horsemen who ranched cattle across the continent's southern grassy Pampas plain became a symbol of national pride in the region.

Jose Hernandez; epic 19th-century Argentine poem, "Martin Fierro" -- about a fictional gaucho outlaw who fights for a better life -- represents "the heart of our national identity," the future pope once wrote.

Then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires published an essay in 2002 using the famous literary gaucho as a figure for reflection about the future of the nation.

The future pope said the gauchos had something to teach the country because "we Argentines have the dangerous tendency to think that everything just started today, to forget that nothing appears out of thin air or drops out of the sky like a meteorite," he wrote in the essay titled, "A Reflection Starting with Martin Fierro."

The future pope wrote that in the idyllic world of Fierro, the gaucho lives in harmony with nature, works with joy and skill, has fun with his friends, and lives simply and humanely surrounded by few material belongings.

As the exhibit shows, the gaucho used the poncho as a coat and blanket at night, ate with his knife -- the "facon" -- and carried a hollowed out gourd or ox horn for drinking his herbal tea called mate. When they could, gauchos would embellish their tools and horse trappings with ornately designed silver.

Then-Cardinal Bergoglio highlighted the fortitude and can-do attitude of the gaucho, who "takes his destiny into his own hands" with what little he has instead of pining for more or waiting for someone else to act.

"Rebuilding isn't the task of a few but of everyone," he wrote.

Father Angel Bartolome Hernandez, vice rector of Rome's Pontifical Argentine College in Rome, said the gaucho had a hard life, but "knows how to put on a happy face during hard times."

Suffering "made you stronger and there was always the hope of a better tomorrow," he said. The gaucho learned "to make do with what he had and rely on himself" given there weren't any supermarkets in sight, he said.

The fertile Pampas plain helped cultivate a benevolent view of the world because "all you had to do was toss a seed and it would bloom by itself." And life was a lot like crops: some years were good, others bad, "so it paid to take advantage of the good ones to gather strength and the means to get through the bad," he said.

Father Hernandez said the pope's Italian roots -- not just gaucho traditions-- also influence his world view.

Like many immigrants, the pope's Italian grandparents had to start from scratch, but hard work helped pull them from poverty, the priest said.

The pope's experience of seeing that care and effort reaped benefits means the dignity of work is very important for him, as is the culture of savings and taking care of creation, he said. The gaucho culture is similar in its "faith in Mother Earth, who needs to be respected and safeguarded because it supplies us with everything."

Many things the pope has said reflect this unique lens on life: his calls for protecting creation and for dignified employment, the importance of simplicity and hope, as well as his idea of "pressing on" even when carrying a burden.

Even if the gaucho lost his few possessions after racing his horse against another or in a friendly game of cards, "he was ready to get back to his journey toward fresh sacrifices, to regain what he had lost even if it meant it would take the rest of his life," one section of Vatican exhibition said.

Father Hernandez said it was not unusual for Cardinal Bergoglio to use an opus like "Martin Fierro" as part of his catechesis on nation building and civic duty.

The future pope taught high school literature before and after becoming a priest so he was very proficient in literary themes and figures, Father Hernandez said.

His wide and eclectic knowledge also helped supply him with numerous elements that he'd mix and match with a religious message creating such metaphors, he said, as "the babysitter church" to describe a parish that doesn't give birth to active evangelizers but only worries about keeping parishioners out of trouble.

"His sentences are like proverbs and the gaucho culture has this, like many cultures, where in two lines you get a recap and a wise reflection," he said.

Father Hernandez said he hoped having an Argentine pope would help spark curiosity about his native country and culture. "Now we have offered the world a pontiff, we can also offer the clear intelligence of our literature," he said.

Denver archbishop calls for end to Colo. death penalty Samuel J. Aquila of Denver has called for the repeal of the death penalty following the Colorado governor’s grant of a temporary reprieve to a death row inmate convicted of four murders.
“My support for the death penalty’s repeal is rooted in my respect for the dignity of all human life,” the archbishop said May 22.
“Every human being has a fundamental right to life. It is wrong to take life needlessly, either through execution, or abortion, or criminal acts of violence.”

“Humanity is at its best when it protects and defends human life from the time of conception until natural death. Let us continue to work for peace in our families, our communities, and in our state,” he added.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday chose to delay Nathan Dunlap’s execution three months before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection.

He said in an executive order that Colorado’s capital punishment system is “not flawless.” Hickenlooper noted that death sentences are not handed down “fairly,” citing a judge who said the punishment is the result of “happenstance” like a district attorney’s decision, the jurisdiction of the trial, and possibly the race or economic circumstances of the defendant.

“Colorado’s system of capital punishment is imperfect and inherently inequitable,” the governor said after announcing the order. “Such a level of punishment really does demand perfection.”

Although the governor refrained from granting full clemency to Dunlap, he said it is “highly unlikely” he will reconsider the death penalty for his case, the Denver Post reports.

Dunlap was convicted of killing four employees, including several teenagers, at an Aurora, Colo. Chuck E. Cheese’s pizza parlor in 1993. He was 19 at the time and a former employee of the restaurant. He shot and seriously wounded a fifth employee before stealing about $1,500.

His attorneys have argued that Dunlap was a victim of continual abuse as a youth and suffers from bipolar disorder. They said he was in the middle of a manic episode when the killings took place.

Many relatives of the victims responded to the temporary reprieve with anger and disappointment.

“The knife that's been in my back...was just twisted by the governor,” Bob Crowell, whose 19-year-old daughter Sylvia was among the slain, told the Denver Post after a conference call between the governor and victims’ families.

Archbishop Aquila voiced his support for the victims and their families.

“My heart goes out most to the families of the victims of Dunlap’s heinous crime,” he said. “I pray that they will find closure to the violence that was committed to their loved ones and to them. Few of us will ever experience that type of violence.”

However, he said Gov. Hickenlooper was right to emphasize that execution is “a matter which should be considered thoughtfully by all Coloradans.”

“Coloradans should work together to end the practice of punitive killing – for the sake of justice, and the sake of human dignity,” he said.

“When will Americans open their eyes to recognize that violence only begets violence? We who stood for the life of Nathan Dunlap should work together to end violence undertaken in our state, in the womb, and in our hearts,” the archbishop added.