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February 25, 2020


Terrorists attack Nigerian town, destroying churches and forcing residents to flee

The militants apparently arrived with about 60 motorbikes and 20 mounted gun trucks, armed with automatic assault rifles and grenade launchers.
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Paul Smeaton By Paul Smeaton

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By Paul Smeaton

NIGERIA, February 25, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A group of reportedly more than 100 militant terrorists, believed to be members of the Islamist Boko Haram group, have attacked a town in northeast Nigeria, burning churches and other buildings and forcing residents to flee the area. 

Reports on the attack are conflicting with some claiming that “many” people were killed and others reporting unconfirmed abductions. A Nigerian military official has said that the attack recorded the death of a single soldier, with no loss of life of any civilian. Various reports suggest that residents were disappointed by the response of the military and police.

The attack took place on Friday evening in Garkida in the Gombi area of the northeastern state of Adamawa, just as women were arriving for an annual Catholic Women's Conference. The area has suffered attacks in the past by Boko Haram and the region has been under a military state of emergency since May 2013.

The militants apparently arrived with about 60 motorbikes and 20 mounted gun trucks, armed with automatic assault rifles and grenade launchers. 

At least five churches were destroyed, including a missionary church soon due to celebrate its 10- year anniversary, belonging to the Church of the Brethren. 

One Twitter user posted an image of four men attending the church for worship on Sunday, despite the damage done to the building.

The Christian Post reports, “Nigerian security forces initially fought with the attackers but had to retreat for reinforcement. The militants then advanced to neighboring towns and carried out attacks. Civilians fled to a nearby mountain area and into bushes.”

Earlier on Friday, the Nigerian chief of army staff had written to troops in the northeast, expressing his confidence that they will end Boko Haram’s insurgency soon.

The president of the Nigerian Catholic bishops’ conference recently called on Western nations to “make known the atrocities” inflicted upon Christians and other groups in Nigeria by Islamic terrorists.

The Catholic bishops in Nigeria say that the government is complicit in the murder of Christians in the country and that they do not do enough to help communities under attack.

Femi Fani-Kayode, the former Nigerian Minister of Culture and Tourism and Minister of Aviation, said earlier this month that former U.S. President Barack Obama and former U.S. Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry have “blood...on their hands” for the role they played in helping to elect the current Nigerian government. 

“What Obama, John Kerry and Hilary [sic] Clinton did to Nigeria by funding and supporting [Muhammadu] Buhari in the 2015 presidential election and helping Boko Haram in 2014/2015 was sheer wickedness and the blood of all those killed by the Buhari administration, his Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram over the last 5 years are on their hands,” Fani-Kayode stated in a February 12 Facebook post. Fani-Kayode dod not clarify what part Clinton, who was U.S. Secretary of State only until 2013, may have played in Buhari’s election. 

In support of his claims Fani-Kayode cited a recent interview from a former military contractor Eeben Barlow whose company was hired to eradicate Muslim terrorists from Nigeria. In the interview, Barlow says that one of the first acts of the then-new President Buhari in 2015 was to terminate his contract. He also said that Buhari’s presidential campaign was funded by the U.S. government under Obama.

Nigeria is the 12th worst country in the world for persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List. In 2018, President Donald Trump promised that his administration would work “very, very hard” to end the mass killing of Christians in Nigeria.


US bishops continue to offer conflicting testimony of Pope’s remarks on pro-gay Fr. Martin

Fr. Martin has denied that his superiors gave him 'a talking to,' something two anonymous bishops claimed they learned from their meeting with Pope Francis.
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Fr. James Martin, S.J.
Dorothy Cummings McLean By Dorothy Cummings McLean

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By Dorothy Cummings McLean

DENVER, Colorado, February 25, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― Two American bishops have come forward with observations about a recent meeting with Pope Francis in which the pontiff discussed LGBT activist Fr. James Martin, S.J. 

The Archbishop of Denver, Samuel J. Aquila, 69, told Catholic News Agency (CNA) that Pope Francis had communicated his “frustration” with the way his September 30 meeting with Fr. Martin was “interpreted and framed by some journalists.” Aquila added that he had done this in a way that was clear, especially for “those who understand Italian.”

Aquila did not repeat the assertions of two anonymous bishops who had earlier told CNA that the Argentinian pontiff had been angry with Martin himself. Those bishops also said had the Pope had discussed Martin with his superiors, who then reproved him. Subsequent to the publication of CNA’s first article on the topic of the Pope’s remarks, Martin denied that his superiors had given him “a talking to,” as the anonymous bishops reported, and Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, 69, who had been at the meeting, denied that Pope Francis had been angry with Martin. 

“My recollection is that it was not Father Martin the Pope was talking about, but the way others tried to use that encounter, one way or the other,” Wester wrote.

“In my view, the language subtlety, yet incorrectly, leads the reader to believe that Father Martin was the issue while in fact, it was how others used their meeting that was in play,” he continued.  

“Furthermore, I have no memory at all of the Pope being angry, upset or annoyed. He spoke gently and patiently throughout our meeting.”

Now Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne, Wyoming has come forward to back Wester’s version of events.  

Wester’s account to the National Catholic Reporter “accurately describes the tone and substance of the short dialogue regarding Fr. James Martin,” Biegler told the dissident magazine.  

Biegler described the southwestern American bishops’ meeting with Pope Francis as a “cordial, forthright and encouraging conversation.” 

Like Aquila, Biegler noted that Pope Francis spoke Italian. Biegler said that the translator in attendance proved an “excellent translation.” But CNA emphasized the differing linguistic abilities of the American bishops present at their February 10 meeting with Pope Francis, saying that “for some bishops” it “relied on a translator.”

In addition CNA reported that Aquila thought “it is reasonable that some remarks from the Holy Father would have been interpreted in different ways by different bishops.”

Both Aquila and Biegler studied in Italy for a number of years. Aquila earned a Licentiate in Sacramental Theology from Rome’s San Anselmo University in 1990. Biegler received a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from the Gregorian in Rome in 1993 and returned to Rome as a faculty member for the North American College from 2003 until 2006. He later received a Licentiate in Biblical Theology from Rome’s University of St. Thomas.   

The reportage of episcopal recollections of the February 10 meeting reflects a divide not only between the anonymous American bishops cited by CNA and the named prelates who spoke to National Catholic Reporter, but between the media outlets. CNA stressed that Wester is “one of seven U.S. bishops to have endorsed Building a Bridge, Martin’s 2017 book on the Church and homosexuality,” and the National Catholic Reporter stressed that CNA’s editor-in-chief both worked for one of Martin’s episcopal critics and has recently criticized Martin himself.

“The author of the [original] CNA article, JD Flynn, is the news agency's editor-in-chief,” wrote NCR’s Heidi Schlumpf.

“He previously worked in the Lincoln, Nebraska, Diocese and the Denver Archdiocese, under Archbishop Charles Chaput, a frequent critic of Martin. Flynn was chancellor of Denver under current Archbishop Samuel Aquila, who attended the ad limina meeting,” she continued. 

“Flynn also wrote an essay critical of Martin, published in the conservative journal First Things the same week as the CNA article about the ad limina meeting.”

According to Martin, Pope Francis invited him to a private meeting at the Apostolic Palace while the pontiff greeted members of the plenary assembly of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Communications. Martin was appointed as a consultant to this department in 2017. 

The private audience took place for over 30 minutes, and Martin’s America magazine interpreted the meeting as a “highly significant public statement of support and encouragement” for the pontiff’s fellow Jesuit. Martin himself saw it as “a sign of the Holy Father’s care for L.G.B.T. people.”  

Martin tweeted that the meeting was “one of the highlights of [his] life” and that he felt “encouraged, consoled and inspired by the Holy Father.” While saying Pope Francis had asked him not to speak to the media about their discussion, he told a pro-homosexual group at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Manhattan that the pontiff had praised his book and told him to “continue [his] ministry in peace.” 


Vatican climate scientist says Church’s moral authority key to advancing global warming agenda

Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan said he believes that the Catholic Church has a key role to play in leading a 'moral revolution' on climate change.
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Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan (second to Pope Francis's right). University of California /
Diane Montagna By Diane Montagna

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By Diane Montagna
Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan meets with the pope. Photo: University of California / YouTube

ROME, February 25, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis’s Global Education Pact is a golden opportunity to use the moral authority of the Catholic Church to institute “cradle to grave climate literacy” for children as young as pre-kindergarten, a prominent member of the Vatican’s Academy of Sciences has said. 

Speaking at a Vatican workshop on the Global Education Pact, hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) on February 6–7, Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, director of the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, said the American public is not giving climate scientists and activists the “strong, unequivocal public support” they need to make “drastic changes” in society. 

“We have tried everything, and nothing is working,” Dr. Ramanathan admitted. He said, “What we need is societal transformation to garner such support,” adding that “education is a tool to make that transformation.”

Dr. Ramanathan, 74, was appointed to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. He said he has come to the conclusion through attending PAS meetings that “the quest for a sustainable planet and for a sustainable humanity must include cradle to grave climate literacy for everyone, including children in kindergarten, students in colleges, and adults all the way to senior citizens.”

In his talk, titled “Climate Change, Wellness and Education,” Dr. Ramanathan outlined one such cradle-to-grave education program called “Bending the Curve: Climate Solutions,” which he developed with academics and researchers at the University of California. The program, funded by the Gates Foundation, has been used to promote “climate literacy” among children pre-K to 12 in California and focuses on “solutions rather than science.”

He also said he is “already in discussion” with U.S. Catholic clergy, such as Bishop McElroy of San Diego, and is about to launch a new “education project” that “could be used by bishops and priests” to promote climate literacy among Catholics.

Dr. Ramanathan said he believes that having the Catholic Church’s support is key to advancing a “moral revolution” on climate change. “The transformational step may well be a massive mobilization of public opinion by the Vatican and other religions for collective action to safeguard the well-being of both humanity and the environment.”

In comments to LifeSite following his presentation at the Global Education Pact workshop, Dr. Ramanathan also said he believes that Pope Francis has a particularly pivotal role to play in advancing this revolution. “Pope Benedict was very supportive of the environment,” he said, “but after Pope Francis [was elected], when I briefed him, I told him that he had become a modern leader for the whole world — to Catholics but beyond.”

“I saw in this a great opportunity, because the climate change issue has become a moral issue,” Dr. Ramanathan continued. “After the 2014 [PAS] meeting on Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature: Our Responsibility, we all went and met Pope Francis in the parking lot outside the Casa Santa Marta. I told him about the morality of this issue, that most of the pollution which is causing climate change is caused by the wealthiest one billion people. And then I told him there were three billion who had not even discovered fossil fuels and they are still living in seventeenth-century technologies and they would be seriously impacted by this.”

The climate scientist noted that six or seven months later, Pope Francis published Laudato Si’. There, he said, “Pope Francis has a famous sentence. He says: the cry of the earth should be heard with the cry of the poor. So, you see, he linked environmental justice — that’s the ‘cry of the earth’ — with social justice, which is the ‘cry of the poor.’” 

“That’s why now I work with faith communities and religious communities,” Dr. Ramanathan explained. “As a scientist, I have no authority to talk about moral issues. But faith leaders like Pope Francis have the authority.”

Particularly with the American public, “scientists like me need a way to talk to the people directly, outside politics,” Dr. Ramanathan said. “I find the most effective way to do that is to talk to the priests, the bishops, faith leaders,” he added.

In addition to his collaboration with Bishop McElroy of San Diego, Dr. Ramanathan said he is also working closely with Richard Miller at the Jesuit-run Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and with Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

Asked to comment further on the importance of the Catholic Church’s moral authority on climate issues, Dr. Ramanathan said he didn’t wish to sound “American-superior” but believes that the participation of America is key to solving the problem. “It would be nice if American Catholic churches would take the pope’s [words] to a higher class,” he said.

Dr. Ramanathan told LifeSite he sees his role as “trying to take climate change out of politics.”

“I have found churches to be that non-political forum. Because both conservatives and liberals go to the same church. There’s no liberal church and no conservative church. That is why I find the key to solving the problem is for academics to form alliances with religions,” he said.

Pressed on whether he thinks overzealous climate activists are using scare tactics to turn children into political activists, also through education, the longtime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences said he believes “we are sending our children on a plane that’s going to crash if we don’t do anything” about climate change. “In some way they have to know the reality,” he said, “but if you’ve paralyzed them, then you’ve done more damage.”


Vatican Abp organizing Global Education Pact touts pope’s ‘new humanism’ where God ‘withdraws’

Vatican archbishop Vincenzo Zani said Pope Francis’s ‘new humanism’ centers on a God who ‘creates but then withdraws.’
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Abp. Vincenzo Zani, secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education.
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By Diane Montagna

ROME, February 25, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — The Vatican prelate tasked with organizing the Global Education Pact to be signed at the Vatican on May 14 has explained the theological vision at the heart of Pope Francis’s “new humanism,” in which God withdraws in order to allow for the possibility of human freedom.

Speaking to LifeSite at a Global Education Pact workshop, hosted at the Vatican by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on February 6–7 (see full text below), Archbishop Vincenzo Zani, secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, said: “[T]he pope, in the message with which he launched the initiative ... makes reference to the need to launch a ‘new humanism.’” 

Archbishop Zani explained this vision with reference to Michelangelo’s depiction of Creation in the Sistine Chapel, where Pope Francis will preside over an interreligious event to launch the Global Education Pact on May 13. “The finger of God encounters the finger of man but they do not touch[.] ... [W]e see God who gives man strength, liberty and life but leaves him free. It is an encounter of freedom where there is a presence of God that does not crush man but frees him,” he said.

Archbishop Zani’s vision is in marked contrast to the traditional Catholic understanding of God’s omnipotence, which is the cause of and not an obstacle to human freedom. The idea that God’s actions exclude those of his creatures is characteristic of the eighteenth-century heresy of deism, which professes a finite “watchmaker” God who is not the author of reality but a powerful agent within the same reality as his “creatures.”

The concept of the supernatural, at the heart of the Christian revelation, is impossible to reconcile with deism. It is also notable in the interview that Archbishop Zani places his emphasis in regard to man’s alienation from God upon the sin of Cain and not that of Adam and Eve. The sin of Cain, being a social disruption, is easily understandable apart from the supernatural, while the sin of Adam (which preceded it and is more fundamental) is directly against God and against the gratuity of the supernatural life (i.e., grace) that God has offered to man. 

In LifeSite’s interview with Archbishop Zani, we also discussed the Global Education Pact “manifesto” that will be signed at a globally televised event on May 14, its relation to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal on education, and the role the other monothestic religions play in the Global Education Pact initiative.

Archbishop Zani claimed that the Pact was initiated not by Pope Francis, but by the “other monotheistic religions.” The logistics of such a move are hard to imagine, as the most recent Jewish high priest, Phannias ben Samuel, died in A.D. 70 and the last caliph of Islam, Abdulmejid II, was deposed in 1924.

Here below is our interview with Archbishop Vincenzo Zani, secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

LifeSite: Archbishop Zani, what is the role of the other two monotheistic religions at the May 14 Global Education Pact event? It has been said that this event comes at their request.

Archbishop Zani: Yes, the request came also from them. It was motivated by the fact that they want from the pope a word of ethical and moral authority. They recognize the pope’s authority in the world, which has relevance throughout the world, and so they want to discuss with the pope the theme of education. They believe that education is a very important tool, but you cannot educate in a neutral culture where there are no reference points. These figures came to visit the pope to say: we believe that when the pope speaks a word, this word is well founded and is relevant.

Where is this foundation? Why do they see this in the pope? Because they have a common root. All monotheistic religions have a common root, but other religions also make reference to it. We heard just a short time ago, for example, from this Hindu [at the PAS conference]. Also Buddhists also want to come, and so the heads of other religions are invited. But the request came from the other monotheistic religions because they said: here we have a reference point. And that is why the pope, in the message with which he launched the initiative, invites everyone, but he makes reference to the need to launch a “new humanism.”

With the heads of religions, there will be a special moment for them in the Sistine Chapel on May 13, with an artistic and cultural event that intends to reflect on Michelangelo’s depiction of Creation, in which we see the finger of God encounters the finger of man, but they do not touch. In this depiction of the Creation, we see God who gives man strength, liberty, and life but leaves him free. It is an encounter of freedom where there is a presence of God that does not crush man, but frees him. He launches him in his responsibility. Here we have two very important concepts. The Christian idea is that of Creation, and it is not only Christian. The idea belongs to the three monotheistic religions. Therefore, that is the very important root. The rest comes from it. It’s the centrality of the person. God creates but then withdraws. He leaves man, saying, “Go!”

Pardon me, but is this really the Christian idea of man’s creation? As Christians we do not believe in a God who leaves us alone. We believe in His supernatural action in the world.

Yes, but in the moment when God creates man, he gives him intelligence, heart, and the capacity for activity, and he tells him: “Go!” Then, at a certain point, he says: “Where is your brother?” Therefore, God does not withdraw. He is there, but he doesn’t want to replace man. And so, in the moment of Creation — this is particularly Christian because Christianity has its own specific vision — at a certain point, God sees man disoriented, and he sends his Son — the Incarnation. At this point, then, we find the specifically Christian dimension, where God himself becomes nothing in order to elevate humanity. This is the new humanism. This is the new humanism; that is, it is the humanism that gets back on its feet, resumes the journey of relationship to God, doesn’t cut off this relationship, but strengthens it, and especially — since man is made in the image and likeness of God — this impression of God in the soul of man has to be understood and developed.

God is not made in my image; I am made in the image of God. What is God? God is love. God is agape. God is relation: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — the Trinitarian dimension of God. This is the foundation of freedom and relationship and of giving one’s life for the other. If we want to go to the heart of education from a particularly Christian point of view, we have to go to the Trinitarian root.

Yes, but on the practical level, what is the role of the other monotheistic religions — or the Buddhists, for example — in the May event?

They are invited to participate, to listen, to say, and to hear that everyone in the world has an important task. It’s not that the pope, with the Global Education Pact, wants to absorb everything and himself become the point of reference. This isn’t the vision. It’s  a matter of putting himself at the service of all of humanity in freedom. It’s clear that the first to welcome this message are Catholics, because there is revelation, there is truth that we need to understand better, that we need to develop. Christian education has extraordinary potential that we don’t always develop. Christian education needs to be rethought. In this case, it is offered as a vision.

Then, of course, one cannot impose. At this point, everyone can find his own space within this experience that is beginning. In this sense, we also need to realize that in the world we have 218,000 Catholic schools that are attended by over six million students, 35 percent of whom are not Christian, not Catholics, but attend because they appreciate Christian education. And so, we have a very great responsibility.

And so this is how we conceive of the Educational Pact, but we need to agree because we have a global problem: the care of creation, of the future of the world. Therefore, education is an important tool for responding to the many challenges that we have today. In that sense, the pope will invite the representatives of religions and other bodies to sign a manifesto with the fundamental principles of education for the future.

Who is responsible for drafting the Global Education Pact manifesto?

A group of experts has been working on it for over a year. It has already been well prepared.

Can you say who is part of this group?

No. They are experts from various disciplines, of various sensibilities, of various points of view because education is not only a matter of pedagogy in the strict sense. We have to have a vision. There are anthropologists, scientists, those for the theme of peace. So the group is already quite varied.

Does the group comprise representatives from different religions?


Does UNESCO have an important role to play in drafting the manifesto? Are they part of this group?

No, because the Holy See is a permanent observer to UNESCO and works with UNESCO. But in this sense, the pope didn’t want to oblige them. It’s more the civil society. Organizations including the United Nations and UNESCO are invited in May. But they are only invited; they are not involved with this type of work. Rather, the pope wants to work with the world of culture, science, art, sport, and religions. It’s the civil society, coordinated, that offers this possibility for collaboration, but the collaboration will come after. That is, we know what UNESCO and the United Nations want because we are always working together. We don’t want to impose or condition; we need to help open a new path of collaboration.

In your presentation here at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences workshop, you said the Via della Conciliazione will be transformed for several days into an education village. What can you tell us about the concluding event to be held in St. Peter’s Square on May 14?

It won’t be held in the Square. It will be held in the Paul VI Hall, because it is more respectful of the various sensibilities; it’s more neutral. It will be held there, but it will be transmitted across the world. One can connect, and there will be a moment when everyone will be able to demonstrate the major problems today ...

Such as?

Such as, for example, the major tensions, the climate, violence, marginalization, poverty — all that assails humanity today, in order to say: what can education do? Then, the young people who are present will pose questions to the great ones of the earth, and then the representatives of the various categories, Nobel Peace Prize winners, etc. will be invited to sign the manifesto. This will be the concluding symbolic moment of the event on May 14.

But at the same time, as you said in your presentation here at the PAS workshop, it will be just the beginning.

Yes, on the four themes that I mentioned in my presentation [rights, ecology, peace, and solidarity]. But the ministers of education from all over the world will participate the day after, on May 15, and have an opportunity to say: yesterday the manifesto was signed, and now what do we do? This is their task, not ours. But we will invite them, and the ministers of education who accept our invitation will meet at the Lateran University on the morning of May 15.

You mentioned that the education village to be built in May on the Via della Conciliazione will last several days.

Yes, it will last one week, and we will showcase experience, debate, meetings with young people, students, families, and make it open to all who wish to visit from 10:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M.

What is the relationship between this initiative and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), specifically the SDG goal on education? 

There are three or four major events this year. One of them is the Economy of Francis in Assisi. We haven’t spoken much about this because it’s another thing, but we will ask that the conclusions at Assisi be incorporated into the village.

Will the conclusions from the Economy of Francis event also be incorporated into the manifesto?

Something will be included in the manifesto, but we need to keep things distinct; otherwise, we will create confusion. Immediately after the Economy of Francis, there will be other events promoted in order to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’. After us, the Dicastery for Integral Human Development will do something on Laudato Si’. This is the third thing. The fourth is the COP, which will be in December, and so there is considerable preparation for that.

They are four distinct things. Education is of interest in all of these, it’s clear. But we also need to leave things somewhat distinct. Afterward, we will see about how to map out these four great themes [I spoke about in my presentation]: rights, ecology, peace, and solidarity. It’s a task that needs to be directed for the future.

What exactly is the role of the Pontifical Foundation Scholas Occurrentes in the Global Education Pact?

Yes, yes. It’s mixed in. They are working together with us.

But what do they do?

They have an important instrument, which is the digital platform, and they are in contact with a great many schools, children of the world, that are already working and mobilizing themselves for this event. Many of them are on the periphery and will follow the whole event from several major cities. Also universities will connect to the event in May, especially the final event in the Paul VI Hall. Using Mondovisione [transcontinental satellite transmission]. There are already universities connecting in order to carry out local initiatives.

Who is paying for the Global Education Pact event? Is the Vatican paying?

We are looking for foundations who will give us a hand to organize it. Yes, yes. The Vatican hardly has anything. We are looking for outside help.

Here at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences workshop on the Global Education Pact, we heard Havard economist David Bloom speak about population growth as a problem. He also spoke positively about the “causal link” between education and population reduction. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals promote reproductive rights, which in U.N. language signifies contraception and abortion. And according to UNESCO, the 2030 SDG for education seeks to promote “LGBT” rights. The Church cannot abandon Christ in order to befriend the world. How does the Church navigate agreements like the Global Education Pact?

On the website for the Congregation for Catholic Education, one can find a document on gender issued last year. We have a very clear view. We don’t impose it, but it is certainly very clear. Our education is based on these principles. When you educate, you encounter problems, and you have to face these problems. So you listen, you understand the problem and the suffering, but I can’t eliminate my vision, the vision of the human person, of human freedom, of rights, of the family. This is precisely one of the points the pope emphasizes. He has brought up the role of the family and the school, the family and society, and we need to recover this dimension. So we enter into a discussion about what the family is, the Christian vision of the family and the human person.

Is the Church ready to say and teach this to the world?

Right now, we are talking about the Global Education Pact, which is not the universal “Big Bang.” It’s a special moment when the Church: after a very clear reflection, we will launch a commitment to education. It’s obvious that, on all four of these themes that we mentioned before, the vision has to be translated into something concrete. What do human dignity and rights mean? And this is already one point we need to think over in terms of our vision and the vision of others. Ecology, but not an abstract ecology — an integral ecology that takes into consideration the whole person. Peace, the discussion on peace, the differences, being citizens in a world of tension. What are the elements that will help us to be citizens of this world but ones who also propose and don’t just undergo? Solidarity is the fourth aspect. There’s also service and availability, but also here we have very clear ideas.

Will there be anything in the manifesto about the mother’s and father’s rights — i.e. the primary right of the parents to educate their children?

It would seem to me yes, because it is fundamental and because it is natural. It is natural, and the Church sees this. It is very important.


Cardinal who advises Pope Francis: Path to married priests still ‘open’

In order to take everybody along, Cardinal Oswald Gracias said, 'we go slower than we would like to go because of that'
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Cardinal Oswald Gracias in a 2019 interview EWTN / Youtube screen grab
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February 25, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Oswald Gracias, a member of the Pope's C6 Council of Cardinals as well as the head of the Indian bishops' conference, has claimed in an interview that the path to married priests is still “open.” 

He calls Pope Francis “very clever” by “endorsing the final document” of the Amazon Synod, thus leaving it “a valid reference point.”

In the interview, Gracias also calls for greater responsibilities for women in the Catholic Church.

The final document of the October 2019 Amazon Synod had endorsed to ordain to the priesthood married men who are already deacons (no. 111)  and also proposed to support further study the question of the female diaconate (no 103).

Gracias, who just had participated at the February 17-19 meeting of the Council of Cardinals which advises Francis, thus endorses an approach to the Pope's post-synodal exhortation Querida Amazonia which leaves all doors open. Querida Amazonia has been presented to the public on February 12, and, ever since, Catholics are trying to determine what the possible consequences of this new papal document might be.

The cardinal from South Asia stresses in this new interview with the dissident National Catholic Reporter that the Pope was under many “pressures” and that there are “people who do not want any change,” while at the same time others “want overnight changes.” 

“He's got to carry everybody with him,” Gracias explains, also in light of the fact that the Pope seeks “synodality.” In order to take everybody along, the cardinal adds, “we go slower than we would like to go because of that.” 

Commenting on Querida Amazonia, Gracias calls it “very clever” that the Pope is “endorsing the final document.” 

“Therefore the final document remains a valid reference point,” he explains. With regard to the question of the married priests, that means for the prelate that “it's open.” 

“He's not excluded any part of the final document – he's not excluded any part of it,” he states.

Gracias also comes back in this new interview to a proposal he himself had made during last year's Amazon Synod. “I had suggested in my intervention that, following present canon law, there's a possibility,” that the Holy See can grant “a dispensation” in the case of a married man who wishes to become a priest. Accordingly, the cardinal had then suggested that Amazon bishops, or groups of them, could petition the Vatican to grant them such a dispensation. Since the Pope, in his recent exhortation, did not address this matter directly, this possibility still is “open,” also in light of the Pope's “endorsing the [final] document. 

About possible ministries for women or other leading roles for them, Cardinal Gracias states that “we have not applied our mind to it.” Here, he explicitly mentions “leadership in the church parish community,” a topic which is mentioned by Pope Francis's new exhortation in a positive manner. As a matter of fact, the Pope calls for lay leadership in church communities in the Amazon region.

In his document (no. 94), Pope Francis writes: “A Church of Amazonian features requires the stable presence of mature and lay leaders endowed with authority,” and he adds about the role of women the following in no. 103:

In a synodal Church, those women who in fact have a central part to play in Amazonian communities should have access to positions, including ecclesial services, that do not entail Holy Orders and that can better signify the role that is theirs. Here it should be noted that these services entail stability, public recognition and a commission from the bishop. This would also allow women to have a real and effective impact on the organization, the most important decisions and the direction of communities, while continuing to do so in a way that reflects their womanhood.

Similarly to Cardinal Gracias, the Pope's ghostwriter and theological adviser, Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernàndez, had also recently stated in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that the Pope endorsed a stronger lay leadership in the Amazon region and that the married priesthood and “other proposals” of the Amazon Synod are not “off the table,” but, instead, will come up again with respect to a new “Amazonian rite” to be developed. This, according to the Argentine prelate, is part of a “synodal novelty” established by Pope Francis, also in his writing a “complementary” text to the Amazon Synod's final document “without canceling it.

Phyllis Zagano, a member of the 2016 female deacon commission and a promoter of the female diaconate, sounds similarly positive about the new papal exhortation and actually makes the same proposal as Cardinal Gracias.

In her February 21 article – which is titled “It is time to ask, formally, for married priests and woman deacons” – she states: “Francis suggests more deacons and lay ecclesial ministers recognized by their bishops to run parishes, as well as more priests from the Amazon and elsewhere.” She points out that “Apostolic exhortations neither clarify doctrine nor make law” and that the Pope “presents both the exhortation and the final document.”

In order to establish such changes, the theology professor explains, the Pope would have to issue a “motu proprio”. But for this, she adds, the local bishops' conferences would need to “make a formal request.” States Zagano: “But the apostolic exhortation is not the answer. Nor can it be. The formal response to the disciplinary questions about ordaining married men as priests or women as deacons can come only as the response to a formal request. The answer would most likely come in a motu proprio modifying canon law.”

She concludes her optimistic article with the words: “Querida Amazonia is the pope's heartfelt commentary on the situation as it is. It is up to the people of God to continue to ask for what they need, and up to the bishops to act on their behalf.”

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