On Friday, February 23, Cardinal Cantalamessa directed the first Lenten sermon to the Roman Curia in Paul VI Hall. Photo: Vatican Media

Vatican Chronicles: Pope Francis, His Real Retreat, News About Rupnik and the German Schism that Didn’t Happen

The week of February 19-25, 2024.

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(ZENIT News / Rome, 25.02.2024).- By a tradition of debatable historical origins, the Pope’s theologian is a Dominican and his preacher a Franciscan. That’s why twice a year, one in Advent and another in Lent, the Pope’s preacher addresses a series of meditations to the Pontiff and to the Roman Curia. The Pope’s current theologian is Dominican Wojciech Giertych and his preacher is Franciscan Capuchin Rainiero Cantalamessa.

On Friday, February 23, Cardinal Cantalamessa directed the first Lenten sermon  to the Roman Curia in Paul VI Hall. An empty chair was evident: Pope Francis’. Where was the Pope? That same day, but later, the Holy Father ended his annual Spiritual Exercises. He began them on Sunday, February 18 and ended them this past Friday afternoon. It’s not known if someone preached to him personally, so it’s quite probable that he himself used some book with which to meditate. A clue of what the Pope uses for meditation we usually find in two instances: the books he gives Cardinals on the occasion of his Christmas greetings and those he gives priests of the diocese of Rome at the end of the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass.

Notwithstanding the Exercises and a very different agenda to be able to take part in the Retreat, the Hoy Father made news last week: on February 23 he appointed a new Secretary for the Dicastery for Christian Unity, on the 24th  he accepted the resignation of Polish Bishop Szczecin-Kamień (accused of covering up abuse cases). That same Saturday he cancelled planned audiences “due to a slight cold.” One of the cancelled audiences was that planned with the Deacons of the Diocese of Rome, who will soon receive priestly Ordination. By Sunday, February 25, the Holy Father felt well and was able to pray the Angelus with 20,000 pilgrims — according to the Vatican Gendarmerie –, in Saint Peter’s Square.  Pope Francis took advantage of the occasion to recall that February 24 marked two years since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

However, perhaps the most important news, which began the week, was the letter three Cardinals wrote on behalf of the Pope to the German Bishops, who held their Plenary Assembly in Augsburg from February 19-22. Dated February 16, the letter of Cardinals Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State; Fernández, Prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Prevost, Prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, communicated to the Bishops that if they proceeded with a vote for a Synodal Committee, they would be going not only against Canon Law rules but against the Pope’s will and, hence, against communion with the whole Church.

In the end, the Bishops were obedient and desisted. Although there was no schism, they expressed their criticisms to the Vatican. What is the problem with that Synodal Committee? The problem is that it supplants the Bishop’s personal authority in the territory for which he has been appointed Pastor. The Committee is a hybrid entity of lay people and some representatives of the Episcopate who could hold anyone accountable, impose rules and pastoral practices as they wish. As is no doubt known, the whole of this “German Synodal Way” — distinct from the theme of the “Synod on Synodality” being lived at the level of the universal Church –, resulted from the crisis of abuses in Germany. The Bishops wished to see the Ordained Ministry and with it, celibacy, as the exclusive cause of the evils of the Church. Interestingly, published a few weeks before, were reports on abuses in the German Protestant Church, where the clergy is not celibate . . . And the data is no less impressive than that which came out of the Catholic Church. Now who is to be blamed? Certainly one of the most “curious” fruits of the German Episcopate’s Assembly was the sui generis  appointment –for the first time in history –, of a Bishop in charge of “queer” pastoral care, namely, the rainbow community.

Moreover, the lack of information coming from the Pope and the Vatican (remember that the Pope asked all the Heads of the Dicasteries and Secretaries to take part in Spiritual Exercises, although we have met with at least three persons in public events this week, and many more have been seen posting on their social networks) made it possible for a press conference on Wednesday, February 21, about the Rupnik case to have a greater echo.

Two victims of the priest Marko Ivan Rupnik showed their face and gave their name for the first time in public, telling the press many of the details of the sexual, psychological, physical and spiritual abuses to which the famous artist and former Jesuit subjected them. The press conference took place in Rome and the date chosen was not random: this month marks the 5th anniversary of the Summit against sexual abuses in the Church, called by Pope Francis. By the way, we are close to hearing if the Lourdes Shrine will remove Rupnik’s mosaics from the Shrine. A Commission established by the local Bishop has been discussing it for months. The decision will affect many other shrines and churches that have Rupnik mosaics, among others, for example, Aparecida, in Brazil; San Giovanni Rotondo, in Italy, and Madrid’s Cathedral de la Almudena, in Spain.

We close this chronicle with an event: the meeting on February 20 of the Synodal and Theological Commission of the Russian Orthodox Church, which focused on the subject of Fiducia Supplicans. Here is its conclusion:

“The participants in the meeting expressed their positions on the theological content of the Declaration ‘Fiducia Supplicans,’which for the first time in the Catholic Church proposes forms of blessing of “unions between persons of the same sex.” The members of the Biblical Theological Synodal Commission were unanimous in [stating] that this innovation reflects a marked departure from Christian moral teaching.”

We spoke at the beginning of the Pope’s theologian. The Preacher is concerned with preaching. And the theologian? According to an explanation of Cardinal Georges Cottier, a former theologian (now deceased) of the Pope, the theologian’s task is “to read and give the ‘nihil obstat’ to all the texts that the Holy Father’s collaborators prepare, who assist him in the preparation of his addresses, messages, etc. with the exception of those that affect relations with the Diplomatic Corps  and Vatican diplomacy.” It would be interesting to know what the Pope’s theologian would respond to the Russian Orthodox.

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Jorge Enrique Mújica

Licenciado en filosofía por el Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum, de Roma, y “veterano” colaborador de medios impresos y digitales sobre argumentos religiosos y de comunicación. En la cuenta de Twitter: https://twitter.com/web_pastor, habla de Dios e internet y Church and media: evangelidigitalización."

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