Pope Francis with the embassadors of Ucrania, Rusia, Palestina e Israel Photo: Vatican Media

Vatican Chronicles: Vatican, Capital of Laughter; Pope Francis and Picnic in His Gardens with Israel, Palestine, Ukraine and Russia

Week of June 3 to 9

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(ZENIT News / Rome, 06.10.2024).- No, it’s not just a way of saying. On Friday, June 14, the Vatican will be the “capital of laughter,” because the Pope has convened over 100 people, dedicated to humourism and comedyto establish a link between the Catholic Church and comedians from countries such as the United States, Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Poland, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, France, Germany, Ireland, East Timor and Italy (the latter with the largest number of guests).

Among the guests are names of the stature of Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jim Gaffigan, Whoopi Goldberg, James Martin, Tig Notaro, Chris Rock, Conan O’Brien and, from the Spanish-speaking realm, Florinda Meza (Mrs Florinda in the series of Chavo of 8) and Chumel Torres.

What didn’t spark that much laughter was the Pope’s appeal to rich countries to condone poor countries’ debt, in the context of the Jubilee, which the Catholic Church will celebrate in 2025. Quoting Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis made the appeal in the context of the “Debt Crisis in the Global South” Meeting, sponsored by the Pontifical Academies of Sciences. In fact, the Pope already made this appeal in the Bull convoking the Jubilee.

Those we did see smile in the Vatican were the football players of the Croatian team, as the Holy Father received them in audience. We saw a very smiling Luka Modrić and, as far as is known, very edified as he is a practicing Catholic. Practitioners also (needless to say!) was the group of Spanish priests who, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of their Ordination, were received by the Pope himself in Casa Santa Maria, his residence. ZENIT noted something that only a few other media reported later: Pope Francis gave as advice to priests not only to hear confessions but also to go to Confession themselves, advice that is worth not only for those priests in particular.

In fact, the Pontiff spoke about priestly life to the members of the Dicastery for the Clergy, in the context of their Plenary Assembly. Taking up again the topics he was treating, the Pope addressed the subject of the permanent formation of the clergy, the care of vocations, and the permanent diaconate. Something that did not go unnoticed on this occasion, was the Pope’s rare public recognition of the many good priests that exist:

“(. . .) I would like first of all to express my gratitude, my affection and my closeness to priests and deacons worldwide. Many times I have warned against the dangers of clericalism and of spiritual worldliness, but I’m very conscious that the vast majority of priests work with so much generosity and spirit of faith for the good of the holy People of God, bearing the weight of so much fatigue and facing pastoral and spiritual challenges that sometimes are not easy.”

In mid-week, specifically on Wednesday, June 5, the Pope made official what was already known in an officious way, that he will publish a document on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. However, he gave more details: the first is that the document will come out in September 2024 and, the second, the subject it will address: “I’m pleased to prepare a document that brings together the valuable reflections of previous magisterial texts and of a long history that goes back to the Sacred Scriptures, to propose again today to the whole Church this worship full of spiritual beauty.” Pope Francis believes that “it will do us very good to meditate on these different aspects of the Lord’s love, which can illumine the path of ecclesial renewal, and which can also say something significant to a world that seems to have lost heart. I ask you to accompany me in prayer during this time of preparation; the intention is to make this document public next September.”

A day after this announcement, the Pope went to the outskirts of the city, of which he is Bishop, to hold a meeting in a neighbouring condominium. It’s the third time the Holy Father does this, and more are planned in the context of an initiative of preparation for the Jubilee, called “Schools of Prayer.” Allow me a confession: many of us journalists, who cover the Vatican, were warned in advance that the Pope would go to a place in the city (we were given the time, day, address, etc.). Some went to the place, but the Pope didn’t arrive on the anticipated day and time . . . He didn’t arrive at that place, but yes at the one we reported. Those who wanted to get an exclusive, didn’t get it. So it happens . . .

We end with three activities of the Holy Father (but what an agenda the Pope had this past week!): one with diplomats, another with choirs and a third for peace.

On Saturday, June 8, the Pontiff met in the Vatican with the new Ambassadors of Ethiopia, Zambia, Tanzania, Burundi, Qatar and Mauritania. It is a diplomatic protocol rule that one who is appointed Ambassador of one country to another (in this case to Holy See) is obliged to introduce him/herself to the Head of State (in this case the Pope), to present his/her “Letters of Credence” with which the Government of the country of origin accredits him/her as official Ambassador to that other country. Sometimes the Pope receives those Ambassadors alone (the previous week, for instance, he received the Letters of Credence of the Ambassador of Argentina), at other times, in a group, as happened on this occasion. The Pope took advantage to give the Ambassadors three pieces of advice, advice that perhaps will also occupy Monsignor Georg Gänswein, former private Secretary of Benedict XVI, every time the echoes of the Vatican walls make his name resonate to take care of the Vatican’s Embassy in the Principality of Liechtenstein . . .

And, as regards the choirs, if with comedians the Vatican will be the capital of laughter, with the choirs of numerous countries of the world  the Vatican was first capital of music, as there was an international meeting for choirs in the context of the 40th anniversary of the Choir of the Diocese of Rome. The Pope received them in audience and spoke to them of harmony, communion and joy. It’s impressive how the Pope also knows what happens in ecclesial groups such as choirs; hence the fact he said to them specifically:

“Don’t let the world’s mentality contaminate your own interest — ambitions, jealousies, divisions, all these things that, as you well know, can enter the life of a choir, of a community, becoming environments that aren’t joyful but sad and boring, until they break up.”

And now we will end and we do so in the Pope’s gardens. A picnic for peace was held there on Saturday afternoon, June 8. Yes, we say picnic, because the Pope fed those listening to him with words of peace.

In the context of the 10th anniversary — of those that at the time were Presidents of Israel and Palestine –, an olive tree was planted in those very gardens, the Pope having brought together the Ambassadors of several countries and some twenty Cardinals. Among them were four Ambassadors of countries with which the Holy See has diplomatic relations, but which are at war with one another: Russia and Ukraine and Palestine and Israel.

It was impressive to see those five men together and, undoubtedly, with a yearning for their people: peace, a peace that “is not obtained only with paper agreements or tables of human and political commitment, but that is born of transformed hearts, that arises when each one of us is reached and touched by God’s love, which dissolves our egoisms, breaks our prejudices and gives us the pleasure and joy of reciprocal friendship, fraternity and solidarity” (Pope Francis’ words).

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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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