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Fr Rosica’s commentary on the 5th anniversary of Pope Francis’ pontificate

Credit: lastampa.it

Much has been written about the first five years of Pope Francis’ Petrine Ministry. Having accompanied him, literally, into the conclave that elected this Argentine Jesuit Bishop of Rome on 13 March 2013, I have followed him closely over the past five years of his remarkable impact on the Church and on the entire world. I have listened to his admirers, his disciples and his critics. I wish to offer these brief reflections, fully aware that so much more can be said.

Since March 2013, our Church has entered a new phase. Pope Francis is pointing each day to how the mind and heart meet in the love of God and the love of neighbor. And most of all, Francis reminds us day in and day out how much we need Jesus, and also how much we need one another along the journey.

Having served as one of the official spokespersons at the Vatican during the historic Papal transition of 2013, I must return to a very programmatic text for the Pontificate now unfolding before our very eyes. It is a Cardinal’s intervention during the pre-conclave meetings of Cardinals on the morning of 7 March  2013. It was entitled: The Sweet and Comforting Joy of Evangelising. The Cardinal began by reminding his brother Cardinals in that upper room, “Evangelisation is the raison d’etre of the Church — “the sweet and comforting joy of evangelising”. It is Jesus Christ himself who impels us from within. The Cardinal offered four simple yet profound points.

– To evangelise implies apostolic zeal. To evangelise implies a desire in the Church to come out of herself. The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries not only in the geographic sense but also the existential peripheries: those of the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance, of doing without religion, of thought and of all misery.

– When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelise, she becomes self-referent and then she gets sick. (cf. The hunchback woman of the Gospel). The evils that over the course of time happen in ecclesial institutions have their root in a self-reference and a sort of theological narcissism. In the book of Revelation, Jesus says that he is at the door and knocks. Evidently the text refers to his knocking from outside in order to enter but I think of the times in which Jesus knocks from within so that we will let him come out. The self-referent Church keeps Jesus Christ within herself and does not let him come out.

– When the Church is self-referent without realising it, she believes she has her own light. She ceases to be the mysterium lunae and gives way to that very great evil which is spiritual worldliness. The self-referent Church lives to give glory only to one another. In simple terms, there are two images of the Church: the evangelising Church that comes out of herself: “Hearing the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith” – the first words of the Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, and the worldly Church that lives within herself, of herself, for herself. This must give light to the possible changes and reforms which must be made for the salvation of souls.

– Thinking of the next Pope, he must be a man that from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to come out to the existential peripheries, that helps her to be the fruitful mother who lives from the sweet and comforting joy of evangelising.

That Cardinal was the Archbishop of Buenos Aries whose name was Jorge Mario Bergoglio. His new name is Francis. He is a Jesuit. His humility has impressed many people around the entire world. His style has truly become substance. It is the most radically evangelical aspect of his spiritual reform of the papacy, and he has invited all Catholics, but especially the clergy, to reject success, wealth and power. Francis’ spiritual father, Ignatius of Loyola, insisted that a Jesuit is never to have an anti-ecclesial spirit, but always be open to how the spirit of God is working. The Jesuit commitment not to seek ecclesiastical office, even in the Society is an outgrowth of that experience. Francis has so interiorised those values that without hesitation he applies it to clerical and curial reform today.

In Ignatius’ eyes, humility is the virtue that brings us closest to Christ, and Pope Francis appears to be guiding the church and educating the clergy in that fundamental truth. Francis teaches us that precisely this humility is essential to make the New Evangelisation real and effective both within the church and in her encounter with the world. Pope Francis models for us each day a Church of humility, tenderness and mercy, an incarnational Church that walks with people on the journey. A Church that listens, discerns, accompanies, forgives, blesses, speaks boldly and courageously; a Church that weeps with those who weep and rejoices with those who rejoice. A Church that does everything she can to resist the temptation to reduce the faith to moralism; a Church that resists all attempts to disincarnate the message and the person she holds deep within her heart: Jesus Christ. A Church that strives to integrate people back into the community of faith. In the heart and mind of Pope Francis, we need “a church that is again capable of restoring citizenship to so many of its children that walk as if in exodus.”

Nor can I ever forget his parting words to his brother bishops of the United States of America in September 2015, as he took leave of them in St Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, DC. Francis spoke of the Church and priestly ministry that he envisions for America and for the world:

“…a Church which can gather around the family fire remains able to attract others. And not any fire, but the one which blazed forth on Easter morn. The risen Lord continues to challenge the Church’s pastors through the quiet plea of so many of our brothers and sisters: “Have you something to eat?” We need to recognise the Lord’s voice, as the apostles did on the shore of the lake of Tiberius (Jn 21:4-12). It becomes even more urgent to grow in the certainty that the embers of his presence, kindled in the fire of his passion, precede us and will never die out. Whenever this certainty weakens, we end up being caretakers of ash, and not guardians and dispensers of the true light and the warmth which causes our hearts to burn within us (Lk 24:32).”

The playbook and script for Francis’ Petrine Ministry do not emanate from Buenos Aires, nor from Rome, Loyola or Assisi. They come from Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Galilee and Emmaus where the whole story began in the first place! If various groups and individuals in the Church seem to have difficulty with Pope Francis, I wonder if their difficulties are not with Francis, but rather with his script, and the author of that script.

On the late afternoon of  13 March 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio received the call to go, rebuild, repair, renew and heal the church. There are those who delight in describing the new Pope as a bold, brazen revolutionary sent to rock the boat. Others think he has come to cause a massive shipwreck. But the only revolution that Pope Francis has inaugurated is a revolution of tenderness, the very words he used in his recent major letter on “The Joy of the Gospel.” [Evangelii Gaudium #88]

Many are calling Francis the great revolutionary. The only time he uses the word ‘revolution,’ is in Evangelii Gaudium paragraph 88, when he speaks about the revolution of tenderness of the Son of God who took on our flesh. I also think that there is another revolution that Francis is offering us: the revolution of normalcy. What Francis is showing us and modeling for us is normal Christian, pastoral behaviour. Whenever we are confronted by such normal, simple Christian behaviour, it throws some of us for a loop, because it’s more of a reflection on our own abnormal behavior and human cravings for ways of the world rather than the path of Gospel living that leads to holiness here below and in the life to come. Pope Francis’ normal Christian behaviour is for each of us a challenge, a consolation, and a form of tenderness that we’ve desired for, for a long time. He demands a lot while preaching about a God of mercy, by engaging joyfully with nonbelievers, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and those sitting on the fences of life – many who thought that Christianity has nothing left to add to the equations of life. Through the powerful and provocative messages deep within Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Sì and Amoris Laetitia, and daily reflections flowing from simple, Eucharistic celebrations in the chapel of a Vatican Guest House, Francis has connected with and encountered a humanity that hungers and thirsts for a message of hope and consolation.

We need the Francis revolution of tenderness, mercy and normalcy now more than ever before. I can only hope and pray that we learn from him and imitate him.  –  Fr Thomas Rosica csb, Vatican Insider

The pope’s new liturgy document: who was involved and what that tells us

An altar server holds a copy of a Roman Missal during Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Alexandria, Va., in this 2011 file photo. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

Massimo Faggioli, a theology professor at Villanova University Philadelphia, shares his analysis on Pope Francis’ newest document on liturgical translations on America the Jesuit Review, on 12 Sept 2017.

“Magnum Principium” is one of the major documents of Francis’ pontificate. For this reason, it deserves an analysis that is not only one of historical-theological context—and not just from the point of view of its possible consequences for the liturgical texts in English—but also an analysis of the institutional context in which it was decided and published.

The establishment of national bishops’ conferences, to which the apostolic letter gives back authority in matters of translations of liturgical texts, was the most important and effective institutional reform of the Second Vatican Council. Even before the council’s “Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office in the Church” (1965), which mandated the creation of national bishops’ conferences in all nations, the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,” approved in December 1963, relied on this new (though certainly present in different forms in the early centuries of Christianity) governing structure in the Catholic Church. This was part of the council fathers’ larger vision for a new relationship between Rome and the local churches. In this sense, Francis addresses the issue of the translations of liturgical texts in the context of his vision for the church and the role of the Roman Curia.

“Magnum Principium” also continues a pattern that has proven one of the most interesting elements of this pontificate. Francis’ efforts to reform the Roman Curia and decentralise the government of the Roman Catholic Church have tended to bypass and evade the role of the congregations of the Roman Curia. For example, “Magnum Principium” was issued by the pope motu proprio (“on his own initiative”), not as an instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments or a joint document of more than one congregation. It is also notable that “Magnum Principium” was published during a papal trip abroad. It was published the day Francis was in Medellín, Colombia [9 Sept 2017], where the foundational event for the post-Vatican II church in Latin America took place: the continental conference of CELAM (the council of the Roman Catholic bishops of Latin America) in 1968. If it was a coincidence, it was a very interesting one.

The document must also be read in the context of the recent history of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and the recurring tensions between Pope Francis and Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of the congregation and the most visible critic of this pontificate from inside the Roman Curia. It is hard to imagine much of a role for Cardinal Sarah, who was appointed prefect by Francis in November 2014, in the crafting of this text. The prefect is not mentioned, and the official commentary accompanying the publication of “Magnum Principium” does not have his signature but instead that of the secretary of the congregation, Archbishop Arthur Roche (appointed by Benedict XVI in June 2012 to replace Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, who was made vice president of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” by Benedict XVI). Archbishop Roche was chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy between 2003 and 2012, when the commission oversaw the new English translation of the Mass.

In the apostolic letter, Francis says that he relied on a commission of bishops and experts. We do not know the names of the members, but in October 2016 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments went through a major change of personnel, with the appointment of 27 new members. Among them was the former liturgist for St John Paul II, Archbishop Piero Marini. Among those removed from the two congregations were the cardinals Angelo Scola (Milan), Angelo Bagnasco (Genoa) and Peter Erdo (Esztergom-Budapest). Perhaps more important, however, were the departures of these four cardinals: George Pell (Secretariat for the Economy), Raymond Burke (Knights of Malta), Marc Ouellet (Congregation for Bishops) and Malcolm Ranjith (Colombo, Sri Lanka). New appointees included Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state; and a new cardinal who very much shares Francis’ ecclesiology, John Atcherley Dew, archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand.

The tension between the pope and Cardinal Sarah is particularly interesting because it seems in part to be the result of Francis’ recent emphasis on the liturgy. In July 2016 Francis responded, through an unusual communiqué of the Holy See press office, to Cardinal Sarah’s statements that had attributed to the pope an endorsement of the “reform of the liturgical reform.” In November 2016 La Civiltà Cattolica published an article highlighting Francis’ positive view of the liturgical reform of Vatican II, as expressed in the foreword to a volume of his homilies recently published in Italian. And in January 2017 news leaked from Rome that Francis had created a commission to review “Liturgiam Authenticam,” the instruction issued in 2001 by the Congregation for Divine Worship on liturgical translations. Finally, on 24 Aug 2017, in a speech to Italian liturgists in Rome, Francis himself spoke of the liturgical reform of Vatican II as “irreversible.” These recent developments provide more context for “Magnum Principium.”

Though some see in this document an endorsement of a more “localist” ecclesiology as part of Francis’ decentralisation effort, “Magnum Principium” can also be seen as Francis’ response to the issue of translations of liturgical texts in the English-speaking world in this last decade. “The sorry saga of the failed English translation of Roman Missal III,” as the Rev Michael Ryan put it in an article for America, is a key part of the context. It is important to remember that the new English translation of the Missal was more a US-led operation than a Roman one, with major American prelates taking the lead to change ICEL and the role of the Vatican in the process of liturgical translations, as John Baldovin SJ, has pointed out.

Other language groups resisted the new wave of revisions of liturgical translations under Benedict XVI—even some not known for hostility to the Vatican and the papacy. For example, in 2012, the Italian bishops’ conference rejected the change in the translation of pro multis in the liturgy from “for all” to “for many” by an overwhelming majority. With “Magnum Principium,” Francis is restoring trust between Rome and the national bishops’ conferences but at the same time reasserting the role of Rome as the institutional guarantee of the trajectory of the liturgical reform of Vatican II. This mix of a top-down (the role of the papacy) and bottom-up (bishops’ conferences) approach has been typical of the history of liturgical reform since Vatican II, particularly during the pontificate of Paul VI.

Finally, “Magnum Principium” says something about the governing style of Francis. This apostolic letter is further evidence that Francis is governing the Catholic Church with almost no reliance on the Curia and, in some cases, is working at odds with major figures in the Curia. It is clear that Francis has in mind a continuing role for the Roman Curia in the church. In a recent book-length interview in French with the sociologist Dominique Wolton, Francis dismisses the idea of abolishing the Curia. At the same time, he is using the Curia in a very different way than his predecessors.

All this is taking place just as a comprehensive plan for the reform of the Roman Curia is approaching its final stage, as the secretary of the pope’s Council of Cardinals, Bishop Marcello Semeraro, announced in an interview with Vatican Radio just a few hours before Francis returned from Colombia. – americamagazine.org

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