vatican

Pope Francis Opens Doors to 'Year of Mercy' in a Time of Fear

Image via Osservatore Romano / Handout via Reuters / RNS

Pope Francis launched the jubilee of mercy on Dec. 8 with the opening of the Vatican’s holy door, joined by his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, surrounded by heavy security.

“This extraordinary year is itself a gift of grace,” Francis told the faithful gathered at the Vatican.

“To pass through the holy door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them.”

What's That Jubilee Year of Mercy the Pope Keeps Talking About?

Image via  / Shutterstock.com

In the Catholic Church, a jubilee — or a holy year — is a religious event that involves the forgiveness of sins, as well as reconciliation. But the idea of a jubilee dates back to the Bible: “And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all who live on it,” Leviticus 25:10. For the ancient Israelites, the jubilee was a time properties were returned to their original owners or legal heirs, slaves were set free, and creditors were barred from collecting debts.

Pope Boniface VIII in 1300 declared the first Christian jubilee, beginning with the opening of the Holy Door, an entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica, usually blocked, through which pilgrims can enter. Other holy doors are also opened for this jubilee in Rome and around the world for the first time; the year ends when they are closed.

On Nov. 29 Pope Francis opened a door at the cathedral in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, as a symbolic start to the Holy Year.

Journalist Under Investigation Denounces 'Medieval' Vatican Laws

Emiliano Fittipaldi. Image via Rosie Scammell / RNS

An Italian investigative journalist on Nov. 17 spoke out against what he called a “medieval” Vatican law that might result in a jail sentence of up to eight years for publishing confidential Holy See documents.

Emiliano Fittipaldi, whose new book Avarice reveals the struggle for financial reform at the Vatican, is under investigation for publishing secret documents leaked from the Holy See. A fellow Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi, is also being investigated for revelations made in his book, Merchants in the Temple.

While describing the investigation as “a terrible moment,” Fittipaldi remained defiant:

“From my point of view they are crazy charges, in the sense that in no democratic state, in no Western democracy, are there such restrictive laws on press freedom and expression.”

Pope Francis: Put Down Your Smartphone and Enjoy Family Dinners

Image via Sally Morrow / RNS

Pope Francis on Nov. 11 urged Catholics to continue the tradition of a family meal, leaving smartphones aside, and switching off the TV to enjoy the “fundamental experience” of sharing food.

“The sharing of a meal — and therefore, other than of food, also of affections, of stories, of events — is a fundamental experience,” Francis said during his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Sitting around the table helps measure the health of relationships, the pontiff said: “If in a family there’s something that doesn’t work, or a hidden wound, at the table it’s understood immediately.”

Pope Francis to Italian Bishops: Don't Be Obsessed With Power

Image via Stefano Rellandini / REUTERS / RNS

Pope Francis made a whirlwind trip to Tuscany on Nov. 10, during which he addressed immigrant workers, called on Italian bishops to shun power, and celebrated Mass with thousands of followers in Florence’s soccer stadium.

Francis started his packed, daylong schedule with a helicopter flight to Prato, known for its textile industry and large Chinese community. Crowds waving the Vatican’s yellow and white flag met him on his arrival.

The pope called for an end to labor exploitation, addressing the deaths of seven Chinese workers in a nighttime factory fire in 2013.

“It is a tragedy of exploitation and of inhumane conditions of life. And this is not undignified work,” he said.

Pope Francis Says Leak Won't Deter Him From Reform Agenda

Image via Alessandro Bianchi / REUTERS / RNS

Pope Francis on Nov. 8 broke his silence over the leaking of confidential Vatican documents, which he described as a “deplorable act” that will not stand in the way of his ambitious reform agenda.

Speaking to followers in St. Peter’s Square, the pontiff criticized revelations made in two books published last week that explore Francis’ efforts to overhaul financial mismanagement within the Vatican walls.

“Stealing those documents was a crime. It’s a deplorable act that does not help,” the pope said, adding that the leaked information was based on a study he had personally requested.

Secret 'Catacombs Pact' Emerges After 50 Years, and Pope Francis Gives It New Life

Image via Grant Gallicho / RNS

The document would become known as the Pact of the Catacombs, and the signers hoped it would mark a turning point in church history.

Instead, the Pact of the Catacombs disappeared, for all intents and purposes.

It is barely mentioned in the extensive histories of Vatican II, and while copies of the text are in circulation, no one knows what happened to the original document. In addition, the exact number and names of the original signers is in dispute, though it is believed that only one still survives: Luigi Bettazzi, nearly 92 years old now, bishop emeritus of the Italian diocese of Ivrea.

Catholic Leaders Unveil 10-Point Climate Action List Ahead of U.N. Summit

Image via CIDSE / RNS

Catholic leaders made a rare appeal to the world’s politicians on Oct. 26, urging them to take strong action at the highly-anticipated U.N. climate change summit later this year.

Nine cardinals, patriarchs, and bishops representing the Catholic Church across five continents signed a document, presented at the Vatican on Oct. 26 by clergy from Belgium, Colombia, India, and Papua New Guinea.

The document presents a 10-point policy proposal calling for “a fair, legally binding, and truly transformational climate agreement.”

Who Won? Who Lost? 5 Points on the Contentious Vatican Summit

Image via Alessandro Bianchi / REUTERS / RNS

The most significant and contested gathering of Roman Catholic bishops in the last 50 years formally ended on Oct. 25 after three weeks of debate and dispute, but the arguments over who “won” and who “lost” are only beginning.

The synod of 270 cardinals and bishops from around the world was the second in a year called by Pope Francis to address how and whether Catholicism could adapt its teachings to the changing realities of modern family life. Traditionalists had taken a hard line against any openings, especially after last October’s meeting seemed to point toward possible reforms.

While the delegates made hundreds of suggestions on a host of issues, two took center stage, in part because they represented a barometer for the whole question of change: Could the church be more welcoming to gays, and was there a way divorced and remarried Catholics could receive Communion without an annulment?

Vatican Synod's Language Games Will Have Real-Life Consequences

Image via Alessandro Bianchi / REUTERS / RNS

The overriding interest in the global meeting of Roman Catholic bishops that finishes here on Oct. 25 has centered on whether the churchmen will actually do anything in the end — as in vote to make changes in church doctrines or policies — or leave well enough alone.

In reality, the gathering of 270 bishops from around the world, called a synod, has no authority to legislate doctrinal or other changes, and wasn’t expected to try anything that bold anyway.

Its real purpose — thanks to reforms instituted by Pope Francis — is to discuss issues openly and frankly, and to advise the pontiff about what they think the church ought to do about the challenges facing families today, or, as is likely the case for this divided synod, to kick the hard questions upstairs for him to decide.

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