Eamon Duffy, Melanie McDonagh, Stuart Reid, William Oddie, Bishop Angaelos, Tim Stanley, Bishop-elect Mark O’Toole, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow and others CHRISTMASTIDE DOUBLE ISSUE
Christmas is meeting with Jesus, says Pope
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
FRANCIS has urged the faithful to never lose hope or fear the “tenderness” of God in an interview marking his first Christmas as Pope.
Asked by the Italian daily La Stampa what Christmas meant to him, the Holy Father said: “It is the encounter with Jesus. God has always sought out his people, led them, looked after them and promised to be always close to them.
“The Book of Deuteronomy says that God walks with us; he takes us by the hand like a father does with his child. This is a beautiful thing. Christmas is God’s meeting with his people. It is also a consolation, a mystery of consolation.
“Many times after the midnight Mass I have spent an hour or so alone in the chapel before celebrating the dawn Mass. I experienced a profound feeling of consolation and peace.
“I remember one night of prayer after a Mass in the Astalli residence for refugees in Rome. It was Christmas 1974, I think. For me, Christmas has always been about this; contemplating the visit of God to his people.” When asked what Christmas says to people Pope Francis suggested that “it speaks of tenderness and hope”.
He continued: “When God meets us he tells us two things. The first thing he says is: have hope. God always opens doors, he never closes them. He is the father who opens doors for us. The second thing he says is: don’t be afraid of tenderness.
“When Christians forget about hope and tenderness they become a cold Church that loses its sense of direction and is held back by ideologies and worldly attitudes, whereas God’s simplicity tells you: go forward, I am a Father who caresses you.”
In the interview Francis also denied rumours that he was planning to appoint a female cardinal.
He told his interviewer, Andrea Tornielli: “I don’t know where this idea sprang from. Women in the Church must be valued, not ‘clericalised.’ Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism.”
Pope Francis also said that his remarks in his recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), about “bold and prudent” pastoral choices regarding the sacraments, did not necessarily refer to Communion for the divorced and re-married.
He said: “The exclusion of divorced people who contract a second marriage from Communion is not a sanction. It is important to remember this. But I didn’t talk about this in the exhortation.”
Francis also insisted he was not offended when people described him as a Marxist for criticising capitalist excesses.
He said: “The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”
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English leader has new role in Rome
BY ED WEST
POPE FRANCIS has appointed Archbishop Vincent Nichols to the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, a move that will see the Archbishop of Westminster’s influence in the worldwide Church rising significantly.
The appointment means Archbishop Nichols will take part in regular meetings at the influential congregation in Rome to recommend episcopal appointments.
He said: “It is a privilege to assist in the important task of appointing bishops and I am honoured to have been asked to undertake this role... I look forward to making whatever contribution I can to the work of the Apostolic See.”
Pope Francis also appointed Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington to join the congregation and dropped Cardinal Raymond Burke. The former Archbishop of St Louis, seen as a prominent conservative, was appointed to the congregation by Benedict XVI in 2009.
Francis also dropped Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia, and Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, the president of the Italian bishops’ conference.
The 73-year-old Cardinal Wuerl is already a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Among the other new members named on Monday were cardinals from Germany, Italy and, from Brazil, the prefect of religious, Brazilian Cardinal João Braz de Aviz. Francis also confirmed 18 existing members of the Congregation, including Cardinal George Pell and Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship.
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Belgian senate ignores bishops as it votes for euthanasia for children BY JONATHAN LUXMOORE
BELGIUM’S Catholic bishops have criticised a parliamentary vote paving the way for children to qualify for euthanasia.
Fr Tommy Scholtes, a spokesman for Belgium’s bishops’ conference, said: “The voices of religious leaders have plainly not been listened to. While everyone wants a gentle death, public opinion appears unaware that euthanasia is a technical act that ends life abruptly. This is why we reject it and believe palliative care offers a better solution.”
He said Church leaders would continue to back a silent vigil near parliament in Brussels to highlight the dangers, but he expected the legislation to receive final approval early next year.
The Belgian senate voted last week to approve the legislation, which would allow euthanasia for dementia patients and children “capable of discernment” and “affected by incurable illness or suffering”.
André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels, the bishops’ conference president, said all the main faiths in Belgium were united against the measure, adding that he regretted mass protests could not be mobilised as effectively as in neighbouring France.
“We don’t easily raise our voices here, but this is something extremely important, and I hope the political class will be persuaded to reflect,” Archbishop Leonard told KTO Catholic television.
Euthanasia was made legal in Belgium in 2002. In 2012, the Belgian health ministry recorded more than 1,400 deaths from euthanasia, a 25 per cent increase on 2011.
In an open letter in November, 16 pediatricians backed the proposed bill, claiming children facing illness and death “develop a great maturity very rapidly”. The claim was rejected by professors from the Catholic University of Leuven, who said the concept of “unbearable suffering” should not be left solely to doctors and psychiatrists.
Catherine Dopchie, a Catholic palliative care director, told KTO that suffering was “subjective and not measurable”. She said the legislation risked making medical staff “intolerant and incompetent”.
Astronaut to take a rosary into space
BY ED WEST
THE FIRST ever Filipino to travel into outer space has said he will take a rosary with him on his trip.
Daniel Angelo “Chino” Roque, who is only 22, will travel on board a Space Expedition Corporation shuttle in 2015.
Mr Roque, who has a degree in psychology, will join 22 others being sent to the Florida-based Axe Apollo Space Academy to travel into space for 30 minutes on board the shuttle.
In an interview with the Filipino magazine InterAksyon Lifestyle Mr Roque said he would bring a Filipino flag and rosary to space.
He also said: “I don’t think anything will change, as long as I keep my feet on the ground.”
Representing the Philippines, Mr Roque said, was a privilege.
Antonio Banderas to be offered Pope role
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
ONE of Italy’s most successful film producers has said that he wants movie star Antonio Banderas to play Pope Francis in his new film.
Producer Pietro Valsecchi plans to debut his biopic about the first Argentine Pope on the small screen in Italy, though there is no clear timetable for producing the film yet.
The Spanish actor, who has starred in films such as Evita, Interview with the Vampire, Philadelphia and The Mask of Zorro, is a member of a Catholic religious brotherhood in Málaga.
Mr Valsecchi has produced comedies such as Sun in Buckets (Sole a catinelle) and What a Beautiful Day (Che bella giornata).