Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP on ‘LGBT+ Catholics in a Synodal Church’

Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP

Hello. I am so sorry that I cannot be with you today. I have such happy memories of the time when I was on the rota to celebrate Mass for our LGBT+ brothers and sisters in Soho before the Mass moved to the care of the Jesuits in Farm Street.

I have been asked to say something about the place of LBGT Catholics in a Synodal Church. I am sorry that my talk will be so short. I have just returned from a lecture tour in Italy and France and I am off in a couple of days to Israel, to be with the Dominicans in Jerusalem at the Ecole Biblique so, to be honest, I feel rather rushed off my feet.

A few days ago, the Vatican asked me to do something which was unimaginable a few years ago. I was asked to write a foreword for the English translation of a book by a young Italian, Luigi Testa. It is called Via Crucis di un Ragazzo Gay (The Way of the Cross of a Gay Lad). The Italian preface, which is marvellous, was written by an Italian bishop, the vice-president of the Italian Bishops’ conference. We follow Luigi’s sufferings as young gay person as he walks the way of the Cross, accompanied by Jesus. It is deeply moving. The book is part of a series promoted by the Vatican, of theology from the peripheries. It is a sign of the profound conversion which is taking place at the centre of the Church, as she reaches out to people who have been marginalised and rejected, and says ‘This is your home. We are incomplete without you.’

Before the Synod, Pope Francis frequently stressed that all are welcome. Last August in Portugal, he underlined this at the World Youth Day. ‘All, all, all; todos, todos, todos!’ The divorced and remarried, gay people, transgender people. He wrote earlier ‘The Church is called on to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open … where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems and to move towards those who feel the need to take up again their path of faith.’

When the Synod opened in October, many of the participants shared Pope Francis’ eagerness to affirm that the Church really is for us all! It is where we should all be at ease. It was this message of hope and love which led to the foundation of those Masses in Soho twenty-five years ago.

At the Synod, this message was repeated, but it was evident that many people were nervous of it. Some participants felt uneasy at even sitting next to Father James Martin SJ, who has been for many years a brave champion of the warm inclusion of gay people in the Church. One person even refused to sit next to him. Others of us too felt the chill as I did. During the Synod, Pope Francis again signalled his welcome by publicly inviting to lunch Sister Jeanine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo, founders of the New Ways Ministry. I had lunch with them the next day and they felt enormously affirmed.

But in the document produced at the end of this first session, the Synthesis, the term LGBT+ was dropped although it has been used in other Vatican documents and by the Pope. So there seemed to be a certain retreat from the openness we had hoped for. Still the Assembly did vote almost unanimously for this proposition: ‘In different ways, people who feel marginalized or excluded from the Church because of their marriage status, identity or sexuality also ask to be heard and accompanied. There was a deep sense of love, mercy and compassion felt in the Assembly for those who are or feel hurt or neglected by the Church, who want a place to call “home” where they can feel safe, be heard and respected, without fear of feeling judged. Listening is a prerequisite for walking together in search of God’s will. The Assembly reiterates that Christians must always show respect for the dignity of every person.’ (Synthesis, 16. h)

Given that in so many countries, homosexuality is still criminalised and despised, this was encouraging. But here the Church faces a challenge to which I hope that you will be able to help us respond. The Church is called to be open to all people, whatever they love and live, and to all cultures. What if some cultures are not open to gay people? How can we embrace in the universal Church cultures which exclude people?

This issue exploded last year. On December 18th, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a document called Fiducia Supplicans. I confess that, to my shame, I have not studied the text closely. It gives permission for priests in specific situations to bless people in what are usually called “irregular situations”, the divorced and remarried, gay couples. Pope Francis stressed that we all need to be blessed as we seek to find our way forward in love.

Every attempt was made to play down the crisis. The Pope accepted the document. Cardinal Ambongo maintained that the African exceptionalism was a good example of Synodality. Unity does not mean uniformity. The gospel is inculturated differently in different parts of the world.

But it is more complex than that. After the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Francis Fukuyama published The End of History and the Last Man arguing that we had entered a new era, the triumph of Western liberal democracy. Every nation seemed destined to ‘evolve’ into our way of life. Some countries, especially in the global South, just had to catch up. If they did not agree with us on, for example, the welcome of LGBT people, they would surely do so eventually.

We were wrong. We have not the time and nor I have the expertise to analyse where we are now, but we seem to be entering a multipolar world, with the rise of Russia, China and India, and all of the BRICS countries. Many people in the Global South think of the West as having a morally decadent culture, doomed to collapse. Cardinal Ambongo of Kinshasa said a couple of months ago:

Cardinal Ambongo of Kinshasa, President of the organisation which represents all of the Catholic bishops of Africa, came to Rome to present their firm rejection of the proposal. He recognised that it was not the intention of the document to change Church teaching on sex but, he said, ‘The episcopal conferences across Africa… believe that the extra-liturgical blessings proposed in the declaration Fiducia Supplicans cannot be carried out in Africa without exposing themselves to scandal… The language of Fiducia Supplicans remains too subtle for simple people to understand.’ Never before have almost all the bishops of a continent rejected a Vatican document.

[the Westerners] will disappear. I wish them a good demise’ Putin is weaponizing the gay issue as emblematic of all that traditional culture opposes, as he seeks to spread Russian influence in other parts of the world, along with the Wagner militia. Putin is always showing his virility, taking off his shirts. He has been described as the most topless leader in the world! But this issue is also being used by Islamicist

“Little by little, they groups with Middle Eastern money, by Evangelical groups with American money “and so on.

As I said, I am no expert on this cultural battle which is being fought out everywhere, whether in the USA or Africa. I just wish, ever so briefly, to signal that the Synod faces this double challenge, of a proper gospel openness to all with an openness to all cultures. How are we to live both? This will be a major challenge for the next session of the Synod. It is not about how does our side win. That is the game of competitive politics. It is how can the Church fulfil her vocation to be the place in which all of humanity finds home and joy. Here, as St Paul says, ‘there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3.28).

My favourite image is of St Peter in John 21. They have fished all night without catching anything. Then they see a stranger on the shore who tells them to cast the net on the other side, and the net is full almost to bursting. Peter hauls the net to the shore and it contains 153 fish. This probably represents all of the nations of the world. The net is not broken. Jesus said before his death, ‘When I am lifted up, I shall draw all people to myself.’ Peter helps in this with his drawing the net to the shore to present it to Jesus.

So how are we to haul in the net without it being broken? The Church is just at the beginning of thinking about this and I hope that you will help us. A starting point is a fascinating lecture by Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope. He gave it in Hong Kong in 1993 on what he called Interculturality. He argues that every culture is potentially open to the fullness of the truth. When cultures encounter each other, ideally they should be able to correct each other’s biases and share the truths they embody. So when

African and Western cultures meet, ideally both should be challenged and enriched. In one of his lectures, Albert Nolan, OP of South Africa remarked: “Our question about the impact of Christianity upon Africa will always be incomplete unless we also ask `what is the impact of Africa upon Christianity?”‘

It has been argued that if Western cultures bring a deep sense of the dignity and freedom of the individual, African cultures bring a sense of how being human is rooted in our relationships: Ubuntu. I am because we are. Asian Catholics invite us to learn the value of harmony as Latin American cultures invite us to hear the voice of the poor.

Every culture offers gifts and is challenged. The gospel is to be inculturated in every culture but it challenges every culture. So some people, like Cardinal Ambongo, will argue that homosexuality is foreign to African cultures and so cannot be welcomed. I would say that here the gospel offers a challenge.

So the encounter of cultures is at the heart of many debates in the Synod, and above all the embrace of gay people. And we have to be aware that the encounter of cultures is never just innocent. Other cultures come to Africa, for example, with guns and money. Power dynamics are at work. African bishops shared with us how deeply they feel the humiliation of aid being tied to the acceptance of Western values. Multinationals corrupt and destroy local cultures. Foreign powers do so too. Just as the hunger for gold, led to the destruction of Caribbean cultures in the sixteenth century, so does the search for rare earths and diamonds today. Remember, the strange who stood on the beach had been executed by the Imperial power of his day.

So working for a Church which truly has open doors is inseparable from addressing the ways in which countries in the Global South face unjust economic exploitation, ecological devastation and cultural destruction. No wonder we of the North are thought of as decadent. We all advance on the path to liberation together or not at all.

Forgive this short and superficial presentation. I do so wish that I could have been with you to hear what you think on these complex issues. May you have a wonderful joyful day. And pray that the Synod may open all of our hearts minds and challenge all of our prejudices.

Complete Article HERE!

Feminist theologians express frustration, hopes for October’s synodal assembly

— The four presenters at a February 29th presentation at Santa Clara University include advocates of radical feminism, women deacons and priests, abortion, and “LGBTQ” concerns.

Synod on Synodality delegates seated at discussion tables inside Paul VI Hall at the Vatican in October 2023

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Doubling down on the call from Pope Francis at the opening of the Synod of Bishops last Fall to resist “doctrinal rigidity,” four feminist theologians were invited to the Markey Center at Santa Clara University on February 29th to participate in their own conversation, titled “Women Speak on the Synod: a Conversation on Ministry, History, Culture and Practice”.

Committed to discussing—yet again—the possibility of an expanded role for women in ministry in the Church, the theologians gave presentations to a sparsely attended gathering of fewer than 20 individuals, emphasizing Pope Francis’s invitation to “embrace a vision of the Church that is open and welcoming to all.” All four of the presenters at the Santa Clara Synod were indeed “open and welcoming” to many ideas—including some that are counter to the teachings of the Church.

The first presenter, Elyse Rabey, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Theology at Santa Clara University, set the stage by providing what she described as the history of synodality in the Church, stating that “Pope Francis is reviving an ancient form of governance and reimagining it at the same time…making it quite new.” Lauding the fact that Pope Francis invited lay women and laymen to have full voice and vote in these meetings, Rabey reminded the audience that Pope Francis has stressed that synodality is about more than synods. Rather, synodality is about a “Church that is always reforming.”

Rabey, whose curriculum vita states that she has published “on the possibility of women deacons in the Catholic Church”, has also published on “also published on intersex embodiment and theology of creation in Theology and Sexuality and on Marian symbols and kyriarchal ideology in Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s book Congress of Wo/Men: Religion, Gender, and Kyriarchal Power.” Fiorenza is a noted radical feminist theologian who has argued that St. Paul was misogynistic, supported the ordination of women to the priesthood, and worked to change the Church’s teaching on abortion.

The second presenter, Rachel Bundang, PhD, expressed her disappointment with the Synod: “I expected more from the process…I felt left behind…as a working theologian, educator and minister. I hoped it would feel more personal. But the process was exclusionary, opaque, and disappointing. I feel left behind…it has left me at a distance.” Sharing her sadness that a neighboring parish was “phasing out female altar servers,” Bundang, who describes herself on the Catholic Women Preach website as a “feminist ethicist,” “preaches” regularly at her home parish in the Bay Area.

Part of the explanation for the disappointment expressed in various ways by the four theologians is that their expectations for change through the Synod were so high. Believing that the Synod would move the Church to change her teachings on women’s role in ordained ministry, on reproductive rights, and “GLBTQ” issues, it is not surprising that these women would be disappointed with the outcome of the Synod so far. Each of these women had their own goals for the Synod and all seemed to be disappointed that these goals were not met.

For example, the third speaker, Elsie Miranda, D. Min, describes herself as a Cuban-American Practical theologian whose academic interests lie at the intersection of Catholic Ethics, Pastoral Formation for Ministry, and Liberative Theologies, particularly among U.S. Hispanic/Latinx and LGBTQ Catholic communities. Miranda is affiliated with New Ways Ministry, the Catholic LGBTQ outreach ministry that the late Pope Benedict XVI described as holding positions “regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination are doctrinally unacceptable because they do not faithfully covey the clear and constant teaching of the Catholic Church.” Founded in 1977, by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent, who were both the subject of a notification by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1999, New Ways Ministry appears to have found new acceptance under the current papal regime. On October 17th, Pope Francis received Gramick at his residence in Rome, in a meeting that was described by James Martin, SJ, as a “significant step forward in the church’s outreach to LGBTQ Catholics.”

Beyond support for views contrary to Church teachings on GLBTQ issues, Miranda has spoken out in favor of a woman’s right to choose abortion. Railing against the Dobbs decision in an essay published recently, Miranda made the preposterous claim that “the implications of denying women access to medical procedures that would terminate a pregnancy in the case of rape or incest or in order to save a mother’s life in the case of ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage are inconsistent with a right to life ethic.”

Miranda is not alone on the Santa Clara panel in her views supporting access to abortion. She was joined by self-described “womanist” theologian C. Vanessa White, who told the audience that she “has spent two-thirds of my life engaged in ministry in the Church.” Like Miranda, White has been a public supporter of “reproductive justice” for women. One of several signers of the Faith in Public Life open statement on “reclaiming public debate about abortion and reproductive justice,” White has played an important role in the conversations leading up to the Vatican Synod.

Chosen to participate in the Continental Stage of the Synod by Chicago’s Cardinal Cupich—despite her public support for abortion—White also participated in the theologians’ section of the Synod through the Catholic Theological Society of America. White, who currently serves as an Associate Professor of Spirituality and Ministry at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and Director of the Certificate in Black Theology and Ministry, has also supported New Ways Ministry’s public statements on GLBTQ rights within the Church by signing an LGBTQ non-discrimination statement which decried Catholic Church’s opposition to the Equality Act—an Act that would force Catholic institutions to adhere to government mandates on non-discrimination against LGBTQ teachers, priests, and other employees in Church-related schools and parishes.

While the feminist panel lamented the lack of progress in the Church in implementing their desired outcomes surrounding women in ministry, “reproductive rights,” and LGBTQ issues, all were looking forward to the upcoming Synod in October, 2024, claiming that their voices will finally be heard and validated.

Whether that is true remains to be seen. On one hand, their views are quite common in numerous Catholic colleges and universities across the country. On the other hand, those views are quite consistent with those expressed in Germany via the “Synodal Way,” which has been publicly rebuked by Pope Francis. But they are certainly representative of the ongoing, progressive lobbying for dramatic change in the Church, which will continue to exert influence on the Synod on Synodality assembly, meeting in Rome in October.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis says opponents of gay couples blessings are ‘small ideological groups’ and Africans

Pope Francis leads the Angelus prayer at the Vatican, Jan 7, 2024.

By Anugrah Kumar

Addressing the controversy surrounding the Vatican’s decision to allow blessings for same-sex couples, Pope Francis said the critics of the guidance, except for Africans, belong to “small ideological groups.”

The pontiff claimed that even in Africa, the resistance is more cultural, as homosexuality is generally not tolerated, Reuters quoted him as saying in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Francis was referring to the December 2023 document “Fiducia Supplicans” issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has sparked widespread debate within the Catholic Church. The guidance stated that priests may bless same-sex couples that approach them for blessings but distinguishes between liturgical blessings and pastoral blessings, which do not give approval to same-sex relationships.

“Those who protest vehemently belong to small ideological groups,” Francis was quoted as saying. “A special case are Africans: for them homosexuality is something ‘bad’ from a cultural point of view, they don’t tolerate it.”

“But in general, I trust that gradually everyone will be reassured by the spirit of the ‘Fiducia Supplicans’ declaration by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith: it aims to include, not divide,” the pope said.

He acknowledged the strong resistance from African bishops as there are harsh legal penalties for same-sex relationships in some African countries. The pope stressed the importance of context and sensitivity when blessing same-sex couples.

Pope Francis remains undeterred despite opposition from some theological conservatives. He advised focusing on moving forward rather than dwelling on talks of schism, which he believes are led by small groups.

“We must leave them to it and move on … and look forward,” he said.

In his remarks at the plenary session of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith last Friday, Pope Francis clarified that the Church’s teachings on homosexual practices and same-sex relationships remain unchanged. The “Fiducia Supplicans” declaration, while allowing blessings for same-sex couples, does not equate these blessings with marriage, nor does it validate relationships deemed irregular by the Church.

The Pope explained that these blessings are meant to demonstrate the Church’s closeness to those in various situations without demanding moral perfection. He emphasized that the blessings are for the individuals, not the union, and should consider the local context and sensitivities.

Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, author of the declaration, released a statement earlier this month to clarify the document’s intent. He stated that the blessings, lasting no more than 15 seconds, are a pastoral response and do not justify anything morally unacceptable. The declaration has faced opposition from some bishops, like the leader of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan, who has prohibited these blessings in his diocese.

The Vatican’s guidance is part of a series of responses to questions from bishops worldwide. It includes clarifications on issues like the eligibility of single mothers who have confessed their sins to receive the eucharist.

Complete Article HERE!

To bless or not to bless?

— Rome’s move to allow LGBTQ couples to be blessed has been misunderstood by many, and misrepresented by others.

Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023.

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For Catholics who know about it, the church’s worldwide Synod on Synodality is bringing either hope or indigestion.

Now more than two years into its proposed process of gathering Catholics everywhere to pray and talk about the best means of spreading the Gospel, the synod’s topics and methods remain unknown to many Catholics, churchgoing or not.

Why? For starters, the project depends on the cooperation of bishops. But more and more bishops are turning away from Pope Francis’ non-judgmental, inclusive attitude.

In the United States, according to Papal Nuncio Cardinal Christophe Pierre, “Francis is now seen as the big sinner” by some U.S. bishops. There and elsewhere, many bishops are repudiating a recent Vatican document proposing that blessings may be given freely without an investigation of the recipient’s — or recipients’ — moral life.

The December 2023 document from the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Fiducia Supplicans” — “Begging for confidence” — caused an immediate and ongoing uproar. The document’s purpose, to offer “a specific and innovative contribution to the pastoral meaning of blessings,” reviews the nature of blessings while reiterating the church’s ban on any liturgical recognition of gay marriages.

To be kind, the document is misunderstood by many and misrepresented by others. The controversy has been aided, too, by reports of a 1998 book, titled “Mystical Passion: Spirituality and Sensuality,” written by the dicastery’s new prefect, Cardinal Victor Fernández.

Monsignor Victor Manuel Fernandez, archbishop of La Plata, officiates Mass at the Cathedral in La Plata, Argentina, Sunday, July 9, 2023. Fernandez was appointed by Pope Francis to head the Holy See's Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Monsignor Victor Manuel Fernández, archbishop of La Plata, officiates Mass at the Cathedral in La Plata, Argentina, Sunday, July 9, 2023. Fernandez was appointed by Pope Francis to head the Holy See’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.

Fernández’s book, which he withdrew nearly immediately on publication, includes as its sixth chapter a 16-year-old girl’s imaginary encounter with Jesus as he is held by his mother in the style of the Pieta. Related in the style of the Bible’s poetic Song of Songs, she imagines Jesus resurrected. Those unfamiliar with Spanish mystical tradition and those who are quick to criticize anyone associated with Francis, can find the book, and especially this section, salacious.

The outer edges of Catholic media, seemingly fixated on sexual matters anyway, have been reduced to a bunch of sniggering teenaged boys by the fact that a Catholic cardinal dares to explain the analogies of mystical experience in sexual terms.

Which brings us back to the responses to blessing “same-sex couples,” or “a couple in an irregular situation,” as “Fiducia Supplicans” describes those who may ask to be blessed. It says “an exhaustive moral analysis” should not be a precondition; there is no requirement for “prior moral perfection.” (One thinks of the thousands of persons crowding Saint Peter’s Square each Sunday to receive Francis’ blessing following the Angelus. Imagine personal interviews by some sort of morality police!)

This is not to say there are not difficulties with the document. One problem is that the writer buried the lede. Church groups in Germany and elsewhere have pushed for church acknowledgement and ceremonial ratification of gay marriage and of remarried divorced men and women. But only near its end does the document affirm that liturgical blessings of gay marriages and any rites in conjunction with a civil ceremony are not permitted.

Bishops in large swaths of Africa, all of Russia and the Balkan States have made it clear they will resist performing blessings. In the United States, Australia, Brazil, France, Italy and even Argentina, among other countries, the reaction is mixed. Bishop Martin Mtumbuka of Malawi led the African dissent with a withering Christmas Eve homily. He flatly refused to accept the doctrine office’s teaching (it was apparent from some of his talk that he had missed its flat-out ban on gay marriage).

Another problem with the document is that it was released as the Vatican was already winding down for Christmas, and the Vatican’s attempt at damage control — a clarification by Fernández — only appeared Jan. 4.

There do not seem to have been any earlier attempts at spin control. That is, it appears that no friendly bishops received talking points in advance, and many — if not most — were caught off guard amid Christmas preparations and festivities when the document first appeared.

Even with a clarification, the Roman Catholic bishops of Africa and Madagascar voted to ignore “Fiducia Supplicans.”

All this involves the question of synodality. Individual blessings are freely given for animals, buildings, meals, rosary beads and all manner of things and people. The misunderstanding here, propelled by some media, is rooted in a rejection of both synodality and the beauty of the human person.

Synodality requires listening, and the objecting bishops are reading more into the statement than it intends. The beauty of the human person is the bedrock of Christian belief, and by refusing a blessing on anyone, the objecting bishops are denying that beauty.

Even so, no matter how bumpy the road to synodality may be, Francis is determined to keep trying to move the church forward.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic Church

— The most important stories from the Vatican in 2023

By CLAIRE GIANGRAVÉ

In a year that began with the funeral of his predecessor, Pope Francis, who marked the 10th anniversary of his own election in March, stepped up his reforms of the Catholic Church, and by year’s end he could point to a series of wins in shoring up Vatican finances, reducing corruption and enacting his plan for a more welcoming and inclusive church. He had also marginalised several outspoken critics.

But 2023 also exposed the weaknesses of this pontificate. Under Francis, the church continued to stumble in dealing with sexual abuse, extending the perception the hierarchy still doesn’t take the problem seriously. Despite concerted diplomatic efforts, the Pope failed to project real influence over foreign affairs, especially in the major conflicts in Ukraine and the Mideast. His age and his medical scares, meanwhile, had many Vatican players considering a church under Francis’ own successor.

Vatican St Peters Synod 291023
Pope Francis presides over a Mass for the closing of the 16th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, on 29th October, 2023.

 

But as the following top stories of 2023 from the Vatican show, Francis steadily made news by pushing his vision for the church despite the challenges.

1. Pope Francis strengthens his position inside the Vatican and beyond
For much the first 10 years as pontiff, Pope Francis lived in the shadow of the previous pope living inside the Vatican. With Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral on 5th January, Francis was finally able to move past the Benedict era, cementing his legacy while eliminating opposition in and outside the Vatican.

In early January, papal critic Cardinal George Pell died in a Roman hospital due to complications from hip replacement surgery. Pell had issued memos to fellow prelates calling Francis’ pontificate “a catastrophe.”

In June, Francis sent a delegation to investigate the diocese of Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, a vocal opponent of Francis’ pontificate, and in August rapped his American conservative critics for, he said, replacing faith with ideology. By November, Strickland had been fired from his post, and soon after the Pope removed Cardinal Raymond Burke, who had replaced Pell as the de facto leader of conservative opposition, from his Vatican apartment and took away the cardinal’s stipend.

The Pope also solidified his position at the Vatican by appointing a close friend and fellow Argentine, Monsignor Victor Manuel Fernández, to lead the Discastery of the Doctrine of the Faith. Francis later made Fernández a cardinal, along with 20 others. The Pope has now appointed a majority of the cardinals who will elect his successor.

Pope Francis adjusts his skull cap at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican, on Wednesday, 15th March, 2023
Pope Francis adjusts his skullcap at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, on 15th March, 2023. Francis passed his 10th anniversary as Pope on 13th March.

 

2. The Synod on Synodality shows a new way to govern the church
The month of October saw a major summit of Catholic bishops and lay individuals at the Vatican, called the Synod on Synodality, convened by Francis to address issues raised by worldwide listening sessions in local dioceses. The gathering considered questions ranging from LGBTQ inclusion to female ordination to church structure.

Ahead of the summit, in April, Francis made an unprecedented decision to allow lay Catholics, including women, to have a vote at the synod. Its lively discussions were for the most part kept under wraps at the Pope’s urging, but reports showed that the most time was spent on the roles of women and laypeople.

The final document emerging from the synod did not usher in the sweeping changes some had hoped for – and others had feared. Instead, it suggested that synodality, a way of governing the church through dialogue, was the church’s future. While the Catholic world waits for the second part of the summit, scheduled to take place next fall, it’s up to the Pope to discern and guide its impact.


3. The church moves toward LGBTQ acceptance
Beginning with his famous 2013 response to a question about LGBTQ Catholics – “Who am I to judge?” – Francis has signaled a new acceptance despite church teaching about homosexuality. In an interview with The Associated Press in January, the Pope stated that “being homosexual isn’t a crime.”

A June document summarising the discussions at the synod called for the “radical inclusion” of LGBTQ Catholics, underscoring the importance of this topic to many Catholics around the world. Francis had invited Rev James Martin, a prominent advocate for LGBTQ inclusion in the church, to take part in the gathering.

In a written response to a series of questions by five conservative cardinals in October, Francis opened the door for the blessing of same-sex couples. In December, a declaration by the Vatican’s department for doctrine sanctioned priests to bless same-sex and “irregular” couples, provided the practice not resemble a wedding.

In another document by the doctrinal department, the Vatican approved trans individuals for baptism and to act as godparents. A trans community from the outskirts of Rome was invited to join the Pope for his yearly lunch for the poor at the Vatican.

Russian Orthodox clergy and Patriarch Kirill, right side of table, meet with Cardinal Matteo Zuppi and Roman Cathoic delegates at the Patriarchal Residence in Danilov Monastery, in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, 29th June, 2023
Russian Orthodox clergy and Patriarch Kirill, right side of table, meet with Cardinal Matteo Zuppi and Roman Catholic delegates at the patriarchal residence in Danilov Monastery, in Moscow, on 29th June, 2023.

4. A Pope between two wars
Francis has been active in his efforts to promote peace in Ukraine and the Holy Land. In May, he appointed the president of the Italian bishops conference, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, to act as peace envoy in Ukraine. The cardinal visited Kyiv, Moscow, Washington and Beijing to offer mediation in the conflict and joined with other religious representatives to make an appeal for peace.

But Francis was harshly criticised for praising the imperial past of the tsars while speaking to Russian students in August, and his refusal to assign blame to one side or the other in the Ukraine war caused backlash and frustrated his diplomatic outreach. Meanwhile, his use of the term “terrorism” to describe the activities of both Israel and Hamas in the Middle East was met with anger and dismay by some.

5. The shadow of sexual abuse in the Rupnick case
Rev Marko Rupnik, a Jesuit artist who was expelled from his congregation after credible accusations of sexual, spiritual and psychological abuse of adult women,deeply divided the church and underlined the challenges that remain in the institution’s handling of sex abuse cases. The Diocese of Rome, led by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, had to issue a formal apology for allowing the priest to remain active in his parish despite the accusations against him.

6. A historic sentence for a historic Vatican trial
Closing the year, a Vatican tribunal sentenced nine individuals – including Cardinal Angelo Becciu – with punishments ranging from fines to significant prison time for their various roles in a controversial real estate deal that had cost the Vatican millions. It was the first time a cardinal was tried and convicted of financial crimes in the church, signaling a new era in the Vatican’s financial reform efforts.

Though many of the accused will appeal, the sentences, after a trial that lasted almost three years, were interpreted as a decisive win for the Pope and his reforms of the Vatican’s notoriously corrupt and mismanaged finances.

7. Health scares curb papal visits
In March, Francis was admitted to the hospital for a respiratory infection that caused him to skip liturgical functions and celebrations. In June, Francis underwent a hernia surgery and had to stay at the hospital for nine days. He was sick again in November with an inflammation of the lungs, which kept him from attending the COP28 summit for the environment in Dubai. But despite his ailments, Francis, who turned 87 in December, shows few signs of slowing down.

Complete Article HERE!