1. Criteria for Curia
Pope Francis devoted the annual Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia, to a “return to the essentials.” In 2013, he stressed on professionalism and service. Last year, he spoke of certain temptations or ‘maladies’ – the ‘catalogue of curial diseases’ – which could affect any Christian, curia, community, congregation, parish or ecclesial movement. In his 2015 address Pope Francis reflected on an acrostic based on the word mercy – missionary spirit, sagacity, spirituality, fidelity, rationality and gentleness, determination, charity and truth, honesty and maturity, respect and humility, diligence, alertness trustworthiness and sobriety. He expressed gratitude for the Curia’s work and assured that the reform would move forward with clarity and firm resolve.
2. Lay Man Heads
Pope Francis has named American layman Greg Burke, as the Vice Director of the Holy See Press Office, with effect from 1 February. Burke, 55, worked for TIME Magazine and Fox News before becoming senior communications adviser to the Vatican Secretariat of State in 2012. He is a lay celibate member of the Opus Dei. The Pope has also named Stefano D’Agostini as the new director of CTV, Vatican’s Television Centre. He is currently its technical Director, and succeeds Msgr. Dario E. Viganò, who was appointed Prefect of the new Secretariat for Communications. Paul Tighe, 57, the 2nd in rank, of Vatican’s Social Communications, is transferred to the Pontifical Council for Culture, with promotion as bishop. Both Burke and Tighe are seen as among the most accessible, and effective, communications personnel in the Vatican.
3. We Are Brothers
A statement from Orthodox Jewish Rabbis calls for “fraternal partnership” between Christians and Jews, reflecting on their commonalities and on recent efforts by Catholics to improve relations with them. “We Jews and Christians have more in common than what divides us: the ethical monotheism of Abraham; the relationship with the One Creator of Heaven and Earth, who loves and cares for all of us; Jewish Sacred Scriptures; a belief in a binding tradition; and the values of life, family, compassionate righteousness, justice, inalienable freedom, universal love and ultimate world peace,” the statement said. The statement did not minimize ongoing differences. The Rabbis acknowledge Christianity as “neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations.”
4. Sponsor to Vatican
The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy featured a light and sound show named “Fiat Lux: Illuminating our Common Home.” The 3-hour event, saw the colourful display of images of people from various places, the natural world and climate change against the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica. About 1.5 million spectators watched the show. The light show was staged by a conglomerate of social justice organizations under the umbrella of the World Bank Group’s ‘Connect4Climate’ campaign and the Italian environment. It was sponsored by Hong Kong-based Li Ka Shing Foundation owned by the richest Chinese man along with Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc., and environmentalist tech company Okeanos. “While science and technology can broaden human perspective, it is only through love that humanity can prevail,”said the Budhist Li.
5. Pope’s Video
The Jesuit-led Apostleship of Prayer program announced on Vatican Radio that from 6 Jan. Pope Francis’ monthly prayers are being broadcasted on social media platforms of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, in 10 different languages. This is to encourage Catholics around the world to watch his message and pray with him. The first prayer intention aired was on the theme of peace and justice among all people of faith. The purpose of this intention is “that sincere dialogue among men and women of different faiths may produce the fruits of peace and justice.” The pope’s Twitter account has 8.23 million followers. He uses the platform to share tweets and post photos. He has been described as “people’s pope.” An August 2015 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute found 90% of Catholics view him favourably.
6. Muslims Protect
After the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day saw around 120,000 policemen, gendarmes and soldiers stationed outside Christian houses of worship. But in one town in northern France, a Catholic church had the extra protection of a dozen Muslims who symbolically protected the church in the town of Lens in the province of Pas-de-Calais during the Christmas Midnight Mass. The decision came after France’s Interior Ministry issued warnings that “particular vigilance” should be practiced during the worship. The initiative was intended to “give a different image of Muslims.” About 200 faithful attended the Mass. The pastor showed his appreciation of the gesture by presenting the Muslim representatives a “light of Bethlehem.”
7. Mercy in Action
Heeding to Pope Francis, “Take care of God’s creation; above all, take care of people in need,” parishes in the US are trying to double their efforts for the poor. Their ‘Feed the Hungry’ program provides nutrition and good will. The ‘Hot Meals Program’ of St. Bernard Parish in Akron, provides more than 1,000 evening dinners every month. The Akron parish’s Pantry supplies 300 households with a 3-day supply of non-perishable groceries and household supplies every month. St. Bernard’s ‘Bag Lunch Program’ provides more than 2,000 sack lunches every month for persons out-of-work. The Brown Baggers program in St. Leo Parish in Sonoma, Calif., founded in the 1990s also secures foodstuffs for those in need.
8. Star in the Slums
On 3 January, Cardinal Antonio Tagle of Manila celebrated Holy Mass with the urban poor in the slums of Tondo district. He appreciated them for their ability to celebrate life even amidst their deprivations. “Hope is very much alive in you,” he told them. He likened parents to the Star of Bethlehem, “a shining light of children.” The slum thickly populated by the poor, stenches of the garbage in the air and the muddy earth smells of filth. The NGO ‘Project Pearls’ has been trying to help uplift the living condition of the people here. They invited the Cardinal to celebrate Mass because “people here are not able to frequent church much. So we brought the church here.” When the Mass ended, Cardinal Tagle again walked through the same muddy path, with a bunch of children in tow, who considered him a “star.”
9. Mother Teresa
Pope Francis has recognised a second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa, clearing the path for her to be made a saint. She died in 1997 and was beatified by John Paul II in 2003. Her canonisation is expected to be in Rome, on 4 Sep. 2016. The present miracle involves the healing of a Brazilian man with brain tumours. Teresa of Calcutta was born Agnes G. Bojaxhiu on 26 Aug. 1910, in Macedonia. She joined the Sisters of Loretto at 17 and was sent to Calcutta. Later she left the Lorettos to serve the poor and the abandoned. For this, she founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950. They now have 500 houses globally. The first miracle attributed to her was the curing of the abdominal tumour of an Indian woman.
10. Brothers Matter
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has released a guideline on the “Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church” in five languages. The 50-page reflection deals with the importance of the identity and mission of brotherhood in the Church. In the past 50 years, the number of religious brothers has decreased most drastically. The instruction underlines the importance of serving like the Good Shepherd in order to make Christ present in the world and to enlighten, bless, raise up, heal and free humanity. Brothers are called to prophesy – a “prophesy of hospitality,” brothers could welcome all; “the prophesy of the care and protection of life” and “the prophesy of the wise use of new technologies.” The document calls for a sense of “equal dignity” among priests and brothers in “mixed” religious institutes.