Pope Francis I

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Pope tells lawyers he's writing a new document on the environment
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Pope Francis speaks to a delegation of European lawyers in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Aug. 21, 2023. Thanking the lawyers for their advocacy of environmental protection laws, the pope announced he was writing another document on the environment. (CNS/Vatican Media)

Vatican City — Thanking a group of European lawyers for their attention to environmental protection laws, Pope Francis said he was preparing another document on the subject.

"I am writing a second part to Laudato Si' to update it on current problems," the pope told the lawyers Aug. 21 during a meeting in the library of the Apostolic Palace. He provided no further information.

"Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home" was the title of Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical letter on the need for an "integral ecology" that respects the dignity and value of the human person, helps the poor and safeguards the planet.

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[…]

"It must never be forgotten," he said, "that future generations are entitled to receive from our hands a beautiful and habitable world, and that this entails grave responsibilities toward the natural world that we have received from the benevolent hands of God."

Members of the group Pope Francis met with represented presidents of European bars and legal associations who signed a declaration in 2022 calling on members of the European Union and Council of Europe to uphold and respect the rule of law, especially in times of crisis like that created by Russia's war on Ukraine.

"These times of social and economic crisis, as well as a crisis of identity and security, challenge the democracies of the West to provide an effective response, while remaining faithful to their principles," particularly the promotion of democracy and respect for freedom and human dignity, he said.

"Fear of civil unrest and acts of violence, the prospect of destabilizing change and the need to act effectively in confronting emergency situations, can result in the temptation to make exceptions or to restrict — at least provisionally — the rule of law in the effort to find easy and immediate solutions," the pope said.

"For this reason," he told them, "I appreciate your insistence, in one of your proposals, that 'the rule of law should no longer be subject to the slightest exceptions, including in times of crisis.' For the rule of law stands at the service of the human person and aims to protect the dignity of each, which admits of no exception."

The pope cautioned, however, that laws promoting the dignity of the human person must be based on the truth about human beings, their divine origin and their ultimate destination. "Without the constant effort to pursue the truth about the human person, in accordance with God’s plan, individuals become the measure of themselves and their actions."

"Today, in effect, we are witnessing a tendency to claim more and more individual rights, without taking into account the fact that every human being is part of a social context in which his or her rights and duties are bound up with those of others and with the common good of society itself," the pope said.


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World needs politicians who uphold Catholic social teaching, pope says
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Thomas Tayebwa, deputy speaker of the Ugandan parliament, with his wife and child, presents a gift to Pope Francis during a meeting with members of the International Catholic Legislators Network at the Vatican Aug. 26, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Vatican City — Pope Francis prayed that God would raise up a new generation of "well-educated and faithful Catholics leaders committed to promoting the church's social and ethical teachings" through public service, especially in politics.

Such leaders, he told members of the International Catholic Legislators Network, can contribute to building God's kingdom by placing human life and dignity at the center of their concern and ensuring care for the environment and the world's poorest people.

The pope met at the Vatican Aug. 26 with the legislators who were holding their annual meeting in Frascati, south of Rome, and focusing on what they see as "dehumanizing trends" in politics, economics and technology.

A key feature of the trends, which have a "negative impact upon both human and natural ecology alike," the pope said, is a "subtle seduction of the human spirit, lulling people — and especially the young — into misusing their freedom."

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"We see this when men and women are encouraged to exercise control over, instead of responsible custodianship of material or economic 'objects,' the natural resources of our common home or even one another," the pope said.

Seeing everything and even other people as an object to be used for one's personal benefit, he said, "ultimately impacts most negatively on the poorest and most vulnerable in society."

Even the connections people find on social media can be dehumanizing, he said, when they are used to spread "fake news" or to promote hatred and division.

"This misuse of virtual encounter can only be overcome by the culture of authentic encounter, which involves a radical call to respect and to listen to one another, including those with whom we may strongly disagree," Francis told the legislators.

On the other hand, he said, international networks like the Catholic legislators' group can show a better way not only by connecting people, but also by uniting them in a common project.

[…]


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In France, pope slams 'alarmist propaganda' that fuels fears of migrants
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Pope Francis speaks to young people representing different faiths, bishops and civil leaders at the closing session of the Mediterranean Meetings in Marseille, France, Sept. 23. (CNS/Lola Gomez)

Francis calls for migrants to be integrated, not evicted.

Marseille, France — Pope Francis on Sept. 23 blasted those who seek to weaponize the issue of migration by "fueling people's fears" through "alarmist propaganda," and called for countries and individuals around the Mediterranean to reexamine both their policies and attitudes toward asylum seekers.

"Those who risk their lives at sea do not invade, they look for welcome," the pope said on his second day here in the storied French port city, where he traveled to address a major summit on migration convened by Catholic bishops and young people from more than 30 countries.

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Ahead of the pope's visit, a new wave of North African migrant arrivals in Italy earlier this month sparked a renewed debate in Europe over migration, with France — the pope's host country for this visit — refusing to take in any new arrivals.

During his first day here, on Sept. 22, the pope issued a blunt warning against what he described as the "fanaticism of indifference" toward the current crisis and said it was a duty to welcome the new migrants.

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Pope Francis is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron as he arrives at the Pharo Palace for the closing session of the Mediterranean Meetings in Marseille, France, Sept. 23. Francis was scheduled to meet privately with Macron later in the day. (CNS/Lola Gomez)

As the pope closed out the migration summit on Saturday, he attempted to offer a broad roadmap for the future, warning against being overwhelmed by momentary apprehension and to focus on long-term solutions.

"As for the emergency, the phenomenon of migration is not so much a short-term urgency, always good for fueling alarmist propaganda, but a reality of our times, a process that involves three continents around the Mediterranean and that must be governed with wise foresight," said the pope.

In an extensive 35-minute speech, the pope called on European countries to open their doors to people in need and to assimilate new arrivals into their society, especially through legal channels, while also enhancing their cooperation with the countries of origin of migrants.

"Merely crying 'enough!' is to close our eyes; attempting now to 'save ourselves' will turn into tragedy tomorrow," he warned. "Future generations will thank us if we were able to create the conditions for a necessary integration."

While the pope acknowledged that this is not a process without difficulties, he also said it is the only valid response for people who profess a commitment to human dignity.

Integration of migrants is key, said the pope, "not evicting them."

Prior to his arrival here in France, the pope faced fierce criticism from far-right politicians who said that the Argentine-born pope had no business weighing in on Europe's migration problem.

But in his remarks Saturday, Francis seemed to offer a thinly-veiled reply to those critics.

"This situation is not a novelty of recent years, and this pope who came from the other side of the world is not the first to warn of it with urgency and concern," the pope said to applause. "The church has been speaking about it in heartfelt tones for more than 50 years."

While French Catholics are sharply divided over migration — with some notable figures alleging that it presents a threat to French society and Western Civilization — Francis borrowed their own vocabulary to address those concerns head on.

"History is challenging us to make a leap of conscience in order to prevent a shipwreck of civilization," he said. "For the future will not lie in being closed, which is a return to the past, a turnaround in the journey of history."

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Pope Francis pauses before a memorial dedicated to sailors and migrants lost in the Mediterranean Sea in Marseille, France, Sept. 22. (CNS/Vatican Media)

And in a country where some conservative Catholics have lamented that the pope has spoken more often about migration than abortion or euthanasia — particularly as the current government is on the verge of considering legislation that would legalize physician assisted suicide — Francis sought to widen his appeal by illustrating the interconnectedness of these issues.

"Who listens to the groaning of our isolated elderly brothers and sisters, who, instead of being appreciated, are pushed aside, under the false pretenses of a supposedly dignified and 'sweet' death that is more 'salty' than the waters of the sea?'' the pope asked.

"Who thinks of the unborn children, rejected in the name of a false right to progress, which is instead a retreat into the selfish needs of the individual?" he continued. "Who looks with compassion beyond their own shores to hear the cry of pain rising from North Africa and the Middle East?"

"We need to start again," the pope pleaded, "from the often silent cry of the least among us, not from the more fortunate ones who have no need of help yet still raise their voices."

[…]

"The commitment of institutions alone is not enough, we need a jolt of conscience to say 'no' to lawlessness and 'yes' to solidarity, which is not a drop in the ocean, but the indispensable element for purifying its waters," Francis said.

Following his address, the pope will meet privately with Macron. He will then celebrate a Mass at Marseille's major soccer stadium that is expected to draw a crowd of over 50,000, prior to returning to Rome in the evening, where an in-flight press conference is expected.


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Cardinal Burke, the Dubia, and Today’s Gospel [Explainer, Analysis, Opinion]
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Cardinal Burke on Catholic Answers Live. (Source: Screenshot)

Oct. 22, 2023 — In today’s gospel reading, Matthew recounts an attempt by the Pharisees to force Jesus into a no-win situation. They ask him, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” (Mt 22:17).

Their ulterior motive was obvious — to trap Jesus in a no-win situation. If he advocated paying taxes to Caesar, he risked alienating the Jewish crowd who despised Roman taxation. Conversely, if he rejected the idea, he could be accused of insurrection against the Roman authorities.

“Knowing their malice” (v. 18), Jesus gives an answer that confounds his critics and leaves them scrambling for another way to trip him up. He tells them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (v. 21).

As Fr. Alex Roche put it in this morning’s scripture reflection, “Jesus refuses to play their game.”

Many have noted that Pope Francis often employs a similar approach when his critics attempt to entrap him into a false binary or when they level accusations against him.

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Perhaps the clearest example of this occurred In late 2016, when four cardinals — Burke, Brandmuller, Caffarra, and Meisner — presented Pope Francis with the set of five questions (the “dubia”) related to his apostolic exhortation on marriage and the family, Amoris Laetitia. In presenting the dubia to Pope Francis, these cardinals — like the Herodians and the disciples of the Pharisees in today’s gospel — attempted to force the pope into a lose–lose position. And just as Christ did not give his interlocuters an answer they hoped for, Pope Francis did not dignify their modern counterparts with a response to their loaded questions.

Frustrated by the lack of response from the pope to the dubia, the cardinals turned to the mass media and released the dubia to the public, an unprecedented act of subordination against a pope by the cardinals that inflicted immeasurable harm against the Church. It continues to cause damage today.

Not a simple request for clarification

[…]

The 2016 dubia were far different [from more historically customary dubia]. Rather than posing questions that truly sought authoritative answers from the pope, the four cardinals were well aware of the answers they wanted him to give. They composed the questions in such a way that anything other than their desired response was designed to force the pope to commit heresy.

Also noteworthy is the amount of time that elapsed between the date the cardinals submitted the dubia (September 19, 2016) and when they released them to the public (November 15). This timeframe — less than two months — is incredibly short when considering the typical wait for a responsum. In his book The Orthodoxy of 'Amoris Laetitia', Pedro Gabriel surveyed a variety of well-known Vatican responses to dubia in recent decades. Typically, a year or more will elapse before a response is given.

This suggests that the dubia cardinals were chomping at the bit to force the pope’s hand, and their subsequent behavior — especially that of Cardinal Burke — demonstrates that they were determined to fight him until they got their way.

The false binary

In addition to the five questions, the cardinals enclosed three other documents with the dubia: “A Necessary Foreword,” a letter from the cardinals to the pope, and an “Explanatory Note.” Although the wording of the dubia alone are loaded with presumptions and ideological baggage, with these supplementary documents the cardinals overplayed their hand and made it impossible for the pope to give a concise response.

It is also important to note that the dubia cannot really be considered requests for clarification on the proper interpretation or implementation of Amoris Laetitia. Rather, they are challenges to the moral theology and doctrinal orthodoxy of the exhortation. There is very little subtlety, especially in questions 2 through 5, that the cardinals’ real intention is either to expose the pope as an adherent of proportionalism or situation ethics or to force him to renounce his teaching in Amoris.

The first dubium, however, serves as the clearest example of the way the cardinals set a trap for Pope Francis. The cardinals write (emphasis in original):
It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (300–305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the sacrament of penance and thus to admit to holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio, 84, and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 (305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?
The answer to this question is already clear from the text of Amoris Laetitia itself, as well as in Pope Francis’s response to the guidelines submitted by the bishops of the Buenos Aires region (which was already known by the time the dubia were made public). Many well-respected Catholic thinkers such as Rodrigo Guerra and Rocco Buttiglione — neither of whom could be called a leftist — provided responses to this dubium that reflect the approach of the Buenos Aires Bishops.

The indisputable answer to this dubium is a qualified “yes.”

The Buenos Aires guidelines explain, “If it is acknowledged that, in a concrete case, there are limitations that mitigate responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), especially when a person believes he/she would incur a subsequent fault by harming the children of the new union, Amoris laetitia offers the possibility of having access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist (cf. footnotes 336 and 351).”

Of course, this is not unrestricted access to the sacraments, and it requires serious discernment and the accompaniment of a pastor (chapter 8 of Amoris is written as a guide for pastors, remember). If, after an examination of conscience, it is determined that the person bears unmitigated culpability for the sin of adultery, then admission to the sacraments is not a possibility.

One might then ask, if the answer is so simple, why didn’t Pope Francis just say this?

Unfortunately, the cardinals set a trap for him in their Explanatory Note. They indicate that a “yes” answer would imply that Pope Francis has taught one of three errors. They write:
It would seem that admitting to Communion those of the faithful who are separated or divorced from their rightful spouse and who have entered a new union in which they live with someone else as if they were husband and wife would mean for the Church to teach by her practice one of the following affirmations about marriage, human sexuality and the nature of the sacraments:
  • A divorce does not dissolve the marriage bond, and the partners to the new union are not married. However, people who are not married can under certain circumstances legitimately engage in acts of sexual intimacy.
  • A divorce dissolves the marriage bond. People who are not married cannot legitimately engage in sexual acts. The divorced and remarried are legitimate spouses and their sexual acts are lawful marital acts.
  • A divorce does not dissolve the marriage bond, and the partners to the new union are not married. People who are not married cannot legitimately engage in sexual acts, so that the divorced and civilly remarried live in a situation of habitual, public, objective and grave sin. However, admitting persons to the Eucharist does not mean for the Church to approve their public state of life; the faithful can approach the Eucharistic table even with consciousness of grave sin, and receiving absolution in the sacrament of penance does not always require the purpose of amending one’s life. The sacraments, therefore, are detached from life: Christian rites and worship are on a completely different sphere than the Christian moral life.
The first theory suggests that Pope Francis has affirmed that sex between unmarried persons is morally licit. Yet throughout the exhortation — including the opening words of its controversial eighth chapter — he emphatically insists that any form of sexual sin “is against the will of God” (AL 291).

Theory two suggests that Pope Francis rejects the indissolubility of marriage. This is also a falsehood, and Pope Francis affirms the teaching repeatedly in Amoris Laetitia, most emphatically in paragraph 62.

The third theory is based on two false premises. The cardinals fail to acknowledge the possibility that mitigated culpability (the discernment of which is central to chapter eight) might diminish a person’s guilt for committing a sin with grave matter. Based on this glaring oversight, the cardinals seem to presume that answering “yes” to this dubium is to sanction receiving communion while in a state of mortal sin and granting absolution to the unrepentant. Their conclusion is rash and, frankly, offensive. Pope Francis took all of this into careful account in the exhortation, yet they completely ignore his reasoning and invent their own.

Even more insulting are the other four dubia, because in them the cardinals called into doubt Pope Francis’s belief in objective morality. Honestly, if they had any dignity at all, any cardinals who would direct such an insinuation at the pope would turn in their red hats before doing so. These cardinals apparently lacked such grace. Nor, apparently, were they able to distinguish between situation ethics and the honest examination of the state of one’s soul before God.

It was deliberate

If there was ever any doubt about the dubia being a deliberate attempt by the cardinals to entrap Pope Francis, Cardinal Burke put them to rest in early 2017 in an interview with Michael Matt of the Remnant.
Michael Matt: [​I]s it even possible for you to envision a scenario whereby you suddenly discover that you’ve missed something, that the Four Cardinals are misinterpreting it, and that you’d have to concede you were wrong? I mean if that’s not possible, then what is the point of the dubia? Don’t you already know the answers to your five questions?

Cardinal Burke: Certainly we do. But the important thing is that the pastor of the universal Church, in his office as guardian of the truths of the Faith and promoter of the truths of the faith — that he make clear that, yes, he answers these questions in the same way that the Church answers them.
In other words, they were trying to force the pope to conform to their ideology and submit to their worldview. There was not an ounce of goodwill in the dubia, these cardinals didn’t care one whit about the pope’s teaching or doctrinal authority. Much like Jesus’s interlocutors in today’s gospel, they went away frustrated when they did not receive a response that they could exploit in order to take control over the Church and force the hand of the pope.

Unfortunately for the dubia cardinals and their supporters, anything Pope Francis teaches that challenges their entrenched doctrinal ideas isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Their response to Amoris Laetitia, which reaffirms Catholic doctrine but invites us to reconsider how we approach the concrete situations of people living in irregular unions, is the most telling example of this attitude. As Cardinal Marc Ouellet wrote in L’Osservatore Romano, “Some made it impossible for themselves to appreciate anything of the new papal document because they first checked whether this chapter confirmed their pre-existing views or not.”

[…]


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Media must show, promote respect for human dignity, pope says
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Pope Francis greets members of several groups of Italian Catholic journalists and media professionals in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Nov. 23, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Vatican City — An important part of the mission of Catholic media is to forgo the shocking, sensational or superficial when such stories present the people involved as less than human and unworthy of respect, Pope Francis said.

"You have a vocation to remind us, in a simple and understandable style, that beyond the news and scoops, there are always feelings, stories, flesh and blood people to be respected as if they were your own relatives," the pope said Nov. 23 with members of several Italian Catholic media groups.

"We see from the sad news of these days, from the terrible news of violence against women, how urgent it is to educate for respect and care: to form men capable of healthy relationships," the pope told members of the Italian Federation of Catholic Weeklies, the Italian Periodical Press Union, the Corallo Association and the AIART Media Citizens Association.

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"To communicate is to form people. To communicate is to form society," he told those involved in print, television, radio and digital communications. "Do not abandon the path of education: it will take you far!"

Francis also asked the Catholic communications professionals to advocate for measures that protect people's privacy and protect weaker members of society — especially children, the elderly and people with disabilities — "from the intrusiveness of the digital world and the seductions of provocative and polemical communication."

"Please," he said, "do this fearlessly, like David against Goliath: with a small slingshot he brought down the giant. Do not just play defensively but, remaining 'small inside,' think big, because you are called to a great task: to protect, through words and images, the dignity of people, especially the dignity of the small and the poor, God's favorites."

[…]

"Go against the grain," he urged them. "Speak about fraternity in an individualistic world; about peace in a world at war; about attention to the poor in an intolerant and indifferent world. But this can be done credibly only if you first bear witness to what you say."


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Pope Francis I

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Looks like the poor bugger may not have long to go.

Bet we never get another Jesuit Pope ever. :D Pity.

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Avatar wrote: […]

Bet we never get another Jesuit Pope ever. :D Pity.

[…]
A minor miracle we got even one.

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Cardinal says Vatican is not moving toward accepting gay marriage
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Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, leaves the Vatican's Paul VI Audience Hall in this file photo from Oct. 6, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, insists that the Vatican's permission to offer informal blessings to same-sex couples is not a step toward recognizing gay marriage, and he affirms that bishops have a right and duty to offer their priests guidance on giving the blessings in certain cultures and contexts.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican's affirmation that a priest can give an informal blessing to a gay couple who asks for one is not a first step toward the Catholic Church recognizing same-sex marriages, said Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"Those who say so either have not read the text or have 'bad blood,' if you will pardon the expression. The statement clearly and ad nauseam states that these blessings are non-ritualized so that they are not interpreted as a marriage," the cardinal told the Spanish newspaper ABC in an interview published Dec. 25.

The doctrinal dicastery's document, Fiducia Supplicans ("Supplicating Trust"), which was approved by Pope Francis, said that while the church "remains firm" in teaching that marriage is only a life-long union between a man and a woman, in certain circumstances priests can give non-sacramental, non-liturgical blessings to "couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church's perennial teaching on marriage."

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Several bishops' conferences in Africa and elsewhere reacted strongly against the document, which was published Dec. 18, and issued statements forbidding their priests from offering such blessings.

While Fernández insisted the document "upholds with great clarity and simplicity the Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality," he said bishops have a right and duty to advise their priests on the possible use of such blessings.

"What they (African bishops) raise is the inappropriateness of performing blessings that could easily be confused with a legitimization of an irregular union in their regional contexts," he said.

In addition, he said, several African nations have laws that "penalize with imprisonment the mere fact of declaring oneself gay," so it would be difficult to imagine a priest in those countries giving a gay couple a blessing.

"In reality," the cardinal said, "it is up to each local bishop to make this discernment in his diocese or in any case to give further guidance."

In other situations, Fernández said, people reacting negatively to the document simply did not read it.

"The central theme of the document is the value of 'non-liturgical,' 'non-ritualized' blessings, which are not a marriage, they are not an 'approval' or a ratification of anything," he said. "They are simply the response of a pastor to two people who ask for God's help. And, in this case, the pastor does not set any conditions."

Blessing two people who ask for God's help is not accepting their relationship as a marriage, "nor is it a ratification of the life they lead, nor is it an absolution," the cardinal said. "It is a simple gesture of pastoral closeness that does not have the same demands that a sacrament has."

"If a priest gives this kind of simple blessing, he is not a heretic, he is not ratifying anything, nor is he denying the Catholic doctrine on marriage," Fernández said.


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Amid row over same-sex blessings, Pope laments ‘splitting into groups’ in the Church
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Pope Francis kisses a statue of Baby Jesus as he presides over an Epiphany mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on Jan. 6, 2023. (Credit: Andrew Medichini/AP)

ROME — Pope Francis on the feast of the Epiphany lamented the sharp division among Catholics of differing views, saying believers must imitate the three wise men in putting God at the center of their lives, rather than their own ideas of the faith.

Speaking to attendees of his Jan. 6 Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope said that as members of the church, “instead of splitting into groups based on our own ideas, we are called to put God back at the center.”

“We need to abandon ecclesial ideologies to find the meaning of holy mother church, the ecclesial attitude. Ecclesial ideologies no, ecclesial vocation yes,” he said, saying, “The Lord, not our own ideas or our own projects,” must be the focus.

“Let us set out anew from God; let us seek from him the courage not to lose heart in the face of difficulties, the strength to surmount all obstacles, the joy to live in harmonious communion,” he said.

The pontiff’s comments came amid a burgeoning controversy over a recent Vatican declaration permitting non-liturgical blessings of same-sex unions, which has revealed strong divisions within Catholicism.

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Pope Francis spoke during his Mass for the Catholic feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the biblical narrative when the three Magi, also called the Three Wise Men or the “Three Kings,” follow a star that leads them to Jesus and the discovery of his identity as the Messiah.

In Italy, the feast also marks the commemoration of what is known in Italian folklore as La Befana, an old witch who delivers gifts to children throughout the country. The holiday is celebrated on the eve of the Epiphany, and is reminiscent of the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh given to Jesus by the Magi.

Pope Francis in his homily said the Magi are a reflection of the world’s peoples who are “journeying in search of God … of all those who were lost and now hear the beckoning of a friendly voice.”

[…]

Francis then lamented that the church is often split into groups based on various interpretations of the faith and stressed the importance of communion, saying God must be at the center of faith, rather than one’s own ideas about it.

Noting how the Magi also completed a journey on earth, the pope said they chose to follow God’s sign in the star, and ultimately their journey culminates in finding God “in man, in a little Child lying in a manger.”

“That is where the God who is infinitely great has revealed himself: in the little, the infinitely little,” he said, and stressed the importance of journeying in the world as witnesses to the Gospel.

Jesus was given to the world, Pope Francis said, “not to warm our nights, but to let rays of light break through the dark shadows that envelop so many situations in our societies.”

In this sense, he said God is found “not by basking in some elegant religious theory, but by setting out on a journey, seeking the signs of his presence in everyday life, and above all in encountering and touching the flesh of our brothers and sisters,” just as the Magi themselves found a real child.

“This is important: to find God in flesh and bone, in the faces of those we meet each day, and especially in the poor,” Francis said, saying this encounter with God opens faithful to something bigger and “makes us change our way of life and transform our world.”

[…]

Like the Magi, believers are also called to “bow our heart and bend our knee in worship: to worship the God who comes in littleness, who dwells in our homes, who dies for love,” the pope said, urging faithful to “rediscover our taste for the prayer of adoration.”

“We have lost the attitude of adoring, we have lost the ability to adore…. Let us acknowledge Jesus as our God and Lord, and adore,” he said.

Francis closed his homily urging believers to pray for the grace to “never to lose courage: the courage to be seekers of God, men and women of hope, intrepid dreamers, gazing at the heavens and journeying along the roads of this world, in order to bring to all the light of Christ, which illumines every man and woman.”

[…]


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Pope tells Marxist group good policies cannot be dictated by the market
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Pope Francis poses for a photo with representatives from DIALOP, a dialogue project between socialists, Marxists and Christians, during a meeting at the Vatican Jan. 10, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Vatican CIty — Policies that are at the service of humanity "cannot allow themselves to be dictated by finance and the inner workings of the market," Pope Francis said.

Instead, societies must consider how their people can share challenges and resources, the pope told representatives of a dialogue project bringing together socialists, Marxists and Christians.

During a meeting at the Vatican Jan. 10, Francis told the group that beyond being a "moral virtue," solidarity is a "demand for justice which requires correcting the distortions and purifying the intentions of unjust systems, including through radical changes of perspective in the sharing of challenges and resources among people."

The dialogue project, known as DIALOP, was formed after a meeting of two left-wing European politicians, a member of the Focolare movement and Francis in 2014 in which they discussed the need for continued dialogue between the European left and Christians. DIALOP now holds partnerships with various European universities, educational institutions and Catholic organizations, and it has launched a project to develop an academic curriculum integrating Christian social teaching, Marxist social criticism and feminism.

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Francis encouraged the project's representatives to be open to new paths forward and to "break the mold" of their thinking through dialogue. "In a time marked at various levels by conflicts and splits, let us not lose sight of what can still be done to turn things around," he said.

The pope asked them to work "against rigid approaches that separate" people and instead have open hearts in their dialogue and cultivate their capacity to listen while "excluding no one at the political, social and religious level."

"Today, in a world divided by wars and polarization, we run the risk of losing the ability to dream," the pope told the group. "This is the invitation I give also to you, do not back down, do not surrender, do not stop dreaming of a better world."

"How often over the centuries have great dreams of freedom and equality, dignity and fraternity — a mirror of God's dream — produced breakthroughs and progress," he said.

The pope asked them not to forget society's marginalized people, noting that "the measure of a civilization is seen by how the vulnerable are treated."

And he insisted that people need to remember the dictatorships of the past as a caution for the present. Francis used the example of the Nazis; "they discarded the vulnerable, killed them, rejected them: the poor, unemployed, homeless, immigrants, the exploited and all those whom the throwaway culture turns into waste."

Francis also stressed that changing society requires "a commitment to combating the scourge of corruption, abuse of power and lawlessness."

"It is only in honesty that healthy relationships can be established," and people can "cooperate faithfully and effectively in building a better future," he said.


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Pope in new interview talks health, resignation, future travel plans
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Pope Francis speaks to Italian journalist Fabio Fazio on the “Che Tempo Che Fa” television program on channel Nove, on Jan. 14, 2024. (Credit: Nove press office)

ROME — In a new interview, Pope Francis said he is in good health and denied any plans to resign, saying he has several foreign trips planned for this year, including a summer stop in Polynesia and a potential return trip to Argentina.

Speaking of his health, Francis in the interview jested that “I’m still alive” despite several health challenges last year, including two hospital stays and a recent bout of bronchitis that forced him to cancel a planned trip to Dubai in early December for the COP28 United Nations climate summit.

Asked whether he was considering resignation, the pope said, “it’s neither a thought nor a concern nor even a desire.”

“It’s a possibility open to all popes, but for the moment, it’s not at the center of my thoughts, worries and feelings,” he said, adding, “as long as I have the ability to serve, I go forward; when I can’t take it anymore, it will be time to think about it.”

Pope Francis spoke to Italian journalist Fabio Fazio on the popular television program, Che Tempo Che Fa, which was broadcast Sunday night. It was his second appearance on the program since his election in 2013.

In the roughly 50-minute interview, Francis touched on a variety of issues in addition to his health, including war, migration, future travel plans, and the recent controversy over his decision to allow non-liturgical blessings for same-sex couples.

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[…]

The pope also touched on the recent controversy caused by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Declaration “Fiducia Supplicans: On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings,” published Dec. 18 and which authorizes pastors to give spontaneous, non-liturgical blessings to couples in irregular situations, including divorced and remarried couples and those in same-sex unions.

[…]

In his interview, Pope Francis said that at times, “decisions are not accepted,” and that people don’t really understand what they are criticizing.

“The danger, the thing I don’t like, is to arrive at ugly conclusions,” he said, referring to accusations of heresy, instead of “talking, expressing doubts, and carrying forward a fraternal discussion.”

He said this is what happened with Fiducia Supplicans, and insisted as he often has that “the Lord blesses everyone, everyone, everyone, those who come. Every person.”

“Then people must see what path the Lord proposes to them, but we must take them by the hand and help them go down that path, not condemn them from the beginning. This is the pastoral action of the Church,” he said.

Francis insisted on the need to be generous in forgiving, telling confessors in particular to “forgive everything,” and that “in 54 years as a priest, only once have I denied forgiveness, due to the hypocrisy of the person.”

If God punishes, he said, it is “to correct, out of love.”

[…]

Pope Francis also touched on the issue of war, specifically citing the ongoing wars in Gaza and in Ukraine, saying he is afraid of further escalation of all global conflicts.

“How will it end? Like Noah’s Ark? This scares me, the capacity for self-destruction that humanity has today,” he said, and again condemned the global arms trade.

In reference to Ukraine, he lamented that there are many children “who don’t smile,” saying that “for a child to forget their smile is criminal, this makes war.” He also pointed to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, saying the two people, “called to be brothers, destroy one another.”

On the issue of migration, he condemned the “cruelty” with which they are treated and noted that there is a “mafia that takes them and exploits them” along their journey.

He recalled a recent case in which traffickers had tortured a migrant and asked for a large sum of money in exchange for the person’s freedom, saying, “Thanks be to God we found a benefactor and he was freed.”

“Everyone has the right to remain home and to migrate,” he said, noting that the countries of Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Italy and Spain bear the brunt of the migrant crisis, and pleaded with these nations to, “Please, don’t close borders.”

Pope Francis noted that some of these countries “don’t have children, they need a workforce. Some of these countries have empty villages,” and advocated for a balanced European migration policy that is fair to all sides.

“We must take the issue of migration in hand, take out all of these mafias that exploit migrants and go forward in resolving problems both of the people in the country and of migration,” he said, saying, “To migrate is a right, and to stay in one’s homeland is also a right. Both must be respected.”

Francis also explained his frequent appeals for prayer, saying he makes the request because “I am a sinner and I need God’s help to stay faithful to the vocation he gave me.”

“Each person has their own vocation that they must carry forward,” he said, saying that he as a bishop has “a very big responsibility toward the church. I know my weaknesses and because of this I must ask for prayer, that everyone prays for me, so that I remain faithful in the work of the Lord and that I don’t end up in the attitude of a mediocre pastor.”

A pastor must be with his people and know their needs, he said, and asked viewers again to pray for him, “that I always go forward, that I do not fail in my duty,” and jokingly added, “please, pray in favor, not against!”


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Pope Francis: Lust makes a mockery out of love
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Pope Francis blesses rosaries held by a newlywed couple at the end of his weekly general audience in the Vatican's Paul VI Audience Hall Jan. 17, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯

Below is the text of Pope Francis’ weekly Wednesday audience, delivered on Jan. 17, 2024.

⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯

Jan 17, 2024 — And today, let us listen well to the catechesis, because afterwards there will be a circus that will perform for us. Let us continue our journey concerning vices and virtues; and the ancient Fathers teach us that, after gluttony, the second ‘demon’ — that is, vice — that is always crouching at the door of the heart is that of lust, called porneia in Greek. While gluttony is voracity with regard to food, this second vice is a kind of ‘voracity’ with regard to another person, that is, the poisoned bond that human beings have with each other, especially in the sphere of sexuality.

Be careful: in Christianity, there is no condemnation of the sexual instinct. There is no condemnation. A book of the Bible, the Song of Songs, is a wonderful poem of love between two lovers. However, this beautiful dimension, the sexual dimension, the dimension of love, of our humanity is not without its dangers, so much so that St Paul already had to address the issue in the First Epistle to the Corinthians. St. Paul writes: “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans” (5:1). The Apostle's reproach concerns precisely an unhealthy handling of sexuality by some Christians.

[…]

If it is not polluted by vice, falling in love is one of the purest feelings. A person in love becomes generous, enjoys giving gifts, writes letters and poems. He stops thinking of himself to be completely focused on the other. This is beautiful. And if you ask a person in love, “Why you love?” they won’t have an answer: In so many ways their love is unconditional, without any reason. You must have patience if that love, which is so powerful, is also a little naive: lovers does not really know the face of the other, they tend to idealise them, they are ready to make promises whose weight they don’t immediately grasp. This ‘garden’ where wonders are multiplied is not, however, safe from evil. It is defiled by the demon of lust, and this vice is particularly odious, for at least two reasons. At least two.

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First, because it destroys relationships between peoples. To prove such a reality, unfortunately, the daily news is sufficient. How many relationships that began in the best of ways have then turned into toxic relationships, of possession of the other, lacking respect and a sense of limits? These are loves in which chastity has been missing: a virtue not to be confused with sexual abstinence — chastity is something different from sexual abstinence — but rather must be connected with the will never to possess the other. To love is to respect the other, to seek his or her happiness, to cultivate empathy for his or her feelings, to dispose oneself in the knowledge of a body, a psychology, and a soul that are not our own, and that must be contemplated for the beauty they bear. That is love, and love is beautiful.

Lust, on the other hand, makes a mockery of all this: lust plunders, it robs, it consumes in haste, it does not want to listen to the other but only to its own need and pleasure; lust judges every courtship a bore, it does not seek that synthesis between reason, drive and feeling that would help us to conduct existence wisely. The lustful seeks only shortcuts: he does not understand that the road to love must be travelled slowly, and this patience, far from being synonymous with boredom, allows us to make our loving relationships happy.

But there is a second reason why lust is a dangerous vice. Among all human pleasures, sexuality has a powerful voice. It involves all the senses; it dwells both in the body and in the psyche, and this is very beautiful; but if it is not disciplined with patience, if it is not inscribed in a relationship and in a story where two individuals transform it into a loving dance, it turns into a chain that deprives human beings of freedom. Sexual pleasure that is a gift from God is undermined by pornography: satisfaction without relationship that can generate forms of addiction. We have to defend love, the love of the heart, of the mind, of the body, pure love in the giving of oneself to the other. And this is the beauty of sexual intercourse.

Winning the battle against lust, against the “objectification” of the other, can be a lifelong endeavor. But the prize of this battle is the most important of all, because it is preserving that beauty that God wrote into His creation when He imagined love between man and woman, which is not for the purpose of using one another, but of loving one another. That beauty that makes us believe that building a story together is better than going in search of adventures — there are so many Don Juans out there; building a story together is better than going in search of adventures; cultivating tenderness is better than bowing to the demon of possession — true love does not possess, it gives itself; serving is better than conquering. Because if there is no love, life is sad, it is sad loneliness.


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Amid furor over Vatican doc, Pope says aim is to bless people, not same-sex unions
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Pope Francis meets members of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Jan. 26, 2024. (Credit: Vatican Media)

ROME — Amid the ongoing furor over a recent Vatican declaration on the blessing of same-sex couples, Pope Francis on Friday appeared to try to rein in certain interpretations of the document, insisting that what’s at issue is a pastoral gesture directed at the people involved and not their union itself.

Speaking to members of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) Jan. 26, Francis said the intention of offering “pastoral and spontaneous blessings” to couples in irregular situations, including same-sex couples and divorced and remarried couples, is to express pastoral closeness.

The decision, he said, is intended “to concretely show the closeness of the Lord and of the Church to all those who, finding themselves in different situations, ask for help to carry on — sometimes to begin — a journey of faith.”

To this end, he stressed that “these blessings, outside of any liturgical context and form, do not require moral perfection to be received.”

He also insisted that “when a couple spontaneously approaches to ask for is, the union is not blessed, but simply the people who have requested it together. Not the union, but the people, naturally taking into account the context, the sensitivities, and the places in which one lives and the most suitable ways to do so.”

Pope Francis spoke to members of the DDF, led by Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, during their plenary assembly.

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His remarks came against the backdrop of ongoing controversy caused by DDF Declaration “Fiducia Supplicans: On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings,” published Dec. 18 and which authorizes pastors to give spontaneous, non-liturgical blessings to couples in irregular situations, including divorced and remarried couples and those in same-sex unions.

[…]

On the topic of dignity, he said that Christians must never tire of promoting “the primacy of the human person” the defense of human dignity “beyond all circumstances.”

To this end, he noted that the DDF is currently preparing a document on human dignity and voiced hope that it would help the Church “to always be close to all those who, without proclamations, in concrete everyday life fight and pay personally to defend the rights of those do not count and ensure that … we are able to react with a new dream of fraternity and social friendship that is not limited to words.”

In terms of the faith, Francis pointed to the publication of his exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) in 2013, and the upcoming Jubilee of Hope in 2025, “in which we will renew our faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, hope of history and of the world.”

Noting that the practice of faith is diminishing in many parts of the world, he said it is necessary to deepen reflection on issues such as “the communication of faith in today’s world, especially to the younger generations; the missionary conversion of ecclesial structures and pastoral agents; the new urban cultures, with their burden of challenges but also with unprecedented questions of meaning,” and the centrality “of the kerygma in the life and mission of the Church.”

The DDF can help in this regard, he said, saying to safeguard the faith in the current context means reflecting and discerning, “so that the entire community works toward a real kerygmatic pastoral and missionary conversion.”

“What is most essential, most beautiful and most attractive and at the same time most necessary for us is faith in Jesus Christ,” he said, stating the Church will renew this faith during the upcoming jubilee, and that each Christian “is called to announce it to every man and every woman of the earth. This is the fundamental task of the Church.”


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Vatican to priests: Stick to the script for Sacraments
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Pope Francis baptizes a baby during Mass in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Jan. 7, 2024, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Feb 03, 2024 — The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued a doctrinal note approved by Pope Francis that aims to counteract deviations in the administration of the sacraments, especially of baptism and the Eucharist. The document, Gestis Verbisque (“Deeds and Words”), reaffirms the Catholic Church’s traditional teaching on the administration of the sacraments and insists that it is essential to use the correct form of words and the proper matter to ensure the validity of the sacraments.

The 13-page text is described as a “note,” a lower-level document than a declaration. (The document on blessings for couples in “irregular situations published by the dicastery in December, for example, was a declaration.) It was published only in Italian on Feb. 3, but translations in English and other languages are expected to come later. The document has been under discussion since the dicastery’s plenary assembly in 2022 and was unanimously approved by the plenary assembly in January 2024.

The text was prompted by the phenomenon of priests not following the liturgical directives for the administration of sacraments, particularly baptism and the Eucharist, thereby rendering them invalid, as Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the dicastery, notes in his two-page introduction to the text. He recalled that the dicastery’s plenary assembly in January 2022 had already expressed concern at having to declare the invalidity of the sacraments on many occasions and said many people had to be contacted and rebaptized or re-confirmed, “and a significant number of the faithful have rightly expressed their distress.”

Cardinal Fernández reported that some priests had used the formula “I baptize you in the name of the Creator …”; others said, “I baptize you in the name of Mama and Papa …” He said that some priests discovered after their ordination that they had been invalidly baptized.

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[…]

Cardinal Fernández explained that “while in other areas of the Church’s pastoral action there is ample room for creativity,” in the realm of sacramental celebration this “turns instead into a ‘manipulative will,’ and so [creativity] cannot be invoked.”

Therefore, he said, “to modify the form [formula of words] of a sacrament or its matter [such as the water, oil or bread] is always a gravely illicit act and merits an exemplary punishment, precisely because such similar arbitrary acts are capable of causing serious harm to the faithful People of God.”

“We ministers [of the sacraments] are asked to overcome the temptation to feel that we are owners of the church,” the cardinal said. On the contrary, he said, “the treasures of the sacraments are entrusted to Mother church. They are not ours. And the faithful have a right to receive them as the church lays down, and it is in this way that their celebration corresponds to the intention of Jesus.”

He said ministers of the sacraments should acknowledge the truth that “the head of the church, and therefore the true presider of the celebration, is only Christ.”

The document recalls that the sacraments are “masterpieces of God” that are “instituted by Christ” and make it possible for human beings “to participate in the divine life.” Noting that celebrations of the liturgy and sacrament “are not always done in full fidelity to the rites prescribed by the church,” it laments that the deviations are often presented under the guise of pastoral motivations.

Gestis Verbisque recalls that the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the liturgy reminds us that “the church, in Christ, is the sign and instrument of the intimate union with God, and of the unity of the whole human race.” It reaffirms that the church “receives and expresses itself in the seven sacraments, through which the grace of God concretely influences the existence of the faithful, so that all life, redeemed by Christ, may become a pleasing worship of God.”

The document from the D.D.F. recalls that Christ constituted the church as his mystical body and “makes believers participants in his own life, uniting them in a real but mysterious way to his death and resurrection through the sacraments.”

The text does not appear to contain anything new. It reaffirms the traditional doctrine of the church, based on Thomistic theology, which identifies the three elements necessary for the validity of a sacrament: matter, form and intention. It restates that the correct intention is not sufficient to ensure the validity of a sacrament; the matter (water, oil, wine, laying on of hands) and form (words accompanied by gestures) are also essential and must correspond to what is prescribed in the liturgical texts.

[…]

The document concludes by restating that the liturgy allows for variety that preserves the church from “rigid uniformity,” as stated in the Vatican II constitution on the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium). But it insisted that this variety and creativity, which can promote a greater intelligibility of the rite and the active participation of the faithful, cannot change what is essential to the celebration of the sacraments.

The D.D.F. document applies to churches in both the Latin and Oriental rites. It states clearly that certain aspects are not negotiable in the sacraments and says priests and bishops are not the owners of the liturgy. It reaffirms that one has to follow the liturgical books and emphasizes that the people of God have a right to have valid sacraments.


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