TIME Vatican

Pope Says There’s ‘No Future for the Young’ If Elderly Aren’t Respected

Pope Francis attends his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square on March 4, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican.
Massimo Valicchia—NurPhoto Pope Francis attends his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square on March 4, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican.

“A society where the elderly are discarded carries within it the virus of death"

Pope Francis urged crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday to show respect for the elderly, saying people will be judged by how they treat their older counterparts.

“Where the elderly are not honored, there is no future for the young,” Pope Francis told the 12,000 followers who attended his weekly address, Vatican Radio reports.“A society where the elderly are discarded carries within it the virus of death.”

The 78-year-old Argentine pontiff denounced the lack of care with which people treat their elders, even as life expectancy has increased. “If we do not learn to look after and to respect our elderly, we will be treated in the same way,” he warned. “The quality of a society, I mean of a civilization, is also judged by how it treats elderly people and by the place it gives them in community life.”

[Vatican Radio]

TIME isis

There Is a Real Threat to the Pope From ISIS, Says Vatican Security Chief

But the papal residence's police have no knowledge of any specific plot

The commander of the Vatican’s security forces acknowledged the existence of a real threat to Pope Francis from ISIS, but said there is no indication of a planned attack on the Catholic leader.

“The threat exists,” Domenico Giani told Italian state publication Polizia Moderna, reports the Catholic news website Crux.

Giani is the inspector-general of the Corpo della Gendarmeria, the police unit that protects Vatican City. “At the moment, I can say that we know of no plan for an attack against the Vatican or the Holy Father,” he said.

ISIS explicitly mentioned Italy and its Christians as a potential target recently, calling it “the nation signed with the blood of the cross” in a video that featured images of 21 Egyptian Christians beheaded this month. The Islamic militant organization also warned of its proximity to Italy, saying its forces are “south of Rome” in Libya.

Four months ago, ISIS propaganda magazine Dabiq also featured Vatican City’s famed St. Peter’s Square on its cover with the headline “The Failed Crusade,” depicting the terrorist group’s flag flying over the piazza’s central obelisk.

[Crux]

Read next: Pope Francis Condemns ISIS Killing of Coptic Christians

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis Knocked for ‘Mexicanization’ Remark

Pope Francis addresses the crowd from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking Saint Peter's square during his Angelus prayer on Feb. 22, 2015 at the Vatican.
Tiziana Fabi—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis addresses the crowd from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking Saint Peter's square during his Angelus prayer on Feb. 22, 2015 at the Vatican.

The Vatican said he meant no offense

The Vatican said Wednesday that Pope Francis “absolutely did not intend to offend the Mexican people” when he appeared to express concern that drug trafficking was making his native Argentina resemble Mexico.

Over the weekend, the Pope wrote in an email to Argentine lawmaker and friend Gustavo Vera, “Hopefully we are in time to avoid Mexicanization,” referring to the country’s drug trade, the Associated Press reports. After Vera published the email on the website for his organization, the Alameda Foundation, Mexico formally complained that the Pope was unnecessarily “stigmatizing Mexico” despite the country’s efforts to battle drug cartels there.

In response, the Vatican sent Mexico’s ambassador an official note and said the Pope’s choice of words were taken from a informal, private email that merely borrowed language Vera himself had used as lawmaker battling Argentina’s own drug trade.

“The Pope intended only to emphasize the seriousness of the phenomenon of the drug trafficking that afflicts Mexico and other countries in Latin America,” Vatican spokesperson Rev. Federico Lombardi said. “It is precisely this importance that has made the fight against drug trafficking a priority for the government.”

[AP]

TIME conflict

Pope Francis Condemns ISIS Killing of Coptic Christians

VATICAN-MASS-POPE-CARDINALS
Andreas Solaro—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis leads a mass on February 15, 2015 at St. Peter's basilica in Vatican.

'The blood of our Christian brothers is a witness that cries out'

Pope Francis on Monday condemned the killing of 21 Coptic Christians hostages in Libya by militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), according to a Vatican Radio report.

“The blood of our Christian brothers is a witness that cries out,” he told a delegation from Scotland on Monday. “If they are Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it is not important: They are Christians. The blood is the same: It is the blood which confesses Christ.”

Read More: Beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya Shows ISIS Branching Out

The hostages, believed to be laborers from Egypt, are now “martyrs,” Francis said.

The Libyan extremist group, which swears fealty to ISIS, released a five-minute video Sunday showing militants with knives killing 21 people wearing orange jumpsuits on a beach.

Egyptian authorities confirmed the authenticity of the video, and President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi launched air strikes against targets in Libya hours after vowing to avenge the deaths.

TIME faith

Balloons Replace Doves as the Vatican Symbol of Peace

Vatican Pope
Greogrio Borgia—AP Colored balloons released by children fly next to a statue at the end of the noon Angelus prayer recited by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Jan. 25, 2015.

After doves released last year were attacked

Children visiting the Vatican released balloons instead of doves Sunday in a ritual that serves as a gesture of peace.

The change follows an incident last year when doves released together by children and Pope Francis were attacked by two other birds, a crow and a seagull, the Associated Press reports. The episode created unwanted attention for the Pope, who is named for animal lover Francis of Assisi.

“Here’s the balloons that mean, ‘peace,'” Pope Francis said Sunday as children released the balloons. Pope John Paul II began the tradition of releasing doves to acknowledge efforts for peace worldwide.

[AP]

TIME faith

Pope Francis Surprises Again: 20 New Cardinals, None from USA

Pope Francis Attends His Weekly Audience In St Peter's Square
Franco Origlia—Getty Images Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he leaves St. Peter's Square at the end of his weekly audience on Nov. 19, 2014, in Vatican City

There is only one English speaker in the group

Pope Francis announced his new picks for Cardinals on Sunday, and the lineup continues to diversify the top leadership in the Catholic Church.

Francis selected 20 new Cardinals from 18 countries — not one is from the U.S., and only one is from the Vatican bureaucracy. These Cardinals, Francis said in his Sunday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, show that the Church of Rome and the particular churches across the world are connected by “indissoluble links.”

Selecting Cardinals is one of the most important choices a Pope makes. Cardinals are the Catholic Church’s senior leaders, lead the largest dioceses, and are the church’s highest-ranking advisers. Most importantly, Cardinals under the age of 80 vote to select the Pope. Pope Paul VI set the limit of Cardinal electors at 120, and Francis’ new picks will push that number to 125.

Francis, once again, showed that he wants this top church leadership to reflect the changing global Catholic population and priorities. Seven of the new cardinals come from Europe, five from Latin America, three from Asia, three from Africa and two from Oceania. Three countries — Burma, Cabo Verde and Tonga — will each have a Cardinal for the first time. The only English speaker in the group is Archbishop John Dew from New Zealand, and the only Vatican official in the group is the Moroccan-born Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, who leads the Vatican’s Supreme Court. The last time the U.S. did not receive a Cardinal for two years in a row was nearly four decades ago.

Sunday’s move is another play in Francis’ efforts to reform the Roman Curia, and not just geographically. In mid-February, he will call all the Cardinals to the Vatican for a two-day meeting “to reflect on the orientations and proposals for the reform of the Roman Curia.”

The 15 new Cardinals under the age of 80 and eligible to vote for the next Pope are:

  • Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
  • Archbishop Manuel José Macario do Nascimento Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon (Portugal)
  • Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, C.M., of Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)
  • Archbishop John Atcherley Dew of Wellington (New Zealand)
  • Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli of Ancona-Osimo (Italy)
  • Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Hanoi (Vietnam)
  • Archbishop Alberto Suárez Inda of Morelia (Mexico)
  • Archbishop Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B., of Rangoon (Burma)
  • Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok (Thailand)
  • Archbishop Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento (Italy)
  • Archbishop Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet, S.D.B., of Montevideo (Uruguay)
  • Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez of Valladolid (Spain)
  • Bishop José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán, O.A.R., of David (Panama)
  • Bishop Arlindo Gomes Furtado of Santiago de Cabo Verde (Archipelago of Cape Verde)
  • Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga (Island of Tonga)

The five additional honorary Cardinals — Archbishops and bishops emeriti, who are over the age of 80 and therefore unable to vote in papal elections — are:

  • José de Jesús Pimiento Rodríguez, Archbishop Emeritus of Manizales (Colombia)
  • Archbishop Luigi de Magistris, Major Pro-Penitentiary Emeritus
  • Archbishop Karl-Josef Rauber, Apostolic Nuncio
  • Luis Héctor Villaba, Archbishop Emeritus of Tucumán (Argentina)
  • Júlio Duarte Langa, Bishop Emeritus of Xai-Xai (Mozambique)

The new Cardinals will be elevated formally at the Vatican on Feb. 14. Pope Francis will then have appointed a total of 31 cardinals.

TIME diplomacy

The Vatican Helped Seal U.S.-Cuba Deal

Hosted secret talks between the two nations

The Vatican played a key role in securing the release of an American contractor held in Cuba for five years and in setting the stage for a cooling of relations between the two countries, officials said Wednesday.

Pope Francis encouraged the neighbors, who have not had diplomatic relations since the rise of Fidel Castro in 1961, to negotiate a deal, and even hosted secret talks at the Vatican between the two nations, Obama Administration officials said. Canada hosted many of the negotiations, until the final meeting at the Vatican.

The deal to release Alan Gross was finalized in a call between President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, but Obama noted that the Vatican was instrumental in brokering the make-up.

“Pope Francis personally issued an appeal in a letter that he sent to President Obama and to President Raul Castro calling on them to resolve the case of Alan Gross and the cases of the three Cubans who have been imprisoned here in the United States, and also encouraging the united states and cuba to pursue a closer relationship,” an official said, calling the papal letter “very rare. … The Vatican then hosted the U.S. and Cuban delegations where we were able to review the commitments that we are making today.”

MORE: What to know about Alan Gross

-Additional reporting by Zeke J Miller / Washington

TIME Foreign Policy

How Pope Francis Helped Broker Cuba Deal

Pope Attends His Weekly Audience In St. Peter's Square
Franco Origlia—Getty Images Pope Francis on Dec. 3, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican.

President Obama thanked Pope Francis for his role in negotiating a more open policy on Cuba and the release of U.S. citizen Alan Gross from Cuban custody.

In a 15-minute speech announcing that the U.S. would normalize relations with Cuba, Obama said that the pope helped spur the change and personally thanked him. The Vatican then released a statement noting that the Vatican hosted delegations from both countries in October to negotiate the deal after Pope Francis had written to both leaders.

A senior administration official said that the appeal from the Pope was “very rare” and unprecedented.

“Pope Francis personally issued an appeal in a letter that he sent to President Obama and to President Raul Castro calling on them to resolve the case of Alan Gross and the cases of the three Cubans who have been imprisoned here in the United States and also encouraging the United States and Cuba to pursue a closer relationship,” said the official. “The Vatican then hosted the US and Cuban delegations where we were able to review the commitments that we are making today.”

American officials have also noted Francis’ deep familiarity with the Americas, being the first pope from the continent. The letter from Pope Francis “gave us greater impetus and momentum for us to move forward,” a white House official said. “Cuba was a topic of discussion that got as much attention as anything else the two of them discuss.”

The move is perhaps Pope Francis’ boldest foreign policy move yet, but it is not his first.

• He showed letter-writing prowess in September 2013, when he wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin, host of the G-20 Summit which Obama was attending, urging world leaders and the United States to oppose a military intervention in Syria.

• After visiting Bethlehem and Jerusalem in May, Pope Francis hosted both Israeli president Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican for a joint prayer service for Middle East Peace.

• When he visited South Korea in August, he sent a telegram to Chinese President Xi Jinping when the papal plane crossed into Chinese airspace—a historic step toward improved relations since the last time a pope visited East Asia, Chinese officials did not allow the plane to fly over Chinese territory.

When it comes to Cuba, Pope Francis is continuing the work of his predecessors. Just over half the Cuban population is Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center, and the Vatican stepped up its relations with the country over the past two decades. In 1998, Pope John Paul II became the first pope to visit Cuba. Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba in 2012. At an outdoor mass, he urged Cuba to “build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity and which better reflects the goodness of God.”

The announcement of the Vatican’s role in the U.S.-Cuba negotiations is particularly noteworthy as Pope Francis plans his first trip to the United States in September 2015. The Vatican has not said whether or not Pope Francis will travel to Cuba or other US cities on that trip.

TIME faith

Vatican Report Finds American Nuns are a Graying Workforce

US-RELIGION-POPE-MASS
Emmanuel Dunand—AFP/Getty Images Nuns pray during a mass in celebration of Pope Benedict XVI at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, Feb. 28, 2013.

Nuns express "great concern" about declining numbers, average age in mid-70s

American nuns have expressed “great concern” about their aging workforce, according to a Vatican survey released Tuesday that finds nuns in the U.S. are advancing in age and declining in number.

Vatican surveyors sent questionnaires and conducted “sister-to-sister” dialogues at 341 Catholic institutions across the United States. They found that nuns had reached an average age of mid-to-late 70’s, opening up an ever-widening age gap with fresh recruits. The report also noted that the total number of apostolic women, at 50,000, had declined by 125,000 since the the mid-1960s.

“Many sisters expressed great concern during the Apostolic Visitation for the continuation of their charism and mission, because of the numerical decline in their membership,” the Report on the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Religious Women in the United States of America said.

The report also upended expectations that it would take a more critical stance of American nuns for a rising “secular mentality” and “a certain ‘feminist’ spirit,” as one Vatican official warned in 2009, Crux reports.

Instead, the report largely praised American nuns for their “dedicated and selfless service.”

 

TIME

Vatican Discovers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars That Were ‘Tucked Away’

Cardinals listen to Pope Francis at the Vatican Oct. 20, 2014.
Max Rossi—Reuters Cardinals listen to Pope Francis at the Vatican Oct. 20, 2014.

Pope Francis is pushing for more financial transparency in the Vatican

The Vatican’s economy minister says that the Vatican has discovered hundreds of millions of dollars that were previously “tucked away” in various departments.

In an article to be published Friday in Britain’s Catholic Herald, Cardinal George Pell writes that Vatican reformers had uncovered the funds in a push for transparency among some 200 separate Vatican entities, though he did not suggest wrongdoing. The findings, he wrote, have helped boost Vatican finances.

“In fact, we have discovered that the situation is much healthier than it seemed, because some hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet,” Bell writes.

Pope Francis has made reforming the Vatican’s finances a priority since he was elected in 2013. Earlier this year, he named Pell, an Australian Cardinal, head of the new Secretariat for the Economy.

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