WARSAW, Poland - Poland's Catholic bishops pledged to resist changes to Catholic teaching on marriage and family life at October's synod on the family at the Vatican and rejected demands for reform by German-speaking Catholics.

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VATICAN CITY - The Vatican approved new statutes and bylaws for the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious, ending a seven-year process of investigating the group and engaging in dialogue with its officers to ensure greater harmony with church teaching.

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March 19, 2015

Francis’ blessing

Two years ago the demands of office caused a tired Pope Benedict XVI to resign the papacy. He was 85. Now we have Pope Francis, 78, musing about a short pontificate as he begins his third year on the job.

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VATICAN CITY - One reason the cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis two years ago was a brief but powerful speech the Argentine cardinal made shortly before the conclave in which he denounced the “theological narcissism” of the Roman Catholic Church.

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VATICAN CITY - In a powerful homily that signalled his desire to push ahead with historic reforms, Pope Francis on Sunday (Feb. 15) said the Roman Catholic Church must be open and welcoming, whatever the costs.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis called for a Vatican that operates with “absolute transparency” as he gathered more than 165 cardinals in Rome for high-level meetings aimed at tackling one of the toughest challenges of his reformist papacy: overhauling the dysfunctional bureaucracy of the Roman Curia.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis began what could be a key week for his reformist papacy Feb. 9, starting with meetings with his hand-picked kitchen cabinet of nine senior cardinals who are developing plans to overhaul the Roman Curia, the papal civil service that has been plagued with crisis and dysfunction.

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VATICAN CITY - Throughout history, the Catholic Church has reviewed and reformed its structures to free them from "a worldly mentality and earthly models of the exercise of power," leading to a necessary spiritual renewal, said the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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More than 100 U.S. Roman Catholic leaders are using this week’s annual march against legal abortion to press anti-abortion House members to pass immigration reform, saying they should see it as another “pro-life” issue.

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Cardinal Raymond Burke, a senior American churchman in Rome who has been one of the most outspoken critics of Pope Francis’ push for reform, is roiling the waters yet again, this time arguing that the Catholic Church has become too “feminized.”

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CANTERBURY, England - In a lengthy interview in The Times of London, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby predicted that the Anglican Communion might not hold together because of strong disagreements on the ordination of women as bishops and full rights for LGBT people.

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis wants a "poor Church for the poor," but that "doesn't necessarily mean a Church with empty coffers," said Cardinal George Pell, "and it certainly doesn't mean a Church that is sloppy or inefficient or open to being robbed."

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VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis and his international Council of Cardinals continue to study the most effective and efficient way to organize the Roman Curia, a large bureaucracy with a long history of expansions and a few, short-term, attempts at consolidation.

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VATICAN CITY - Canonization week in Rome served as something of an informal annual general meeting. The universal Church was catching up with herself after a momentous year since Conclave 2013, and everyone was talking about our new Holy Father. Over these weeks, I hope to share with readers some of what I heard about Francis’ reforming papacy from those in Rome from around the world.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

WASHINGTON - The Second Vatican Council was “animated by a spirit of reform,” but was afraid to use the word “reform,” Church historian Jesuit Father John O’Malley told a con­ference marking the 50th an­niversary of the opening of the council.

In its 16 documents, Vatican II used the Latin word for reform, “reformatio,” only once — in its Decree on Ecumenism when it said the Church is in need of continual reform, said O’Malley, a professor in the theology de­partment at Georgetown Univer­sity. Other than that, it preferred “softer words,” such as renewal, updating or even modernizing, he said.

O’Malley was a keynote speaker Sept. 27 at the symposium “Reform and Renewal: Vatican II After Fifty Years” held at The Catholic University of America.

The Jesuit noted that Fr. Yves Congar, a French Dominican theologian and expert on ecumenism, wrote his book True and False Reform in the Church in the 1950s that “a veritable curse” seemed to hang over the word “reform.” And when Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, heard of Congar’s book, he said, “Reform of the Church; is such a thing possible?”

The Vatican’s Holy Office forbade the reprinting of Congar’s book or its transla­tion into other languages from the original French, he said. But during Vatican II, the priest was one of many theologians helping the bishops; Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal in 1994.

O’Malley traced the history of reform in early Church councils up to and including the 16th-century Council of Trent. Trent, however, coming on the heels of the Protestant Reformation, re­peatedly insisted on the Church’s unbroken continuity with the faith and practice of the apostolic Church.

“In its insistence on con­tinuity, Trent helped develop the tradition and fostered the Catholic mindset reluctant to admit change in the course of the Church’s history and teaching,” O’Malley told an audience of about 250 people.

“By the early 17th century, Catholic reluctance to see or admit change had become deeply rooted and pervasive.”

As well, Protestants had laid claim to the word “reform” as their own, he said. The word then “suffered banishment as foreign to Catholicism and subversive of it.”

That all changed in 2005 when, shortly after his election, Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech to the Roman Curia describing Vatican II as a council of reform, rather than one of rupture with the Catholic tradition, he said.

“Reform is, according to him, a process that within continu­ity produces something new,” O’Malley said. “The council, while faithful to the tradition, did not receive it as inert but as somehow dynamic.”

The Church, according to Pope Benedict, grows and develops in time, but nonetheless remains always the same, he said.

In another talk, Chad Pecknold, an assistant professor of historical and systematic theology at Catholic University, traced Pope Benedict’s aversion to theories of ruptures in Church history to his research into St. Bonaventure’s theology as the young Joseph Ratzinger.

St. Bonaventure was critical of the theory of the 12th-centu­ry monk Joachim of Fiore, who maintained that there are three eras in salvation history — the Old Testament age of the Father, the clergy-dominated era of the Son and the age of the Spirit in which spiritual men would hold first place and there would no longer be sacraments or a hierarchy.

Joachim predicted the age of the Spirit would begin in 1260, Pecknold said.

For St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas, there could only be one rupture, humanity’s redemption in Jesus Christ, he said.

Moreover, not only was Joachim wrong about history, he also was wrong about God. His theory implied that the Father, Son and Spirit are three gods acting independently.

Pope Benedict, said Pecknold, sees any interpretation of Vatican II that separates the spirit of the council from its actual teaching is to see it in the same light as Joachim’s view of history. To interpret Vatican II as a rupture with the past is, for the Pope, an interpretation which is “bound to be church-dividing and is thus non-Catholic,” he said.

(Western Catholic Reporter)

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