30 August 2019
Pope Francis greets Cardinal Achille Silvestrini in 2016 photo. The cardinal, former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and a longtime Vatican diplomat, died on 29 August 2019, at the age of 95. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and a longtime Vatican diplomat, has died at the age of 95.
In a message of condolence to the family of the cardinal, who died on 29 August in Rome, Pope Francis noted that his decades at the Vatican included service to seven popes.
He will be remembered for “a life spent in adhering to his vocation as a priest attentive to the needs of others, a skillful and adaptable diplomat and a pastor faithful to the Gospel and to the church,” Pope Francis said.
Born in the northern Italian city of Brisighella, the future cardinal was ordained a priest in 1946 and subsequently received doctorates from the University of Bologna and the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome before entering the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which provides training to priests for eventual service in the Vatican diplomatic corps.
As a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps, he focused on international issues concerning Vietnam, China, Indonesia and Southeast Asia. He also accompanied Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, then-Vatican secretary of state, to Moscow in 1971 to deliver the Holy See’s adhesion to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
In 1979, he was named by St. John Paul II as secretary of the former Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, now known as the Section for Relations with States. As secretary, a position equivalent to foreign minister, he represented the Vatican on diplomatic missions to various countries, including Spain, Malta, Argentina, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Poland and Haiti.
He was created a cardinal in 1988 and named prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court, where he served until 1991 when St. John Paul appointed him prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.
During his time as prefect, the Vatican called upon Cardinal Silvestrini’s diplomatic experience in areas of tension, particularly in the Middle East. In May 1993, he led a Vatican delegation to meet with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
He urged Hussein to make signs of goodwill and fulfill U.N. resolutions in order to ease economic restrictions imposed upon Iraq following the Gulf War. Cardinal Silvestrini served as prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches until 2000.
His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 215 members, 118 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.
3 June 2019
Pope Francis gives a blessing as he meets with members of the Roma community, sometimes called gypsies, in Blaj, Romania, on 2 June 2019. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
On his final stop before departing Romania for Rome, Pope Francis visited members of the Roma community living in the neighborhood of Barbu Lautaru. According to the Vatican, a newly erected church and pastoral center were built to assist the Roma community to fully integrated within the social fabric of the city of Blaj.
“In the church of Christ, there is room for everyone,” the pope told members of the community, “otherwise it would not be the church of Christ.”
The pope told the Roma community that his heart was heavy due to “the many experiences of discrimination, segregation and mistreatment experienced by your communities,” inflicted upon them, including by members of the Catholic Church.
He asked forgiveness to them “for those times in history when we have discriminated, mistreated or looked askance at you” instead of defending them in their “uniqueness.”
Waiting for the pope Razaila Vasile Dorin, a 16-year-old, told reporters, “We are proud he is coming here in our community -- a person like the pope! I don’t know what to say. It’s a great honor.”
Asked about discrimination, Dorin, speaking English, said, “In every country there is racism. When we go out everyone looks, ‘Look, look, a Roma, a Gypsy.’“ But, he said, the Roma are “proud to be Gypsies.”
“Whenever anyone is left behind, the human family cannot move forward. Deep down, we are not Christians, and not even good human beings, unless we are able to see the person before his or her actions, before our own judgments and prejudices,” the pope said.
According to the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica, a 2011 census estimated that there are more than 620,000 Roma people in Romania. However, the figure may not reflect the actual numbers because many do not declare their ethnicity out of fear of discrimination.
Despite the trials they have endured, the pope encouraged them to not go down the path of vengeance and instead to choose the “way of Jesus” which brings peace and can heal the wounds of injustice.
“May we not let ourselves be dragged along by the hurts we nurse within us; let there be no room for anger. For one evil never corrects another evil, no vendetta ever satisfies an injustice, no resentment is ever good for the heart and no rejection will ever bring us closer to others,” he said.
3 December 2018
Tags: Romania Roma
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas greets Pope Francis during a meeting at the Vatican on 3 December. (photo: CNS/Andrew Medichini, pool via Reuters)
Pope Francis and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas renewed their commitment to peace in the Holy Land and a two-state solution to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine, the Vatican said.
The pope welcomed President Abbas to the Vatican on 3 December and the two spoke privately for 20 minutes.
In a statement released after their meeting, the Vatican said the two leaders focused on “efforts to reactivate the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, and to reach a two-state solution, hoping for a renewed commitment on the part of the international community to meet the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”
Pope Francis and Abbas also discussed the status of Jerusalem and underlined “the importance of recognizing and preserving its identity and the universal value of the holy city for the three Abrahamic religions.”
Tensions over the city rose again in December 2017 after President Donald Trump announced his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, fulfilling a promise he made during his presidential campaign.
The announcement sparked anti-U.S. protests throughout Asia and the Middle East and drew warnings from Middle Eastern and European leaders that overturning the United States’ long-standing policy would further complicate peace negotiations.
Abbas presented the pope with a painting of the Old City of Jerusalem and said, “This represents the spirit of the Old City of Jerusalem.”
He also gave the pope a book titled, “Two Lands of Holiness,” a historical book about the Holy Land and Vatican City as well as hand-carved wooden panel.
The pope gave the president a commemorative medallion depicting St. Peter’s Basilica in the 1600s and a copy of his 2018 message for the World Day of Peace.
“It is from this year and I signed it with today’s date,” the pope said as he gave him the message.
Taking his leave, Abbas warmly embraced the pope, who thanked the Palestinian president for visiting.
“I am happy about this meeting,” Abbas replied. “We are counting on you.”
17 May 2018
Tags: Pope Francis Palestine
Pope Francis greets new ambassadors to the Holy See during an audience in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican on 17 May. Welcoming new ambassadors from seven countries, the pope said that migration “has an intrinsically ethical dimension.” (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Diplomats have a duty to uphold human rights for all people, especially those fleeing their countries due to war, poverty and environmental challenges, Pope Francis told new ambassadors to the Vatican.
The issue of migration “has an intrinsically ethical dimension that transcends national borders and narrow conceptions of security and self-interest,” the pope said on 17 May.
“None of us can ignore our moral responsibility to challenge the ‘globalization of indifference’ that all too often looks the other way in the face of tragic situations of injustice calling for an immediate humanitarian response,” he said.
The pope’s comments came in a speech welcoming new ambassadors to the Vatican from Tanzania, Lesotho, Pakistan, Mongolia, Denmark, Ethiopia and Finland.
Speaking to the group of diplomats, the pope said the work of international diplomacy “is grounded in the shared conviction” of the unity and dignity of all men and women.
The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said, is a call for solidarity with “those suffering the scourge of poverty, disease and oppression.”
“Among the most pressing of the humanitarian issues facing the international community at present is the need to welcome, protect, promote and integrate all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands,” the pope said.
While acknowledging the “complexity and delicacy of the political and social issues involved,” Pope Francis called on the international community work toward crafting decisions and policies “marked above all by compassion foresight and courage.”
“For her part, the church, convinced of our responsibility for one another, promotes every effort to cooperate, without violence and without deceit, in building up the world in a spirit of genuine brotherhood and peace,” the pope said.
11 December 2017
Tags: Pope Francis Migrants
Smoke rises as Palestinians protest on 8 December in Bethlehem, West Bank, in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
(photo: CNS photo/Debbie Hill)
Following days of violence and backlash after U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Vatican appealed for “wisdom and prudence” to prevail.
The Holy See “reiterates its own conviction that only a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians can bring a stable and lasting peace and guarantee the peaceful coexistence of two states within internationally recognized borders,” the Vatican said in a 10 December statement.
President Trump announced his decision on 6 December to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, fulfilling a promise he made during his presidential campaign.
The announcement sparked anti-U.S. protests throughout Asia and the Middle East, including a four-day protest in the Palestinian territories, Reuters reported. An Israeli security guard in Jerusalem, the report said, was in critical condition after he was stabbed by a Palestinian man at the city’s bus station.
Pope Francis expressed his “sorrow for the clashes in recent days” and called for world leaders to renew their commitment for peace in the Holy Land, the Vatican said.
The pope “raises fervent prayers so that the leaders of nations, in this time of special gravity, commit themselves to avert a new spiral of violence, responding with words and deeds to the desires of peace, justice and security for the populations of that battered land,” the Vatican said.
Trump’s decision also drew warnings from Middle Eastern and European leaders that overturning the United States’ long-standing policy would further complicate peace negotiations.
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had made similar promises to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital during their presidential campaigns. However, once in office, they did not carry through with the move, citing its potential negative impact on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The Arab League, a regional organization consisting of 22 Arabic-speaking member states, held an emergency meeting in Cairo, Egypt, on 9 December to discuss Trump’s announcement, calling it “dangerous and unacceptable.”
Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital goes “against international law and raises questions over American efforts to support peace,” said Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Arab League's secretary-general.
Just hours before Trump had announced his decision, Pope Francis urged respect for “the status quo of the city in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.”
In his appeal, Pope Francis said, “Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims who venerate the holy places of their respective religions, and has a special vocation to peace.”
The Vatican consistently has called for a special status for Jerusalem, particularly its Old City, in order to protect and guarantee access to the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
“The Holy See is attentive to these concerns and, recalling the heartfelt words of Pope Francis, reiterates its well-known position concerning the singular character of the Holy City and the essential need for respecting the status quo, in conformity with the deliberations of the international community and the repeated requests of the hierarchies of the churches and Christian communities of the Holy Land,” said the Vatican’s 10 December statement.
15 November 2017
Pope Francis blesses a Lamborghini presented by representatives of the Italian automaker at the Vatican on 15 November. The car will be a auctioned and the proceeds given to support charities, with a portion helping displaced Iraqi Christians. (photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)
While a Lamborghini would make a stylish popemobile, Pope Francis has decided to auction off the one he was given by the Italian automaker to aid several charities close to his heart.
The pope was presented with a one-of-a-kind white and gold Lamborghini Huracan by the luxury car manufacturer 15 November, just before making his way to his weekly general audience in the standard popemobile.
The pope signed and blessed the automobile, which will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s. The proceeds, the Vatican said, will be given to the pope, who already has chosen to fund three projects: the resettlement of Christians in Iraq’s Ninevah Plain; support for women rescued from human trafficking and forced prostitution; and assistance to the suffering in Africa.
3 April 2017
Syrian refugees Ramy and Suhila and their children, Khodus, Rashid and Abdul Mejid, relax in Rome in 2016 after Pope Francis brought them with him from a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece. The original three families that came with Pope Francis have moved to housing outside the Vatican, and three new Syrian refugee families have taken their place. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
The first three refugee families from Syria welcomed by the Vatican left their temporary homes to start their new lives in Italy, and three new families took their places in Vatican apartments.
The papal Almoner’s Office, which helps coordinate Pope Francis’ acts of charity, announced on 2 April that two Christian families and one Muslim family moved the apartments that housed the first refugee families welcomed by the Vatican in late 2015 and early 2016.
The two Christian families, the papal almoner’s office said, arrived in March after “suffering kidnapping and discrimination” because of their faith.
“The first family is composed of a mother with two adolescent children, a grandmother, an aunt and another Syrian woman who lives with them,” the office said.
The second family is a young couple, who had their first child — a daughter named Stella — shortly after moving into the Vatican apartment, the Almoner’s Office said.
“The mother had been kidnapped for several months by ISIS and now, in Italy, has regained serenity.”
The third family — a mother, father and two children — arrived in Italy in February 2016, the office said. The children have been attending elementary school in Italy while the mother has been attending graduate courses and currently has an internship.
The Vatican welcomed the refugee families after an appeal made by Pope Francis on 6 September 2015, in which he called on every parish, religious community, monastery and shrine in Europe to take in a family of refugees, given the ongoing crisis of people fleeing from war and poverty.
Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, said that aside from providing a home for the three families, the office also continues to provide financial support to the three Syrian families whom Pope Francis brought to Italy after his visit last year to the Greek island of Lesbos and for the nine additional refugees who arrived later.
24 January 2017
Boys carry sandwiches on 20 January in Aleppo, Syria. Conveying Pope Francis’ closeness to the Syrian people, a Vatican delegation visited Aleppo 18-23 January, following the end of the hostilities that left thousands dead and the city in ruins. (photo: CNS/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
Conveying Pope Francis’ closeness to the Syrian people, a Vatican delegation visited Aleppo following the end of the hostilities that left thousands dead and the city in ruins.
Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, secretary-delegate of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, visited the city 18-23 January, accompanied by Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria, and Msgr. Thomas Habib, an official at the nunciature, the Vatican said 24 January.
The delegation met with “Christian communities and their pastors, who expressed gratitude to the pope for his constant concern for beloved Syria,” the statement said.
They also visited several refugee camps and Catholic institutions assisting in relief efforts, including a humanitarian assistance center run by Caritas Aleppo.
According to the Vatican, during a meeting with the church’s charitable institutions, Msgr. Dal Toso and the delegation emphasized the importance of providing relief assistance to the Syrian people.
“With the support of the universal church and thanks to the generous contribution of the international community, such help may be intensified in the future to meet the growing needs of the people,” the Vatican said.
Members of the delegation also took part in an ecumenical prayer service that coincided with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, as well as several meetings with Islamic representatives.
The “responsibilities of religions in educating for peace and reconciliation” was among the issues discussed during the meetings, the Vatican noted.