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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
15 February 2013
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.

A red skull cap is seen as the world’s cardinals gather in St. Peter’s Basilica before the start of the last conclave in this 2005 file photo. (photo: CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI continuing to generate headlines and analysis, we asked our external affairs officer, Father Elias Mallon, to look at a few little-known facts about papal elections.

  1. For several centuries the bishop of Rome was chosen in the same manner as other bishops — by the clergy, the neighboring bishops and the people of Rome. In 709, a Synod of the Lateran abolished the role of the people of Rome in the selection of the bishop. Nonetheless, slightly less than a hundred years later, in 862, the right of approval was restored to the Roman nobility by Pope Nicholas I.

  2. In 1059, Pope Nicholas II decreed that the pope should be elected by the cardinals, although the system he set up was very different from the present one and a pope took office still only after the assent of the clergy and laity of Rome.

  3. The conclave (Latin: cum clave, “[locked in] with a key”) was in place by the time of Pope Gregory X (1271-1276). Gregory set up stringent rules intended to prevent the extremely lengthy elections that had taken place in the past. Cardinals were secluded, were without private rooms and were allowed only two servants. After three days, they were to receive one meal a day; after five days, only bread and water. Over the centuries popes added, removed and modified different aspects of the conclave. Pope John Paul II codified the procedures now in place in 1996. The present conditions under which cardinals in conclave live aren’t as harsh as those prescribed by Gregory but they are still, nonetheless, monastic.

  4. The number of cardinals has varied greatly over the centuries. Pope Sixtus V limited the number to 70 in 1587. However, in 1970 Pope Paul VI raised the number to 120, stipulating that cardinals over the age of 80 at the time of a pope’s death (or resignation) are ineligible to vote in a conclave. It is estimated that at times the College of Cardinals consisted of less than 10 cardinals.

  5. The youngest pope ever elected was Giovanni di Medici who took the name Leo X. He was elected in 1513 at the age of 38. Although he was tonsured and, therefore, a cleric, he was not ordained or the member of a religious order at the time of his election. In 533, a man named Mercurius was elected. He thought it inappropriate for the bishop of Rome to have the name of the Roman god Mercury and changed his name to John (II). Since then, most popes have changed their names on being elected. The last pope to keep his baptismal name was Pope Marcellus II, who reigned less than 20 days in April 1555.

Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Pope Patriarchs Vocations (religious)

15 February 2013
Greg Kandra

In this image from 2009, Pope Benedict XVI takes in the panoramic view from Mount Nebo in Madaba, Jordan. The place where Moses glimpsed the Promised Land before dying is marked by a modern sculpture of the prophet’s serpentine staff. (photo: CNS/Ali Jarekji, Reuters)

During his trip to the Holy Land in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI visited Mount Nebo in Jordan, the spot where tradition holds that Moses saw the Promised Land.

In a message that seems today both poignant and prophetic, the Holy Father said at the time:

In the footsteps of the prophets, the apostles and the saints, we are called to walk with the Lord, to carry on his mission, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s universal love and mercy.

We are called to welcome the coming of Christ’s kingdom by our charity, our service to the poor and our efforts to be a leaven of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace in the world around us.

We know that, like Moses, we may not see the complete fulfillment of God’s plan in our lifetime. Yet we trust that, by doing our small part, in fidelity to the vocation each of us has received, we will help to make straight the paths of the Lord and welcome the dawn of his kingdom.

The full text of his remarks can be found here.

You can read more on the pope’s trip from the July 2009 issue of ONE.

Tags: Jordan Pope Benedict XVI Pilgrimage/pilgrims

15 February 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Clergy from the Diocese of Rome process into St. Peter’s Basilica for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on 14 February. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope warns of church divisions and infighting (Christian Science Monitor) With passing phrases and striking images, Pope Benedict XVI is assembling a last testament to his Roman Catholic Church, urging its leaders to put aside their rivalries and think only of the unity of the faith. The message, slipped into statements both before and after his shocking resignation announcement on Monday, reads like a veiled rebuke to leading cardinals jockeying for influence in the upcoming conclave and in the papacy that it will produce. The German pope urged the faithful on Wednesday to “show the face of the church and how that face is sometimes disfigured. ... I am thinking particularly about sins against the unity of the church, about divisions in the body of the church,” he said. “Overcoming individualism and rivalry is a humble sign,” he added during his last public Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica…

Church seeks contact with kidnappers of Syrian priests (Fides) Christians in Aleppo are seeking contact with the kidnappers of two priests: Armenian Catholic Father Michel Kayyal and Greek Orthodox Father Maher Mahfouz. On 9 February, a group of armed rebels captured them on the road that leads from Aleppo to Damascus. So far, attempts to open channels of negotiation to free the two priests have failed. Armenian Catholic Archbishop Boutros Marayati of Aleppo reported to Fides: “The so-called kidnappers phoned the brother of one of the two priests and said only: ‘They are with us.’ But they did not explain what is behind the ‘we,’ and have not asked for any demands. On our behalf, we have limited the area in which they are held hostage, and we are trying to open a channel of negotiation with the tribal leader of that area. So far our attempts have not had concrete effects. We do not know [the details of this] group of kidnappers, if we are dealing with rebels [or] bandits. … We wonder why this choice of kidnapping the two priests was made, among the many passengers of the bus attacked by the kidnappers”…

Violence against Egyptian street children on the rise (Fides) Walking the streets of Cairo, one can see many homeless, wandering victims of sexual violence and drug abuse. They live in poverty and danger. Although there are no official figures on how many there are, the latest estimates of the Centre for Egyptian Social and Criminal Research reported that 36 percent of street children have suffered sexual abuse, violence and other coercive practices such as prostitution. Some are lucky enough to end up in reception centers. One of these centers, run by the nongovernmental organization Hope Village, is in the district of Nasser where 20 children live eat, sleep, study and play in shared spaces. The N.G.O. is present in various cities of the country, and every year is able to assist an average of nearly 6,000 needy children — abandoned, orphaned or with families experiencing economic difficulties. Most of them have been victims of sexual violence and some need medical care due to physical and psychological trauma. The perpetrators tend to look for younger people because they think they have less chance of contracting diseases such as AIDS. The situation becomes more complicated when the young girls raped become pregnant…

U.N. estimates 40,000 have fled heavy fighting in eastern Syria (Daily Star Lebanon) Tens of thousands of people have fled a town in eastern Syria after three days of heavy fighting between government troops and rebels, the United Nations food agency said. Rebels seized al Shaddadeh in Syria’s oil-producing east on Thursday after the clashes which killed 30 of their fighters and 100 Syrian government troops, a monitoring group told Reuters. “A W.F.P. [World Food Program] team visited the area and estimated that around 40,000 people have fled al Shaddadeh to [the regional capital] al Hasakah,” the U.N. agency told journalists in Geneva on Friday. Northeastern Syria was hit by four years of drought before the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad started nearly two years ago, resulting in high rates of malnutrition among children, WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said. “The fighting and displacement only aggravates the misery of these people,” she said, adding the agency had sent extra rations to the area this week…

Armenia tries to help as Armenian Christians flee Syria (USA Today) Aleppo is home to more than 80% of Syria’s Armenian community, and those who are still there remain at the center of the battle for control of the country. The Armenian Christian community in Syria is relatively small — between 60,000 and 100,000 people, according to estimates — but its history has added to its unease. Armenians in Syria are descendants of people who fled to Syria after escaping genocide against Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in World War I. Many worry the same can happen in Syria, where the Christian Armenians are again at the mercy of Muslim factions at war, and they are desperate to get out. To date, the Ministry of Diaspora estimates that more than 7,000 of Syria’s Armenian Christian community have arrived in Armenia since the start of the conflict. Armenian authorities are trying to find ways to speed the exit from Syria and make the adjustment to life here easier. The authorities have simplified the visa process out of Syria. Elementary schools have been established that teach classes in the Arabic language that Syrian-Armenian children have grown up with, according to a familiar Syrian curriculum…

Tags: Egypt Refugees Syrian Civil War Violence against Christians Pope Benedict XVI

14 February 2013
Greg Kandra

Pope Benedict XVI prays at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, in the Old City of Jerusalem on 12 May 2009. The pope left a written prayer in a crevice of the wall. It appealed to God to bring “your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human family.” (photo: CNS/Catholic Press Photo)

Like his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI has spent much of his time as pontiff traveling the world. In 2009, he made a historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land, praying at sites sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews. He said at the time:

My friends: Jerusalem, which has long been a crossroads for peoples of many different origins, is a city that affords Jews, Christians and Muslims both the duty and the privilege to bear witness together to the peaceful coexistence long desired by worshipers of the one God; to lay bare the Almighty’s plan for the unity of the human family announced to Abraham; and to proclaim the true nature of man as a seeker of God. Let us resolve to ensure that through the teaching and guidance of our respective communities we shall assist them to be true to who they are as believers, ever aware of the infinite goodness of God, the inviolable dignity of every human being and the unity of the entire human family.

You can read more of his remarks from his journey in the July 2009 issue of ONE.

Tags: Jerusalem Middle East Pope Benedict XVI Holy Land Prayers/Hymns/Saints

14 February 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

St. Valentine is pictured in a stained-glass window at the Basilica of St. Valentine in Terni, Italy, on 10 February. While some details of St. Valentine’s life are lost to history, the local diocese believes he was the martyred 3rd-century bishop of Terni. A special Mass was celebrated at the basilica on 10 February for engaged couples in advance of Valentine's Day, which is celebrated today. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Benedict XVI ‘close to these forgotten people’ of Syria (Fides) Ash Wednesday began the third Lent of suffering for Christians living in Syria: a time marked by anxiety and hope. Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus focuses on some recent events that have inspired mixed feelings among the baptized in Syria: the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the visit to Damascus of the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter and the exodus of the faithful of the Greek Orthodox church. The resignation of the Holy Father, Archbishop Nassar notes, touched in a very special way the Syrian Christians: prayer and appeals of Pope Benedict XVI for peace in Syria, along with his concrete acts of charity, “had made the Pope so close to these forgotten people.” The Maronite Archbishop hopes that we can proceed along the common path “in this time of Lent that he has chosen to continue his mission in a different way”…

Indian Catholics call for a moratorium on the death penalty (Fides) A few days after the execution of Afzal Guru, one of the terrorists responsible for the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, the Indian Catholic movements, while expressing solidarity and prayers to the families of the victims, call for a moratorium on the death penalty in the country. In a statement sent to Fides Agency, the “Catholic Secular Forum” (C.S.F.) movement of the Indian Catholic laity remembers that in a recent vote at the U.N. General Assembly, 110 countries called for the abolition of the death penalty, while India was among the 39 countries that sustained it. According to the U.N., about 150 countries have abolished the death penalty or have established a moratorium. The President of the C.S.F. says: “India should consider a moratorium against all executions, pending a … comprehensive review of the death penalty”…

Syrian rebels battle at military base near Aleppo airport (Christian Science Monitor) Syrian rebels fought pitched battles Wednesday against regime forces at a military base that protects a major airport in the country’s north in fighting that has left more than 40 government troops dead, opposition activists said. Rebels have been attacking the civilian airport in the city of Aleppo for weeks, and now appear to have overrun the main defenses around the facility. But the airport itself, which stopped handling any flights weeks ago because of the fighting, still remains in regime hands. Also Wednesday, Syria’s former Foreign Ministry spokesman made his first comments since disappearing in December, saying he left the country because “of the polarization and violence that left no place for moderation and diplomacy.” Jihad Makdissi, who was known for defending President Bashar Assad’s regime in fluent English, said in a statement sent to the Abu-Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia that he did not go to Europe or the U.S. after leaving Syria. He did not say where he currently is, adding that “I have no secrets that anyone would want.” In his statement Wednesday, Makdissi said the Syrian uprising has “legitimate demands”…

Russian Orthodox leaders respond to papal resignation (Russia Beyond the Headlines) Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, and chairman of the Department of External Church Relations, said that Pope Benedict’s decision was “a personal act of courage and humility. ... The news of his resignation was a surprise even for his closest collaborators,” he observed. “The Russian Orthodox Church is grateful to [the pope] for his work in understanding and solving problems that obstruct the relationships between Orthodox Christians and Catholics, especially in regions such as Ukraine.” Patriarch Kirill returned to the topic of relations between the two churches recently, stressing that he has by no means ruled out the possibility of an official meeting with the head of the Vatican. According to Kirill, the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church have many opinions in common today, such as “matters regarding the family, marriage, children and safeguarding Christian values in Europe.” Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, which will become effective on February 28, 2013, among other things, coincides with the arrival in Rome of the former Russian minister of culture, Aleksandr Avdeyev, now appointed Russian ambassador to the Vatican…

Syrian Greek Orthodox patriarch enthroned in Damascus (Huffington Post) Syria’s Greek Orthodox Church enthroned a new patriarch during a ceremonial mass in Damascus on Sunday amid civil war. Patriarch Youhanna X, 57, replaces Patriarch Ignatius IV, who died in December, as the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. There are a number of mostly autonomous Orthodox churches in the Middle East and the region also has more than a half dozen patriarchs, including the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of world’s Orthodox Christians. Christians represent about 5 percent of the population in Syria, where rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad are locked in a civil war the U.N. says has killed more than 60,000 people…

Tags: Syrian Civil War Pope Benedict XVI Russian Orthodox Church Patriarchs Indian Catholics

13 February 2013
John E. Kozar

A Swiss Guard salutes as Pope Benedict XVI leaves his general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on 13 February. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Dear CNEWA friends and supporters,

Pope Benedict’s resignation as pontiff has taken us all by surprise: We are not used to such public renunciations of power and status. But through his actions, our Holy Father is once again teaching us about humility and selflessness:

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

On Ash Wednesday, the pope told a large crowd of pilgrims that he “decided to renounce the ministry that the Lord gave to me … for the good of the church.” For the good of the church. Throughout Benedict’s pontificate, he has worked tirelessly for the people of God. Despite his age, and deteriorating health, our pope has tackled some serious challenges, issues that threaten the future of humanity.

He has been particularly present in CNEWA’s world, traveling to Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Palestine, where he pressed for peace and justice. He has called for greater dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews. His love for the Christians of the Middle East prompted a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops to address their concerns. During his visit to Lebanon last September, I was privileged to witness firsthand his message of peace. There, not far from the violence in Syria, he offered loving guidance in an exhortation the significance of which is still not yet fully understood.

My dear friends and CNEWA family, please pray for him, and for his successor as Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Servant of the Servants of God.

Join me in thanking our Holy Father for his life of loving and gentle service to the church. Consider making a gift in his honor to CNEWA. Together, we build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue — and inspire hope.

Msgr. John E. Kozar

Tags: CNEWA Pope Benedict XVI Msgr. John E. Kozar

13 February 2013
John E. Kozar

Today we begin the holy observance of Lent. As we enter into this penitential season, I want to share a few thoughts with you. Please take a moment to watch the video below:

Lent is a wonderful opportunity to renew your body and spirit, and to place yourself in service before the Lord and his church. I pray my words help you on your Lenten journey — and stir you to make a generous gift for the Eastern Catholic churches and their ministry to the poor.

You can offer your Lenten dedication to CNEWA here.

Tags: CNEWA Poor/Poverty Donors CNEWA Pontifical Mission

13 February 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

Pope Benedict XVI receives ashes from Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, during Ash Wednesday Mass at the Vatican on 13 February. The service is expected to be the last large liturgical event of Pope Benedict's papacy, following his announced resignation. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Pope

13 February 2013
J.D. Conor Mauro

A child dressed as a Swiss Guard stands in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 12 February. (photo: CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope’s brother says pontiff pondered resignation for several months (AP) Speaking to reporters at his home in the southern German city of Regensburg, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, who was ordained on the same day in 1951 as his brother Joseph, said he didn’t expect Benedict’s continued presence in the Vatican to intimidate the next pope. “It’s possible [the next pope] may ask for advice,” said Ratzinger. “I think it’s quite likely they will talk.” The 85-year-old Benedict shocked the world Monday by announcing that he planned to step down from the papacy at the end of the month. For his brother, however, the decision was no surprise. “He has been thinking about it for several months,” the elder Ratzinger said. “He concluded that his powers are falling victim to age.” He dismissed suggestions that the pope had been pushed to resign…

Syrian refugees face kidnapping, rape and human trafficking (Fides) The conflict in Syria deteriorates and affects all Syrian citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religion. But, as in any war, the situation of minorities is the worst: the Christian minorities have become an easy target for criminals and terrorists who use kidnapping and rape as tactics of fear and control, and organize the trafficking of refugees. This is what is said in a note sent to Fides Agency by the non-governmental organization “Minority Rights Group,” based in London, which each year draws up a detailed report on the condition of cultural, ethnic and religious minorities throughout the world. After an extensive survey conducted among refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, and talks with Syrian refugees who arrived in Europe, the organization also acknowledged the plight of the refugees of the Christian religion, giving voice “to a silent minority who tell harrowing stories of rapes, kidnappings and human trafficking.” According to the organization, the majority of refugees interviewed express a desire to leave the Middle East. To this end, there are even reports of refugees cooperating with gangs of human traffickers in order to flee…

Church never consented to new Israeli separation wall (Fides) “The lawyers of the Israeli army said the route of the separation wall in the Valley of Cremisan had received the consent of the church. But … there has never been any kind of approval, by the Salesians or the Vatican,” said Bishop William Shomali, patriarchal vicar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, describing details of the hearing held yesterday in Tel Aviv on the new separation wall. This case sets Palestinian Christian families and the Salesian Sisters against the Israeli army on the route of the wall sought by the Israeli authorities in the Bethlehem area. At the hearing — which saw the presence of Bishop Shomali, along with several priests of the patriarchate — the legal representatives of the parties exhibited for the last time their arguments before three judges of Court of Justice in Tel Aviv. The lawyers of the 58 Palestinian families and of the Salesian Sisters, with the aid of maps and topographical material, documented that the route of the wall seriously damages their clients, offering an alternative route nearer to the 1967 border between Israel and the West Bank. In addition to the bishop and the priests, diplomatic representatives of France, Germany, Norway and the United Nations also attended the hearing…

Egypt floods Gaza tunnels, cuts Palestinian lifeline (Daily Star Lebanon) Egyptian forces have flooded tunnels under the border with the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip in a campaign to shut them down, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said. The network of tunnels is a vital lifeline for Gaza, bringing in an estimated 30 percent of all goods that reach the enclave and circumventing a blockade imposed by Israel for more than seven years. Reuters reporters saw one tunnel being used to bring in cement and gravel suddenly fill with water on Sunday, sending workers rushing for safety. Locals said two other tunnels were likewise flooded, with Egyptians deliberately pumping in water. “The Egyptians have opened the water to drown the tunnels,” said Abu Ghassan, who supervises the work of 30 men at one tunnel some 200 yards from the border fence. The move surprised and angered Gaza’s rulers, the Islamist group Hamas, which had hoped for much better ties with Cairo following the election last year of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi…

Tags: Egypt Syrian Civil War Palestine Pope Benedict XVI human trafficking

12 February 2013
Greg Kandra

Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation yesterday at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

After Pope Benedict XVI’s historic announcement yesterday, the world has been asking a lot of questions about what the days ahead will bring.

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter has posted a very good Q&A primer, which includes some speculation about how a former pontiff might spend his time:

What will Benedict’s role being in the election of his successor?

To hear [Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico] Lombardi and others tell it, he won’t have any role at all.

“Benedict XVI will surely say absolutely nothing about the process of election,” Lombardi told the media. “He will be retired and will not interfere in any way in the process. You can be assured that the cardinals will be completely autonomous in their decision.”

That said, Benedict’s imprint is nevertheless destined to be on the conclave in two ways.

First, he has by now appointed the majority of the cardinals who will elect his successor (67 out of 117 who will be under 80 when the sede vacante begins and thus hold the right to vote). In that sense, one can expect these are men who mostly share his outlook on things.

Second, because he’s still alive, at least some cardinals may feel special pressure not to do anything that would be perceived as a repudiation of Benedict’s papacy, or that they suspect would cause him consternation. How that might translate into choices inside the conclave isn’t entirely clear, but it’s a piece of the puzzle worth considering.

What will Benedict do after the new pope is on the job?

Here we’re really in the realm of the hypothetical, because the only honest answer is that we just don’t know.

It’s reasonable to think that after some period of near-complete withdrawal to make it clear that the new pope is fully in charge, Benedict might want to resume writing on the scholarly and spiritual topics that have always been his passion.

Lombardi hinted at that possibility Tuesday, saying Benedict’s long-awaited encyclical on faith (timed to coincide with the Year of Faith, and completing a triptych with his earlier works on love and hope) would not be ready to go before he steps down. He left open the possibility, however, that Benedict might be able to make use of this material in another form in a private capacity.

Whether Benedict will publish writings while he’s still alive, however, or whether he’ll take appointments, appear at Vatican events, or otherwise play some sort of public role, is all apparently still being pondered.

What are the implications of all this for future popes?

Once again, Vatican officials have been at pains to say that Benedict’s is an “absolutely personal” choice, and that because every situation is different, it’s impossible to say what future popes might do.

Lombardi made a special point today of stressing that Benedict wouldn’t do anything to tie his successor’s hands. He said, for instance, that while Benedict clearly wants a pope to be present at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July, it will be up the next pontiff to freely decide if he wants to go or not.

Read it all at the NCR link.

Tags: Pope Benedict XVI Vatican Pope Papacy Holy See

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