Category: Vatican

In this week’s Acton Commentary, “A Passion for Government Leads to Neglect of Our Neighbor,” I examine how the disconnect between desires and deeds with reference to helping the needy among us perpetuates unbalanced budgets and spending on debt to the detriment of future generations. I highlight how St. John the Baptist came to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children” (Luke 1:17) by exhorting people to look to their neighbors and the small but practical ways they can serve them in love:

During his ministry, John’s message to everyday people, according to Luke, was remarkably simple: “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” To the tax collector, he warns not to take more than is due, and to the soldier his counsel is “be content with your wages” (cf. Luke 3:10-14). This was “the way of the Lord”?

I conclude by recommending the same for us today. The problem is not that people do not care, it is that we have forgotten with whom responsibility for the work of caring for the needy among us lies first of all. (more…)

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

At National Review Online, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg talks about the “profound illustration of the limits of applying secular political categories to something like the Catholic Church.” He goes on to discuss the “particular concerns” that Pope Francis has regarding economic issues, including materialism and consumerism, and the poor, all reflected through his life of asceticism. Gregg then places these reflections in the context of modern day Argentina. More:

Over the centuries … Catholics have actually disagreed among themselves about how best to help the needy. Indeed, the Church teaches that (1) these issues fall largely into the area of what it calls prudential judgment and (2) it is primarily the responsibility of lay Catholics. No Catholic can be a Communist. Nor can they be an anarcho-capitalist. But there is a lot of room between these extremes.

And how Catholics cash out that “in-between” is heavily influenced by the circumstances in which they find themselves. And in Pope Francis’s case, it’s the conditions of the economic basket-case otherwise known as modern Argentina.

Argentina is a once-prosperous nation that experienced a rapid spiral into seemingly perpetual economic dysfunction throughout the 20th century. Over and over again, Argentina has been brought to its knees by the populist politics of Peronism, which dominates Argentina’s Right and Left. “Kirchnerism,” as peddled by Argentina’s present and immediate past president, is simply the latest version of that.

In concrete terms, this pathology translates into big government, high taxes, hostility to business and foreign investment, heavy debt, and a level of corruption that defies imagination. That adds up to a strange mixture of unsophisticated Keynesianism and naked crony capitalism. And it doesn’t benefit the poor. It benefits the powerful and well-connected. In Argentina, you don’t get ahead through being economically entrepreneurial; you get ahead through political power and as many privileges from the state as you can.

This is the disaster that Pope Francis’s limited commentary on economic matters has sought to address since he became Argentina’s leading churchman in 1998.

Read “Pope Francis: A Man of the Left?” by Samuel Gregg on NRO.

Yesterday, Cardinals choose Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina to be the new pope.  A The Detroit News editorial points out that  “[t]hirty-nine percent of the world’s Catholics live in Latin America, making this pope a fitting choice for many Catholics.”

Countries with the largest number of Catholics include Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines and U.S. One hundred years ago, that landscape was shifted toward Europe, with France and Italy housing the greatest number.

The Detroit News asked Acton Research Fellow Michael Miller to comment on Bergoglio’s selection:

the choice of Bergoglio came as a surprise to many. But [Miller is] confident the new pope will offer continuity by preserving the strong intellectual tradition carried by Benedict XVI and John Paul II while upholding personal holiness.

Plus, Miller believes Bergoglio’s choice of the name Francis is symbolic of the kind of leader he’ll be. The name could refer to several Catholic saints, including Francis Xavier and Francis of Assisi. Between these saints, they advocated church reform, deep concern for the poor and evangelization. Bergoglio’s own background revolves around social justice and working with the marginalized.

The church needs a leader who can wear many hats, from bringing people to the faith to cleaning up problems both inside and outside the Vatican. Bergoglio has accepted the role with humility and seems ready to begin.

Early today, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina was elected as the 266th pope of the Catholic Church. Here are nine things you should know about Pope Francis.

pope-francis1. Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires in 1936. His father was an Italian immigrant.

2. He’s the first pope from South America. The only remaining continents that have never had a pope come from their lands are Australia, Antarctica, and North America.

3. He’s the first Jesuit pope.

4. He only has one lung. His other lung was removed due to infection when he was a teenager.

5. Bergoglio is known for his personal simplicity. In Argentina he lived in a simple apartment rather than the archbishop’s palace, cooked his own meals, and gave up his chauffeured limousine in favor of taking the bus to work.
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With the election of Pope Francis, the Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Rev. Robert A. Sirico released the following statement.

“Pope Francis is a man of great spirituality who is known for his commitment to doctrinal orthodoxy as well as for his simplicity of life,” Rev. Sirico said. “Like Benedict XVI, he combines concern for the poor with an insistence that it’s not the Church’s responsibility to be a political actor or to prescribe precise solutions to economic problems. In that regard, he’s a model for all Catholic bishops and clergy throughout the world.”

The conclave to elect the new pope is scheduled to begin tomorrow afternoon after the public Missa pro Eligendo Pontifice (Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff) which is scheduled at 10am Rome time.   It was at this mass in 2005 after the death of John Paul II that the then Cardinal Ratizinger famously spoke of the “dictatorship of relativism.”   At 4:30 pm Rome time, the cardinals wearing full choir dress will enter the Sistine Chapel singing the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit).  Cardinals will enter into conclave (from the Latin cum clave, meaning “with key”) and they will be locked away from the world with no access to television, newspapers, or mobile phones until they have elected the new pope.

As the Conclave gets underway and the world waits to see who will be the next pope, here are some helpful hints for making your way through the media storm that is already underway.

1. The papal election is not a U.S.- or European-style political event.

In our hyper politicized world where almost everything is reduced to politics it is hard for our imagination to process a public event like the election of a new pope outside of the structures of politics.  That’s not to say there’s no politics in the Church.  There’s too much of it.  Way too much. And it’s always a factor.  Nevertheless trying to understand the papal election if the light of the American political system or interest and lobbying groups will not be of much help. (more…)

Blog author: rsirico
posted by on Monday, March 11, 2013

Here’s a curious tidbit regarding the fumata, the white or black smoke that will rise from the Sistine Chapel’’s chimney signaling whether a pope has been elected or not.

“It is sometimes hard to distinguish the actual color of the smoke, such as in 2005”. Back then, I knew for sure there was a successful vote for pope when I saw the fumata in the middle of the afternoon session, even though it was difficult to tell if it was white or black.

Here’s why. Cardinals cast two ballots in the morning and another two ballots in the afternoon. However, if a pope is successfully elected after the first of the two ballots, then their votes are burned and white chemicals are added to report a positive outcome. “Otherwise, they wait to burn both ballots all in one fumata.

At the very end of the morning or afternoon the smoke can be white or black. But if we see the fumata mid-morning or mid-afternoon, then it has to be white for a successful election.

ROME — For all the ‘Vaticanisti’ (journalists specializing in the Vatican) sitting around Rome and interviewing one another for the last several weeks, the wholesale consumption of high blood pressure medication took a precipitous drop on the announcement Friday afternoon that the Conclave to elect the new pope would occur on Tuesday, March 12, one day later than I had predicted several weeks ago.  Now is the lull before the storm. A Mass praying for the election of the pope will be followed by the first voting session of the Conclave in the early evening.

With many media outlets waiting for that date to be announced, the remaining hotel rooms left in Rome will be gobbled up, and by Monday evening we can expect an influx of the rest of the 5000 journalists accredited to the Holy See to cover the event.

It is difficult not to compare the lead up to this Conclave to the last one I had the opportunity to witness eight years ago.  Then, of course, one of the monumental figures of the twentieth century had passed from the scene after a long and highly visible bout with Parkinson’s disease.  By the time I had arrived to provide commentary at the BBC location above St. Peter’s Square, the body of John Paul II was being translated (an elegant way of saying the body was ‘moved’) from the Apostolic Palace where the pope lived and died, to beneath the Bernini colonnades in the center of St. Peter’s Basilica. It was a slow, mournful and moving sight.  By the time the body of the Polish pope was laid in state at the foot of the papal altar lines, long line, began forming down boulevard leading to the basilica.  The crowds would grow in the following days to estimates ranging from three to four million pilgrims to pay the last respects the John Paul II. (more…)

Acton president and co-founder, Rev. Robert Sirico, and Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, are currently in Rome for the upcoming papal conclave. Here’s a roundup of their observations, including thoughts on the legacy of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI.

Rev. Sirico was recently on the Laura Ingraham show discussing Benedict XVI’s resignation and legacy with guest host, Raymond Arroyo. Rev. Sirico pointed out that in some ways this is an “era of firsts,” once a new pope is elected, there will be photographs of the pope and the pope emeritus together. Sirico and Arroyo talk about Benedict’s plans for retirement and that his legacy has been a noble one. Rev. Sirico argues that some of Benedict’s biggest contributions as “the pope of reason” are his encyclicals, his liturgical reform, and his refusal to compromise the truths of the faith. Finally, they note that Benedict fought to move the ongoing secularization “in the direction of the sunlight.”

Listen to their conversation below:

Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, was invited on Ave Maria’s Al Kresta in the Afternoon to talk about true reform in the Catholic church. They discuss Gregg’s recent article, “Catholicism, True Reform and the Next Pope,” the new era that the church is entering into, and the reforms that must occur. Gregg states that the church is always in need of reform, as humans are sinful and need to continually conform their lives to Christ. The church as a whole needs this reform in order to better equip it for it’s ultimate purpose: evangelizing.

Listen to the full interview:

Samuel Gregg also spoke to Dave Weekley from Metro News Hotline. They first discuss the search for a new pope. Gregg points out that there are about 115 cardinals who will be voting, several of these men are from Italy, but they are from all over the world with about 50 percent being European. Gregg also discusses his personal reaction to Benedict XVI’s resignation.

Listen here:

For all the latest news about Benedict’s resignation and the selection process for the new pope, visit Acton’s Resource Page.

In today’s The Detroit News, the Rev. Robert Sirico seeks to set aside some of the rumors, skewered Hollywood depictions, and media predictions that swirl around any papal conclave. Of course, this time is decidedly different, as the cardinals are coming together not after the death of a pope, but one’s retirement.

There is much talk throughout all the Church as to whom the next pope will be, and as Fr. Sirico points out, “[n]o one, not even the most well-informed Cardinal or Vatican journalist, has a clear answer to that question. Anyone telling you otherwise is dreaming.” Given the unusual circumstances of this conclave, Sirico believes this will not be a quick process.

…there is no obvious front-runner, no single cardinal that universally stands out as an obvious successor.

What does all this mean for the days ahead? Time. Time for the sifting process to allow the cardinals to get to know one another in this new light; time to get to the bottom of the problems related to the spirituality and governance of the Roman Curia (the bureaucracy that is supposed to help formulate, administer and communicate the decisions of the pope), which, even before the “Vatileaks” exposure, was well-known for its rivalries and cronyism; and time for the actual election process itself, due to procedural changes introduced since the last conclave, now requiring a two-thirds vote of the cardinals to elect a pope for up to 33 ballots.

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