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New tool to use 'Laudato Si'' to measure, rank nations' development

A Catholic university, the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation and a Latin American foundation working on sustainable development have developed a tool to measure and rank countries' efforts in human and environmental development.
 
The idea is to have an effective tool that measures using Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'" as the basis for the initiative.
 
The "Laudato Si'" Observatory will be launched at the closing of the Ratzinger Foundation's international symposium, scheduled Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in San Jose, said Fernando Sanchez, head of the Catholic University of Costa Rica.
 
Sanchez, a former Costa Rican ambassador to the Vatican, said the observatory hopes to prompt research and "to provide nations' governments an absolutely academic tool ... to promote positive change, which is what the pope is asking us to do, and it would be our major contribution with this symposium."
 
The observatory "stems from taking the encyclical, dividing it into measurable topics -- measurable indicators -- and drawing up a human and environmental index," all of which concern "human development and environmental development," he added.
 
In the 2015 encyclical, Pope Francis urged a conversation that includes everyone and the need for a conversion to bring about lasting change on how people view the environment.
 
Sanchez said the papal encyclical is the framework for the observatory and its output and, compared to other measurements already implemented, "the great difference is that this index will have the church's social doctrine as its anchor."
 
"The possibilities to prompt change with this index are enormous," he said.
 
The symposium, "On Care for Our Common Home, a Necessary Conversion to Human Ecology," aims to make it "utterly clear that the struggle for human, social, environmental development is not an ideological issue," Sanchez said.
 
"It's an issue of survival, it's an issue of responsibility, it's an issue of conscience. That's essential, and it's what the Holy Father tells us. Besides, it's not for some, it's for all," said Sanchez.
 
"And also, he clearly says that it's a real issue ... climate change," although "some new leaders have tried to say it's an invention," said Sanchez, who reaffirmed that "it's real, it's urgent, it's global and it's not ideological."
 
The three-day event, to be held at a luxury hotel on the outskirts of this capital city, features presentations by Cardinal Claudio Hummes, retired head of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy and president of the Brazilian bishops' Commission for the Amazon; Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, head of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education; and Tomas Insua, research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and executive director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.
 
Sanchez said there is high expectation about general participation in the symposium, because scholars, entrepreneurs, environmentalists and students have been invited.
 
"The great challenge we have here is to take an issue, which is for all an important issue, discuss around it and do it in a simple way, as the pope is doing," he said.
In his view, "one of the pope's marvels ... is that he has managed to 'democratize' the Holy See's message, because everyone understands him. You may be in favor or against him, but you undoubtedly understand him, and this encyclical is a good example," he said.
 
Related:
A former head of Catholic Relief Services will be in Vermont to speak at the “Action for Ecological Justice: Celebrating a Year of Creation” conference at St. Michael's College on Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The conference will be the main event of the Diocese of Burlington’s Year of Creation, a yearlong, statewide, intentional focus on embracing the message of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”
 
Dr. Carolyn Woo, who from 2012-2016 was president and CEO of CRS, the U.S. Catholic Church's official, international humanitarian and development aid agency, will present a personal look at the encyclical she helped Pope Francis present in Rome, at environmental degradation and its effect on the poor and at measures to minimize further environmental harm from carbon emissions and remediate damage already done.
 
The conference at St. Michael’s College will be open to people of all faiths.
 
General registration is $35 per person and includes morning pastries, lunch and afternoon breakout sessions. Students can register for free.
 
For more information, call Stephanie Clary at 802-846-5822.
 

 
  • Published in World

Pope amends Church law on Mass translations

In changes to the Code of Canon Law regarding translations of the Mass and other liturgical texts, Pope Francis highlighted respect for the responsibility of national and regional bishops' conferences.
 
The changes, released by the Vatican Sept. 9 as Pope Francis was traveling in Colombia, noted the sometimes tense relationship between bishops' conferences and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments over translations of texts from Latin to the bishops' local languages.
 
The heart of the document, which applies only to the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, changes two clauses in Canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law. The Vatican no longer will "review" translations submitted by bishops' conferences, but will "recognize" them. And rather than being called to "prepare and publish" the translations, the bishops are to "approve and publish" them.
 
Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the worship congregation, said under the new rules, the Vatican's "confirmatio" of a translation is "ordinarily granted based on trust and confidence," and "supposes a positive evaluation of the faithfulness and congruence of the texts produced with respect to the typical Latin text."
Pope Francis made no announcement of immediate changes to the translations currently in use.
 
The document is titled "Magnum Principium" ("The Great Principle") and refers to what Pope Francis called the "great principle" of the Second Vatican Council that the liturgy should be understood by the people at prayer, and therefore bishops were asked to prepare and approve translations of the texts.
 
Pope Francis did not overturn previous norms and documents on the principles that should inspire the various translations, but said they were "general guidelines," which should continue to be followed to ensure "integrity and accurate faithfulness, especially in translating some texts of major importance in each liturgical book."
 
However, the pope seemed to indicate a willingness to allow some space for the translation principle known as "dynamic equivalence," which focuses on faithfully rendering the sense of a phrase rather than translating each individual word and even maintaining the original language's syntax.
 
"While fidelity cannot always be judged by individual words but must be sought in the context of the whole communicative act and according to its literary genre," the pope wrote, "nevertheless some particular terms must also be considered in the context of the entire Catholic faith, because each translation of texts must be congruent with sound doctrine."
 
The pope said the changes would go into effect Oct. 1, and he ordered the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments to "modify its own 'Regulations' on the basis of the new discipline and help the episcopal conferences to fulfill their task as well as working to promote ever more the liturgical life of the Latin Church."
 
The greater oversight provided earlier by the Vatican was understandable, Pope Francis said, given the supreme importance of the Mass and other liturgies in the life of the Church.
 
The main concerns, he said, were to preserve "the substantial unity of the Roman rite," even without universal celebrations in Latin, but also to recognize that vernacular languages themselves could "become liturgical languages, standing out in a not-dissimilar way to liturgical Latin for their elegance of style and the profundity of their concepts with the aim of nourishing the faith."
 
Another teaching of the Second Vatican Council that needed to be strengthened, he said, was a recognition of "the right and duty of episcopal conferences," which are called to collaborate with the Vatican.
 
  • Published in World

World Day of Prayer for Creation

Environmental destruction is a sign of a "morally decaying scenario" in which too many people ignore or deny that, from the beginning, "God intended humanity to cooperate in the preservation and protection of the natural environment," said the leaders of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
 
Marking the Sept. 1 World Day of Prayer for Creation, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople issued a joint message.
 
They urged government and business leaders "to respond to the plea of millions and support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation."
Looking at the description of the Garden of Eden from the Book of Genesis, the pope and patriarch said, "The earth was entrusted to us as a sublime gift and legacy."
 
But, they said, "our propensity to interrupt the world's delicate and balanced ecosystems, our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet's limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets -- all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation."
 
"We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession," the two leaders said. "We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs."
 
Ignoring God's plan for creation has "tragic and lasting" consequences on both "the human environment and the natural environment," they wrote. "Our human dignity and welfare are deeply connected to our care for the whole of creation."
 
The pope and the patriarch said prayer is not incidental to ecology, because "an objective of our prayer is to change the way we perceive the world in order to change the way we relate to the world."
 
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople established the World Day of Prayer for Creation in 1989. In 2015, shortly after publishing his encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si'," Pope Francis established the day of prayer for Catholics as well.
 
The object of Christian prayer and action for the safeguarding of creation, the two leaders wrote, is to encourage all Christians "to be courageous in embracing greater simplicity and solidarity in our lives."
 
Echoing remarks Pope Francis made Aug. 30 when the pontiff announced he and the patriarch were issuing a joint message, the text included a plea to world leaders.
 
"We urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural, responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized," they wrote. No enduring solution can be found "to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service."
 
Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew also highlighted how "this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people," especially the poor, in a more pronounced way.
 
"Our obligation to use the Earth's goods responsibly implies the recognition of and respect for all people and all living creatures," they said. "The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work toward sustainable and integral development."
 
  • Published in World

U.S. Bishops Call for Solidarity, Conversion

In anticipation of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued a statement echoing Pope Francis’ call that all people, “Christians or not,…should be united in showing mercy to the earth as our common home.”  

The letter emphasizes the call to conversion and the role of mercy in caring for the environment, building on the Pope’s message last year. “Showing mercy to our common home first requires a personal and institutional examination of conscience,” said Bishops Dewane and Cantú.

The bishops recognized the need for collective action and restated their call for an “energy revolution,” stressing that we must especially “remember those who labor in the energy industry, from coal miners and solar engineers to legislators and scientists.”

The message also recognizes September 1 as the first day of the “Season of Creation,” which concludes on October 4 with the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. The bishops acknowledge that this “is a privileged time for all persons of faith to consider spiritual and corporal acts of mercy towards our common home and all those living in it, so that this may also become a ‘season of mercy’ within our families, our communities and our world.”  

Full text: Statement on World Day of Prayer for Creation

 
  • Published in Nation

'Integral ecology'

Catholic social teaching has developed over the past century as new problems — human, social, economic and environmental — come clearer into focus and call out for a faith-based response.
 
Pope Francis’ contribution, with his encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” is to emphasize just how closely entwined those problems are.
 
“After Laudato Si’, for the Catholic Church, these are connected. You cannot try to tackle poverty without caring for the Earth and equally you cannot care for the Earth without caring for the people who live on the Earth,” said Father Augusto Zampini Davies, an official at the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
 
One of the biggest challenges of Pope Francis’ approach is a spiritual one, the Argentine priest said. It involves conversion.
 
The poor are impacted most by climate change, yet they have done the least to contribute to it, he said. “We must convert and change our lifestyles and help others cope with the climate change we’ve caused.”
 
People in wealthy countries may think they are “ecologically friendly” because they recycle and “like trees and gardening,” he said, “but the way we produce, trade, consume and waste” is not offset by separating plastic from paper.
 
In addition, wealthy countries “have the resources to mitigate the effects of climate change,” for example, in building infrastructure to control flooding and providing emergency relief to victims of natural disasters and drought. But in poor countries, thousands of people die in floods and tens of thousands are forced to migrate because of drought and famine.
 
“If you cannot grow your crops and feed your children, who wouldn’t migrate?” he asked.
 
In richer countries, the conversion Pope Francis is calling for includes learning to face fear with a Gospel-based attitude toward others and toward future generations, the priest said.
 
The connections between environmental damage, the global economy and migration are clear, he said. And so are the motives underlying reactions like climate-change denial, isolationism and anti-migrant sentiments.
 
“What Pope Francis does is say, ‘OK, here are the symptoms, let’s find the roots,'” Father Zampini Davies said. “The roots are the same: selfishness or indifference or greed or this mentality of thinking that if I have more I will be more important.”
 
In many ways, he said, fear appears to be spreading among people in the wealthiest nations, and “politicians play on people’s fears. If I feel I am not benefiting from the global economy and I live in a democracy, I will vote for someone who says they will get us out of that.”
 
Christians can find in their faith a healthy way to handle their fears, he said, “because we have a different approach to the quality of life, to what it means to have a better life, because our understanding of life is relational and our understanding of redemption and salvation is that it is for all of creation.”
 
Transforming the former Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace into the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Pope Francis specified that the office is an expression of the Church’s “concern for issues of justice and peace, including those related to migration, health, charitable works and the care of creation.”
 
In other words, for Pope Francis, all those issues together are key components of “integral human development.”
 
Father Zampini Davies, a priest of the Diocese of San Isidro, Argentina, is one of the newest officials at the dicastery. He moved to Rome from London where he spent the last four years serving as a theological adviser to CAFOD, the official aid agency of the bishops of England and Wales.
 
His focus is “integral ecology,” which includes development, the environment and spirituality.
 
Early development efforts focused almost exclusively on material growth, Father Zampini Davies said, but over time it became obvious that increasing income and purchasing power was not enough. Progress also meant access to education and health care and greater social and political inclusion.
 
Thanks also to the social teaching of Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, he said, Catholic development experts began insisting that respect for human dignity, strengthening families and religious freedom also were markers of progress.
 
For many of the development models, he said, environmental degradation was accepted as collateral damage in the drive to increase production and consumption, thereby raising GDPs.
 
Now it is clear to scientists, economists, development experts and theologians that care for the environment and reducing the factors that contribute to climate change are essential for making development sustainable and truly caring for the poor, Father Zampini Davies said.
 
  • Published in World

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

In a week in which natural disasters, war and racial conflicts dominated the headlines, Pope Francis prayed that Mary would bring peace to a divided world.
 
After reciting the Angelus prayer on the feast of the Assumption, the pope asked Mary to obtain "for everyone consolation and a future of serenity and harmony."
"To Mary, Queen of Peace -- who we contemplate today in the glory of paradise -- I entrust once again the anxieties and sorrows of the people who suffer in many parts of the world due to natural disasters, social tensions or conflicts," the pope told thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square Aug. 15.
 
Pope Francis did not name any specific location, but as he spoke, the search for survivors continued in Sierra Leone after a devastating mudslide engulfed the outskirts of the capital, Freetown, killing more than 300 people. Flooding and landslides also struck southern Nepal, killing at least 70 people.
 
In Charlottesville, Va., clashes between white nationalists and protesters resulted in the death of three people, including a 32-year-old paralegal, Heather D. Heyer, who was killed Aug. 12 when a car plowed into a group protesting the white nationalist rally.
 
In his main Angelus talk, the pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading, which recalled Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth.
 
The joy felt by Elizabeth and the child in her womb reflects the interior joy Christians feel in Christ's presence, the pope said. "When Mary arrives, joy overflows and bursts from their hearts because the invisible yet real presence of Jesus fills everything with meaning: life, family, the salvation of the people. Everything!"
 
In response, Mary proclaims the Magnificat, her hymn of praise to God for his great works. Pope Francis said it is the hymn of "humble people, unknown to the world, like Mary, like her husband Joseph as well as the town where they live, Nazareth."
God accomplishes "great things with humble people," the pope said, inviting people in St. Peter's Square to reflect on the state of their own humility.
 
"Humility is like an empty space that leaves room for God. A humble person is powerful because he is humble, not because he is strong. This is the greatness of humility," he said.
 
The joy Mary brings because she brings Jesus to the world gives all Christians "a new ability to pass through the most painful and difficult moments with faith" as well as the "ability to be merciful, to forgive, understand and support each other."
 
"Mary is a model of virtue and faith," Pope Francis said. "We ask her to protect and sustain us that we may have a faith that is strong, joyful and merciful. May she help us to become saints, to meet her one day in paradise."
 
  • Published in World

'Perfect people'

God did not choose perfect people to form His Church but rather sinners who have experienced His love and forgiveness, Pope Francis said.
 
The Gospel of Luke's account of Jesus forgiving the sinful woman shows how His actions went against the general mentality of His time, a way of thinking that saw a "clear separation" between the pure and impure, the pope said Aug. 9 during his weekly general audience.
 
"There were some scribes, those who believed they were perfect," the pope said. "And I think about so many Catholics who think they are perfect and scorn others. This is sad."
 
Continuing his series of audience talks about Christian hope, the pope reflected on Jesus' "scandalous gesture" of forgiving the sinful woman.
 
The woman, he said, was one of many poor women who were visited secretly even by those who denounced them as sinful.
 
Although Jesus' love toward the sick and the marginalized "baffles His contemporaries," it reveals God's heart as the place where suffering men and women can find love, compassion and healing, Pope Francis said.
 
"How many people continue today in a wayward life because they find no one willing to look at them in a different way, with the eyes -- or better yet -- with the heart of God, meaning with hope," he said. But "Jesus sees the possibility of a resurrection even in those who have made so many wrong choices."
 
Oftentimes, the pope continued, Christians become accustomed to having their sins forgiven and receiving God's unconditional love while forgetting the heavy price Jesus paid by dying on the cross.
 
By forgiving sinners, Jesus doesn't seek to free them from a guilty conscience, but He offers "people who have made mistakes the hope of a new life, a life marked by love," the pope said.
 
The Church is a people formed "of sinners who have experienced the mercy and forgiveness of God," Pope Francis said. Christians are "all poor sinners" who need God's mercy, "which strengthens us and gives us hope."
 
  • Published in Vatican

Vatican conserving water

While Rome reels from one of its worst droughts in decades, the Vatican is doing its part to conserve water by shutting down the city-state's 100 fountains.
 
The office governing Vatican City State announced July 25 that the drought has "led the Holy See to take measures aimed at saving water" by shutting down fountains in St. Peter's Square, throughout the Vatican Gardens and in the territory of the state.
 
"The decision is in line with the teachings of Pope Francis, who reminds us in his encyclical 'Laudato Si'' how 'the habit of wasting and discarding' has reached 'unprecedented levels' while 'fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems,'" the office said.
 
The prolonged drought has forced officials from the Lazio region of Italy to halt pumping water from Lake Bracciano, located roughly 19 miles north of Rome. Less than usual rainfalls in the past two years have steadily depleted the lake, which provides 8 percent of the city's water supply.
 
In an interview with Italian news outlet Tgcom24, Nicola Zingaretti, the region's president, said the lake's water level has "fallen too much and we risk an environmental disaster."
 
While the drought already forced Rome city officials to shut down some of Rome's public drinking fountains in June, it may lead to strict water rationing for the city's estimated 1.5 million residents.
 
City officials may also take the Vatican's lead and shut down water pouring down from Rome's many ancient fountains.
 
Pilgrims and visitors alike have marveled at the majestic fountains of St. Peter's Square that have cascaded water for centuries since their construction in the 17th century.
 
While the source of water was once provided from an ancient Roman aqueduct, the two fountains, as well as 10 percent of Vatican City State's 100 fountains "recirculate water currently," Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told Catholic News Service in a July 25 email.
 
Others, he added, "will eventually be transformed in order to recirculate" the same water rather than let it be wasted by running into the drainage or sewer system.
Burke told CNS that the Vatican's move to switch off the fountains located within its territory is "a way to show a good example" in conserving water as the city deals with the crisis.
 
"We're not going to be able to solve Rome's water problem this summer, but we can do our part," Burke said. "This is the Vatican putting 'Laudato Si'' into action. Let's not waste water."
 
  • Published in World
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