POPES JOHN XXIII and JOHN PAUL II, The Catholic Church’s Modern Saints


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When Pope Francis canonizes former popes John XXIII and John Paul II, let’s not forget their true contributions amid the political labels.

This upcoming Sunday’s canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II by Pope Francis have been covered by the media in a somewhat predictable fashion. The exhausted narrative goes like this: in an attempt to please various political factions within the Church and society, the current bishop of Rome has made a politically savvy decision to proclaim both the ‘liberal’ John XXIII and the ‘conservative’ John Paul II saints.

To reduce the future saints to contemporary political labels both ignores the nuancns that defined their lives and distorts what Francis and the Church is doing in recognizing the saints that God has made in Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli and Karol Józef Wojtyła.


It’s important to remember that sanctity isn’t perfection. Every saint is also a sinner with a mix of virtues and vices. But in the saint, we can clearly see joy and holiness radiate through them. In their very lives, they communicate God to a skeptical world in a way many cannot. As Benedict XVI reminds us, the “[t]he saints were able to make the great journey of human existence in the way that Christ had done before them, because they were brimming with great hope.”

The particular sanctity of John XXIII and John Paul II is tied up intrinsically with the Second Vatican Council. In opening the Council in 1962, Pope John said he wanted to “throw open the doors of the Church and let the fresh air of the Spirit blow through.” If John opened the doors of the Church, then John Paul II was the one who most dramatically walked through those doors. During his 26-year pontificate, the first non-Italian pope since the Renaissance logged over 750,000 travel miles in 104 foreign trips, more than all previous popes combined.

By canonizing two of the most popular modern saints, Pope Francis is adding a newer element to the expectations of a saintly life: engagement with the world. This too is at the heart of Francis’s own identity. A member of the Society of Jesuit, Francis’s Jesuit order asks its men to “find God in all things.” One of the earliest leaders of the Jesuits, Father Jeromino Nadal said it well: “we are not monks; the world is our house!”

It’s clear: the two pope’s societal engagement—not supposed political ideologies—should be the markers of Sunday’s festivities. The Catholic Church of John XXIII, John Paul II and now of Francis is a Church that encounters the world. The opening lines to the Second Vatican Council’s most famous document communicates this reality: “[t]he joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”

The modern saints will be men and women who exist in the gritty reality of life. Within the context of his humanity, they will have to communicate in both word and deed the timeless truths of the faith: that God never tires of loving his people, and that all men, women and children are redeemed and made holy by God’s love in Jesus Christ.

The canonization of two popes shouldn’t make us naïve us though. The call to holiness isn’t just for clergy. It’s universal. As Caryll Houselander put it: “when the years move on and we look back, we find that it is not the social reformer or the economist or even the church leader who has done tremendous things for the human race, but the silly saints in their rags and tatters, with their empty pockets and their impossible dreams.”

But perhaps more important than what the saints have accomplished is how they have woken us up from our slumbers. They open our eyes and remind us that Jesus Christ is all around us, only if we have the eyes to see him. Mostly we do not recognize him. We live our lives blind, numb to the reality that the Son of God comes to us a hundred times a day.

But as this great celebration of these two holy men approaches, the Church gives us a chance to reawaken ourselves during this Easter Season and sense again that God isn’t dead, but alive. He’s alive in our brothers and sisters and—yes—in our very flesh.

Now that is good news indeed.

Tom Willis Column: Two Pope – One Canonization


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On Sunday, April 27, history will be made in the Roman Catholic Church when Pope Francis presides over the canonization of two of his predecessors — John XXIII and John Paul II. Never before has the Catholic Church held a ceremony in which two who held the office of Vicar of Christ on earth and Successor of Peter have been declared saints.

The history being made, however, is more than just this. It also is the fact that Pope Francis has been heavily influenced by both of these men. Born in 1936, Jorge Mario Bergoglio — now Pope Francis — would have known the pontificate of John XIII.

In 1958, at the age of 22, Bergoglio entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). This was the same year that Angelo Cardinal Roncalli was elected Supreme Pontiff and took the name John. No doubt, Pope John’s humility and joviality had an effect on the young Bergoglio. As well, two of John XXIII’s eight encyclicals, Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”) and Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), were groundbreaking in their vision of what the Catholic Church needed to do so as to be a true witness to the Gospel of Christ. And, we cannot forget, that it was Pope John who called the Second Vatican Council, which changed the face of Roman Catholicism in the modern era.

It was Pope John Paul II who appointed Fr. Bergoglio as Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires in 1993. After he became Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, John Paul would then elevate him to the rank of cardinal in the consistory of 2001. The pontificate of John Paul II was the second longest in the history of the Catholic Church. As a bishop and then as a cardinal, Bergoglio would have met the Polish pope many times.

One of the aspects of John Paul’s papal ministry was his insistence on the correct interpretation of Vatican II. Over the 26 years of John Paul’s ministry as Supreme Pontiff, he also taught by example that each of us, individually, must live out the daily practice of Gospel living. Many of us can never forget the picture of John Paul sitting in the prison cell of his would-be assassin forgiving him of his transgression. Nor can we forget the frail pontiff, in his final months, giving a steadfast witness to living out one’s life even amid the struggles of suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

On Sunday, April 27, when Pope Francis canonizes these two holy men of the contemporary era, he will be declaring as saints two popes who heavily influenced not only his life, but that of the Church as well as the whole world. This will not only be a historic day for the Catholic Church. It can also be one that fills all of us with many blessings from the Lord our God.

Largely Polish Congregation Celebrating Canonization of John Paul II



Posted on April 18, 2014 at 11:39 PM



DALLAS — On this Good Friday, Father Edward Traczyk celebrates Mass at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in downtown Dallas.

A predominantly Polish congregation, these parishioners have even more reason to celebrate this Easter season.

Father Edward is a proud Pole, just like Pope John Paul II who will be canonized on April 27. When the pope was archbishop of Krakow in the late 1960s, Father Edward remembers going to see him at Mass.

But the moment he will never forget happened in 1996.

“He was passing by to our aisle, and I was able to greet him in Polish, and he turned his head,” Traczyk said.

Father Edward was attending Mass at the Vatican and got close enough to speak to the pope in Polish.

“I touched his hand — that was my closest time with him,” Father Edward said.

What did that feel like?

“Electricity flow.”

Halina Sanchook has her own connection to Pope John Paul II. It happened just a few days ago in a dream.

“He smiled at me and he said, ‘Hallusha.’ I told him this is what my mother used to call me when she was alive,” she said.

Sanchook is still not sure why, but she’s certain the dream occurred for a special reason.

“I want to also follow his example,” she said. “How to help other people. How to be open to everyone who are in need.”

As the world watches the canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII closely the Sunday after Easter, Father Edward and his parish will beam with pride that one of theirs is now a saint.


2014 Canadian Coins Commemorate Pope John Paul II

Two new Royal Canadian Mint coins commemorate the life achievements and canonization of Pope John Paul II, one of the most influential people of the twentieth century.

John Paul II Commemorative Coins in Gold and Silver

2014 Pope John Paul II commemorative coins in gold and silver share reverse designs honoring the 264th pope, and are now available in limited mintages.

“The year 2014 marks the canonization of Pope John Paul II,” describes the Mint. “He was not only the first Roman Catholic pope in history to visit Canada, but a church leader whose pontificate featured many firsts around the world. The Royal Canadian Mint is proud to celebrate Pope John Paul’s three visits to Canada, along with his many accomplishments.”

Born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, Pope John Paul II studied for the priesthood in a secret “underground” seminary in Nazi occupied Poland in the early 1940′s. During this time, he is credited with saving a number of Polish Jews. Wojtyla was ordained a priest on Nov. 1, 1946 and consecrated a bishop on Sept. 28, 1958, the youngest bishop in Polish history at age 38. Less than ten years later he became a cardinal. Wojtyla was elected pope on Oct. 16, 1978, at age 58. During his pontificacy, Pope John Paul II traveled to 129 countries.

Pope Benedict XVI announced the beginning of the canonization process shortly after Pope John Paul II’s death on April 2, 2005. Pope Francis confirmed his approval on July 4, 2013 with the canonization ceremony scheduled for April 27, 2014.

Pope John Paul II 2014 Canadian $25 Gold Coin

These new coins depict the late pope during Mass. Artist reference for the design is credited to Trevor Tennant. Inscriptions on the commemorative coins include JOHN PAUL II, JEAN-PAUL II and CANADA.

Pope John Paul II 2014 Canadian $10 Silver Coin

Each is struck as legal tender of Canada with Susanna Blunt’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II showcased on the obverse. Inscriptions surrounding the Queen’s portrait include ELIZABETH II, 2014, D G REGINA and the legal tender face value of 25 DOLLARS for the gold coin and 10 DOLLARS for the silver coin.

Additional specifications of each release is shown in the chart below:

Specification of Commemorative Coins

  Gold Coin Silver Coin
Mintage 1,500 8,500
Composition 99.99% pure gold 99.99% pure silver
Finish proof proof
Weight (g) 7.8 23.17
Diameter (mm) 20 36.07
Edge serrated serrated
Certificate serialized serialized
Face Value (CAD) $25 $10
Obverse Design Susanna Blunt Susanna Blunt
Reverse Design Trevor Tennant Trevor Tennant


As shown in the chart above, mintage for the two coins is very limited. As of today, the Royal Canadian Mint indicates 74% of the gold coins have been sold.

2014 Pope John Paul II commemorative coins may be ordered directly from the Royal Canadian Mint at The gold coin is listed for CAD $649.95, or US $592.10, with the silver coin offered for CAD $69.95, or US $63.72.

An affiliate link to the Mint’s product page for the coins is right hereicon

The Canonization of Two Popes

VATICAN CITY—On a narrow cobblestone street about a block away from St. Peter’s Square, religious pilgrims and tourists crowd around a wicker basket with a sign advertising “Two For One.” The basket is full of metal keychains with the likenesses of John Paul II and John XXIII, the two dead popes who will be elevated to sainthood in a massive “popapalooza” ceremony on April 27. You won’t find the current Pope Francis in the bin, though. His likeness adorns the more expensive posters, calendars and tea towels inside the store. And you won’t find retired Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, who lives in a convent on the Vatican grounds, unless you ask the store clerk. “Not a big seller,” she says, pulling out a shoebox with a few Benedict tokens.

Like many of the 4 million religious pilgrims and curious tourists expected to descend on the eternal city for the canonization ceremony, Genevieve Krall, a Belgian legal assistant, is staying for the week between Easter and the double canonization, contributing to a much-appreciated tourism boost. As a staunch Catholic, she prays to saints as part of her daily devotion, but she isn’t sure that either of the two popes are actually saint material quite yet. “I saw Pope John Paul II in Belgium in 1995 and I was here by chance when he died in 2005,” Krall told The Daily Beast as she rummaged through the keychains for a second John Paul II for her aging mother back home. “I decided to come back for his canonization because it felt personal. It’s rare to have shared the same space in time with someone who is now a saint.”

The feeling that it is just a little bit too soon to elevate John Paul II to sainthood has been echoed by many Catholics who prefer a longer post mortem waiting period to make sure the potential saint’s earthly record holds up. John Paul II will be the fastest tracked saint in the history of Catholic saint-making, beating out Mother Theresa, who previously held the record by just 15 days. When he died in April 2005, cheers erupted calling for “santo subito” or “sainthood immediately,” but few actually thought it would be—or should be—this fast. 

Loved as he was for his charisma and his role in the fall of communism, John Paul II actually has a quite appalling report card on his handling of the Church’s child sex abuse scandal, which mushroomed during his 27-year pontificate. Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, says it is hurtful for victims that he is being made a saint so soon. “Little can be done by Catholic officials to erase the pain of hundreds of thousands of deeply wounded men, women and children who have been sexually assaulted by clergy,” she says. “But the church hierarchy can avoid rubbing more salt into these wounds by slowing down their hasty drive to confer sainthood on the pontiff under whose reign most of the countless, widely-documented clergy sex crimes and cover-ups took place.”

In many ways, the decision to rush John Paul II’s sainthood is not exactly a Francis decision. “In a sense, Francis inherited the sainthood cause of John Paul II. For most Catholics, his canonization was a foregone conclusion and is not going to be seen as a Pope Francis initiative,” says John Thavis, Vatican specialist and author of The Vatican Diaries. “In fact, had Francis intervened to delay or stop the canonization because of criticism of John Paul’s record on sex abuse, it would have been seen by many as unforgivable meddling, and an undoing of John Paul’s legacy.”

There is also the troublesome question of miracles. In accordance with saint-making protocol set forth by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, each potential saint needs to have two certified miracles credited to his or her name by someone who prayed specifically to them. That makes John XXIII, known as “the good pope,” a questionable candidate since he only has one miracle under his belt—the healing of an Italian nun with severe internal hemorrhaging who prayed to him when he was beatified in 2000.

Miracles, by their nature, are not that easy to prove. The Vatican depends on more than 30 clerics who shoulder the theological burden of validating miracles, including ascertaining proof that the cured patient spent sufficient time in honest prayer to the would-be saint. To back them up, more than 80 non-clerical consultants, including medical doctors, technicians, psychiatrists, and even handwriting analysts, dissect every aspect of the miracle in search of a secular explanation.

Potential saints must first go through the process of beatification during which they become “blessed” and therefore easier to pray to for the second miracle that clinches the deal. John XXIII was beatified in 2000 and John Paul II was beatified in May 2011 in a lavish ceremony that cost the Vatican more than $1.65 million.

John Paul II does have the two miracles under his belt. The first involves a French nun with Parkinson’s disease who was miraculously cured of her symptoms after praying to John Paul II upon his death. The second was a Costa Rican woman whose brain aneurysm miraculously disappeared after praying to the dead pontiff upon his beatification.

Pope Francis decided to waive John XXIII’s second miracle so he could canonize both popes together, which has caused speculation about just what Francis hopes to get out of the deal. “Pope Francis made a calculated political decision on canonizing the two popes, trying to bring some unity to a fractured church,” saysJason Berry, author of Render Unto Rome, who has written extensively on the Catholic Church.

Berry credits John XXIII for changing the church in convening Vatican II, an agenda he says Francis has resurrected in pushing for greater pluralism, against what he calls the monarchical stance of John Paul and Benedict. “They stressed rules and obedience, Francis is emphatic about mercy,” Berry says. “John Paul’s geopolitical achievement, as a catalyst in the fall of the Soviet Empire, makes him one of the great figures of modern Western history.”

But like others, Berry believes John Paul II’s legacy with the Church’s sex abuse scandal should have barred him from sainthood, especially with his handling of the case of the Legionnaires of Christ founder Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, who sexually abused seminarians, fathered several children and even abused his own son. John Paul II instead rallied around Maciel, who was one of the Church’s greatest fundraisers, often taking him on apostolic visits as a Vatican rep, and turning a deaf ear to the accusations against him even as they became insurmountable. “What he did to the Church internally is a sadder story, most strikingly in his failure on the abuse crisis,” Berry says. “Sheltering Maciel was an act of blind hubris. By elevating [John Paul II] to the same status as ‘good Pope John,’ Francis will draw groans from both sides of the Catholic divide.”

In many ways, John Paul II laid the groundwork for his fast track to sainthood back in 1983 when he dismissed the office of the advocatus diabolus, or devil’s advocate. Until then, all causes for saints had to be scrutinized by a canon lawyer, called the Promoter Fidei, who studied each saint’s worthiness. John Paul, who annointed more saints than all of his predecessors combined with 1,338 beautifications and 482 canonizations, would not likely have made the cut based on his record on the child abuse scandal. But just because Francis is following through with what his predecessors started, it doesn’t mean he isn’t putting his own mark on it. “The Vatican does, however, face a public relations challenge here. On one hand, the Vatican has underlined that canonizing a pope should not be seen as an endorsement of every decision made by that pope,” says Thavis. “In other words, canonization is supposed to be about personal holiness, not papal performance. But that is precisely how many people view it.”

Controversy aside, the buzz in Rome and in the virtual world is palpable leading up to the big day. There is a saint-making app, a Facebook page and a Twitter feed called @2popesaints dedicated to the event. There is even a musical based on John Paul II’s journey to sainthood that will open in Rome next week to help pilgrims bide the time between Easter and popapalooza.

Most of Rome’s midrange and cheap hotel rooms and convent B&B’s have been booked for months. The National Federation of Craftsmen estimates a 10 percent boost in business for small shops selling religious tokens during the 16-day period that begins with Holy Week and encompasses both Easter and the double Canonization. Rome’s two airports and taxi services also expect a bump in business, with more than a dozen charter flights dedicated to pilgrims from all over the world expected for the canonization alone. “Many businesses will make a year’s worth of profit during this period,” says Giovanna Marchese Bellaroto, head of the National Federation of Craftsmen.

The double canonization may not be good for some Catholics, but no one can argue that it is not good for business.


EWTN Presents Jon Voight As Pope John Paul II The Movie


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EWTN Is Proud to Present ‘Pope John Paul II’
Also, Check Out Our New Blog, ‘Inside EWTN’
By Michelle Laque Johnson

Actor Jon Voight was nominated for an Emmy for his stunning performance in the movie, “Pope John Paul II,” which aired on CBS in 2005 to rave reviews. See it again — or for the first time – starting this weekend on EWTN. Part 1 airs at 8 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 6 while Part 2 airs the same time on Saturday, April 13 – exclusively on EWTN.  For those who understands Polish, we have taken the liberty of attaching the Movie in full in Polish language.

“EWTN is excited to share this extraordinary file, which premiered at the end of John Paul II’s pontificate,” said EWTN Executive Vice President Doug Keck. “April 2 was the eighth anniversary of JPII’s death, which is one reason we’re airing this now. Also, as Pope Francis begins his new pontificate, it’s appropriate to look back with gratitude at the lives of previous popes,
such as Pope John Paul II, on whose legacy the new Pope will build.”

In addition to Voight, who plays the Pope from the time he was elected until his death, the all-star cast includes Cary Elwes (“The Princess Bride”) as the young Karol Wojtyla, Ben Gazzara (“Don Bosco,” “The Bridge at Remagen,” “The Spanish Prisoner”), Christopher Lee (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith,” “The Three Muskateers”), and James Cromwell (nominated for an Oscar for “Babe” in which he played Farmer Hoggett).
When the movie first aired, reviewers heaped praise on the film for its well-rounded portrayal of the man who would be Pope.

The “Seattle Post-Intelligencer” said that the young Elwes “deftly depicts the internal struggle that finally drove Wojtyla to be trained for the priesthood. [This film] understands the importance of taking the time to see Pope John Paul II as a fully rounded human being as opposed to a hollow icon.”

“The Washington Post” was even more extravagant with its praise: “Although shot on a lavish scale in Italy, Poland and elsewhere, ‘Pope John Paul II’ succeeds on intimate terms even when troops are marching or huge crowds are filling St. Peter’s Square, and Elwes and Voight are largely responsible. The movie is honestly and actually about something… It’s the ability to instill joy in human hearts, and the film not only celebrates it but, in its finest moments, even possesses it.”

We don’t know when we’ll be able to show this film again. So please:

Watch it.

Record it.

Share it with family and friends.

And be inspired to make a difference in the world!

(You can also purchase your very own copy of the film from EWTN Religious Catalogue at


THE MOVIE (strictly in Polish Soundtrack)

Excerpts from Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter on the Dignity of Women


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Following are excerpts from ”Mulieris Dignitatem” (”On the Dignity of Women”), an apostolic letter issued yesterday by Pope John Paul II, as issued in English by the Vatican:

Let us enter into the setting of the biblical ”beginning.” In it the revealed truth concerning man as ”the image and likeness” of God constitutes the immutable basis of all Christian anthropology. ”God ceated man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) This concise passage contains the fundamental anthropological truths: Man is the high point of the whole order of creation in the visible world; the human race, which takes its origin from the calling into existence of man and woman, crowns the whole work of creation; both man and woman are human beings to an equal degree, both are created in God’s image.

. . . In different passages of Sacred Scripture (especially in the Old Testament), we find comparisons that attribute to God ”masculine” or ”feminine” qualities. We find in these passages an indirect confirmation of the truth that both man and woman were created in the image of God. If there is a likeness between Creator and creatures, it is understandable that the Bible would refer to God using expressions that attribute to him both ”masculine” and ”feminine” qualities.

. . . The biblical description of original sin in the third chapter of Genesis in a certain way ”distinguishes the roles” which the woman and the man had in it. This is also refered to later in certain passages of the Bible, for example, Paul’s Letter to Timothy: ”For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” (I Timothy 2:13-14) But there is no doubt that, independent of this ”distinction of roles” in the biblical description, that first sin is the sin of man, created by God as male and female.

. . . The biblical description in the Book of Genesis outlines the truth about the consequence of man’s sin, as it is shown by the disturbance of that original relationship between man and woman which corresponds to their individual dignity as persons.

. . . When we read in the biblical description the words addressed to the woman: ”Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16), we discover a break and a constant threat precisely in regard to this ”unity of the two” which corresponds to the dignity of the image and likeness of God in both of them. Equality, Not Domination

. . . This ”domination” indicates the disturbance and loss of the stability of that fundamental equality which the man and woman possess in the ”unity of the two”: and this is especially to the disadvantage of the woman.

. . . The matrimonial union requires respect for and a perfecting of the true personal subjectivity of both of them. The woman cannot become the ”object’ of ”domination” and male ”possession.”

. . . Even the rightful opposition of women to what is expressed in the biblical words ”He shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16) must not under any condition lead to the ”masculinization of women.” In the name of liberation from male ”domination,” women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine ”originality.” There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not ”reach fulfillment,” but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness.

. . . The personal resources of femininity are certainly no less than the resources of masculinity; they are merely different. Hence, a woman, as well as a man, must understand her ”fulfillment” as a person, her dignity and vocation, on the basis of these resources, according to the richness of the femininity which she received on the day of creation and which she inherits as an expression of the ”image and likeness of God” that is specifically hers.

. . . It is universally admitted – even by people with a critical attitude toward the Christian message – that in the eyes of his contemporaries Christ became a promoter of women’s true dignity and of the vocation corresponding to this dignity.

. . . In all of Jesus’ teaching, as well as in his behavior, one can find nothing which reflects the discrimination against women prevalent in his day. On the contrary, his words and works always express the respect and honor due to women.

. . . This becomes even more explicit in regard to women whom popular opinion contemptuously labeled sinners, public sinners and adulteresses. She Often Pays All Alone

. . . How often in a similar way the woman pays for her own sin (maybe it is she, in some cases, who is guilty of the ”other’s sin” – the sin of the man) but she alone pays and she pays all alone! How often is she abandoned with her pregnancy, when the man, the child’s father, is unwilling to accept responsibility for it? And besides the many ”unwed mothers” in our society, we also must consider all those who, as a result of various pressures, even on the part of the guilty man, very often ”get rid of” the child before it is born.

. . . Parenthood – even though it belongs to both – is realized much more fully in the woman, especially in the prenatal period. It is the woman who ”pays” directly for this shared generation (of a child), which literally absorbs the energies of her body and soul. It is therefore necessary that the man be fully aware that in their shared parenthood he owes a special debt to the woman. No program of ”equal rights” between women and men is valid unless it takes this fact fully into account.

. . . This unique contact (of a mother) with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude toward human beings – not only toward her own child, but every human being – which profoundly marks the woman’s personality. It is commonly thought that women are more capable than men of paying attention to another person and that motherhood develops this predisposition even more. The man – even with all his sharing in parenthood – always remains ”outside” the process of pregnancy and the baby’s birth; in many ways he has to learn his own ”fatherhood” from the mother. One can say that this is a part of the normal human dimension of parenthood, including the stages that follow the birth of the baby, especially the initial period. The child’s upbringing, taken as a whole, should include the contribution of both parents: the maternal and paternal contribution. In any event, the mother’s contribution is decisive in laying the foundation for a new human personality.

. . . The Gospel puts forward the ideal of the consecration of the person, that is, the person’s exclusive dedication to God by virtue of the evangelical counsels: in particular, chastity, poverty and obedience. . . . In this wider context, virginity has to be considered also as a path for women, a path on which they realize their womanhood in a way different from marriage.

. . . In calling only men as his Apostles, Christ acted in a completely free and sovereign manner. In doing so, he exercised the same freedom with which, in all his behavior, he emphasized the dignity and the vocation of women, without conforming to the prevailing customs and to the traditions sanctioned by the legislation of the time. Consequently, the assumption that he called men to be apostles in order to conform with the widespread mentality of his times does not at all correspond to Christ’s way of acting.

. . . Since Christ, in instituting the Eucharist, linked it in such an explicit way to the priestly service of the Apostles, it is legitimate to conclude that he thereby wished to express the relationship between man and woman, between what is ”feminine” and what is ”masculine.” A Mutual Trust

. . . The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way – precisely by reason of their femininity – and this in a particular way determines their vocation.

. . . A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting. . . . This awareness and this fundamental vocation speak to women of the dignity which they receive from God himself, and this makes them ”strong” and strengthens their vocation. Thus the ”perfect woman” becomes an irreplaceable support and source of spiritual strength for other people.

. . . In our own time, the successes of science and technology make it possible to attain material well-being to a degree hitherto unknown. While this favors some, it pushes others to the edges of society. In this way, unilateral progress can also lead to a gradual loss of sensitivity for man. . . . In this sense our time in particular awaits the manifestation of that ”genius” which belongs to women, and which can insure sensitivity for human beings in every circumstance.

Yves Congar’s My Journal of the Ecumenical Council


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By: Fr. Robert Barron

One of the most theologically fascinating and just plain entertaining books I’ve read in a long time is Yves Congar’s My Journal of the Council.

Catholics of a certain age will recognize the name, but I’m afraid that most Catholics under the age of 50 might be entirely unaware of the massive contribution made by Congar, a Dominican priest and certainly one of the three or four most important Catholic theologians of the twentieth century. After a tumultuous intellectual career, during which he was, by turns, lionized, vilified, exiled and silenced, Congar found himself, at the age of 58, a peritus or theological expert at the Second Vatican Council.

By most accounts, he proved the most influential theologian at that epic gathering, contributing mightily to the documents on the church, on ecumenism, on revelation, and on the church’s relation to the modern world.

During the entire course of the Council, from October 1962 to December 1965, Congar kept a meticulous journal of the proceedings, which includes not only detailed accounts of the interventions by various bishops and Cardinals, but also extremely perceptive commentaries on the key personalities and the main theological currents of the Council. Several times as I read through the journal, I laughed out loud at Congar’s pointed assessments of some of the players: “a bore,” “useless,” “talks too much.” But what most comes through is — if I can risk employing an overused and ambiguous phrase — “the spirit of the Council,” by which I mean those seminal ideas and attitudes that found expression in the discussions, debates and texts of Vatican II.

In the pages of Congar’s journal we hear of a church that should be more evangelical and open to the Word of God, of the dangers of clerical triumphalism, of the universal call to holiness, of a liturgy that awakens the active participation of the faithful, of the need for the church to engage the modern world, etc. Attending meeting after meeting and engaging in endless conversations with bishops and theologians, Congar was indefatigably propagating these ideas, which we now take to be commonplace and the permanent achievement of Vatican II.

As Congar led this charge, his chief opponents were Archbishop Pericle Felice and Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, the keepers of the traditional, scholastic form of Catholicism. His principal allies were “progressive” council fathers Cardinal Frings of Cologne and Archbishop Wojtyla of Krakow, as well as fellow periti Karl Rahner, Edward Schillebeeckx, Henri de Lubac, Hans Kung, and a young German theologian named Joseph Ratzinger. As I read the pages of Congar’s journal, all of these figures and that very heady time came rather vividly to life. But even as I was caught up in the moment, I couldn’t help but think of the divisions that would later beset that victorious group.

Archbishop Wojtyla, of course, later became Pope John Paul II, and he would appoint Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) as his chief doctrinal officer. Further, John Paul would create de Lubac and Congar himself as Cardinals, but would preside over a critical investigation of the works of both Kung and Schillebeeckx. Why did these divisions arise in the post-conciliar period?

One way to get a perspective on the split in the victorious party is to look to the beginnings of the theological journal “Communio.” In the wake of the council, the triumphant progressive party formed an international journal called “Concilium,” the stated purpose of which was to perpetuate the spirit of the great gathering that had prompted such positive change in the Church. On the board of “Concilium” were Rahner, Kung, Schillebeeckx, de Lubac, Congar, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Ratzinger and many others. But after only a few years, three figures — Balthasar, de Lubac, and Ratzinger — decided to break with “Concilium” and found their own journal and the reasons they gave to justify this decision are extremely illuminating.

First, they said, the board of “Concilium” was claiming to act as a secondary magisterium, or official teaching authority, alongside the bishops. Theologians certainly have a key role to play in the understanding and development of doctrine, but they cannot supplant the bishops’ responsibility of holding and teaching the apostolic faith.

Secondly, the “Concilium” board wanted to launch Vatican III when the ink on the documents of Vatican II was barely dry. That is to say, they wanted to ride the progressive momentum of Vatican II toward a whole series of reforms-women’s ordination, suspension of priestly celibacy, radical reform of the church’s sexual ethic, etc. — that were by no means justified by the texts of the council.

Thirdly, and in my judgment most significantly, Balthasar, Ratzinger, and de Lubac decried the “Concilium” board’s resolve to perpetuate the spirit of the council. Councils, they stated, are sometimes necessary in the life of the Church, but they are also perilous, for they represent moments when the Church throws itself into question and pauses to decide some central issue or controversy. We think readily here of Nicea and Chalcedon, which addressed crucial issues in Christology, or Trent, which wrestled with the challenge of the Reformation. Councils are good and necessary, but the Church also, they contended, turns from them with a certain relief in order to get back to its essential work. The perpetuation of the spirit of the council, they concluded, would be tantamount to a Church in a permanent state of suspense and indecision.

Kung, Schillebeeckx, Rahner, Ratzinger, Congar, de Lubac and Wojtyla were all proud “men of the council.” They strenuously fought for the ideals I mentioned earlier. But in the years that followed, they went separate ways — and thereupon hangs a tale still worth pondering as we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican II.

Father Robert Barron is the founder of the global ministry, Word on Fire, and the Rector/President of Mundelein Seminary.

Habemus Papam Franciscum


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Pope John  Paul receives Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina during his installation as Cardinal in 2001

Pope John Paul receives Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina during his installation as Cardinal in 2001

Habemus Papam Franciscum came the tweet, the first official word from the @Pontifex account, after the white smoke curled from the copper chimney watched by hundreds of thousands in St. Peter’s Square, by millions and millions on every imaginable 21st century technology around the world. And there it was, old and new, past and present, the arrival of a Pope who for the first time hails from “the most unequal part of the world,” as he once called Latin America, who cooked his own dinners and rode the bus and took his regnal name from the sainted champion of the least among us. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, brings to the throne of St. Peter a concern about the “spiritual sickness” that can afflict a church if it seems to care more for its priests than its people. “I want you to bless me,” he told the crowd, before it was his turn to bless them. He noted that his brother Cardinals had gone “to the end of the earth” to find the new Bishop of Rome. But there was a kind of subtle, rounded—perhaps divine—justice to it all. And by the time his brief debut was over, it was already clear that a profound change had occurred in an institution famously resistant to it.

The accession of a new Pope is always cause for wonderment—if only because the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church has managed to survive more trials than almost any other kingdom in history. No other institution can claim to have withstood Attila the Hun, the ambitions of the Habsburgs, the Ottoman Turks, Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler, in addition to Stalin and his successors. Every new Pope faces fresh crisis and challenges. And in the 21st century, he does so at the head of a spiritual empire that touches more than 1.2 billion souls and whose influence crosses borders and contends with other great power.

Francis, the first New World Pope, faces some old and vexing problems. He must confront headlines reminding him of the church’s failures in dealing with the scandal of priestly sexual abuse. He must reform the Vatican’s finances by way of a bureaucracy that originated in medieval times and is burdened by aristocratic privilege and the Machiavellian instincts of feudal Italy. He must respond to the opposing demands of a divided flock—with many Catholics in North America and Europe asking for more-liberal interpretations of doctrine even as many in the burgeoning mission fields of Africa and Asia warm to the conservative comforts of the faith. Unlike some of the cataclysmic challenges in the church’s past, these problems are internal—but as such, they are more difficult to resolve.

And then there is the unprecedented presence of his old conclave rival, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI—distinguished and professing to be silently retired yet still an embodiment of a conservative legacy that will be difficult to touch while he remains alive. With all this to handle, fighting Napoleon and the Turks may well have been easier.

Bergoglio almost made history eight years ago, when he was rumored to have been the only real challenger in the several rounds of balloting that led to the election of Joseph Ratzinger as Benedict XVI. That itself was history: Ratzinger became the second consecutive non-Italian to head the Roman Catholic Church. Now Bergoglio too has made history, as the first Pope from Latin America. Yet as the son of Italian immigrants, he has also brought the papacy back home to the land of his ancestry. Full circle, yes, but with a great many detours.

Outside the papal conclave, the handicappers had some obvious favorites and inevitable dark horses. Bergoglio was neither. Among the natural heirs were the Cardinal of Milan, who seemed to have been promoted quickly through important offices by Benedict XVI, and the Cardinal of São Paulo, a favorite among the bureaucrats of the Roman Curia. Even another Argentine Cardinal was more favored than Bergoglio. But as the old saying goes, He who enters the conclave a Pope leaves it a Cardinal. Almost everyone had overlooked Bergoglio, 76, believing he was too far along in years and that his moment had passed. He was also a Jesuit, and no Jesuit had ever been Pope before.

Pontiff’s Resignation Opens Door For A Latin American or Asian Pope


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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS, Feb 11 (Reuters) – With Pope Benedict’s stunning announcement that he will resign later this month, the time may be coming for the Roman Catholic Church to elect its first non-European leader and it could be a Latin American.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the charismatic Archbishop of Manila, is the youngest among the front-runners for the Papacy this coming March when the Conclaves opens to elect the successor of the resigned Pontiff.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the charismatic Archbishop of Manila, is the youngest among the front-runners for the Papacy this coming March when the Conclave opens to elect the successor of the resigned Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI.

The region already represents 42 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion-strong Catholic population, the largest single block in the Church, compared to 25 percent in its European heartland.

After the Pole John Paul and German-born Benedict, the post once reserved for Italians is now open to all. Who gets the nod depends on the profile of the new pope that the cardinals who elect him at the next conclave think will guide the Church best.

Two senior Vatican officials recently dropped surprisingly clear hints about possible successors. The upshot of their remarks is that the next pope could well be from Latin America.

“I know a lot of bishops and cardinals from Latin America who could take responsibility for the universal Church,” said Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, who now holds the pope’s old post as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“The universal Church teaches that Christianity isn’t centred on Europe,” the German-born archbishop told Duesseldorf’s Rheinische Post newspaper just before Christmas.

Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican department for Christian unity, told the Tagesanzeiger daily in Zurich at the same time that the Church’s future was not in Europe.

“It would be good if there were candidates from Africa or South America at the next conclave,” he said, referring to the closed-door election in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.

Asked if he would vote for a non-European over a European candidate if they were equally qualified, he responded: “Yes.”

If the next conclave really is Latin America’s turn, the leading candidates there seem to be Odilo Scherer, archbishop of the huge diocese of Sao Paolo, or the Italian-Argentine Leonardo Sandri, now heading the Vatican department for Eastern Churches.

Peter Turkson from Ghana, now head of the Vatican’s justice and peace department, is often tipped as Africa’s frontrunner.

About half the cardinals who can vote are from Europe, even though only a quarter of the world’s Catholics live there. If the conclave tilts to the Old Continent, Vatican watchers say Angelo Scola of Milan is in pole position.

Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, a former student and close ally of Benedict, is also considered a strong candidate.


While there are no official candidates, here are “papabili” (potential popes) the most frequently mentioned recently. The list is in alphabetical, not in order of their chances, and will probably change between now and when the conclave is held, most likely in March.

– Joao Braz de Aviz (Brazil, 65) brought fresh air to the Vatican department for religious congregations when he took over in 2011. He supports the preference for the poor in Latin America’s liberation theology, but not the excesses of its advocates. Possible drawbacks include his low profile.

– Timothy Dolan, (USA, 62) became the voice of U.S. Catholicism after being named archbishop of New York in 2009. His humour and dynamism have impressed the Vatican, where both are often missing. But cardinals are wary of a “superpower pope” and his back-slapping style may be too American for some.

– Marc Ouellet (Canada, 68) is effectively the Vatican’s top staff director as head of the Congregation for Bishops. He once said becoming pope “would be a nightmare.” Though well connected within the Curia, the widespread secularism of his native Quebec could work against him.

– Gianfranco Ravasi (Italy, 70) has been Vatican culture minister since 2007 and represents the Church to the worlds of art, science, culture and even to atheists. This profile could hurt him if cardinals decide they need an experienced pastor rather than another professor as pope.

– Leonardo Sandri (Argentina, 69) is a “transatlantic” figure born in Buenos Aires to Italian parents. He held the third-highest Vatican post as its chief of staff in 2000-2007. But he has no pastoral experience and his job overseeing eastern churches is not a power position in Rome.

– Odilo Pedro Scherer (Brazil, 63) ranks as Latin America’s strongest candidate. Archbishop of Sao Paulo, largest diocese in the largest Catholic country, he is conservative in his country but would rank as a moderate elsewhere. The rapid growth of Protestant churches in Brazil could count against him.

– Christoph Schoenborn (Austria, 67) is a former student of Pope Benedict with a pastoral touch the pontiff lacks. The Vienna archbishop has ranked as papal material since editing the Church catechism in the 1990s. But some cautious reform stands and strong dissent by some Austrian priests could hurt him.

– Angelo Scola (Italy, 71) is archbishop of Milan, a springboard to the papacy, and is many Italians’ bet to win. An expert on bioethics, he also knows Islam as head of a foundation to promote Muslim-Christian understanding. His dense oratory could put off cardinals seeking a charismatic communicator.

– Luis Tagle (Philippines, 55) has a charisma often compared to that of the late Pope John Paul. He is also close to Pope Benedict after working with him at the International Theological Commission. While he has many fans, he only became a cardinal in 2012 and conclaves are wary of young candidates.

– Peter Turkson (Ghana, 64) is the top African candidate. Head of the Vatican justice and peace bureau, he is spokesman for the Church’s social conscience and backs world financial reform. He showed a video criticising Muslims at a recent Vatican synod, raising doubts about how he sees Islam. (Additional reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Giles Elgood)