Vatican News


UPDATE: Pope to U.N.: Respect for each human life is essential for peace, equality

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

Pope Francis delivers a prerecorded address to the 75th session of the U.N. General Assembly; the recording from the Vatican's Apostolic Palace was aired Sept. 25, 2020. (CNS screenshot/Chaz Muth)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis asked members of the United Nations how they think they can respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and build a more peaceful, more just world when many of their countries spend billions on military weapons and when their treatment of the unborn, of refugees and of women shows so little respect for human life.

"We must ask ourselves if the principal threats to peace and security -- poverty, epidemics, terrorism and so many others -- can be effectively countered when the arms race, including nuclear weapons, continues to squander precious resources that could better be used to benefit the integral development of peoples and protect the natural environment," the pope said in his video address, which was broadcast Sept. 25.

On the fifth anniversary of his visit to the U.N. headquarters in New York, Pope Francis returned to themes he has repeated since the COVID-19 pandemic began: Humanity faces a choice between trying to go back to an often unjust "normal" or taking the opportunity to rethink economic and political policies, putting the good of all people and the environment ahead of concern for maintaining the lifestyles of wealthy individuals and nations.

He drew particular attention to the pandemic's impact on children, "including unaccompanied young migrants and refugees," as well as to reports that "violence against children, including the horrible scourge of child abuse and pornography, has also dramatically increased."

With millions of children still out of school, he said, there is a risk of "an increase in child labor, exploitation, abuse and malnutrition."

"Sad to say, some countries and international institutions are also promoting abortion as one of the so-called 'essential services' provided in the humanitarian response to the pandemic," he said. "It is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child."

Pope Francis insisted that addressing the pandemic and building a more just and equitable world involves looking at every aspect of national and international life.

The pandemic "can represent a concrete opportunity for conversion, for transformation, for rethinking our way of life and our economic and social systems, which are widening the gap between rich and poor based on an unjust distribution of resources," he said. Or "the pandemic can be the occasion for a 'defensive retreat' into greater individualism and elitism."

The latter path, he said, "emphasizes self-sufficiency, nationalism, protectionism, individualism and isolation; it excludes the poor, the vulnerable and those dwelling on the peripheries of life. That path would certainly be detrimental to the whole community, causing self-inflicted wounds on everyone. It must not prevail."

When companies, including those being assisted by government handouts during the pandemic, focus more on profits than on job creation, they contribute to the "throwaway culture," which treats people as less important than wealth, he said.

"At the origin of this throwaway culture is a gross lack of respect for human dignity, the promotion of ideologies with reductive understandings of the human person, a denial of the universality of fundamental human rights, and a craving for absolute power and control that is widespread in today's society," he said. "Let us name this for what it is: an attack against humanity itself."

The pope called on countries to work together to fulfill the ideals upon which the United Nations was founded 75 years ago, particular in peacemaking, defending human rights and caring for the world's poorest and most disadvantaged.

"It is in fact painful to see the number of fundamental human rights that in our day continue to be violated with impunity," he said, speaking of a "frightening picture of a humanity abused, wounded, deprived of dignity, freedom and hope for the future."

"Religious believers continue to endure every kind of persecution, including genocide, because of their beliefs," he said. "We Christians, too, are victims of this: how many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world are suffering, forced at times to flee from their ancestral lands, cut off from their rich history and culture."

But the pope also drew special attention to situation of refugees, migrants and the internally displaced fleeing conflict, persecution and extreme poverty.

In an apparent reference to the situation in the Mediterranean, he denounced how "thousands are intercepted at sea and forcibly returned to detention camps, where they meet with torture and abuse. Many of these become victims of human trafficking, sexual slavery or forced labor, exploited in degrading jobs and denied a just wage. This is intolerable, yet intentionally ignored by many!"

Nations have entered into regional and international agreements to assist migrants and refugees, but often are lacking the political support at home to make them a reality or the countries just "shirk their responsibilities and commitments," he said.

"The pandemic has shown us that we cannot live without one another, or worse still, (be) pitted against one another," Pope Francis insisted. "The United Nations was established to bring nations together, to be a bridge between peoples. Let us make good use of this institution in order to transform the challenge that lies before us into an opportunity to build together, once more, the future we all desire."


Pope appoints U.S. Archbishop Charles Brown nuncio to the Philippines

By  Catholic News Service

Pope Francis has named U.S. Archbishop Charles J. Brown to be the new nuncio to the Philippines. Archbishop Brown is pictured in a file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has named U.S. Archbishop Charles J. Brown as the new nuncio to the Philippines, the Vatican announced Sept. 28.

The New York native, who will turn 61 Oct. 13, has been the Vatican's diplomatic representative in Albania since March 2017.

In Manila, he succeeds Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, who Pope Francis appointed permanent observer to the United Nations in November 2019.

Nuncios carry out the dual role of being the pope's representative to the church in their assigned country and being the diplomatic representative of the Holy See to the government of their host country.

One of their better known roles is coordinating the search for new bishops, querying the country's bishops, soliciting information and reaction from people who know the potential candidate and forwarding the names of possible bishops to the Vatican before the Congregation for Bishops makes its recommendations and the pope makes his choice.

Before moving to Albania, Archbishop Brown served for six years as the nuncio to Ireland; it was a particularly delicate moment in Vatican-Irish relations. Four months earlier, the Vatican had recalled its previous nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, after Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and others sharply criticized the Vatican's handling of clerical abuse.

Archbishop Brown had worked from 1994 to 2011 at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger until his election as Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. The doctrinal congregation has overall responsibility over cases of clerical sex abuse of minors.

Born Oct. 13, 1959, in New York, Archbishop Brown graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1981, where he majored in history. He holds graduate degrees in theology from Oxford University, in medieval studies from the University of Toronto and in sacramental theology from the Pontifical University of Sant'Anselmo in Rome.

He was ordained a priest in 1989 in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and served from 1989 to 1991 as vicar at a parish in the Bronx.


Apostleship of the Sea becomes 'Stella Maris' in its 100th year

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

A Vatican postage stamp celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Apostleship of the Sea, a pastoral ministry for fishermen and those who work at sea. The Vatican announced the organization will be officially known as "Stella Maris" (Star of the Sea), which is a Marian title. (CNS photo/Vatican stamp and coin office)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Apostleship of the Sea is celebrating its 100th anniversary and changing its name to "Stella Maris," the Latin title of Mary, Star of the Sea, and the name by which most of the Catholic centers for seafarers are known.

As the maritime industry is struggling with the impact of COVID-19 and hundreds of thousands of sailors are stuck on ships, the men and women who staff and volunteer as part of the Catholic Church's Stella Maris outreach must "be inventive and find new ways to be present on the docks and be a church that sails with the people of the sea," said Father Bruno Ciceri, the Vatican-based international director of Stella Maris.

The Vatican announced the name change and released a new logo for the organization Sept. 28.

According to a press briefing Sept. 25 by the U.N. International Maritime Organization, COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantines mean some 400,000 seafarers across the globe are stuck at sea or in an endless quarantine on ships in port and have been for months. And the 400,000 seafarers who normally would replace them have been left without jobs.

"Let us use this opportunity as we assume the name Stella Maris and refresh our logo to similarly renew and refresh our ministry to seafarers, fishers and their families," Father Ciceri wrote in a letter Sept. 24 to the 230 chaplains and thousands of volunteers who staff Stella Maris centers and reach out to sailors in more than 300 ports in 41 countries. In pre-COVID-19 times, they would visit 70,000 ships each year and interact with more than 1 million seafarers.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the Stella Maris apostolate planned to meet Oct. 4 in Glasgow, Scotland, where the ministry began in 1920, for a congress and a 100th anniversary Mass.

In a letter encouraging local celebrations instead, Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told members of the apostolate, "We are called to be open to the Spirit of renewal and find new ways and means to be the church sailing with the people of the sea."

Change is nothing new, especially for those working with seafarers, he said.

"Throughout the years, the maritime industry has changed enormously with the building of new larger and computerized ships, manned by smaller multinational, multicultural and multireligious crew, docking in ports far away from cities. These circumstances together with piracy, criminalization, abandonment and lastly the COVID-19 have increased the stress, the fatigue and the isolation of the crew."

"One of the distinctive characteristics of the work done by the pioneers of the Stella Maris was ships' visits carried out with dedication and enthusiasm, first along the banks of the River Clyde and after according to the development of the apostolate all over the world," the cardinal said.

"Since then, the structures and designs of the ports have changed but not the needs of the seafarers and fishers, who every time they dock are yearning to contact their families, to seek advice for a contractual problems or simply would like to talk," he said. "Because of the many restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, our practical way of ministering has changed dramatically, but what should not change is the substance of our service that is a 'ministry of presence.' Let us make use of all the instruments that the technology offers us to be present in the lives of the people of the sea offering friendship, support, encouragement and continuous prayers.”


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