Vatican News

Ukrainian Catholic leader sees new possibilities for ecumenism

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Murad Sezer, Reuters

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople kisses Metropolitan Epiphanius, head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Jan. 6, as he hands him a decree granting the Orthodox Church of Ukraine independence, at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George in Istanbul, Turkey. (CNS photo/Murad Sezer, Reuters) See UKRAINE-UNITY-SHEVCHUK Jan. 11, 2019.

ROME (CNS) -- The formal recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine brings "a wind of hope" that new opportunities will be created for dialogue and concrete cooperation in the search for Christian unity, said the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, said he already has agreed with the Orthodox Church's newly elected Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kiev to draw up a "road map" to examine where the two churches could work together.

The archbishop made his comments in a long interview with Glavcom, a Ukrainian news site; the Ukrainian Catholic Church's website published the English translation of the interview Jan. 10.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople formally signed a "tomos" Jan. 5 recognizing the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was formed by members of three separate Orthodox communities, including one formally tied to the Russian Orthodox Church for more than 300 years.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, which oversaw the largest branch of Orthodox faithful in Ukraine, strongly objected to the move and announced in October that his church was breaking its eucharistic communion with Constantinople.

The Vatican has not commented on the decision to recognize the independence of the Ukrainian church, insisting it was an internal Orthodox matter.

While the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was supported strongly by the country's government and the majority of its people, Archbishop Shevchuk said care must be taken to ensure that politicians do not use the church for their political advantage.

"The church must remain church, and state institutions and politicians must allow it to do so," he said. "That is, politicians need to rid themselves of the temptation of instrumentalizing the church for their own interests."

And, he said, "I hope that our Orthodox brethren are mature enough not to let themselves be used as political agitators in the upcoming elections. Otherwise, this will discredit the moral authority of the church."

As for relations between the new Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archbishop Shevchuk said the ultimate goal must be to fulfill Jesus' desire that his followers be one.

Locally, he said, that requires cooperation for "the good of the Ukrainian people, in the name of truth, in the name of seeking universal unity with Christians, which we call the ecumenical movement."

Eastern Catholics, including the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and Orthodox share a common history, a common Byzantine liturgy and a common spirituality, he said, so "the convergence of Orthodoxy and the Catholic Church" is a goal pursued through the ecumenical dialogue on a national and universal level.

Full unity among all Christians in Ukraine "will be possible when the ecumenical process is crowned at the universal level by the restoration of eucharistic communion between Rome and Constantinople. This is not utopian thinking, as some people call it," the archbishop said.

The official Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, he said, currently is looking at the relationship between the Catholic exercise of primacy by the pope as bishop of Rome and the synodal organization of the Orthodox churches. Archbishop Shevchuk described the discussion as being "like digging a tunnel from two different sides, waiting for the two sides to meet each other."


Pope will go to Romania calling for unity, focus on the common good

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

CNS image/courtesy Holy See Press Office

This is the logo for Pope Francis' trip to Romania in late May to call for unity and a greater focus on the common good. The theme of the visit is "Let's walk together" and shows Mary, the Mother of God, protecting the people of God in Romania – a country St. John Paul II visited in 1999. It will be Pope Francis' fifth trip in the first six months of 2019. (CNS image/courtesy Holy See Press Office) See POPE-ROMANIA-TRIP Jan. 11, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will make a three-day apostolic visit to Romania in late May, the Vatican announced.

Accepting invitations from President Klaus Iohannis and from Catholic leaders, the pope will visit the capital of Bucharest, the cities of Iasi and Blaj, and the Marian sanctuary in Sumuleu Ciuc in the Transylvanian region.

A detailed schedule for the trip May 31-June 2 will be released later, the Vatican said in a statement Jan. 11.

The theme of the visit is "Let's walk together," and the trip logo shows a group of faithful gathered together with an image of Mary behind them, representing her protection over "the people of God in Romania," the Vatican said.

"Romania is often called the 'garden of the Mother of God,'" a term also used by St. John Paul II during his visit there in 1999, it said.

It said Pope Francis' visit also will have this Marian aspect as an invitation to Christians to unite their efforts "under Our Lady's mantle of protection."

"The Holy Father has always called for the uniting of various forces, refusing selfishness and giving central importance to the common good. The Successor of Peter is going to Romania to invite everyone to unity and to confirm them in the faith."

The overwhelming majority -- almost 82 percent -- of Romania's 20 million inhabitants say they belong to the Romanian Orthodox Church. About 6 percent of the population identifies itself as Protestant and over 4 percent identify as Catholic, belonging either to the Romanian Catholic Church -- an Eastern rite -- or the Latin rite.

The trip will be Pope Francis' fifth in the first six months of 2019. He is scheduled to be in Panama Jan. 23-27 for World Youth Day; and he will go to Abu Dhabi Feb. 3-5, to Morocco March 30-31 and to Bulgaria and Macedonia May 5-7.

Faith is passed on at home, pope tells parents at baptism

By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Vatican Media

Pope Francis baptizes one of 27 babies during a Mass on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Jan. 13. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) See POPE-BAPTISMS Jan. 14, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Faith isn't something learned just by studying the catechism but rather is a gift passed on to children by the example of their parents, Pope Francis said.

Although children learn the tenets of the Catholic faith in catechism class, it is first transmitted in the home "because faith always must be transmitted in dialect: the dialect of the family, the dialect of the home, in the atmosphere of the home," he said before baptizing 27 babies.

The pope celebrated the Mass and baptisms Jan. 13, the feast of the baptism of the Lord, in the Sistine Chapel.

"The important thing is to transmit the faith with your life of faith: that they see the love between spouses, that they see peace at home, that they see that Jesus is there," Pope Francis said during his brief and unscripted homily.

As the lively sounds of babies' squeals and cries filled the frescoed Sistine Chapel, the pope said babies often cry when they are "in an environment that is strange" or because they are hungry.

Repeating his usual advice to mothers of infants, the pope urged them to make their children comfortable, and "if they cry because they are hungry, breastfeed them."

Children "also have a polyphonic vocation: One begins to cry, then another makes a counterpoint, then another and in the end, it is a chorus of cries," he said.

Offering a piece of advice to parents, the pope called on them to pass on the faith by letting their children see their love and refrain from arguing in front of them.

"It is normal for couples to argue, it's normal," he said. "Do it, but don't let them hear, don't let them see. You don't know the anguish a child has when he or she sees parents fighting. This, I may add, is advice that will help you transmit the faith."

Later, after praying the Angelus with pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis asked those gathered to pray for the newly baptized babies and their families. He also asked them to "keep the memory of your own baptism alive."

"There you will find the roots of our life in God; the roots of our eternal life that Jesus has given us through his incarnation, passion, death and resurrection," he said. "Our roots are in baptism."

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Update: Rome mayor says Caritas will still get Trevi Fountain coins

By Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters

Tourists stand at Rome's Trevi Fountain Aug. 2, 2017. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters) See TREVI-COINS-CARITAS Jan. 14, 2019.

ROME (CNS) -- After weeks of confusion and consternation, Rome's mayor told the Vatican newspaper that Rome Caritas would benefit not only from the coins tourists throw in the Trevi Fountain, but from coins tossed in any of the city's historic water features.

Caritas was informed in late December that it would no longer receive the coins that tourists toss over their shoulder into the Trevi Fountain, a ritual that is supposed to guarantee the person who pitched the coin would one day return to the city.

But, Virginia Raggi, Rome's mayor, said it was all a misunderstanding. The city needs to ensure an accurate count of the money, so instead of having Caritas volunteers sort and count the coins, the city will entrust that to ACEA, the city utility responsible for cleaning and maintaining the famous fountain.

In 2018, the international collection of coins added up to about 1.5 million euros or about $1.7 million, a significant portion of the Rome diocesan Caritas' budget for funding homeless shelters, soup kitchens and parish-based services to families in difficulty.

"No one ever thought about depriving Caritas of these funds," Raggi told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Jan. 14. "The diocesan agency plays an important role for many needy and for the city of Rome, which wants to continue to be the capital of welcome for the weakest."

Although the city council has been threatening since October 2017 to use the money for its own projects, Raggi said the decision reached in December was simply "an administrative act responding to the need to collect and quantify the coins tourist throw not only into the Trevi Fountain but into the other monumental fountains of Rome."

ACEA counting the money will bring "order and transparency" to the process, she said, and expanding the collection to other fountains will bring more money to Caritas.

Interviewed Jan. 12 by Vatican News, Father Benoni Ambarus, director of Caritas Rome, said, "The first thing I want to say is thank you to the millions of tourists who created a sea of solidarity with their coins."

The priest at that point was still hoping something would change before the change dried up in April. After all, the city council voted in October 2017 to start keeping the money in city coffers, but after a public outcry, the agreement with Caritas was extended to April 2018 and again to Dec. 31, 2018.

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