FaithWorld

Pope tells Croatians EU too bureaucratic, sometimes ignores local cultures

(Pope Benedict XVI arrives in his "popemobile" in front of Zagreb's main cathedral June 4, 2011/Nikola Solic)

Pope Benedict criticized the European Union’s bureaucracy on Saturday as overly centralised and rationalistic, saying it sometimes neglected historical differences and national cultures. He made the comments as he started a lightning trip to Croatia, which is bidding to become an EU member and is expected to join the bloc in 2013.

“Croatia’s entry into Europe is logical, right and necessary,” the pope told reporters aboard the plane from Rome.  But he also said he could understand how some people in a small country like Croatia, whose entire population of some 4.4 million people is little more than that of some major European cities, would be wary of joining a big bloc. Some 50 percent of Croatians support EU entry, while some 30 percent oppose it and 20 percent are still undecided, according to recent opinion polls.

Benedict said he could understand a “certain scepticism” when a small country like Croatia enters an alredy constituted bloc like the EU. “There is almost a fear of a centralised bureaucracy that is too strong, of a rationalistic culture that does not take into sufficient consideration the richness and diversity of history,” he said.

He also criticised what he called an “abstract rationalism” in the EU bureaucracy that did not give sufficient attention to cultural diversity. Croatia is some 90 percent Catholic and the Vatican is keen to have another predominantly Catholic country in the bloc as it grows in order to defend the continent’s Christian roots and values.

Belgians molested by Catholic priests to file suit against Vatican

(Belgian lawyers Walter Van Steenbrugge (L) and Christine Mussche (2nd L) arrive at a news conference in Ghent June 1, 2011/Eric Vidal)

Belgians molested by Catholic priests will go ahead with their legal proceedings against the Vatican for damages despite an offer by local bishops to compensate them, their lawyers said on Wednesday. Pope Benedict enjoys diplomatic immunity but other Vatican officials and Belgian bishops will be summoned to testify in the case, lawyer Walter van Steenbrugge said.

Christine Mussche, another lawyer for about 70 victims, said the Vatican failed to intervene even when it learned about the scandals in the Belgian Church. Over 500 cases of alleged abuse have been registered in the past year. “There were instructions from the pope that said those things had to be kept secret and silent,” she said, adding the Church could be guilty of harmful neglect under Belgian law.

Guestview: How Catholic should a Catholic charity be?

(Homeless Egyptian children enjoy a meal in Kafr El Sisi Center for Children at Risk in the Giza neighbourhood of Cairo March 12, 2007. The street children are fed, taught vocational skills, given health care and counselled at the center run by Caritas/Goran Tomasevic)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Abigail Frymann is Online Editor of the British Catholic weekly The Tablet, where this first appeared.

By Abigail Frymann

How Catholic should a Catholic charity be? The confederation of Catholic charities Caritas Internationalis  elected a new secretary general, Michel Roy, last week after the re-appointment of the previous incumbent, Lesley-Anne Knight, was blocked, apparently because the Vatican wanted a stronger Catholic identity.

Rome’s Pope John Paul statue slammed by critics, including Vatican daily

(A statue representing Pope John Paul II is unveiled outside Rome's Termini train station on May 18, 2011/Tony Gentile)

An unconventional new statue of the late Pope John Paul II, showing a giant hollowed out figure, has attracted harsh criticism from experts and the Vatican newspaper. The inauguration of the imposing bronze sculpture by Oliviero Rainaldi outside Rome’s central rail station was meant to round off celebrations to mark the beatification of John Paul, which moves him a major step closer to sainthood.

The statue is a representation of the pope opening his cloak with a welcoming, outstretched arm. But the four meter (yard) high figure provoked dismay and angry reactions from newspapers and art critics, who say it fails to capture the essence of the man.

China says respects religious freedom after pope laments pressure

(China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu in Beijing, December 7, 2010/David Gray)

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday it hoped the Vatican could acknowledge the reality of religious freedom in the country, after the pope said Beijing was putting pressure on the faithful who want to remain loyal to the Vatican.

“We hope the Vatican can squarely face the reality of religious freedom in China and the continuous development of Chinese Catholics, and take concrete actions to create conditions for developing Sino-Vatican ties,” ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular news briefing.

Top Vatican expert on sexual abuse explains new Catholic guidelines

(Members of Survivors Voice Inc. protest at the Vatican in Rome October 31, 2010. The placard in Italian reads Chiesa senza Abusi ("Church without Abuses")/Max Rossi)

Mons. Charles Scicluna, the Justice Promoter in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and its top expert on clerical sexual abuse issues, gave the following interview to Reuters Television on Monday to explain the Roman Catholic Church’s new guidelines for dealing with priests accused of molesting children. The Vatican told bishops around the world earlier on Monday that they must make it a global priority to root out sexual abuse and cooperate with civil authorities to end the scandals that have  tarnished the Roman Catholic Church’s image around the world.

Scicluna, who hails from Malta, has been a key contributor to Vatican documents on sexual abuse.

Vatican “means business” on rooting out clerical sex abuse

(Swiss Guards at the Vatican, May 6, 2011/Tony Gentile)

The Vatican told bishops around the world Monday that they must make it a global priority to root out sexual abuse of children by priests. The Roman Catholic Church told bishops in a letter that they should cooperate with civil authorities to end the abuse that has tarnished its image around the world.

“This is telling the world that we mean business. We want to be an example of prevention and care,” said one Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The letter is intended to help every diocese draw up its own tough guidelines, based on a global approach but in line with local civil law. These must be sent to the Vatican for review within a year. “The responsibility for dealing with delicts (crimes) of sexual abuse of minors by clerics belongs in the first place to the diocesan bishop,” the letter says.

Freudian take on Vatican life makes Cannes film festival smile

(Director Nanni Moretti (C) and cast members Margherita Buy (R) and Michel Piccoli pose as they arrive on the red carpet for the screening of the film "Habemus Papam" (We Have A Pope) in competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival May 13, 2011/Eric Gaillard )

(Director Nanni Moretti (C) and cast members Margherita Buy (R) and Michel Piccoli pose as they arrive on the red carpet for the screening of the film "Habemus Papam" (We Have A Pope) in competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival May 13, 2011/Eric Gaillard )

The Vatican got a dose of Freudian analysis at Cannes on Friday with “Habemus Papam,” a gentle Italian comedy about a newly elected pope who gets cold feet when the weight of his responsibility dawns on him. The film by Italian director Nanni Moretti drew laughter and healthy applause from critics on day three of the Cannes film festival, where the official selection of movies has so far leaned in the direction of dark realism and social commentary.

Farcical and humane, Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope) casts wide open the door of the notoriously secretive Holy See, as red-robed cardinals converge in a locked chamber to elect a pope under the expectant gaze of millions of Catholics. When the votes are counted and white smoke billows from the Vatican’s dome, the pope-elect played by French actor Michel Piccoli, 85, is led to a balcony to address the faithful — only to freeze up before his momentous task, paralyzed by anxiety.

Vatican boosts pressure on bishops to widen use of traditional Latin mass

(Pope Benedict XVI (R) leads the Easter Vigil mass in Saint Peter Basilica in Vatican April 23, 2011/Alessandro Bianchi)

The Vatican told Catholic bishops around the world on Friday they had to obey a papal order allowing priests to say the old-style Latin mass for traditionalist Catholics, whether they liked it or not. The Vatican issued an “instruction” to bishops as a follow-up to a 2007 papal decree authorizing the wider adoption of the Latin Mass, which was in universal use before the 1962-1965 Vatican Council introduced masses in local languages.

The re-instatement of the Latin mass was one of the demands of ultra-traditionalists whose leaders were excommunicated in 1988, prompting the first schism in modern times. The pope, in a nod the traditionalists, satisfied many of them in 2007 when he allowed a wider use of the Latin mass, in which the priest faced east with his back to the faithful for most of the service.

Vatican condemns Canadian ex-bishop over child porn

(Bishop Raymond Lahey arrives at a police station in Ottawa October 1, 2009 to face child pornography charges/Chris Wattie )

The Vatican has condemned former Canadian Bishop Raymond Lahey after he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and said it planned to take disciplinary action against him.  Lahey, former Bishop of Antigonish in the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia, was charged with possession and importation of child pornography in 2009. He pleaded guilty on Wednesday and his sentence is due to be handed down later.

“The Catholic Church condemns sexual exploitation in all its forms, especially when perpetrated against minors,” the Vatican press office said in a statement on Wednesday. “Although the civil process has run its course, the Holy See will continue to follow the canonical procedures in effect for such cases, which will result in the imposition of the appropriate disciplinary or penal measures,” it added.