Catholic News

Argentine archbishop and Pope Francis advisor says 'civil union' not mistranslated in documentary

CNA General News - 2 hours 5 sec ago

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 03:04 pm (CNA).-  

Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, a long-time theological advisor to Pope Francis, has weighed in on the meaning of a phrase used by the pope in a video clip in “Francesco,” a documentary released Wednesday in Rome. The phrase, which is translated as “civil unions,” is at the center of a series of controversies about the documentary.

“Francesco,” a newly released documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis, made global headlines this week, because the pope appears to call for civil union legislation, in contrast to the positions of his predecessors.

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” the pope is seen to say in the documentary, during a scene in which Pope Francis talks about pastoral care for those who identify as LGBT.

The pope is seen to use the Spanish-language phrase “convivencia civil,” which is translated in the film’s subtitles as “civil union.” After some Spanish-speaking priests said the translation was inaccurate, Archbishop Fernandez, a theologian who has long been close to the pope, said that the pope’s phrase is substantially equivalent to the phrase “civil union.”

Fr. Augustino Torres, CFR, a New York-based priest who works in youth ministry, posted a video on Wednesday saying he believes “the pope was misunderstood, misquoted, misinterpreted.”

In an October 21 post on Instagram, Torres said the original Spanish makes clear that the pope’s comments are not an endorsement of civil unions.

The priest said the phrase that has been translated by the media as “civil union” is actually better translated as “law of civil convivience” or “civil coexistence.”

By using this phrase, Torres said, Pope Francis is talking about some kind of legal protection, which the priest did not specify, but not a homosexual civil union.

But Fernández, Archbishop of La Plata, Argentina, said Wednesday that the pope’s term connotes a civil union as the term is commonly understood.

The archbishop posted on Facebook that before he became pope, then-Cardinal Bergoglio “always recognized that, without calling it ‘marriage,’ in fact there are very close unions between people of the same sex, which do not in themselves imply sexual relations, but a very intense and stable alliance.”

“They know each other thoroughly, they share the same roof for many years, they take care of each other, they sacrifice for each other. Then it may happen that they prefer that in an extreme case or illness they do not consult their relatives, but that person who knows their intentions in depth. And for the same reason they prefer that it be that person who inherits all their assets, etc.”

“This can be contemplated in the law and is called ‘civil union’ [unión civil] or ‘law of civil coexistence’ [ley de convivencia civil], not marriage.”

“What the Pope has said on this subject is what he also maintained when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires,” Fernández added.

“For him, the expression ‘marriage’ has a precise meaning and only applies to a stable union between a man and a woman open to communicating life…there is a word, ‘marriage,’ that only applies to that reality. Any other similar union requires another name,” the archbishop explained.

Fernandez said this view reflects the pope’s stance as a bishop in Argentina, when he proposed to brother bishops, during a 2010 debate over gay marriage in the country, that accepting civil unions might be a way to prevent the passage of same-sex marriage laws in the country.

The Vatican has not responded to questions about the documentary, or whether the pope’s comments represent his view on civil unions, but the prefect of the Vatican’s communications office, Paolo Ruffini, has seen the documentary and praised it.


Junipero Serra among 'inappropriate' San Francisco school names, district committee says

CNA General News - 2 hours 3 min ago

Denver Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- A San Francisco public school district committee this month recommended that 44 schools with “inappropriate” names be renamed, with Junipero Serra Elementary School near the top of the list.

The district’s superintendent appointed the School Names Advisory Committee in 2018 to assess which schools, if any, ought to be renamed.

Among the committee’s recommendations for schools that ought to change their names were schools named for George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Rooselvelt, Robert Louis Stevenson, John Muir, and Francis Scott Key.

St. Junipero Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan priest and missionary, has been criticized by some activists as a symbol of colonialism and of the abuses that many Native Americans suffered after contact with Europeans. However, historians say Serra protested abuses and sought to fight colonial oppression.

Among the criteria that the committee reportedly used to asses school names were those of "anyone directly involved in the colonization of people, slave owners or participants in enslavement, perpetrators of genocide or slavery, those who exploit workers/people, those who directly oppressed or abused women, children, queer or transgender people, those connected to any human rights or environmental abuse [and] those who are known racists and/or white supremacists and/or espoused racist beliefs."

The panel has requested schools share alternate names by Dec. 18, with the school board voting on proposed new names in January or February of 2021, the Chronicle reported.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed last week criticized the advisory committee’s decision to recommend dozens of school name changes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement to local media, the school district said the schools are “not required or mandated to participate” in the renaming process.

CNA attempted to contact the principal of Junipero Serra Elementary to ask if the school plans to submit new name recommendations to the district, but did not receive a response.

Serra’s defenders say that he was actually an advocate for native people, noting an episode of his life when he drafted a 33-point “bill of rights” for the Native Americans living in the mission settlements and walking all the way from California to Mexico City to present it to the viceroy.

While many Native peoples did suffer horrific abuse, an archaeologist told CNA earlier this year that activists tend to conflate the abuses the Natives suffered long after Serra’s death with the period when Serra was alive and building the missions.

The saint lends his name to numerous buildings, schools, streets, and parks in California. Activists have led several successful efforts in recent years to expunge Serra’s name from some of them, including at Stanford University.

In 2018, Stanford renamed Serra Mall, a major thoroughfare through campus, “Jane Stanford Way.” The Serra House building and Serra House dorm in 2019 were renamed after Carolyn Lewis Attneave and Sally Ride respectively.

There is another Junipero Serra Elementary school near San Francisco in a different school district, whose name also has come under recent scrutiny. Members of the South San Francisco Unified School District Board of Trustees proposed a change to that elementary school’s name in June. The name has so far remained as it is.

Among the schools recommended for a name change in San Francisco is Diane Feinstein Elementary, named after a longtime and current Democratic Senator.

Abortion-advocacy groups called for Feinstein to step down as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee after the confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, claiming that Feinstein, who is pro-choice and has publicly criticized Barrett’s Catholic faith, lent an “appearance of credibility” to proceedings that were “widely out of step with the American people.”

‘The Holy Land changed my life:’ Archbishop Pizzaballa on 30 years in Jerusalem

CNA General News - 3 hours 4 min ago

Rome Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa has concluded his four-year mandate as apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Since 1990, shortly after his priestly ordination, the Italian bishop and Franciscan friar has lived in the Middle East.

“The Holy Land changed my life. My life of faith also,” the 55-year-old bishop told EWTN News in Rome on Wednesday.

He said: “I arrived there 30 years ago. I didn’t know the languages. I came from a very, very Catholic context and I was suddenly in a context where [Christians] were just 1% of the population.”

“But early on I understood that in this quagmire of religions and political tensions, you can find men and women of faith that can help you to really live your faith in a new way through the holy places, the Scripture, and men of faith,” he said.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the See of the sui iuris Latin Church of the Holy Land. It is part of the Roman rite. The Latin Patriarchate has not had a patriarch since June 2016.

As apostolic administrator, Pizzaballa oversaw the patriarchate together with auxiliary Bishop Giacinto Marcuzzo, whose resignation, for the ordinary reason of age, was accepted by Pope Francis in August.

Now the Holy Land’s Catholics await the pope’s nomination of a new patriarch and auxiliary bishop.

Pizzaballa told EWTN News he could not share the news of his next position yet, but “in a few days it will be known.”

About the path before him, he said, “for 30 years, for most of my life, I lived in the Holy Land, so I am part of the Holy Land and I continue to be part of it. So we have to remain united in prayer, first of all, in friendship; wherever Providence will bring me, I will bring the Holy Land.”

The archbishop said that Christians in the Holy Land were suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, noting that Jerusalem had already experienced two separate lockdowns.

“And it was very difficult, not only because the health situation of many families but for the economic situation. The consequences of the lockdown is that thousands of families, especially Christian families, now are without jobs, without work,” he explained.

Pilgrimages to the holy sites are a major source of income for Christians, but with borders closed, “pilgrimage is now totally canceled,” he said, making it “a very, very difficult situation for hundreds of families in the Bethlehem area especially, in the Nazareth area, and in Jordan, of course.”

“I don’t think that in less than a year we can have the normal pilgrimage situation we had before,” he said.

Poverty is also growing for Christians in Palestine, who face the same problems due to the pandemic, as well as the inability to enter Israel for work.

After long-standing conflicts in the wider area, such as in Syria, and Iraq, as well as instability and disaster in Lebanon, poverty in Jordan, and the political situation between Israel and Palestine, you can feel that the people of the Holy Land are frustrated, Pizzaballa said.

“All these aspects that are not new, because we are seeing this situation since years, create a lot of frustration and a lot of temptations, temptation to leave, to find their future somewhere else,” he said.

“We try to insist to the population, to tell [them] they have to remain, that they have a vocation to remain. But when they have children and a family, it is difficult to convince them.”

Since he became apostolic administrator in 2016, Pizzaballa said that political tensions had worsened, but a “positive aspect” was that among Christians “we have a better understanding.”

Pope Francis appointed Pizzaballa to the position following his role as head of the Custody of the Holy Land, a province of the Order of Friars Minor which encompasses Israel, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Cyprus, and the Dodecanese in Greece, with convents also in other countries.

The Franciscan followed Patriarch Fouad Twal in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. In 2016, the Latin Patriarchate was facing grave financial difficulties and teetering on bankruptcy from debts amounting to more than $100 million. 

“They have been four difficult years,” Pizzaballa said. “I had a very clear mandate: first to put order in the administration.”

As apostolic administrator, the bishop reorganized the patriarchate’s financial management, put in place new internal and external controls, and created more transparency.

He was able to pay the debt with help from international donations, by cutting expenses, and with some property sales in Nazareth.

The bishop said that he was also given the task of improving the pastoral situation in the Holy Land, including creating more unity among the priests and the different Christian communities in Jordan, Israel, Palestine, and Cyprus.

He wanted to show “what we have in common,” he said. “And to create understanding, trust, among the different communities in the same diocese.”

“In the beginning it was very difficult. But once we have been transparent, I felt that all the community was very supportive and so we could overcome all our problems and turn the page finally,” he said.

US hosts signing of declaration rejecting 'human right' to abortion

CNA General News - 4 hours 4 min ago

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The United States hosted the signing ceremony of the Geneva Consensus Declaration on Thursday. The document rejects the claim that abortion is an international human right. 

“Today we put down a clear marker; no longer can UN agencies reinterpret and misinterpret agreed-upon language without accountability,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar during the ceremony Oct. 22.. 

“Without apology we affirm that governments have the soverign right to make their own laws to protect innocent life and write their regulations on abortion” Azar said. 

“In signing the declaration today, the United States is honored to stand alongside Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda, the cross-regional cosponsors for the declaration,” he said. A total of 32 countries have signed onto the declaration. 

Azar called the signing the “high point” of his time leading the department, and noted that countries who have not yet signed the document can still do so. 

“The Geneva Consensus Declaration is a historic document, stating clearly where we as nations stand on women’s health, the family, honoring life, and defending national sovereignty,” said Azar, calling it “much more than a statement of beliefs.” 

“It is a critical and useful tool to defend these principles across all United Nations bodies and in every multilateral setting, using language previously agreed to by member states of those bodies,” he explained.  

The declaration was written partially in response to a “disturbing trend” in the United Nations, he said. 

“With increasing frequency, some rich nations and UN agencies beholden to them are wrongly asserting [that] abortion is a universal human right.” 

Azar said that these policies have the effect of forcing countries to implement “progressive” abortion laws or face the loss of funding or international standing. He accused some nations of having a “myopic focus on a radical agenda that is offensive to many cultures, and derails agreement on women’s health priorities.” 

The coalition of signing countries “will hold multilateral organizations accountable,” he explained, by denouncing these organizations for “promoting positions that can never gain consensus.”  

“We will unequivocally declare that there is no international right to abortion. We will proudly put women’s health first at every stage of life,” he said.  

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke at the signing ceremony, calling the declaration a “deep and personal commitment to protect human dignity” and “the culmination of lots of hard work.” 

Pompeo highlighted the Trump administration’s “unprecedented defense of the unborn abroad,” and said that “the United States has defended the dignity of human life everywhere and always” over the last four years.  

“It’s historic to be here,” he said. “It’s the first time that a multilateral coalition has been built around the issue of defending life.” 

The Geneva Consensus Declaration, said Pompeo, is a “commitment to work together at the UN and in other international settings to achieve tangible results,” something he is “confident” will happen. He added that he was “truly proud” of the work being done. 

Valerie Huber, Special Representative for Global Women's Health at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provided background of the declaration. 

The declaration, Huber explained, was intended to be signed at the culmination of the World Health Assembly’s global women’s health summit, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We decided to move forward with the declaration now, because accelerating health gains for women cannot wait,” said Huber.

“Supporting the intrinsic value of the family cannot wait. Protecting life born and unborn, and the sovereignty of nations to make their own laws on this issue cannot wait.”

Pope Francis' homosexuality comments heavily edited in documentary, Vatican has no comment on civil unions

CNA General News - 4 hours 44 min ago

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 12:20 pm (CNA).-  

“Francesco,” a newly-released documentary on Pope Francis, contains comments from the pope on homosexuality and civil unions. Some of the remarks, however, are the result of editing distinct phrases from a papal interview and presenting them as a cohesive whole.

While filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky told CNA and other journalists that Pope Francis made comments calling for the passage of civil union laws directly to him, the comments actually appear to come from a 2019 interview of Pope Francis conducted by Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki.

The pope’s comments on civil unions have not been disputed by the Vatican despite multiple requests for clarity. The remarks were not contained in the published version of Alazraki’s interview, and have not been seen by the public except in “Francesco.”

On Wednesday, however, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of the influential journal La Civiltà Cattolica, told journalists that the pope’s remarks on civil unions are excerpted from the 2019 interview, and did not dispute the way in which they were presented in the documentary.

At the same time, a CNA analysis of the interview’s transcript shows that other papal comments on homosexuality featured in “Francesco” were compiled by heavy editing of the 2019 interview’s video footage.

“Francesco” presents Pope Francis saying the following, in remarks about his approach to pastoral care:

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

While the pope did say those words on camera, he did not say them in that order, or use those phrases in immediate proximity.

CNA has bolded the appearance of those words in an excerpted translation of the pope’s remarks during his 2019 interview:

“I was asked a question on a flight - after it made me mad, made me mad for how one news outlet transmitted it - about the familial integration of people with homosexual orientation, and I said, homosexual people have a right to be in the family, people with homosexual orientation have a right to be in the family and parents have the right to recognize that son as homosexual, that daughter as homosexual. Nobody should be thrown out of the family, or be made miserable because of it.”

“Another thing is, I said when you see some signs in the children and from there send them to -  I should have said a ‘professional,’ what came out was ‘psychiatrist.’ I meant to say a professional because sometimes there are signs in adolescence or pre-adolescence that they don’t know if they are homosexually oriented or if it is that the thymus gland didn’t atrophy in time. Who knows, a thousand things, no? So, a professional. The title of the daily paper: ‘The Pope sends homosexuals to the psychiatrist.’ It’s not true!”

“They asked me the same question another time and I repeated it, ‘They are children of God, they have a right to a family, and such.’ Another thing is - and I explained I was wrong with that word, but I meant to say this: When you notice something strange - ‘Ah, it’s strange.’ - No, it’s not strange. Something that is outside of the usual. That is, not to take a little word to annul the context. There, what I said is that they ‘have a right to a family.’ And that doesn’t mean to approve of homosexual acts, not at all.”


After the presentation of those edited remarks, the pope is seen to say in “Francesco” that “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

While those remarks seem certainly to come from the Alazraki interview, Francesco director Evgeny Afineevsky has told reporters otherwise, and the section of the Alazraki interview in which they would have come was not included in the published version, and is not available to the public.

But in addition to their context, some have called their meaning into question, suggesting that a phrase used by the pope, “convivencia civil,” was mistranslated by “Francesco” as “civil unions” in the film’s subtitle, and actually suggests a different kind of legal recognition.

But on Wednesday Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, a theologian who has long been close to the pope, suggested that the pope’s phrase is substantially equivalent to the phrase “civil union.”

The archbishop posted on Facebook that before he became the pope, then Cardinal-Bergoglio “always recognized that, without calling it ‘marriage,’ in fact there are very close unions between people of the same sex, which do not in themselves imply sexual relations, but a very intense and stable alliance. They know each other thoroughly, they share the same roof for many years, they take care of each other, they sacrifice for each other. Then it may happen that they prefer that in an extreme case or illness they do not consult their relatives, but that person who knows their intentions in depth. And for the same reason they prefer that it be that person who inherits all their assets, etc. This can be contemplated in the law and is called ‘civil union’ [unión civil] or ‘law of civil coexistence’ [ley de convivencia civil], not marriage.” 



Vancouver school marks first step to towering future

Catholic Register Canada - News - 5 hours 4 min ago
Grade 5 students sing “O Canada” at the opening of the new fine arts annex at St. Mary’s Elementary School in Vancouver.

VANCOUVER -- After spending last year in a church basement, the young musicians in St. Mary’s Elementary School’s band class can now breathe easily in their very own fine arts annex.

The growing St. Mary’s parish community rallied to build the annex after the Vancouver elementary school became too small for its needs, said principal Brenda Krivuzoff.

“A lot of people were involved, and it was a lot of resources, of course, but we just felt we really value our music program and fine arts program and wanted to give it a special place,” she said of the annex, which was blessed in September by St. Mary’s Parish pastor Fr. Guy Rivard.

The fine arts annex, a portable structure in the parking lot behind the school, is the first small step toward a much greater expansion plan that would make St. Mary’s one of the first schools in Vancouver to incorporate a residential tower development.

Krivuzoff told The B.C. Catholic St. Mary’s is still in talks with the Archdiocese of Vancouver in the hope of moving ahead with plans to replace the existing school with a high-rise tower that would house school facilities as well as apartments. The massive redevelopment project would replace a school deemed in 2013 to be high-risk in case of an earthquake. It would also increase school capacity by about 100 students and use income from the rental housing to help pay for the project.

Officials were optimistically hoping the project would be completed by 2020, with a second phase — replacing the parish rectory with two residential towers, a parish centre and an adoration chapel — slated for completion in 2022, The B.C. Catholic reported in 2016.

Although the process has been delayed, Krivuzoff said “things are picking up pace.”

“We’ve done the demographic studies,” said Krivuzoff. 

“We’re definitely a growing area and I think a lot of people want to come to St. Mary’s. They value Catholic education and they want to come to their neighbourhood school.”

St. Mary’s currently has just under 300 students registered; the new school would be able to accommodate up to 400.

Where China's bishops stand as the Sino-Vatican deal is renewed

CNA General News - 5 hours 4 min ago

Rome Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- As the Sino-Vatican provisional agreement was renewed Thursday, an article in a Vatican newspaper said that two Chinese bishops had been appointed under the “regulatory framework established by the agreement.”

Vatican officials have repeatedly stressed that the accord between China and the Holy See -- which will not expire until Oct. 22, 2022 -- is focused solely on the appointment of bishops.

While the terms of the agreement have been kept confidential, it reportedly allows the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association to choose a slate of nominees for bishop.

An article published by L’Osservatore Romano Oct. 22 said: “The main purpose of the provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops in China is to support and promote the proclamation of the Gospel in those lands, restoring the full and visible unity of the Church … The question of the appointment of bishops is of vital importance for the life of the Church, both locally and universally.”

With this in mind, what do we know about the bishops who have been affected by the Sino-Vatican agreement? Those who were newly appointed under the confidential provisions of the deal, those whose excommunications were lifted after the deal, and the bishops who stepped back from their former leadership roles.

Who was appointed?

Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining, in the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, was the first bishop consecrated in China under the terms of the Sino-Vatican agreement, on Aug. 26, 2019. 

Prior to his appointment, Yao had served as the secretary and later vice director of the liturgical commission overseen by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Council of Chinese Bishops since 1998. He returned to the Diocese of Jining in 2010 to serve as victor general.

Born in Ulanqab in 1965, Yao is a native of Inner Mongolia. He both studied and taught at the national seminary in Beijing. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1991, Yao completed a degree in liturgy in the United States at St. John’s University in Minnesota from 1994 to 1998. He also spent some time pursuing biblical studies in Jerusalem.

Yao’s episcopal motto is “Misericordes sicut pater,” which means “Be merciful as the Father is.”

The New York Times has reported that the Vatican had approved Yao as the successor of Bishop John Liu Shigong in the Diocese of Jining in 2010, but the Chinese government refused to approve him, even after Bishop Liu died in 2017 at the age of 89. 

But Chinese researchers have pointed out that Yao is not one to speak out critically about the Chinese government.

“The Communist Party feels comfortable with him,” said Francesco Sisci, a Beijing-based researcher on Chinese Catholicism told the Times in 2019. “They don’t want someone doing agitprop against them.”

Bishop Stephen Xu Hongwei of Hanzhong, in Shaanxi Province, was ordained a coadjutor bishop on August 28, 2019, at the age of 44. 

He serves the Diocese of Hanzhong as coadjutor to 91-year-old Bishop Louis Yu Runchen. The diocese was divided between underground and state-approved Catholic communities for many years. Yu Runchen was selected by the Chinese Patriotic Association to be bishop without the approval of the Holy See in 1985, a year after the Vatican’s appointment of Bishop Bartholomew Yu Chengti. The Vatican recognized Yu only after the underground bishop died in 2009.

After his ordination in 2002, Xu studied at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome from 2004 to 2008. He undertook further studies in the Diocese of Vancouver, Canada. Upon returning to China in 2010, he was appointed pastor of West Street Cathedral in the Diocese of Hanzhong. 

Xu was a member of a regional Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Consultative Political Conference -- the consultative political body part of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front -- in 2012 and 2017, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

Whose excommunications were lifted? 

With the signing of the provisional agreement between the Holy See and China in Sept. 2018, Pope Francis also lifted the excommunication of seven bishops who had been appointed illicitly by the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Association. 

They include Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai, 52, of Chengde in Hebei Province. Pope Francis created the Diocese of Chengde in 2019 out of the Dioceses of Jinzhou and Chifeng in 2018, so that Guo could lead his own diocese after his excommunication was lifted. 

Guo participated in the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2018 and has served three terms as a deputy to the National People’s Congress in Beijing. 

As a member of China’s legislative body, Bishop Guo publicly supported an amendment to eliminate presidential term limits and enshrine “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” in the Chinese constitution in March 2018.

“My position as a national legislator will not and cannot affect my religious service, as China implements the principle of separation of church and state,” Guo told the state-sponsored newspaper Global Times at the National People’s Congress in 2018.

Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu, 61, of Mindong/Funing in Fujian Province. After underground Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin stepped aside to allow him to lead the diocese, Zhan led a delegation of 33 priests from the Diocese of Mindong to participate in a “formation course” at the Central Institute of Socialism, in collaboration with the United Front of Fujian Province, where they listened to presentations on the “sinicization of religion.” 

“We must contribute to the creation of a new reality in the diocese of Mindong and in the Catholic Church of Fujian,” Zhan said after the course, according to Asia News. 

“We will deepen the content of Catholic doctrine in order to foster social harmony, progress and a positive culture. To carry out the sinicization of religion with determination, we will continue to follow a path that conforms to socialist society,” Zhan said in August 2019.

Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin, 56, of Leshan in Chongqing Province. Lei served as an official delegate at the government’s Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in 2018. He previously served as a vice president of the Patriotic Association. 

After his excommunication was lifted, Lei was a speaker at a 2019 celebration of the Chinese Red Army’s Long March, led by Mao Zedong, in which he spoke of a meeting convened by Mao in a (requisitioned) Catholic priest’s house in Moxi in 1935 as a story of “patriotism of our country’s Catholicism,” according to the Catholic Patriotic Association website. 

Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang, 53, of Shantou in Guangdong Province. After he was appointed by the government without papal permission in 2011, Huang became vice president of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. 

He served as a deputy in the most recent National People’s Congress, as well as the National People’s Congress that took place from 2008 to 2013.

Huang said in 2017 that he would work to actively promote the practice of Catholic patriotism, according to the Chinese Patriotic Association website.

Bishop Joseph Liu Xinhong, 56, of Anqing in Anhui Province. Illicitly ordained in 2006 after the government-controlled Catholic bishops’ conference combined the dioceses of Anqing, Bengbu and Wuhu to form the Anhui diocese -- a restructuring that was not recognized by the Holy See, according to UCA News.

Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin, 55, of Kunming in Yunnan Province. Ma previously served as secretary for the Council of Catholic Bishops at a time when the government-controlled “episcopal conference” was not recognized by the Holy See. In 2010, Ma was appointed president of the Chinese patriotic association’s bishops’ conference.

Bishop Joseph Yue Fusheng, 56, of Harbin in Heilongjiang Province. Yue was illicitly named bishop of Harbin in 2012 by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Bishop Anthony Tu Shihua of Hanyang and Puqi in Hubei province. Before his death in 2017 at the age of 98, Tu expressed a desire to be reconciled with the Holy See. One of China’s first illicitly named bishops, Tu was appointed without papal mandate in 1959, and later served as rector of the National Seminary in Beijing between 1983 and 1992, and as a leader of the Patriotic Association and the Council of Chinese Bishops. 

Who stepped aside?

Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian, 89, of Shantou in Guangdong Province was asked to retire by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli in 2019 so that Bishop Joseph Huang Bingzhang would be recognized by the Vatican as the Bishop of Shantou.

Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin, 62, of Mindong/Funing in Fujian Province. In October this year, Guo announced that he was retiring to concentrate on prayer because he did not “want to become an obstacle to progress.” Guo was an underground bishop who previously agreed to become an auxiliary bishop so that state-appointed Bishop Zhan Silu would be recognized by the Vatican. “In any circumstance or change, you should never forget God, and neither ignore the Lord’s commandments, nor damage the integrity of faith, nor delay the salvation of the soul, which is the most important thing,” he said in a letter to his diocese Oct. 5.

Who is missing?

Bishop James Su Zhimin, 88, of Baoding in Hebei Province. The whereabouts of Bishop Su, who has spent 24 years in prison, is unknown. He was arrested by Chinese authorities in 1997. He was last seen by family at a hospital in 2003 while he was in government custody.

According to Bishop Su’s nephew, Chinese officials have reportedly asked the Vatican to appoint a new bishop of Baoding, UCA News reported on July 22. Their preferred candidate is said to be Coadjutor Bishop Francis An Shuxi, a member of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-sanctioned church.

EU Awards top human rights prize to Belarus opposition

Vatican News - 5 hours 8 min ago
The European Union has awarded its top human rights prize to the Belarus opposition movement and its leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. They received the Sakharov Prize for their challenge to what EU leaders view as Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko's long, hard-line reign.

Hariri returns as Lebanon's new Prime Minister

Vatican News - 5 hours 9 min ago
Lebanon has named the former Prime Minister Saad Hariri as new premier, with 65 votes out of 128, to form a cabinet.

'Francesco' director receives film award in Vatican Gardens

CNA General News - 5 hours 42 min ago

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2020 / 11:22 am (CNA).- The director of a new documentary about Pope Francis received an Italian film award in a ceremony in the Vatican Gardens on Thursday, amid international controversy over his documentary on the life and ministry of Pope Francis.

Filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky, the director of “Francesco,” was presented with the Kinéo Movie for Humanity Award Oct. 22. 

Now in its 18th year, the award is given to those who promote social, humanitarian, and environmental issues in cinema.

Accepting the award, Afineevsky said “I’m so proud that finally ‘Francesco’ is on its way to the world to change hearts and minds.”

“I’m happy that I can bring the voices of the Rohingya refugees, refugees from Syria, voices of victims of sexual abuse, voices from different points and from different corners of the world. Something that Pope Francis really cares [about] and something that is really deeply in my heart,” he stated.

Afineevsky said that, while the pope cannot bring attention to those issues through papal travel at the moment, due to COVID-19, he was “so proud that today the movie can continue this mission.”  

The Vatican press office has not given any public statement on the film, which made international headlines on Wednesday for including a line from Pope Francis in a video interview calling for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples. 

Francis’ statement seems to depart from the position of the Vatican’s doctrinal office and the pope’s predecessors on the issue. 

Vatican officials were present at the award ceremony, including Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the communications dicastery, and dicastery secretary Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz.

The officials were not available for questions after the award was presented.

Rosetta Sannelli, the award’s creator, said in a press release that “every trip of Pope Francis to various parts of the world is documented in Afineevsky’s work by images and news footage, and reveals itself as an authentic glimpse into the events of our time, a historical work in all respects.”

The Kinéo movie prizes are usually awarded at a ceremony in Venice, but Sannelli told EWTN News the Vatican was “the right place” to hold the ceremony recognizing “Francesco,” because “there is the spirituality of the place, of the location that you cannot find anywhere [else].”

She said that she chose the documentary after seeing a lot of submissions, calling it “the sum of humanity in a movie.”

“There is the pope... There is a person who fights against the problems and differences and tragedies of our times,” she continued. “I think that it’s a movie to open our look on the world, not from a Catholic point of view, but from a real point of view. There is a religious, spiritual base, but then you work on the base and you go into real themes of our century.”

The pope “faces real problems” of today, she said.

“Francesco” premiered at the Rome Film Festival Oct. 21, and is due to have its North American premiere on Sunday.

The film chronicles the approach of Pope Francis to pressing social issues, and to pastoral ministry among those who live, in the words of the pontiff, “on the existential peripheries.”

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CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 09:28 am (CNA).- Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, director of the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, said on Wednesday evening that an expression of support for same-sex civil unions from Pope Francis is “nothing new” and does not signify a change of Catholic doctrine. But the priest’s remarks have raised some question about the origin of comments from Pope Francis on civil unions, which were featured in the newly-released documentary “Francesco.”

In a video released by Tv2000, a media apostolate of the  Italian bishops’ conference, Spadaro said that "the director of the film ‘Francesco’ compiles a series of interviews that have been conducted with Pope Francis over time, giving a great summary of his pontificate and the value of his travels.”

“Among other things, there are various passages taken from an interview with Valentina Alazraki, a Mexican journalist, and within that interview Pope Francis speaks of a right to the legal protection of homosexual couples but without in any way affecting doctrine,” Spadaro said.

Tv2000 is not affiliated with the Vatican, and Spadaro is not a Vatican spokesman.

On Wednesday, the documentary’s director, Evgeny Afineevsky, told CNA and other journalists that the pope’s statement in support of legalizing same sex civil unions was made during an interview the director himself conducted with Pope Francis.

But the interview Pope Francis gave to Televisa's Alazraki is shot in the same place, with the same lighting and the same appearance as the pope’s comments on civil unions that were aired in “Francesco,” suggesting that the remarks came from the Alazraki interview, and not an interview with Afineevsky.

Spadaro said Oct. 21 that "there is nothing new” in the pope’s remarks on civil unions.

“This is an interview given a long time ago that has already been received by the press,” Spadaro added.

And on Wednesday, the priest told the Associated Press that “there’s nothing new because it’s a part of that interview,” adding that “it seems strange that you don’t remember.”

While Alazraki's interview was released by Televisa June 1, 2019, the pope’s comments on civil union legislation were not included in the published version, and had not previously been seen by the public in any context.

In fact, Alazraki told CNA she has no recollection of the pope making remarks about civil unions, although comparative footage suggests the remark almost certainly came from her interview.

It is not clear how unpublished footage from Alazraki's interview, of which Spadaro seemed aware in his remarks on Wednesday, became available to Afineevsky during the production of his documentary.

On May 28, 2019, Vatican News, the official news outlet of the Vatican, published a preview of Alazraki's interview, which also did not contain reference to the pope’s remarks on civil unions.

In a 2014 interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis spoke briefly about civil unions after he was asked about them. The pope distinguished between marriage, which is between a man and a woman, and other kinds of government-recognized relationships. Pope Francis did not weigh in on during the interview on a debate in Italy over same-sex civil unions, and a spokesman later clarified that he had no intention of doing so.

Pope Francis is also on record speaking about civil unions in the little known 2017 book “Pape François. Politique et société,” by French sociologist Dominique Wolton, who wrote the text after several interviews with Pope Francis.

In the English translation of the book, titled “A Future of Faith: The Path of Change in Politics and Society,” Wolton tells Pope Francis that “homosexuals aren't necessarily favorable toward 'marriage.' Some prefer civil union (sic) It's all complicated. Beyond the ideology of equality, there is also, in the word 'marriage', a search for acknowledgment.”

In the text, Pope Francis briefly responds: “But it isn’t a marriage, it is a civil union.”

Based on that reference, some reviews, including one published in America magazine, claimed that in the book, the Pope "repeats his opposition to gay marriage but accepts the civil union of people of the same sex."

Journalists from CNA and other media outlets have asked the Vatican press office for clarification on the source of the pope’s interview, but have not yet received a response.


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