1. Pope’s Planned Visit to Myanmar Risks Stoking Religious Tensions.

By Saw Nang and Mike Ives, The New York Times, August 22, 2017

As rumors swirled recently that Pope Francis planned to visit Myanmar in November, the country’s main political and religious leaders described the trip as a potential salve for a land with so much ethnic and religious tension.

But some hard-line Buddhist nationalists have warned the pope against using his expected visit to champion the Rohingya — a persecuted Muslim minority that many Buddhists in Myanmar insist are from neighboring Bangladesh, even though Rohingya families have lived in the country for generations.

The expected visit, from Nov. 27 to 29, would be the first to Myanmar, also known as Burma, by any pope and may be formally announced as early as Wednesday, officials from the government and the Roman Catholic Church said in interviews. Vatican officials were said to have arrived on Monday in Yangon, Myanmar’s cultural and business capital, to coordinate logistics.

The pope’s visit will “improve the peace process and national reconciliation and create a communication bridge between Myanmar and the international community,” said U Yan Myo Thein, a political analyst in Yangon.

Mainstream Buddhist, Muslim and Catholic leaders in Myanmar echoed that sentiment in interviews.


2. Vatican Upbeat on Possibility of Pope Francis Visiting Russia.

By Reuters, August 22, 2017, 6:54 AM

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said on Tuesday that there was “positive momentum” behind the idea of Pope Francis visiting Russia, but suggested there was more work to be done if it were to happen.

Parolin, speaking at a joint news conference in Moscow alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, did not give any date for such a possible visit.

The Eastern and Western branches of Christianity split apart in 1054. The pope, leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, is seeking to improve ties, and last year in Cuba held what was the first ever meeting between a Roman Catholic pope and a Russian Orthodox patriarch.

Parolin said he had also used his talks in the Russian capital to also raise certain difficulties faced by the Catholic Church in Russia. He said that Moscow and the Vatican disagreed about the plight of Christians in certain parts of the world.


3. Vatican’s top diplomat says climate on Russia trip is ‘very constructive’.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, August 22, 2017

Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s top diplomat, is currently in Russia, where he’s scheduled to meet with both President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Mosow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The August 21-24 visit is the first from a papal Secretary of State to Moscow in 18 years.

Speaking with journalists on Monday after his two-hour meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations, effectively the number two official in the Russian Orthodox Church, Parolin said that the two had spoken about many issues, including some “thorny ones, but always with the will of building [together] and overcoming the existing difficulties.”

Among the topics of the conversation, he said, was Ukraine, currently facing Russian incursion on its eastern border, and which Parolin visited last year.

“Many are the topics to be discussed, but I would say that the climate was very constructive,” Parolin reportedly told journalists on Monday.

Later in the day, Parolin met with the Catholic bishops of Russia, and said Mass in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow. He is scheduled to meet Putin in Sochi on Wednesday.


4. Chile court rules in favor of abortion in some cases.

By Eva Vergara, Associated Press, August 21, 2017, 3:36 PM

Chile’s Constitutional Court on Monday upheld a measure that would end the country’s absolute ban on abortions.

The court’s 6-4 vote accepted the constitutionality of a measure to legalize abortions when a woman’s life is in danger, when a fetus is not viable and in cases of rape. President Michelle Bachelet has said she will sign the measure that passed Congress this month. It will end Chile’s stance as the last country in South America to ban abortion in all cases.

The bill’s passage comes as views continue to shift on social issues once considered taboo in the heavily Roman Catholic nation that only began to allow divorce in 2004. Congress recognized civil unions for same-sex couples in 2015.


5. Archbishop Fernández Defends ‘Amoris Laetitia’ From Its Critics. 

By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, August 21, 2017

One of Pope Francis closest advisers has publicly responded for the first time to trenchant criticisms of the Pope’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, insisting that, on the issue of remarried divorcees receiving Holy Communion, the Pope intended to discreetly change pastoral practice by taking into account the importance of responsibility and culpability in complex cases.

Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina and the author who drafted Amoris Laetitia, said the Pope wishes pastors to consider “the complexity of particular situations” where he believes the terms “fornicator” or “adulterer” would be inappropriate.

But Archbishop Fernandez, whose remarks come at the end of the article in a special edition of the Latin American journal Medellín and reported by Austen Ivereigh in Crux, offered the following example to argue why he believes it is important to take into account the complexity of situations when applying this teaching:

“It is also licit to ask if acts of living together more uxorio [i.e. having sexual relations] should always fall, in its integral meaning, within the negative precept of ‘fornication.’ I say ‘in its integral meaning’ because one cannot maintain those acts in each and every case are gravely dishonest in a subjective sense. In the complexity of particular situations is where, according to St. Thomas [Aquinas], ‘the indetermination increases.’ Indeed, it is not easy to describe as an ‘adulterer’ a woman who has been beaten and treated with contempt by her Catholic husband, and who received shelter, economic and psychological help from another man who helped her raise the children of the previous union, and with whom she has lived and had new children for many years.”

In a new article in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Capuchin Father Regis Scanlon accused the authors of Amoris Laetitia of allowing, through deliberate ambiguity, some non-chaste civilly remarried divorcees to receive Holy Communion.

He criticizes it for “concealing key passages of Familiaris Consortio and finally misappropriating a key Church document on marriage, Gaudium et Spes(51), in order to obtain the appearance of legitimacy in order that the divorced and remarried may receive Communion.” 

Noting the widely differing interpretations of the document (some bishops’ conferences firmly ruling out Holy Communion in these cases, others taking the Pope’s line), Father Scanlon asserts that even though Church leaders “hope the orthodox interpretation will be emphasized, it is not what is being stealthily insinuated in this document.”

Drawing on these and other criticisms of the document, prominent Dominican Father Aidan Nichols said last week that Amoris Laetitia has led to an “extremely grave” situation that may need a canonical procedure “for calling to order a pope who teaches error.”

Father Nichols’ criticism comes after Cardinal Raymond Burke last week reiterated the need for a correction, and outlined how that might be undertaken.