1. Pope to pick up more stamps for the passport in 2017, By Inés San Martín, Crux, December 13, 2016.

When Pope Francis came into office almost four years ago, he said he didn’t want to travel much as pope, something he was famous for avoiding while he was still Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Yet since his election on March 2013, he’s taken 17 trips outside of Italy, visiting 27 countries, with six overseas journeys in 2016 alone. Now, it looks like he’s going to be adding several more stamps to his passport in 2017.

Although the Vatican usually doesn’t confirm a papal voyage until three or four months before the visit, Francis has already confirmed three for 2017- and completely ruled out one that some 40 million people were eagerly awaiting.

The only one that has a date [somewhat] set in stone has a strong Marian theme: Fatima, Portugal, in May.

The other two trips that Francis has confirmed are Asia and Africa, though it’s still unclear when he’ll visit each continent, and in the case of Africa, we don’t really know which countries he’ll visit either.
When he announced his plan to go to Africa, he was vague as to where he’d go, saying the destination depended on weather conditions, time of year and regional political and conflict situations. If the rumor mill in Rome is to be believed, South Sudan and North Africa are both strong contenders.


2. Pope Francis and the Pacifist Jesus, By Andrew Latham, Crisis Magazine, December 13, 2016.

In his recently released message for the 50th World Day of Peace, Pope Francis called on humanity to adopt nonviolence as a “style of politics for peace.”

Like many of the Holy Father’s public statements, his message for the 50th World Day of Peace embodies what might most charitably be called “constructive ambiguity.” On the one hand, despite the efforts of an increasingly assertive Catholic pacifist movement to persuade him otherwise, Pope Francis said nothing in his message on the issue of Catholic Just War Theory. He neither embraced nor condemned it, choosing to remain entirely silent on the topic. On the other hand, the Holy Father has clearly embraced two of the other main planks of the new pacifist platform: “Just peace” and “Gospel nonviolence.”

But there is another, deeper, problem with grounding “Gospel nonviolence” in a Christology from below. Simply put, in order to work, such arguments must necessarily assume that Jesus’ teachings regarding Christian discipleship govern not only the actions of private persons but also those of public officials discharging their official duties. They must elide, in other words, the distinction between the realms of personal and political morality. A plain reading of the Gospels, however, reveals that Jesus did not make such an elision. His teachings regarding Christian discipleship pertain solely to the actions of private persons and their interpersonal interactions; they are effectively silent with respect to the morality of the state and its officials. Put slightly differently, Jesus’ ethical teachings in the Gospels are precisely that—ethical teachings. They deal with the morality of adultery, divorce, almsgiving and other standards of personal conduct, as well as specifying how to respond to personal insult or injury. They are not political teachings—indeed, they are entirely silent with respect to the precepts of governance and statecraft.

Once we recognize, however, that the Sermon on the Mount is about personal ethics and not public policy, a very different picture comes into focus. Viewed in this way, the Sermon is less a blanket prohibition on the use of force by public authorities and more prohibition on the intemperate use of force by private persons in response to personal insult or injury. This had become a real problem in Jesus’ time with people not only exacting disproportionate retribution, but actually taking justice into their own hands instead of relying on magistrates or other public authorities. In the three teachings mentioned above, Jesus is clearly teaching his listeners about the proper response to personal insult and injury and, more generally, how private persons should conduct themselves in the interpersonal domain. He is not saying anything at all about the way public officials should enact the lex talionis. Nor is he saying anything about the broader issue of the propriety of the use of force by the state. Nor, finally, is Jesus barring Christians from wielding the sword in the service of those authorities. The assumption that the Sermon on the Mount is some sort of master class in political science is simply wrong.


3. Pope: Clericalism distances the people from the Church, By Vatican Radio, December 13, 2016.

The spirit of clericalism is an evil that is present in the Church today, Pope Francis said, and the victim of this spirit is the people, who feel discarded and abused. That was the Pope’s message in the homily at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

Among those taking part in the Mass were the members of the Council of cardinals, who are meeting with the Pope this week in Rome.

In his homily, Pope Francis warned pastors of the dangers of becoming “intellectuals of religion” with a morality far from the Revelation of God.

The poor and humble people who have faith in the Lord are the victims of the “intellectuals of religion,” those who are “seduced by clericalism,” who will be preceded in the Kingdom of Heaven by repentant sinners.

Even today, the Pope observed, this sometimes happens in the Church. “There is that spirit of clericalism,” he explained: “Clerics feel they are superior, they are far from the people”; they have no time to hear the poor, the suffering, prisoners, the sick”.


4. Time for a tipping point on anti-Christian persecution, By John L. Allen Jr., December 12, 2016, Editor.

In the eyes of those truly paying attention, anti-Christian persecution is one of the transcendent human rights challenges of our time, and a priority that requires something greater than simply exhorting national governments such as Egypt to step up their own efforts.

Here’s that reality in a nutshell: Yes, Christians need help in Egypt, but that’s hardly the only place. From Iraq and Syria to Nigeria and Cameroon, from India and Sri Lanka to North Korea and China, even in parts of overwhelmingly Catholic Latin America, a staggering number of Christians face the daily risk of physical injury, arrest, kidnapping, torture and even death, for motives linked to their faith.

The fact the numbers are familiar doesn’t make them any less daunting. An estimated 200 million Christians around the world are at risk of physical persecution, and even the low-end estimate for the number of Christians killed for religious reasons each year puts the count of new martyrs at roughly one every hour, 365 days a year.

In the eyes of those truly paying attention, anti-Christian persecution is one of the transcendent human rights challenges of our time, and a priority that requires something greater than simply exhorting national governments to step up their own efforts.

What’s needed is a global mobilization, similar to the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s, though in this case hardly directed at a single pariah state.

Of course, Christian suffering has no greater inherent value than anyone else’s, but given their numbers, their vulnerability, and the widespread tendency to associate Christianity with whatever grievances people may have with the West, Christians are today’s most persecuted religious minority.

If rhetoric about a “culture of human rights” is to mean anything, then global institutions and powers need to make a special investment in their protection.


5. Leader of Opus Dei dies at 84, By CNA/EWTN News, December 12, 2016, 3:29 PM.

Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, the Prelate of Opus Dei, died Monday evening at the age of 84 in Rome, several days after being hospitalized with pneumonia.

The bishop was born in Madrid in 1932, where he met St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, an organization dedicated to spiritual growth and discipleship among the laity which teaches its members to use their work and their ordinary activities as a way to encounter God.

He was St. Josemaria’s secretary from 1953 to 1975, and was ordained a priest of the prelature in 1955, at the age of 23.

He was later named secretary general of Opus Dei, and was elected prelate in 1994. He was consecrated a bishop the following year.