1. Vatican Clarifies the Rules for Cremation: Bury, Don’t Scatter, By Elisabetta Povoledo and Gaia Pianigiani, The New York Times, October 26, 2016, Pg. A4.

The Vatican decreed that the ashes of loved ones have no place in the home, and certainly not in jewelry. It urged that cremated remains be preserved in cemeteries or other approved sacred places.

The instructions, which reiterate the Roman Catholic Church’s preference for burial over cremation, are in line with previous teachings. But local bishops’ conferences had requested doctrinal clarification because cremation has become increasingly popular and because there were “no specific canonical norms” for preserving ashes, according to Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which drafted the guidelines.

The church banned cremation for centuries, but began to allow the practice in 1963, as long as it is not done for reasons at odds with Christian doctrine. Burials are deeply embedded in Christian tradition, and in the United States and elsewhere many dioceses still run graveyards and cemeteries, though cremation and other alternatives are on the rise.


2. Vatican to Act as Mediator Between Venezuela’s Dueling Sides, By Ana Vanessa Herrero and Elisabeth Malkin, The New York Times, October 26, 2016, Pg. A6.

CARACAS, Venezuela — As President Nicolás Maduro flew to Rome for a hastily arranged meeting with Pope Francis, representatives of Venezuela’s government and a leader of the opposition agreed on Monday to allow the Vatican to mediate a dialogue intended to solve the country’s political crisis.

The accord appeared to mark a pause in Venezuela’s escalating tension, which intensified last week when the country’s electoral council suspended the opposition’s drive for a referendum to recall Mr. Maduro.

This is the first time that the Vatican has succeeded in bringing representatives of the two sides together since it began attempts to intercede in May.


3. Pope Francis the Manager-Surprising, Secretive, Shrewd, By Reuters, October 26, 2016, 5:03 AM.

Interviews with a dozen current and past Vatican officials and aides paint a portrait of Pope Francis, a Jesuit who turns 80 in December, as eschewing filters between him and the outside world. He carries his own black briefcase, keeps his own agenda, and makes many of his own calls.

In contrast, his two immediate predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, worked hand-in-hand with the Vatican bureaucracy, which is known as the curia.

Behind Francis’s approach is a clear mandate, received from the worldwide cardinals who elected him in 2013, to overhaul the curia.

Some internal critics say he relies too much on snap judgments and others have urged greater transparency. They say his decisions to set up new structures, such as an economy ministry and an external advisory council of eight cardinals from around the world, were divisive and that he could have enacted change by putting new people at the top of existing departments.

One of the most striking differences between Francis and his two predecessors is that it is virtually impossible to determine who, if anyone, is really close to him.

Even though his health is good, they say he feels he has little time left and many things still to do; that perhaps explains the hastiness of some of his decisions.

Francis appears to enjoy sending signals that he alone is calling the shots.

When his predecessors spoke to the media on papal flights they were always flanked by the secretary of state or the deputy secretary of state. The stage management suggested that behind the man in white, there stood a centuries-old bureaucracy.

Under Francis, those prelates now stay out of sight in the front section of the plane.


4. Vatican and Argentina to Release ‘Dirty War’ Archives Soon, By Reuters, October 25, 2016, 12:51 PM.

The Vatican and Argentina will soon release archives from the country’s 1976-83 “Dirty War,” when a military dictatorship killed as many as 30,000 people in a crackdown on left-wing opponents, officials said on Tuesday.

The archives contain about 3,000 letters between the Roman Catholic Church and family members of the dictatorship’s victims. Human rights groups have accused Catholic officials of covering up abuses by the junta when it was in power.

“We are not afraid of the archives. They contain historical truth,” Buenos Aires Archbishop Mario Poli told reporters at a news conference. He did not provide a date for the release.

The archives will be made available exclusively to family of victims, or victims still surviving. The declassification was ordered by Pope Francis, a former Buenos Aires archbishop, a joint statement from the Vatican and Argentina’s Church hierarchy said.


5. Pope rolls the dice on reform blending old guard with new wave, By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, October 25, 2016.

Reform, as experience teaches, is often a messy process. It implies building something new in place of long-established patterns of doing business, which often involves stops and starts, mistakes, disappointments, and the need to back up and start over.

When bottlenecks and breakdowns occur, sometimes the will to change peters out, and the result is a warmed-over version of the same old, same old. Other times, however, they’re the prelude to real forward movement.

Time will tell which is the case with Pope Francis’s much-vaunted reform of the Vatican, in particular its financial operations, but earlier this month we got another reminder that his reform is increasingly becoming a blend of the old guard with a new wave.

On Oct. 15, a new deal between the Vatican and the government of Italy went into effect, stipulating that all individuals and entities with accounts at the Institute for the Works of Religion, the so-called “Vatican bank,” which are subject to Italian taxation have until mid-April to report the income earned from their accounts to Italian tax authorities.


6. Can a New Province for Christians Become a Post-ISIS Reality in Iraq?, By Peter Jesserer Smith, National Catholic Register, October 25, 2016.

More than two years ago, Islamic State (ISIS) militants appeared unstoppable in their conquest of northern Iraq, as they unleashed a devastating genocide on the region’s minority populations, particularly on hundreds of thousands of Yazidis and Christians.

Now, ISIS’ self-proclaimed caliphate is crumbling, as combined Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. coalition airpower, are liberating Christian towns in fierce battles with the Islamic militants on their drive toward Mosul, the last city under ISIS’ control.

But as Iraq’s armed forces seek to win the war with the terrorist organization, winning the peace may depend ultimately on the formation of a safe-haven province for Iraq’s minorities that can secure the region.

Robert Nicholson, executive director of The Philos Project, an international organization dedicated to building a lasting peace in the Middle East, told the Register his organization has drafted a proposal for a safe-haven province (or series of provinces) that would encompass Sinjar, Tal Afar and the Nineveh Plain. These adjoining regions are the ancestral homelands of the Yazidi, Turkmen and Christians, most of them ethnic Assyrians, who were all subjected to systematic extermination by ISIS.

Nicholson indicated the return of the refugees and displaced persons will be a complicated process, requiring a number of coordinated steps. Christians, Yazidis and others will not only need security they can trust, but these liberated areas will require serious economic redevelopment. Without jobs, they may just go home, sell their remaining property and leave.