This week was big in many ways: Pope Francis made some significant appointments, including naming his personal secretary to the number two position at the newly created Secretariat for the Economy. Wednesday was the beginning of Lent and Pope Francis’ first Ash Wednesday liturgy as pontiff. It was also the day one the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published it’s exclusive interview with Pope Francis.
The sit down with Corriere editor Ferrucio de Bortoli was supposed to be a sort of “taking stock” of Pope Francis’ first year as pontiff. Even though the first thing the pope said was “I only take stock every 15 days with my confessor” the interview covered everything from his relationship with Benedict XVI to relations with China.
Pope Francis said he has asked his predecessor for advice, stating “the pope is not a statue in the museum.” He also said some people wanted the retired pope to disappear into a monastery somewhere. Pope Francis views the Pope Emeritus as a grandfather and said grandparents “do not deserve to end up in a rest home” because their wisdom strengths the family unit.
Pope Francis revealed he wrote to the Chinese president Xi Jinping when he was elected and the president replied. While he wouldn’t reveal more than that, Pope Francis said “there are relations.”
The pope said abuse is a “tremendous” scandal because it leaves victims with such profound wounds. He also said no other body has done as much as the church to act against sex-abuse. Several victims’ groups immediately reacted to the statement. You can read an in depth analysis of that debate by the Boston Globe’s John Allen Jr.
WOMEN IN THE CHURCH
Women need to be more present in the church at all levels, but simply naming women to decision making positions is little more than going through the motions, according to Pope Francis. He said there needs to be a deepening of the theology on the role of women, something currently happening in the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Pope Francis also said he is reading the book “Pietro e Maddalena” (Peter and Magdalene) by Italian priest and theologian Fr. Damiano Marzotto, which is about the female dimension of the Gospel.
THE FAMILY, CIVIL UNIONS, HUMANE VITAE
The recurring theme is the need to carefully reflect on and respond to the needs of specific situations instead of applying one formula across the board.
The family: Pope Francis said the Church must respond to the problems facing the families today, but must reflect carefully in order to respond to each unique case effectively.
On civil unions: Civil unions are state-created constructs, according to Pope Francis. They are generally motivated by a government’s need to regulate financial matters and deliver services to people in a variety of co-habitating situations. The pope said there are many different types of civil unions, and each case must be looked at individually.
Humane Vitae: Pope Paul VI was courageously counter cultural, according to Pope Francis, but he also advised confessors to respond to people with mercy, paying close attention to what is possible in their specific situation.
As Rome prepares for another tourist season, one expected to be especially robust given the double canonization just after Easter, the Vatican announced the opening of the papal gardens at Castel Gandolfo.
Castel Gandolfo is actually the name of the town 24 kilometers south east of Rome where popes traditionally spend their summer holidays. The gardens of this papal villa have never been open to the public. Tickets to the gardens can be purchased through the Vatican Museums. Tickets can be purchased either just for the gardens, or as a combo-pack along with tickets to the Vatican Museums. For more details and to reserve or purchase tickets visit the “Guided Tours” page of the Vatican Museums website