May 19, 2013
Pope to hold major Holy Week service in youth jail
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will hold a major ceremony next week in the chapel of a youth prison instead of in the Vatican or a Rome basilica where it has been held before, the Vatican said yesterday.
Francis will conduct the Holy Thursday afternoon service at the Casal del Marmo jail for minors on Rome’s outskirts. During the service, the pope washes and kisses the feet of 12 people to commemorate Jesus’s gesture of humility toward his apostles on the night before he died.
All previous popes in living memory held the service either in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican or in the Basilica of St John in Lateran, which is the Pope’s cathedral church in his capacity as bishop of Rome.
Vatican spokesmen said they could not recall an occasion when the service was held anywhere else.
When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio often celebrated the Holy Thursday service in a jail, a hospital, a home for the elderly or with poor people.
A pope is also bishop of Rome and the decision by Francis to hold the service in the prison was another indication that he intends to take that role seriously.
The Holy Thursday service is one of several during Holy Week, which for Catholics this year begins on March 24 with Palm Sunday and ends with Easter Sunday on March 31.
The Philippines’ top churchman said yesterday that Pope Francis’ acts of reaching out to the masses would strengthen a Church endangered by secularism but hoped security issues won’t stymie the new pontiff’s refreshing openness.
Three Philippine cardinals who witnessed the installation of the Argentine pontiff in the Vatican returned home and heaped praise on the pope’s humility and down-to-earth ways.
“He knew how to reach out to people. He does not look at the ranking,” Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle said in a news conference at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport. “I think one unique gift that he will bring is personal encounters, which are really important for the Church.”
Former Manila Archbishop and Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales said the new pope’s humility and simple lifestyle preceded his papacy. “It comes from his heart,” he said. “He’s not an actor who puts on (an act).”
“You can see that this person that God chose to lead the Church can give a lot of things, not only advice but also examples,” he said.
The election of a Jesuit pope devoted to the poor and stressing a message of mercy rather than condemnation has brought a glimmer of hope to US nuns who have been the subject of a Vatican crackdown, according to interviews with several groups. The nuns were accused of having focused too much on social justice at the expense of other Church issues such as abortion.
The 2012 Vatican crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the largest umbrella group for US nuns, unleashed a wave of popular support for the sisters, including parish vigils, protests outside the Vatican embassy in Washington and a US Congressional resolution commending the sisters for their service to the country.
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered up the doctrinal assessment of the LCWR in 2009 around the same time another Vatican department launched an investigation into the 340 women’s religious orders in the country in a bid to try to stem the decline in their numbers. The results of that review haven’t been released.
But the doctrine investigation led the Vatican to impose a full-scale reform of the conference after determining the sisters had taken positions that undermined Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
Investigators praised the nuns’ humanitarian work, but accused them of ignoring critical issues, including fighting abortion.
In an interview this week, prominent US Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the head of the US bishops’ conference, said he expected Pope Francis would bring “freshness” and understanding to the debate with the Leadership Conference, given Francis’ own experience as a Jesuit familiar with the problems of life in religious orders.
Dolan said: “I think the greatest thing he’s going to bring is to say to everybody ‘Be not afraid. We’re friends. We’re on this journey together. We can speak openly to one another. We both have things to learn. We both have changes we need to make and let’s serve one another best by being trusting and charitable yet honest to one another.’”
The former Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a Jesuit priest when the Vatican in 1989 imposed a similar crackdown on the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious orders, purportedly because it relied too heavily on Marxist interpretation of social ills.
Back in Rome, one of the Vatican’s main Twitter accounts and the website of its communications office were running bizarre stories about Batman yesterday with the headline “Holy Switcheroo!” — raising concerns they might have been hacked.
But two Vatican officials denied they had been hacked, and said the reason for the unusual posting was an “internal system failure” due to a non-native English speaker posting the story on the website.
The story was from the Catholic News Service and featured the headline: “Holy Switcheroo! Batman has grown bitter, more vengeful with the years” and details the evolution of the Batman comic franchise.
“Admittedly some people might have been thrown off by the headline,” said Greg Burke, a Vatican communications adviser.
“I thought we had been hacked to be honest,” said Monsignor Paul Tighe, the number two in the Vatican’s social communications office.
Herald with AP, Reuters