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Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral launches appeal for interior restoration

Debris inside Notre-Dame de Paris, April 16, 2019, a day after a fire that devastated the building in the centre of the French capital. / Christophe Petit Tesson/AFP/Getty Images.

Paris, France, Jun 14, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Paris launched a multimillion-dollar appeal Monday to restore the interior of Notre-Dame Cathedral following the devastating fire in 2019.

In a June 14 statement, the archdiocese said that Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris was launching the new appeal with a view to the cathedral’s scheduled reopening in 2024.

The French government is overseeing the cathedral’s structural restoration and conservation, but the cathedral authorities are responsible for its interior renewal.

“The program of interior improvements, which is entirely the responsibility of the cathedral, aims first of all to return it to worship -- its primary function -- and, more broadly, to offer a new tour to the six million faithful, pilgrims and tourists who enter the cathedral each year,” the statement said.

Under the initiative, which will cost five to six million euros ($6.1-$7.3 million), two projects a year will be presented to French and foreign donors.

The campaign will be supported by the Friends of Notre Dame de Paris, an American foundation created at the initiative of Paris archdiocese.

The celebrated French Gothic cathedral, built between 1163 and 1345, held a relic of the Crown of Thorns. The relic was rescued on the night of the fire, April 15, 2019, by Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain of the Paris Fire Department.

The first two projects presented to donors will be the restoration of the reliquary case of the Crown of Thorns, which was damaged during the rescue, and the creation of a new tabernacle.

Future projects will include new seating for the choir and assembly, lighting, sound systems, and a music room, as well as changes to the choir organ and altar.

Aupetit said: “The renovation of Notre-Dame provides an opportunity to bring the cathedral into the 21st century, while maintaining the preservation of its own identity, in the spirit of Christian tradition.”

“But it seems essential to us to propose keys to understanding to inscribe it in the collective memory of today. Also, some adjustments are necessary.”

The statement said that teams working under the archbishop's delegate, Fr. Gilles Drouin, have reflected on how the restored interior could emphasize the cathedral’s “liturgical axis” running from the baptistery to the tabernacle and create a better pathway for visitors.

“An itinerary will be proposed, along the side chapels, up to the Crown of Thorns in the east, to give visitors, often of non-Christian culture, the keys to understanding the Mystery for which the cathedral was built and which still constitutes its raison d’être today,” it said.

Following the fire, the French government said that it would reconstruct the church with four partners: the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, the Fondation du Patrimoine, the Fondation de France, and the Fondation Notre-Dame.

The Fondation Notre-Dame, founded in 1992 by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris, has collected 85.8 million euros ($105 million) in donations as of June 10, Paris archdiocese said.

The interior restoration appeal will take place under the aegis of the Fondation Notre-Dame.

Archbishop Aupetit will celebrate a Mass in the cathedral on June 16 marking the feast of the Dedication of Notre-Dame de Paris. For security reasons, only 12 people are allowed to take part in the celebration.

The cathedral will reportedly reopen for worship with a Te Deum on April 16, 2024, five years after the blaze. Later that year, Paris will host the Summer Olympics.

The German Synodal Way: A CNA explainer 

Thomas Sternberg, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), speaks at a ‘Synodal Way’ press conference. / Rudolf Gehrig/CNA Deutsch.

Munich, Germany, Jun 14, 2021 / 12:14 pm (CNA).

What is the German Synodal Way, also known as Synodal Path? 

The “Synodal Way” – in German: Synodaler Weg – is a controversial discussion process underway in Germany with the declared aim of addressing the Church’s clerical sexual abuse crisis by debating and passing resolutions on whether, or how, Catholicism needs to change (“develop”) its teaching – and the Catholic Church therefore change its approach – to questions of sexuality and the exercise of power, including doctrine and the sacraments.

Who is running the German Synodal Way? 

The discussion process is a joint and co-equal effort of the German bishops' conference and the Central Committee of German Catholics, a lay body known by its acronym ZdK (see What is the “Central Committee of German Catholics”? below). 

When did it start, and when will the process conclude?

The German Synodal Way commenced on September 1, 2019, following a resolution of the German Bishops' Conference. It was scheduled to be completed within two years. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, key dates have been pushed back. A new completion date has not been confirmed, but the current official target date is some time in February of 2022. 

How does it work?

The main body is the “Synodal Assembly” that has 230 members. Apart from the 69 German bishops, this assembly includes 69 members of the Central Committee of German Catholics as well as representatives of religious orders as well as other bodies, associations and councils. These members meet to discuss – and pass resolutions on draft declaration then to be drawn up – on four official topics in four distinct forums, each presided over by a bishop and a ZdK functionary. These deal with the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women, respectively. The official forum titles are:

  • “Power and Separation of Powers in the Church - Joint Participation and Involvement in the Mission”

  • “Life in succeeding relationships - Living Love in Sexuality and Partnership”

  • “Priestly Existence Today”

  • “Women in Ministries and Offices in the Church”

What is the “Central Committee of German Catholics”? 

Founded in 1949, the Central Committee, known by its German acronym “ZdK,” claims to represent lay Catholicism in Germany. According to its own website, the ZdK received 2.45 million Euros (almost 3 million USD) in funding from sources provided by the German Bishops' Conference in 2018. 

As of 2021, the ZdK and/or its leading representatives are on the record for pursuing a number of controversial goals also associated with the German Synodal Way, including the blessing of homosexual unions, the ordination of women to deacons, abolition of celibacy, and intercommunion with Protestants. 

Its president, Thomas Sternberg, has decried the critical interventions and concerns raised by the Vatican as “disturbances from Rome”.

Why do proponents of the Synodal Way believe it is necessary?

For the organizers of the German Synodal way, the process is necessary to discuss the future of church life in Germany. One goal is to regain trust lost after the abuse scandal. Another is to revitalize reform debates that have been brewing in German speaking Europe for decades.

Pope Francis, in his letter to German Catholics, pointed to another challenge: “I painfully notice the growing erosion and deterioration of faith with all it entails not only on the spiritual level but also on the social and cultural level,” he wrote, calling on evangelization instead of a false reform. 

The call to add evangelization as a forum to the process was declined by the organizers of the Synodal Way, but picked up by at least one participant in a wake-up call to reclaim the primacy of evangelization.

Was there a precedent or role model for the German Synodal Way? 

Yes. The German Synodal Way has a precedent of sorts in an actual synod held in the 1970s in then West Germany, which was undertaken with the declared goal of debating and passing resolutions about the Second Vatican Council. This synod also involved lay people as voting participants. It was held from 1971 to 1975 in the Cathedral of Würzburg. While not referencing sexual abuse, it raised several of the same – or similar – questions about sexuality and power that are now raised again, for instance on celibacy or the ordination of female deacons, at the current process.

Until the German Synodal Way was announced, the Würzburg Synod had been largely forgotten, even in Germany, according to observers. 

Is the German Synodal Way a Church synod? 

No. When announced in 2019 by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the then-president of the German Bishops' Conference, the prelate declared it to be “a process sui generis” that would be able to pass “binding resolutions” on questions that pertain to the universal Church. From the outset, this claim, and the moniker “Synodal Way,” were contested: Bishop Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg called the concept a “tautology,” going so far as to decry it as a “labelling fraud”. 

Following several interventions and despite resistance from the two process presidents, Cardinal Marx and Thomas Sternberg of the ZdK, the discussion process has meanwhile been confirmed not to be binding – and not a synod.  

Just how controversial is the German Synodal Way? 

Pope Francis and the Vatican have intervened repeatedly with a number of unprecedented measures, as have a growing number of bishops and theologians, both from Germany and around the world, raising serious concerns about many aspects of the Synodal Way.  

The Holy Father took the historic step of writing a letter to all Catholics in Germany in June 2019, warning of a “belief that the best response to the many problems and shortcomings that exist is to reorganize things, change them and ‘put them back together’ to bring order and make ecclesial life easier”.

In September 2020 Vatican Cardinal Kurt Koch went public saying Pope Francis was “concerned” about the Church in Germany. A German bishop followed this up with a similar warning in October, referring to the Holy Father’s “dramatic concern” about the situation. 

On June 8, 2021, Cardinal Walter Kasper, considered to be close to Pope Francis, said that he was  “very worried” about the German Catholic Church’s controversial “Synodal Way.”

In the main, concerns pertain to the underlying assumptions and operating premises of the process – which the Vatican initially declared “ecclesiologically invalid” in 2019, but also the legal claims and questions of basic legitimacy, given the refusal of the Synodal Assembly to rule out decisions that run counter to Catholic doctrines. Doubts have furthermore been raised about the selection of participants, choice of topics, theological claims, internal procedures. 

Looking at the goals of the process, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the former head of the Italian bishops’ conference and vicar of the Diocese of Rome, said in early May 2021, the German Synodal Way pursued “not only the blessing of same-sex couples, but also the priesthood of women, the abolition of the obligation of ecclesiastical celibacy, the intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants”.

In summary, as of 2021, the German Synodal Way was mired in controversies and marred by sustained and substantial criticism from leading theologians and senior prelates. These concerns have culminated in dire warnings of the threat of a new schism in Germany. 

Is the Synodal Way leading to a new schism in Germany?

Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, the chairman of the German bishops’ conference, has insisted that no schism is on the horizon.

However, fears that the German Church was heading for a breach with Rome have been expressed by the English Bishop Philip Egan, Australian Cardinal George Pell, Spanish Bishop José Ignacio Munilla Aguirre and Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini.  Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver even published a letter calling to conversion in response to the Synodal Way, which was publicly supported by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco.

What is more, Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, added his name to an appeal, launched in Portugal, asking Rome to take action to stop a “schism” in Germany. And George Weigel, the biographer of St. John Paul II, as well as Fr. Thomas Weinandy, a Capuchin Franciscan theologian, both have also expressed concern about the direction of the German Church.

On June 10, 2021, CNA reported that three German Catholics had submitted a “dubium” to the Vatican asking if the Church in Germany was in fact already in schism. The trio from the Diocese of Essen formally requested a ruling from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  

What about Catholics in Germany? 

Arguably the most concerning aspect of the German Synodal Way is that it appears to fail most of the very people it claims to reach out to: The “Pilgrim People of God in Germany”. 

As CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German news partner, reported, a survey in September of 2020 showed that only 19 percent of Catholics agreed with the statement that the Synodal Way was of interest to them. The vast majority of Germans responded in the negative.

This is in stark contrast to claims made by Cardinal Marx, who said in September 2019 that “countless believers in Germany consider [these issues] to be in need of discussion”.

The question of just how relevant the issues raised by the German Synodal Way has also been brought up by the president of the Italian Bishops Conference, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, who stressed that the Italian synodal process was completely different from what was happening in Germany.

And on May 6, 2021, the Archbishop of Sarajevo said the “exotic ideas” of Germany’s “Synodal Way” were alien to a Church that survived communism. Cardinal Vinko Puljić castigated the German Synodal Way, saying, “such attitudes offend and astonish our believers. We cannot understand a Church in which sacrifice is a foreign word and there is a Jesus without a cross.”

This has raised the wider concern whether the Bishops' conference and the “Central Committee” were sincerely engaging with Catholics on the ground.  

Poland’s Catholic bishops look ahead to fall meeting with Pope Francis

The 389th Plennary Session of the Polish Bishops’ Conference in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, southern Poland. / episkopat.pl

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Poland, Jun 14, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Poland’s Catholic bishops said Saturday that their fall trip to the Vatican would be a chance to renew their bond with Pope Francis.

In a statement at the end of their plenary meeting June 12, the bishops looked ahead to their “ad limina” visit to Rome, scheduled for October.

“In addition to meetings in the different dicasteries and an audience with Holy Father Francis, the bishops will celebrate the Eucharist in the four Major Basilicas of Rome,” they said.

“The visit will be a time to renew ties with the Holy Father, pray together, exchange ideas, discern and define priorities for the life and mission of the Church in Poland for the coming years.”

According to Church law, diocesan bishops must report to the pope every five years on the state of their dioceses. They are expected in the same year to travel to Rome to venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and meet with the pope.

The trips are known as “ad limina apostolorum” visits, from the Latin meaning “to the threshold of the apostles.”

In practice, the gap between visits is often longer than five years. The Polish bishops’ last “ad limina” visit was in 2014.

The bishops’ October meeting with the pope will come during a period of upheaval in the Polish Church.

In 2019, the Polish bishops’ conference issued a report which concluded that 382 clergy sexually abused a total of 624 victims between 1990 and 2018.

The Vatican has authorized a series of investigations of Polish bishops under the norms of the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi, issued by Pope Francis in 2019.

The investigations have, in some cases, resulted in disciplinary measures against bishops accused of negligence in the handling of abuse cases.

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the president of the Polish bishops’ conference, was also the subject of a Vos estis probe that recently concluded that the accusations of negligence against him were groundless.

/ episkopat.pl
/ episkopat.pl

At their plenary meeting in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, southern Poland, the bishops decided unanimously to abolish the dispensation from attending Mass on Sundays and holy days. The dispensations will be abolished as of June 20 of this year.

The bishops agreed that the dispensation, introduced at the start of the coronavirus crisis, would be lifted simultaneously in all dioceses on June 20.

They also reviewed preparations for the beatification of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, Poland’s “Primate of the Millennium,” who led the Church’s resistance to communism. He will be beatified alongside Mother Elżbieta Rosa Czacka, a nun who died in 1961 after a lifetime of service to blind people.

The bishops said: “The joint beatification, to be celebrated on Sept. 12 of this year, at noon, in the Temple of Divine Providence in Warsaw-Wilanow, will be presided over by the papal legate, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.”

“The ceremony will be dignified and modest, in keeping with the possibilities of a declining pandemic.”

On the first day of the meeting, the bishops traveled to the city of Kraków for a ceremony consecrating Poland to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The act of consecration took place at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 11, the feast of the Sacred Heart and the 100th anniversary of a previous national consecration.

“This unique event reminds us that the heart of the Church is God’s unlimited love for man,” the bishops said in their communique.

Louisiana poised to create window for sex abuse lawsuits

Louisiana state capitol / Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2021 / 11:20 am (CNA).

The Louisiana state legislature last week passed a bill allowing for new lawsuits in old cases of child sex abuse where the statute of limitations had already expired.

An amended version of the bill, House Bill 492, passed the state house on Thursday with 102 votes in favor, none against, and three abstentions. On Friday it was sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for signature.

The legislation creates a three-year period during which survivors of child sex abuse can file lawsuits against their alleged abuser, even when the statute of limitations would normally impede such lawsuits.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans announced in May 2020 that it was filing for bankruptcy. Thus, for survivors who filed claims against the archdiocese in bankruptcy courts by the March 1 deadline, they would not be able to sue in state courts. Survivors could still sue their alleged abusers who operated in religious orders or lay ministries, the New Orleans Advocate reported. The normal statute of limitations for lawsuits in child sex abuse cases is before the victim’s 28th birthday, the Advocate reported.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Hughes (D), spoke on the state house floor on Thursday, noting that his bill aims “to give some sense of justice and closure to children that have been malicious and heinously robbed of their innocence. Period.”

“They were robbed of their voice. I did not seek this bill; in many ways, it sought me. Members, all I am seeking is to give the voiceless some sense of justice. Some sense of closure,” Hughes stated.

The Advocate reported in March that the New Orleans archdiocese faces around 400 abuse claims in bankruptcy court.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans had cited the cost of sex abuse lawsuits as a significant factor in last year’s declaration of bankruptcy.

“The prospect of more abuse cases with associated prolonged and costly litigation, together with pressing ministerial needs and budget challenges, is simply not financially sustainable,” he said. “Additionally, the unforeseen circumstances surrounding COVID-19 have added more financial hardships to an already difficult situation.”

In late 2018, the archdiocese released a list of priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors. The archdiocese said in 2020 that it had allotted more than $8 million for payment of abuse claims.

The archdiocese told CNA in October that it had been seeking to laicize priests who had been removed from ministry over accusations of child sex abuse, in the wake of the 2018 report. Under canon law, dioceses are obligated to provide for the needs of priests removed from ministry, such as for housing and health care. They are not obliged to provide for the needs of priests who have been laicized.

Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris Launches Appeal for Interior Restoration

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Pope Francis: Help the world’s small food producers

Pope Francis addresses the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at their headquarters in Rome on Nov. 20, 2014. / FAO Giulio Napolitano.

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Monday that the world must do more to help small food producers.

In a message to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the pope said that the coronavirus crisis should spur efforts to create a global food system capable of withstanding future shocks.

“I appreciate and encourage the efforts of the international community to enable each country to implement the necessary mechanisms to achieve food autonomy, whether through new models of development and consumption or through forms of community organization that preserve local ecosystems and biodiversity,” the pope wrote in Spanish.

“It could be of great benefit to draw on the potential of innovation to support small producers and help them improve their capacities and resilience. In this regard, your work is of particular importance in the current time of crisis.”

The pope’s message was addressed to Michał Kurtyka, Poland’s climate minister and president of the 42nd Session of the FAO Conference, taking place in Rome on June 14-18.

The FAO, founded in 1945, has more than 194 member states and works in over 130 countries.

In addition to the papal message, the conference’s first day featured an address by the Italian President Sergio Mattarella and opening remarks by the FAO’s Chinese Director-General Qu Dongyu, who described the pandemic as “a powerful wake-up call on the fragility and shortcomings of our agrifood systems.”

In his message, the pope noted that in 2020 the number of people at risk of acute food insecurity and in need of immediate subsistence support reached its highest level in five years.

“This situation could worsen in the future. Conflicts, extreme weather events, economic crises, together with the current health crisis, are a source of famine and hunger for millions of people,” he wrote.

“Therefore, in order to address these growing vulnerabilities, it is essential to adopt policies capable of tackling the structural causes that give rise to them.”

The pope continued: “To provide a solution to these needs, it is important, above all, to ensure that food systems are resilient, inclusive, sustainable, and able to provide healthy and affordable diets for all.”

“In this perspective, the development of a circular economy, which guarantees resources for all, including future generations, and promotes the use of renewable energies, is beneficial.”

“The fundamental factor for recovering from the crisis that is striking us is an economy tailored to man, not subject only to profit, but anchored in the common good, friendly to ethics and respectful of the environment.”

The FAO’s 2020 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic would cause 130 million more people worldwide to suffer chronic hunger by the end of last year.

The pope said: “The reconstruction of post-pandemic economies offers us the opportunity to reverse the course followed so far and invest in a global food system capable of withstanding future crises.”

“This includes the promotion of sustainable and diversified agriculture that takes into account the valuable role of family farming and rural communities.”

“Indeed, it is paradoxical to note that it is precisely those who produce food that suffer from the lack or scarcity of food. Three-quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihoods.”

“However, due to lack of access to markets, land ownership, financial resources, infrastructure and technologies, these brothers and sisters of ours are the most vulnerable to food insecurity.”

Concluding his message, the pope said that it was not enough merely to outline programs.

“Tangible gestures are needed that have as their point of reference the common belonging to the human family and the fostering of fraternity,” he wrote, assuring the conference of the Catholic Church’s support for its work.

Poland’s Catholic Bishops Look Ahead to Fall Meeting with Pope Francis

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Louisiana Poised to Create Window for Sex Abuse Lawsuits

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