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Norwegian bishop: Catholic life leads ‘to persecution to some degree in this fallen world’

Bishop Erik Varden of the Roman Catholic Territorial Prelature of Trondheim presides at vespers at Santa Maria dell'Anima in Rome, Nov. 28, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

CNA Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Marking 500 years of his country’s history, a convert to Catholicism, Trappist monk, and Scandinavian bishop spoke about persecution in Rome this week.

Bishop Erik Varden, OCSO, said a “life in Christ will lead to persecution to some degree in this fallen world at all times. That’s just the way it is.”

The prelate of Trondheim — Norway’s former Viking capital — spoke during a special requiem that marked half a millennium of Catholic history in his country, as CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported.

Bishop Erik Varden of the Roman Catholic Territorial Prelature of Trondheim presides at vespers at Santa Maria dell'Anima in Rome, Nov. 28, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Bishop Erik Varden of the Roman Catholic Territorial Prelature of Trondheim presides at vespers at Santa Maria dell'Anima in Rome, Nov. 28, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

The occasion — streamed by EWTN Norge — was a special commemoration of Archbishop Erik Valkendorf, who died in Rome 500 years ago on Nov. 28, 1522.

Valkendorf was the penultimate archbishop of Nidaros — now Trondheim — in Norway before the Protestant Reformation all but wiped out Catholic life in the country.

Bishop Varden, who had also celebrated vespers at Rome’s Santa Maria dell’Anima Church the previous evening, described the conflict between King Christian II and Valkendorf. The two, he said, had been “good comrades at first.” But then Christian prevailed upon Valkendorf to become archbishop of Nidaros in 1510 — and thus “metropolitan of all Norway, plus Greenland, Iceland, the Orkney Islands, and the Isle of Man.”

“Valkendorf took a promise from the king that the latter would not touch the rights of the Church, but Christian probably counted on some room for interpretation between old friends,” Varden explained.

“He was mistaken. Valkendorf became a sincere bishop who loved his diocese. He governed wisely and in turn was a popular shepherd.”

Varden noted that Norway owed Valkendorf “the first printed books in the country,” namely “a breviary and missal of the rite of Nidaros, published in 1519.”

“It aroused the archbishop’s displeasure that Christian constantly harassed him with financial problems and lacked respect for the rights of the Church,” Varden said, noting the tensions between the king and the archbishop.

“The king, in turn, wanted the former friend out of the way: He was no longer of any use to him.”

Vespers at Santa Maria dell'Anima, Nov. 28, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Vespers at Santa Maria dell'Anima, Nov. 28, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Valkendorf finally decided to “take the matter to the pope. At Candlemas 1522, he reached Rome. [The Bavarian theologian] Jakob Ziegler described him as a ‘venerable old man whose honest soul found expression in a pure countenance.’ Valkendorf was just 57 years old, but hardship and strife left their mark. Norway he never saw again. He died in the city on Nov. 28 of that year.”

Pope Hadrian VI praised him “for his commitment, reminiscent of Thomas Becket, ‘to the preservation of the freedom of the Church.’” Unlike Becket, however, Valkendorf was “not a martyr in the strict sense.”

“But his fidelity cost him everything: health, fortune, and reputation.”

Varden said: “The courage he displayed is more than mere natural fortitude. In freedom, he allowed the cross of the Christ to seal his life. A distinctive feature of the Rite of Nidaros is that after the consecration, the priest holds his arms ‘in the shape of a cross, pointing upward.’ One cannot stand in this posture day after day, year after year, without it leaving traces in the soul: We sense in Valkendorf a conformity to Christ.”

Bishop Erik Varden, OCSO, blesses Bishop Valkendorf's tombstone, Nov. 28, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Bishop Erik Varden, OCSO, blesses Bishop Valkendorf's tombstone, Nov. 28, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

The 48-year-old Varden is the first Norwegian-born bishop of Trondheim in modern times. His five predecessors were German.

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Pope Francis names new economy prefect as Father Guerrero resigns ‘for personal reasons’

Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves / Office of Communication Society of Jesus

Rome Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 04:46 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has appointed a Spanish layman to lead the Secretariat for the Economy following the resignation of Father Juan Antonio Guerrero, SJ, “for personal reasons.”

Guerrero is undergoing medical treatment after having surgery in 2022, Vatican News reported Nov. 30.

Maximino Caballero Ledo, 62, has been secretary general, the second-ranking position, in the economy office since August 2020.

Before coming to the Vatican, Caballero was vice president of international finance at Baxter Healthcare, Inc., a medical products company. From Merida, Spain, he lived and worked in the United States from 2007–2020.

Guerrero is also from Merida, Spain, and a childhood friend of Caballero. The 63-year-old Jesuit priest began his term as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in January 2020.

The Vatican said Nov. 30 that Pope Francis had accepted Guerrero’s resignation “for personal reasons.” The resignation takes effect Dec. 1.

According to Vatican News, Guerrero wrote a letter to employees of the Secretariat for the Economy, which said after an operation in 2022, “I am undergoing medical treatment that has side effects that make it particularly difficult for me to carry out a task as demanding as the one I am entrusted with, and that requires a greater physical efficiency and mental concentration than what I have at this time.”

Guerrero’s letter also looked back at the accomplishments of the economy office over his three years as prefect and what might be coming next.

“There are still many things in the pipeline,” he said, “the centralization of investments, the further regulation and simplification of procurement processes in order to make them more transparent and streamlined; the implementation of a Directorate for Human Resources, which is a new challenge to improve the working conditions and atmosphere within the Holy See; and the planning of greater use of computerized procedures.”

The priest noted that reform includes both steps forward and steps backward, but “we are not now at the same point at which we started.”

“In any case,” he said, “we know that being a controlling body always involves being in an uncomfortable position for those who are controlled.”

The pope “warmly thanks Father Guerrero for the dedication shown in his service to the Holy See,” a Nov. 30 statement from the Vatican said. “Father Guerrero managed to sort out the economy for the better, it was a strong and challenging work that bore much fruit. The Holy Father assures him of his prayers.”

Guerrero and Caballero were childhood friends who grew up in the same city in Spain. Caballero told Vatican News after his appointment in August 2020 that the two were close friends through university and had remained in contact.

Caballero has degrees in economics and business administration, and has worked for businesses in Spain and the United States in positions of international finance.

He has been married for 33 years to Immaculada, and they have two adult children.

When appointed to work in the Vatican’s economy office in 2020, Caballero described it as “God’s call,” saying that for he and his wife, “there was only one response: ‘fiat.’”

Pope Francis established the Secretariat for Economy in 2014 as part of his financial reform of the Vatican. It oversees the financial aspects of both the Roman Curia and the Vatican City State administration, including a review of financial reports.

Guerrero, who has been a Jesuit since 1979, has a degree in economics from the Autonomous University of Madrid and degrees in theology, philosophy, and letters.

Before becoming prefect, the priest had been living in Rome since 2017, serving as general counselor and delegate of the superior general for the interprovincial houses and works of the Jesuits.

Guerrero had filled a position left vacant since February 2019, when the Vatican confirmed Cardinal George Pell’s five-year term as prefect to have expired.

Pell had taken a leave of absence beginning in June 2017, when he returned to his country of Australia to defend himself at trial against charges of historic sex abuse.

The cardinal was initially convicted and imprisoned, but later had his conviction overturned on appeal. He was released and moved back to Rome, where he lives in retirement.

This story was updated at 7 a.m. MST with information from Vatican News about Guerrero's letter.

Pope Francis’ spiritual life tip: A daily examination of conscience helps to avoid repeating mistakes

Pope Francis speaking at the general audience on St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 30, 2022 / 04:11 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has recommended a daily examination of conscience as an “indispensable” practice in spiritual life.

An examination of conscience is a prayerful reflection on one’s thoughts, words, and deeds that helps to identify moments of sin and ask for God’s mercy.

This daily examination can be “an invitation to learn from our experiences” and “not to continue to repeat the same mistakes,” the pope said.

Speaking at his general audience on Nov. 30, Pope Francis said that the devil’s temptation “starts from what is most dear to us and then, little by little, reels us in.”

He said: “This is why a daily examination of conscience is so important. Before finishing the day, stop for a while. What happened? Not in the newspapers, not in life — what happened in my heart?”

“Noticing what happens is important, it is a sign that God’s grace is working in us, helping us to grow in freedom and awareness. … Learn to read in the book of your heart what happened during the day.”

Pope Francis arriving at the general audience on St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Pope Francis arriving at the general audience on St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Pope Francis’ advice was part of his 10th catechesis in a weekly series on spiritual discernment, which he began at the end of August.

The pope noted that prayer during the day should not be viewed as a way to avoid a job or task that needs to be done, as in “every time I have to wash the dishes or clean the house, I have a strong urge to pray!”

“Prayer is not an escape from one’s responsibilities,” he said. “On the contrary, it is an aid in realizing the good we are required to do, here and now.”

In celebration of the feast of St. Andrew, the pope announced that a delegation of the Holy See had traveled to Constantinople.

“I wish to express my special affection to my dear brother Patriarch Bartholomew I and the entire Church of Constantinople,” Francis said.

“May the intercession of the Holy Brother Apostles Peter and Andrew, grant soon to the Church the full joy of her unity and peace to the whole world, especially at this time to the dear and tormented Ukraine, always in our hearts and prayers.”

Acrobats from Kenya performing to the music of Blues Brothers at the general audience with Pope Francis, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media
Acrobats from Kenya performing to the music of Blues Brothers at the general audience with Pope Francis, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media

Five Kenyan acrobats performed stunts in St. Peter’s Square toward the end of the audience to the movie soundtrack of the Blues Brothers. The pope smiled and clapped as the group — called The Black Blues Brothers — put on an acrobatic show to the musical soundtrack from the beloved 1980 comedy film.

Looking out at the Vatican’s recently decorated and nearly 100-foot-tall Christmas tree, the pope wished a blessed Advent season in his greetings to visiting pilgrims from abroad. In his message to Polish-speaking pilgrims, the pope offered a reminder of the unique role of the Virgin Mary in the Advent season.

Pope Francis greeting pilgrims at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis greeting pilgrims at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Nov. 30, 2022. Vatican Media

“May Our Lady, who accompanies us on the Advent journey, obtain for you and for all present the gift of a heart open to God and to others. I bless you from the bottom of my heart,” Pope Francis said.

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