At cruxnow.com John Allen offered a few predictions for the “unpredictable” Pope Francis in 2016. First, that the next American cardinal he appoints “will be a shocker”, because the Pontiff “likes to bypass the usual centres of power”, as he has shown in Italy and the Philippines.
Second, that the Pope will have a health issue, as he turns 80 next year and will have a gruelling schedule “that would destroy people half his age”.
Allen predicts that Francis “will be a player in the US elections”, especially as five of the remaining Republican candidates are Catholic. Francis will also travel to Mexico, where he may visit the border, intervening in the hot-button issue of immigration.
Badmouthing the Pope
Edward Peters at his Canon Law blog considered whether using “harsh language” against the Pope was a canonical crime that made one liable to excommunication. Dr Peters was writing in response to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who said last week that “we need to understand well ‘physical violence’ [against the Pope] because sometimes words, too, are rocks and stones, and therefore I believe some of these sins, too, are far more widespread than we might think” – and that this might incur excommunication. The canon lawyer suggested not. “To be sure, hateful speech directed against anyone is objectively sinful, and if directed against a man of God, let alone a pope, it is especially wrong. Occasionally, speech might rise to the level of crime (see eg Canon 1369 on expressing insults against the Church, or Canon 1373 on inciting animosity against the Apostolic See), but the penalties in such cases are not automatic and do not extend to excommunication. Usually, verbal hate is just a sin (if I may put it that way) not a crime.”
Trusting the satnav
At Zenit Bishop Robert Barron wrote about a satnav app, Waze, that allowed him to navigate traffic in Los Angeles. His “faith in her was sorely tested” when he was told to leave the motorway for several miles for apparently no reason. “I was so frustrated that I pounded my fist on the dashboard and expressed (aloud) my dismay,” he wrote. Later he was told a tanker spill would have caused hours of delay on the motorway.
At this point, he said, he realised the app, was a “powerful spiritual metaphor”. “Spiritually speaking, most of us are as I was when I arrived in Los Angeles: lost, disoriented, off-kilter. But we have been provided a Voice and instructed to follow it. The Voice echoes in the Scriptures, of course, but also in the depth of the conscience, in the authoritative teaching of the Church, in the wise counsel of spiritual directors, and in the example of the saints” though we often ignore it.
A man dressed as St Nicholas turned up at St Peter’s Square last Wednesday for the Pope’s general audience. Wolfgang Georg Kimmig-Liebe,right, who received a blessing from Benedict XVI in 2007, has dressed up as St Nicholas for the past 30 years, and often visits hospitals and schools. Earlier this year he visited a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey, where the real St Nicholas was born in the third century. He has clarified that he has “nothing to do” with Santa Claus, saying: “The phrase ‘ho, ho, ho’ is not part of my vocabulary.”
✣A Colombian cardinal has reportedly spoken up in favour of the legalisation of cannabis, saying that “Marijuana is made by God and as such it is a good part of creation.” Retired cardinal José de Jesús Rodriguez Pimiento said the plant was a gift from God and that the problem with it lay not with the plant itself, but in “its abuse by the people”.
✣Pope Francis has been named Person of the Year by the animal welfare charity Peta. The group, known for its controversial publicity campaigns, said it chose the Holy Father because in Laudato Si’ he had asked people to respect the environment and treat animals with kindness. Francis wrote: “Every act of cruelty towards any creature is ‘contrary to human dignity’.”
✣The week in quotations
Pope Francis has given us a fantastic Christmas present Archbishop Malcolm McMahon on the Year of Mercy
Advent pastoral letter
It has seen my joy and has been bathed by my tears Pope Francis on his well-thumbed Bible
Preface to a German Bible guide
The Catholic Church … is viewed by many as an obstacle to well-being Archbishop Julian Porteous on anti-Catholic feeling
Speech to the Australian Christian Lobby
Co-existence between wealth and misery is a scandal Pope Francis
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