Vatican Round-up

Cardinal accused of abortion lobbying

Belgium’s Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels from 1979 to 2010, urged King Baudouin to sign the country’s 1990 abortion law, according to two former politicians.

Speaking in a documentary for VTM, the Flemish Broadcast Corporation, Socialist Philippe Moreau and Flemish Christian Democrat Mark Eyskens claimed the cardinal tried to persuade the late king to ratify the controversial law.

The alleged persuasion attempt took place in the aftermath of Belgium’s bishops having collectively stated their opposition to the law, warning that anyone who co-operated “effectively and directly” in the procurement of abortions was setting themselves outside the Church.

Maintaining that as a Catholic he could not sign the law in good conscience, the king, who had frequently spoken of his concern for human life, eventually made an arrangement whereby he was temporarily declared “unable to govern”. The cabinet assumed his powers and formally enacted the law, before approving Baudouin’s restoration.

King Boudouin’s refusal to sign the abortion law was hailed by Rome as “a noble and courageous choice” motivated by a “very strong moral conscience”.

Cardinal Danneels has refused to comment on the allegations.

French ambassador to Rome rejected

Pope Francis has blocked the appointment of a close aide of President François Hollande as France’s ambassador to the Holy See because he is gay, according to reports.

Laurent Stéfanini, a veteran French diplomat who served as number two in the French embassy to the Vatican from 2001 to 2005, is Mr Hollande’s chief of protocol. He marks the latest in a succession of proposed French ambassadors Rome has rejected in recent years.

French and Italian newspapers report that the Pope personally rejected the appointment despite it being supported by Paris’s Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, currently president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The Vatican has occasionally rejected ambassadors in the past because of difficult marital situations, especially if the proposed ambassadors are Catholics, as it does not wish to be seen to be validating choices contrary to Church teaching. Earlier this year, Argentina reportedly withdrew its proposed ambassador after the Rome objected that he had been divorced and remarried.

Neither France nor the Vatican has publicly commented on this affair, but according to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Rome has instead agreed to accept the credentials of Stanislas de Laboulaye, France’s current ambassador to Russia. 

Year of Mercy proclaimed

God would not be God if he limited himself to justice without mercy, according to Pope Francis in his ‘bull of indiction’ formally announcing the Holy Year of Mercy that will begin on December 8.

Standing before the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica, the Pontiff read portions from the 9,300-word Misericordiae Vultus (‘The Face of Mercy’), before processing into the basilica to celebrate the first vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday.

In his homily the Pope said he proclaimed the Year of Mercy because “it is the favorable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone the way of forgiveness and reconciliation”.

The document announces some of the Holy Father’s plans for the year, including calling for all dioceses to designate doors or shrines of mercy, and the delegation of special ‘Missionaries of Mercy’ commissioned to preach about mercy and to pardon “even those sins reserved to the Holy See”.