Vatican Round-up

The cause of unity is not optional, says Pope

Ecumenical relations and dialogue are not “secondary elements” of the life of the Church, according to Pope Francis.

Addressing members of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, the Holy Father said that “the cause of unity is not an optional undertaking and the differences which divide us must not be seen as inevitable”.

After congratulating the commission members for the impending publication of five agreed statements, the Pontiff acknowledged that ecumenical progress between Catholics and Anglicans has been slow over the last half-century, but nonetheless called on people not to “trust even more in the power of the Holy Spirit, who can heal and reconcile us, and accomplish what humanly does not seem possible”.

Christians of all traditions, the Pope said, were united in being “victims of persecution and violence simply because of the faith they profess”. While recognising the contemporary nature of this ecumenism of blood, as he has called it elsewhere, Pope Francis also recalled how the Ugandan martyrs included Catholics and Anglicans.

“The blood of these martyrs,” he said, “will nourish a new era of ecumenical commitment, a fervent desire to fulfil the last will and testament of the Lord: that all may be one.”


Vatican invites homeless to a concert in their honour 

A free concert called “With the Poor, for the Poor,” is to be held on May 14 in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall, with about a third of the expected 7,000 guests being poor and homeless people from “the outskirts of society”.

The concert, according to Fr Diego Giovanni Ravelli, is inspired by how “Poverty, as Pope Francis has reminded us, calls us to spread hope”. It will be run by the Papal Charity Office, which in March arranged for a group of homeless people to visit the Vatican Museums, meeting Pope Francis towards the end of their tour.

The office distributes money to refugees, families in need, the sick, the elderly, single mothers, orphans, and others in response to letters sent to the Pope; last year it distributed $1.6 million, a 25 % increase on 2013, in response to more than 8,000 requests.

The charity is funded through the sale of papal blessing scrolls, personal donations from the Pope which Fr Ravelli describes as the Pontiff’s “way of making himself present”, and the “Papal Lottery”organised by the Vatican City’s government.


Scientist looks to Pope Francis as environment's saviour

Pope Francis could prove “the saviour of the environment”, according to world-renowned atmospheric scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan, who in the 1970s helped discover how pollutants and other gases were contributing to the greenhouse effect.

Prof. Ramanathan said that while Pope Benedict had “made some amazingly helpful statements on the environment”, Pope Francis’ words could carry more weight: “People of different followings, different nations admire this pope, they listen to his words so he has a global reach.”

U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki Moon has sought to tap into that reach by asking the Holy Father to address the U.N General Assembling in September, and by calling on religious leaders to work with governments on climate change. He spoke in the Vatican on April 28 at an international gathering on the moral dimensions of climate change and sustainable development.

“I need the moral support and spiritual support of religious leaders,” he said, explaining that environmental change would require economic change, and that in order to have economic change, “we must first transform our thinking and our values”.

Pope Francis’s coming encyclical on the environment is intended as a contribution to a global conversation leading to the U.N. Climate Change conference in Paris later this year.  Its focus is expected to be ethical rather than academic, cautioning against what he has called “the globalisation of indifference”.