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Vatican calls for trust, responsibility on nuclear technology

Vienna, Austria, Dec 6, 2016 / 12:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In order to realize the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons the discourse of the international community surrounding nuclear security must be based on an ethic of trust, responsibility, and cooperation – not fear and suspicion, Vatican official Msgr. Antoine Camilleri said Tuesday.

“The logic of fear and mistrust that is epitomized by nuclear deterrence must be replaced with a new global ethic,” Msgr. Camilleri said Dec. 6. “We need an ethic of responsibility, solidarity, and cooperative security adequate to the task of controlling the power of nuclear technology.”

The Under-Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, Msgr. Camilleri spoke at the International Conference on Nuclear Security: Commitments and Actions held in Vienna Dec. 5-9.

Put on by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the conference was comprised of two main parts: state officials delivering messages, commitments and actions, and policy discussions based on six broad themes central to nuclear security.

In his speech Msgr. Camilleri recognized the considerable progress that has already been made to nuclear security and safety internationally through measures such as the UN Security Council Resolution 1540, the Nuclear Security Summits, the Nuclear Terrorism Convention, and the work of the IAEA.

Despite these advancements, however, he stressed the importance of not becoming “complacent” about nuclear technology, emphasizing that discussion and agreement among countries must be encouraged.
“The promotion of nuclear security faces significant challenges,” he acknowledged, “including the limited, insufficient and often stalled efforts to prevent proliferation and move toward a world free of nuclear weapons.”

“Therefore,” he continued, “to respond adequately to the challenges of nuclear security, the Holy See believes it to be essential that the international community embrace an ethic of responsibility, in order to foster a climate of trust, and to strengthen cooperative security through multilateral dialogue.”

In no way downplaying the “serious technical and diplomatic challenges” represented by threats to nuclear security, Msgr. Camilleri conveyed the issue’s significant importance to the Holy See, explaining how the root causes that encourage nuclear weapons cannot be ignored.  

The challenges must be “tackled by addressing the wider security, political, economic and cultural dynamics that lead state and non-state actors to seek security, legitimacy, and power in nuclear weapons,” he said.

“Therefore,” he said, “the critically important work of strengthening nuclear security” must happen in the context of “broader efforts to promote socio-economic development, political participation, respect for fundamental human rights and the rule of law.”

Among the many different areas requiring increased efforts, the Holy See delegation would emphasize two, he said – the physical protection of nuclear material, and the counteraction of insider threats, and the prevention of cyber-attacks.

“Ensuring that nuclear and other radioactive material is safely contained must remain central for the work of nuclear security,” he said, “as failure to control nuclear material could have catastrophic consequences.”

As well, “increasing attention has to be paid to the strengthening of information security and computer security as well as to ensuring the confidentiality of information which pertains to nuclear security.”

On both of these issues, he clarified, the responsibility for maintaining the effective security of all nuclear and radioactive material within a state “rests primarily with that state.”

Though “cooperation between states is essential” because many threats to nuclear security “do not respect borders and are facilitated by the political instability and crises that sadly plague numerous parts of our world.”

Msgr. Camilleri presented the greeting of Pope Francis to participants, quoting from the Pope’s Sept. 25, 2015 address to the UN General Assembly, which urged the international community “to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.”

Continuing the Pope’s words, he said the “security of our own future depends on guaranteeing the peaceful security of others, for if peace, security and stability are not established globally, they will not be enjoyed at all.”

Guantanamo bishop moving to a new archdiocese

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2016 / 07:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday, the Vatican announced that Bishop Wilfredo Pino Estévez, who has led the Cuban diocese of Guantánamo-Baracoa for the past 10 years, will now be taking over as the new Archbishop of Camaguey.

Announced Dec. 6, the appointment comes after the prelate’s lengthy time in the diocese of Guantanamo-Baracoa.

Born in Camaguey Oct. 12, 1950, the bishop studied philosophy and theology at the Major Seminary of San Carlos y San Ambrosio in San Cristóbal de La Habana.

He was ordained a priest Aug. 1, 1975, for the Archdiocese of Camaguey, where he then served in various capacities, including as Parochial Vicar of Nuevitas; treasurer of the parish in Florida, Cuba; National Director of the Pontifical Missionary Works and as pastor of Sant Cruz del Sur.

Bishop Pino was also on the diocesan committee that organized St. John Paul II’s visit to Cuba in 1998. In addition, he later served as pastor of Merced, Rector of the Diocesan House, Episcopal Vicar for the city of Camaguey and director of the diocese’s newsletter.

He was appointed as Bishop of Guantanamo-Baracoa by Benedict XVI Dec. 13, 2006, officially taking the reins in January 2017.

During his time as bishop of Guantanamo, Pino has had to oversee the diocese throughout many years of conflict regarding the disputed U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.

The detention facility in Guantanamo Bay was opened in 2002 as a supposedly secure way to detain terror suspects who were captured from the War in Afghanistan, and later in Iraq, and who were deemed too much of a national security threat to keep on American soil.

Detainees were treated as “enemy combatants,” and since they belonged to a terrorist group rather than a country, the U.S. considered as complying with the Geneva Convention to hold them on non-U.S. soil and try them in a military court. Almost 800 detainees reportedly passed through Guantanamo from 2001-2008.

Human rights experts commissioned by the United Nations expressed concern about interrogation techniques used at the prison in a 2006 U.N. report based on information from the U.S., former detainees and their lawyers. According to the report, the techniques were considered “degrading treatment.”

In recent years, the U.N.’s human rights head repeatedly asked the United States to close the prison, speaking out against the prolonged detention of prisoners without trial.

Many bishops in the U.S. and at the Vatican have in the past disapproved of the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo and the conditions at the prison, however, the Cuban bishops themselves have typically refrained from making major statements, given the sensitivity of the political situation in the country.

In December 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Vatican officials to seek their help in re-settling remaining detainees.

In February of this year, U.S. President Barack Obama announced his intent to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, a proposal that Catholic bishops have long supported.

According to the Guardian, the Pentagon said the release of Yemeni prisoner Shawqi Awad Balzuhair, announced Sunday, has lowered the number of prisoners held at the base to 59, with 20 of the remaining prisoners having also been approved for release.

However, as the Obama administration prepares to step down following the election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president, doubt has arisen as to whether the plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center will in fact move forward.

Vatican's anti-abuse commission launches new website

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2016 / 06:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors launched a new website Tuesday, which is designed to help inform the public about their work, and includes resources for Church leaders on safeguarding children and caring for survivors.

Announced by the Vatican Dec. 6, and coinciding with the feast of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, the website is considered to be in the “beta” stage and is still undergoing development.

However, the website already includes information on the history, mission and members of the Commission, practical resources and Church documents on the topic of abuse, as well as past and upcoming programs of the commission, and news about their current work.

The commission serves as an advisory body to the Pope, providing recommendations on how the Church can best protect minors and vulnerable adults. It consists of 17 men and women from around the world who work in the field of abuse prevention and recovery, including a few survivors, and is headed by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston.

The group was first proposed to the Pope by his Council of Cardinals in December 2013. After he approved the proposal, Francis appointed Cardinal O’Malley to form the commission and carry forward their work.

The new website aims to promote a spirit of transparency, including information on the educational programs and conferences they have given at the Vatican and in other parts of the world, such as a recent presentation given to bishops Sept. 15 during a formation course for new bishops at the Vatican.

Under the website’s resources section can be found guidelines and practical advice on responding to complaints of abuse, advice for meeting with survivors, using prayer in the healing process, and how to contact the commission with recommendations or information.

There are also links to important commission documents and to addresses, speeches and letters of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI on the topic of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults by the Church.

And finally, a press and media section includes press releases and links to news on the commission’s work.

According to the website, engaging with the media is considered an important aspect of the commission’s promotion of “public awareness about the need to ensure the protection of minors throughout the Church.”

The website is currently only available in English, but will eventually be expanded to include Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French language versions.

Vatican displays Rembrandt's art for the first time

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2016 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For the first time, the works of Dutch artist Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn will be displayed at the Vatican.

Organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Swedish Embassy, the art show falls about a month after Pope Francis’ visit to Sweden marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

The display, entitled “Rembrandt at the Vatican: Images from Heaven and Earth,” is an extension of that same ecumenism and desire for Christian unity, Arnold Nesselrath, curator of the Vatican Museums, told Rome Reports.

"Sweden is a particularly Protestant country. Holland is a particularly Protestant country. So if you want to set an ecumenical sign through creating events as we've seen on the 31st of October, this is what we wanted to contribute to with this exhibition,” he said.

Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and Queen Silvia of Sweden were both present at the launch of the exhibit, which opened with a speech by Queen Silvia.

Also present was the director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci, who described Rembrandt as a Protestant travelling “to the heart of Roman Catholicism. This happens under the papacy of Francis, who made the unity of Christians one of his goals.”

The son of a Protestant father and a Catholic mother, Rembrandt’s works contain both Catholic and Protestant elements, as he understood the two very well.

There seems to be no evidence that the 17th century artist ever officially joined a church, but he tended towards Protestantism and baptised his children in Protestant communities.

One of his main sources of artistic inspiration was the Bible, and some of his best known works are his biblical scenes such as “The Raising of the Cross” or “Christ Healing the Sick.”

Having never travelled to Italy in his life, Rembrandt’s only Italian artistic influence was from fellow artists who had travelled to Rome or were inspired by Italian artists. He is a renowned visual artist in three media – painting, drawing, and printmaking.

The Vatican exhibition, which contains 53 of Rembrandt’s etchings from the Zorn Museum in Mora, Sweden, will be on display through February 26.

Why France's 'Zombie Catholics' are so powerful

Paris, France, Dec 6, 2016 / 03:02 am (CNA).- It happened in Britain. It happened in the U.S.


And now it’s happening in France.


A staunchly right-winged politician whose chances seemed slim when the primaries began is now in line to become the next President of France.

  François Fillon, former prime minister of France and a faithful Catholic, has pulled ahead in the Republican party, shocking pundits and political commentators throughout the country and beating out the moderate former Prime Minister Alain Juppé by a wide margin.  

  His Catholicism is such a strong part of his character that a headline in the newspaper Libération proclaimed: “Help, Jesus has returned!”

  With an active faith and conservative values, Fillon has promised to preserve traditional family values and to uphold France’s Catholic roots, and holds traditional views about marriage and abortion, though he has said he does not plan to overturn the 1975 law that legalized abortion.

  “I will put the family at the heart of all public politics,” Fillon promised in a recent rally.

  The family was “certainly not a place for dangerous social experimentation”, he said, referring to recently adapted adoption rights for same-sex couples.

  To understand his success in a country where numbers of churchgoers have plummeted, experts point to the cultural Catholics of France - geniously dubbed les zombies catholiques (the zombie Catholics) by sociologists Emmanuel Todd and Hervé Le Bras. In their book Le mystère français, Todd and Le Bras explain that “Catholicism seems to have attained a kind of life after death. But since it is a question of a this-worldly life, we will define it as ‘zombie Catholicism.’”

  Once one of the most Catholic countries in Europe, France has seen a steady decline in churchgoers over the years, with only 15 percent of the country’s 41.6 million Catholics who are considered regular or even occasional churchgoers today.

  But there are still pockets in France where the social values of Catholicism have remained strong despite waning church numbers - explaining, at least in part, the success of Fillon.

  “Zombie Catholics share certain symptoms: Not only do they hail from regions where resistance was greatest to the French Revolution, but they also have taken advantage of the benefits that flowed from that seismic event,” Zaretsky wrote.

  “Highly educated and meritocratic, they also privilege a traditional ordering of professional and domestic duties between husbands and wives; strong attachment to social, community, and family activities; and a general wariness over the role of the state in private and community affairs, including ‘free schools’ (Catholic private schools).”

  Fillon shares most of these characteristics, and was able to harness his appeal to the zombie Catholics for political gain.

  Robert Zaretsky writes in Foreign Policy Magazine that Fillon has “never made any secret of his beliefs.” He hails from a deeply Catholic part of France, and goes on retreat every year.

  Fillon recalls his Catholic upbringing fondly in his campaign book Faire (“To Make”), and explains how the Catholic worldview has shaped who he is as a person: “I was raised in this tradition, and I have kept this faith.”

  Voters in regions considered zombie Catholic strongholds, such as the western regions of  the Vendée and Brittany, turned out in strong numbers for Fillon. Areas considered more liberal - southern regions, Paris and other large cities - had lower turnout numbers overall in the primaries.

  Whether his popularity and appeal will hold long enough to win him the office remains to be seen. He will run against Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, and the Socialist nominee, which will be chosen in January. Incumbent president François Hollande of the Socialist Party declined to run for another term.

  The first round of the 2017 French presidential election will be held on April 23, 2017. Should no candidate win an outright majority, a second vote between the top two candidates will be held on May 7.