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Rome & the World: old popes and Francis’ milestone

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Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Kathleen N. Hattrup - I.Media for Aleteia - published on 12/19/22

Also in today's headlines: An analysis of the history of the Church in China and DDF rumors

Every day, Aleteia offers a selection of articles written by the international press about the Church and the major issues that concern Catholics around the world. The opinions and views expressed in these articles are not those of the editors.

Monday 19 December 2022
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1. Francis among the oldest popes in history
2. The Holy See’s Chinese dilemma
3. Pope Francis: What Doctrine of the Faith?
4. American priest defrocked for blasphemy 
5. The hunters of “false miracles” in the Diocese of Turin
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1Francis among the oldest popes in history

Pope Francis celebrated his 86th birthday on Saturday, making him the first pontiff to reach that milestone since Leo XIII in 1896. Of the 123 popes recorded over the past 1,000 years, only six have remained in office past their 86th birthday. Prior to that date the documentation available is patchy, but the only pope of the first millennium who was reputedly older than Francis was Pope Agathon, who was apparently 104 years old at the time of his death in 681 … though that is a highly dubious statistic. “Conventional logic would suggest, therefore, that Francis’ birthday should be a moment for speculation about the end-game of his papacy,” notes the American Vatican journalist, John Allen. He points out that the rumors concerning the end of his pontificate last summer have diminished. The Argentine pontiff also seems to have regained his form and proposed an ambitious agenda for 2023, which includes the reshuffling of Caritas, the trip to Africa scheduled for January-February and, above all, until the fall of 2024, the continuation of the synodal process, which the Pope considers a “cornerstone of his legacy, and appears determined to see it through to the end.” In addition to the WYD in Lisbon and a possible trip to Lebanon, the coming year will certainly also be marked by the war in Ukraine. Allen explains that the Pope’s efforts to “keep lines of communication with Moscow open,” show that he “seems determined to keep that possibility alive, making it unlikely he’d contemplate walking away while the conflict is still raging.” Allen also mentions the continued implementation of the Pope’s plan to reform the Vatican and the “trial of the century” for financial corruption, two issues that “Francis likely also would prefer to bring to completion.” To see him reach the longevity of Leo XIII (93 years), or even that of Agathon, the only centenarian Pope, seems improbable but “on the other hand, improbable isn’t the same thing as impossible – and if you haven’t realized by now that with Pope Francis, anything is possible, then you just haven’t been paying attention,” remarks Allen.

Crux, English

2The Holy See’s Chinese dilemma

The Spanish website La Vanguardia traces the long and tumultuous history of Catholicism in China, since the time of Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), who has just been declared venerable, to show the “Chinese dilemma” that the Holy See faces today. With a Catholic population estimated between “6 and 12 million,” which has long been divided between the Catholics faithful to Rome – the “underground Church” – and the Catholics faithful to the Party – affiliated to the Catholic Patriotic Association – China receives constant attention from the Holy See. The signing of an agreement on the appointment of bishops in 2018 reshuffled the cards: Now Beijing and Rome are supposed to work together to appoint bishops in China. However, there are significant problems with this new formula, especially considering that, this fall, Xi Jinping’s government seemed to betray the agreement. Bishop John Peng Weizhao, who had been secretly appointed by the Pope in 2014, was made an auxiliary by the government in a non-existent diocese and under the control of a bishop who is closer to the regime. The Holy See protested, for the first time since 2018, but to no avail for now. Between the objective of maintaining the link with the Catholic Church in the country and the difficulty of dialogue with a communist government that is not very respectful of the agreements it signs, the Holy See is facing a real dilemma in China.

La Vanguardia, Spanish

3. Pope Francis: What Doctrine of the Faith?

On his blog, Vatican journalist Andrea Gagliarducci comments on the surprising rumor of a possible appointment of German Bishop Heiner Wilmer, of the Diocese of Hildesheim, as head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Monday Vatican, English 

4. American priest defrocked for blasphemy 

 The Vatican has defrocked U.S. priest, Frank Pavone, for what it said were “blasphemous communications on social media” as well as “persistent disobedience” of his bishop who repeatedly told him to stop his partisan activism for Donald Trump.

AP, English

5. The hunters of “false miracles” in the Diocese of Turin

A scientific organization of the Diocese of Turin, known for its work on the Holy Shroud, works on detecting errors or frauds behind certain miracles. 

La Stampa, Italian

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