| New Pope Francis nearly got sacked in run-in with Benedict XVI over Prophet Mohammed!

Pope Francis’ run-in with Benedict XVI over the Prophet Mohammed ~ Alasdair Baverstock, The Telegraph.

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Pope Francis came close to losing his position within the Catholic Church after he criticised his predecessor seven years ago.

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Pope Francis' run-in with Benedict XVI over the Prophet Mohammed

Pope Benedict XVI meets the archbishop of Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio at the Vatican, 13 January 2007 Photo: AFP/GETTY

In 2005, then Pope Benedict quoted from an obscure medieval text which declared that the Prophet Mohammed, founder of the Islamic faith, was “evil and inhuman”, enraging the Muslim population and causing attacks on churches throughout the world before an apology was issued.

Reacting within days to the statements, speaking through a spokesman to Newsweek Argentina, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio declared his “unhappiness” with the statements, made at the University of Regensburg in Germany, and encouraged many of his subordinates with the Church to do the same.

“Pope Benedict’s statement don’t reflect my own opinions”, the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires declared. “These statements will serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last twenty years”.

The Vatican reacted quickly, removing one subordinate, Joaquín Piña the Archbishop of Puerto Iguazú from his post within four days of his making similar statements to the Argentine national media, sending a clear statement to Cardinal Bergoglio that he would be next should he choose to persist.

Reacting to the threats from Rome, Cardinal Bergoglio cancelled his plans to fly to Rome, choosing to boycott the second synod that Pope Benedict had called during his tenure as pontiff.

“The only thing that didn’t happen to Bergoglio was being removed from his post”, wrote investigative journalist Horacio Verbitsky in his column in left-wing daily newspaper Página/24. “The Vatican was very quick to react.”

Cristina Kirchner, the Argentina president, stated at the time that such diatribes were “dangerous for everyone”.

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| Pope Francis has a clear priority: Stop and prevent the sexual abuse of young boys!

Pope Francis has a clear priority: stop and prevent the sexual abuse of young boys ~ GEOFFREY ROBERTSON QC, The Independent.

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Years of molestation by priests remains an appalling stain on the Vatican!

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As the world absorbs the news of the appointment of the new Pope, it is time to ask how the next Supreme Leader of the Catholic Church can meet its most urgent challenge, of stopping its priests sexually molesting small boys.

There have been, on a realistic estimate, over 100,000 such victims since 1981 when Joseph Ratzinger became head of the Vatican office which declined to defrock paedophiles and instead approved their removal to other parishes and other countries.

These widespread and systematic sexual assaults can collectively be described as a crime against humanity. The church cannot atone just by paying compensation. Unless the new Pope installs a policy that minimises danger to children, he, like Benedict, will become complicit in ongoing but avoidable abuse.

Zero tolerance

First, and most obviously, there must be zero tolerance for paedophile priests. They must be automatically defrocked as soon as their Bishop learns of their crime. There must be no delay, and certainly no appeal to the Vatican – it was there that Ratzinger’s preference for avoiding scandal permitted so many paedophiles to be forgiven, and then to re-offend. There is ample evidence now, from Ireland, America and Europe, that the Vatican has conspired to thwart prosecutors and protect clerical criminals.

The Pope is the source of Canon law, which directs that allegations of child molestation be investigated in utter secrecy, by a “trial” loaded in favour of clerics who if found guilty are “punished” for the most part by orders for prayer and penitence. This must be changed, by recognition that child molestation is a serious offence which cannot be dealt with in a secret ecclesiastical procedure.

Allegations must be reported to the police. The Vatican pretends that it made this change in 2011, when new “guidelines” were issued reminding Bishops to co-operate with law enforcement authorities, but only when local law requires it (and many countries still do not have laws compelling the reporting of child abuse).

These “guidelines” are not incorporated into Canon law: Bishops are not told to hand evidence over to the police, and priests are not required to inform on brothers whom they know (often through confession) to be molesting children. There is no duty to suspend a suspected priest.

Even in countries where local Bishops have bowed to political pressure and announced that public prosecutors will be told of sex abuse allegations, there is always a qualification: “Only if the victim consents”. It is all too easy for young victims and trusting parents to be counseled that the victim’s best interests lie in allowing the church to deal with the matter “in its own way” without involving the police.

So criminal priests escape prosecution because officials, in order to protect the reputation of their church, pressure and persuade families to have complaints dealt with in secret under Canon law processes.

Papal courage

Abolishing the role of the Vatican and of Canon law in covering up for paedophile priests, will take some papal courage, but will be relatively easy beside the radical changes necessary to stop the abuse from happening in the first place.

The reform most often suggested is to abandon celibacy. This would not be doctrinally difficult – Christ’s disciples appear to have been married, and the rule was a dogma introduced in the 11th century and almost abolished by 16th century reformers.

But marriage does not “cure” paedophilia. Moreover, many abusive priests are not paedophiles: their disordered personality can often be ascribed to conditions that would prevent them from forming satisfactory heterosexual relationships. Essentially, abuse happens because they are too weak or emotionally immature to resist the temptation.

That temptation arises because the church indoctrinates children at their earliest rational age – usually at seven – that the priest is the agent of God. Communion is an awesome miracle performed by the God-priest, and then the impressionable and nervous child is made to confess his sins and seek forgiveness from God, represented again by the priest.

Father Tom Doyle explains the phenomenon of children’s unflinching obedience to priests’ sexual requests as induced by “reverential fear” – the victims have such emotional and psychological dependence on the abuser that they unquestioningly obey – and do not tell for many years afterwards.

It follows that the only reform that would tackle the evil of clerical sexual abuse at its source would be to raise the age, from seven to (say) 13, at which children are first given communion and confession, which inculcates their reverence for the priesthood.

Pity the children

Other churches (and the Jewish faith) leave indoctrination and spiritual commitment rituals until teenage-hood: by this stage, young people are much more capable of resisting sexual advances, and have more courage to report them.

Could a Pope ever contemplate this reform? The Jesuits say, “give me the boy at seven”, and now we know what that has meant for so many boys. The Vatican newspaper, worried that indoctrination at seven is not producing sufficient life-time allegiance, has been arguing that the age of first communions and confession be reduced to five.

If the new Pope cannot bring himself to deliver small children from the spiritual hold of the priest, then Parliaments may have to step in to protect children of tender age from immersion in religious rituals.

Geoffrey Robertson QC is author of “The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuses” (Penguin 2010)

Jorge Mario Bergoglio: first Latin American, first Jesuit and first Pope Francis to lead the world’s Catholics

So what happens next for Pope Francis?

Jerome Taylor: Pope Francis I is both a continuation of the past and something very different

Pope Francis: the humble man who moved out of archiepiscopal palace into a simple apartment

Argentina celebrates as their own Catholic leader is elected Pope Francis

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| Pope Francis: A look at the life of the first South American pontiff!

Pope Francis: A look at the life of the first South American pontiff ~ Associated Press.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is the first ever from the Americas, an austere Jesuit intellectual who modernized Argentina‘s conservative Catholic church.

Known until today as Jorge Bergoglio, the 76-year-old is known as a humble man who denied himself the luxuries that previous Buenos Aires cardinals enjoyed. He came close to becoming pope last time, reportedly gaining the second-highest vote total in several rounds of voting before he bowed out of the running in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI.

Groups of supporters waved Argentine flags in St. Peter’s Square as Francis, wearing simple white robes, made his first public appearance as pope.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening,” he said before making a reference to his roots in Latin America, which accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s Roman Catholics .

Bergoglio often rode the bus to work, cooked his own meals and regularly visited the slums that ring Argentina’s capital. He considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church.

He accused fellow church leaders of hypocrisy and forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes.

“Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit,” Bergoglio told Argentina’s priests last year.

Bergoglio’s legacy as cardinal includes his efforts to repair the reputation of a church that lost many followers by failing to openly challenge Argentina’s murderous 1976-83 dictatorship. He also worked to recover the church’s traditional political influence in society, but his outspoken criticism of President Cristina Kirchner couldn’t stop her from imposing socially liberal measures that are anathema to the church, from gay marriage and adoption to free contraceptives for all.

“In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptize the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage,” Bergoglio told his priests. “These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it’s baptized!”

Bergoglio compared this concept of Catholicism, “this Church of ‘come inside so we make decisions and announcements between ourselves and those who don’t come in, don’t belong,” to the Pharisees of Christ’s time — people who congratulate themselves while condemning all others.

This sort of pastoral work, aimed at capturing more souls and building the flock, was an essential skill for any religious leader in the modern era, said Bergoglio’s authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin.

But Bergoglio himself felt most comfortable taking a very low profile, and his personal style was the antithesis of Vatican splendor. “It’s a very curious thing: When bishops meet, he always wants to sit in the back rows. This sense of humility is very well seen in Rome,” Rubin said before the 2013 conclave to choose Benedict’s successor.

Bergoglio’s influence seemed to stop at the presidential palace door after Nestor Kirchner and then his wife, Cristina Fernandez, took over the Argentina’s government. His outspoken criticism couldn’t prevent Argentina from becoming the Latin American country to legalize gay marriage, or stop Fernandez from promoting free contraception and artificial insemination.

His church had no say when the Argentine Supreme Court expanded access to legal abortions in rape cases, and when Bergoglio argued that gay adoptions discriminate against children, Fernandez compared his tone to “medieval times and the Inquisition.”

This kind of demonization is unfair, says Rubin, who obtained an extremely rare interview of Bergoglio for his biography, the “The Jesuit.”

“Is Bergoglio a progressive — a liberation theologist even? No. He’s no third-world priest. Does he criticize the International Monetary Fund, and neoliberalism? Yes. Does he spend a great deal of time in the slums? Yes,” Rubin said.

Bergoglio has stood out for his austerity. Even after he became Argentina’s top church official in 2001, he never lived in the ornate church mansion where Pope John Paul II stayed when visiting the country, preferring a simple bed in a downtown building, heated by a small stove on frigid weekends. For years, he took public transportation around the city, and cooked his own meals.

Bergoglio almost never granted media interviews, limiting himself to speeches from the pulpit, and was reluctant to contradict his critics, even when he knew their allegations against him were false, said Rubin.

That attitude was burnished as human rights activists tried to force him to answer uncomfortable questions about what church officials knew and did about the dictatorship’s abuses after the 1976 coup.

Many Argentines remain angry over the church’s acknowledged failure to openly confront a regime that was kidnapping and killing thousands of people as it sought to eliminate “subversive elements” in society. It’s one reason why more than two-thirds of Argentines describe themselves as Catholic, but fewer than 10 percent regularly attend mass.

Under Bergoglio’s leadership, Argentina’s bishops issued a collective apology in October 2012 for the church’s failures to protect its flock. But the statement blamed the era’s violence in roughly equal measure on both the junta and its enemies.

“Bergoglio has been very critical of human rights violations during the dictatorship, but he has always also criticized the leftist guerrillas; he doesn’t forget that side,” Rubin said.

The bishops also said “we exhort those who have information about the location of stolen babies, or who know where bodies were secretly buried, that they realize they are morally obligated to inform the pertinent authorities.”

That statement came far too late for some activists, who accused Bergoglio of being more concerned about the church’s image than about aiding the many human rights investigations of the Kirchners’ era.

Bergoglio twice invoked his right under Argentine law to refuse to appear in open court, and when he eventually did testify in 2010, his answers were evasive, human rights attorney Myriam Bregman said.

At least two cases directly involved Bergoglio. One examined the torture of two of his Jesuit priests — Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics — who were kidnapped in 1976 from the slums where they advocated liberation theology. Yorio accused Bergoglio of effectively handing them over to the death squads by declining to tell the regime that he endorsed their work. Jalics refused to discuss it after moving into seclusion in a German monastery.

Both men were freed after Bergoglio took extraordinary, behind-the-scenes action to save them — including persuading dictator Jorge Videla’s family priest to call in sick so that he could say Mass in the junta leader’s home, where he privately appealed for mercy. His intervention likely saved their lives, but Bergoglio never shared the details until Rubin interviewed him for the 2010 biography.

Bergoglio — who ran Argentina’s Jesuit order during the dictatorship — told Rubin that he regularly hid people on church property during the dictatorship, and once gave his identity papers to a man with similar features, enabling him to escape across the border. But all this was done in secret, at a time when church leaders publicly endorsed the junta and called on Catholics to restore their “love for country” despite the terror in the streets.

bergoglio.jpgNewly elected Pope Francis I waves to the waiting crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City.Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Rubin said failing to challenge the dictators was simply pragmatic at a time when so many people were getting killed, and attributed Bergoglio’s later reluctance to share his side of the story as a reflection of his humility.

But Bregman said Bergoglio’s own statements proved church officials knew from early on that the junta was torturing and killing its citizens, and yet publicly endorsed the dictators. “The dictatorship could not have operated this way without this key support,” she said.

Bergoglio also was accused of turning his back on a family that lost five relatives to state terror, including a young woman who was 5-months’ pregnant before she was kidnapped and killed in 1977. The De la Cuadra family appealed to the leader of the Jesuits in Rome, who urged Bergoglio to help them; Bergoglio then assigned a monsignor to the case. Months passed before the monsignor came back with a written note from a colonel: It revealed that the woman had given birth in captivity to a girl who was given to a family “too important” for the adoption to be reversed.

Despite this written evidence in a case he was personally involved with, Bergoglio testified in 2010 that he didn’t know about any stolen babies until well after the dictatorship was over.

“Bergoglio has a very cowardly attitude when it comes to something so terrible as the theft of babies. He says he didn’t know anything about it until 1985,” said the baby’s aunt, Estela de la Cuadra, whose mother Alicia co-founded the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in 1977 in hopes of identifying these babies. “He doesn’t face this reality and it doesn’t bother him. The question is how to save his name, save himself. But he can’t keep these allegations from reaching the public. The people know how he is.”

Initially trained as a chemist, Bergoglio taught literature, psychology, philosophy and theology before taking over as Buenos Aires archbishop in 1998. He became cardinal in 2001, when the economy was collapsing, and won respect for blaming unrestrained capitalism for impoverishing millions of Argentines.

Later, there was little love lost between Bergoglio and Fernandez. Their relations became so frigid that the president stopped attending his annual “Te Deum” address, when church leaders traditionally tell political leaders what’s wrong with society.

During the dictatorship era, other church leaders only feebly mentioned a need to respect human rights. When Bergoglio spoke to the powerful, he was much more forceful. In his 2012 address, he said Argentina was being harmed by demagoguery, totalitarianism, corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power. The message resonated in a country whose president was ruling by decree, where political scandals rarely were punished and where top ministers openly lobbied for Fernandez to rule indefinitely.

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