An exerpt from Pope Francis’ New Biography

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“The pope’s creation of the advisory council of eight cardinals that must help him reform not only the Roman Curia but also assist in the governance of the universal Church confirms the determination of Pope Francis to advance in a collegial way, listening through its members to the voices of the bishops. The pope also intends to proceed in a synodal way: the word synod derives from the union of two Greekwords, syn, “together,” and odòs, “journey.”

Although the concept of synodality is an old one for the Church, it has fallen by the wayside in recent decades. With power ever more centralized in Rome, although synods of bishops have taken place, they have not been listened to by the Vatican. “Decentralization is urgent because, as we have seen… all the minutiae of church life around the world, its cultural manifestations, and its diversity cannot be controlled and directed from a central point,” argues the Archbishop Emeritus of San Francisco, John R. Quinn, president of the American Episcopal Conference from 1997 to 2000.

His thinking coincides with that of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster, London, who, when speaking of the changes the Church most urgently needs, stressed the importance of the principle of subsidiarity and the need for its implementation. “There are many issues that can and should be decided at the local level. There are issues that are often sent straight to Rome when, in fact, they could be analyzed and resolved by local bishops. The principle of subsidiarity is very important, and implementing it would help the Church with its mission,” he insists.

“The Eurocentrism of the past few centuries has definitely come to an end. In the new context, the unity of the Church can only be a unity in plurality and a plurality in unity. This state of affairs does not diminish the role of the Petrine ministry as a sign and instrument of unity; but it does require that the notion of collegiality be brought up to date, as was intended by the Second Vatican Council. The new council of cardinals from every continent is a step in that direction,” states Cardinal Kasper.

Pope Francis, advancing with determination on this road, on January 12, 2014, announces the names of the nineteen new cardinals that he will create at his first consistory in February. His choice indicates a clear desire to correct the imbalance of Europeans (especially Italians) and North Americans in the College of Cardinals and to reduce the number of Roman Curia officials who get the red hat. At the same time, he gives a greater voice to the churches of the Southern Hemisphere, including those in Latin America. In particular, he pays special attention to the peripheries of the world, areas hit by poverty and conflict. Thus, he gives red hats to Church leaders in Haiti, Nicaragua, Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, and Mindanao in the Philippines….

According to Quinn, the ad limina visits—obligatory meetings between bishops and the pope, during which each bishop reports on the state of his diocese—that take place every five years have not been very useful either. On these visits, bishops from all over the world visit different departments of the Vatican and meet the Holy Father.

“It would have been different if the [former] popes had used the ad limina visits to meet with the bishops individually, in private, and say, for instance, ‘Tell me, what do your priests think of the encyclical I’ve just written? Have they said anything? How have they reacted to the text?’ Or ‘What’s the biggest problem you encounter in teaching the faith? Do you think you have enough priests celebrating Mass in your parishes? What do you think we should do to solve this or that?’ The truly important issues never get talked about in ad limina visits,” says Quinn. . . .

“The Roman Curia has a long history, and in the past it has had to adapt to new situations, challenges, and needs. Many in the curia carry out their work competently and efficiently, with great modesty. Blanket criticism would be unfair. But like the Church, the curia, too, must constantly renew and reform itself. It isn’t—and can’t be—an intermediate level of governance between the pope and the bishops,” argues Cardinal Kasper. Will Francis run into resistance in the Roman Curia? “Of course, it’s only normal, but there is a sense of awareness, which is more or less shared by all, that some changes are inevitable and necessary.” . . .

When Gian Guido Vecchi, the Vatican expert at Corriere della Sera, asked Pope Francis about the delicate issue [of divorce and remarriage], he said it was a complex issue but one that should be analyzed and reconsidered.

“It’s a topic people always ask about. Mercy is greater than the case you mention. I think that this is the time for mercy. This change of epoch, when the Church is having so many problems, like corruption or clericalism, for instance, has left many wounded. And if the Lord doesn’t tire of forgiving us, we have no other choice: take care of the wounded, before all else. The Church is our mother and must walk the path of mercy. She must find mercy for everyone. This is a kairos—a moment—for mercy,” says the pope. . . . After observing that the Orthodox churches have different practices, he also admits that the problem needs to be analyzed within the context of pastoral care for marriage.

[The pope commented in one interview]: “My predecessor [as Archbishop of Buenos Aires], Cardinal Quarracino, used to say that half of all marriages were null because people get married without being mature enough to do so, without realizing it’s for life, perhaps for social reasons. And all this comes into the pastoral care of marriage.” . . .

Archbishop Quinn states: “When we talk about communion, we have to ask ourselves about the nature of the Eucharist. Is the Eucharist just for the elite, the saintly spiritual elite, or is it also for those who are struggling to be better people and who want to grow? Is the Eucharist only for those who are no longer sinners?”

Elisabetta Piqué is the Vatican correspondent for La Nacion, Argentina’s premier newspaper, and author of Pope Francis: Life and Revolution, out Wednesday.

Pope Francis’ Short Biography

Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio

The first Pope of the Americas Jorge Mario Bergoglio hails from Argentina. The 76-year-old Jesuit Archbishop of Buenos Aires is a prominent figure throughout the continent, yet remains a simple pastor who is deeply loved by his diocese, throughout which he has travelled extensively on the underground and by bus during the 15 years of his episcopal ministry.

“My people are poor and I am one of them”, he has said more than once, explaining his decision to live in an apartment and cook his own supper. He has always advised his priests to show mercy and apostolic courage and to keep their doors open to everyone. The worst thing that could happen to the Church, he has said on various occasions, “is what de Lubac called spiritual worldliness”, which means, “being self-centred”. And when he speaks of social justice, he calls people first of all to pick up the Catechism, to rediscover the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. His project is simple: if you follow Christ, you understand that “trampling upon a person’s dignity is a serious sin”.

Despite his reserved character — his official biography consists of only a few lines, at least until his appointment as Archbishop of Buenos Aires — he became a reference point because of the strong stances he took during the dramatic financial crisis that overwhelmed the country in 2001.

He was born in Buenos Aires on 17 December 1936, the son of Italian immigrants. His father Mario was an accountant employed by the railways and his mother Regina Sivori was a committed wife dedicated to raising their five children. He graduated as a chemical technician and then chose the path of the priesthood, entering the Diocesan Seminary of Villa Devoto. On 11 March 1958 he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus. He completed his studies of the humanities in Chile and returned to Argentina in 1963 to graduate with a degree in philosophy from the Colegio de San José in San Miguel. From 1964 to 1965 he taught literature and psychology at Immaculate Conception College in Santa Fé and in 1966 he taught the same subject at the Colegio del Salvatore in Buenos Aires. From 1967-70 he studied theology and obtained a degree from the Colegio of San José.

On 13 December 1969 he was ordained a priest by Archbishop Ramón José Castellano. He continued his training between 1970 and 1971 at the University of Alcalá de Henares, Spain, and on 22 April 1973 made his final profession with the Jesuits. Back in Argentina, he was novice master at Villa Barilari, San Miguel; professor at the Faculty of Theology of San Miguel; consultor to the Province of the Society of Jesus and also Rector of the Colegio Máximo of the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology.

On 31 July 1973 he was appointed Provincial of the Jesuits in Argentina, an office he held for six years. He then resumed his work in the university sector and from 1980 to 1986 served once again as Rector of the Colegio de San José, as well as parish priest, again in San Miguel. In March 1986 he went to Germany to finish his doctoral thesis; his superiors then sent him to the Colegio del Salvador in Buenos Aires and next to the Jesuit Church in the city of Córdoba as spiritual director and confessor.

It was Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who wanted him as a close collaborator. So, on 20 May 1992 Pope John Paul II appointed him titular Bishop of Auca and Auxiliary of Buenos Aires. On 27 May he received episcopal ordination from the Cardinal in the cathedral. He chose as his episcopal motto, miserando atque eligendo, and on his coat of arms inserted the ihs, the symbol of the Society of Jesus.

He gave his first interview as a bishop to a parish newsletter, Estrellita de Belém. He was immediately appointed Episcopal Vicar of the Flores district and on 21 December 1993 was also entrusted with the office of Vicar General of the Archdiocese. Thus it came as no surprise when, on 3 June 1997, he was raised to the dignity of Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Not even nine months had passed when, upon the death of Cardinal Quarracino, he succeeded him on 28 February 1998, as Archbishop, Primate of Argentina and Ordinary for Eastern-rite faithful in Argentina who have no Ordinary of their own rite.

Three years later at the Consistory of 21 February 2001, John Paul ii created him Cardinal, assigning him the title of San Roberto Bellarmino. He asked the faithful not to come to Rome to celebrate his creation as Cardinal but rather to donate to the poor what they would have spent on the journey. As Grand Chancellor of the Catholic University of Argentina, he is the author of the books:Meditaciones para religiosos (1982), Reflexiones sobre la vida apostólica (1992) and Reflexiones de esperanza (1992).

In October 2001 he was appointed General Relator to the 10th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Episcopal Ministry. This task was entrusted to him at the last minute to replace Cardinal Edward Michael Egan, Archbishop of New York, who was obliged to stay in his homeland because of the terrorist attacks on September 11th. At the Synod he placed particular emphasis on “the prophetic mission of the bishop”, his being a “prophet of justice”, his duty to “preach ceaselessly” the social doctrine of the Church and also “to express an authentic judgement in matters of faith and morals”.

All the while Cardinal Bergoglio was becoming ever more popular in Latin America. Despite this, he never relaxed his sober approach or his strict lifestyle, which some have defined as almost “ascetic”. In this spirit of poverty, he declined to be appointed as President of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference in 2002, but three years later he was elected and then, in 2008, reconfirmed for a further three-year mandate. Meanwhile in April 2005 he took part in the Conclave in which Pope Benedict XVI was elected.

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires — a diocese with more than three million inhabitants — he conceived of a missionary project based on communion and evangelization. He had four main goals: open and brotherly communities, an informed laity playing a lead role, evangelization efforts addressed to every inhabitant of the city, and assistance to the poor and the sick. He aimed to reevangelize Buenos Aires, “taking into account those who live there, its structure and its history”. He asked priests and lay people to work together. In September 2009 he launched the solidarity campaign for the bicentenary of the Independence of the country. Two hundred charitable agencies are to be set up by 2016. And on a continental scale, he expected much from the impact of the message of the Aparecida Conference in 2007, to the point of describing it as the “Evangelii Nuntiandi of Latin America”.

Until the beginning of the recent sede vacante, he was a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for the Clergy, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

He was elected Supreme Pontiff on 13 March 2013. (From Le Observatore Romano)

Call for SONGKRAN 2014

Originally posted on MANILA.METRO by Caloy73:

We will be oraganizing a group for Songkran 2014, the super-fun Thai New Year celebration. Songkran 2014 begins April 14 and continues through the week. Those interested, kindly send your messages. Details shall be emailed in due time. A tour of Bangkok’s best male-oriented spas will be part of the itinerary.

The most fun festival in South East Asia:

Check This Link:

This is an excerpt from Lonely Planet’s A Year of Festivals.
Location: Throughout Thailand

Dates: 13–15 April 2014

From Lonely Planet

Level of participation: 5 – Songkran is a no-holds-barred water fight, and tourists are fair game, both to be soaked and to do the soaking

The Lunar New Year in Thailand marks a time when the country literally goes to water. Part a time of respect and part riot, Songkran is an occasion when images of the Buddha are ‘bathed’ and young Thais seek the blessing…

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No Desert? Try this!









4 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg – beaten
3 tablespoons skim milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 salted caramels

What to do:
1. Into a small bowl add: flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, salt, egg, milk, and vegetable oil. Mix to combine.

2. Pour mixture into a regular sized coffee mug. Drop caramels into center of mixture one at a time.

3. Microwave on high for one minute and 30 seconds. If needed {if cake batter is still gooey}, microwave on high for up to an additional 30 seconds.