For the first time Cardinals from all over the world have been invited by the Pope himself to participate in a reflection and prayer day at the Vatican. This highly-unusual event is further proof that the Catholic Church is facing its worst-ever crisis.
During this weekend’s Consistory, the Pope will elevate 24 bishops to the rank of cardinal, the first opportunity for these cardinal-designates to better integrate into the elite group of “Princes of the Church”.
Tensions with China and the sexual abuse scandal are Friday’s main topics of discussion, even if some cardinals say they do not feel concerned about these matters.
“Well, I think this meeting is a usual thing, and the abuse matter isn’t a direct concern for me or for other cardinals, not at all,” said Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan from Mexico.
The first sexual abuse scandals related to the Catholic Church started to receive public attention in the 1980s. But the latest scandal in Europe became public a year ago with the publication of the Murphy Report. It showed the conclusions of Ireland’s public inquiries into sexual abuse in Dublin. The accusations triggered a wave of sexual abuse revelations all over the world, but mostly in Europe.
Pope Benedict XVI recognized the facts and apologized, but the victims want more from the Catholic Church.
Another matter for debate is tensions with the Chinese regime.
The Vatican released a statement before this Friday’s meeting saying that the Holy See is “disturbed” by information that several bishops in China are being compelled to attend the ordination of a bishop of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, also called The State Church, not recognised by the Vatican.
If the ordination goes ahead it would be the first case considered illicit by the Vatican since 2006.
At the synod, religious freedom was also one of the topics of discussion. This is a major concern for the Vatican after al-Qaeda’s attack against a Catholic church in Baghdad last month, and Asia Bibi’s death penalty sentence in Pakistan.
Forty-five-year-old Bibi, the mother of five children, has been sentenced to be hanged for having blasphemed the prophet Muhammad in 2009.