A peek inside Pope Francis’ New Year
by FFE EU News Staff
As we welcomed the first week of the New Year with hope and new promises, Pope Francis has already gotten mixed up in a number of carefree and serious conundrums that may just leave a mark on his papacy.
First up is a funny episode with a number of Carmelite sisters in Lucena, Spain, who were left red-faced after missing a call from the pontiff. Pope Francis was forced to leave a voice-mail message after the nuns shunned his call on New Year’s Eve.
The pope’s quip ran: ‘What are the nuns doing that they can’t answer? I am Pope Francis, I wish to greet you in this end of the year, I will see if I can call you later. May God bless you!’
The prioress, Sister Adriana, explained that they were busy with their noontime prayers when the pope placed his call. They were surprised when they ran back the message. Sister Adriana recounted feeling she ‘literally wanted to die’ because she missed the call.
The sisters tried to call the pope back with little success. Fortunately, the pope rang back hours later. Sister Adrian said ‘Our friendship goes back 15 years but we never thought the pope would remember to think of us.’
Meanwhile, a report ran by weekly Schweiz am Sonntag has rocked the Vatican last Sunday. In it, a former member of the Swiss Guard alleged he was solicited for sex by cardinals, bishops, priests and other Vatican officials when he served several years ago.
The ex-Guard revealed he received up to 20 ‘unambiguous requests’ for gay sex and claimed that one high official fondled him. He added that his reports for harassment were left unsupported by his superiors.
The report comes in the wake of the pope’s calls for greater acceptance of gays and gay families. In November 2013, the pope said that gay priests should be forgiven. Pope Francis’ stance on gays greatly diverges from his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, who said gays should not be priests. Before the year ended, he was also lauded by LGBT magazine Advocate as the ‘single most influential person of 2013 on the lives of LGBT people.’
So far, the Vatican has ruled the report as ‘not credible,’ and Swiss Guard spokesman Urs Breitenmoser said ‘the rumour of a homosexual network in the heart of the Vatican was not a problem.’
On Sunday, the pope also announced that he is set to visit the Holy Land from 24 to 26 of May. His trip will include Jerusalem, Bethlehem in the West Bank and Amman in Jordan. He said ‘In the climate of joy typical of this Christmas period, I would like to announce that from 24 to 26 May, God willing, I will carry out a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.’
The pope’s trip is seen not only as a way to bridge the gap between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, but as a political statement that encourages peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He added that he was invited by both Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
His announcement date, 5 January, also holds a historic moment between the heads of the two Catholic churches: it marked the 50th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople.
The Holy Land is so far the pope’s only foreign trip planned for 2014.