NEWSMAKER: Argentina's pope a modest man focused on the poor Created on March 15, 2013, 3:20 am Posted by nup

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The first Latin American pope, Argentina's Jorge Bergoglio, is a theological conservative with a strong social conscience, and a modest man who declined the archbishop's luxurious residence to live in a simple apartment and travel by bus.

He was also the runner-up in the 2005 conclave that elected German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to become Pope Benedict. He was not an obvious candidate, but moderate cardinals looking for an alternative to the then Vatican doctrinal chief backed him.

His election came as a shock to Catholics because, at 76, he was considered far above the ideal age to replace a pope who broke tradition and resigned because of his advanced years. He had hardly been mentioned among the "papabili" (possible popes).

The decision to take the papal name Francis, the first pope to name himself after the legendary St Francis of Assisi, was also surprising because it evokes a life of simplicity and humility far removed from the splendour of the Vatican.

Described by his biographer as a balancing force, Bergoglio has the ways of a monk, is media shy and deeply concerned about the social inequalities rife in his homeland and elsewhere in Latin America.

"He is absolutely capable of undertaking the necessary renovation without any leaps into the unknown. He would be a balancing force," said Francesca Ambrogetti, who co-authored a biography of Bergoglio after carrying out a series of interviews with him over three years.

"He shares the view that the Church should have a missionary role, that gets out to meet people, that is active ... a Church that does not so much regulate the faith as promote and facilitate it," she added.

"His lifestyle is sober and austere. That's the way he lives. He travels on the underground, the bus, when he goes to Rome he flies economy class."

The former cardinal, the first Jesuit to become pope, was born into a middle-class family of seven, his father an Italian immigrant railway worker and his mother a housewife.

He is a solemn man, deeply attached to centuries-old Roman Catholic traditions as he showed by asking the crowd cheering his election to say the Our Father and Hail Mary prayers.

Bergoglio is also a member of well-known Argentine soccer club San Lorenzo.

"He was always a very pleasant and accessible person," said Roberto Crubellier, 65, a church employee in a downtown Buenos Aires church where Bergoglio used to go and pray.

"He used to walk from the cathedral (about 10 blocks) and he stayed, praying silently in the last rows of pews, as though he was just an ordinary guy."

In his rare public appearances, Bergoglio spares no harsh words for politicians and Argentine society, and has had a tricky relationship with President Cristina Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.

TURBULENT TIMES

Bergoglio became a priest at 32, nearly a decade after losing a lung due to respiratory illness and quitting his chemistry studies. Despite his late start, he was leading the local Jesuit community within four years, holding the post of provincial of the Argentine Jesuits from 1973 to 1979.

After six years as provincial, he held several academic posts and pursued further study in Germany. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992 and archbishop in 1998.

Bergoglio's career coincided with the bloody 1976-1983 military dictatorship, during which up to 30,000 suspected leftists were kidnapped and killed -- which prompted sharp questions about his role.

The most well-known episode relates to the abduction of two Jesuits whom the military government secretly jailed for their work in poor neighbourhoods.

According to "The Silence," a book written by journalist Horacio Verbitsky, Bergoglio withdrew his order's protection of the two men after they refused to quit visiting the slums, which ultimately paved the way for their capture.

Verbitsky's book is based on statements by Orlando Yorio, one of the kidnapped Jesuits, before he died of natural causes in 2000. Both of the abducted clergymen suffered five months of imprisonment.

"History condemns him. It shows him to be opposed to all innovation in the Church and above all, during the dictatorship, it shows he was very cosy with the military," Fortunato Mallimacci, the former dean of social sciences at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, once said.

His actions during this period strained his relations with many brother Jesuits around the world, who tend to be more politically liberal.

Those who defend Bergoglio say there is no proof behind these claims and, on the contrary, they say the priest helped many dissidents escape during the military junta's rule.

His brother bishops elected him president of the Argentine bishops conference for two terms from 2005 to 2011.

CONSERVATIVE THEOLOGY

In the Vatican, far removed from the dictatorship's grim legacy, this quiet priest is expected to maintain the Church's strong conservative stand on issues of sexual morality but add the strong social conscience he has shown in Argentina.

In 2010, he challenged the Argentine government when it backed a gay marriage bill. "Let's not be naive. This isn't a simple political fight, it's an attempt to destroy God's plan," he wrote days before the bill was approved by Congress.

"He seems to be a good compromise. He's a mix of different things," said Italian theologian Massimo Faggioli.

Stories of his humility abound. When he was appointed a cardinal in 2001, Bergoglio persuaded hundreds of Argentines not to fly to Rome to celebrate with him but rather to donate to the poor the money they had raised for their airline tickets.

Bergoglio has been close to the conservative Italian religious movement Communion and Liberation, which had the backing of Popes John Paul and Benedict as a way to revitalise faith among young people.

Milan Cardinal Angelo Scola, who was believed to have the most support going into the conclave, is also close to the movement, but has taken some distance from it as it got mired in political scandals in Italy.

"In Italy, Communion and Liberation is very politicised. For many, it was a tool for a career in politics," said Faggioli, who teaches at the University of St Thomas in Minneapolis.

"Outside Italy, it's different. They are a Church group that can be more conservative than liberals would like. But they're not mixed up with politics," he said.

"I don't expect him to change on doctrine, but he is a more pastoral person." he said. "It seems this pope will be more aware of what real life is all about."

Rev Gerald Fogarty, a Jesuit and Church historian at the University of Virginia, said he was "pretty sure I'd never see a Jesuit pope" and was surprised that Bergoglio had been chosen because of the criticism of his stand during the dictatorship.

The Jesuit order was founded in the 16th century to serve the pope in the Counter-Reformation and some members of the Society of Jesus, as the order is officially called, think no Jesuit should ever become pope.

RIVAL CANDIDATE

In the 2005 conclave, Bergoglio emerged as the moderates' rival candidate to the conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become Pope Benedict. After that conclave, some commentators spoke of Benedict as "the last European pope" and said the Latin Americans had good chances to win the next time.

Bergoglio, who speaks his native Spanish, Italian and German, was then tipped as a possible head of an important Vatican department but he begged off, saying: "Please, I would die in the Curia."

According to reports in Italian media, Bergoglio impressed cardinals in the pre-conclave "general congregation" meetings where they discussed problems facing the Church.

After the 2005 conclave, a cardinal apparently broke his vow of secrecy and told the Italian magazine Limes that Ratzinger got a solid 47 votes in the first round while Bergoglio got 10 and the rest were scattered among other names.

Votes began to switch in the second voting round the next morning, pushing Ratzinger's count to 65 and Bergoglio's to 35. Limes said the Argentinian was backed by several moderate German, U.S. and Latin American cardinals.

The third round just before lunch went 72 for Ratzinger and 40 for Bergoglio, according to Limes, and the German cardinal clinched it on the fourth round that afternoon with 84 votes.

Bergoglio's tally sank in the fourth round to 26, indicating some supporters had jumped on the Ratzinger bandwagon. "Some apparently concluded this was the way the Holy Spirit was moving the election," one cardinal said after the vote.

In contrast to Benedict, Faggioli said, Francis should find more open ears among Catholics when he speaks, even if the positions he takes are not always popular.

"Pope Benedict was handicapped by his glorious past as a theologian. Having a lot of baggage as a theologian is not necessarily a help for a pope," he said. "It is harder to frame Pope Francis as representing a particular theology.

"Many people may not like what he says about gays or abortion, but he has a more nuanced personality." (Additional reporting by Damian Wroclavsky, Tom Heneghan and Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Helen Popper and Tom Heneghan)

Reforms in Vatican bureaucracy loom under Pope Francis Created on March 14, 2013, 5:52 am Posted by nup

VATICAN–The election as pope of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who as archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina had tangled with state authorities over abortion, homosexual marriage, and the culture wars, is expected to provide a pastoral polish to the conservative theology of his predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Like Blessed John Paul, Pope Francis has called the liberal call for contraception, abortion and euthanasia as part of the “culture of death.” And like Benedict who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and doctrinal watchdog of John Paul II had called homosexuality an “objective disorder,” the new pope has come up with harsher language to depict the gay rights movement pushing for “same-sex marriage”: he has called it a “demonic movement.”

In short, Bergoglio provides both continuity and consolidation to the much lauded—or criticized—conservative stance of John Paul and Benedict.

Often derided for taking allegedly dogmatic positions on HIV-Aids and other issues of sexual morality, Benedict was perceived as theologically brilliant but pastorally deficient.

As a prelate actively engaged in various ministries for the family and the poor in Argentina, Bergoglio is expected to provide the pastoral or practical underpinning to the Chuch’s highly unpopular stand on the very divisive issues.

Bergoglio was made a cardinal by John Paul in the consistory of 2001. Depending on varying accounts of the papal conclave of 2005 that elected John Paul’s successor, he was said to have been runner-up to Benedict XVI or at least, his name had figured in the initial ballot.  (A conclave is confidential and cardinal-electors take a vow of secrecy.)

Other accounts said it was another Jesuit contender, Milan Archbishop Emeritus Carlo Maria Martini, who was pitted against Ratzinger.

Under Benedict, Bergoglio became a member of the obligatory congregations such as the Congregation for the Clergy and Pontifical Council for Family.

Bergoglio also follows the cautious legacy of John Paul and Benedict on social justice.

While John Paul wrote the celebrated social encyclical on labor and justice, Laborem Excersens, and Benedict excoriated liberal capitalism, they were critical of the theology of liberation, a distinctly Latin American theology that provided a political reading of the Bible to connect it with the alleged structural injustice in South America and the need to liberate people from such an unfair system.

Ratzinger, as doctrinal watchdog, condemned liberation theology for its use of Marxist analysis. His 1984 “Instruction on Certain Aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’” was supported by Pope John Paul II, who having come from Communist Poland and spearheaded the movement that led to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, was necessarily wary of any political philosophy that freely borrowed from Marxism.

PH, Malaysia urged to fight common enemy Created on March 13, 2013, 4:34 am Posted by nup

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Etta Rosales cited this as basis for sending a letter to her Malaysian counterpart right after receiving reports of human rights violations in Sabah.

Rosales explained a partnership with Suhakam or the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia will be the best option for both countries to make sure the armed conflict in Sabah will not affect innocent civilians.
 
“It would be best if we can have a joint mission with the Commission on Human Rights of Malaysia so we can go to Sabah and together, we can conduct investigation,” Rosales said in a chance interview.

“That’s what we want to do. But we need permission first from the Malaysian prime minister or their Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” she added.

Rosales issued the statement after Filipino Muslims told tales of horror as Malaysian authorities launched a crackdown on Filipinos linked with Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

Citing oral reports from CHR in Zamboanga region, Rosales admitted being alarmed about how Malaysian authorities use brutality to drive away Filipinos from the oil-rich territory.
 
“I am, of course, concerned with these stories because the truth of the matter is, this is not the first time that Filipinos have problems of enjoying their human rights,” Rosales said. 
 
“I used to go to KL (Kuala Lumpur) and talk to the embassy to discuss the problems of poor Filipinos in Sabah  who are still being neglected because most of them are stateless,” she added.

Cardinals begin papal election with inconclusive vote Created on March 13, 2013, 4:30 am Posted by nup

Cardinals held a first inconclusive vote in the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday as they began the process of electing a successor to Benedict XVI, with tens of thousands of people packed into St Peter's Square to watch the time-honoured tradition.

The crowd cheered as black smoke billowed into the night air above the Vatican from a thin copper chimney on the chapel's roof, indicating that no pope had been elected.

The eyes of the world will be fixed on the chimney in the coming days for the smoke signals sent out twice daily -- white smoke will indicate that a new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics has been chosen.

The 115 cardinals filed past Swiss Guards into the chapel earlier on Tuesday chanting the Latin hymn "Veni Creator Spiritus" ("Come Creator Spirit") to ask for divine guidance after Benedict's troubled eight-year papacy.

The scarlet-robed "Princes of the Church" swore on the Bible never to reveal the secrets of their deliberations or face being cast out of the Church, before the chapel's heavy wooden doors swung shut to indicate the lock-in had begun.

Comelec sharpens teeth of election laws Created on March 12, 2013, 4:37 am Posted by nup

THERE are four laws that govern campaign finance during elections.

These are: the Omnibus Election Code; Republic Act 6646 or the Electoral Reforms Law of 1987; Republic Act 7166 or the Synchronized Election Law; and Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Election Practices Act.

In order to give more weight to the laws, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc promulgated last June 22, 2012, Resolution No. 9476 or the Rules and Regulations Governing Campaign Finance and Disclosure in the May 13, 2013 National and Local Elections and Subsequent Elections Thereafter.

The Comelec, itself, acknowledged that there is problem in the campaign finance law.

In the case of Central Visayas, no less than Comelec 7 Director Temie Lambino admitted that candidates submit their statements of campaign expenses (Soce) for the sake of submitting. No one can follow the provisions of the laws enacted decades ago, it is “archaic,” said Lambino.

According to the Fair Election Act, local candidates with a political party are only authorized to spend P3 for every registered voter, while political parties are allowed to spend P5 for every registered voter.

Independent candidates are authorized to spend P5 for every registered voter.

The June 2012 resolution of the Comelec provides for the creation of the campaign
finance unit, which has the role of monitoring fund-raising and spending activities.

It is supposed to put teeth to the laws as the unit will receive the Soce, reports from donors and election contractors and advertising contracts and logs.

The unit will then compile and analyze the reports if, indeed, the authorized spending cap was followed.

The report of the campaign finance unit will be made available to the public.

But who will comprise the campaign finance unit?

According to the records of the Comelec 7, Cebu has 2,509,520 registered voters with only 140 election officers and election assistants. Cebu has the largest number of registered voters among the 80 provinces in the country.

Comelec officers are already wanting of personnel now that each employee has his or her hands full with election-related duties.

Cebu City

In the Cebu City north district, there are 11 Comelec staff including the election officer and assistant for the 34 voting centers and 248,292 registered voters. In the south district, there are 10 staffers, including the election officer and election assistant covering 36 voting centers with 299,389 registered voters.

Comelec 7 has nine staffers, including Lambino, while the Office of the Provincial Election Supervisor has 10.

Lapu-Lapu City has five election staffers for 248,292 registered voters.

Ginatilan does not have a lot of registered voters, only 10,168 and it only has one election personnel—an assistant election officer also acting as election officer.

Then there is also the challenge on how to go on about the implementation.

“The challenge is we don’t have absolute procedure on how to investigate and how to implement that kind of procedure,” said Lambino.

Investigation entails technical expertise so that trainings should have been done for the said campaign finance units.

But if the law is hard to implement and most, if not all, candidates don’t abide by it, why was it passed in the first place?

Former Comelec executive assistant to then chairman Christian Monsod (1992-1995),
lawyer Luie Tito Guia, said the laws were meant to equalize election prospects.

There are rich candidates and there are richer candidates.

Putting a cap in election spending equalizes the playing field among candidates.

But candidates have ways of going around the cap without being legally charged.

The question of whether Comelec can finally enforce the laws on campaign finance remains to be seen.

The Soce is submitted a month after the elections. Winning candidates cannot assume office without the Soce.

Losing candidates still need to submit a Soce, but an election official admitted it is hard to go after that person when he is not in office, the candidate could be anywhere after losing an election.

Statement

The Soce is an itemized statement of all contributions and expenditures during the elections. The document should have full names of donors including the taxpayer identification number. “Friends of…” cannot be used in the document.

According to the Omnibus Election Code, an election contribution is a “gift, donation, subscription, loan, advance or deposit of money or anything of value,” that can be used by a candidate during elections.

Not everybody can contribute to a candidate. Those prohibited to donate in the campaign funds are: financial institutions, public utilities, government contractors or sub-contractors, franchisees, those granted loans from the government, educational institutions that received grants, foreigners and foreign institutions, civil service.

Yesterday, Comelec Commissioner Sixto Brillantes Jr, tweeted: #Isumbong po sa @COMELECTV ang mga paglabag sa mga panuntunan ng pangampanya (Report any violations of campaign rules).

He subsequent tweets, he reminded candidates that the start of the campaign period, which is Tuesday for officials running for national positions, also marks that start of regulation of campaign propaganda and that includes the counting of campaign expenditure.

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