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Marking feast day, pope asks Mary's care of families seeking refuge

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 10:23am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- In the heart of Rome, near streets of fancy shops already blinged out for Christmas shopping, Pope Francis prayed for Romans struggling to survive and for families in the city and around the world who face the same lack of welcome that Mary and Joseph experienced.

The pope concluded his public celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, by making the traditional papal visit to a statue of Mary erected in Rome's historic center to honor Catholic teaching that Mary was conceived without sin.

The statue is located near the Spanish Steps and Rome's most expensive clothing and jewelry stores; it is also next to the building housing the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Instead of making a speech near the statue, the pope composes and reads a prayer, and he leaves a basket of roses at the statue's base.

In the prayer addressed to Mary, he said, "In this Advent time, thinking of the days when you and Joseph were anxious for the imminent birth of your baby, worried because there was a census and you had to leave your village, Nazareth, and go to Bethlehem -- you know what it means to carry life in your womb and sense around you indifference, rejection and sometimes contempt.

"So, I ask you to be close to the families who today in Rome, in Italy and throughout the world are living in similar situations," the pope continued. He asked Mary to intervene "so that they would not be abandoned, but safeguarded with their rights, human rights that come before every other, even legitimate, demand," an apparent reference to rights of migrants and refugees and the right of nations to control their borders.

Earlier, under brilliantly sunny skies, some 30,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square to recite the midday Angelus prayer with Pope Francis.

Before leading the prayer, he offered a meditation on the Bible readings for the day's feast, highlighting the difference between Adam, who sinned and then hid from God, and Mary, who was conceived without sin and offered her life totally to doing God's will.

"The 'Here I am' opens one to God, while sin closes, isolates, keeps one alone with oneself," the pope said.

"'Here I am' is the key to life," he said. "It marks the passage from a horizontal life focused on oneself and one's own needs, to a vertical life, reaching toward God."

Openness to God and to doing God's will "is the cure for selfishness, the antidote to an unsatisfying life where something is always missing. 'Here I am' is the remedy to the aging of sin, the therapy for remaining young at heart."

"Why don't we begin each day with a 'Here I am, Lord'? It would be beautiful to say each morning, 'Here I am, Lord, may your will be done in me today,'" he said.

Turning one's life over to God and to doing his will does not mean life will be free of troubles and problems, he said. Mary's wasn't.

"Being with God does not magically resolve problems," he said.

In fact, the pope said, for Mary the problems began immediately. "Think about her situation, which according to the law, was irregular, and the torment of St. Joseph, the life plans that were overturned, what people would say. But Mary put her trust in God."

The "wise attitude" of Mary, which all Christians should try to imitate, is not to concentrate on the succession of life's problems -- "one ends and another presents itself" -- but to trust in God and entrust oneself to him each day, Pope Francis said.

 

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San Francisco Archdiocese celebrates newly written Mass of the Americas

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 2:40pm

IMAGE: (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- San Franciscans will celebrate the recently commissioned "Mass of the Americas" Dec. 8 for the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe at the archdiocese's Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption.

The liturgy, scheduled for 2 p.m., is the first new Mass commissioned for the cathedral since it was dedicated in 1971.

"The Mass embodies the way Mary, our mother, unites all of us as God's children," San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said in a statement announcing celebration the Mass, which he said is a "simultaneous tribute to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe," whose feast days are Dec. 8 and Dec. 12, respectively.

San Francisco composer Frank La Rocca wrote the Mass, which includes music in Spanish, Latin, English and Nahuatl, the Aztec language Mary used when she spoke with St. Juan Diego in Mexico in the 16th century.

The Mass is sponsored by the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship. La Rocca is composer-in-residence at the institute.

The Eternal Word Television Network planned to broadcast and livestream the celebration.

An announcement for the liturgy said the style is of the long-standing sacred music traditions of the Catholic Church but incorporates traditional Mexican folkloric hymns to Mary.

It was composed for a 16-voice mixed chorus, organ, string quartet, bells and marimba, which is an instrument from Central America and South America. A professional choir known as Benedict Sixteen was to sing at the Mass.

Archbishop Cordileone originated the idea for the Mass as the "musical equivalent of mission architecture because it is rooted in the tradition and incorporate local elements in the creation of a new worship experience."

The Archdiocese of San Francisco said the Mass also was inspired by the calendar in which the feast of the Immaculate Conception falls on the Saturday before the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, offering a way to unify the Anglo and Latino communities of the Catholic Church.

After its first celebration, the Mass of the Americas will be taken on an international tour of cathedrals including to Our Lady of Guadalupe cathedrals in Dallas and Tijuana, Mexico.

 

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Christmas spirit in the air as Vatican unveils Nativity scene, tree

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 12:11pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The annual unveiling of the Vatican's Christmas tree and Nativity scene brought some much-needed warmth to people's hearts as winter approached.

Hundreds of people in St. Peter's Square Dec. 7 applauded as white curtains unfurled, revealing a 52-foot wide artistic representation of Jesus' birth made entirely of sand and dubbed the "Sand Nativity."

The bas-relief sculpture, which weighed over 700 tons, was made with sand from Jesolo, an Italian seaside resort town roughly 40 miles north of Venice.

Shortly after, as the sun set behind St. Peter's Basilica, the sounds of "Silent Night" filled the square before the lights of the Vatican's towering Christmas tree were lit.

The 42-foot-tall red spruce tree, donated by the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone in the northern Italian region of Veneto, was unveiled at the Vatican's annual tree lighting ceremony.

Among those present at the annual Christmas tree lighting were Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State; Archbishop Francesco Moraglia, patriarch of Venice; and Bishop Giuseppe Pellegrini of Concordia-Pordenone.

The "Sand Nativity" scene and tree will remain in St. Peter's Square until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord Jan. 13.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis met with delegations from the northern Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, responsible respectively for the 2018 Vatican Christmas tree and Nativity scene.

Thanking the delegations for their gifts, the pope said the Nativity scene and Christmas tree are visible signs that "help us to contemplate the mystery of God, who was made man in order to be close to us."

The bright lights emanating from the Christmas tree, he explained, "remind us that Jesus is the light of the world, the light of the soul that drives out the darkness of enmity and makes room for forgiveness."

The soaring height of the Christmas tree, he added, also symbolizes "God who -- through the birth of his son, Jesus -- came down to man to raise him to himself and elevate him from the fog of selfishness and sin."

Pope Francis also reflected on the unique composition of the Nativity scene. Sand, he said, is a poor material that "recalls the simplicity, the littleness and frailty with which God show himself through the birth of Jesus in the precariousness of Bethlehem."

"The child Jesus, Son of God and our Savior, whom we lay in the manger, is holy in poverty, littleness, simplicity and humility," the pope said. "By contemplating the God-child who emanates light in the humility of the manger, we, too, can become witnesses of humility, tenderness and goodness."

Kicking off preparations to celebrate the birth of Christ was special exhibition in the morning of over 100 different Nativity scenes at the Vatican. The event, now in its 43rd edition, was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

Dubbed "100 Cribs at the Vatican," the Dec. 7-Jan. 13 exhibition featured a wide variety of artistic representations depicting Jesus' birth in Bethlehem.

In a statement promoting the event, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the pontifical council, said the exhibition of different Nativity scenes -- a tradition credited to St. Francis of Assisi -- was "a strong instrument of evangelization."

"So many people stop every Christmas before the mystery of God made man, represented with figurines -- which in many cases are authentic masterpieces of art -- to pray, to reflect and to discover the love of God who became a child for us."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Feast of Immaculate Conception does not get weekend dispensation

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 11:05am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON -- Just last year, Catholics were required to attend separate Masses two days in a row for the Sunday obligation and Monday's Christmas Mass. Now, they have a similar opportunity this year with the feast of the Immaculate Conception falling on a Saturday -- Dec. 8.

The vigil Mass on Saturday evening is not a "two-for-one" Mass for both days.

Last year, the U.S. bishops gave Catholics a heads-up about the back-to-back Sunday and Christmas liturgies 10 months in advance in a newsletter issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Divine Worship. It also referenced what would occur this year and will recur when Dec. 8 falls on a Monday.

The newsletter specifically noted that the Saturday vigil does not count for both the holy day and Sunday in the very rare circumstances when two of the church's six holy days of obligation -- the feast of the Immaculate Conception or Christmas -- fall the day before or after Sunday.

"When consecutive obligations occur on Saturday-Sunday or Sunday-Monday, the faithful must attend Mass twice to fulfill two separate obligations," the committee said.

There is dispensation from a holy day Mass obligation when other holy days fall on Saturdays or Mondays but this does not apply to Christmas or the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The U.S. bishops voted in 1991 to lift the obligation to attend Mass on holy days of obligation that fall on Saturdays or Mondays for three of the six holy days: the feast of Mary, Mother of God, Jan. 1; the feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15; and the feast of All Saints, Nov. 1.

Most dioceses have transferred observance of the feast of the Ascension from the Thursday 40 days after Easter to the following Sunday.

The bishops' committee has looked ahead to when these consecutive liturgies will happen again. In the next 12 years, Christmas will fall either on a Saturday or a Monday four times and the feast of the Immaculate Conception will fall on either of those days three times, including this year.

The Dec. 8 feast day has a long history in the United States. The U.S. bishops commended the nation to the patronage of Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception in 1846. Pope Pius IX approved their decision Feb. 7, 1847. Eight years later, the pope declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary, that she was conceived without original sin, to be an article of faith. It became a holy day in the U.S. in 1885.

The feast was celebrated in some monasteries before the beginning of the eighth century and became more widespread in the 18th century.

The divine worship committee's newsletter emphasized the benefit of going to Mass on holy days even when they occur before or after a Sunday, stressing: "It would be hoped, of course, that Catholics foster a love for the sacred liturgy and hold a desire to celebrate the holy days as fully as is reasonably possible."

Or as one person responded on Twitter to this reporter's announcement about the Dec. 8 obligatory Mass attendance on Saturday: "That's correct! Daily Mass can be rewarding."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter@carolmaczim

 

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In times of trouble, hold fast to God, Capuchin tells pope

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 9:25am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When storm clouds gather and the Catholic Church is tossed by the scandalous behavior of some of its members, Catholics must repeat what St. Francis of Assisi repeated: "God is and that suffices," the preacher of the papal household told Pope Francis and his aides.

"Let us also learn to repeat these simple words to ourselves when, in the church or in our lives, we find ourselves in circumstances similar to those of (St.) Francis, and many clouds will disperse," said Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa Dec. 7.

The preacher of the papal household leads the pope and Roman Curia officials in a spiritual reflection on most Fridays of Advent and Lent. For his 2018 Advent reflections, Father Cantalamessa said he would "set aside every other theme and any reference to current problems" and focus on each individual's need for a personal relationship with God.

"We know from experience that an authentic personal relationship with God is the first requirement in dealing with all the situations and problems that come up without us losing our peace and patience," said the 84-year-old Father Cantalamessa.

At the suggestion of Pope Francis, Father Cantalamessa will lead a retreat for the bishops of the United States Jan. 2-8 at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago as they continue to discuss and discern ways to handle the clerical sexual abuse crisis.

For the theme of his Advent reflections at the Vatican, the Capuchin chose a verse from Psalm 42: "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God."

"People today are passionate in searching for signs of the existence of intelligent beings on other planets," which is "legitimate and understandable," he told the pope and Curia officials. "Few, however, search for and study the signs of the Living Being who has created the universe, who entered into its history, and who lives in it."

Yet while "we have the real Living One in our midst," he said, "we overlook him to search for hypothetical beings who, in the best of cases, could do very little for us and certainly could not save us from death."

A fundamental fact for those who believe in God is not only that he exists, Father Cantalamessa said, but that he lives and continually seeks a relationship with the human beings he created.

Many Christians see Jesus' remark "Seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" as a promise that Jesus will give them everything they ask for, and then are "perplexed because we see this rarely happens," he said.

But the basic promise is "Seek me and you will find me; knock and I will open the door," Father Cantalamessa said. "He promises to give himself, above and beyond the small things we ask of him, and this promise is always infallibly kept. Whoever seeks him finds him; he will open to whoever knocks, and once someone has found him, everything else is secondary."

Father Cantalamessa recalled how, at the end of his life, St. Francis of Assisi was troubled by the way some of his friars were behaving. In prayer, he felt the Lord rebuke him with the words, "Why are you disturbed, little man? Did I not place you over my order as its shepherd, and now you do not know that I am its chief protector?... Do not be disturbed, therefore, but work out your salvation, for though the order were reduced to the number of three, it will by my grace remain unshaken."

According to a Franciscan scholar, he said, St. Francis was comforted and went around repeating to himself, "God is and that suffices! God is and that suffices!"

 

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Deacon: From wildfires come acts of kindness for those trying to recover

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 4:47pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Christina Gray, Catholic San Francisc

By Christina Gray

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- Deacon Ray Helgeson left his home in Paradise on the morning of Nov. 8 with his wife, Donna, for daily Mass at the close-knit Butte County town's only Catholic church. They never arrived.

On the short drive to St. Thomas More Church, where the deacon assists at Mass and heads the parish's adult faith formation program, the Helgesons saw billowing smoke and a nearby peak in flames. They continued warily in the direction of the church but were soon intercepted by emergency crews, who diverted them from what would become California's most destructive wildland fire.

The Camp Fire burned more than 153,000 acres, destroyed more than 14,000 homes and caused 85 fatalities, with several people still reported missing as of Dec. 6.

The fire left more than 80 percent of Paradise residents, including the Helgesons, essentially homeless and had a devastating impact on St. Thomas More parishioners, with an estimated 640 losing their homes out of 800 on the official roster.

"This stuff really confuses you," Deacon Helgeson told Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He made the comments in a Nov. 28 phone interview from his son's home in Citrus Heights outside Sacramento, a 90-mile drive from Paradise.

He and his wife arrived Nov. 8 with the clothing they wore to church that morning, a short supply of necessary medications and Deacon Helgeson's breviary. Like many residents, they have not been back to the fire zone, where recovery efforts are still underway, but have confirmed that their home is gone.

"Stability for human persons is huge and we don't have a place now to call home now," Helgeson said. "If your faith is weak, it's going to be extra tough."

St. Thomas More Church and School were spared, but the parish hall and rectory were gutted.

Many displaced people have found refuge in the college town of Chico about 22 miles from Paradise. A campus Newman Center located a block away from St. John the Baptist Church has served as the spiritual and organizational epicenter for the displaced from St. Thomas More. St. John the Baptist is one of two Catholic parishes in Chico.

On Nov. 18, 10 days after the fire began, Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto celebrated a Mass for St. Thomas More fire survivors at the center. On Nov. 25, the center offered a special Mass for St. Thomas More parishioners.

Jim Collins is a St. Thomas More parishioner and retired educator who is acting as commander-in-chief of a relief and communications center set up in the Newman Center hall. Collins, a Grand Knight in St. Thomas More Knights of Columbus Council 7772, is one of the few parishioners whose house didn't burn.

Of the 107 Knights in the council, 69 lost their homes.

"This is really Job territory," Collins said. "That imagery is perfect here."

Collins and a small crew of fellow Knights spend their days tracking down missing parishioners, communicating with family members about their safety and whereabouts, helping find housing for survivors, distributing donated clothing, money and gift cards and raising money for long-haul recovery, he told Catholic San Francisco during a visit to Chico Nov. 29.

Collins pointed to rows of brand-new backpacks filled with toiletries, scarves and little luxuries. The included greeting card was signed by Deacon Dominic Peloso and his wife, Mary Ann Peloso, from the Church of the Nativity in Menlo Park.

"We're buried in backpacks!" Collins said. "Just this morning, we got all of these backpacks and $9,000 in gift cards from your archdiocese."

Fellow Knights Bill Vichi and Greg Wright are longtime St. Thomas More parishioners who arrived to help Collins. Nothing in their words or manner betrayed the fact that both were made homeless by the fire as they greeted Collins with back-slaps and jokes.

Vichi later shared that he lost everything.

"Actually I'm not distributing gift cards here today, I'm getting them," he said matter-of-factly.

Wright had even less reason to smile but did so easily and often. He was a renter without renter's insurance, among those worst off after a disaster because they lack resources to start over, Collins said.

"I will follow wherever the Lord directs me," Wright said.

Until Nov. 30, the Newman Center hall also served as an administrative home base for the Paradise parish. The effort was organized by St. Thomas More pastor Father Godwin Xavier, parish plant manager Greg Kidder and Deacon Helgeson. Kidder helped Father Xavier escape the rectory before it was destroyed and risked his own escape by taking the time to bring valuable parish records with them.

"Compared to what other people lost, mine is just little," said Father Xavier, who was installed at the parish only five months ago. "I don't care about that."

On Nov. 30, St. Thomas More parish administration and relief efforts moved to Our Divine Savior, a Catholic parish in north Chico, at the Sacramento diocese's direction.

Father Xavier said he intends to reintroduce the weekly night of "centering prayer" the parish offered each week in Paradise. "That could be healing," he said.

Zooba Zwicker, music director for St. Thomas More, and her husband, Clint Freedle, lost their home and his successful construction business in the fire. Still, she arrived to talk to Collins about music and logistics for the funeral of parishioner Larry Campbell Dec. 15. Campbell, who was terminally ill with cancer, escaped the fire with his wife but died two days later of a stroke.

Deacon Helgeson, who travels between Citrus Heights and his home parish three days a week for his pastoral duties, said the disaster has had its positive side.

"Something like this awakens something within us," he said. "It gives the Lord a chance to pull triggers within us of generosity, of kindness and of gentleness with others."

He said the fire and his faith have forged something new and unexpected in himself and other survivors.

"It's an awareness of being without, but there is also a sweetness to it," he said.

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Gray is associate editor of Catholic San Francisco, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

 

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Pope revamps Vatican City State structures, laws to boost oversight

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 12:05pm

By Carol Glatz and Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis approved a new set of laws concerning the structure and governance of Vatican City State in an effort to simplify the many offices and activities of the world's smallest nation and to boost oversight, transparency and budgetary controls.

The measures, issued "motu proprio," on the pope's own accord, were published Dec. 6.

In his letter, the pope said the reorganization was necessary to make it "suitable to current needs" while ensuring its mission to serve the pope and the specific aims of the departments and activities within Vatican City State.

He said the time was right to "proceed with a systematic legislative reform enlightened by the principles of rationalization, cost-effectiveness and simplification as well as pursuing the criteria of functionality, transparency, regulatory consistency and organizational flexibility."

The pope approved the legislation that had been drafted by a working commission headed by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the governing office of Vatican City State. The new laws will go into effect June 7 and fully replace the law approved by St. John Paul II's motu proprio in 2002.

While most of the new law reorganizes existing offices and departments, it "suppresses," that is, eliminates from its jurisdiction, the Pilgrim and Tourist Office, and it allows the Vatican pharmacy -- run by the Brothers of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God -- to maintain its "technical and administrative autonomy."

The new law aims for greater transparency with the creation of an oversight and inspection body.

"This new position will have the specific tasks of verifying that the norms, procedures and evaluation of cost-effectiveness and efficacies are being observed" within the different departments and offices, said a note accompanying the new law.

It also creates the general secretariat office, which will be under responsibility of the secretary-general of the office governing Vatican City State. The office will run the new oversight and inspection body, manage the "coordination of events" and take care of the central archives.

According to the legislation, the organizational structure of the governorate will remain substantially unchanged, yet will have greater responsibility in supervising the offices in Vatican City State. The changes that have been made to the operational structure were hoped to allow the governorate of Vatican City State "to operate effectively with regard to problems, emergencies and ordinary management." The legislation is also geared toward "a moderate decentralization" as well as a strengthening of internal audits, strategic planning in preparing budgets that ensures "greater and more efficient functionality."

While ensuring greater oversight and transparency, the heads of the governorate's offices and departments will be responsible for their own "assigned objectives, workplace safety and data protection" without the obligation of consistently seeking approval from the general administration.

 

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A life built on trust in God is built on solid ground, pope says

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 10:09am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians are not people of faith in name only, Pope Francis said; they trust in God, base their lives on his truth and seek to act on the teachings of Jesus.

People with faith in God have not put their hope only in words or in "vanity, pride, in the fleeting powers of life," he said. They put their hopes on solid ground -- the Lord, he said in his homily Dec. 6 during morning Mass at his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading in which Jesus tells his disciples that those who act on his teachings will have built their house on solid rock, while those who only listen to his word and do not act will be fools with a vulnerable house built on sand.

The pope said the Advent season is a time for people to ask themselves, "Am I Christian in words or in deeds? Do I build my life on the rock of God or on the sand of the world, of vanity? Am I humble? Do I seek to always lower myself, without pride, and, in that way, serve the Lord?"

Being Christian in name or words only, he said, is a superficial form of belief, like putting on makeup to look the part. It is going only "halfway -- I say I am Christian, but I don't do what Christians do."

"What Jesus proposes is concreteness, always concrete," like the works of mercy, he said.

The consequence of only trying to look Christian by words alone and without concrete action is having a life lacking in any solid foundation, Pope Francis said.

The Lord provides the strength, he said. "Many times, those who trust in the Lord do not stand out, they are not successful, they are hidden. But they are solid."

"The concreteness of Christian life makes us go forward and build on that rock that is God, that is Jesus," not on "appearances or on vanity, pride, connections. No. The truth."

 

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Pope to make historic visit to United Arab Emirates in February

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 9:08am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Holy See Press Office

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will visit the United Arab Emirates next year, becoming the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula, the Vatican announced.

In a Dec. 6 statement, the Vatican said the pope will "participate in the International Interfaith Meeting on 'Human Fraternity'" after receiving an invitation by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

"The visit will take place also in response to the invitation of the Catholic Church in the United Arab Emirates," the Vatican said.

The trip Feb. 3-5 will take place less than a week after Pope Francis returns from his Jan. 23-28 visit to Panama for World Youth Day.

Shortly after the announcement, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, welcomed the announcement of the pope's visit in a post on his personal Facebook page.

The visit, he said "will strengthen our ties and understanding of each other, enhance interfaith dialogue and help us to work together to maintain and build peace among the nations of the world."

In a message published on the visit's official website, Swiss Bishop Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar of Southern Arabia, expressed his hope that the pope's "short visit will be a moment of deepening our faith and our adherence to the bishop of Rome."

Although a detailed program of the pope's schedule "will be published before Christmas," Bishop Hinder confirmed that Pope Francis will celebrate a public Mass in Abu Dhabi Feb. 5 and that arrangements are being made to allow as many faithful as possible "to participate in this historic event."

"Let us keep in mind that it will be the first visit of a pope to the Arabian Peninsula," the bishop said.

The Vatican also released the logo and the theme of the papal visit, "Make me a channel of your peace," which is inspired by St. Francis of Assisi's prayer for peace.

The theme, the Vatican statement said, "expresses our own prayer that the visit of Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates may spread in a special way the peace of God within the hearts of all people of goodwill."

Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, said the theme was also a fitting description of the purpose of the pope's visit which will focus on "how all people of goodwill can work for peace."

"This visit, like the one to Egypt, shows the fundamental importance the Holy Father gives to interreligious dialogue," Burke said. "Pope Francis visiting the Arab world is a perfect example of the culture of encounter."

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Woman who once assisted with abortions to address March for Life Jan. 18

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 12:26pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Luis Aguirre, Catholic San Francisco

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Abby Johnson, who early in her career assisted in carrying out abortions, will be among the speakers during the 2019 March for Life rally Jan. 18 on the National Mall in Washington.

Johnson, a one-time Planned Parenthood clinic director, is the founder of And Then There Were None, a ministry that assists abortion clinic workers who have left their position.

"Unique From Day One: Pro-Life Is Pro-Science" is the theme of the 2019 march, Jeanne Mancini, March for Life president, said during a media briefing Dec. 5 in Washington.

Mancini said this year's events will focus on the scientific discoveries that have led to new understanding about life in the womb.

"Science and technology are on the side of life in large because they show the humanity of the child at a very young age," Mancini told Catholic News Service after the briefing.

"We can hear and see a baby's heartbeat now at six weeks. There are blood tests to know a baby's gender at seven weeks. Now that's changed enormously over the course of the last few years," she said.

The annual march for Life events mark the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton, that legalized abortion.

The 2019 march follows encouraging news for the pro-life movement that abortions overall as well as the country's abortion rate continued to decline in 2015, according to data compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC determined that the abortion rate in 2015 -- the last year for which statistics are available -- is at 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44. The rate has dropped eight of the past nine years since 2006's rate of 15.9; the rate of 15.6 held steady in 2008.

The overall number of abortions also continued to slide. The 2015 number of reported abortions was 638,169, about one-fourth less than the 852,385 reported in 2006. It is down 2 percent from 2014's figure of 652,639.

The number of legal abortions in the United States peaked in the 1980s before beginning a slow but steady decline, interrupted only by the slight rise in, or holding steady of, numbers in the late 2000s.

Two days of events open with the annual March for Life conference and expo Jan. 17. A panel discussion during the conference will include Dr. Grazie Christie, a policy adviser for the Catholic Association; Dr. David Prentice, vice president and research director of the Charlotte Lozier Institute; Rick Smith, founder of Hope Story, a nonprofit organization that helps families with a Down Syndrome child; and Christine Accurso, executive director of Pro Women's Healthcare Centers.

In addition, popular commentator Ben Shapiro planned to bring his podcast to the march for live recording at 10 a.m. (EST) Jan. 18.

The main event, the March for Life Rally, is set for noon at 12th Street NW on the National Mall between Madison Drive and Jefferson Drive. Afterward, participants will gather for the official march on Constitution Avenue between 12th and 14th streets and make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The annual Rose Dinner closes the observance the evening after the march.

Details of events are online at http://marchforlife.org/mfl-2019/rally-march-info/.

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Prayer is a constant learning experience, pope says

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 9:06am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus' way of praying to his father throughout his life is a reminder for Christians that prayer is more than asking God for something but is a way of establishing an intimate relationship with him, Pope Francis said.

Prayer is a longing within one's soul that is "perhaps one of the most profound mysteries of the universe," the pope said Dec. 5 during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI audience hall.

"Even if we have perhaps been praying for so many years, we must always learn!" he said.

Beginning a new series of audience talks on the "Our Father," the pope reflected on the disciples' request to Jesus to teach them how to pray.

The Gospels, he said, offer "very vivid portraits of Jesus as a man of prayer" who, despite the urgency of his public ministry, often felt the need to withdraw into solitude and pray.

"In some pages of Scripture, it seems that it is first Jesus' prayer, his intimacy with the Father, that governs everything," the pope said.

This intimacy, he added, is evident in Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane where he experienced "real agony," yet was given the strength to continue along "the way toward the cross" where even in his final moments, he prayed the Psalms.

"Jesus prayed intensely in public moments, sharing the liturgy of his people, but he also looked for select places, separated from the whirlwind of the world, places that allowed him to descend into the secret of his soul," the pope said.

Pope Francis said that in teaching his disciples to pray, Jesus shows that he is not "possessive of his intimacy with the father" but rather came into the world "to introduce us into this intimacy."

However, he said, the first step in establishing this relationship with God through prayer is humility.

"The first step to pray is to be humble, to go to the father, to go to Our Lady and say, 'Look at me, I'm a sinner, I am weak, I am bad,'" the pope said. "Everyone knows what to say but it always begins with humility. The Lord listens; a humble prayer is always listened to by the Lord."

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Pope expresses condolences for death of former President Bush

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 8:18am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis expressed his condolences for the death of the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a telegram to the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, telling him the pope was "saddened to learn of the death" of the former president.

"Pope Francis offers heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his prayers to all the Bush family," he said in the telegram published by the Vatican Dec. 5.

"Commending President Bush's soul to the merciful love of almighty God, His Holiness invokes upon all who mourn his passing the divine blessings of strength and peace," Cardinal Parolin wrote.

Bush died Nov. 30, at the age of 94 at his home in Houston. He was to be honored with a state funeral in Washington Dec. 5.

 

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Women religious open Christmas season with German Catholic tradition

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 11:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Katie Rutter

By Katie Rutter

FERDINAND, Ind. (CNS) -- The sights and sounds of Christmas brightened the massive dome of the Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand as six Sisters of St. Benedict rang out "Silent Night" on hand bells.

The gentle chimes of the season soothed the hundreds of people who gathered at the foot of the Ferdinand monastery during the cold Nov. 16 night, while the German tradition launched the Christmas season in the Indiana hamlet.

The Benedictines were heralding the opening of the town's Christkindlmarkt, a weekend of vendors, concerts and Christmas cheer. The sisters have bolstered Ferdinand's tradition since the festivities began two decades ago.

"It's a town celebration and the sisters are very much an integral part of the town of Ferdinand," said Sister Rose Wildeman, the monastery coordinator and director of the hand-bell choir.

About 10,000 people -- more than four times the number of Ferdinand residents -- amassed into the small town for its Christkindlmarkt held Nov. 16-18.

The monastery -- its arched windows, turrets and towers seeming to come straight out of medieval Europe -- provided an appropriate backdrop for the weekend.

Ferdinand city officials founded Christkindlmarkt with the intent of transporting attendees to Old World Germany. The event mimics a celebration by the same name held in Nuremberg, Germany, since the 16th century.

"Ferdinand has so many German characteristics about it. It looks like little Bavaria as you come in over the hills," said Diane Hoppenjans, the executive director of Ferdinand Tourism and founder of the celebration.

"You see the church steeple in the center of the town and the village is kind of gathered around it and this huge beautiful monastery," Hoppenjans told Catholic News Service.

The German Catholic community was founded in 1840 by Father Joseph Kundek, a missionary priest from Croatia. The Benedictines, their founding community rooted in Eichstatt, Germany, arrived to teach the local children in 1867.

"I can't imagine Ferdinand without (the monastery) and without the nuns' influence," Hoppenjans said.

"I think it's because of the monastery that we were able to grow the way we did, the way the town did, and that also kind of kept us with that German tradition," she said.

For Christkindlmarkt, the sisters supplied their event hall as one of six locations where vendors set up booths filled with crafts and other items. The nuns also offered tours of their monastery and sold baked goods, including German-inspired desserts like "kuchen," which is a cinnamon or cranberry-topped cake, and springerle and almerle cookies.

"The springerle cookie is a traditional German cookie, it has a licorice flavor. We have molds that some of our sisters brought back in the 1920s," said Sister Jean Marie Ballard, the quality assurance manager for the religious order's bakery.

The evening of Nov. 16 -- the Friday before the events officially began -- the monastery also served as the focal point for Christkindlmarkt Eve. The highlight of the night, accented by the sisters' hand bells and local choirs, is the moment that "Christkindl" emerged from the monastery's doors.

Plainly translated "Christ Child" and, at one time, an imaginative portrayal of the Baby Jesus, the modern Christkindl is an angel who many European families still believe is the deliverer of gifts at Christmas.

Ferdinand's Christkindl is a close replica of the angel that opens the Nuremberg celebration. Dressed in a white, gold-trimmed gown and portrayed by Ferdinand native Hillary Cremeens, the Christkindl emerged from the monastery to the sound of trumpets and sang a welcoming message.

"Ye men and women folk, who once were children too, be child again today, and do rejoice when the Christ Child invites you all to see this market," she sang, reciting a translated version of Nuremberg's Christkindl message.

Following the angel's welcome, the crowds were invited into the monastery for a German dinner and to visit the sisters' table full of baked goods.

"The sisters are part of our community. They share in a lot of things, they're involved with the Chamber of Commerce, they're involved with this Christkindlmarkt event, they open their home and their hearts to everyone," said Kathy Tretter, a native and member of the committee that organizes Christkindlmarkt.

"This is their home, and their home is Ferdinand," she said.

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Cardinal tells COP24 climate needs present 'challenge of civilization'

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 10:06am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kacper Pempel, Reuters

By Jonathan Luxmoore

The Vatican challenged countries gathered for the 24th U.N. Climate Change Conference to focus on the needs of the present and the future as it worked to take swift action.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, addressed the conference, COP24, in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 3 and told participants, "We are standing before a challenge of civilization for the benefit of the common good."

"The Katowice meeting has the fundamental task of developing the Paris Agreement Work Program. This document should be a solid set of guidelines, rules and institutional mechanisms, aimed at facilitating a fair and efficient implementation of the agreement, particularly at the national level," the cardinal said, adding, "We are all aware how difficult this endeavor is."

"We know what we can do, and what we have to do becomes an ethical imperative," he told conference participants.

The cardinal said COP24's guidelines should have "a clear ethical foundation," including "advancing the dignity of the human person, alleviating poverty and promoting integral human development," with "transparent, efficient and dynamic" measures.

"It is still possible to limit global warming, but to do so will require a clear, forward-looking and strong political will to promote as quickly as possible the process of transitioning to a model of development that is free from those technologies and behaviors that influence the over-production of greenhouse gas emissions," Cardinal Parolin said.

Speaking at a Dec. 3 news conference, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said commitment to combat climate change was "felt in all religions," and he praised the "very positive position" of Pope Francis on the issue.

"If one is a believer and one believes the world is created by God, it must be terrible to see human beings destroying God's creation," Guterres added. "So, I think it's perfectly normal that a religion that believes in the work of the Creator is totally against the destruction of the work of the Creator by human beings."

Josianne Gauthier, secretary-general of the Brussels-based CIDSE, a network of Catholic development agencies in Europe and North America, said Cardinal Parolin's statement had "set the tone" by echoing the hopes of Catholic groups.

"Our main concern is that ambitions shouldn't now slow down or reverse, so we on the ground will be very much behind the Holy See delegation," she told Catholic News Service. "Church representatives are meeting people constantly, lobbying decision-makers, and encouraging governments and states to have the courage of their convictions and push the agenda forward."

"After this very positive beginning, we now need everyone to step up with the kind of commitments public opinion is demanding and vulnerable countries (are) urgently needing, helped by the church's moral leadership," said Gauthier, a Canadian Catholic.

She said CIDSE had joined other faith-based organizations in a Dec. 2 interreligious forum at Katowice's St. Stephen Church to coordinate a "generate input" to the conference, which runs until Dec. 14 and is expected to agree on implementation guidelines for a 1.5-degree Celsius limit on temperature increase, adopted under the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Churches and religious groups are to stage a Dec. 8 climate march and joint "day of reflection, celebration and commitment renewal" Dec. 9 in Katowice's Catholic cathedral, organized by the Katowice Archdiocese, CIDSE, Caritas Internationalis, Franciscans International and the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

"It's important now to keep public opinion mobilized through external events, so those involved show courage, feel supported in their work and interact with civil society, rather than taking policy decisions in a bubble," Gauthier told CNS Dec. 4.

At least 20,000 people from more than 190 countries are attending COP24, including government representatives, academics, business leaders and climate activists from around the world.

The Catholic Church in Poland, which has been criticized in news reports for relying for 80 percent of its energy on coal, circulated a special prayer for COP24 to all parishes and appealed to Catholics to offer spiritual support to climate change campaigners.

 

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At Advent, make peace, not war, pope says at morning Mass

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 9:33am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Advent season is a time of preparation for the coming of the prince of peace and not a time of making war with those around you, Pope Francis said.

As Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, they must also reflect on what they do in their daily lives to become "artisans of peace," the pope said in his homily Dec. 4 during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"What do I do to help peace in the world?" he asked. "Do I always make some excuse to go to war, to hate, to talk about others? That's warfare! Am I meek? Do I try to build bridges?"

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's reading from the prophet Isaiah in which he prophesies a time of peace after the coming of the Messiah.

"Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them," Isaiah writes.

Pope Francis said that while this vision of appears with a certain "rustic charm," the beautiful imagery encapsulates the power of Christ to bring about a peace that is capable of changing lives.

"Many times, we are not at peace, but rather anxious, without hope," he said. "We are used to looking at other people's souls, but you must look at your own soul."

Christians must also seek to build peace within the family because "there is so much sadness in families, many struggles, many small wars, so much disunity at times" and in the world.

"May the Lord prepare our hearts for the Christmas of the prince of peace" by preparing everyone to do their part: "to pacify my heart, my soul, pacify my family, school, neighborhood and workplace" and to become "men and women of peace," the pope said.


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Ethicist: Gene-editing human embryos 'a train wreck of a thing to do'

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 2:37pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The revelation in late November that a Chinese researcher had edited genes in human embryos and then implanted them in a woman was "a train wreck of a thing to do," said an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

"Normally clinical research proceeds in phases. First, you verify it works in animals, etc. Second, you verify that it's safe. In small things you verify it's effective," said John Brehany, the center's director of institutional relations. "He skipped all that stuff."

"He says, 'I practiced in animals and human embryos.' Even the Chinese officials are saying he violated their standards," Brehany told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 30 telephone interview from Philadelphia. "He said he didn't want to be first, he wanted to set an example, but he's toying with human health. He said he practiced on human embryos, so that means he probably destroyed them. He practiced in the context of experimentation."

Brehany was referring to He (pronounced "hay") Jiankui, who first revealed his efforts Nov. 26 during an international gene-editing conference in Hong Kong. He learned the gene-editing technique known as CRISPR while doing advanced research at Rice University in Texas. His partner from Rice may face sanctions from the U.S.-based National Institutes of Health depending on the depth of his involvement in the scheme.

"CRISPR" stands for "clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats." This is a specialized region of DNA having two distinct characteristics: the presence of nucleotide repeats and spacers.

Newsweek reported Dec. 3 that He has not been seen since participating at the International Summit on Human Genome Editing and may be under house arrest by Chinese authorities.

"The couples were offered free fertility treatment if they participated in this, and that's an unethical inducement," Brehany told CNS. "They might have been told it was a vaccine for AIDS," as the babies' father was HIV-positive, he added; He had said he sought to remove the gene that triggers HIV infection. "In other words, there are multiple, multiple ways this was a hash. It really was a hash."

Gene editing is nothing new, Brehany said. "There's a lot of gene editing that goes on in agriculture and in animals and there have bene some experiments and attempts that have gone on in humans, very carefully done, that have gone on since the 1990s," he added. "A lot of this has not been successful, in part because the human immune system tends to think that new genes that are introduced are foreign bodies."

Tomatoes and animals are one thing. Humans, though, are another.

"There have been a number of attempts at gene editing for things like cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia, a number of conditions that shorten people's life," Brehany said. "When you are introducing changes into somebody's body, they don't go any further. Either they don't go any further, or they die.

"If you introduce changes into a woman's eggs, or a man's sperm, or a human embryo within a very short period after conception, then those genes not only introduce genes into cells but into future generations, and that is both an opportunity in some respects, but it's also controversial for a couple of reasons. He set out to do just that. And again ... in a couple of countries they've approved this for a few things," Brehany said.

One country where some human gene editing is legal is the United Kingdom. It is illegal in the United States, and after the furor erupted at the Hong Kong conference, China said what He had done was illegal in China.

The Catholic Church's position is spelled out in the 2008 Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document "Instruction 'Dignitas Personae' ('The Dignity of a Person'): On Certain Bioethical Questions." The dignity of a person, the document says, "must be recognized in every human being from conception to natural death. This fundamental principle expresses a great 'yes' to human life and must be at the center of ethical reflection on biomedical research."

Other faults Brehany found with He's work included: practicing gene editing on other human embryos first; implanting twin embryos even though one of the twins did not carry the new trait, and may be "a patchwork of cells with various changes"; giving notice of his research only after he started; and having no experience running human research trials.

"On a normal day, in vitro fertilization already separates procreation from conjugal love," Brehany said. "It also introduces the option, and the temptation, of eugenics -- checking out embryos by sight or sophisticated analysis to learn which exhibit optimal health or traits. Those that don't measure up are routinely discarded."

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Editor's Note: The full text of "Instruction 'Dignitas Personae' ('The Dignity of a Person'): On Certain Bioethical Questions" can be found at https://bit.ly/1ry3mL5.

 

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Pope leads prayers for peace in 'tormented' Syria

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 9:34am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Giuseppe Lami, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Leading thousands of pilgrims in prayer, Pope Francis lit a candle in remembrance of the people of Syria, especially innocent children tormented by the country's eight-year conflict.

"May this flame of hope and many flames of hope dispel the darkness of war," he said Dec. 2 after praying the Angelus prayer.

The lighting of the candle was part of a Christmas campaign sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need to call attention to the plight of the Syrian people, especially Christians who are "in grave danger of becoming a relic of the past."

The campaign officially was launched with the candle lighting. According to Aid to the Church in Need, an estimated 50,000 children from different Christian communities in six war-torn cities of the country -- Damascus, Homs, Marmarita, Aleppo, Hassake, Tartous and Latakia -- lit candles for peace.

"Before the beginning of the war, Christians accounted for some 10 percent of the population, around 2.5 million people," the organization said on its website. "As of today, it is estimated that approximately only 700,000 remain, which would amount to between 3 and 4 percent of the population -- although it is difficult to give precise figures at this stage."

Aid to the Church in Need also said it plans to finance emergency assistance programs in Syria valued at 15 million euros ($17 million).

Pope Francis called on the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray so that Christians may remain in Syria and the Middle East as "witnesses of mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation."

He also prayed that the flame of hope would reach those suffering around the world due to conflicts and that the hearts of those who profit from war would change.

"May God, our Lord, forgive those who wage war and those who make weapons ... and convert their hearts," he said. "Let us pray for peace in beloved Syria."

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Advent is time of vigilance and prayer, pope says

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 9:28am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Giuseppe Lami, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians can turn Christmas into a "pagan" or "mundane" holiday by focusing on the gifts and the tree rather than on the birth of Jesus and his promise to come again, Pope Francis said.

Celebrating the beginning of Advent Dec. 2 with the recitation of the Angelus prayer and at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae the next day, the pope focused on the attitudes of vigilance and prayer that should characterize the Advent season and preparations for Christmas.

"If we think of Christmas in a consumeristic climate, looking at what we can buy to do this or that, as a mundane holiday, then Jesus will pass by and we will not find him," the pope said before reciting the Angelus with an estimated 20,000 people in St. Peter's Square.

In the day's Gospel reading from the 21st chapter of Luke, Jesus tells his disciples to be careful that their hearts "not become drowsy," but to "be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man" at the end of time.

"Be vigilant and pray -- this is how to live this time from today until Christmas," the pope said.

The drowsy heart described in the Gospel, he said, is a condition that comes from focusing exclusively on oneself, "one's problems, joys and pains," continually circling back around one's own life.

"This is tiring, boring and closes off hope," he said, while "Advent calls us to make a commitment to watchfulness, looking outside ourselves, expanding our minds and hearts to open them to the needs of people, of our brothers and sisters, and to the desire for a new world."

The new world Christ promised is the desire of "so many people martyred by hunger, injustice and war; it is the desire of the poor, the weak, the abandoned," he said.

Advent, he said, "is the opportune time to open our hearts and to ask ourselves concrete questions about how we spend our lives and for whom."

Christians must hold fast to their identity, including at Christmas, by keeping the focus on Jesus and fighting the temptation to "paganize" the Christian feast, he said at the Angelus.

Returning to the theme at Mass Dec. 3, Pope Francis said Christians do well to remember they are not celebrating "the birth of the Christmas tree," which is a "beautiful sign," but the birth of Jesus.

"The Lord is born, the redeemer who came to save us is born," the pope said. Of course, Christmas is a celebration, but "there is always the danger, the temptation to banalize Christmas," to stop focusing on Jesus and get caught up in "shopping, gifts and this and that."

Advent, he said, is a time to purify one's focus, remembering that Jesus came into the world to save people from sin, that each person will stand before him at the end of his or her life and that Jesus will come again.

 

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Nation mourns death of 41st president, recalls his life of public service

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 12:55pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rick Wilking, Reuters

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When he was running for re-election in 1992, President George H.W. Bush told Catholic News Service that he believed that a strong religious faith could provide "an extra shot of strength when you need it."

"I don't believe you can be president without having faith. I really strongly feel that,'' Bush said in a telephone interview that October as he flew en route from a campaign appearance in Kentucky to scheduled stops in Florida.

That religious faith that sustained him and his family and was clearly evident during his years in the White House and more recently as he mourned the April 17 death of his beloved wife of 73 years, Barbara, is being noted by many in paying tribute to his life and legacy after his death late Nov. 30 at age 94.

His spokesman, Jim McGrath, announced the death of the former president in a tweet. The cause of his death was not immediately available, but he had been in failing health the last few years. In 2012, he announced that he had vascular Parkinsonism, a condition that limited his mobility and required him to use a wheelchair most of the time.

The White House announced Dec. 1 that a state funeral is being arranged "with all of the accompanying support and honors." President Donald Trump will designate Dec. 5 as a national day of mourning. He and first lady Melania Trump will attend the funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington. The flags at the White House were lowered to half staff.

"Notre Dame joins with our nation and world in mourning the passing of President Bush," said Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the Catholic university in South Bend, Indiana. "He was the epitome of a public servant, not just in the Oval Office, but in his eight years as vice president, his many years as a congressman, ambassador and CIA director, and in his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

"We were fortunate to host him at Notre Dame on five occasions, and in each instance, the honor was ours," said Father Jenkins said in a Dec. 1 statement. "Our prayers are with the Bush family."

Bush received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Notre Dame in 1992; he had visited the campus more than any other U.S. president.

Holy Cross Father Edward A. Malloy was Notre Dame's president from 1987 to 2005 and presented the honorary degree to Bush during commencement ceremonies that year. He also worked on two of the president's major initiatives -- his Drug Advisory Council and his Points of Light Foundation.

"I found him to be a leader deeply committed to the country he had been elected to serve, a gracious host and a down-to-earth person," Father Malloy said in a statement. "He recognized the importance of American higher education and he sought to enhance it. He also sought to promote a culture of citizen engagement with the great issues of the day."

The National Right to Life Committee, a federation of state right-to-life affiliates and more than 3,000 local chapters, also mourned Bush's death and praised him for a number of pro-life measures he supported as president.

It cited among other actions his administration urging the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to pass laws to protect unborn children. He used "the power of his veto to stop 10 bills that contained pro-abortion provisions, including four appropriations bills which allowed for taxpayer funding of abortion," NRLC said in a statement.

"President George H.W. Bush dedicated his administration to advancing pro-life policies to protect mothers and their unborn children," said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. "He used his presidency to stop enactment of pro-abortion laws and promote life-affirming solutions. Our prayers today are with former President George W. Bush and the entire Bush family."

While in office, Bush stated that the "protection of innocent human life -- in or out of the womb -- is certainly the most compelling interest that a state can advance," she added.

With regard to capital punishment, Bush differed with the Catholic Church's opposition to the death penalty, telling CNS that he supported it "in certain instances because I think if somebody murders a police officer that that person ought to pay with his life.''

Bush was criticized by Catholic and other faith leaders as well as peace activists for his decision to go to war in the Persian Gulf after then-Iraq President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

Some months before the U.S.-led war began Aug. 2, 1990, St. John Paul II pleaded for peace in the Gulf. "May leaders be convinced that war is an adventure with no return,'' he said. "By reasoning, patience and dialogue with respect to the inalienable rights of peoples and nations, it is possible to identify and travel the paths of understanding and peace."

Attending the funeral of the pope in 2005, then-former President Bush recalled for reporters how the pontiff had opposed the war, which ended Feb. 28, 1991, citing what he called the pope's "standard position on the use of force" and his concerns about "the long length of the war." One news account said Bush "lamented the fact that he (himself) never engaged in a discussion about the concept of a 'just war.'"

During his pontificate, St. John Paul met with Bush twice at the Vatican, first when Bush was vice president and then when he was president.

"I had the opportunity to express my profound gratitude to the Holy Father for his spiritual and moral leadership,'' Bush said in a statement after the two leaders met privately for more than an hour Nov. 8, 1991.

"His message for peace and the message that he sends across the world to all these countries'' experiencing war and other hardships "is a message of hope and, indeed, a message of peace,'' the president said.

Born in Milton, Massachusetts, June 12, 1924, Bush delayed entrance to Yale University to volunteer for service in World War II. At 18. he was one of the Navy's youngest pilots. He was shot down during a 1944 bombing mission.

After graduating from Yale, he became an oilman in Texas, but after his stint in the oil fields, he spent most of the rest of his life in public service -- including as a two-term congressman from Texas, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, an ambassador, vice president under President Ronald Reagan (1980-1988) and finally president (1988-1992).

He and Barbara married Jan. 6, 1945. As a young couple they suffered through the death from leukemia of daughter Robin at age 3. Throughout their lives they and their whole family mourned her loss. Bush is survived by son George W., the nation's 43rd president, and four other children; 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren; and two siblings.

"We are guided by faith," Bush said of his wife and family in that 1992 interview with CNS. "We (are) regular attendees at church and that gives us strength every Sunday. And we just feel that it's important as a family to pray together. We still say our blessings at our meals and we still say our prayers at night.''
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Carol Zimmermann contributed to this story.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

In response to global warming, the idea of personal sacrifice resurfaces

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 12:08pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/George Frey

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A major scientific report by 13 federal agencies that concludes that climate change poses dire economic consequences to the United States and already is affecting the well being of people serves as a warning that demands action to protect the earth, Catholics working on environmental concerns said.

Personal response can encompass the simple or the complex, but some action is required of everyone if the consequences foreseen in the 1,656-page report are to be avoided, they told Catholic News Service.

"We really have to wake up and get serious about tackling this issue, particularly reducing our energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant. "We need to realize if we don't get really serious about this soon our children and grandchildren will seriously suffer."

The congressionally mandated Fourth National Climate Assessment, released Nov. 23 by the White House, projects that climate change will cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars a year by 2090. It points to worsening health, reduced farm production, stressed natural areas, lost work and classroom hours, and widespread destruction of coastal and inland property if carbon emissions are not reined in.

Elderly and poor people, children and minority communities are the most vulnerable, said the report, which was developed by more than 200 scientists and environmental experts from the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments, national laboratories, universities, research institutions and the private sector.

President Donald Trump dismissed the assessment, saying simply, "No, no, I don't believe it," in response to a reporter's question about the projected economic impact of global warming. He claimed Nov. 26, without citing evidence, the U.S. air and water are "the cleanest we've ever been and that's very important to me."

Trump's response falls in line with a series of policy changes during his administration. New regulations and laws in at least 49 areas related to the environment -- from vehicle mileage standards to emissions from coal-fired power plants -- have been enacted or proposed since 2017, according to Harvard Law School's Environmental Regulation Rollback Tracker.

The massive federal report is a scientific assessment built on the findings of years of research and therefore does not offer policy solutions. It outlines regional impact in 10 regions of the country. Its 29 chapters cover topic such as human health, water, forests, transportation and land use.

"Earth's climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities," the report said. "The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future -- but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledged the challenges posed by climate change in a 2001 statement, "Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue Prudence and the Common Good."

The statement noted that climate change "is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures," but rather "about the future of God's creation and the one human family ... about the human stewardship of God's creation and our responsibility to those who come after us."

Some solutions are already known, said Marianist Sister Leanne Jablonski, a biologist who directs the Marianist Environmental Education Center in Dayton, Ohio. They include reducing waste, consuming less and keeping in mind the needs of others, she said.

"We have a long tradition as Catholics of responding in active mercy," she explained, citing multitudes of soup kitchens, the work of charitable agencies and the millions of dollars raised to aid people harmed by natural disasters. The climate requires similar response, she said, because things will only get worse if personal responsibility is ignored as global temperatures continue to rise.

After reviewing the report, Sister Jablonski and others contacted by CNS found themselves returning to Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home." They said the encyclical offers guidelines for Catholic action and reflection.

The encyclical -- as well as the government's report -- serves to remind the human family that the focus is not what's best for an individual or one country, but what's best for the entire planet, said Father Michael Lasky, a Conventual Franciscan who serves as director of Justice, Peace and Care for Creation Ministry for the order's Our Lady of Angels Province based in Ellicott City, Maryland.

He and others suggested that people keep in mind the Catholic tradition of sacrifice for the common good in their response to the consequences of a warming planet.

"The message in a nutshell is it's not that I'm rich and they are poor, it's that because I'm rich they're poor. That includes our planet. So the sacrifice comes in the sense of interconnectedness that is cited in this report as well as 'Laudato Si',' being integral as the reason for the sacrifice," he told CNS.

"We are brother and sister to one another. In that context, don't you sacrifice for the one you love, especially if the one you love is hurting? That means we have to live differently. We have to do a radical shift," Father Lasky said.

Laura Anderko, professor of nursing and health studies and Georgetown University, said people are beginning to see how a changing climate is affecting human life through warmer temperatures that affect people with asthma, more destructive wildfires and hurricanes that dump more water on coastal communities.

Greater incidents of illnesses known to result from the effects of high temperatures are being seen by health care professionals, said Anderko, who also is director of the Mid-Atlantic Center of Children's Health and the Environment.

"Even a few years ago people were not as receptive to seeing the connection, but these days they are," she said of rising incidences of asthma and other lung-related illnesses.

Anderko, too, pointed to the pope's encyclical as a guide for Catholics.

"I would encourage folks to reread 'Laudato Si','" she told CNS. "This report underscores what the pope said, with more scientific data, and we really need to be encouraged to not be fooled by those 30-second sound bites."

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Editor's Note: The Fourth National Climate Assessment can be found online at www.globalchange.gov. The USCCB statement on climate change is online at https://bit.ly/1LS26KN.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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