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Updated: 38 min 41 sec ago

Thousands join Hong Kong vigil commemorating Tiananmen massacre

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 11:23am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyrone Siu, Reuters

By

HONG KONG (CNS) -- Tens of thousands of people commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre at a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong's Victoria Park.

The gathering June 4 attracted 180,000 people, according to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the organizer of the event. It was largest gathering of people in Hong Kong since the 2014 sit-in street protests known as the Umbrella Revolution, ucanews.com reported.

However, police said, 37,000 people attended the vigil.

As a special administrative region, Hong Kong is the only place in China were the massacre can be commemorated.

People filled the park plus neighboring roads to remember the bloody crackdown against the pro-democracy student-led movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square June 4, 1989.

The number of people killed has been estimated to be in the hundreds or thousands. British files declassified in 2017 said a Chinese official told the United Kingdom ambassador to China at the time that at least 10,000 people had been killed.

Prior to the candlelight vigil, more than 1,000 Catholics joined a prayer service at the park during which Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing of Hong Kong reflected on the importance of why such terrible events should be commemorated.

"I found that the Beijing students 30 years ago showed us the beauty of humanity in their lives. They believed there is light in the darkness, hope in the hopeless. They believed nonviolence will overcome violence," Bishop Ha said.

The bishop also reminded the faithful that Hong Kong is at a critical moment regarding a controversial extradition law amendment.

Another speaker at the prayer service, Jacky Liu, who was born in 1989, said he was enlightened about the massacre 10 years ago when he was a university student.

"When I watched a video about June 4, I was moved by those people in Beijing who rescued the victims. It was just like how Christ shows his mercy," said Liu, a former Catholic student movement leader.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired bishop of Hong Kong, and 10 priests blessed those attending the prayer service.

"We can follow the footsteps of the Beijing students and become witnesses, prophets," Cardinal Zen said before the blessing.

For Gabriel Miu, 16, it was the second time he had joined the June 4 prayer service and candlelight vigil.

"I join these events because the Chinese Communist Party has to take responsibility for the massacre," Miu said. "Also, we have been facing CCP oppression in Hong Kong in recent years. By attending, I am opposing this."

Lina Chan, secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Diocese, believed many people joined the event because of concern about Hong Kong's political situation, especially in relation to the extradition law amendment.

"The extradition law amendment makes us worry that the 'one country, two systems' will collapse," Chan told ucanews.com.

The Hong Kong government has proposed an amendment to the extradition ordinance that would allow the government to send fugitives to China and Taiwan to be tried on a case-by-case basis. If it is passed, any fugitive from the law who sets foot in Hong Kong could be tried and imprisoned on the mainland if a request is made and Hong Kong consents.

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Editors: The original story can be found at www.ucanews.com/news/large-hong-kong-turnout-for-tiananmen-massacre-commemorations/85350.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Vatican names Filipino boy who died at 17 Servant of God

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 12:32pm

IMAGE: CNS/Tyler Orsburn

By

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- A Filipino teenager who died could be on his way to sainthood after the Vatican declared him a Servant of God, the first step in the process toward sainthood.

The Congregation for Saints' Causes gave the Diocese of Cubao, Philippines, the green light to look into the life of Darwin Ramos who died in 2012 at the age 17.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the congregation's prefect, made the declaration in March, but it was only made public in Manila May 31, ucanews.com reported.

"The Vatican has given us the go signal to go deeper into his life, how he lived his faith and how he gave witness to Jesus to whom he was very close," Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao said.

The bishop said the Vatican declaration reminded Catholics that "we are invited to give witness to our faith in concrete ways."

The prelate started the process for the beatification of Ramos at the request of the Friends of Darwin Ramos Association.

The process for sainthood starts with the examination of a candidate's life. A person can only be beatified upon verification of a miracle attributed to his or her intercession. Other steps toward sainthood are declarations of Venerable, followed by beatification and finally canonization.

Ramos' friends have praised his devotion to his faith even as he battled Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease characterized by muscle weakness.

"Darwin is an example of holiness. Being a street child, afflicted with myopathy, he is closely united with Christ in his suffering and joy," Bishop Ongtioco said.

Ramos was born in 1994 in the slums of Pasay City on the outskirts of Manila. At the age of 12, he volunteered to help street children through the foundation "Tulay ng Kabataan" or Bridge of Children.

After he discovered his faith, he was baptized and confirmed and received his first Communion in 2007.

Even as his physical condition deteriorated, Ramos became an inspiration to the staff and children at a center operated by the foundation.

Bishop Ongtioco said Ramos developed a "deep personal relationship with Christ," taking time every day to pray and entrust himself to God.

In 2012, Ramos' condition worsened, but even in the hospital, he maintained his friendly attitude and thanked everyone for helping him.

He died at the Philippine Children's Medical Center in Quezon City Sept. 23, 2012.

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Editors: The original story can be found at www.ucanews.com/news/vatican-names-filipino-boy-servant-of-god/85336.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Laity not playing 'gotcha' with bishops on abuse, review board chair says

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 12:22pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The path to rebuilding the U.S. church's credibility as it emerges from the lingering clergy sexual abuse scandal rests in embracing the role of laypeople as important collaborators, said the chairman of the National Review Board.

Francesco Cesareo told Catholic News Service June 3 that laypeople want transparency and openness from the bishops and the sooner the prelates put aside their guardedness about welcoming laity as partners, the sooner the U.S. church will heal.

"I think the problem is that they perceive that it's this 'gotcha' mentality that (the laity) are after. What we're really trying to do is find what's wrong," Cesareo said.

Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continued to develop a series of policies in early June as they hone their response to clergy abuse. They will consider and vote on several proposals at their spring general assembly June 11-14 in Baltimore.

The new policies are expected to be refinements of proposals they originally had hoped to adopt at their fall general assembly in November. They put them aside at the request of the Vatican hours before they convened.

Vatican officials sought the delay, citing Pope Francis' desire first to meet with the heads of bishops' conferences from around the world in February to discuss the church's response to the crisis.

The proposals then included the establishment of a third-party confidential reporting system for claims of any abuse by bishops; instruction to the U.S. bishops' canonical affairs committee to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were moved or resigned because of allegations of abuse of minors or adults; and initiating the development of a code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual misconduct with a minor or adult or "negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases."

Cesareo said he hoped that during the intervening months, the U.S. bishops have developed "concrete action items" that will signal how serious they are in addressing clergy abuse and ensuring accountability and transparency.

"I'm hoping that they will be bold enough to include in a very meaningful way laypeople in whatever they will be deciding," he said. "My biggest concern is that it's going to end up being bishops overseeing bishops and if that's the case it's going to be very difficult for the laity to feel any sense of confidence that anything has truly changed."

The proposals being developed recently circulated among members of the all-lay National Review Board and, Cesareo said, each member individually offered comments and observations. While declining to discuss the specifics of the proposals because they were confidential, Cesareo said he offered wide-ranging and "hopefully constructive" responses.

Cesareo has long pushed the bishops to welcome lay involvement in the process of rebuilding church credibility. As review board chairman, he has been frank with the bishops in conversations about the steps he sees as necessary for the church to right itself.

In recent addresses to the bishops, Cesareo has focused on the need to overcome complacency in some dioceses in adhering to the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." He is on the agenda to address the spring general assembly and is expected to again focus in part on complacency.

Cesareo also cited "recurring concerns that speak to the issue of complacency" in a letter that was included in the recently released 2018 annual report that detailed diocesan compliance with the charter.

Specifically he noted: failure by dioceses to publish abuse reporting procedures in all the languages in which Mass is celebrated; poor recordkeeping of background checks; failure to train or do background checks of clergy, employees or volunteers who work with children; a high percentage of children not being trained, especially those in religious education programs; and lack of a formal monitoring plan for priests who have been removed from ministry.

"While not widespread, the fact that in some dioceses these recurring problems are still evident points to lack of diligence that puts children's safety at risk," he wrote to the bishops.

In his interview with CNS, Cesareo credited "a few bishops" for stepping up and showing "leadership and courage" as they worked to address the fallout from the resurgence of the abuse crisis during the last year.

"They have been more transparent and open to accountability," he said while not naming who he had in mind. "We have to hope that the entire episcopal body embraces that kind of courage."

Still, much work remains, he said, pointing to the recent release of extracts from correspondence of Msgr. Anthony J. Figueiredo, secretary to former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, who faced restrictions from Pope Benedict XVI on public ministry that were not formal sanctions and were not strictly enforced.

Cesareo called for the U.S. bishops to release the information diocesan files hold on abusive priests and others once and for all.

"How many times is it going to be this slow removal of the Band-Aid that only makes the wound worse?" he asked. "If they can just confront that and say, 'We're going to be open and honest and accountable.' We can't wait for another major crisis again."

Cesareo also cautioned the bishops about defending the limits of their response and implementation of policies because of restrictions imposed by canon law.

"Obviously at the end of the day, it's the Holy See and pope who can discipline (a bishop), I understand that," Cesareo told CNS. "But using canon law as the reason something can't be done, the bishops are letting themselves really use canon law as a wall."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

'Conquer bitterness with sacrificial love,' bishop tells Virginians

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 3:46pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Deborah Cox, The Catholic Virginian

By Brian T. Olszewski

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (CNS) -- Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond celebrated Masses at St. Gregory the Great and St. John the Apostle churches in Virginia Beach June 2, two days after 12 people were killed in the city's Municipal Center.

One victim, Kate Nixon, was a member of St. Gregory the Great; another, Mary Lou Gayle, was a member of St. John the Apostle.

"After tragedy and sudden loss, we often have many unanswered, and even unanswerable questions," the bishop said during his homily. "This leads to anxiety and maybe even depression or despair. How can one move forward with so much loss?"

He noted that the ordination of five priests for the diocese the previous day and the feast of the Ascension that Sunday were to be occasions of joy and thanksgiving, but "there seems little for us to celebrate."

"All we can feel is a sadness in our hearts, and for those for whom the loss is closer, and its sting, so much greater," Bishop Knestout said. "There is the mixture of emotion: grief, anger, anxiety or maybe even, understandably, bitterness and rage at the injustice of it."

He continued, "How could such horrific things keep happening? And why did it happen this way -- why do the young and innocent so senselessly and shockingly have their lives taken from them? What could the feast of the Ascension possibly provide for us in these circumstances?"

Drawing upon the readings for the feast of the Ascension, Bishop Knestout noted that during their "time of uncertainty, confusion and loss," the apostles kept their feet "firmly on the ground" and "their eyes fixed on the prize of heaven." That, he said, allowed them to persevere, despite bitterness, anger and despair.

Bishop Knestout said the killings on May 31 "require us to assess our values and hopes."

"Where do we stand now, where do we place our trust and where do we long to be?" he said.

The bishop said that, like the apostles, the faithful need to keep their feet on the ground, while keeping "their eyes fixed on heaven and the glory that awaits." He added that all should "seek to live a life of charity."

"To me this is the best way to confront situations of tragic loss and evil violence," he said. "Don't let it conquer us in bitterness and anger, but conquer it with self-giving, sacrificial love."

Bishop Knestout concluded by reiterating the words of St. Paul to the Ephesians from that day's second reading (1:18-19): "May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might: which he worked in Christ."

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Olszewski is editor of The Catholic Virginian, newspaper of the Diocese of Richmond.

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Pope says he's strengthened, encouraged by talks with Benedict XVI

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 3:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM ROMANIA (CNS) -- Pope Francis said that he continues to visit retired Pope Benedict XVI, 92, who is like a grandfather who continues to encourage him and give him strength.

"I take his hand and let him speak. He speaks little, at his own pace, but with the same profoundness as always. Benedict's problem are his knees, not his mind. He has a great lucidity," the pope told journalists June 2 on his return flight from Romania. The pope spent about 35 minutes with reporters on the short flight, answering five questions.

When asked about his relationship with this predecessor, the pope said his conversations with Pope Benedict make him stronger and he compared the knowledge he receives from his predecessor as the sap "from the roots that help me to go forward.

"When I hear him speak, I become strong," he explained. "I feel this tradition of the church. The tradition of the church is not a museum. No, tradition is like the roots that give you the sap in order to grow. You won't become the root; you will grow and bear fruit and the seed will be root for others."

Recalling a quote by Austrian composer Gustav Mahler, the pope said that tradition "is the guarantee of the future and not the custodian of ashes."

"The tradition of the church is always in motion," he said. "The nostalgia of the 'integralists' is to return to the ashes," but that is not Catholic tradition; tradition is "the roots that guarantee the tree grows, blossoms and bears fruit."

Referring to his remarks in Romania about unity and fraternity, the pope was asked about growing divisions within the European Union.

Unity on the continent is a task for every European country, he said. "If Europe does not guard well against future challenges, Europe will wither away," he warned. While cultural differences must be respected, Europeans must not give in "to pessimism or ideologies."

Pope Francis also was asked about an event in the Romanian Orthodox Cathedral in Bucharest June 1 and how it appeared that many people at the gathering did not join in reciting the Lord's Prayer.

Where there is tension or conflict, the pope said, Christians must have "a relationship with an outstretched hand."

"We must go forward together," he said, "always keeping in mind that ecumenism isn't about arriving at the end of the game. Ecumenism means walking together, praying together, an ecumenism of prayer."

Christians also share "an ecumenism of blood, an ecumenism of witness and what I call 'an ecumenism of the poor' -- working together to help the sick, those who are on the margins."

Pope Francis said that that Chapter 25 of St. Matthew's Gospel -- where Jesus says those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and prisoners do the same for him -- "is a good ecumenical program."

"It is possible! It is possible to walk together in unity, fraternity, hand outstretched, thinking well of each other, not speaking ill of others," he said. Every church has those opposed to Christian unity, who call others "schismatics."

"We all have defects but if we walk together, we leave the defects aside," the pope said. "Let the old bachelors criticize."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Update: Freedom, mercy are lasting legacy of martyred bishops, pope says

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 10:01am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

BLAJ, Romania (CNS) -- The memory and witness of Romania's martyred bishops are a reminder that Christians are called to stand firm against ideologies that seek to stifle and suppress their cultural and religious traditions, Pope Francis said.

On the last leg of his visit to Romania, the pope June 2 celebrated a Divine Liturgy during which seven Eastern-rite Catholic bishops, who died during a fierce anti-religious campaign waged by the communist regime in Romania, were beatified.

"These pastors, martyrs for the faith, re-appropriated and handed down to the Romanian people a precious legacy that we can sum up in two words: freedom and mercy," the pope said.

According to the Vatican, an estimated 60,000 people filled Blaj's Liberty Field, while some 20,000 people followed the liturgy on big screens set up in various squares around the city.

For Eastern Catholics in Romania, the field -- located on the grounds of Blaj's Greek Catholic Theological Seminary -- is both a symbol of national pride and sorrow.

It was in Liberty Field where, during the 100th anniversary of the Romanian nationalist revolution that communist authorities formerly dissolved the Eastern-rite Romanian Catholic Church.

One of the newly beatified bishops, Bishop Ioan Suciu, the apostolic administrator of Fagaras and Alba Iulia, refused to appear at the event, which was perceived by his flock as a sign that they were called to remain steadfast in their faith and follow the path of persecution and martyrdom.

Thirty years after the fall of communism, the sun shined brightly and solemn hymns echoed over the field that was once the site of the Eastern Catholic Church's darkest
period.

Men, women and children, many dressed in traditional outfits, held up images of the seven martyred bishops who gave their lives defending their faith: Bishop Suciu; Auxiliary Bishop Vasile Aftenie of Fagaras and Alba Iulia; Bishop Valeriu Traian Frentiu of Oradea Mare; Auxiliary Bishop Tit Liviu Chinezu of Fagaras and Alba Iulia; Bishop Ioan Balan of Lugoj; Bishop Alexandru Rusu of Maramures and Bishop Iuliu Hossu of Gherla, who had been named a cardinal by St. Paul VI "in pectore" or in his heart, withholding publication of his name until 1973.

In his homily, the pope remembered the sufferings of Eastern-rite Catholics who were forced to "endure a way of thinking and acting that showed contempt for others and led to the expulsion and killing of the defenseless and the silencing of dissenting voices."

The martyred bishops left a "spiritual patrimony" for future generations demonstrated by their "exemplary faith and love for their people," the pope said. Their faith, he added, was matched only by their willingness to suffer martyrdom "without showing hatred toward their persecutors and indeed responding to them with great meekness."

"The mercy they showed to their tormentors is a prophetic message, for it invites everyone today to conquer anger and resentment by love and forgiveness, and to live the Christian faith with consistency and courage," the pope said.

However, Pope Francis warned that even today there are new ideologies that "attempt to assert themselves and to uproot our peoples from their richest cultural and religious traditions."

"Forms of ideological colonization that devalue the person, life, marriage and the family, and above all, with alienating proposals as atheistic as those of the past, harm our young people and children, leaving them without roots from which they can grow."

Like the newly beatified bishops, he added, Catholics are called to bring the light of the Gospel to others and resist those ideologies rising in the world.

"May you be witnesses of freedom and mercy, allowing fraternity and dialogue to prevail over divisions, and fostering the fraternity of blood that arose in the period of suffering, when Christians, historically divided, drew closer and more united to one another," the pope said.

On his final stop before departing for Rome, Pope Francis visited members of the Roma community living in the neighborhood of Barbu Lautaru. According to the Vatican, a newly erected church and pastoral center were built to assist the Roma community to fully integrated within the social fabric of the city of Blaj.

"In the church of Christ, there is room for everyone," the pope told members of the community, "otherwise it would not be the church of Christ."

The pope told the Roma community that his heart was heavy due to "the many experiences of discrimination, segregation and mistreatment experienced by your communities," inflicted upon them, including by members of the Catholic Church.

He asked forgiveness to them "for those times in history when we have discriminated, mistreated or looked askance at you" instead of defending them in their "uniqueness."

Waiting for the pope Razaila Vasile Dorin, a 16-year-old, told reporters, "We are proud he is coming here in our community -- a person like the pope! I don't know what to say. It's a great honor."

Asked about discrimination, Dorin, speaking English, said, "In every country there is racism. When we go out everyone looks, 'Look, look, a Roma, a Gypsy.'" But, he said, the Roma are "proud to be Gypsies."

"Whenever anyone is left behind, the human family cannot move forward. Deep down, we are not Christians, and not even good human beings, unless we are able to see the person before his or her actions, before our own judgments and prejudices," the pope said.

According to the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica, a 2011 census estimated that there are more than 620,000 Roma people in Romania. However, the figure may not reflect the actual numbers because many do not declare their ethnicity out of fear of discrimination.

Despite the trials they have endured, the pope encouraged them to not go down the path of vengeance and instead to choose the "way of Jesus" which brings peace and can heal the wounds of injustice.

"May we not let ourselves be dragged along by the hurts we nurse within us; let there be no room for anger. For one evil never corrects another evil, no vendetta ever satisfies an injustice, no resentment is ever good for the heart and no rejection will ever bring us closer to others," he said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Leave divisions behind, embrace fellowship, pope says at Marian shrine

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 6:27am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

MIERCUREA CIUC, Romania (CNS) -- At a Marian shrine in the heart of Transylvania, Pope Francis called on Romania's Catholics to leave resentments behind and to embark on a journey of unity.

Celebrating Mass June 1 at the Sumuleu Ciuc shrine, an important place of pilgrimage for Romanians and for Catholics from across the border in Hungary, the pope called on the faithful to ask God "for the grace to change past and present resentments and mistrust into new opportunities for friendship."

"Complicated and sorrow-filled situations from the past must not be forgotten or denied, yet neither must they be an obstacle or an excuse standing in the way of our desire to live together as brothers and sisters," he said.

Due to severe rain and fog, the pope's originally scheduled landing at an airport in Bacau and subsequent helicopter ride to the shrine was cancelled. Instead, his plane landed at Transylvania Airport in Targu Mures and he was driven by car to Sumuleu Ciuc.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims wearing colorful raincoats, surrounded by green pine forests clouded by mist, waited for the pope outside the shrine. Rain, mud and fog did little to dampen their spirits as they sang and waved happily awaiting the pope's arrival.

Among the pilgrims at the Mass were Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila and Hungarian President Janos Ader, who attended "as a simple pilgrim," the Vatican said.

The dense fog blanketing the trees reminded some foreign visitors of Transylvania's reputation as the home of Count Dracula, but for Catholics in Romania and Hungary the region is more about the shrine and the Catholic faith.

Although the shrine was built in the early 1800s, the annual pilgrimage to its location dates to 1567 when a Hungarian ruler tried to force Catholics to convert to Protestantism. They resisted, holding to the belief that they were protected by Mary in defeating the prince's troops.

The statue of Our Lady of Csiksomlyo, the Hungarian name for Sumuleu Ciuc, stands in a nearby Franciscan Catholic Church. It shows Mary standing on the moon, holding an infant Jesus and a scepter. In 1798, a local bishop declared the statue "miraculous" and crowned it. The Vatican has not recognized any miracle related to it, however.

Devotion to Mary has surged since communism fell in 1989, with an annual Pentecost Saturday pilgrimage attracting hundreds of thousands from Transylvania and beyond, including Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine.

In his homily, the pope said the annual pilgrimage -- attended by both Catholics and non-Catholics -- is not only part of Transylvania's heritage that honors Romanian and Hungarian religious traditions but also "a symbol of dialogue, unity and fraternity."

"To go on pilgrimage is to realize that we are in a way returning home as a people, a people whose wealth is seen its myriad faces, cultures, languages and traditions," he said.

Recalling the theme of his visit -- "Journeying together" -- Pope Francis said that going on pilgrimage means "daring to discover and communicate the 'mystique' of living together and not being afraid to mingle, to embrace and to support one another."

"To go on pilgrimage is to participate in that somewhat chaotic sea of people that can give us a genuine experience of fraternity, to be part of a caravan that can together, in solidarity, create history," he added.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

New diocese, old problems: Bishop takes stock of Venezuelan see's needs

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 4:45pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Bishop Jose Manuel Romero Barrios spent the first anniversary of the Diocese of El Tigre, Venezuela, of which he is its founding bishop, not in the diocese but in the United States to meet with American Catholic leaders, both lay and ordained, and to meet with Venezuelans who have migrated to the U.S. -- some of whom have fled their homeland's economic and political chaos.

"One example: In the last two days, the line for gas has increased. The times have increased. One week, stop at the same spot waiting for gas," Bishop Romero said. "And this is a rich country."

Bishop Romero spoke with Catholic News Service May 30 during a visit to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. His remarks were interpreted by Father Juan Puigbo, a Venezuelan-born priest now ministering in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, and for whom Bishop Romero was his seminary rector in Spain.

"To his benefit, he's a native of the area. So he knows the situation," Father Puigbo said. "He's close enough to understand the reality of the people."

Bishop Romero cited a national consultation of Venezuelan Catholics conducted from 2000 to 2006 by the nation's bishops that gave them the tools to deal with the country's current situation. It was "an opportunity to get together and share the common mission of what the church should be in Venezuela," he said.

He is a member of the Venezuelan bishops' youth and young adult commission, tasked with demonstrating "the commitment of the church to young people," Bishop Romero said. Catechesis, he added, "is now taking on a family dimension, rather than just teaching the kids for confirmation or first Communion."

El Tigre had been one of seven deaneries of the Diocese of Barcelona, Venezuela. The new diocese has about 450,000 residents, 300,000 of whom are Catholic, according to Bishop Romero, who had been a Barcelona auxiliary bishop before the El Tigre Diocese was created.

However, the new see has some catching up to do. There are just two Catholic schools, 14 parishes and one vicariate run by nuns, and only eight priests -- five of them belonging to religious orders.

"El Tigre has been visited three times by the Vatican's nuncio to Venezuela: one in 2014, before it was a diocese; last year, when the diocese was created; and then two days ago," Bishop Romero told CNS. "He said, 'You already have people. Now you need priests!'"

El Tigre has been dependent on the oil and tourism industries. Now both are a mess.

"People work in the oil company cannot go to work because there is no gasoline. There is no water, there is no tires, there is no gas," Bishop Romero explained. "Many factories and companies have closed because they had contracts with the oil company, which is owned by the government. Then the government didn't pay, so they had to go out of business."

Tourism has suffered "totally," the bishop added. "There is no tourism now. There is no structure to support it. With no oil, there is no transportation, there is no gas, there is no power, there is no water." Should anyone want to vacation there, "there are only four airlines flying into Caracas," the capital, Bishop Romero said.

The U.S. State Deptartment issued a new travel advisory April 9 on Venezuela. "Do not travel to Venezuela due to crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, kidnapping, and arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens," it said.

The travel advisory didn't even get into the political turmoil pitting sitting president Nicolas Maduro, who has grown unpopular among Venezelans, against U.S.-backed Juan Guaido, who declared himself acting president in January and whose late-April bid to assert power sputtered to a halt when expected military defections did not take place.

"They can't break each other in this fight," Bishop Romero said. "It is good they find the strong leader in Guaido," whom he said "gets" the work of the bishops' youth and young adult commission.

"The government is giving away the food every two weeks for getting people's support of the government," Bishop Romero said. "The people are grateful for the government to feed them. This is a way for the government to control people."

But "the Chavista mold" -- a reference to Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez, "is no longer in place, no longer supported by the people," Bishop Romero said.

Even if that is so, that has not stopped saber-rattling from Washington during the ongoing strife. "We don't want a war. But there are 20,000 Cubans in active military service in Venezuela," Bishop Romero said. "We've also lost 4 million people from Venezuela," ticking off name after name of other countries in Latin America to which they've immigrated.

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

 

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Pope urges Romanian leaders to care for country's poor, disadvantaged

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 8:19am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

BUCHAREST, Romania (CNS) -- Pope Francis told Romanian leaders a country's success is measured by how it treats and cares for its most vulnerable citizens, especially the poor and disadvantaged.

The path to building an inclusive society is one where every person is seen as a brother or sister and "where the weak, the poor and the least are no longer seen as undesirables that keep the 'machine' from functioning," the pope told civil authorities and diplomats May 31, the first day of his visit to Romania.

"Only to the extent that a society is concerned for its most disadvantaged members, can it be considered truly civil," he said.

The pope had been welcomed at Henri Coanda International Airport in Otopeni, 10 miles north of the center of Bucharest, by President Klaus Iohannis and his wife, Carmen Iohannis, as well as the country's bishops.

Hundreds of well-wishers cheered and waved flags bearing the blue, yellow and red colors of Romania as well as the yellow and white colors of Vatican City State.

Thousands more lined the streets of Bucharest to welcome the papal motorcade as Pope Francis made his way to Cotroceni Palace, the presidential palace, where he met privately with President Iohannis.

Signing the palace guestbook, the pope wrote: "May God bless the Romanian people and may they walk united in peace and prosperity under the maternal gaze of the Virgin Mary."

The pope was then greeted by Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila before making his speech to the country's civil authorities and members of the diplomatic corps.

Thirty years after the fall of communist control of the country, the pope reflected on the path toward democracy "from a regime that oppressed civil and religious liberty, isolated the nation from other European countries and led to the stagnation of its economy and the exhaustion of its creative powers."

Nevertheless, the pope said, Romania still faces challenges, especially "the several million people who have had to leave their homes and country in order to seek new opportunities for employment and a dignified existence."

"I pay homage to the sacrifices endured by so many sons and daughters of Romania who, by their culture, their distinctive identity and their industriousness, have enriched those countries to which they have emigrated and by the fruit of their hard work have helped their families who have remained at home," he said.

Emphasizing the need for "heart and soul" to confront the challenges, Pope Francis said that the Christian churches can help promote political and social actions that places human dignity and the common good above all.

The Catholic Church, he said, hopes to "contribute to the building up of a society and of civil and spiritual life in your beautiful land of Romania."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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New Hampshire Catholic officials laud state's death penalty ban

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 4:50pm

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- On May 30, New Hampshire lawmakers garnered enough votes to abolish the death penalty in the state, overriding a veto from Gov. Chris Sununu and becoming the 21st state to ban capital punishment.

Bishop Peter A. Libasci of Manchester thanked lawmakers shortly after the vote in a statement issued on the New Hampshire diocese's website.  

"As good citizens, we must not look upon this vote as a victory, for that would dishonor the grief of those whose lives have been tragically altered by the crimes committed against their loved ones and society in general," he said.

"Instead, we need to stand together as a citizenry and live by what we said when we spoke of human dignity, incarceration that rehabilitates, especially in cases of life without possibility of parole," Bishop Libasci said. "Being part of a society that is committed to dealing with the ills that lead to the decomposition of personhood and the evil crime of murder is the work of a noble people who uphold the sacredness of human life."

Though the New Hampshire Legislature had passed the bill repealing capital punishment in mid-April, the governor in early May vetoed the bill, but legislators in the state garnered enough votes to override the veto.

"Today's repeal is a major step toward building a culture that unconditionally protects the dignity of life and is yet more evidence that the death penalty is falling out of favor with the American public," said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, a Washington-based organization that works to end the use of the death penalty.

"Along with death penalty abolition comes the opportunity to create more restorative responses to incidents of harm," she said in a May 30 statement following the announcement of the repeal. "Today, we especially hold in prayer all murder victims and their family members and ask for their continued healing."

The organization referred to efforts by Catholics in New Hampshire to support the measure that abolished the death penalty.

"In New Hampshire, Catholics played key roles to advance H.B. 455," the organization's statement said in referring to the bill. It also noted Bishop Libasci's "written testimony in support of the bill, where he labeled capital punishment 'a faulty response' to crime and urged legislators to 'repeal the death penalty and devote more resources to providing services to (families of murder victims) so we may offer a true path of support and healing.'"

Though the governor who vetoed the bill is a Republican, a group called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, pointed out the bipartisan effort in overriding the veto and spoke of support among conservatives to abolish capital punishment.

"Ending New Hampshire's death penalty would not have been possible without significant Republican support. Increasing numbers of GOP state lawmakers believe capital punishment does not align with their conservative values of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and valuing life. The state of New Hampshire will be much better off because of it," Hannah Cox, the group's national manager, said in a statement.

Without a single vote to spare, four Republicans voted with 12 Democrats to override the veto 16-8.

 

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