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Pentecost is celebration of unity in diversity, pope says

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 7:06am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Holy Spirit continues to give Christians different gifts and to call them to share those gifts with each other in a community marked by forgiveness and "unity in diversity," Pope Francis said on Pentecost.

"In a way both creative and unexpected," the pope said, the Holy Spirit "generates diversity, for in every age he causes new and varied charisms to blossom. Then he brings about unity: he joins together, gathers and restores harmony."

With tens of thousands of Catholic charismatics from around the world and with dozens of Pentecostal and evangelical leaders present, Pope Francis celebrated Pentecost Mass June 4 in St. Peter's Square and concluded a five-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Catholic charismatic renewal.

In his homily at the Mass, the pope said Christians can block the unity in diversity desired by the Holy Spirit by focusing on their differences rather than on what they share.

"This happens when we want to separate, when we take sides and form parties, when we adopt rigid and airtight positions, when we become locked into our own ideas and ways of doing things, perhaps even thinking that we are better than others," he said.

"When this happens," the pope said, "we choose the part over the whole, belonging to this or that group before belonging to the church" and taking pride in being "Christians of the 'right' or the 'left' before being on the side of Jesus."

The other temptation, he said, is to seek unity without tolerating diversity. "Here, unity becomes uniformity, where everyone has to do everything together and in the same way, always thinking alike."

When the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost, he said, the first gift the Spirit brought was forgiveness for their sins and the grace to forgive others.

"Here we see the beginning of the church, the glue that holds us together, the cement that binds the bricks of the house: forgiveness," he said.

Forgiveness "preserves unity despite everything, prevents collapse and consolidates and strengthens," he said. "Forgiveness sets our hearts free and enables us to start afresh."

Pope Francis began his Pentecost celebrations at an ecumenical vigil June 3 with some 50,000 Catholic charismatics and Pentecostals from more than 125 countries gathered for praise and worship at the site of the ancient Roman Circus Maximus.

Although less exuberantly, the pope, too, sang with his hands cupped open or with his hands raised. He stood between Michelle Moran, president of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, and Patti Mansfield, who was present when the Catholic charismatic renewal was born. In February 1967 Mansfield was one of the Duquesne University students, who experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit during a retreat.

The charismatic renewal is "a current of grace," Pope Francis told the crowd at the Circus Maximus. "It is a work that was born -- Catholic? No. It was born ecumenical," with similar results in many denominations and with Pentecostals providing support and education to new Catholic charismatics.

"It was born ecumenical because it is the Holy Spirit who creates unity," the pope said. The Holy Spirit drew Catholics and Pentecostals together to profess that Jesus is Lord and "to proclaim together the Father's love for all his children."

In ancient Rome, Pope Francis said, Christians were martyred in the Circus Maximus "for the entertainment of those watching." He urged the crowd to remember how many Christians are being killed for their faith today and to recognize that their murderers are not asking them their denomination, just whether or not they are Christian.

If those who want to kill Christians believe they are one, he said, it is urgent that Christians be "united by the work of the Holy Spirit in prayer and in action on behalf of those who are weaker."

"Walk together. Work together. Love each other," Pope Francis told them.

Being baptized in the Spirit and knowing how to praise God, he said, "are not enough" if Christians don't also help those in need.

An Italian Pentecostal pastor, Giovanni Traettino, a friend of Pope Francis' since they met at an ecumenical charismatic gathering in Buenos Aires in 2006, told the crowd that as Christians grow in their love for God, they should simultaneously grow in love for one another.

"The movement of the Holy Spirit, also known as the Pentecostal movement, has in its DNA -- its life in the Holy Spirit -- the vocation to build Christian unity," he said.

Pentecostals and Catholic charismatics have not always gotten along, Traettino said. But "the election of Pope Francis clearly opened a new season, especially in relations with us."

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, offered a reflection also focusing on the ecumenical vocation of the charismatic renewal.

How many of the divisions among Christians "have been due to the desire to make a name for ourselves or for our own church more than for God," he asked. "A renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit will not be possible without a collective movement of repentance on the part of all Christians."

Tens of thousands of people gathered for hours of song and prayer before the pope arrived. As Rome's summer sun beat down on the pilgrims, Elaine Pollard and Sandra Mobley from Holy Cross parish in Brooklyn, New York, found space in the shade under one of the few trees on the edge of the crowd. They had traveled to Rome with group of 88 people.

Both women are lifelong Catholics who discovered the charismatic renewal in 1989. Pollard said she has stayed with it "because my whole life changed. The first night I went I wasn't impressed." That was a Saturday and when she went to work on Monday, "I started to hum one of the songs and my heart just broke open, like living water" flowing forth. "It changed my whole life."

As she spoke to Catholic News Service, the choir on stage started singing, "10,000 Reasons," a song of praise. Pollard started to cry.

"We were singing this song when my husband died" 15 months ago, she said. He was in the hospital, dying, and her adopted daughter started singing it. Other relatives, who couldn't be there in person, were connected by Skype and they were singing it, too, as he passed away.

It is still difficult, she said, but "he wanted me to come and be here."

Kaye and George Balsam and Terry Mroz from St. Gabriel the Archangel parish in McKinney, Texas, were at the Circus Maximus as part of a 130-person pilgrimage that visited the Holy Land before arriving in Rome for the Pentecost celebrations.

The trip was George's first with charismatics and he was enthused. "This is what we need to reinvent the church," he said. Getting people excited about the faith is what is needed if "we want the church to get straightened out and stop losing people," he said.

Mroz said, "We receive baptism as babies and then we're confirmed," but so many people experience the sacraments only as "ritual" and are unaware of the power the sacraments hold. The charismatic renewal "reawakens those gifts you received at baptism and confirmation. Until you get the Holy Spirit, you don't get this reawakening. That's what it is -- a reawakening of the gifts given you before."

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Contributing to this story was Carol Glatz.

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Bishops: Senate health care bill must respect life, be 'truly affordable'

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 3:52pm


WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Members of the U.S. Senate "have a grave obligation" to make sure their health care reform bill respects life, provides access to adequate health care "for all" and is "truly affordable," the chairmen of four U.S. bishops' committees said in a letter to senators released June 2.

As the Senate takes up health care reform, it "must act decisively to remove the harmful proposals from the House bill that will affect low-income people -- including immigrants -- as well as add vital conscience protections, or begin reform efforts anew," the chairmen said, reiterating key moral principles they urged be in the U.S. House bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.

By a four-vote margin May 4, the House passed the American Health Care Act to replace the Obama administration's health care law.

Senate Republicans have been urged to pass health care legislation before the congressional recess at the end of July.

After House passage of its measure, the U.S. bishops "noted the positive aspects" of the bill, including "critical life protections" for the unborn, the letter said, but the measure "contains many serious flaws" the Senate must act to change, it added.

The letter, dated June 1, was signed by New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice Chairman and Human Development; and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration.

"Most troubling are unacceptable changes to Medicaid that reports indicate will leave millions of additional people uninsured in the years ahead," the letter said.

"The Catholic Church remains committed to ensuring the fundamental right to medical care, a right which is in keeping with the God-given dignity of every person, and the corresponding obligation as a country to provide for this right," it continued. "Health care debates must not be reduced to only those elements which appear most politically expedient; those without a strong voice in the process must not bear the brunt of attempts to cut costs."

The letter said the U.S. bishops "stand ready to work with Congress" to address problems with the current health care law "in ways that protect the most vulnerable among us."

It also stressed that health care is "much more than mere insurance" and should provide incentives for preventative care, early intervention and even encourage people to enter medical professions which foster relationships between doctors and patients.

The bishops' letter to the Senate reiterated many of the points raised in a March 8 letter to House members that said any repeal of the previous health care legislation shouldn't move forward without a replacement plan. They also urged that such a plan should show respect for life, offer access for all, be truly affordable and offer comprehensive and high quality coverage.

"No health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion," the bishops wrote, adding that long-standing Hyde Amendment protections must be included in any health care plan and that federal resources should not be used to "assist consumers in the purchase of health care plans that cover abortion."

The bishops said that if the Senate uses the American Health Care Act as its starting point, they should "retain the positive elements of the bill and remedy its grave deficiencies." The bishops suggested the new plan keep protections for the unborn; ensure affordable and adequate coverage for all stages of life; and increase the level of tax assistance, especially for low-income and older people, in the measure's tax credit proposal.

They also said a new plan should oppose significant penalties, which the poor cannot afford, for gaps in coverage and add conscience protections.

The letter urged senators to recognize their "grave obligation" to come up with a fair health care plan. It included a quote from Pope Francis about health care saying: "When a sick person is not placed at the center and considered in their dignity, attitudes arise which can even lead to profiteering on other people's misfortunes. The growing health poverty among the poorest segments of the population is due precisely to the difficulty of access to care."

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A Jesuit chaplain shepherds Congress' divided flock

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 12:31pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rhina Guidos

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In his youth, Jesuit Father Patrick J. Conroy pictured himself as a lawyer and a senator, working in the deep recesses of Washington's U.S. Capitol building. In a way, he's doing just that but not in the way he imagined.

"I'm not in the Senate, I'm in the House," he said inside the Capitol, where his law degree from St. Louis University is perched on the wall of his spacious office, along with a lifetime of memories that include a photo of him blessing Pope Francis during his visit to Congress, and one of him next to the Dalai Lama, as well as souvenirs from the American Indian reservation in Washington state where he once offered his legal services. Photos with students from his 10-year campus ministry stint at Georgetown University also are sprinkled throughout.

While the dreams of his youth, becoming a lawyer and working at the Capitol, have been fulfilled, he didn't initially expect them to come true while wearing an all-black outfit and a Roman collar. In the halls of Congress, just as in the halls of high schools and other places where the Jesuit has worked, he's known as Father Pat and he entered, not as a congressman or senator, but as the 60th chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives May 25, 2011.

How did he get there?

"There's a few answers to that question," said Father Conroy, who loves to tell a story.

"The religious answer that I give ' it was an answer to prayer," he said.

"Something political would come on the radio, I would turn into an angry, argumentative ' I'd be screaming at the radio and get totally upset, totally upset," he repeated for emphasis. "And after a while, I'm by myself, I'd say 'I have no serenity in the area of politics ' I can't do anything about it but I'm all upset about it, and that's not helping me and that's not helping politics any.' So, I started to pray for serenity, and well, I end up in the one job in the United States where I absolutely have to abstain from politics."

The other, and more simple, explanation is that the House speaker at that time, John Boehner, was looking for a chaplain and wanted a Jesuit for the spot. Father Daniel Coughlin, the first Catholic to occupy the position, was looking to retire from the post in 2010 and Boehner had been in talks with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a fellow Catholic, about finding a Jesuit they could both support.

Father Conroy was then working with ninth-graders in Portland, Oregon, yelling at the news on his car radio, as he frequently did, when a Jesuit superior asked to meet with him. He told him about Speaker Boehner's request.

"The Jesuits didn't come looking for this job, for this position, but it was a natural," he told Catholic News Service. "It's in our DNA, and sure, if having a Jesuit would be of assistance to the men and women of Congress and the work that they're doing, by all means."

Jesuits, he explained, were once spiritual directors and sometimes advisers to princes and kings in Europe, so it's not an unusual role.

"Our modus operandi is to want to be engaged in the world and engaged in a way that we can influence the most good for the most people," he said.

With his background as a lawyer and having lived in Washington during previous posts, Father Conroy, who also holds several degrees in theology, seemed like a natural fit.

As the House chaplain, he is responsible for offering a prayer at the beginning of each day when Congress is in session. The nondenominational prayer in the House chamber is broadcast live on and on C-Span. It's also archived in the Congressional Record and is part of the official rules of the House to get the day started.

When the weather is nice and he gets to work early, he said, he sometimes goes to the balcony of the U.S. Capitol for morning prayer. While overlooking the monuments and iconic buildings that line the National Mall along Pennsylvania Avenue, he occasionally asks: "Why am I here?"

The answer?

"Well, I'm here to pray for the president and I'm here to pray for the members of Congress, the leaders, and so I do a litany that I pray for and ask God to bless them," and that means leaving personal political views out of it, he said.

"Most of the people that are acquaintances or friends with me here (at the Capitol) are people that I wouldn't be friends with otherwise, or I wouldn't hang around with otherwise, or I would only know politically and be inclined not to like, or not to take an interest in," he said, but because of the unique nature of his job, "I realize that those relationships are more important than my engaging in a political argument or discussion that I was accustomed to doing with my radio."

Instead, he listens to the concerns of his unusual spiritual flock and in some cases, he helps politicians discern.

"I think it's why the chaplain's office is important, there's that person in this place, who can actually be honest and actually be human, not political, because everything else here is political, everything," he told CNS.

And that can get ugly.

"It's not attractive to watch law being made, debated, being argued about and all that stuff, it's just not attractive," he said.

Sometimes, as was the case during the heated debate that took place in early May, after the House voted to repeal and replace chunks of the Affordable Care Act, he tries to inject humor. 

When the Democrats started singing, "Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye" to Republicans who voted to repeal the health care act (implying they would lose their next election), he told those who were angry at the Democrats' singing: "Oh, c'mon ' they're singing to you!" as he was passing by.

"A guy laughed," he remembered. "They're people, too, and I try to either be neutral or make light of stuff."

He still has opinions about politics but he's laser-focused on his role to help all members of Congress without paying attention to political stripes.

"I can think anything I want," he said. "But I can't say it. Some people say, 'You're there, why don't you say prophetic things?' If I did, a week from now, there would be a different person here and nothing would have changed."

At 66, he now realizes that he didn't give up any dreams when he joined the Society of Jesus in 1973.

"It's fascinating to me that God remembered my bucket list," he said. "I mean, I'm not in the Senate, I'm in the House, but, you know, when I joined the Jesuits, I thought, well, that's the end of that," meaning giving up politics and law school.

"There's only one thing left that I'd really like to do," he said, "to be in a feature-length motion picture. I was a drama guy."

When reminded that there's still time, he answered: "Oh, I know. Well, heck, I'm on TV, I'm on C-Span."

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Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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As school year ends, pope tells students: Don't fear goodbyes, unknown

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 11:30am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Life is a long series of hellos and goodbyes, so don't be afraid to let go of the past; remember old friends, but keep moving and be open to the new, Pope Francis told students as the school year was coming to an end.

"We have to learn to see life by seeing the horizons," not the walls that can make people afraid because they don't know what is on the other side, he told thousands of adolescents during a 45-minute encounter at the Vatican June 2. The middle-schoolers were part of Communion and Liberation's "The Knights of the Grail" educational initiative.

In the informal Q-and-A, a teen named Marta told the pope how scared she was to be leaving middle school and most of her best friends as they head on to high school next year. "Why do I have to change everything? Why does growing up make me so afraid?" she asked him.

"Life is a constant 'Good morning' and 'Farewell,'" he said, with the goodbyes sometimes being for forever.

"You grow by encountering and by taking your leave," he said. "If you don't learn to say goodbye well, you will never learn how to encounter new people."

This moment of change in life is "a challenge," he said, but "in life we have to get used to this journey of leaving something behind and encountering something new."

Noting that Marta had used the word "afraid" a number of times in her question, the pope said the risk that comes with the challenge is that fear will render a person immobile, "too serene" and unable to grow.

Those who give up, settle down and say, "Enough," close off the horizons that are out there waiting for them and do not grow.

"Look at that wall? What's behind it?" he asked the girl. "I don't know," she said.

"But if you go outside, to the countryside, what do you see?" he asked. "I see everything," she replied.

"Everything! You see the horizon," the pope said. "We have to learn to see life by looking at the horizons" that are always open, always lying ahead, by meeting new people and having new experiences.

Instead of framing the future with terms like "fear" or "afraid," he added, try "using the word 'a challenge' more" and remembering, "I will win this challenge or I will let this challenge defeat me."

"Look at the wall and think about the horizon that lies in the countryside," he said. The more a person journeys toward the horizon, the farther, longer and wider that horizon becomes.

Remember to call and visit old friends, he said, "but live and journey with the new ones."

When asked how kids their age could change the world when it has so many problems, the pope told them they have to begin with the people and situations in their daily lives.

Think of what happens to a person's hand when sharing a piece of candy, for example: It's open and moves toward the other person, the pope said. Now think of what happens when a person wants to keep that candy for himself or herself: The hand closes up tight and moves away from the other.

One's heart has to be like the hand that is responding in a positive, generous way, not the negative, self-centered approach, he said.

"You can begin to change the world with an open heart," the pope said, and by listening to others, welcoming others and sharing things.

Pray for everyone, including one's enemies and "those who make you suffer," he said, "Never return evil with evil."

Don't bad-mouth, insult or wish bad things would happen to others, he said. "That's how you can change the world. There is no magic wand, but there are little things we can learn to do every day."

Pope Francis suggested that the kids meet up to openly discuss the right and the wrong ways to respond to the many difficulties or choices that have to make each day.

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Safeguarding creation is religious obligation, Vatican officials say

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 9:57am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians and Muslims, believers in one God, have an obligation to safeguard the world God created, said the Vatican's annual message to Muslims for the end of Ramadan.

"Our vocation to be guardians of God's handiwork is not optional, nor is it tangential to our religious commitment as Christians and Muslims: It is an essential part of it," said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Dated May 19, the message was released at the Vatican June 2, the day after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing the United States from the international Paris accords, which are designed to lessen the human impact on climate change.

Each year, the council for interreligious dialogue publishes a message to the world's Muslims in preparation for the celebration of the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting. This year Ramadan ends June 24.

The pontifical council chooses a theme annually to promote dialogue by "offering insights on current and pressing issues." The theme chosen for 2017 was "Caring for Our Common Home," which echoes Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si'."

"As believers, our relationship with God should be increasingly shown in the way we relate to the world around us," Cardinal Tauran and Bishop Ayuso wrote.

Pope Francis' encyclical, they noted, was addressed "to the whole of humanity" and drew attention "to the harm our lifestyles and decisions are causing to the environment, to ourselves and to our fellow human beings."

"What is needed," they said, "is education, spiritual openness and a 'global ecological conversion' to adequately address this challenge."

The encyclical's reference to the earth as a "'common home,' a dwelling for all the members of the human family," they said, means that "no one person, nation or people can impose exclusively their understanding of our planet."

Without getting specific, the message spoke of "certain philosophical, religious and cultural perspectives that present obstacles which threaten humanity's relationship with nature."

The message repeated Pope Francis' call for "a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet ', since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affects us all."

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Church leaders welcome leaked HHS draft lifting contraceptive mandate

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 4:34pm

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A leaked draft rule from the Department of Health and Human Services exempting religious groups from the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act was welcomed by church officials and attorneys representing the Little Sisters of the Poor, one of the groups that challenged the mandate at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said in a June 1 statement that the leaked draft has "yet to be formally issued and will require close study upon publication," but it provides encouraging news.

"Relief like this is years overdue and would be most welcomed," he said.

The archbishop noted that if the ruling is issued it would "lift the government-imposed burden on our ministries to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions." 

He also said the draft of the HHS regulations reflects common sense and a long-held practice of the federal government to provide strong conscience protection in the area of health care.

"Better late than never," said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel with Becket, the law firm representing the Little Sisters of the Poor. "At long last the United States government acknowledges that people can get contraceptives without forcing nuns to provide them. That is sensible, fair and in keeping with the Supreme Court's order and the president's promise to the Little Sisters and other religious groups serving the poor."

The 125-page document leaked to the press May 31 -- and under final review by the White House Office of Management and Budget -- details objections to the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employers cover contraceptives in their employee health plans despite their moral objections to such coverage.

It would leave in place the religious accommodation created by President Barack Obama's administration for nonprofit religious entities such as church-run colleges and social service agencies that are morally opposed to contraceptive coverage and can file a form or notify HHS that they will not provide it. The draft rule also would broaden this exemption to cover employers with religious or moral objections to providing coverage for some abortifacients. The new rule also makes it clear that insurers may issue separate policies to women whose employers are exempt from the mandate.

The draft rule says it is attempting to "better balance the interests in preventive services coverage to the extent imposed through the ACA along with the interests throughout federal law to protect individuals and organizations with religious beliefs and moral convictions."

It points out that the final rules are effective on an unnamed date and that written comments on these final rules will be invited and must be received 60 days after the rule is published in the federal register.

The communications office at HHS did not respond to a Catholic News Service June 1 request for comment.

Before signing an executive order on religious freedom May 4 at a White House ceremony, President Donald Trump told some of the Little Sisters of the Poor in the crowd: "Your long ordeal will soon be over."

Last year the Supreme Court sent the cases including the Little Sisters' back to the lower courts, expressed hope that both sides might be able to work out a compromise. The ruling cleared the slate from their previous court rulings where five appeals courts had ruled in favor of the contraceptive mandate and one ruled against it.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who met with the president just prior to the ceremony where he signed the executive order, said the order "begins the process of alleviating the serious burden of the HHS mandate," but he also stressed that the U.S. bishops will "have to review the details of any regulatory proposals."

Since the HHS rule was leaked May 31, a number of organizations announced that they will fight it in court.

The Becket statement also noted more work will need to be done if the HHS rule goes into effect, pointing out that "further legal action will still be necessary to wrap up the challenges to the prior version of the mandate."

Archbishop Lori similarly noted that the U.S. bishops "look forward to the final version of the regulations with hope that they will remain strong."

"At that time, we will analyze those regulations more carefully and comment on them more formally," he said, stressing that the church's goal is to "protect both the conscience of individuals and our mission of sharing the Gospel and serving the poor and vulnerable through our ministries."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

Maryland priest hopes summer convocation sparks missionary renewal

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 1:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Colleen Dulle

WESTMINSTER, Md. (CNS) -- For Father Mark Bialek, being a priest means enabling his parishioners to evangelize in new ways.

"We can't just sit comfortably anymore in our parishes and our chanceries and in our homes, but we have to actually go to where the sheep are," Father Bialek said, comparing the church to a flock.

Father Bialek will attend the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America," a national gathering in Orlando, Florida, from July 1-4, to learn about evangelization and share ideas with other Catholic leaders.

The invitation-only convocation aims to equip attendees with strategies and best practices for preaching the Gospel in a way that reaches today's culture. It is based on Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel.")

Father Bialek told Catholic News Service he has high hopes for the convocation.

"I think it's going to be a time of renewal where we go from maintenance to mission," Father Bialek said. "It's no longer business as usual within our parishes and within our dioceses. We have to respond to the call of the Gospel in our own day and in our own age and find a way of proclaiming the Gospel in a way that people hear."

In his 11 years as a priest in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Father Bialek said he has learned that it's important to be vulnerable and courageous and continually to evaluate his parish's work as a missionary vehicle.

He hopes to share this knowledge with the other participants at the convocation.

"Pope Francis said that he wants pastors that have the smell of the sheep, so I'm hoping that I'd be able to bring the experience of working in the parish, ministering every day," Father Bialek said.

The convocation will include several sessions dedicated to healing the wounds left by the clergy sex abuse scandal that gained international attention in 2002.

Healing these wounds has always been part of Father Bialek's ministry: He was entering the seminary just as the revelations began to come out.

"I think it was a very unsettling time where there seemed to be more questions than answers. There was a lot of anger that was coming, too, from all directions," he said. "To understand where those emotions were coming from, to understand the experiences that some people had unfortunately gone through, the hurt and pain that people had experienced, there was no getting away from it."

The priest said it gave him hope to see that even as the scandal continued to be uncovered in different cities, men continued to come to the seminary.

"I think the discussion was, how can we bring healing and comfort to those who have been affected and be agents of change within our ministry? And we kind of realized that this was going to take a lifetime," Father Bialek said.

He said it comforted him to think of the priests who had impacted him positively when he was young, like Father David Leary, who had talked with Father Bialek and the other altar servers about the faith and his different ministries.

"As I grew up and as I got more involved in the life of the parish, I wanted to be more like Father Dave," Father Bialek said.

Now, Father Bialek wants to provide that same kind of nurturing environment in his own parish.

"I truly feel a mission and a call to be a witness of joy, to proclaim the Gospel and to make sure the parish is an environment where all are protected, where dignity is upheld from the youngest to the most seasoned parishioner," Father Bialek said.

He said Pope Francis is leading a renewal in how the public views the church.

Since the pope's election in 2013, Father Bialek said he has seen more people returning to Mass and the sacraments, a change he attributes to Pope Francis' example.

"I think that if we can just get a glimpse, a glimmer, just a spark from his apostolic ministry and we can translate that back to our own dioceses and our own parishes, I think the church is going to be alive and well," Father Bialek said.

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Don't be overly harsh on youth; they have much to give, pope says

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 12:54pm

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Young people often are judged too easily, even though with their limitations they are still a much needed and valuable part of the world, Pope Francis said.

Do not forget how God often chose the smallest, because proclaiming the Gospel "is not based on the greatness of human strength, but rather on the willingness to let oneself be guided by the gift of the Spirit," he said June 1.

The pope was speaking to members, consultants and others who took part in the Congregation for Clergy's plenary assembly, which was held at the Vatican May 30-June 1.

The assembly discussed the importance of priests who are the living presence of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who dwells among his people and possesses a welcoming and compassionate heart, Cardinal Beniamino Stella, congregation prefect, told the pope in his opening remarks.

Young priests in particular need special attention and accompaniment by their bishops, fellow priests and church communities because "the risk of spreading oneself too thin, exhaustion or seeking refuge in spiritual worldliness is high" in today's culture of indifference, individualism and secularism, the cardinal said.

Pope Francis said he wanted to tell the world's young priests, "You have been chosen; you are dear to the Lord!"

And, he said, God always watches over his children and will guide their steps.

"In his eyes, you are important and he has faith that you will be up to the mission he has called you to," Pope Francis continued, adding that bishops and priests must also emphasize the same message with young clergy.

Young priests are not just replacements "to fill empty posts," the pope said. "Never fill these posts with people who have not been called by the Lord. Don't take them from just anywhere."

Always examine the "authenticity" of each individual's vocation, he said, making sure a young man isn't just "seeking refuge."

"Receiving priests solely because we need them, my dear brother bishops, this is an encumbrance for the church," he said.

The pope also appealed to bishops to never let their priests feel cut off from them. When a bishop learns a priest wants to talk or meet, but the bishop's schedule is overbooked, he should call that day, that night or, at most, early the next day to talk and see how urgent the matter is, the pope said.

"The important thing is that that priest feels he has a father, a father who is near," he said. "You cannot govern a diocese without closeness, you cannot help a priest grow and be holy without the paternal closeness of the bishop."

Keeping fresh the enthusiasm, joy and proper kind of fear in young priests is critical for ensuring they do not become paralyzed by problems and worry, Pope Francis said, and for helping prevent their falling into the temptation of "rigidity," giving up or getting lost.

"One has to admit that often young people are judged a bit too superficially and they are labeled too easily as a 'wishy-washy' generation, lacking passion and ideals. Certainly, there are young people who are fragile, disoriented or infected by the culture of consumerism and individualism," he said.

"But this must not keep us from recognizing that youth are able to firmly take a chance in life and generously throw their hat into the ring," he said.

Their focus on the future is a good antidote to the resignation and hopelessness in society, the pope said. They are creative, imaginative and courageous when it comes to change, and they generously give of themselves for others and for ideals like justice and peace.

"With all of their limitations, they are always a resource," he said.

The pope asked young priests to always pray, always be journeying and always share God's tenderness with others.

Young priests have a great opportunity to reach out to their lay peers, "not as just another friend," he said, but as someone who really knows how to share, listen and guide.

"Young people do not need an expert in the sacred or a hero who, from on high and the outside, answers their questions," the pope said. "Rather, they are attracted to those who know how to sincerely be interested in their life, being by their side with respect and listening to them with love. It's about having a heart overflowing with passion and compassion, especially toward young people."

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Bishops urge Trump to honor Paris climate pact to protect the planet

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 12:07pm


WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The United States has an obligation to honor the Paris climate agreement to protect "our people and our planet" and "mitigate the worst impacts of climate change," said the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops "is on record supporting prudent action to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change," Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, said in a June 1 statement.

Pope Francis' encyclical letter "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home" was timed, he said, "to urge the nations of the world to work together in Paris for an agreement that protects our people and our planet. We hope the United States will honor the commitment it made there."

Trump was expected to announce his decision about exiting the Parish climate accord later in the afternoon of June 1.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for the Integral Development of People, told reporters in Washington May 31 that "the decision to possibly pull out for us is something we hoped would not have happened."

"Certain issues should be taken out of the political discussion and not be politicized. ... The truth is, climate is a global public good and not limited to any country, not limited to any nation," the cardinal said.

"The Vatican would always respect the decision of a sovereign state," Cardinal Turkson added."We will continue to still talk about climate change and all of that, and hope that some change can occur midstream."

News reports said that members of Trump's administration had differing opinions about the pact, with some siding with the president's earlier expressed opinion that the United States should not be party to the agreement, which was ratified by President Barack Obama on his own, bypassing the U.S. Senate. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was among those said to disagree with any decision to exit the accord.

Bishop Cantu's statement was released by the USCCB along with copies of letters sent weeks earlier to Tillerson, Treasure Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. The letters were signed by Bishop Cantu; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Sean L. Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

"Today, we write about our shared obligation to care for the environment. The Judeo-Christian tradition has always understood 'the environment' to be a gift from God," they wrote in the letters urging the Trump administration officials in their respective capacities to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the Paris accord.

"Pope Francis called on the world's leaders to come together to protect the gift of our common home. ... We have one common home, and we must protect it," they said.

"We want to reaffirm the importance of U.S. leadership and urge continued commitment to the Paris agreement," the Catholic leaders said, noting that in 2015 the USCCB "affirmed that funding for climate change related adaptation and mitigation programs as part of the Paris agreement is urgently needed if we are to meet our common and differentiated responsibilities for the effects of climate change."

The Paris accord has been ratified by 134 of the 197 countries that approved it in December 2015 under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The agreement went into force in October after enough countries ratified it.

"If Donald Trump really decides to withdraw the United States from the Paris accords, it will be a disaster for everyone," said Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

The bishop and the academies are at the forefront of promoting scientific studies on climate change and implementation of the recommendations in Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'" on care for the environment. The pope gave Trump a copy of the document when they met May 24 at the Vatican.

In an interview June 1 with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Bishop Sanchez said he did not think Trump and Pope Francis discussed climate change in any depth when they met, however climate change was a significant part of the discussions the president and top staff members had with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

"In that sense, if he really does what the leaks suggest, for us it will be a huge slap in the face," the bishop said.

Obama deserves some of the blame, the bishop said, because "he took decisions on climate only through presidential orders, leaving open the possibility that his successor would change everything. That's the problem. Today, in just one day, Trump could change all the cards on the table to the disadvantage of many and to the advantage of the oil lobby."

Tillerson participated in Trump's meeting with Cardinal Parolin and told reporters that while climate change did not come up in Trump's meeting with the pope, they had "a good exchange on the climate change issue" with the cardinal.

"The cardinal was expressing their view that they think it's an important issue," Tillerson said shortly after the meeting. "I think they were encouraging continued participation in the Paris accord. But we had a good exchange on the difficulty of balancing addressing climate change, responses to climate change, and ensuring that you still have a thriving economy and you can still offer people jobs so they can feed their families and have a prosperous economy."

Asked how Trump responded to Cardinal Parolin's encouragement to stick with the Paris climate agreement, Tillerson said: "The president indicated we're still thinking about that, that he hasn't made a final decision. He, I think, told both Cardinal Parolin and also told Prime Minister (Paolo) Gentiloni that this is something that he would be taking up for a decision when we return from this trip. It's an opportunity to hear from people. We're developing our own recommendation on that. So it'll be something that will probably be decided after we get home."

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Dennis Sadowski in Washington and Cindy Wooden in Rome contributed to this story.

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Ukrainian cardinal known for simplicity, humor, holiness dies at 84

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 7:40am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Ukrainian Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, known for his "velvety baritone" when chanting the Divine Liturgy or making one of his regular appearances on television or radio programs, died May 31 near Kiev at the age of 84.

Like many Ukrainian Catholics around the world, he knew what it meant to be a refugee, to spend time in a displaced persons' camp, to immigrate and to start all over again.

But the experience also helped him become fluent in five languages, "and he could joke in all of them," said Ukrainian Bishop Borys Gudziak of Paris.

And in a post-Soviet Ukraine, where leadership often meant "a compulsive passion" for money and power, "he lived in exemplary simplicity," Bishop Gudziak told Catholic News Service June 1.

"In Ukrainian folklore, a blind elder is considered a sage," the bishop said. "He was the wise man of the country, a real father whose embrace, word, warm smile and sense of humor -- often self-deprecating -- gave people a sense of joy and peace."

Cardinal Husar also was an avid blogger and published his last piece May 1, a blog about politicians who show their loyalty to a church only to gain votes.

He saw a lack of ethical behavior and declining moral standards as a major problem at home and abroad, one that required a creative pastoral response.

"Addressing the problem of morality is not a matter of reciting rules, rules, rules, but of helping people to do God's will," he said in an interview with CNS in 2005.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who was only 40 years old in 2011 when he succeeded Cardinal Husar as archbishop of Kiev-Halych and head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, cried as he spoke to reporters June 1 about the cardinal's death.

"He was the spiritual father of the Ukrainian people, and today, in one moment, we became orphans," Archbishop Shevchuk told the press. The cardinal was a "great man, great pastor, great Ukrainian."

One of the first questions reporters asked was when the process for Cardinal Husar's beatification would begin. Archbishop Shevchuk replied that everyone who met the cardinal saw the beauty of his holiness, but the formal sainthood process requires prayer and time. Standard Vatican rules require a waiting period of five years from the time of a person's death before the process can begin.

In a condolence message to Archbishop Shevchuk, Pope Francis recalled the cardinal's "tenacious fidelity to Christ despite the deprivations and persecutions" suffered by the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which was forced into the underground by the communists.

"His fruitful apostolic activity to promote the organization of Greek Catholic faithful who were descendants of those forcibly transferred from Western Ukraine" and, simultaneously, his efforts to promote "dialogue and collaboration" with the Orthodox also were noted by the pope.

The cardinal's body was being driven to Lviv, his hometown, June 1 for two days of memorial services there. His funeral was scheduled for June 5 in Kiev.

Born Feb. 26, 1933, Lubomyr Husar fled Ukraine with his parents in 1944 ahead of the advancing Soviet army. He spent the early post-World War II years among Ukrainian refugees in a displaced persons' camp near Salzburg, Austria. In 1949, he immigrated with his family to the United States, eventually becoming a U.S. citizen.

From 1950 to 1954, he studied at St. Basil's College Seminary in Stamford, Connecticut. He continued his studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington and at Fordham University in New York. He was ordained a priest of the Ukrainian Diocese of Stamford in 1958.

For the next 11 years, he taught at the Ukrainian seminary in Stamford and served in parish ministry. Sent to Rome, he earned a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Urbanian University in 1972 and joined the Ukrainian Studite monastic community.

He was ordained a bishop by Cardinal Josyf Slipyj in 1977 while the church in Ukraine was still illegal and operating from exile in Rome.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, he returned to his native country and served as spiritual director of the newly re-established Holy Spirit Seminary in Lviv.

The synod of Ukrainian bishops elected him exarch of Kiev-Vyshhorod, a position he took up in 1996. Several months later, the synod elected him an auxiliary bishop with special delegated authority to assist Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky, the major archbishop of Lviv.

Cardinal Lubachivsky died in December 2000, and in January 2001 the synod elected then-Bishop Husar to succeed him as head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. St. John Paul II made him a cardinal a month later.

Under his leadership and despite strong protests from the Russian Orthodox Church, in August 2005 Cardinal Husar established the major archiepiscopal see of Kiev-Halych and transferred the main church offices to Ukraine's capital.

Cardinal Husar's death leaves the College of Cardinals with 221 members, although Pope Francis is scheduled to create five new cardinals in late June.

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Contributing to this story was Mariana Karapinka in Lviv, Ukraine.

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Ecumenical leaders call for context, nuance in Catholic-Lutheran dialogue

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 5:11pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Colleen Dulle

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, renowned for his ecumenical efforts, addressed a Washington gathering of Catholic and Lutheran leaders striving for unity.

Cardinal Koch's speech took place May 30 at "The 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther's Posting of the Ninety-Five Theses Conference: Luther and the Shaping of the Catholic Tradition," held at The Catholic University of America.

In his address, Cardinal Koch called for a new understanding of Martin Luther that takes into account his historical and religious context.

The cardinal, who leads the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, outlined how Luther was grounded in the monastic and mystical traditions of late medieval Catholicism, like Christ-centered theology.

He also pointed out that the reforms Luther called for were not extraordinary in their time: similar reforms were gaining traction elsewhere, like the "devotio moderna," or "modern devotion," movement in the Netherlands that called for humility and simplicity in the church, or the first multilingual edition of Scripture that was published in Spain in 1515.

Luther, the cardinal said, never intended for his reforms to divide the church, just as medieval reformers such as St. Francis and St. Dominic never intended to found new religious orders. They only intended to reform the church from within.

Cardinal Koch said the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages was partly to blame for the division.

"If Martin Luther's call for reform and repentance had found open ears among the bishops of the time and of the pope in Rome, the reform intended to be initiated by him (Luther) would not have become the Reformation. For the fact that the original reform of the church became instead a church-dividing reformation, the Catholic Church of the time must bear its share of the blame," Cardinal Koch said.

He pointed out that it wasn't until later in his life that Luther began to call into question the role and structure of the church. Because of this, he said, it isn't fair to see the posting of Luther's theses as the moment the church split into Lutheranism and Catholicism.

Koch stated that political leaders in Germany were largely responsible for the formation of a distinct Lutheran Church about 100 years after Luther wrote his theses.

Still, he said, Luther's essential question about the role of the church remains important and must be addressed in the dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans going forward.

Additionally, reconciliation must be a guiding theme in the conversation, the cardinal said, referencing Pope Francis' words in Sweden last year.

Cardinal Koch said that Catholics must continue to apologize for their sometimes-violent offenses, like wars, against other religious groups, just as Lutherans must apologize for the way it has painted the pre-Reformation Catholic Church over the years.

The cardinal also called for a consensus between Catholics and Lutherans on Luther's doctrine of justification -- the idea that a person is saved through faith rather than actions.

"After 500 years of division," the cardinal said, "we must strive for a binding communion and put it into effect already today."

Retired Lutheran Bishop Eero Huovinen of the Diocese of Helsinki responded to the Cardinal Koch's address.

He said he agreed with everything the cardinal had said.

Bishop Huovinen focused his response instead on the 2015 Catholic-Lutheran joint "Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry and the Eucharist," which attempts to reach common theological ground between the two groups.

Some of the scholars who drafted the declaration attended the talk.

Bishop Huovinen questioned the document's use of the word "church," since it has different definitions to Catholics and Lutherans. He also called for a closer look at the Roman Missal's language about the Eucharist as a sacrifice, which might be at odds with Lutheran theology.

Both speakers praised the progress already made to reconcile Catholics and Lutherans. They called for the 500th anniversary of the theses to be a jumping off point for a more nuanced effort toward reconciliation going forward.

The May 30-June 1 conference at Catholic University was co-sponsored by Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Catholic University's School of Theology and religious Studies, the Vatican's Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences, and the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

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