You are here

Top Stories

Subscribe to Top Stories feed Top Stories
Top stories selected throughout each day from Catholic News Service. Catholic News Service provides news from the U.S., Rome and around the world in both English and Spanish, in written coverage, images and video reporting.
Updated: 40 min 54 sec ago

Let Jesus be 'your teacher, your life coach,' archbishop urges teens

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 12:22pm

IMAGE: Victor Aleman, Angelus News

By

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles told 1,600 Catholic teens gathered for the "City of Saints" conference that their faith and love for Jesus was an inspiration.

"Your desire to live your faith and share your faith -- it is so beautiful to witness. And it is so inspiring," he said in an Aug. 5 homily at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The archbishop and the Office of Religious Education of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles hosted the third annual "City of Saints" conference for teens, offering them an encounter with Christ through fellowship, praise and worship.

Teenagers attended from 80 parishes and schools throughout Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, the three counties that make up the archdiocese.

The Aug. 4-6 event featured speakers as well as music with contemporary Catholic-Christian band WAL.

Attendees had an opportunity to participate in facilitated group time and the sacrament of reconciliation. Archbishop Gomez celebrated an afternoon Mass Aug. 4 to welcome the teens, then led them in an outdoor eucharistic procession to open a area designated as "Sacred Space," where spiritual directors described different paths of prayer for the weekend..

"I want to say, as we heard St. Peter say in the Gospel passage tonight -- 'It is good that we are here, Lord!' Thanks be to God!" the archbishop said in his homily at the Aug. 5 Mass closing the full day of the conference.

"Our Gospel tonight, leads us up the high mountain -- the mountain of God," he continued. "It is almost like we are chosen witnesses to go up with Jesus. Just as he chose the three apostles to go with him in the Gospel -- St. Peter, St. James and St. John."

"We have the privilege tonight in this Gospel to see what they saw, to hear what they heard -- the 'transfiguration' of our Lord Jesus Christ," Archbishop Gomez said.

That scene was amazing, he said, with the face of Jesus "shining like the sun," his clothes turning into "white light," and the prophets Moses and Elijah appearing "out of nowhere."

Imagining what they saw "reminds us that our lives are part of a great mystery -- a cosmic reality -- the loving plan of the living God. My young friends, you and me, we are 'part of the plan,'" the archbishop told the teens.

"The purpose of our lives is to be transformed and transfigured. To become more like Jesus every day of our lives. Until one day we will shine like the sun -- just we saw his face shine like the sun in the Gospel today," Archbishop Gomez explained. "This is God's plan for your lives -- to be his sons and daughters. Just as Jesus was his beloved Son."

"Jesus is the answer" as to how to do this, he said. "Listen to him! This is the best advice you will ever receive, because it comes from God himself. Let Jesus be your teacher -- your 'life coach,' your 'personal trainer.' Enter into his plan for your life. It is a plan of love, a plan that will lead you to happiness."

Archbishop Gomez told the teens about two practical things in his life that he said have helped him listen to Jesus -- prayer and reading the Gospels. He urged them to make those two things a habit in their own lives.

He suggested they download a Bible app onto their smartphones, so "you will have the Gospels with you everywhere you go."

"When you get a minute, you can read a passage from the Gospel," Archbishop Gomez said. "It is way better than checking your Instagram feed."

And "it is true that you can follow me on Instagram, so you should check that out, too!" he added.

"The more we pray, the easier it becomes to open our hearts to God," Archbishop Gomez said. "The more we reflect on the Gospels -- the more we begin to see Jesus alive and working in our lives and in the world."

"The more we try to listen to Jesus, the easier it becomes to hear him," he said. "The more we want to be with him -- in the Eucharist, in the sacrament of reconciliation."

By following these practices, Archbishop Gomez said, "slowly, we have a 'transfiguration' in our lives. That is how it works."

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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 saddened by 'perfect' Catholics who despise others

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 9:59am

IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God did not choose perfect people to form his church, but rather sinners who have experienced his love and forgiveness, Pope Francis said.

The Gospel of Luke's account of Jesus forgiving the sinful woman shows how his actions went against the general mentality of his time, a way of thinking that saw a "clear separation" between the pure and impure, the pope said Aug. 9 during his weekly general audience.

"There were some scribes, those who believed they were perfect," the pope said. "And I think about so many Catholics who think they are perfect and scorn others. This is sad."

Continuing his series of audience talks about Christian hope, the pope reflected on Jesus' "scandalous gesture" of forgiving the sinful woman.

The woman, he said, was one of many poor women who were were visited secretly even by those who denounced them as sinful.

Although Jesus' love toward the sick and the marginalized "baffles his contemporaries," it reveals God's heart as the place where suffering men and women can find love, compassion and healing, Pope Francis said.

"How many people continue today in a wayward life because they find no one willing to look at them in a different way, with the eyes -- or better yet -- with the heart of God, meaning with hope," he said. But "Jesus sees the possibility of a resurrection even in those who have made so many wrong choices."

Oftentimes, the pope continued, Christians become accustomed to having their sins forgiven and receiving God's unconditional love while forgetting the heavy price Jesus paid by dying on the cross.

By forgiving sinners, Jesus doesn't seek to free them from a guilty conscience, but rather offers "people who have made mistakes the hope of a new life, a life marked by love," the pope said.

The church is a people formed "of sinners who have experienced the mercy and forgiveness of God," Pope Francis said. Christians are "all poor sinners" who need God's mercy, "which strengthens us and gives us hope."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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.

Bishop attends ICE meeting for mother fearing separation from sick child

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 5:31pm

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After hearing about the plight of a cancer-stricken child whose mother was facing imminent deportation, a U.S. border bishop, Texas Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, decided to pay the pair a visit at the hospital.

On Aug. 7, he prayed at a Texas hospital with bed-ridden 8-year-old Alia Escobedo, suffering from bone cancer, and her mother Maria De Loera, the child's only caretaker, before heading to a meeting with immigration officials -- a hearing in which the mother was to report for deportation but one which the bishop attended in her place.

"I was informed about the situation over the weekend, I'd heard rumblings," said Bishop Seitz in an Aug. 7 phone interview with Catholic News Service. "As a parish priest, one of the most rewarding ministries was through the sick. I always felt close to children who were sick."

At the hospital, he said, he read Scriptures with the mother and daughter, who are Catholic, and prayed. He said he tried to reassure the mother that there were a lot of people trying to help.

"It was a pleasure to be able to meet them and hopefully bring a bit of a consolation to this young child," he said. "They're amazingly resilient. This mom had her husband killed in (Ciudad) Juarez, escaped to El Paso running for her life. When she came here, her youngest daughter was diagnosed with bone cancer."

The last two and half years have been filled, not just with treatments at the hospital, but also with the threat of deportation. An asylum request De Loera filed in 2014 was denied the following year, and since then, she has been in the process of being removed from the country by immigration officials.

Bishop Seitz, along with other clergy, accompanied De Loera's lawyer to see officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, "to reconsider ' given the circumstances," he said.

He said he met with a case worker and a supervisor as well as other officials.

"I think they were relatively receptive," he said.

On Aug. 8, ICE officials granted De Loera a six-month stay to continue watching over her daughter during treatment, said Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute, which also has been involved calling in attention to the case. At her daughter's bedside, De Loera wears an ICE-issued ankle monitor to track her location even though she has not committed a crime and arrived seeking asylum, Corbett said.

"Maria and Alia are the human face of a broken immigration system and militarized border enforcement," said the Hope Border Institute in an email statement. "They're the reason we're fighting for reform and a more human border."

"I'm concerned about the very fact that we had to intercede on behalf of this mother under these circumstances," Bishop Seitz said to CNS, because it shows that "even the most obvious humanitarian reasons for allowing a person to stay are no longer sufficient."

Bishop Seitz made headlines in July because of a pastoral letter in which he denounced the "demonization of immigrants" and pleaded with others for compassion and solidarity. He said he's aware that even among Catholics, the issue of immigration can spark disagreement.

"I just ask them to bring these issues to their prayer," he said. "And also, to get to know a recent immigrant and, especially, to get to know one who fled here without the opportunity to arrange documents because they were fleeing for their lives, before deciding what the proper resolution of these cases should be."

Jesus, he said, spoke to questions of law and recognized that there is the law of God and human laws, and human laws can be good or they can be bad.

"Bad laws need to be changed and sometimes bad laws cannot be followed," he said. "One example is the law that permits abortion. Just because the law says it's OK, it does not make it OK."

He also asked others to think about the circumstances that lead others to flee their native countries.

"If any of us lived in a situation, in a country where there is extreme violence, we would do whatever it took to find a situation of safety, even if it meant crossing a border," he said. "We would do it if our children were starving. We wouldn't say 'I guess we'll just stay here and watch our children die.' Nobody would do that. We would do whatever we needed to do."

- - -

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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.

Lessons about New York church's historic pipe organ part of music camp

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 1:26pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chris Sheridan

By Armando Machado

NEW YORK (CNS) -- At the Basilica of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in Lower Manhattan, Polina Maller, 11, took a few moments from her violin lesson to talk about her appreciation for music.

"It's fun, and I like it. Music makes me feel like I'm free inside; it makes me feel like I could create things, and then I feel good about myself," Polina, a classical music aficionado, said July 26 in an interview with Catholic New York, the archdiocesan newspaper.

She was midway into a week of a summer music camp on the cathedral grounds.

Eleven children took part in the first-time program, "Pipes, Pedals & Peals," sponsored by the Friends of the Henry Erben Organ. The group is a charitable organization devoted to the conservation and restoration of the 1868 Henry Erben Organ inside St. Patrick's Old Cathedral.

The five-day camp, which operated three hours each morning, was open to children ages 7 to 12. Organizers expect to make it an annual summer program.

The Friends group also supports live musical performances, education and training of young musicians and organists, after-school music education programs and organ demonstrations, coordinators said. In addition, it supports concerts for visiting tour groups, arts and cultural organizations, schools and universities.

The week's activities for the music camp children included lessons in playing the violin and handbell chimes, and hands-on lessons about the history, uniqueness and intricacies of the Henry Erben Organ -- yes, hands-on, they got to play the special organ. Polina played a prelude by Bach.

The wood Erben Organ has three manuals, or keyboards -- an organ keyboard played by the hands is called a "manual." It stands about 45 feet high and has 2,500 pipes. "It's about the size of a small apartment," said Anne Riccitelli, president of the Friends group.

The children also assembled a special kit, creating a small, functioning organ similar to the Henry Erben Organ. The Orgel miniature organ kit was developed in the Netherlands; it is an educational organ that measures about 3 by 3 by 2 feet, weighs more than 40 pounds, and has about 48 pipes.

Additionally, the children performed at a summer camp recital -- with violin and handbell chimes -- during a July 30 Mass at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral; the liturgy, celebrated by the pastor, Msgr. Donald Sakano, was followed by an Erben Organ demonstration, and later a festive reception in the undercroft.

The cathedral's organist is Jared Lamenzo, who gave the demonstration. The children casually played the small organ at the reception.

"They're learning a lot in one week -- the small organ will help them understand how the big organ works," Lamenzo said while the children were learning how to play the handbell chimes July 26, a lesson given by Michael Bodnyk, a cantor at both St. Patrick's Old Cathedral and St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, the mother church of the New York Archdiocese.

The violin lessons were taught by Addie Deppa, who noted, "Music in general, I feel, brings on a window of purity and beauty to children's lives. I think it's super important for children to have music. ...They (the music camp children) are wonderful; they're very eager to learn, a lot of energy."

Robert Hodge, 10, also was among the music camp children. "I love the class, and the teachers are nice. It's very educational," Robert told Catholic New York.

Msgr. Sakano noted the old cathedral community's love of the arts. "We have a program called Basilica Voices, where our young people who are preparing for first holy Communion and confirmation are also being trained to sing. ... And then we have the camp, which is not a Catholic teaching program per se -- but it is faithful in the sense that music is the sound that God likes hearing."

- - -

Machado writes for Catholic New York, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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.

Chapel ministers to souls who visit, live amid Grand Canyon splendor

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 12:57pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ana Rodriguez-Soto, Florida Catholic

By Ana Rodriguez-Soto

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. (CNS) -- Father Rafael Bercasio pastors perhaps the smallest parish in America -- and the most uniquely situated.

A short walk away from the south rim of the Grand Canyon sits El Cristo Rey Chapel, a small wooden building that serves as the spiritual home of the Catholic families who work at the national park.

El Cristo Rey, a parish of the Phoenix Diocese, has 26 registered families, who are "always outnumbered by the tourists," Father Bercasio said.

The chapel is located within the boundaries of Grand Canyon Village, a residential neighborhood of around 1,500 households that includes a school, a grocery store and a post office. Residents are employed as park rangers and naturalists, maintenance workers, and hotel, restaurant and retail staff. Some live there only six months out of the year, although the park is open year-round.

"You cannot live here if you're not working in the Grand Canyon," the priest explained.

Grand Canyon Village is perhaps more familiar to park visitors as the site of historic hotels such as El Tovar and the stopping point for the most photographed views of the canyon. Visitors can catch glimpses of the village's less visited residential areas as they ride on the shuttle -- a free bus that moves the park's vast quantities of tourists throughout the south rim's hotels and restaurants.

El Cristo Rey Chapel is not on the park's shuttle route. But its Mass schedule -- along with directions for walking there -- was posted near the registration desk of El Tovar, when this reporter was visiting in March.

Father Bercasio, a native of the Philippines, is just completing his first year as pastor. He was appointed last July by the Diocese of Phoenix, which took over responsibility for the church in 1974. He is the first priest to be assigned full time to the chapel.

"We are the only Catholic church within a national park of America," he told a standing-room only crowd of tourists who had gathered for Sunday Mass.

Actually, Grand Teton's Chapel of the Sacred Heart in Wyoming also is located within that national park and is open daily to visitors, although it does not have a resident priest. It is a summer mission of Our Lady of the Mountains Church in Jackson.

Priests from nearby parishes celebrate weekend Masses at the Grand Teton chapel during the busy summer season. Sunday Mass also is celebrated during peak seasons at many other national parks.

From his base at El Cristo Rey, Father Bercasio also ministers to a mostly Hispanic community founded five years ago about 30 miles outside the entrance to the park.

El Cristo Rey Chapel was officially established in 1960, although priests from the Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico, began coming to celebrate Mass for El Tovar's workers around 1919-1920.

Father Bercasio celebrates a daily Mass at 8 a.m., and most of the time, he said, he is the only one in attendance. He celebrates two Masses on Sundays, plus a vigil on Saturdays in summer.

Attendance averages seven or eight people in winter. The standing-room crowd in March was highly unusual, he said, but the congregation swells in summer to the point where chairs need to be placed outside.

"Every Sunday is new because I get to meet a lot of people from different states and every country. That's the one thing I don't experience in a regular parish," Father Bercasio said at the conclusion of the Mass.

This is his fourth assignment in his 13 years in the Phoenix Diocese.

Father Bercasio added that he finds inspiration not only in his surroundings, but in the people who visit.

"I always commend the tourists for fulfilling their obligation," he said. "You are in the midst of your gallivanting and still you are here. It is a testimony that your faith does not take a vacation. It's very inspiring."

- - -

Rodriguez-Soto is on the staff of the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami and the dioceses of Orlando, Palm Beach and Venice.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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 tells Belgian Brothers of Charity no more euthanasia for patients

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 12:27pm

By Simon Caldwell

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Pope Francis has given a Belgian religious order until the end of August to stop offering euthanasia to psychiatric patients.

Brother Rene Stockman, superior general of the order, told Catholic News Service the pope gave his personal approval to a Vatican demand that the Brothers of Charity, which runs 15 centers for psychiatric patients across Belgium, must reverse its policy by the end of August.

Brothers who serve on the board of the Brothers of Charity Group, the organization that runs the centers, also must each sign a joint letter to their superior general declaring that they "fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end."

Brothers who refuse to sign will face sanctions under canon law, while the group can expect to face legal action and even expulsion from the church if it fails to change its policy.

The group, he added, must no longer consider euthanasia as a solution to human suffering under any circumstances.

The order, issued at the beginning of August, follows repeated requests for the group to drop its new policy of permitting doctors to perform the euthanasia of "nonterminal" mentally ill patients on its premises.

It also follows a joint investigation by the Vatican's congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Brother Stockman, who had opposed the group's euthanasia policy, told Catholic News Service the ultimatum was devised by the two congregations and has the support of the pope.

"The Holy Father was formally informed about it and was also informed about the steps to be taken," he said in an Aug. 8 email.

The ultimatum, he said, meant the group's policies must be underpinned by a belief that "respect for human life is absolute."

Brother Stockman told CNS that if the group refused to bow to the ultimatum "then we will take juridical steps in order to force them to amend the text (of the new policy) and, if that is not possible, then we have to start the procedure to exclude the hospitals from the Brothers of Charity family and take away their Catholic identity."

He said if any of the brothers refused to sign the letter upholding Catholic teaching against euthanasia, "then also we will start the correct procedure foreseen in canon law."

The Belgian bishops and the nuncio to Belgium have been informed about the ultimatum, he added.

Brother Stockman, a psychiatric care specialist, had turned to the Vatican in the spring after the Brothers of Charity group rejected a formal request from him to reverse the new policy.

The group also snubbed the Belgian bishops by formally implementing its euthanasia policy in June, just weeks after the bishops declared they would not accept euthanasia in Catholic institutions.

The group has also ignored a statement of church teaching forbidding euthanasia. The statement, written and signed by Cardinal Gerhard Muller, former head of the doctrinal congregation, was sent to the Brothers of Charity Group members. A copy of the document has been obtained Catholic News Service.

The Brothers of Charity was founded in 1807 in Ghent, Belgium, by Father Peter Joseph Triest, whose cause for beatification was opened in 2001. Their charism is to serve the elderly and the mentally ill.

Today, the group is considered the most important provider of mental health care services in the Flanders region of Belgium, where they serve 5,000 patients a year.

About 12 psychiatric patients in the care of the Brothers of Charity are believed to have asked for euthanasia over the past year, with two transferred elsewhere to receive the injections to end their lives.

The group first announced its euthanasia policy in March, saying it wished to harmonize the practices of the centers with the Belgian law on euthanasia passed in 2003, the year after the Netherlands became the first country to permit the practice since Nazi Germany.

Technically, euthanasia in Belgium remains an offense, with the law protecting doctors from prosecution only if they abide by specific criteria, but increasingly lethal injections are given to the disabled and mentally ill. Since 2014 "emancipated children" have also qualified for euthanasia.

The group's change in policy came about a year after a private Catholic rest home in Diest, Belgium, was fined $6,600 for refusing the euthanasia of a 74-year-old woman suffering from lung cancer.

Catholic News Service has approached the Brothers of Charity Group for a comment.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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.

Salvadorans to walk 90-plus miles to mark centennial of Romero's birth

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 11:16am

IMAGE: EPA

By

SAN SALVADOR, El Savlador (CNS) -- Salvadorans plan to walk more than 90 miles in three days to mark the centennial of Blessed Oscar Romero's birth.

Participants will leave the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador Aug. 11 and are scheduled to arrive in Ciudad Barrios, the eastern city where Blessed Romero was born, Aug. 13.

The pilgrimage, "Caminando hacia la cuna del Profeta" ("Walking toward the prophet's birthplace"), will go through four dioceses -- San Salvador, San Vicente, Santiago de Maria and San Miguel.

Blessed Romero was born Aug. 15, 1917, and the actual centennial will be marked by a Mass at San Salvador's cathedral. Chilean Cardinal Ricardo Ezzatti of Santiago, Pope Francis' special envoy to the celebration, will be the main celebrant.

Masses also are scheduled in other parts of the country. On Aug. 12, in the western Santa Ana Diocese, Archbishop Leon Kalenga Badikebele, apostolic nuncio to El Salvador, will deliver the homily at a commemorative Mass, while Salvadoran Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, a close friend of Blessed Romero, is scheduled to give a presentation on the archbishop's life and work.

When it announced the activities July 31, the Salvadoran bishops' conference stated that, as far back as three years ago, it "invited all the worshippers, Salvadorans and of the world, to prepare for this centennial to remember Blessed Romero as a man, a pastor and a martyr."

The murdered priest was beatified May 23, 2015, in San Salvador. In a letter to the gathering, read before an estimated 250,000 people gathered for the event, Pope Francis described Blessed Romero as "a voice that continues to resonate."

Ordained April 4, 1942, in Rome, the Salvadoran religious leader was appointed archbishop of San Salvador Feb. 23, 1997, and was gunned down after Mass at a hospital chapel March 24, 1980, a day after a sermon in which he called on Salvadoran soldiers to obey what he described as God's order and stop carrying actions of repression.

The archbishop's March 30 funeral at the cathedral, attended by more than 200,000 mourners, was interrupted by gunfire that left 30-50 people dead.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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.

American community finds a new home in Rome

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 11:55am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME (CNS) -- After years in exile from the church they had called home for the past 95 years, the American Catholic community in Rome moved to a new church they can finally call their own.

Located just a few steps away from the U.S. Embassy to Italy, St. Patrick's Church is the new official "mission for the care of souls for U.S. faithful residing in Rome," said Paulist Father Greg Apparcel, rector of St. Patrick's.

U.S. Catholics in Rome, guided by the Paulist Fathers, had called the Church of Santa Susanna their parish since 1922. But the cloistered Cistercian nuns, who have had a presence at the historic parish since 1587, found the American presence distracting and made various attempts over the years to evict them.

"I tried to understand their position," Father Apparcel told Catholic News Service Aug. 7. "It was their home, and they felt we invaded their home. We felt it was our home, (but) they didn't agree with that."

While there was no dispute regarding the ownership of Santa Susanna, the pastoral responsibility of the church had belonged to the Paulist priests for decades. In 2012, however, tensions rose when several large signs were placed in the church that stated the Cistercians owned the church.

Father Apparcel told CNS that he appealed to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, who in turn asked Pope Francis to intervene in the matter and allow the American community to return to the parish.

However, the Paulist priest said, "we were discouraged from coming back there because the Cistercian community owns the church, and they felt that they just wanted it to be them."

Instead, the Vatican encouraged Father Apparcel to move to St. Patrick's Church, a parish run by Augustinian priests from Ireland who decided in 2012 to leave their ministry in Rome due to "a lack of priests."

Several meetings between the Paulist Fathers and the Augustinian community led to an agreement that the church would become the new parish for American Catholics residing in Rome. The Augustinian community, Father Apparcel added, leased to the U.S. community the church and a hall currently being renovated to house offices, a library and classrooms "rent-free."

"They have been incredibly generous and hospitable to us. No question about it," the Paulist priest told CNS.

While the disagreement with the Cistercian nuns at Santa Susanna left relations at times strained, Father Apparcel said there are no hard feelings between the two communities.

"We had a very nice, very friendly conversation," he told CNS. "They said they had nothing but good feelings for the Paulist Fathers and the American community. And (they) offered their prayers and asked us to pray for them. They were sincere."

The nearly 400 families that make up the American parish in Rome, Father Apparcel added, are also "relieved" that they finally have their own church rather than attending in Mass in different parishes.

Despite the odds, Father Apparcel cared for the spiritual needs for the flock during that five-year period, often racing from one parish to another to celebrate Mass in English while Santa Susanna remained closed to the American community.

"I've gone through all the emotions from A-Z. The first year was really rough because I felt like, 'How much worse can it get?' I mean, basically, you're kicked out of your church!" he said. "In the beginning, I felt like I was a failure, that it was my fault."

However, with the support of his parishioners and Paulist Father Steve Bossi, his good friend and vice rector of the parish, Father Apparcel said he realized that "even though we weren't altogether in one place, we were still an identifiable Catholic community in Rome."

"This is a really visible example of the fact that the church is not a building, that the people are the church, that the community existed and even thrived during this period," Father Apparcel told CNS. "It doesn't matter that we didn't have a church. Though I'm glad we do now!"

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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.

American community finds a new home in Rome

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 11:55am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME (CNS) -- After years in exile from the church they had called home for the past 95 years, the American Catholic community in Rome moved to a new church they can finally call their own.

Located just a few steps away from the U.S. Embassy to Italy, St. Patrick's Church is the new official "mission for the care of souls for U.S. faithful residing in Rome," said Paulist Father Greg Apparcel, rector of St. Patrick's.

U.S. Catholics in Rome, guided by the Paulist Fathers, had called the Church of Santa Susanna their parish since 1922. But the cloistered Cistercian nuns, who have had a presence at the historic parish since 1587, found the American presence distracting and made various attempts over the years to evict them.

"I tried to understand their position," Father Apparcel told Catholic News Service Aug. 7. "It was their home, and they felt we invaded their home. We felt it was our home, (but) they didn't agree with that."

While there was no dispute regarding the ownership of Santa Susanna, the pastoral responsibility of the church had belonged to the Paulist priests for decades. In 2012, however, tensions rose when several large signs were placed in the church that stated the Cistercians owned the church.

Father Apparcel told CNS that he appealed to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, who in turn asked Pope Francis to intervene in the matter and allow the American community to return to the parish.

However, the Paulist priest said, "we were discouraged from coming back there because the Cistercian community owns the church, and they felt that they just wanted it to be them."

Instead, the Vatican encouraged Father Apparcel to move to St. Patrick's Church, a parish run by Augustinian priests from Ireland who decided in 2012 to leave their ministry in Rome due to "a lack of priests."

Several meetings between the Paulist Fathers and the Augustinian community led to an agreement that the church would become the new parish for American Catholics residing in Rome. The Augustinian community, Father Apparcel added, leased to the U.S. community the church and a hall currently being renovated to house offices, a library and classrooms "rent-free."

"They have been incredibly generous and hospitable to us. No question about it," the Paulist priest told CNS.

While the disagreement with the Cistercian nuns at Santa Susanna left relations at times strained, Father Apparcel said there are no hard feelings between the two communities.

"We had a very nice, very friendly conversation," he told CNS. "They said they had nothing but good feelings for the Paulist Fathers and the American community. And (they) offered their prayers and asked us to pray for them. They were sincere."

The nearly 400 families that make up the American parish in Rome, Father Apparcel added, are also "relieved" that they finally have their own church rather than attending in Mass in different parishes.

Despite the odds, Father Apparcel cared for the spiritual needs for the flock during that five-year period, often racing from one parish to another to celebrate Mass in English while Santa Susanna remained closed to the American community.

"I've gone through all the emotions from A-Z. The first year was really rough because I felt like, 'How much worse can it get?' I mean, basically, you're kicked out of your church!" he said. "In the beginning, I felt like I was a failure, that it was my fault."

However, with the support of his parishioners and Paulist Father Steve Bossi, his good friend and vice rector of the parish, Father Apparcel said he realized that "even though we weren't altogether in one place, we were still an identifiable Catholic community in Rome."

"This is a really visible example of the fact that the church is not a building, that the people are the church, that the community existed and even thrived during this period," Father Apparcel told CNS. "It doesn't matter that we didn't have a church. Though I'm glad we do now!"

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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.

Vacation time should be prayer time, pope says

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 10:08am

IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Summertime can and should be a time for extra prayer, a moment of peace that allows Christians to savor the joy of their relationship with Jesus and find new strength to reach out with love to others, Pope Francis said.

Before reciting the Angelus Aug. 6, the feast of the Transfiguration, Pope Francis talked about the Gospel story of the disciples going up Mount Tabor with Jesus, "detaching themselves from mundane things" and contemplating the transfigured Lord.

Today, too, Christ's disciples need to "rediscover the pacifying and regenerating silence" that comes from prayer and meditating on a Gospel passage.

"When we put ourselves in this situation, with the Bible in hand, in silence, we begin to feel this interior beauty, this joy that the word of God generates in us," the pope said.

With high temperatures still plaguing Rome and most of southern Europe, many tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter's Square came armed with umbrellas or bought paper parasols from wandering venders outside the square.

Pope Francis said he knew the students in the square were in the midst of their summer holidays and many of the other people in the square were on vacation. He told them, "It's important that in the period of rest and breaking away from daily concerns, you restore the energies of your body and soul, deepening your spiritual journey."

The disciples who saw Jesus' transfigured, he said, were changed by the event and descended the mountain, back into their daily lives, "with eyes and hearts transfigured by their encounter with the Lord. We, too, can follow this path."

An encounter with the Lord, he said, should inspire further steps of conversion and a greater witness of charity.

"Transformed by the presence of Christ and by the warmth of his words, we will be a concrete sign of the life-giving love of God for all our brothers and sisters, especially those who suffer, find themselves alone and abandoned, are sick, and for the multitude of men and women who, in different parts of the world, are humiliated by injustice, abuse and violence."

Pope Francis prayed that Mary would watch over people on vacation, but also that she would care for "those who cannot take a vacation because they are impeded by age, health or work, by economic difficulties or other problems."

Earlier that morning, Pope Francis went to the grotto under St. Peter's Basilica to pray at the tomb of Blessed Paul VI, who died Aug. 6, 1978.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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.

Vacation time should be prayer time, pope says

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 10:08am

IMAGE: CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Summertime can and should be a time for extra prayer, a moment of peace that allows Christians to savor the joy of their relationship with Jesus and find new strength to reach out with love to others, Pope Francis said.

Before reciting the Angelus Aug. 6, the feast of the Transfiguration, Pope Francis talked about the Gospel story of the disciples going up Mount Tabor with Jesus, "detaching themselves from mundane things" and contemplating the transfigured Lord.

Today, too, Christ's disciples need to "rediscover the pacifying and regenerating silence" that comes from prayer and meditating on a Gospel passage.

"When we put ourselves in this situation, with the Bible in hand, in silence, we begin to feel this interior beauty, this joy that the word of God generates in us," the pope said.

With high temperatures still plaguing Rome and most of southern Europe, many tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter's Square came armed with umbrellas or bought paper parasols from wandering venders outside the square.

Pope Francis said he knew the students in the square were in the midst of their summer holidays and many of the other people in the square were on vacation. He told them, "It's important that in the period of rest and breaking away from daily concerns, you restore the energies of your body and soul, deepening your spiritual journey."

The disciples who saw Jesus' transfigured, he said, were changed by the event and descended the mountain, back into their daily lives, "with eyes and hearts transfigured by their encounter with the Lord. We, too, can follow this path."

An encounter with the Lord, he said, should inspire further steps of conversion and a greater witness of charity.

"Transformed by the presence of Christ and by the warmth of his words, we will be a concrete sign of the life-giving love of God for all our brothers and sisters, especially those who suffer, find themselves alone and abandoned, are sick, and for the multitude of men and women who, in different parts of the world, are humiliated by injustice, abuse and violence."

Pope Francis prayed that Mary would watch over people on vacation, but also that she would care for "those who cannot take a vacation because they are impeded by age, health or work, by economic difficulties or other problems."

Earlier that morning, Pope Francis went to the grotto under St. Peter's Basilica to pray at the tomb of Blessed Paul VI, who died Aug. 6, 1978.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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 Smithsonian exhibit explores diversity of religion in early America

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 12:40pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Carolyn Mackenzie

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Smithsonian National Museum of American History's new exhibition, "Religion in Early America," celebrates the free exercise of religion and the religious diversity that define American faith life.

The exhibit features artifacts from Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other major world religions. Peter Manseau, the museum's Lilly Endowment curator of American religious history, is the author of several books and curator of the new exhibit.

"We can't really think about the role of religion in America today without wondering about how it all began," Manseau told Catholic News Service.

The exhibit, which opened June 28, displays artifacts and stories of American religious life from the 1630s to the 1840s. Reflecting the many Christian denominations that made up early America, it also features noteworthy items of Jewish, Islamic, Mormon, Native American and other faith traditions. Visitors from diverse backgrounds will likely find their own religious beliefs represented in the objects.

"The real power is seeing all of these together, and recognizing that these are all part of the same American story," Manseau said.

Some of the exhibit's biggest draws are the Jefferson Bible, the George Washington Inaugural Bible, Archbishop John Carroll's chalice and paten and a church bell forged by Paul Revere. Manseau explained that the Jefferson Bible is an edition of the New Testament that Thomas Jefferson edited himself, removing certain passages while including others.

"He wanted to create a story of the life and teachings of Jesus that was in line with his understanding of the Enlightenment, with his desire to lead a reason-led life," Manseau said. "So he went through several copies of the New Testament with a penknife in hand and cut out those parts that he agreed with, and glued them together into a new book that he called 'The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.'"

Other noteworthy objects include the Communion cup of Gov. John Winthrop of Massachusetts, a Torah scroll damaged in 1776 during the British occupation of Manhattan, a 19th-century Arabic manuscript and an iron cross made by the first English Catholics in Maryland. Pope Francis used this cross at his papal Mass in Washington in 2015.

"According to tradition, it was made by the first English Catholics who came to America on the Ark and the Dove in 1634," Manseau said. "When they needed a cross to use in their public worship, they took iron ballast beams and had a blacksmith pound them together into a new iron cross that they used."

Manseau penned the book "Objects of Devotion: Religion in Early America," which presents images of some of the exhibit's artifacts and tells stories of religious movements and figures in American history.

The exhibit and book both highlight the influence of the Carroll family on Catholicism in America. Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, became a senator in the newly formed government. His cousin, Archbishop Carroll of Baltimore, became the first bishop in the United States, founded Georgetown University in Washington, and worked to create other schools and religious communities.

Manseau pointed out a chalice on display that belonged to Archbishop Carroll, explaining that such chalices were designed to be taken apart and disguised as a bell when placed on the side of a saddle. Such disguise was helpful to priests at a time when Catholicism was often met with disdain.

"We try to tell the full story of early Catholic experience in America, and we don't shy away from this early bigotry against Catholics," Manseau said as he described the purpose of such saddle chalices.

"And so we tell stories like that, but also stories of early Catholic triumphs, such as the building of the Baltimore basilica, again through the leadership of Bishop John Carroll," Manseau said.

Though many of the Catholic artifacts come from the mid-Atlantic, the exhibit does not organize its items based on religion. Rather, "Religion in Early America" is arranged by region, an approach that displays how America's beliefs are diverse in location as well as in content.

"Rather than presenting this story chronologically, we decided that presenting it regionally would be the best way to show that there was diversity in every part of early America," Manseau said. "So we have exhibit cases on New England, the mid-Atlantic and the South. In each of those regions there were a number of different religious traditions that were trying to establish themselves to be a part of the public square, and we wanted to show that that happened across time."

The exhibit does not so much strive to paint a depiction of the everyday early American's religious life as it emphasizes the diversity characteristic of the United States since the earliest settlers arrived.

"I think that the main takeaway that people have when they come into 'Religion in Early America' is that the religious traditions that were present here were far more diverse than many suspect, and that the practical implication of this diversity really was religious freedom," Manseau said.

- - -

Editor's Note: The "Religion in Early America" exhibit runs until June 3, 2018. It can be viewed online at americanhistory.si.edu/religion-in-early-america.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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 Smithsonian exhibit explores diversity of religion in early America

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 12:40pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Carolyn Mackenzie

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Smithsonian National Museum of American History's new exhibition, "Religion in Early America," celebrates the free exercise of religion and the religious diversity that define American faith life.

The exhibit features artifacts from Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other major world religions. Peter Manseau, the museum's Lilly Endowment curator of American religious history, is the author of several books and curator of the new exhibit.

"We can't really think about the role of religion in America today without wondering about how it all began," Manseau told Catholic News Service.

The exhibit, which opened June 28, displays artifacts and stories of American religious life from the 1630s to the 1840s. Reflecting the many Christian denominations that made up early America, it also features noteworthy items of Jewish, Islamic, Mormon, Native American and other faith traditions. Visitors from diverse backgrounds will likely find their own religious beliefs represented in the objects.

"The real power is seeing all of these together, and recognizing that these are all part of the same American story," Manseau said.

Some of the exhibit's biggest draws are the Jefferson Bible, the George Washington Inaugural Bible, Archbishop John Carroll's chalice and paten and a church bell forged by Paul Revere. Manseau explained that the Jefferson Bible is an edition of the New Testament that Thomas Jefferson edited himself, removing certain passages while including others.

"He wanted to create a story of the life and teachings of Jesus that was in line with his understanding of the Enlightenment, with his desire to lead a reason-led life," Manseau said. "So he went through several copies of the New Testament with a penknife in hand and cut out those parts that he agreed with, and glued them together into a new book that he called 'The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.'"

Other noteworthy objects include the Communion cup of Gov. John Winthrop of Massachusetts, a Torah scroll damaged in 1776 during the British occupation of Manhattan, a 19th-century Arabic manuscript and an iron cross made by the first English Catholics in Maryland. Pope Francis used this cross at his papal Mass in Washington in 2015.

"According to tradition, it was made by the first English Catholics who came to America on the Ark and the Dove in 1634," Manseau said. "When they needed a cross to use in their public worship, they took iron ballast beams and had a blacksmith pound them together into a new iron cross that they used."

Manseau penned the book "Objects of Devotion: Religion in Early America," which presents images of some of the exhibit's artifacts and tells stories of religious movements and figures in American history.

The exhibit and book both highlight the influence of the Carroll family on Catholicism in America. Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, became a senator in the newly formed government. His cousin, Archbishop Carroll of Baltimore, became the first bishop in the United States, founded Georgetown University in Washington, and worked to create other schools and religious communities.

Manseau pointed out a chalice on display that belonged to Archbishop Carroll, explaining that such chalices were designed to be taken apart and disguised as a bell when placed on the side of a saddle. Such disguise was helpful to priests at a time when Catholicism was often met with disdain.

"We try to tell the full story of early Catholic experience in America, and we don't shy away from this early bigotry against Catholics," Manseau said as he described the purpose of such saddle chalices.

"And so we tell stories like that, but also stories of early Catholic triumphs, such as the building of the Baltimore basilica, again through the leadership of Bishop John Carroll," Manseau said.

Though many of the Catholic artifacts come from the mid-Atlantic, the exhibit does not organize its items based on religion. Rather, "Religion in Early America" is arranged by region, an approach that displays how America's beliefs are diverse in location as well as in content.

"Rather than presenting this story chronologically, we decided that presenting it regionally would be the best way to show that there was diversity in every part of early America," Manseau said. "So we have exhibit cases on New England, the mid-Atlantic and the South. In each of those regions there were a number of different religious traditions that were trying to establish themselves to be a part of the public square, and we wanted to show that that happened across time."

The exhibit does not so much strive to paint a depiction of the everyday early American's religious life as it emphasizes the diversity characteristic of the United States since the earliest settlers arrived.

"I think that the main takeaway that people have when they come into 'Religion in Early America' is that the religious traditions that were present here were far more diverse than many suspect, and that the practical implication of this diversity really was religious freedom," Manseau said.

- - -

Editor's Note: The "Religion in Early America" exhibit runs until June 3, 2018. It can be viewed online at americanhistory.si.edu/religion-in-early-america.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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.

Constituent Assembly will 'mortgage' Venezuela's future, Vatican says

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 10:51am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ueslei Marcelino, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a strongly worded statement, the Vatican called on the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to respect the will of the people and respect the nation's current constitution.

The Vatican urged Maduro "to suspend ongoing initiatives such as the new Constituent Assembly, which, rather than fostering reconciliation and peace, encourages a climate of tension and confrontation and mortgages the future," said a statement released Aug. 4 by the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Elections for seats on the assembly were held around the country July 30 amid massive protests and international outcry. Maduro's push for the assembly, comprised mainly of his supporters and designed to rewrite the nation's constitution, has led to violent demonstrations in which more than 100 people have died.

The Vatican's statement echoed a declaration made by members of the presiding council of the Venezuelan bishops' conference who condemned the elections as "unconstitutional as well as unnecessary, inconvenient and damaging to the Venezuelan people."

"It will be a biased and skewed instrument that will not resolve but rather aggravate the acute problems of the high cost of living and the lack of food and medicine that the people suffer and will worsen the political crisis we currently suffer," the bishops said July 27.

Maduro declared victory following the election, claiming high voter turnout. While the government said that 8 million citizens voted in favor of establishing the Constituent Assembly, the company that provided voting machines for the election said the turnout numbers results were tampered with.

According to the BBC, Antonio Mugica, CEO of Smartmatic, announced at a news conference in London July 31 that voter turnout result estimates were falsified by the country's National Electoral Council.

The news agency Reuters reported Aug. 2 that it had reviewed official election documents that stated only 3.7 million votes were registered 30 minutes before polls were closed.

Two days after the vote, security forces raided the homes of opposition members Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma. Government intelligence officials said both men were arrested for violating the terms of their house arrests, claiming they planned to flee the country after the elections.

Expressing concern over the "radicalization and worsening" of the crisis and "the increased number of dead, wounded and detained," the Vatican said Pope Francis was "closely following the situation."

The pope "assures his constant prayer for the country and for all Venezuelans, while inviting the faithful around the world to pray intensely for this intention," the Vatican said.

The Vatican called for a "negotiated solution" that would provide humanitarian aid, fair elections and the release of political prisoners, and it appealed for an end to the violence that has plagued the country.

"The Holy See addresses an urgent appeal to the whole society to avoid any form of violence, in particular by inviting the security forces to refrain from the excessive and disproportionate use of force," the Vatican statement said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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.

Constituent Assembly will 'mortgage' Venezuela's future, Vatican says

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 10:51am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ueslei Marcelino, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a strongly worded statement, the Vatican called on the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to respect the will of the people and respect the nation's current constitution.

The Vatican urged Maduro "to suspend ongoing initiatives such as the new Constituent Assembly, which, rather than fostering reconciliation and peace, encourages a climate of tension and confrontation and mortgages the future," said a statement released Aug. 4 by the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Elections for seats on the assembly were held around the country July 30 amid massive protests and international outcry. Maduro's push for the assembly, comprised mainly of his supporters and designed to rewrite the nation's constitution, has led to violent demonstrations in which more than 100 people have died.

The Vatican's statement echoed a declaration made by members of the presiding council of the Venezuelan bishops' conference who condemned the elections as "unconstitutional as well as unnecessary, inconvenient and damaging to the Venezuelan people."

"It will be a biased and skewed instrument that will not resolve but rather aggravate the acute problems of the high cost of living and the lack of food and medicine that the people suffer and will worsen the political crisis we currently suffer," the bishops said July 27.

Maduro declared victory following the election, claiming high voter turnout. While the government said that 8 million citizens voted in favor of establishing the Constituent Assembly, the company that provided voting machines for the election said the turnout numbers results were tampered with.

According to the BBC, Antonio Mugica, CEO of Smartmatic, announced at a news conference in London July 31 that voter turnout result estimates were falsified by the country's National Electoral Council.

The news agency Reuters reported Aug. 2 that it had reviewed official election documents that stated only 3.7 million votes were registered 30 minutes before polls were closed.

Two days after the vote, security forces raided the homes of opposition members Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma. Government intelligence officials said both men were arrested for violating the terms of their house arrests, claiming they planned to flee the country after the elections.

Expressing concern over the "radicalization and worsening" of the crisis and "the increased number of dead, wounded and detained," the Vatican said Pope Francis was "closely following the situation."

The pope "assures his constant prayer for the country and for all Venezuelans, while inviting the faithful around the world to pray intensely for this intention," the Vatican said.

The Vatican called for a "negotiated solution" that would provide humanitarian aid, fair elections and the release of political prisoners, and it appealed for an end to the violence that has plagued the country.

"The Holy See addresses an urgent appeal to the whole society to avoid any form of violence, in particular by inviting the security forces to refrain from the excessive and disproportionate use of force," the Vatican statement said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 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.

Pages

The Catholic Voice

The Archdiocese of Omaha • Catholic Voice
402-558-6611 • Fax 402 558-6614 •
E-mail Us

Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved.
This information may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed without written permission.

Comment Here