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Youth urged to remember they're 'beloved children of God, called by name'

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:51am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Natalie Hoefer, The Criterion

By Natalie Hoefer

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- The sound of more than 20,000 teens screaming and singing along with racuous music of Christian hip-hop band TobyMac was loud.

The sound of the same number of youths in silent prayer was deafening.

These external and internal forms of praise formed bookends to the opening general session of the National Catholic Youth Conference Nov. 16 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

After two hours of music, entertainment -- including cultural dancing by the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement -- and an entrance procession of banners from each diocese present, the participants were greeted by Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson.

Although each person came "from many dioceses, many states ' and with many titles," he said, "we are first and foremost children of God. And that God who knows us desires to be known by us. ' God wanted us to know him ... through a personal relationship with a human being, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

"We are beloved children of God, called by name, claimed by Christ," he continued, referring to the conference theme of "Called." "We begin this NCYC weekend by embracing that reality of who we are."

Chris Stefanick, an internationally acclaimed author, speaker and founder of Real Life Catholic, used humor and life experience to speak about the reality of who we are and of God's love for each person.

He spoke of the "love story" upon which the Catholic faith is founded.

"When you remove the love story, what are you left with?" he asked. "Rules that we have to follow. Rituals that we're not sure why we keep them alive but they take a lot of time. Doctrines that have nothing to do with your life. That's how the world has come to see Catholicism. ' The world has forgotten the love story, and so often we've forgotten the love story."

That story, he said, "begins very simply with the words '(I) believe in one God.'"

So many youths today chose not to believe, he said, including an atheist who once told him that belief that God created the universe "is as stupid as a kid coming down on Christmas morning and, seeing presents under the tree, thinks, 'There are presents, therefore there must be a Santa..'"

"You say there's no God?" Stefanick asked. "That's like a flea not believing in the dog. That's like a kid coming down on Christmas morning and seeing presents under the tree and saying, 'Oh look! Presents! They must have exploded themselves here!' ' Just so, the universe did not put itself here, and the more we learn about the universe, the more it shouts to us about the existence of God."

And because God's love created us, he said, no other form of love will satisfy.

"We feel so small in this world," he told the crowd that came from as far away as Hawaii and Alaska. "We feel so insignificant in this universe.

"I think God looks down from heaven and says, 'You are huge next to all this.' As big as a mountain is, can it know someone? As big as an ocean is, can it make a choice? As big as a galaxy is, can it choose to love? No, but you can. ... You're a huge deal!"

But because of human rejection of God, Stefanick continued, sin and brokenness entered the world. To applause and shouts of "Amen!" he modified the words of John 3:16 to note that therefore, "'God so loved you that he gave his only Son.' Whoa. '"

This love story -- which continues in the sacraments, Stefanick noted --"doesn't just show you who God is. It shows you who you are."

'

" 'Who am I?' 'I'm precious.' 'What am I worth?' 'I'm worth dying for,' " he said in a solo dialogue. "' Sin is not your name-Jesus gives you your name. And what is your name? 'Beloved.' I don't matter because of who I am-I matter because of whose I am. I'm not somebody, I'm somebody's. I'm precious and I'm worth dying for. This is the best news ever."

He encouraged the crowd to use their will to "say 'yes' to the love that created space and time and perpetually invites us to himself."

Father Joseph Espaillat, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, who was one of the evening's emcees, led the more than 20,000 present through a period of silent prayer to close. He suggested using the word "pray" as an acronym to guide their prayer -- "P" for praising God, "R" for repenting of sins, "A" for asking God for needs rather than wants, and "Y" for yielding to his will

It was this prayer time more than any of the evening's other events that most affected Abby White of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky.

"I thought it was really powerful," she said of the quiet time. "I like saying that you're sorry to God. It's been awhile since I've been to confession, and I really want to go to confession this weekend. I felt like that [prayer time] empowered me to want to go."

While Abby has attended NCYC before, Garrett Randel of Seneca, Kansas, was exuberant with the joy of one experiencing the event for the first time.

"I thought it was really cool," he said of the opening session. "The speaker was really inspiring. I thought it was one of the best experiences I've had in my Catholic faith."

Caitlin Dusenbury of the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, couldn't agree more. The NCYC first-timer's eyes lit up and a smile brightened her face when she spoke of her experience that evening.

"I really like it so far," she told The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese. "It's impacted me a lot. I've never seen so many Catholics together.

"The highlight for me was Chris speaking. 'It's not who you are, but whose you are' -- that quote stuck with me."

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Hoefer is a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

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Pope Francis calls Benedict's teaching 'precious heritage'

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 10:19am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The theological work and papal teaching of retired Pope Benedict XVI "continue to be a living and precious heritage for the church," Pope Francis said.

The pope met Nov. 18 with the winners of the 2017 Ratzinger Prize, named for the retired pope to honor those who make significant contributions to theology and culture.

The three winners had met the day before with Pope Benedict in his residence in the Vatican gardens.

Pope Francis told the group that Pope Benedict's "prayer and his discreet and encouraging presence accompany us on our common journey."

The Ratzinger Prize is awarded each year by the Vatican-based Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation, and Pope Francis urged the foundation to pay tribute to the retired pope not only by promoting the study of his writings, but to continue the spirit of his work by "entering into new fields in which modern culture asks for dialogue with the faith."

"The human spirit always has an urgent and vital need for this dialogue," the pope said. And faith needs dialogue as well to ensure that it does not become abstract, but "incarnates in time."

"Joseph Ratzinger continues to be a master and friendly interlocutor for all those who exercise the gift of reason to respond to the human vocation of searching for truth," he said.

"Co-workers of the truth," the motto the retired pope chose in 1977 as his episcopal motto, "expresses well the whole sense of his work and his ministry," the pope said.

Pope Francis said he was happy the three winners for 2017 come from different Christian traditions and he was pleased to approve the expansion of the prize to include the arts because it "corresponds well to the vision of Benedict XVI, who so often spoke in a touching way about beauty as a privileged path for opening us up to transcendence and an encounter with God."

The prize winners were German Lutheran theologian Theodor Dieter, German Catholic theologian Father Karl-Heinz Menke and the Estonian composer Arvo Part, an Orthodox Christian.

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Pope criticizes police brutality, denounces dangerous drivers

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 10:05am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Putting the brakes on dangerous and distracted driving, Pope Francis criticized using mobile phones when at the wheel and treating roads like racetracks.

While praising the work and sacrifice of police officers dealing with transit and highway patrol, he also cautioned them against turning the just use of force into brutality.

"Wisdom and self-control are needed, especially when the police officer is viewed with mistrust or seen almost as an enemy, instead of as a guardian of the common good," he said.

The pope made his remarks in a speech Nov. 20 to staff and managers of the central administration of the Italian police in charge of traffic and highway patrol and of the railways.

Whenever officers must check or constrain someone, "it's important to rely on a use of force that never degenerates into violence," he said, particularly in places where the police are looked upon with distrust, which unfortunately is widespread and, in some cases, pits society against the state.

Mercy is essential, he said; mercy is not weakness nor does it mean renouncing all use of force.

"Instead, it means being able to not equate the culprits with the crime they commit, ending up causing damage and creating a feeling of revenge; it also means making an effort to understand the needs and motives of the people that you encounter in your work," he said.

The pope asked the officers and their supervisors to "use mercy in the countless situations of weakness and pain that you confront daily" not just with victims of crime or accidents, but with the poor and vulnerable, too.

With so many people depending on increased mobility, the pope said traffic officers have a lot to do, especially when driving and commuting has become "increasingly complex and unruly."

Not only do roads and safety measures lack needed improvements and investments, officers must deal with the "poor sense of responsibility by many drivers, who often seem not to realize the even serious consequences of being distracted -- for example, with the improper use of cellphones -- or being reckless."

He said these behaviors were caused by people being in too much of a hurry or competitive, which turns "other drivers into hurdles or adversaries to overtake, transforming roads into 'Formula One' racetracks and traffic lights into the starting line for a grand prize."

Increased sanctions will not be enough, he said. Education and a greater awareness of responsibility and a civic duty toward one's fellow travelers are needed.

The pope encouraged the officers to carry out their duty and mission "with honor and a deep sense of duty" in serving others.

While often they are not appreciated enough, the officers are "on the front lines" in fighting that which harms others, creates chaos and feeds unlawfulness that hinders progress and happiness, he said.

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Vatican investigating abuse at pre-seminary

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 9:40am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican announced it had launched a new investigation into reports about sexual abuse in a pre-seminary for young adolescents run by the Diocese of Como, Italy, but located inside the Vatican.

Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, issued a statement Nov. 18 saying that beginning in 2013 when "some reports, anonymous and not," were made, staff of the St. Pius X Pre-Seminary and the bishop of Como both conducted investigations.

"Adequate confirmation was not found" regarding the allegations, which involved students and not staff. Some of the students already had left the pre-seminary when the first investigations were carried out, the statement said.

However, "in consideration of new elements that recently emerged, a new investigation is underway to shed full light on what really happened," the statement said.

In early November, the Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, whose books based on leaked Vatican documents were at the heart of two Vatican trials, published a new book, "Original Sin." The book included allegations about sexual abuse at the pre-seminary where boys in middle school and high school live. They serve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and attend a Catholic school in Rome while considering applying to a seminary when they are older.

The allegation in Nuzzi's book about one student abusing another was followed by an investigation by the Italian television program "Le Iene."

In the program, a young Polish man, identified only as 21-year-old Kamil, said he arrived at the pre-seminary at age 13, wanting to be an altar server for the pope. He said he was thinking only vaguely of becoming a priest one day.

Kamil claimed another student, one given responsibility by the rector for determining the liturgical roles of all the students at papal Masses, regularly sexually abused his roommate.

Kamil said the older student would come into their room at night, get into bed with his roommate and abuse him. The alleged abuser was ordained to the priesthood last summer, "Le Iene" reported.

In the program, the roommate is referred to as Marco, who is now 24 years old. He confirmed the allegations Kamil made.

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'Invest in love,' pope says on first World Day of the Poor

Sun, 11/19/2017 - 6:49am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People have a basic choice in the way they live: either striving to build up treasures on earth or giving to others in order to gain heaven, Pope Francis said.

"What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes," the pope said in his homily Nov. 19, the first World Day of the Poor.

Between 6,000 and 7,000 poor people attended the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica as special guests, the Vatican said. While almost all of them live in Europe, they include migrants and refugees from all over the world.

Among the altar servers were young men who are either poor, migrants or homeless. The first reader at the Mass, Tony Battah, is a refugee from Syria. Those presenting the gifts at the offertory were led by the Zambardi family from Turin, whom the Vatican described as living in a "precarious condition" and whose 1-year-old daughter has cystic fibrosis.

In addition to the bread and wine that were consecrated at the Mass, the offertory included a large basket of bread and rolls that were blessed to be shared at the lunch the pope was offering after Mass. Some 1,500 poor people joined the pope in the Vatican's audience hall for the meal, while the other special guests were served at the Pontifical North American College -- the U.S. seminary in Rome -- and other seminaries and Catholic-run soup kitchens nearby.

Preaching about the Gospel "parable of the talents" (Mt 25:14-30), Pope Francis said the servant in the story who buried his master's money was rebuked not because he did something wrong, but because he failed to do something good with what he was given.

"All too often, we have the idea that we haven't done anything wrong, and so we rest content, presuming that we are good and just," the pope said. "But to do no wrong is not enough. God is not an inspector looking for unstamped tickets; he is a Father looking for children to whom he can entrust his property and his plans."

If in the eyes of the world, the poor they have little value, he said, "they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven; they are our 'passport to paradise.' For us it is an evangelical duty to care for them, as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God's word, which is addressed first to them."

Where the poor are concerned, the pope said, too many people are often guilty of a sin of omission or indifference.

Thinking it is "society's problem" to solve, looking the other way when passing a beggar or changing the channel when the news shows something disturbing are not Christian responses, he said.

"God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation," he said, "but whether we did some good."

People please God in a similar way to how they please anyone they love. They learn what that person likes and gives that to him or her, the pope said.

In the Gospels, he said, Jesus says that he wants to be loved in "the least of our brethren," including the hungry, the sick, the poor, the stranger and the prisoner.

"In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love," he said. True goodness and strength are shown "not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord."

Before joining his guests for lunch, Pope Francis recited the Angelus prayer with thousands of people in St. Peter's Square.

The previous day in Detroit, he told the people, Capuchin Father Solanus Casey was beatified. "A humble and faithful disciple of Christ, he was known for his untiring service to the poor. May his witness help priests, religious and laypeople live with joy the bond between the proclamation of the Gospel and love for the poor."

Pope Francis told the crowd that he hoped "the poor would be at the center of our communities not only at times like this, but always, because they are at the heart of the Gospel. In them, we encounter Jesus who speaks to us and calls us through their suffering and their needs."

Offering special prayers for people living in poverty because of war and conflict, the pope asked the international community to make special efforts to bring peace to those areas, especially the Middle East.

Pope Francis made a specific plea for stability in Lebanon, which is in the middle of a political crisis after its prime minister announced his resignation. He prayed the country would "continue to be a 'message' of respect and coexistence throughout the region and for the whole world."

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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.

Blessed Solanus lived out faith, hope, charity every day, says cardinal

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 7:28pm

IMAGE: CNS

By

DETROIT (CNS) -- Blessed Solanus Casey always said that "as long as there is a spark of faith," there can be no discouragement or sorrow, said Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes.

His words were accompanied by "the concrete practice of faith, hope and charity in his everyday life," said the cardinal in his homily during the Nov. 18 beatification Mass for the beloved Capuchin Franciscan friar who was known for his cures and wise counsel.

"He came from an Irish family of profound Catholic convictions. Faith for him was a very precious inheritance for facing the difficulties of life," Cardinal Amato said. "When the young Bernard (his given name) Casey, entered the Capuchins, he passed from one community of faith to another."

Blessed Solanus "focused on the poor, the sick, the marginated and the hopeless," Cardinal Amato said. "He always fasted in order to give others their lunch. For hours upon hours, he patiently received, listened and counseled the ever-growing number of people who came to him."

The friar saw people "as human beings, images of God. He didn't pay attention to race, color or religious creed," the cardinal said.

A congregation of 66,000 people filled Ford Field, home of the NFL's Detroit Lions, which was transformed for the Mass. The altar, placed at midfield, was created originally for St. John Paul II's visit to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987. To the right of the altar was a large painting of Blessed Solanus. It was unveiled after the beatification rite, which took place at the beginning of the Mass.

Dozens of bishops, priests and deacons processed into the stadium for the start of the liturgy. The music was provided by a 25-member orchestra and a choir of 300 directed by Capuchin Franciscan Father Ed Foley. The singers were members of parish choirs from across the Detroit metro area.

Cardinal Amato was the main celebrant, joined at the altar by Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, and Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, himself a Capuchin Franciscan.

In the congregation were 240 Capuchin friars and at least 300 members of the Casey family from across America and their ancestral country of Ireland. The Casey family's Irish roots were reflected in the Irish hymns chosen as part of the music for the liturgy.

"What a witness was our beloved Solanus," said Father Michael Sullivan, provincial minister of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph in Detroit, as the ceremony began "He opened his heart to all people who came to him. He prayed with them, he appreciated them, and through him, God loved them powerfully again and again."

"For decades countless faithful have awaited this moment," said Archbishop Vigneron before asking Cardinal Amato to read the decree from Pope Francis declaring Father Solanus "Blessed."

He is the second American-born male to be beatified, after Blessed Stanley Rother, a North American priest from Oklahoma who in 1981 was martyred while serving the people of a Guatemalan village. He was beatified Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City.

Among the hundreds, if not thousands, of healings attributed to Blessed Solanus during and after his lifetime, Pope Francis recognized the authenticity of a miracle necessary for the friar to be elevated from venerable to blessed after a review by the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes was completed earlier this year.

The miracle involved the healing -- unexplained by medicine or science -- of a woman with an incurable genetic skin disease, Paula Medina Zarate of Panama. She was only recently identified publicly and she was at the Mass. As it began, she walked up to the altar with a reliquary holding a relic of Blessed Solanus.

Zarate was visiting friends in Detroit and stopped at Father Casey's tomb to pray for others' intentions. After her prayers, she felt the strong urging to ask for the friar's intercession for herself, too, and received an instant and visible healing.

The miraculous nature of her cure in 2012 was verified by doctors in her home country, in Detroit and in Rome, all of whom confirmed there was no scientific explanation. Father Casey himself died of a skin disease July 31, 1957.

Born Nov. 25, 1870, in Oak Grove, Wisconsin, Bernard Francis Casey was the sixth of 16 children born to Irish immigrants Bernard James Casey and Ellen Elizabeth Murphy. He enrolled at St. Francis High School Seminary near Milwaukee in 1891 to study for the diocesan priesthood. But because of academic limitations, he was advised to consider joining a religious order instead.

He went to Detroit to join the Capuchin order in 1897. He was given the religious name Solanus.

He continued to struggle academically but was finally ordained in 1904 as a "simplex priest," meaning he could celebrate Mass but could not preach doctrinal sermons or hear confessions.

He went to New York and served for two decades in friaries and churches there and was transferred back to Detroit in 1924, where he began working as the porter, or doorkeeper, of St. Bonaventure Monastery.

Father Casey co-founded the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in 1929 and today it serves the Detroit metro area by providing food, clothing and human development programs to the people of the community. In addition to preparing and serving up to 2,000 meals a day, the facility has an emergency food pantry, service center and a tutoring program for children.

He spent his life in the service of people, endearing himself to thousands who would seek his counsel. From 1946 to 1956, he was at the Capuchin novitiate of St. Felix in Huntington, Indiana, then was transferred back to Detroit for what was the last year of his life.

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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 museum tells the story of the Bible -- chapter and verse

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 4:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Hey, Smithsonian, there's a new kid on the block.

It's the Museum of the Bible, just a few blocks from the National Mall in Washington. With its opening to the public Nov. 18, it will tell visitors how the Bible -- both Old Testament and New Testament -- has intersected society and at times even transformed it.

The people behind the museum say that if visitors were to read the card behind every artwork, saw every video, heard every song and took part in every interactive experience -- including a Broadway-style musical called "Amazing Grace" about the song's writer, John Newton, and the biblical inspiration behind the abolitionist movement -- it would take them 72 hours to do it all.

But visitors can take their time, because there is no admission charge to the museum.

The museum was the brainchild of Steve Green, chairman of the museum's board of directors and president of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts and crafts stores. It was Hobby Lobby that successfully argued before the Supreme Court in 2014 that, as a closely held company, its owners based on their religious beliefs should not have to comply with a federal mandate to cover all forms of contraceptives because some act as abortifacients.

"It's exciting to share the Bible with the world," Green said at a Nov. 15 press preview of the museum, which is just one block from a subway stop serving three of the Washington-area subway system's six lines.

The $500 million museum had its coming-out party in 2011 at the Vatican Embassy in Washington before a gathering of business, government, academic and religious leaders.

Museum backers found a circa-1923 refrigeration warehouse that had been repurposed for other uses, bought the building and set about expanding it, adding two stories and a skylight to the top of the structure and a sub-basement for storage space.

The result: six floors of exhibits, not to mention the theater, gift shop and restaurants.

Most of the exhibits, when necessary, use the designations "B.C." and "A.D." -- Before Christ and Anno Domini, Latin for "year of the Lord" -- to refer to the timeline of civilization marked by Jesus' birth. Museum brass had discussions on the topic, Susan Jones, curator of antiquities for the museum, told Catholic News Service. "They decided that's the way they wanted to go," she said.

Most researchers, Jones noted, prefer the designations "B.C.E" and "C.E." -- Before the Common Era and Common Era -- because "they're more neutral." Also preferring the latter names is the Israeli Association for Antiquities, which has a 20-year deal with the museum to supply artifacts in a fifth-floor exhibit space. "You're in Israel now," she told a visitor as a tour guide was boasting that he had his hand on a rock from the Western Wall in Jerusalem in the exhibit.

There are a number of items on loan to the museum from the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Library. They're in a tiny space on the museum's ground floor -- relatively speaking, since the museum totals 430,000 square feet. What can't be seen in person can be accessed by two dedicated computers in the exhibit area, one for the museums and one for the library.

Brian Hyland, an associate curator for medieval manuscripts at the museum, told CNS the Vatican donations will be around for six months, then replaced by other artifacts. One of his favorite items currently in the exhibit space is the first volume of a facsimile of the Urbino Bible, which dates to the 15th century; the second volume will replace the first volume at some point in 2018.

Despite the Bible's status as the best-selling and most-read book in history, one exhibit speaks of "Bible poverty," and the fact that roughly 1 billion people have never read the Bible in their native tongue.

An organization called IllumiNations, a collaborative effort by Bible translation agencies, is trying to change that. The aim is to have, by 2033, 95 percent of the world's peoples with access to the full Bible, 99.9 percent with at least the New Testament, and 100 percent with at least some parts of the Bible translated into what museum docent William Lazenby called "their heart languages."

The exhibit space touting this endeavor is stocked with Bibles and New Testaments in various languages. Hardcover books with blank pages in the exhibit represent the untranslated languages. Wholly untranslated languages are represented by yellow covers, and partially translated tongues are represented by covers with a redder hue.

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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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.

Chinese officials pay poor to swap religious images for portraits of Xi

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 10:56am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Luong Thai Linh, Pool via Reuters

By

HONG KONG (CNS) -- Officials in China's eastern Jiangxi province have replaced religious images displayed by Christian families with portraits of the country's leader, Xi Jinping.

Ucanews.com reported that, on Nov. 12, pictures were uploaded to the popular social messaging service WeChat account of Huangjinbu town government, showing officials removing images of the cross and other religious subjects in Yugan County.

The message from officials said the Christians involved had "recognized their mistakes and decided not to entrust to Jesus but to the (Communist) Party" claiming the Christians voluntarily removed 624 religious images and posted 453 portraits of Xi.

The officials also claimed they were "converting" Christians to party loyalty through poverty alleviation and other schemes to help the disadvantaged. Nearly 10 percent of Yugan County's largely impoverished 1 million people is Christian.

Father Andrew, who declined to give his full name for fear of government retribution, told ucanews.com that the removal of the Christian images involved officials giving money to poor households in return for hanging Xi's portrait.

Father John, in northern China, said he felt Xi had become "another Mao" Zedong following the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October. The priest predicted that other officials around the country would imitate what had been done in Jiangxi.

With the party's new revised "Regulations on Religious Affairs" to be implemented Feb. 1, Chinese Christians and observers believe religious policy will closely follow Xi's "Sinicization" model.

During the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, religious intolerance and Mao's dogma prevailed. Young people were encouraged to criticize their elders, including parents and teachers. People accused of spying for foreign powers were detained and beaten to obtain confessions.

Priests in China who spoke to ucanews.com did not see any direct return to the conditions of the Cultural Revolution, but said they feared religious and social controls would continue to intensify.

"It is not going to be good," said one of the priests.

The release in China of videos urging children to spy on their families has also brought back further memories of the Cultural Revolution, when youths enforced Communist Party ideology. Young people of the Red Guards engaged in the arrest and public humiliation of anyone considered to be deviating from the teachings of revolutionary leader Mao.

Recently, the Chinese Society of Education, affiliated with the Education Ministry, released two videos online aimed at teaching children to report family members who could pose a threat to national security. One video was for primary school students and another for high school students.

Both instructed children to report to the national security bureau anyone, including parents, who could be illegally relaying confidential information, especially to foreigners. The videos provided a hotline phone number to report suspicious activities.

An official notice said the videos were produced to match Xi's strategy of incorporating national security objectives into the education system.

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The original story can be found at https://www.ucanews.com/news/china-officials-replace-in-home-pictures-of-jesus-with-xi-jinping/80810.

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Care for the dying does not mean obstinately resisting death, pope says

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 9:21am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People who are dying must be accompanied with the love of family members and the care of medical professionals, but there is no requirement that every means available must be used to prolong their lives, Pope Francis said.

"Even if we know that we cannot always guarantee healing or a cure, we can and must always care for the living, without ourselves shortening their life, but also without futilely resisting their death," the pope said in a message to the European members of the World Medical Association.

"This approach is reflected in palliative care, which is proving most important in our culture, as it opposes what makes death most terrifying and unwelcome: pain and loneliness," the pope said.

The European members of the medical association were meeting at the Vatican Nov. 16-17 for a discussion with the Pontifical Academy for Life on end-of-life care. At the same time, across St. Peter's Square, the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the International Confederation of Catholic Health Care Institutions were hosting a meeting on inequalities in health care.

Pope Francis' message touched both topics, which he said intersect when determining what level of medical intervention is most appropriate when a person is dying.

"Increasingly sophisticated and costly treatments are available to ever more limited and privileged segments of the population," the pope said, "and this raises questions about the sustainability of health care delivery and about what might be called a systemic tendency toward growing inequality in health care.

"This tendency is clearly visible at a global level, particularly when different continents are compared," he said. "But it is also present within the more wealthy countries, where access to health care risks being more dependent on individuals' economic resources than on their actual need for treatment."

A variety of factors must be taken into account when determining what medical interventions to use and for how long with a person approaching the end of his or her earthly life, Pope Francis said. For those with resources, treatments are available that "have powerful effects on the body, yet at times do not serve the integral good of the person."

Even 60 years ago, he said, Pope Pius XII told anesthesiologists and intensive care specialists that "there is no obligation to have recourse in all circumstances to every possible remedy and that, in some specific cases, it is permissible to refrain from their use."

Determining what measures amount to "therapeutic obstinacy" or "overzealous" treatment, and are therefore either optional or even harmful, requires discernment and discussion with the patient, the patient's family and the caregivers.

"From an ethical standpoint," the pope said, withholding or withdrawing excessive treatment "is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong, in that the intent of euthanasia is to end life and cause death."

In determining the best course of action in caring for a dying person, the pope said, "the mechanical application of a general rule is not sufficient."

If the patient is competent and able, the pope said, he or she "has the right, obviously in dialogue with medical professionals, to evaluate a proposed treatment and to judge its actual proportionality in his or her concrete case" and to refuse the treatment "if such proportionality is judged lacking."

In either case, he said, even medical professionals must follow "the supreme commandment of responsible closeness," remaining alongside those who are dying.

"It could be said that the categorical imperative is to never abandon the sick," he said. "The anguish associated with conditions that bring us to the threshold of human mortality, and the difficulty of the decision we have to make, may tempt us to step back from the patient. Yet this is where, more than anything else, we are called to show love and closeness, recognizing the limit that we all share and showing our solidarity."

"Let each of us give love in his or her own way -- as a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a brother or sister, a doctor or a nurse. But give it!" Pope Francis said.

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Quick fixes, denial won't stop climate change, pope says

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 9:09am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Wolfgang Rattay, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Denial or indifference when it comes to climate change will not help further honest research or facilitate finding adequate solutions, Pope Francis told government leaders attending a meeting on implementing the Paris accord.

Ratified by 170 nations, the 2016 agreement marks "a shared strategy to tackle one of the most worrying phenomena our human race is experiencing -- climate change," the pope said in a written message.

The message was read Nov. 15 to those attending the COP23 session of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, Nov. 6-17. The Vatican released a copy of the text Nov. 16.

In the message -- addressed to the president of the COP23 session, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji -- the pope said the Paris agreement is "a clear path of transition toward a model of low- or no-carbon economic development, encouraging solidarity and emphasizing the strong links that exist between fighting climate change and fighting poverty."

The urgency of addressing climate change demands "greater commitment from countries, some of which will have to seek to take on a leadership role in such a transition," which will also necessitate keeping in mind the needs of those who are most vulnerable, he said.

A recent U.N. Environment Program report found that current goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by the agreement's signatory nations will result in just one-third of the reductions required by global targets for 2030.

Closing some of that gap would require increased action in curbing emissions by private industries and regional governments, the report said, but even if countries were to reach their national targets, there would still be an increase of 3 degrees Celsius by 2100 -- a number beyond the Paris target of under 2 degrees Celsius.

The pope said if nations are to continue to build and implement guidelines and practices that are truly effective and able to reach the complex goals of the agreement, their "willingness to cooperate" must stay high.

"We must avoid falling into these four grievous attitudes that certainly do not help promote honest research and sincere and fruitful dialogue about building the future of our planet: denial, indifference, giving up and trusting in inadequate solutions."

Focusing on economic and technological solutions is necessary, but not enough, he said; ethical and social concerns and consequences of a new vision of development and progress must also be considered.

Pope Francis told leaders to maintain a proactive and collaborative spirit so they can better stimulate and increase awareness and the willingness "to adopt truly effective decisions" to tackle climate change and poverty, and promote true, integral human development.

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Spaghetti Bowl: Fitness, camaraderie part of U.S. seminary life in Rome

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 9:05am

IMAGE: CNS/Robert Duncan

By Matthew Fowler

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A seminary is not typically known for its emphasis on physical activity and fitness, but many seminarians see it as an integral part of daily life.

Andrew Auer, Joseph Caraway and his cousin, Michael Caraway, are just a few of the seminarians at the Pontifical North American College in Rome who find value in sports and physical activity.

Priests need energy to serve their people, so "we need to have bodies that are prepared for it," said Auer, a seminarian from the Archdiocese of St. Louis. "We have our gym always available just to stay healthy to be able to serve, which is really the end goal."

The North American College, which is sponsored by the U.S. bishops, educates students from the United States and Australia who are preparing for the priesthood.

"The Catholic Church is a real supporter of both body and soul," said Joseph Caraway, a seminarian from the Diocese of Lake Charles in Louisiana, who did graduate studies in exercise physiology before entering the seminary. "Sometimes we can get so caught up in focusing on the soul and our prayer, which is incredibly important, but we also need to take care of our physical bodies."

The seminary stresses the importance of building a "deeply unified community," its website says, and one way the students achieve that is through sports.

With his experience and background in graduate school, Joseph Caraway has found some very concrete ways to help his brother seminarians, developing "diet programs and exercise programs to help them become more physically fit and just learn how to exercise correctly."

Sports and physical activity are not simply fun and games. In fact, Vatican guidelines for priestly formation stress the importance of helping seminarians live a healthy life.

"The Gift of the Priestly Vocation," released by the Congregation for Clergy in December 2016, says that seminarians should dedicate time to physical exercise and sports to "attain the solid physical, psycho-affective and social maturity required of a pastor."

Michael Caraway, also a seminarian for Lake Charles, said, "Being a seminarian, being a priest, we're all about being the best human being you can be and that's definitely always going to involve the physical aspect as well, because if we don't take care of ourselves, typically you're not as happy, as healthy, holy a human being."

Camaraderie and teamwork also are key elements in seminary life that benefit from the college's sports offerings.

"Sports bring everybody together," said Joseph Caraway. "I was never much of a soccer player, but you get out on the field and your brothers are there to help you out. You're struggling, you don't know how to play, but they're there to teach you and help you grow."

The college has a large turf field, which is home to Ultimate Frisbee, soccer, football and softball matches. Just beside it sits a basketball court, which is directly in front of the state-of-the-art gymnasium inaugurated in the spring.

"It's been a really great resource for guys to come together as a community and to exercise their bodies and really prepare for the days ahead," Auer said about the new gym.

Offering the seminarians so many opportunities to play the sports they grew up with also can help them feel at home as they adjust to student life in a foreign land.

Events such as the Spaghetti Bowl, which is held every year at Thanksgiving time, give the men a renewed sense of the familiar after being thrust into the unfamiliar culture of Rome.

"The Spaghetti Bowl is a long-standing tradition at the North American College," said Auer. "It's a big culminating event on Thanksgiving weekend that we do to bring everybody together, especially when it's the first holiday away from home" for first-year students. "It can be one of those things to focus on the community here and not so much on what you're missing at home."

The Spaghetti Bowl is a flag football game between the first-year men and the rest of the college, and serves to help integrate students into the daily life of the seminary, Michael Caraway said.

"I got to know so many of my classmates and brothers in the house so much better because I was out there working with them," training for the game, he said. "It's just a good, natural way to get to know some of the guys and build community."

A balanced sports life at the seminary also shows there are greater values at play, values that go beyond childhood dreams of a professional all-star career and money.

"You reach a certain age when you're not going pro, and you realize there's something more than just the game that's being played," Auer said. Amateur sports provide "a place where I can go and grow in friendship and virtue with encouragement and support from my brothers."

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Matthew Fowler, a student at Villanova University, is an intern at the CNS Rome bureau.

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Archbishop of Puerto Rico sees spiritual rebirth after hurricane's wrath

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 2:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Almost two months after the devastating winds and rains of Hurricane Maria pummeled the island of Puerto Rico, there is still no clear path to recovery.

Although some power and phone service have been restored and relief supplies are slowly filtering in, the cleanup and rebuilding is only just beginning.

"You go day by day, but it's overwhelming and traumatic," said Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The archbishop, who attended the U.S. bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore, is acutely aware of the storm's initial and ongoing impact. Since Maria, he has visited 57 parishes in his archdiocese and has 100 more to go. Every parish in this archdiocese in the northeast corner of the island was impacted by the hurricane from minimal to extensive damage.

And as Puerto Rico's Catholics find their way through the wreckage and mud-soaked parish buildings and roofless homes while coping with minimal electricity, food and water, he said they have not lost their faith. For many, their faith has only deepened.

"Tragedies and adversities have a way of reinforcing our faith and our sense of spirituality, our dependency on God," which also goes hand in hand with an "intensified spirit of sharing, generosity and solidarity," he said.

Archbishop Gonzalez, who lived in Puerto Rico as a child and has led the San Juan Archdiocese for 18 years, said he has noticed at some recent Masses that "the choirs continue to sing the hymns they were singing before but with much more vigor and joy."

"We are in a sense being rejuvenated," he told Catholic News Service Nov. 13.

He isn't surprised by the way people are taking care of each other or as he put it -- "the enormous amount of sharing that took place and is still taking place" -- as people make meals for neighbors, for example, on gas-powered stoves.

He also has experienced this care firsthand in the calls and emails -- once they could come through -- from other bishops, along with donations and offers of rebuilding help. At the Baltimore meeting, he said a number of bishops told him: "We're with you and we'll be sending help."

Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Herbert A. Bevard of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands -- another region hard hit by Hurricane Maria -- were both invited as observers to the bishops' fall meeting and were introduced by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, has its own Catholic bishops' conference and participates in the Latin American bishops' council, known as CELAM.

During the Baltimore gathering, Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president of Catholic Charities USA, told the bishops that the relief agency had given $2 million in early November to Father Enrique Camacho, director of Caritas Puerto Rico, the Catholic Charities affiliate on the island, and she had just presented Bishop Bevard with $1 million for recovery needs.

The funding has been distributed for emergency housing, food, water, cleaning supplies, clothing, bedding, diapers and other baby needs. The agency also has deployed 150 case managers in storm-battered areas to assist people in navigating the unfamiliar task of seeking assistance.

In an unscheduled discussion about recent natural disasters at the close of the bishops' public session Nov. 14, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chair the U.S. bishop's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged fellow bishops to think of what more could be done to help Puerto Rico. He wonders if there had been donor fatigue since the hurricane followed other natural disasters.

"We should, as a body, think of how we can help. They are destroyed," he said.

Archbishop Gonzalez doesn't deny the island can use monetary help, but he said it also needs prayers.

"We believe in the immense power and efficacy of prayers. We have felt it. I have felt the impact of so many prayers. They make a difference, " he said. "Today we're still in an emergency mode. We need water, food, clothing, basic necessities of life. In the long term, we'll need assistance rebuilding homes, churches, schools, roofs."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Longing for peace: Pope to preach dialogue in Bangladesh, Myanmar

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 10:23am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Abir Abdullah, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the ongoing crisis of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar for Bangladesh will draw much attention during Pope Francis' visit to the two countries in late November, the pope also is expected to focus on interreligious dialogue, poverty and climate change.

"He will be insisting on economic justice and environmental justice," said Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar. Justice in both areas would be "the major promoters of peace and harmony" in the region.

Although to different degrees, the two countries the pope will visit are struggling to establish a democracy that respects the rights of minorities -- both religious and ethnic. Differences are exacerbated by poverty and the difficulty of accessing very limited resources; the situation is further worsened by climate change, which is evident in the droughts, flooding and increased power and frequency of cyclones that move in from the Bay of Bengal.

Both Bangladesh and Myanmar are ranked in the top 10 on the "Long-Term Climate Risk Index" published annually by Germanwatch think tank.

Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Myanmar Nov. 27 and stay until the afternoon of Nov. 30 when he flies to Bangladesh. He returns to Rome late Dec. 2.

Although lively and growing, the Catholic communities in both countries make up less than 1 percent of the population. The vast majority of people in Myanmar are Buddhist, while the overwhelming majority in Bangladesh are Muslim. Both countries have been plagued by political and ethnic tensions that have found religion to be an easy difference to exploit for political gain.

In Bangladesh, Pope Francis will ordain 16 priests; in 1986, St. John Paul II visited the country and ordained 18 men to the priesthood. One of the 18 is now Bishop Paul Ponen Kubi of Mymensingh.

"The Bangladesh church has grown a lot," Bishop Kubi told Catholic News Service. "We had only four dioceses and four bishops in Bangladesh; now we have eight dioceses and nine bishops."

"We are a very small minority Christian community in Bangladesh," the bishop said, but all the people want "to live together in harmony and peace, though they are of many religions and cultures. I believe that Holy Father Pope Francis will emphasize this."

"We are in the periphery," he said, but Pope Francis' presence "will make us known to the whole world. We feel proud of his coming."

Cardinal Bo told CNS that he expects interreligious initiatives for peace to be a major theme of the pope's talks in Myanmar where, like in other countries, religions can "become the tools for extremism. The pope's presence and his dialogue with various stakeholders would affirm the reconciling role of religions in this country."

The theme of the visit to Myanmar is "Love and Peace." And, similarly, the theme of the visit to Bangladesh is "Harmony and Peace."

Both Myanmar and Bangladesh have experienced tensions between religious communities and have mourned the loss of lives slaughtered in terrorist attacks. The Muslim faith of the Rohingya is cited as one of the reasons they often are seen as "foreigners" by Buddhist nationalists in Myanmar. Bangladesh, too, has had experience of hardline nationalists, this time Muslims, attacking members of its Hindu minority.

In both countries, the Catholic community has been a force for dialogue.

Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario of Dhaka, Bangladesh, told CNS that interreligious dialogue "is not imported by us, it is part of our culture."

"The Catholic Church is very active in a dialogue of service," he said, with non-Catholics accounting for 90 percent of those receiving medical care, education or development aid from the church. Only about 30 percent of the staffers are Catholic, but the entire staff discusses the human and religious values they have in common.

Also, he said, people in Bangladesh -- from the president and prime minister on down -- make a point to participate in each other's major feasts. So dialogue "is not just a cerebral discussion, but a celebration."

"The Christian community is considered a peace-living community in Bangladesh," he said.

In Myanmar, Cardinal Bo said, the church is "a small but very visible community," which has "an opportunity to be salt and light to this nation."

"We are in the forefront of interreligious initiatives for peace," he said, pointing out that Catholics organized the country's first interreligious peace conference.

"We have raised our voice for the protection of democracy, we support democratic forces," he said. "Democracy is in a very early stage, and it needs support."

The core of Pope Francis' message is likely to be similar to the heart of his message in Sri Lanka in January 2015: "The inability to reconcile differences and disagreements, whether old or new, has given rise to ethnic and religious tensions, frequently accompanied by outbreaks of violence."

Religions have a key role to play, he insisted. But that means "all members of society must work together; all must have a voice. All must be free to express their concerns, their needs, their aspirations and their fears. Most importantly, they must be prepared to accept one another, to respect legitimate diversities and learn to live as one family."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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'Papal' Lamborghini gift to be auctioned off for charity

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 9:10am

IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore Romano

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While a Lamborghini would make a stylish popemobile, Pope Francis has decided to auction off the one he was given by the Italian automaker to aid several charities close to his heart.

The pope was presented with a one-of-a-kind white and gold Lamborghini Huracan by the luxury car manufacturer Nov. 15, just before making his way to his weekly general audience in the standard popemobile.

The pope signed and blessed the automobile, which will be auctioned off by Sotheby's. The proceeds, the Vatican said, will be given to the pope, who already has chosen to fund three projects: the resettlement of Christians in Iraq's Ninevah Plain; support for women rescued from human trafficking and forced prostitution; and assistance to the suffering in Africa.

Specifically, part of the proceeds from the auction will go to Aid to the Church in Need, a pontifical foundation, which is working to rebuild homes, houses of worship and community buildings that were destroyed by the Islamic State and caused thousands of Iraqi Christians to flee their homes.

The pope also will give funds to: the Pope John XXIII community, an Italian organization that assists women victims of prostitution and human trafficking; and to the International Group of Hand Surgeon Friends to support its projects to provide specialized medical care in Africa; and to the Italian group Amici di Centrafrica, which helps women and children in the Central African Republic.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Mass is a time of silence and prayer, not idle chitchat, pope says

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 9:00am

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Mass is the highest form of prayer and not an appropriate moment for small talk, Pope Francis said.

At church, Catholics should spend their time in silence before Mass, preparing "to meet with Jesus" instead of engaging in "chitchat," the pope said Nov. 15 during his weekly general audience.

"Silence is so important," he said. "Remember what I told you last time: we are not going to a show. Silence prepares us and accompanies us."

The pope continued his new series of audience talks on the Mass, reflecting on the Eucharist as a form of prayer that is "the highest, the most sublime and, at the same time, the most concrete" way of encountering God's love.

"This is the greatest grace: to experience that the Eucharist is the privileged moment to be with Jesus and, through him, with God and with our brothers and sisters," the pope said.

In the Gospels, he continued, Jesus teaches his disciples that the first thing needed to pray "is to know how to say 'father'" and to trust in God with the humility of a child.

Christians also must allow themselves to be "surprised by the living encounter with the Lord," he said, and not simply "talk to God like a parrot," repeating the words of prayers without thinking.

"The encounter with God is a living encounter," the pope said departing from his prepared remarks. "It is not an encounter of a museum, it is a living encounter. And we go to Mass, not a museum! We go to a living encounter with the Lord."

Pope Francis said the Mass is also a gift and a consolation where Christians discover that God's greatest surprise is that he "loves us even in our weakness."

"The Lord encounters our frailty," the pope said. "This is the environment of the Eucharist. This is prayer."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.


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Beatification will see 'Jesus planting his cross' in heart of Detroit

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 5:14pm

IMAGE: CNS illustration/Michigan Catholic

By Mike Stechschulte

DETROIT (CNS) -- On Nov. 18, more than a few Hail Marys will be thrown around inside Ford Field. And unlike a football game, every single prayer will be answered.

That day jerseys and helmets will be replaced by chasubles and miters as thousands of bishops, clergy and faithful from across the country prepare to celebrate the beatification of Capuchin Franciscan Father Solanus Casey at the home of the NFL's Detroit Lions, the largest venue Detroit could find.

There won't be pyrotechnics or huge inflatable lions when the opening procession begins through the stadium's giant tunnel, but it should be a surreal sight nonetheless.

"The image for me, when we think about what the Mass is, becomes Jesus planting his cross -- his massive cross -- in the center of Ford Field," said Father Robert Spezia, one of several priests helping coordinate the massive liturgy. "Picture this massive crucifix that he died on coming down and being planted on the 50-yard line; that's what's going to happen on Nov. 18."

Besides the challenge of organizing Communion for 66,000 people, the liturgy of beatification will be new for almost everyone, said Capuchin Franciscan Father Larry Webber, vice postulator for Father Solanus' sainthood cause and a lead coordinator for the Mass.

"We're coordinating with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and with our postulator in Rome for all of the readings," Father Webber told The Michigan Catholic, newspaper of the Detroit Archdiocese. "The first model of the booklet we're using is from a blessed in Switzerland, which was a multilingual celebration. But we have been in touch with all of the celebrations that have happened here in the United States, including Newark and Washington, D.C."

The beatification rite itself is only a small portion of the Mass, inserted between the penitential rite and the first reading -- but an important one.

After Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron and the Capuchins' minister general offer words of thanks, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican congregation, will read the decree from Pope Francis officially declaring Father Solanus "Blessed Solanus."

"In a kind of medieval gesture, after he reads it, the cardinal will stand and hold the decree up so everyone can see it," Father Webber said. "This is to show and prove that this is from the Holy Father. Then there's the unveiling of the image of Father Solanus, applause and music and a procession with the relics."

The relics of Father Solanus, which were collected from his tomb in July, will be carried by those who have received favors through the holy Capuchin's intercession, including the Panamanian woman whose healing from a skin disease in 2012 was the official miracle recognized to move Father Solanus' cause forward.

They will present the relics to Cardinal Amato and Archbishop Vigneron to be placed near a simple, wooden shrine.

Father Spezia said the altar, processional cross and some of the Communion vessels will be the same ones used during the 1987 Pontiac Silverdome Mass celebrated by St. John Paul II.

Father Spezia said it's a "great honor" to be asked to help coordinate such a special liturgy -- even if he isn't quite sure how to tackle the monumental task of getting Communion distributed to so many people in a timely manner. Still, considering the subject, he's confident things will work out.

"I've always found with these kinds of things that heaven really helps us. We're not doing this alone," said Father Spezia, director for clergy and consecrated life for the Archdiocese of Detroit and one of dozens of clergy and laity helping organize the massive Mass.

Between the time the doors open at 2 p.m. and the start of Mass at 4, it's possible there will be testimonials played on the stadium's "big screen," but the fanfare will be understated -- befitting a humble Capuchin's spirituality.

The readings and musical selections will be proclaimed in a variety of languages -- including English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Aramaic and Tagalog (the language of the Filipino people) -- a reflection of the diversity of the church and those Father Solanus served.

Capuchin Franciscan Father Ed Foley, professor of liturgy, music and spirituality for the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, who will direct the nearly 300 singers and 25 orchestra members for the Mass, said coordinators want the liturgy to mirror the simple, accessible spirit of Father Solanus.

"There's going to be 66,000 people and the pope's representative, so you can't be too low-key, but on the other hand we wanted it to be accessible to the ordinary folks who have showed up year after year to be with Solanus," Father Foley said.

For Father Spezia and other coordinators, the beatification is a reminder that, as Archbishop Vigneron has said, "God loves Detroit," and everyone is called to a higher purpose.

"We're celebrating the fact that God has told us by means of working a miracle through the intercession of Father Solanus that Father Solanus is in heaven with him. That's what we're celebrating," Father Spezia said. "I think it's important that we realize that this is the call for all of us."

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Stechschulte is managing editor of The Michigan Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

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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.

Bishops to put together pastoral plan for marriage, family life ministry

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 3:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- U.S. Catholic bishops acknowledged that Catholic families and married couples need more support from the church at large and hope to offer it by giving parishes plenty of resources through a pastoral plan for marriage and family life.

A proposal for such a plan was introduced to the bishops on the second day of their annual fall assembly in Baltimore Nov. 14 and was approved by paper ballot with 232 votes in favor.

The pastoral plan was described by Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, a member of the bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, as a response to Pope Francis' 2016 apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love").

Bishop Malone, who introduced the idea to the bishops, was filling in for Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, the committee's chairman, who was in Rome for preparatory meeting for the Synod of Bishops in 2018.

The bishop said he hoped the pastoral plan would encourage long-term implementation of the pope's exhortation and also encourage a broader reading of it. Several bishops who spoke from the floor echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that the document was more than just one chapter -- referring to Chapter 8's focus on the possibility of divorced and remarried Catholics receiving communion which gained a lot of media attention.

Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, said a pastoral plan focused on the exhortation lets the Catholic Church "seize control" of its message after the "blogosphere was forcing us to read it in another way."

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, similarly noted that the exhortation's Chapter 8 "got all the headlines" and he hoped a new plan based on the text would get more people to read the entire document and "read it slowly."

A new pastoral plan for marriage and families would not be "the pastoral plan," as in the be all end all addressing every detail, but it should provide a framework to help parishes work in this area, Bishop Malone said.

Discussion from the floor on about this plan was overwhelmingly positive.

Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska, said the church should look for ways to lift up marriage and thank couples for all they do. Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco said the church should offer more than just marriage preparation programs and should provide something for couples after they are married.

They should know about marriage before they come to church to set up their wedding, he said, emphasizing that catechism needs to start much earlier

After Bishop Malone had stressed before the body of bishops that the program would focus on the entirety of "Amoris Laetitia," not one part that generated so much attention, a reporter turned back to that section of the exhortation asking the bishop in a news conference if couples living in adultery could receive Communion.

"I'm not going to answer that here," the bishop said, re-emphasizing that the aim of the pastoral plan was to provide married couples with resources they would need to strengthen their marriage and families.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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British Catholic schools remove 'mother,' 'father' from admission forms

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 12:22pm

By Simon Caldwell

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- The terms "mother" and "father" will be banned from Catholic schools' admissions forms in England and Wales following a complaint the terms discriminated against gay and stepparents.

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator, which settles disputes on behalf of the government, upheld the objection of a parent who wished to enroll a child in Holy Ghost Catholic Primary School in London.

The parent had been asked to fill in a form which left spaces only for the names of "mother/guardian" and "father/guardian" and argued that the terms discriminated against "separated, step- and gay parents."

Peter Goringe, one of 12 adjudicators, said in a late October ruling that "in the absence of any clarification of the term 'parent,' the use of the words 'mother' and 'father' might, as the objector suggests, be taken to imply that the school is restricting its definition."

The Catholic Education Service, an agency of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, has advised more than 2,200 schools to revise their policies to take account of the adjudicator's decision.

A spokesman for the CES told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 14 telephone interview that the advice represented a clarification of the existing demands of the School Admissions Code rather than a change of policy.

"We expect all Catholic schools to comply with the School Admissions Code, and we work closely with dioceses and the Office of the Schools Adjudicator to ensure this happens," the Catholic Education Service added in a statement sent by email Nov. 14.

According to reports in the British media, hundreds of Catholic schools have already replaced "mother" and "father" with the titles "parent 1" and "parent 2."

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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.

Vatican releases pope's schedule for visit to Chile, Peru

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 9:42am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Felipe Trueba, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- During his visit to Chile and Peru, Pope Francis will honor the country's religious roots and underline the plight of indigenous men and women.

The Vatican said Pope Francis will be in Chile Jan. 15-18, visiting the cities of Santiago, Temuco and Iquique. He then will fly to Peru and, from Jan. 18-21, he will visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo.

In Chile, the pope will meet with residents of the Mapuche indigenous community in the Araucania region. Members of the Mapuche have called for the government to return lands confiscated prior to the country's return to democracy in the late 1980s.

He will also meet with the indigenous people of the Amazon during his visit to Puerto Maldonado. The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

A special gathering of the Synod of Bishops to focus on the Amazon region will take place in Rome in October 2019.

The synod, he said, would seek to identify new paths of evangelization, especially for indigenous people who are "often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest," which plays a vital role in the environmental health of the entire planet.

The Peru-Chile trip will be Pope Francis' fourth to South America. In July 2013, he visited Brazil for World Youth Day. In July 2015, he traveled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. His trip to Colombia in September was his third visit to the continent as pope.

Here is the detailed schedule released by the Vatican. Times listed are local, with Eastern Standard Time in parenthesis when it is different from local time:

Monday, Jan. 15 (Rome, Santiago)

-- 8 a.m. (2 a.m.) Departure from Rome's Fiumicino airport.

-- 8:10 p.m. (6:10 p.m.) Arrival at Santiago International Airport. Welcoming ceremony.

-- 9 p.m. (7 p.m.) Arrival at the apostolic nunciature.

Tuesday, Jan. 16 (Santiago)

-- 8:20 a.m. (6:20 a.m.) Meeting with government authorities, members of civil society and the diplomatic corps at La Moneda presidential palace.

-- 9 a.m. (7 a.m.) Courtesy visit to Michelle Bachelet, president of the republic, at the presidential palace.

-- 10:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.) Mass at O'Higgins Park. Homily by pope.

-- 4 p.m. (2 p.m.) Brief visit to the women's prison center in Santiago. Greeting by pope.

-- 5:15 p.m. (3:15 p.m.) Meeting with priests, men and women religious, seminarians and novices at the cathedral of Santiago. Speech by pope.

-- 6:15 p.m. (4:15 p.m.) Meeting with Chile's bishops in the cathedral's sacristy.

-- 7:15 p.m. (5:15 p.m.) Visit to the shrine of St. Alberto Hurtado. Private meeting with Jesuit priests.

Wednesday, Jan. 17 (Santiago, Temuco, Santiago)

-- 8 a.m. (6 a.m.) Departure by plane for Temuco.

-- 10:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.) Mass at Maquehue Airport. Homily by pope.

-- 12:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m.) Lunch with indigenous residents of the Araucania region in the "Madre de la Santa Cruz" house.

-- 3:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.) Departure by plane for Santiago.

-- 5 p.m. (3 p.m.) Arrival in Santiago.

-- 5:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m.) Meeting with young people at the Shrine of Maipu. Speech by pope.

-- 7 p.m. (5 p.m.) Visit to the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Speech by pope.

Thursday, Jan. 18 (Santiago, Iquique, Lima)

-- 8:05 a.m. (6:05 a.m.) Departure by plane for Iquique.

-- 10:35 a.m. (8:35 a.m.) Arrival at Iquique International Airport.

-- 11:30 a.m. (9:30 a.m.) Mass at Lobito beach. Homily by pope.

-- 2 p.m. (12 p.m.) Lunch at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes retreat house.

-- 4:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m.) Departure ceremony at the Iquique international airport.

-- 5:05 p.m. (3:05 p.m.) Departure by plane for Lima.

-- 5:20 p.m. Arrival at the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima. Welcoming ceremony.

Friday, Jan. 19 (Lima, Puerto Maldonado, Lima)

-- 8:30 a.m. Meeting with government authorities, members of civil society and the diplomatic corps in the courtyard of the presidential palace. Speech by pope.

-- 9 a.m. Courtesy visit to Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, president of the republic, in the Ambassadors Room of the presidential palace.

-- 9:55 a.m. Departure by plane for Puerto Maldonado.

-- 11:45 a.m. Arrival at Puerto Maldonado airport.

-- 12 p.m. Meeting with people of the Amazon at "Madre de Dios" stadium. Speech by pope.

-- 1 p.m. Meeting with the people at the Jorge Basadre Institute. Greeting by pope.

-- 1:15 p.m. Lunch with representatives of people of the Amazon at the Apaktone Pastoral Center.

-- 3:45 p.m. Visit to the "Hogar Principito" children's home. Greeting by pope.

-- 4:50 p.m. Departure by plane for Lima.

-- 6:40 p.m. Arrival at the Lima airport.

-- 7 p.m. Private meeting with Jesuits at St. Peter's Church.

Saturday, Jan. 20 (Lima, Trujillo, Lima)

-- 7:40 a.m. Departure by plane for Trujillo.

-- 9:10 a.m. Arrival in Trujillo.

-- 10 a.m. Mass at Huanchaco beach. Homily by pope.

-- 12:15 p.m. Tour of the Buenos Aires neighborhood inpopemobile.

-- 3 p.m. Brief visit to the city's cathedral.

-- 3:30 p.m. Meeting with priests, men and women religious, seminarians and novices of northern Peru at Sts. Carlos and Marcelo College Seminary. Speech by pope.

-- 4:45 p.m. Marian celebration of Our Lady of La Puerta at Plaza de Armas. Speech by pope.

-- 6:15 p.m. Departure by plane for Lima.

-- 7:40 p.m. Arrival in Lima.

Sunday, Jan. 21 (Lima)

-- 9:15 a.m. Mid-morning prayer with contemplative nuns at the Shrine of Our Lord of the Miracles. Homily by pope.

-- 10:30 a.m. Prayer before the relics of Peruvian saints in the city's cathedral.

-- 10:50 a.m. Meeting with Peru's bishops in the archbishop's residence. Speech by pope.

-- Noon. Recitation of the Angelus at Plaza de Armas.

-- 12:30 p.m. Lunch at the apostolic nunciature.

-- 4:15 p.m. Mass at Las Palmas Air Base. Homily by pope.

-- 6:30 p.m. Departure ceremony at Jorge Chavez International Airport.

-- 6:45 p.m. Departure by plane for Rome.

Monday, Jan. 22

-- 2:15 p.m. (8:15 a.m.) Arrival at Rome's Ciampino airport.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Catholic Church sometimes has been part of racism problem, says bishop

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 5:40pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Rhina Guidos

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Though the Catholic Church has responded to racism for many years, some leaders and church institutions have at times been part of the problem, said a bishop who is heading a committee against racism.

Bishop George V. Murry, speaking to bishops gathered Nov. 13 for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops fall gathering in Baltimore, said that while racism was not unique to the United States, it "lives in a particular and pernicious way in our country, in large part because of the experience of the historic evil of slavery."

Bishop Murry, who became the head of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism earlier this year, said the church must recognize "and frankly acknowledge" its failings.

The country has tried to address the problem before, he said, and yet, "even with that progress, one does not need to look very far to see that racism still exists and has found a troubling resurgence in modern years."

Christ calls us to break down the walls created by the evils of racism, he said.

Though African-Americans have suffered intensely from "the sin of racism," racism also has ravaged lives and livelihoods and many people of other races, he said. Its targets seem to be growing.

Weeks ago, in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched with hate-inspired messages, leading to violence and death, he said.

"Racial hatred that is often in hiding, for some, was on full display for many," Bishop Murry said of the events in Charlottesville.

The committee he heads, he said, is working to provide pastoral accompaniment and one way is to listen to the "voices of people suffering because of racism."

Created by the U.S. bishops in August, the committee will have listening sessions and create and disseminate theological, liturgical, pastoral and community resources. The committee, he said, is also looking at ways to best commemorate the 50th anniversary to the assassination of civil rights icon the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Bishops chimed in with comments and suggestions.

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, whose retirement as head of the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona, was recently accepted by Pope Francis, suggested that the bishops take "symbolic actions," much in the way other church members have taken at events such as masses on both sides of the southern border.

"Racism isn't going to be conquered by speech but by actions," said Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta.

Bishop Murry said committee's efforts also will focus on evangelization geared toward healing and reconciliation, toward conversion of those who harbor racist beliefs and who commit racist actions as well as caring for the victims of racism.

"All of this is aimed at one goal: to change hearts, which will lead to a change in behavior because every human being is created in the image and likeness of God," he said.

While on the committee, he said, he has heard certain comments.

"Some people think that there's no need to confront racism or that we should confront it only in private," Bishop Murry said, but confronting racism "is necessary because the Gospel calls us to work for justice, and racism denies justice to people simply because of their race -- and that is morally wrong."

Much work has already been done, but there is much more to be done, he said.

"Racism has lived and thrived in various ways for far too long," he said. "As a result, our efforts to root it out will not succeed overnight. Yet, the church's contribution at this time is vital."

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