Fri, 24 Mar 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Europe must recover the memories and lessons of past tragedies in order to confront the challenges Europeans face today that seek to divide rather than unite humanity, Pope Francis said. While the founding fathers of what is now the European Union worked toward a "united and open Europe," free of the "walls and divisions" erected after World War II, the tragedy of poverty and violence affecting millions of innocent people lingers on, the pope told European leaders gathered at the Vatican March 24. "Where generations longed to see the fall of those signs of forced hostility, these days we debate how to keep out the 'dangers' of our time, beginning with the long file of women, men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and their loved ones," he said. Pope Francis welcomed the 27 European heads of state to the Vatican to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, which gave birth to European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. Signed March 25, 1957, the treaties sought to unite Europe following the devastation wrought by World War II. The agreements laid the groundwork for what eventually became the European Union. Entering the "Sala Regia" of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis placed his hand above his heart and bowed slightly to the European leaders before taking his seat. At the end of the audience, he and the government leaders went into the Sistine Chapel and posed for a photograph in front of Michelangelo's fresco, The Last Judgment. In his speech, the pope said the commemoration of the treaty should not be reduced to "a remembrance of things past," but should motivate a desire "to relive that event in order to appreciate its significance for the present." "The memory of that day is linked to today's hopes and expectations of the people of Europe, who call for discernment in the present so that the journey that has begun can continue with renewed enthusiasm and confidence," he said. At the heart of the founding fathers' creation of a united Europe, the pope continued, was concern for the human person, who after years of bloodshed held on "to faith in the possibility of a better future." "That spirit remains as necessary as ever today, in the face of centrifugal impulses and the temptation to reduce the founding ideals of the union to productive, economic and financial needs," he said. But despite achievements in forging unity and solidarity, Pope Francis said, Europe today suffers from a "lapse of memory" where peace is now "regarded as superfluous." To regain the peace attained in the past, he added, Europe must reconnect with its Christian roots otherwise "the Western values of dignity, freedom and justice would prove largely incomprehensible." "The fruitfulness of that connection will make it possible to build authentically secular societies, free of ideological conflicts, with equal room for the native and the immigrant, for believers and nonbelievers," the pope said. The economic crisis of the past decade, the crisis of the family "and established social models" and the current migration crisis, he said, offer an opportunity for Europe's leaders to discern and assess rather than "engender fear and profound confusion." "Ours is a time of discernment, one that invites us to determine what is essential and to build on it," the pope said. "It is a time of challenge and opportunity." Europe, he added, will find new hope "when man is at the center and the heart of her institutions" in order to stem "the growing 'split' between the citizenry and the European institutions which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to the different sensibilities present in the union." The migration crisis also offers an opportunity for Europe's leaders to refuse to give in to fear and "false forms of security," while posing a much deeper question to the continent's citizens. "What kind of culture does Europe propose ...
Thu, 23 Mar 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has approved the recognition of a miracle attributed to the intercession of two of the shepherd children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, thus paving the way for their canonization. Pope Francis signed the decree for the causes of Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta Marto during a meeting March 23 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the Vatican said. The recognition of the miracle makes it likely that the canonization ceremony for the two children will be scheduled soon. The cardinals and bishops who are members of the congregation must vote to recommend their canonization and then the pope would convene the cardinals resident in Rome for a consistory to approve the sainthood. Many people are hoping Pope Francis will preside over the canonization ceremony during his visit to Fatima May 12-13. The pilgrimage will mark the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions, which began May 13, 1917, when 9-year-old Francisco and 7-year-old Jacinta, along with their cousin Lucia dos Santos, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church. A year after the apparitions, both of the Marto children became ill during an influenza epidemic that plagued Europe. Francisco died April 4, 1919, at the age of 10, while Jacinta succumbed to her illness Feb. 20, 1920, at the age of 9. Francisco and Jacinta's cause for canonization was stalled for decades due to a debate on whether non-martyred children have the capacity to understand heroic virtues at a young age. However, in 1979, St. John Paul II allowed their cause to proceed; he declared them venerable in 1989 and beatified them in 2000. Their cousin Lucia entered the Institute of the Sisters of St. Dorothy and, later, obtained permission to enter the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she resided until her death in 2005 at the age of 97. Following her death, Pope Benedict XVI waived the five-year waiting period before her sainthood cause could open. Bishop Virgilio Antunes of Coimbra formally closed the local phase of investigation into her life and holiness Feb. 13, 2017, and forwarded the information to the Vatican. Also March 23, Pope Francis signed other decrees recognizing miracles, martyrdom and heroic virtues in six other causes, the Vatican said. The pope also approved the bishops' and cardinals' vote to canonize two Brazilian priests -- Blessed Andre de Soveral and Blessed Ambrosio Francisco Ferro -- as well as Mateus Moreira and 27 laypeople, who were killed in 1645 as violence broke out between Portuguese Catholics and Dutch Calvinists in Brazil. Pope Francis also approved the vote to canonize three young Mexican martyrs, known as the child martyrs of Tlaxcala, who were among the first native converts in Mexico. Known only by their first names -- Cristobal, Antonio and Juan -- they were killed in 1529 for rejecting idolatry and polygamy in the name of their faith. In addition, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing the martyrdom of Franciscan Claretian Sister Rani Maria Vattalil, who died in 1995 after being stabbed 54 times, apparently because of her work helping poor women in India organize themselves. With the signing of the decree, a date can be set for her beatification.
Thu, 23 Mar 2017
The Vatican announced March 23 that Pope Francis has approved the final miracle needed for the canonization of two Fatima seers, Blessed Francisco Marto and Blessed Jacinta Marto. The news ramps up speculation that the pope will canonize the two young shepherds during his May 12-13 trip to Fatima, an event marking the centenary of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s first appearance to Francisco, Jacinta and their cousin Lucia dos Santos exactly 100 years earlier. The path to canonization of the holy siblings began in 1952, although many had called for it since their untimely deaths in 1919 and 1920, respectively. The diocesan phase of their cause of canonization was completed in 1979, at which time it was sent to Rome, and it forced the decision on an issue that had been debated in Rome for several decades: Could children have the spiritual maturity to reach the heroic virtue needed for canonizations for those other than martyrs? Reversing a 1939 decision by Pope Pius XI, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints decided to allow children who reached the age of reason to be canonized. The two shepherd siblings of Fatima were beatified in 2000 by Pope St. John Paul II on his third and final pastoral visit to Fatima. They will be the youngest non-martyrs to be canonized. Pope Francis’ visit to Fatima will be brief, lasting about 30 hours. It will include formal meetings with various Portuguese civic officials, including the president and prime minister, and the country’s bishops. As the papal trip’s primary purpose is a pilgrimage honoring the centenary of the Fatima apparitions, the highlight of the journey will be when the pope celebrates Mass outside the shrine’s Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. The trip’s official schedule, released by the Vatican on March 20 mentions nothing about a potential canonization, but should it take place, it undoubtedly will be during this event. Four popes have visited Fatima since the apparitions — the first was Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1967 for the event’s 50th anniversary. Pope St. John Paul II’s first pilgrimage to Fatima as pope was in 1982 when he famously left the bullet that nearly killed him on May 13 of the previous year in the crown of Our Lady’s statue in Fatima. He credited her intercession for saving his life during this assassination attempt. Many expect the beatification of the third Fatima visionary, Sister Lúcia, to be celebrated soon. Three years after her 2005 death, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI waived the ordinary five-year waiting period for Sister Lúcia’s cause to be opened. News came last month that the diocesan phase of her cause for beatification had been completed, and the cause advances through the normal procedures at the Holy See’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Read more about the lives of Blessed Francisco Marto and Blessed Jacinta Marto here . Michael R. Heinlein is a graduate of The Catholic University of America. He is editor of The Catholic Answer magazine and teaches high school theology.
Mon, 20 Mar 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Accepting an invitation from Egypt's president and top religious leaders, Pope Francis will visit Cairo April 28-29. In response to an invitation from President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, the Catholic bishops in Egypt, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, "Pope Francis will make an apostolic trip to the Arab Republic of Egypt," the Vatican announced March 18. While saying details of the trip would be published soon, the announcement said the two-day trip would be focused on Cairo, the capital city. It will be the pope's 18th trip abroad in his four years as pope and the seventh time he visits a Muslim-majority nation. He will be the second pope to visit Egypt after St. John Paul II went to Cairo and Mount Sinai in 2000. The invitation came amid increasingly closer relations between the Vatican and al-Azhar, which is considered the most authoritative theological-academic institution of Sunni Islam. El-Tayeb visited the pope at the Vatican in May 2016 -- the first time the grand imam of al-Azhar was received by the pope in a private meeting at the Vatican. The pope later told reporters that in his 30-minute discussion with the grand imam, it was clear that "they are looking for peace, for encounter." "I do not think it is right to identify Islam with violence," the pope told reporters. "This is not right and it is not true." Pope Francis also has upheld the importance of strengthened cooperation between Catholics and Coptic Orthodox Christians. In the face of so many challenges, he has said, "Copts and Catholics are called to offer a common response founded upon the Gospel" and give a shared witness to the sanctity of human life, family life and creation. Given the increased persecution against Christians, the pope has told Coptic Pope Tawadros, "Today more than ever we are united by the ecumenism of blood, which further encourages us on the path toward peace and reconciliation."
Fri, 17 Mar 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Hear confession every time someone asks, Pope Francis said, and don't ever put limited hours on the sacrament of reconciliation. "Please, let there never be those signs that say, 'Confessions: Mondays and Wednesdays from this time to that time,'" he told hundreds of confessors and other participants attending an annual course sponsored by the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court that handles issues related to the absolution of sin. "Hear confession every time someone asks you. And if you are sitting there, praying, leave the confessional open because God's heart is open," he said March 17. Confession "is a pastoral priority," and is a daily call to head to the "peripheries of evil and sin, and this is an ugly periphery," he said. "I'll confess," he told his audience, that the Apostolic Penitentiary "is the tribunal that I really like because it is a 'tribunal of mercy,' where one goes to get that indispensable medicine for our souls, which is divine mercy." A good confessor, he said, has begged God for "the gift of a wounded heart, capable of understanding others' wounds and of healing them" with God's mercy, he said. Accompany men and women "with prudent and mature discernment and with true compassion for their suffering, caused by the poverty of sin," he said. 24 Hours for the Lord Pope Francis invites parishes and individuals around the world to focus on God’s mercy and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation by joining in an initiative called “24 Hours for the Lord.” The suggested dates for 2017 are March 24-25. Our Sunday Visitor is pleased to partner with the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization once again to offer a free pastoral guide, in the form of a downloadable PDF, to help you or your parish celebrate the “24 Hours for the Lord.” The guide is designed to open users to the grace and mercy God offers through prayer, sacrament, and the examples of others. Download the PDF here. So much harm is done to the church and human souls when a confessor is not guided by prayer and the Holy Spirit in discerning what God wants to be done, he said. "The confessor never follows his own will and doesn't teach his own doctrine," but is called to be God's servant in full communion with the church. Be ready to use confession as an opportunity to evangelize and remind people of the basic, essential truth of faith and morality. Pray to God for the gift of humility and the recognition of one's own sins that God fully pardoned, he told them. This kind of prayer is not only "the prime guarantee for avoiding every harsh approach that fruitlessly judges the sinner and not the sin," he said, it also reminds confessors they are "simple, albeit necessary, administrators" of God's free gift. "And he will certainly be pleased if we make extensive use of his mercy." Pope Francis also asked confessors to be very careful in discerning whether a person may be suffering from a mental disorder, "which must be verified through a healthy cooperation with" experts, or from demonic influence or possession. Whenever a confessor recognizes the presence of evil spirits, he said, never hesitate to refer to an exorcist, who is charged with "this sensitive and necessary ministry" in each diocese.
Mon, 13 Mar 2017
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City announced that one its native sons, Father Stanley Rother, a North American priest who worked in Guatemala and was brutally murdered there in 1981, will be beatified Sept. 23 in Oklahoma. "It's official! Praised be Jesus Christ! Archbishop Coakley received official word this morning from Rome that Servant of God Father Stanley Rother will be beatified in Oklahoma City in September!" the archdiocese announced March 13 on its website. Pope Francis recognized Father Rother's martyrdom last December, making him the first martyr born in the United States. Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, also tweeted the news about the priest born near Okarche, Oklahoma on a family farm: "Just received notification of the date for the beatification of Fr. Stanley Rother, Oklahoma priest, missionary and martyr. September 23!" In an interview published March 13 by The Oklahoman daily newspaper, Archbishop Coakley said Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, will be representing the pope at the beatification ceremony in Oklahoma City. It will take the priest one step closer to sainthood. In general, following beatification, a miracle attributed to the intercession of the person being considered for sainthood is required for that person to be declared a saint. Related Reading 5 lessons in love from an Oklahoma priest The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City sent Father Rother to its mission in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, in 1968 and while stationed there, he helped build a small hospital, a school and its first Catholic radio station. In 1981, as Guatemala was in the middle of a decades-long conflict, Father Rother, who lived in an indigenous rural area that had been accused by the government of sympathizing with rebels, suffered the same fate as many of his parishioners and native Guatemalans and was gunned down in the rectory. Like many deaths at that time, his assassins were never identified, nor prosecuted. His body was returned to the United States. "It continues to challenge me to know that my brother, an ordinary person like you or me, could give himself in the prime of his life to such a complete dedication to serve 'the poorest of the poor' of another culture and language, and to give of himself in such an extraordinary way," wrote his sister Marita Rother, who is a religious sister of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, in the introduction to "The Shepherd Who Didn't Run: Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma," a 2015 biography by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda. Book “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run: Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma” (OSV, $19.95) by Mariá Ruiz Scaperlanda 2016 CPA Book Award winner, Third place, biography Archbishop Coakley, who wrote the foreword of the book, said "the recognition of this generous parish priest's simple manner of life and the sacrificial manner of his death serves as a tremendous affirmation to priests and faithful alike in the United States and around the world." He went on to write that "saints are local, they come from ordinary families, parishes and communities like Okarche, Oklahoma. But their impact is universal." Father Rother was one of about 200,000 killed during the civil war in Guatemala, a conflict that began in 1960 and ended with peace accords in 1996. He was 46 at the time of his assassination and died in a rural community he loved and one that loved him back. Because his name was tricky to pronounce for the community, he went by "Padre Francisco," adopting his middle name of Francis. Archbishop Coakley told The Oklahoman newspaper that a delegation from Guatemala is expected to be present at the September beatification ceremony. Before it was official, he was considered a martyr by the church in Guatemala and included on a list submitted to the Vatican of 78 martyrs for the faith killed during the country's conflict.
Mon, 13 Mar 2017
Pope Francis was elected March 13, 2013. He celebrates four years in office today. Here are some highlights of his fourth year in service to the Church as Holy Father. In keeping with the tradition of his pontificate, Pope Francis celebrated the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper with young refugees in Castelnuovo di Porto , about 15 miles north of Rome on March 24. There, he washed the feet of eight men and four women, including some non-Catholics. This gesture came two months after the pope officially changed the Holy Thursday foot washing rite to include women. In April, Pope Francis released his family document Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), a reflection on the Church’s teaching on family life and the work of the Synod of Bishops in 2014 and 2015. In it, Pope Francis urged the Church to serve as a “field hospital” — to meet couples and families, who perhaps fall short of the Church’s ideal, where they are. It’s a call that has not been without controversy . Upon receipt of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen in recognition of his work to promote European unification in early May, Pope Francis asks of the continent : “What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom?” Upon his arrival in Armenia on June 24, Pope Francis went straight to the twin concerns of his three-day visit : Promoting Christian unity and honoring the determined survival of Armenian Christianity despite a historic massacre and decades of Soviet domination. The high profile of the pope's ecumenical concern and the importance of faith in Armenian culture were highlighted by a visit to the cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church at Etchmiadzin. In July, Pope Francis told young people at World Youth Day in Krakow that “mercy always has a youthful face.” He also commended the young people present for their witness to a culture of encounter. “Nothing is more beautiful than seeing the enthusiasm, dedication, zeal and energy with which so many young people live their lives,” he said. “When Jesus touches a young person’s heart, he or she becomes capable of truly great things.” After bringing 12 Syrian refugees home with him aboard the papal plane from Lesbos, Greece, in April, Pope Francis dined with the 21 refugees in August at Casa Santa Marta, where he lives. In September, the Holy Father canonized Mother Teresa a saint in St. Peter’s Square. During the canonization Mass, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, offered a short biography of the life of St. Teresa of Calcutta, who was born Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu in 1910 in what is now Macedonia. “Throughout her life, following the example of Christ the Good Samaritan, she was always close to anyone she encountered who was in need, sharing in the suffering of those who live on the extreme outskirts of society and witnessing to God’s boundless love for his people,” he said. The fall saw Pope Francis travel to Georgia and Azerbaijan Sept. 30-Oct. 2. And while it might be natural for U.S. Catholics to wonder why he went there, or to ignore the quick trip altogether, to have ignored the journey, held in the waning days of the Year of Mercy, would have been to miss out on the opportunity to witness Pope Francis performing profound spiritual works of mercy. On Nov. 1, during Mass for All Saints Day in Malmö, Sweden, Pope Francis took the unusual step of offering six new Beatitudes “to confront the troubles and anxieties of our age with the spirit and love of Jesus,” he said. Read them all here . In December, Pope Francis turned 80. In case you missed it, here’s a tribute to him from a few people who know him well. In December, Pope Francis also released his message for World Day of Peace 2017 . In it, he lifted up active nonviolence, modeled in the Beatitudes, as a way of building a peaceful world. “To act in this way means choosing solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society,” ...
Fri, 10 Mar 2017
ULM, Germany (CNS) -- Shortages of priests and rumors about possible female deacons were among the highlights of Pope Francis' exclusive interview with Germany's Die Zeit magazine. "The call for priests represents a problem, an enormous problem," especially in Germany and Switzerland, Pope Francis said in the interview, published March 8 online and in print March 9. "The problem is the lack of vocations. And the church must solve this problem," the pope said. He expressed the view that an increase in prayer and youth services could change the situation. "The Lord has told us: Pray! That is what's lacking: prayer. And also lacking is the work with young people who are seeking direction. Service to others is missing," said the pope. "Working with young people is difficult, but it is essential, because youth long for it." He added that youths are the ones who lose most in many modern societies because of a lack of attention. Asked whether appointing married men of proven virtue could be a solution to the priest shortage, Pope Francis replied that the church needs further time to consider the topic in detail. Update Pope talks criticisms, populism in latest interview with German weekly "Then we must determine what tasks they could undertake, for example in far-off communities," he said. Pope Francis clarified a report concerning his possible approval of women deacons. Last May, the pope said, he met with leaders of religious orders to have an open dialogue; they discussed the existence of deaconesses in early church history. Pope Francis agreed to establish a commission to research what exact roles these women played. The commission is an ongoing project. "It was about exploring the subject, and not to open a door," Pope Francis said of the commission. "This is the task of theology -- it must research to get to the foundation of things, always. That also goes for the study of the sacred Scriptures. ... What does that mean today? Truth is to have no fear. That is what historical truth and scientific truth tell us: Don't be afraid! That makes us free." Pope Francis also discussed his personal faith experiences and beliefs about God's mercy, saying that an individual's faith grows throughout a lifetime. "Faith is a gift. It will give itself," said the pope, adding that faith is to be prayed for and not bought. He said he does not like to be idealized by others, saying that idealizing a person leads to aggression. "I am a sinner and I am fallible," he said. "When I am idealized, I feel attacked." He said that he views himself as a normal person trying to do his best. He also added that he does not become angry at people who disagree with his opinions and believes that diverse opinions are good for the world. "Since I was elected pope, I have never lost my peace. I can understand if some people do not like my own way of going about things, and that is completely normal," said Pope Francis. "Everyone may have their own opinion. That is legitimate and humane and enriching," he said. In response to a question, Pope Francis said he is not able to visit Germany this year for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, despite an invitation from Chancellor Angela Merkel. "The appointment calendar is very full this year," he told Die Zeit. Asked whether he would visit Russia, China, India or other countries perhaps this year, Pope Francis replied: "To Russia I cannot travel, because then I would also have to travel to Ukraine. Even more important would be a trip to South Sudan, but I don't believe that is possible. Also a trip to the Congo was planned, but that will also not work with (President Joseph) Kabila. So remaining on the program are India, Bangladesh and Colombia, one day for Fatima in Portugal, and as far as I know, there is still an educational trip to Egypt. Sounds like a full calendar, right?"
Wed, 08 Mar 2017
Fifteen years after the clergy sexual abuse crisis shook the Catholic Church in the United States, survivors of sexual abuse and their advocates believe recent developments in Rome and elsewhere show that not all Church leaders have internalized the scandal’s gravity. In addition to several ongoing investigations into alleged abuse, observers who are concerned with the Church’s direction on the issue point to the sudden resignation of Marie Collins from the Vatican commission Pope Francis created in 2014 to protect minors. “Francis must act to boldly change the culture of secrecy the bishops maintain regarding the sexual abuse of minors,” said Patrick J. Wall, a former Benedictine monk who investigates clergy sex abuse for victims and their lawyers. “Without bold actions now,” Wall told Our Sunday Visitor, “the weight of the culture of secrecy will counteract all positive momentum created by Francis, returning the Roman Curia to its centuries-old practices.” A survivor’s voice Collins, who was sexually abused by a priest in Ireland as a teen, wrote March 1 in the National Catholic Reporter that she had to resign from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to maintain her integrity. “I have come to the point where I can no longer be sustained by hope. As a survivor I have watched events unfold with dismay,” wrote Collins, who bemoaned a reluctance among some members of the Curia to implement the commission’s recommendations, even those that had been approved by the pope. The lack of action in Rome, Collins wrote, is a “reflection of how this whole abuse crisis in the Church has been handled: with fine words in public and contrary actions behind closed doors.” Collins’ words resonate with leaders of sex abuse survivor groups in the United States. Donna B. Doucette, executive director of the Voice of the Faithful, told OSV that the Church has reached a “fulcrum moment” on clergy sex abuse. “What is Pope Francis going to do? Is he going to listen to the prophetic voices like Marie Collins?” asked Doucette. “Is he going to respond in a way that ensures that going forward children are protected or that those who are abused are supported within the Church and the priests, the clerics who have done the abusing, are removed?” “I think Pope Francis is being pressured by a Vatican Curia that is just obstructionist,” said Robert Hoatson, a former priest, survivor of clergy sexual abuse and co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, a New Jersey-based survivors organization. Global response The news of Collins’ resignation comes at a time when the Church is dealing with several abuse cases around the world. In Guam, the Vatican is investigating allegations lodged against Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron, who is accused of sexually abusing altar boys in the 1970s. In Mexico, Father Gerardo Silvestre Hernandez, a priest in the Archdiocese of Antequea Oaxaca, was sentenced earlier this year to prison for sexually abusing minors in a remote indigenous village. Meanwhile, the Catholic bishops in Australia have recently issued statements expressing sorrow for their past failures and promising to do more to protect children. The bishops released their statements as Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse reported that between 1950 and 2015, 7 percent of Australian priests were accused of abusing children. The commission also reported that 4,444 victims said they were sexually abused between 1980 and 2015. “Unfortunately, this is a problem everywhere,” said Terry McKiernan of, an online archive that tracks the abuse crisis and bishops’ responses. Frustrating path McKiernan told OSV that it appears clericalism, politics and bureaucratic inertia have been converging to frustrate reformers like Collins. “It’s discouraging and unwise for the Church, because eventually they are going to have to face this and do something about it,” McKiernan said. In her article, Collins ...
Mon, 06 Mar 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians should care about reading God's messages in the Bible as much as they care about checking messages on their cellphones, Pope Francis said. As Christ did in the desert when tempted by Satan, men and women can defend themselves from temptation with the word of God if they "read it often, meditate on it and assimilate it" into their lives, he said before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square March 5. "What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the messages of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones?" the pope asked the crowd. The pope's reflection centered on the day's Gospel reading (Mt. 4:1-11) in which Jesus is tempted by the devil while fasting in the desert for 40 days and nights before beginning his ministry. Satan, he said, attempts to dissuade Jesus from fulfilling his message and to undermine his divinity by tempting him twice to perform miracles like "a magician" and lastly, by adoring "the devil in order to have dominion over the world." "Through this triple temptation, Satan wants to divert Jesus from the path of obedience and humiliation -- because he knows that through that path evil will be defeated -- and take him on the false shortcut of success and glory," the pope said. However, Jesus deflects "the poisonous arrows of the devil" not with his own words but "only with the Word of God." Christians, the pope continued, are called to follow Jesus' footsteps and "confront the spiritual combat against the evil one" through the power of God's word which has the "strength to defeat Satan." "The Bible contains the word of God, which is always relevant and effective. Someone once said: What would happen if we treated the Bible like we treated our cellphones? What would happen if we always brought it with us, or at least a small pocket-sized Gospel?" he asked. While the comparison between the Bible and a cellphone is "paradoxical," he added, it is something that all Christians are called to reflect on during the Lenten season. "If we have the Word of God always in our hearts, no temptation could separate us from God and no obstacle would deviate us from the path of good," the pope said. After praying the Angelus prayer with the faithful in the square, Pope Francis asked for prayers before departing for a weeklong Lenten retreat with members of the Roman Curia. Lent, he said, "is the path of the people of God toward Easter, a path of conversion, of fighting evil with the weapons of prayer, fasting and works of charity," Pope Francis said. "I wish everyone a fruitful Lenten journey," he said.
Mon, 27 Feb 2017
ROME (CNS) -- The path toward Christian unity can't be found isolated in a laboratory hashing out theological differences, but rather by walking together on a common journey, Pope Francis said. While theological dialogue is necessary, Catholics and Anglicans can continue to "help each other in our needs, in our lives and help each other spiritually," the pope said Feb. 26 while answering questions from parishioners of All Saints' Anglican Church in Rome. "This cannot be done in a laboratory; it must be done walking together along the way. We are on a journey and while we walk, we can have these (theological) discussions," he said. The pope made history as the first pontiff to visit the Anglican parish, which was celebrating the 200th anniversary of its establishment in Rome. Invited by the Anglican community, Pope Francis took part in an evening liturgy and blessed an icon of Christ the Savior to commemorate the occasion. The prayer service included a "twinning" pledge between All Saints' Anglican Church and the Catholic parish that shares its name in Rome. As Pope Francis looked on, the pastors of both parishes signed a pledge to collaborate in joint retreats, works of charity and sharing meals with each other. Rev. Jonathan Boardman, chaplain of the Anglican church in Rome, presented the pope with several gifts that highlight his concern for the poor and the marginalized, including a promise to serve meals to the homeless once a week in his name. He also said 50 English Bibles will be given in the pope's name to Anglican nuns in Rome who minister to the city's prostitutes. The Anglican community also presented Pope Francis with a basket of homemade jams and chutneys as well as a Simnel cake, a traditional fruitcake typically served on the fourth Sunday of Lent and adorned with 11 marzipan balls representing the 12 apostles, minus Judas. After welcoming the pope to the parish, Rev. Boardman noted that when divisions first began, the title "Bishop of Rome" was once used by Anglicans as an insult "or an attempt to belittle it." "Today for us recognizing your unique role in witnessing to the Gospel and leading Christ's church, it is ironic that what we once used in a cruel attempt to 'put you in your place' has become the key to your pastoral kindness in being alongside us and so many other Christians around the world," Rev. Boardman said. The pope thanked the congregation and acknowledged that much has changed between Anglicans and Catholics, "who in the past viewed each other with suspicion and hostility." "Today, with gratitude to God, we recognize one another as we truly are: brothers and sisters in Christ, through our common baptism. As friends and pilgrims, we wish to walk the path together, to follow our Lord Jesus Christ together," he said. He also emphasized the need for Catholics and Anglicans to work together to help those in need in order to build "true, solid communion" through a "united witness to charity." Following the prayer service, the pope took some moments to answer questions from several members of the Anglican church. Asked what was his take on current relations between Catholics and Anglicans, the pope said that while relations between the two communities have been at times "two steps forward, half step back," they are still good and "we care for each other like brothers and sisters." Ernest, an Anglican seminarian, also asked the pope whether Anglicans and Catholics in Europe can learn from the example of churches in Asia, Africa and the Pacific whose "ecumenical relations are better and more creative." Pope Francis said the younger churches "have a different vitality" and have a "stronger need" to collaborate. An example of this, he added, was a request made by Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian bishops of South Sudan for him to visit the country along with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury. "This creativity came from them, the young church. And we are thinking about whether it can be ...
Fri, 24 Feb 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right and a key component in protecting human life, Pope Francis said. "The right to water is essential for the survival of persons and decisive for the future of humanity," the pope said Feb. 24 during a meeting with 90 international experts participating in a "Dialogue on Water" at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Looking at all the conflicts around the globe, Pope Francis said, "I ask myself if we are not moving toward a great world war over water." Access to water is a basic and urgent matter, he said. "Basic, because where there is water there is life, making it possible for societies to arise and advance. Urgent, because our common home needs to be protected." Citing "troubling" statistics from the United Nations, the pope said, "each day -- each day! -- a thousand children die from water-related illnesses and millions of persons consume polluted water." While the situation is urgent, it is not insurmountable, he said. "Our commitment to giving water its proper place calls for developing a culture of care -- that may sound poetic, but that is fine because creation is a poem." Scientists, business leaders, religious believers and politicians must work together to educate people on the need to protect water resources and to find more ways to ensure greater access to clean water "so that others can live," he said. A lack of clean and safe drinking water "is a source of great suffering in our common home," the pope said. "It also cries out for practical solutions capable of surmounting the selfish concerns that prevent everyone from exercising this fundamental right." "We need to unite our voices in a single cause; then it will no longer be a case of hearing individual or isolated voices, but rather the plea of our brothers and sisters echoed in our own, and the cry of the earth for respect and responsible sharing in a treasure belonging to all," he said. If each person contributes, he said, "we will be helping to make our common home a more livable and fraternal place, where none are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in dignity."
Fri, 24 Feb 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People who pretend to be Christians publicly, but follow their own selfish passions privately, destroy themselves and cause scandal to those around them, Pope Francis. Jesus is severe with those who "lead double lives," because they cause others to see Christianity in a bad light, the pope said Feb. 23 during morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. "So many Catholics are like this and they scandalize. How many times have we heard -- all of us, in our neighborhood and in other places -- 'But to be a Catholic like that one, it would be better to be an atheist.' That is the scandal. It destroys you, it throws you down," he said. The pope focused his homily on the day's Gospel reading from St. Mark (9:41-50) in which Jesus gives a warning about anyone who "causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin." Some people who go to Mass and belong to church groups still fail to live a Christian life, the pope said. "This happens every day; all you have to do is watch the news or read the newspapers. There are so many scandals in the newspapers and a lot of publicity on scandals. And these scandals destroy." On judgment day, he continued, those who lead double lives will present themselves before Jesus saying, "'Don't you remember? I went to church, I was close to you, I belonged to that association. Don't you remember all the offerings I made?'" "'Yes, I remember, that I remember: All of it was dirty. All of it stolen from the poor. I do not know you.' That will be Jesus' response to those scandalous ones who live a double life," the pope said. Christians should ask themselves if they are leading a double life or are "excessively confident" that they have plenty of time to convert, he said. "Let us think about this. And let us take advantage of the word of the Lord and remember that on this the Lord is very severe. Scandal destroys."
Fri, 24 Feb 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The quest to find life on other planets got a boost when astronomers confirmed the existence of at least seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a red dwarf star just 40 light years away. Three of the planets are located in the so-called "habitable" zone, a kind of "Goldilocks" sweet spot in that their distance from the sun makes them not too hot, not too cold, but just right for having liquid water -- an essential ingredient for life. The pope's own astronomers applauded the new discovery around the dwarf star, TRAPPIST-1, named after one of the many telescopes that detected the planets. The study's results were published in Nature magazine Feb. 22. "The discovery is important because, to date, it has revealed the highest number of Earth-sized planets revolving around a single parent star," U.S. Jesuit Father David Brown told Catholic News Service. "Depending on different factors, all of the planets could potentially harbor conditions for the possible existence of life on them," he said in an email response to questions Feb. 24. "It is also significant because it shows the existence of such exoplanets -- planets outside of our solar system -- around low-mass -- smaller than the Sun -- cool, red, dim stars, which are the most common types of stars in galaxies and which have long lifetimes," said the astrophysicist, who studies stellar evolution at the Vatican Observatory. He said scientists and astronomers will now want to use newer and more powerful telescopes to learn more about the TRAPPIST-1 solar system, such as the planets' atmospheres. "The aim is to look for signs of the presence of chemicals like water, methane, oxygen and others by looking at the spectra of the light observed from those atmospheres, and as well to try to examine other atmospheric properties," Father Brown said. The name TRAPPIST is an acronym for the "Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope," which is located in Chile, but the name also reflects the exploration project's Belgian roots by honoring Belgium's famous Trappist beers, made by Trappist monks. "The use of religious names in space discoveries is not rare," the astrophysicist priest said, because religious men have been among the many scientists contributing to human knowledge of the world and universe throughout history. For example, he said, several craters on the moon are named after Jesuit priests and brothers and the SECCHI (Sun Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation) instruments being used for solar research are named after Jesuit Father Angelo Secchi, one of the founding fathers of modern astrophysics. Father Brown said the human fascination with the possibility of life on other planets "speaks to one of the most basic questions that confronts humanity as it contemplates its place in this cosmos: 'Are we alone, or are there others in the universe?'" "An answer to that question would have a profound impact on humanity in this world as well as confronting us with the question of how we would interact with our cosmic neighbors," said the Louisiana native. Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory, said the question of life beyond Earth is "a question of faith." While there is no definitive proof yet that extraterrestrial life exists, "our faith in the fact that life exists is strong enough to make us willing to make an effort in looking for it," he said in an article in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Feb. 24. Brother Consolmagno, a planetary scientist, told the Italian bishops' news agency, SIR, that when it comes to discoveries about the universe, he always expects them to be surprising. "God speaks to us through what he has created," he said, and creation has been created "by a God of love, joy and surprises." God made the universe, and "it is up to us scientists and faithful to learn more about what he has created and how he created it." "Every new surprise is a tiny burst of joy before his creative ...
Thu, 23 Feb 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In an effort to help support the economy of the central Italian region devastated by several earthquakes in 2016, the Vatican has purchased food from local farmers and producers to feed the homeless. Pope Francis instructed his almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, to purchase large quantities of food from central Italy, known for its delectable selection of meats, cheeses and wine. Working with bishops from the devastated areas, Archbishop Krajewski purchased products from "several groups of farmers and producers whose businesses were at risk of closing due to the damage caused by the earthquake," the Vatican said in a statement released Feb. 23. "The papal almoner proceeded to purchase a large quantity of their products with the intention, expressed by the Holy Father, of helping them and encouraging them to continue their activities," the Vatican said. All of the products purchased by the papal almoner's office will be distributed to soup kitchens in Rome that prepare meals for the city's needy and homeless people. The Vatican City State supermarket, which is open to Vatican employees and pensioners, also has made central Italian food products available for purchase. Both projects are gestures of support for the local economy, which is struggling after major earthquakes in August and October. Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has spoken of the difficulties faced by the unemployed and those unable to support themselves or their families. "There is no worse material poverty -- I am keen to stress -- than the poverty that prevents people from earning their bread and deprives them of the dignity of work," the pope said in May 2013.
Wed, 22 Feb 2017
Pope Francis sent a greeting to grass-roots groups gathered in Modesto, California, Feb. 17, for the U.S. regional World Meeting of Popular Movements. An excerpt follows: “The grave danger is to disown our neighbors. When we do so, we deny their humanity and our own humanity without realizing it; we deny ourselves, and we deny the most important Commandments of Jesus. Herein lies the danger, dehumanization. ... “Sooner or later, the moral blindness of this indifference comes to light, like when a mirage dissipates. The wounds are there, they are a reality. The unemployment is real, the violence is real, the corruption is real, the identity crisis is real, the gutting of democracies is real. The system’s gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever because sooner or later the stench becomes too strong; and when it can no longer be denied, the same power that spawned this state of affairs sets about manipulating fear, insecurity, quarrels, and even people’s justified indignation, in order to shift the responsibility for all these ills onto a ‘non-neighbor.’ I am not speaking of anyone in particular, I am speaking of a social and political process that flourishes in many parts of the world and poses a grave danger for humanity. “Jesus teaches us a different path. Do not classify others in order to see who is a neighbor and who is not. You can become neighbor to whomever you meet in need, and you will do so if you have compassion in your heart.”
Mon, 20 Feb 2017
ROME (CNS) -- A practical first step toward holiness -- as well as for assuring peace in one's family and in the world -- is to pray for a person who has caused offense or harm, Pope Francis said. "Are you merciful toward the people who have harmed you or don't like you? If God is merciful, if he is holy, if he is perfect, then we must be merciful, holy and perfect as he is. This is holiness. A man or woman who does this deserves to be canonized," the pope said Feb. 19 during an evening parish Mass. "I suggest you start small," Pope Francis told members of the parish of St. Mary Josefa on the extreme eastern edge of the Diocese of Rome. "We all have enemies. We all know that so-and-so speaks ill of us. We all know. And we all know that this person or that person hates us." When that happens, the pope said, "I suggest you take a minute, look at God (and say), 'This person is your son or your daughter, change his or her heart, bless him or her.' This is praying for those who don't like us, for our enemies. Perhaps the rancor will remain in us, but we are making an effort to follow the path of this God who is so good, merciful, holy, perfect, who makes the sun rise on the evil and the good." The day's first reading included the line, "Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy," and in the Gospel reading, Jesus said, "Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." "You might ask me, 'But, father, what is the path to holiness?' 'What is the journey needed to become holy?' Jesus explains it well in the Gospel. He explains it with concrete examples," the pope said. The first example, he said, is "not taking revenge. If I have some rancor in my heart for something someone has done, I want vengeance, but this moves me off the path of holiness. No revenge. 'But he did this and he will pay.' Is this Christian? No. 'He will pay' is not in the Christian's vocabulary. No revenge." In people's everyday lives, he said, their squabbles with their relatives or neighbors may seem a little thing, but they are not. "These big wars we read about in the papers and see on the news, these massacres of people, of children, how much hatred! It's the same hatred you have in your heart for this person, that person, that relative, your mother-in-law. It's bigger, but it's the same hatred." Forgiveness, the pope said, is the path toward holiness and toward peace. "If everyone in the world learned this, there would be no wars." Wars begin "with bitterness, rancor, the desire for vengeance, to make them pay," he said. It's an attitude that destroys families and neighborhoods and peaceful relations between nations. "I'm not telling you what to do, Jesus is: Love your enemies. 'You mean I have to love that person?' Yes." "'I have to pray for someone who has harmed me?' Yes, that he will change his life, that the Lord will forgive him," the pope said. "This is the magnanimity of God, of God who has a big heart, who forgives all." "Prayer is an antidote for hatred, for wars, these wars that begin at home, in families," he said. "Think of how many wars there have been in families because of an inheritance. " "Prayer is powerful. Prayer defeats evil. Prayer brings peace," the pope said. As is his custom for parish visits, Pope Francis began this three-hour visit to St. Mary Josefa by meeting different parish groups, including children, who were invited to ask him question. One asked how he became pope and Pope Francis said when a pope is elected "maybe he is not the most intelligent, perhaps not the most astute or the quickest at doing what must be done, but he is the one who God wants for the church at that moment." Pope Francis explained that when a pope dies or resigns, like Pope Benedict XVI did, the cardinals gather for a conclave. "They speak among themselves, discuss what profile would be best, who has this advantage and who has that one. But, above all, they pray." They use their reason to try to figure out what the church needs and who could ...
Fri, 17 Feb 2017
ROME (CNS) -- Addressing the fear of immigrants, dissatisfaction with a "fluid economy" and the impatience and vitriol seen in politics and society, Pope Francis told Rome university students to practice a kind of "intellectual charity" that promotes dialogue and sees value in diversity. "There are lots of remedies against violence," but they must start first with one's heart being open to hearing other people's opinions and then talking things out with patience, he said in a 45-minute off-the-cuff talk. "It necessary to tone it down a bit, to talk less and listen more," he told hundreds of students, staff and their family members and friends during a visit Feb. 17 to Roma Tre University. Arriving at the university, the pope slowly made his way along a long snaking pathway of metal barricades throughout the campus, smiling, shaking hands and posing for numerous selfies with smiling members of the crowd. When handed a small baby cocooned in a bright red snowsuit for a papal kiss, the pope joked whether the child was attending the university, too. Seated on a platform facing an open courtyard, the pope listened to questions from four students, including Nour Essa, who was one of the 12 Syrian refugees the pope had brought to Rome on a papal flight from Lesbos, Greece, in 2016. The pope said he had received the questions beforehand and wrote a prepared text, but he preferred to answer "from the heart" and be "more spontaneous because I like it better that way." Asked what "remedy" could counteract the world's violence and how to live well in such a fast-paced, globalized world of "social networks," the pope said today's frenetic pace "makes us violent at home." Family members don't bother saying "good morning" to each other, they absentmindedly say "hi" or eat together in silence, each absorbed with a smartphone, he said. The faster the pace in life, the more people become "nameless" because no one takes the time to get to know the other, ending up with a situation where "I greet you as if you were an object." The tendency to de-personalize others, which starts in one's own heart, at home and with relationships, "grows and grows and it will become violence worldwide," he said. "In a society where politics has sunk very low -- and I'm talking about society around the world, not here -- one loses the sense" of building up civic life and social harmony, which is done through dialogue. Pope Francis commented on the way many electoral campaigns and debates feature people interrupting each other. "Wait! Listen carefully to what the other thinks and then respond," he said, and ask for clarification when the point isn't understood. "Where there is no dialogue, there is violence," he said. The pope said universities must be places dedicated to this kind of openness, dialogue and respect for a diversity of opinions and ideas. An institution cannot claim it is offering higher education if there is no "dialogue, discussion, listening, where there is no respect for how others think, where there is no friendship, joy of play," he said. People go to university to learn and listen, but not passively, the pope said. It is a place to actively seek the good, the beautiful and the true, as a journey done together over time. He also critiqued the so-called "fluid economy," which leads to a lack of stable, "solid" employment. Networked trades and transactions in which a person can make -- like a business friend of his did -- $10,000 in 10 minutes trading commodities is an example of this "fluid" economy, he said. This "liquidity" erases "the culture of work" and everything that is "concrete" about labor "because you cannot work and young people don't know what to do," which can lead them to addictions or suicide. "Or the lack of work leads me to join a terrorist militia. 'At least I have something to do and have meaning in my life.' It's horrible," he said. Essa, the 31-year-old Syrian woman, told the pope she, her husband and small boy were living ...
Thu, 16 Feb 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The athletes of the Special Olympics witness to the world the beauty and value of every human life and the joy that comes from reaching a goal with the encouragement and support of others, Pope Francis said. "Together, athletes and helpers show us that there are no obstacles or barriers which cannot be overcome," the pope told representatives of the Special Olympics World Winter Games, which will take place in Austria March 14-25. "You are a sign of hope for all who commit themselves to a more inclusive society," the pope told the group Feb. 16. "Every life is precious, every person is a gift, and inclusion enriches every community and society. This is your message for the world, for a world without borders, which excludes no one." Pope Francis praised the passion and dedication of the Special Olympians as they train for their events, and said sports are good for everyone, physically and mentally. "The constant training, which also requires effort and sacrifice, helps you to grow in patience and perseverance, gives you strength and courage and lets you acquire and develop talents which would otherwise remain hidden," the pope told the athletes. "In a way," he said, "at the heart of all sporting activity is joy: the joy of exercising, of being together, of being alive and rejoicing in the gifts the Creator gives us each day. Seeing the smile on your faces and the great happiness in your eyes when you have done well in an event -- for the sweetest victory is when we surpass ourselves -- we realize what true and well-deserved joy feels like!" Watching the Special Olympians, he said, everyone should learn "to enjoy small and simple pleasures, and to enjoy them together." Sporting events, especially international events like the Special Olympics World Winter Games, help "spread a culture of encounter and solidarity," the pope said, wishing the athletes "joyful days together and time with friends from around the world."
Thu, 16 Feb 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, a church law expert and former head of the Vatican's highest court, arrived in Guam Feb. 15 as the presiding judge in a church trial investigating allegations of sexual abuse leveled against Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of Agana. The Vatican press office confirmed a "tribunal of the first instance" was constituted by the Vatican Oct. 5 and its presiding judge is Cardinal Burke. Four other judges, all of whom are bishops, also were appointed, the press office said. "When an action is in a 'first instance' court, that indicates that it is in the initial trial phase," according to the website of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles accusations of clerical sexual abuse. Three men have publicly accused Archbishop Apuron of sexually abusing them when they were altar boys in the 1970s. The mother of a fourth man, now deceased, also accused the archbishop of abusing her son. Archbishop Apuron has refused to resign, but in late October, Pope Francis named former Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Byrnes as coadjutor archbishop of Agana and gave him full authority to lead the archdiocese. Roland Sondia, who works for Pacific Daily News and is one of Archbishop Apuron's accusers, told the newspaper that he had received a letter from Cardinal Burke requesting his presence at the Agana archdiocesan chancery Feb. 16 "for the purpose of giving said testimony." At a news briefing Feb. 10, according to Pacific Daily News, Archbishop Byrnes announced the archdiocese would adopt the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Accusations of clerical sexual abuse involving minors automatically would be reported to civil authorities, he said. Also at the briefing, the archbishop confirmed that Vatican investigators would visit Guam, but he provided no further information.
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