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.
Tue, 14 Feb 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Diocese of Coimbra concluded its phase of the sainthood cause of Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the three children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917. Bishop Virgilio Antunes of Coimbra formally closed the local phase of investigation into her life and holiness Feb. 13 in the Carmelite convent of St. Teresa in Coimbra, where she resided until her death in 2005 at the age of 97. The ceremony included the sealing of 50 volumes -- 15,000 pages -- of evidence and witness testimonies detailing the life of Sister Lucia. The documents sealed at the ceremony were to be shipped to the Congregation for Saints' Causes at the Vatican. After a thorough review of the materials and a judgment that Sister Lucia heroically lived the Christian virtues, her cause still would require the recognition of two miracles -- one for beatification and another for canonization -- attributed to her intercession. The Marian apparitions at Fatima began on May 13, 1917, when 10-year-old Lucia, along with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, reported seeing the Virgin Mary. This is the logo for Pope Francis' May 12-13 visit to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions. (CNS) The apparitions continued once a month until Oct. 13, 1917, and later were declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church. Father Romano Gambalunga, postulator of the visionary's cause, said that while "Lucia is already a saint in the eyes" of many people, "the prudent path of the church is that she is proposed to all, not just those who believe." "Lucia became holy over the years, not because of the apparitions," Father Gambalunga told Agencia Ecclesia, the news agency of the Portuguese bishops' conference. Without providing details, he said she had a "spiritual experience" in the convent. While many hope her heroic virtues will be recognized by the church soon, it is important "not to do things in a hurry," he said Feb. 13. The evidence and testimonies gathered for Sister Lucia's cause, he said, provide "a great occasion for spiritual and theological deepening," and the material will help "illuminate the history of the church over the last 100 years." Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Fatima May 12-13 and many people hope he will use the occasion to canonize Sister Lucia's cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, who were beatified by St. John Paul II in 2000. Bishop Antonio Marto of Leiria-Fatima told Radio Renascenca, the Portuguese bishops' radio station, that while nothing is certain, he is "deeply hopeful" the canonization will take place this year, the centenary of the apparitions. "We are waiting and continue to pray to the Lord. But I hope that, during the centenary, we will have the grace and joy to participate in the canonization," he said. Bishop Marto also admitted that "he is a convert," who, as a priest, was initially skeptical of the Marian apparitions in Fatima. "I was a skeptic. I didn't care; I did not take an interest nor did I take a position. I understood it as something for children," Bishop Marto said. The skepticism changed into belief after attending a conference on the apparitions and reading Sister Lucia's memoirs, he told the radio station. "I was deeply impressed, both by the authenticity of the testimony she gave and by the seriousness of the problems she dealt with. I read her memoirs three times to find the historical and ecclesial context" of the apparitions.
Tue, 14 Feb 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The provisions of "Amoris Laetitia" allow people in irregular marriage situations access to the sacraments only if they recognize their situation is sinful and desire to change it, according to the cardinal who heads the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. The fact that such a couple also believes changing the situation immediately by splitting up would cause more harm and forgoing sexual relations would threaten their current relationship does not rule out the possibility of receiving sacramental absolution and Communion, said Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the pontifical council that is charged with interpreting canon law. The intention to change, even if the couple cannot do so immediately, "is exactly the theological element that allows absolution and access to the Eucharist as long as -- I repeat -- there is the impossibility of immediately changing the situation of sin," the cardinal wrote. Cardinal Coccopalmerio's short booklet, "The Eighth Chapter of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia," was published in Italian by the Vatican publishing house and presented to journalists Feb. 14. It includes material compiled from articles and speeches the cardinal has given about the pope's document on marriage and family life. The cardinal was unable to attend the presentation because of a meeting at the Congregation for Saints' Causes, said Salesian Father Giuseppe Costa, director of the Vatican publishing house. "To whom can the church absolutely not concede penance and the Eucharist (because) it would be a glaring contradiction?" the cardinal asked in the book. "To one who, knowing he or she is in a state of serious sin and having the ability to change, has no sincere intention of carrying it out." Cardinal Coccopalmerio quoted "Amoris Laetitia" to make his point: "Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the church teaches ... such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion." Father Maurizio Gronchi, a theologian and consultant to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters Feb. 14 that Cardinal Coccopalmerio's reading of "Amoris Laetitia" is the same as the bishops of Malta, Germany and the church region of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Those bishops have issued guidelines that include the possibility of eventually allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics access to the sacraments without first requiring an annulment of their sacramental marriage or a firm commitment to abstaining from sexual relations. Dozens of other bishops around the world, including Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, head of the U.S. bishops' ad hoc committee for implementing "Amoris Laetitia," have insisted church teaching prohibits persons in an objective state of mortal sin from receiving the Eucharist and those who, in the eyes of the church, are not married to a person they are having sex with are in such a state of sin. Father Costa told reporters the cardinal's book is not "the Vatican response" to the challenges posed by U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke and three retired cardinals to the supposed lack of clarity and potential misunderstanding of "Amoris Laetitia." Rather, he said, it is an "authoritative" reading of the papal document and a contribution to the ongoing discussion. In his document, Pope Francis affirms the constant teaching of the Catholic Church on the indissolubility of marriage and the sinful state of those who cohabit and those who form a second union while one or both of them are still bound sacramentally in marriage to another person, Cardinal Coccopalmerio wrote. The only time such persons would not be in a state of mortal sin, he wrote, is if they were ignorant of church teaching, were unable to understand church teaching or "knew the norm and its goodness, but were unable to act as the norm ...
Mon, 13 Feb 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Without commenting on the authenticity of alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Pope Francis has appointed a Polish archbishop to study the pastoral needs of the townspeople and the thousands of pilgrims who flock to the town each year. The pope chose Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga as his special envoy to Medjugorje, the Vatican announced Feb. 11. "The mission has the aim of acquiring a deeper knowledge of the pastoral situation there and, above all, of the needs of the faithful who go there in pilgrimage, and on the basis of this, to suggest possible pastoral initiatives for the future," the Vatican announcement said. Archbishop Hoser's assignment has "an exclusively pastoral character," the Vatican said, making it clear his task is separate from the work of a commission set up in 2010 by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI to investigate the claims of six young people who said Mary had appeared to them daily beginning in 1981. Some of the six say Mary still appears to them and gives them messages each day, while others say they see her only once a year now. Pope Benedict had named retired Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini to chair the group studying the apparitions. In June 2015, Pope Francis told reporters that Cardinal Ruini had given him the group's report and that it would be studied by the cardinals and bishops who are members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. At the time, Pope Francis said, "We're close to making decisions," although nothing was announced until the appointment of Archbishop Hoser about 20 months later. Thousands of pilgrims travel to the small town each month to meet the alleged seers and to pray. Because the apparitions have not been approved, the Vatican has said dioceses should not organize official pilgrimages to Medjugorje. However, it also has said Catholics are free to visit the town and pray there, and that the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno and the Franciscans who minister in the town should organize pastoral care for them. The Vatican's February announcement said that Archbishop Hoser "is expected to finish his mandate as special envoy by summer of this year."
Wed, 08 Feb 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Marking the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a former slave, Pope Francis urged Christians to help victims of human trafficking and migrants, especially the Rohingya people being chased from Myanmar. For the Catholic Church, St. Bakhita's feast day, Feb. 8, is a day of prayer for victims of trafficking. Pope Francis asked government officials around the world to "decisively combat this plague" of human trafficking, paying particular attention to trafficking in children. "Every effort must be made to eradicate this shameful and intolerable crime." Describing St. Bakhita as a "young woman who was enslaved in Africa, exploited, humiliated," Pope Francis said she never gave up hope and, finally, she was able to migrate to Europe. Holding up a booklet with a photograph of the Sudanese saint, who died in Italy in 1947, the pope continued telling her story. In Europe, he said, "she heard the call of the Lord and became a nun," joining the Canossian Daughters of Charity. "Let us pray to St. Josephine Bakhita for all migrants and refugees who are exploited and suffer so much," the pope said. "And speaking of migrants who are exploited and chased away, I want to pray with you today in a special way for our Rohingya brothers and sisters," the pope continued. "These people, thrown out of Myanmar, move from one place to another because no one wants them." Pope Francis told the estimated 7,000 people at his audience that the Rohingya, who are Muslim, "are good people. They are our brothers and sisters. They have been suffering for years. They have been tortured, killed, just because they want to keep their traditions and their Muslim faith." He led the audience in praying the Lord's Prayer "for our Rohingya brothers and sisters." In a report released Feb. 3, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said since October, there had been escalating violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar. The report cited eyewitness reports of mass gang-rape, killings -- including of babies and young children -- beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by the country's security forces. An estimated 66,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since October, the report said. The recent violence, the U.N. said, "follows a long-standing pattern of violations and abuses; systematic and systemic discrimination; and policies of exclusion and marginalization against the Rohingya that have been in place for decades in northern Rakhine state." In his main audience talk, Pope Francis continued to discuss the characteristics of Christian hope, which should be both tender and strong enough to support those who suffer and despair. The Gospel does not call Christians to pity the suffering, but to have compassion, which means suffering with them, listening to them, encouraging them and offering a helping hand, the pope said. The Gospel calls Christians "not to build walls, but bridges, not to repay evil with evil, but to defeat evil with goodness (and) offense with forgiveness, to live in peace with all," he said. "This is the church. And this is what Christian hope accomplishes when it takes on the strong and, at the same time, tender features of love."
Wed, 08 Feb 2017
Like a many-faceted jewel, Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) needs to be viewed in all its richness. Its teaching is lucid concerning the priest’s responsibility to proclaim the truth. At the same time, this profound apostolic exhortation includes the recognition of the condition of the person, the ability of the individual to even understand the regulations of the Church, the place of pastoral accompaniment of those who do not fully follow the teaching, as well as the determining role of individual conscience when assessing personal culpability before God and therefore before his Church. Pope Francis is asking us to be aware of all these elements, the teaching on marriage and on conscience, as well as the example of Jesus’ mercy, compassion and forgiveness. Path of accompaniment It seems that what is at issue is not so much what the exhortation says but rather where one chooses to place the emphasis. Some seem more comfortable emphasizing the teaching and the obligations of canon law. While others, certainly the majority of bishops who were a part of both Synods on marriage, accept the canon law, but also see the need to renew the pastoral dimension of the Church’s ministry. Thus there was the repeated call from the Synodal Fathers to affirm again the Gospel value of accompaniment and the Church’s respect for an individual’s conscience in the whole process of judgment making. The bishops, during both the 2014 and 2015 synods, voiced the need for a change of mentality in our pastoral approach to married couples. In Amoris Laetitia , Pope Francis puts it this way: “I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, ‘always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street’” (No. 308). Here Pope Francis cites the document of the Synod, the Relatio Finalis (the final document approved by the bishops of the Synod), that urged the Holy Father to consider that “Under certain circumstances people find it very difficult to act differently. Therefore, while upholding a general rule, it is necessary to recognize that responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases. Pastoral discernment, while taking into account a person’s properly formed conscience, must take responsibility for these situations. Even the consequences of actions taken are not necessarily the same in all cases” ( Relatio Finalis 2015, No. 85). It is also helpful to recall that all of the material in the Relatio Finalis received over a two-thirds majority positive approval in the voting by the bishops of the Synod. Nearly all the content received over 90 percent approbation. Yes, this approach involves what some would say are serious challenges. But if we start with the recognition that Jesus came for our redemption, that the Son of Man has come “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28), and that it is not the righteous but sinners that the Son of Man has come to heal (cf. Mk 2:17), and if we take as our inspiration the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd with the lost sheep around his shoulders, we can begin to recognize in the richness of this apostolic exhortation what it is Pope Francis is telling us. The wider context for reading any particular sentence in Amoris Laetitia involves the two realities: the fall/the human condition and the gratuitous redeeming mercy of God. Always with Peter One of the many aspects of Amoris Laetitia that is particularly noteworthy is that it expresses the Holy Father’s engagement with the bishops who attended both the 2014 and the 2015 Synods on marriage and all of the material that was a part of those two gatherings that spoke about marriage, the challenges to marriage and of course the beauty and ...
Wed, 08 Feb 2017
Catholic intellectuals, moral theologians and journalists seem to be just as divided as bishops when analyzing whether Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), permits Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church to receive absolution and the Eucharist. But James Keating, a moral theologian at Providence College, says he believes the heated controversies over Amoris Laetitia will eventually “work themselves out” at the local level, which Keating said appears to be the pope’s intention. “There is a whole class of Catholic intellectuals who consider this a question on which the Church stands or falls, and some bishops are upset about it, but my guess is most bishops welcome the flexibility, and most priests also welcome the flexibility,” Keating told Our Sunday Visitor. Dueling interpretations Regardless of whether they believe the exhortation provides them with flexibility, the fact is that many bishops in the Church have taken the same document and arrived at very different conclusions on what it says about admitting back to the sacraments divorced and civilly remarried Catholics whose first union has not been annulled by the Church. Related Reading In an essay on Page 6 , Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl outlines and explains the many rich facets of Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”). For example, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, head of a task force of bishops tasked with providing resources for implementing Amoris Laetitia in the United States, has already ruled out the possibility of granting Communion to such Catholics in his archdiocese. Last summer, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia released its guidelines for implementing the exhortation. They reference the pope’s statements that the exhortation neither changes Church teaching nor the canonical discipline concerning marriage. The guidelines also say that Amoris Laetitia “is best understood when read within the tradition of the Church’s teaching and life.” But in mid-January, the bishops of Malta published their own set of pastoral guidelines that allow for the divorced and civilly remarried in some cases, after a period of discernment and prayer, to receive Communion. The Maltese bishops said people in such relationships cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments if they believe “with an informed and enlightened conscience” that they are “at peace with God.” The list of opposing episcopal interpretations has been growing for some time. The Polish bishops agree with Archbishop Chaput, as does Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona, who wrote in his diocesan newspaper that Amoris Laetitia , while calling on pastors to accompany the faithful in complex and difficult situations, does not permit them to give Communion to the divorced and remarried. Bishop Steven J. Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (the U.S.-based structure for former Anglican communities who have joined the Catholic Church) has also written that the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage has not been changed, and that couples who are remarried without an annulment cannot receive absolution or the Eucharist without the intent to refrain from sexual relations. “Pastoral discernment admits of no exceptions to the moral law, nor does it replace moral law with the private judgements of conscience,” Bishop Lopes wrote. In Pope Francis’ native Argentina, however, the bishops of the pastoral area of Buenos Aires released guidelines last year that say Amoris Laetitia offers the possibility, in some cases where complicated personal and family dynamics are a factor, of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. The sacraments, the bishops wrote, dispose the faithful in those situations “to continue maturing and growing with the power of grace.” In a letter to the Argentine bishops last fall, Pope Francis wrote approvingly of their guidelines, calling them “very good” and saying they ...
Tue, 07 Feb 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Without making room for God's word in their heart, people will never be able to welcome and love all human life, Pope Francis said. "Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love," the pope said in his message for Lent, which begins March 1 for Latin-rite Catholics. "The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable," he wrote. Released by the Vatican Feb. 7, the text of the pope's Lenten message -- titled "The Word is a gift. Other persons are gift" -- focused on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in the Gospel of St. Luke (16:19-31). The parable calls for sincere conversion, the pope said, and it "provides a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain true happiness and eternal life." In the Gospel account, Lazarus and his suffering are described in great detail. While he is "practically invisible to the rich man," the Gospel gives him a name and a face, upholding him as worthy, as "a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast," the pope wrote. The parable shows that "a right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value," he said. "A poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change." But in order to understand how to open one's heart and see the other as gift, a person must see how the word of God operates. One way to do that, he said, is to be aware of the temptations and traps the rich man fell victim to, derailing his search for true happiness. The nameless "rich man" lives an opulent, ostentatious life, the pope wrote, and his love of money leads to vanity and pride -- "the lowest rung of this moral degradation." "The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god, forgetting that he is merely mortal," he said. "For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do not come into their line of sight. The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door." Love of money, St. Paul warned, "is the root of all evils," and the pope said, it is also "the main cause of corruption and a source of envy, strife and suspicion." "Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity toward others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace," he added. The rich man's eyes are finally opened after he and Lazarus are dead; Lazarus finds comfort in heaven and the rich man finds torment in "the netherworld," because, as Abraham explains, "a kind of fairness is restored" in the afterlife and "life's evils are balanced by good," the pope said. The rich man then asks for an extraordinary sign -- Lazarus coming back from the dead -- to be given to his family members so they will repent and not make the same mistake as he. But, Abraham said the people have plenty of teachings with "Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them," the pope said. This explains what the real problem is for the rich man's and those like him: "At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God's word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbor," the pope said. The pope asked that Lent be a time "for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbor." "May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God's word, be purified of the sin that blinds us and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need," he said, especially by taking part in the various Lenten campaigns sponsored by local churches. - - - The text of the pope's message in English is online at: ...
Mon, 06 Feb 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A culture that protects life from conception to natural death is the only answer to the idea that some lives are expendable due to inconvenience or population control, Pope Francis said. Following in the path of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Christians are called to stand up and defend the lives of the unborn and the vulnerable, the pope said Feb. 5 in his remarks after the recitation of the Angelus prayer. "We are close to and pray together for the children who are in danger with the termination of pregnancy, as well as for people who are at the end of their lives; every life is sacred," he said. The pope commemorated the Day for Life celebration promoted by the Italian bishops' conference. The theme of the 2017 commemoration was "Women and men for life in the footsteps of St. Teresa of Kolkata." Citing Mother Teresa's call to fight for life, the pope joined the Italian bishops' appeal for "courageous educational action in favor of human life." "Let us remember the words of Mother Teresa: 'Life is beauty, admire it; life is life, fight for it!' both for the baby about to be born and the person who is close to death," he said, repeating again, "Every life is sacred!" Before reciting the Angelus prayer with pilgrims, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading in which Jesus tells his disciples they are "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world." While Christians are called to be reflection of Christ's life "not in words, but by our deeds," they must also take on the characteristics of salt, which gives "flavor to life with the faith and love that Christ has given us." Another fundamental quality of salt that Christians should adopt, he continued, is its ability to preserve from corruption, keeping away "the polluting germs of selfishness, envy and malicious gossip." Pope Francis' call for an authentic witness free from gossip and maliciousness came one day after copies of a poster were plastered around the Rome city center criticizing Pope Francis. Written in Roman dialect and featuring a stern-faced picture of the pope, the poster said: "Ah Francis, you've taken over congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored cardinals ... but where is your mercy?" The posters, which were placed anonymously, were taken down or covered with a sign that read "illegal posting" by the city of Rome. The Vatican issued no response to them. The germs of selfishness and gossip, the pope said in his address, "ruin the fabric of communities, which instead should shine as places of hospitality, solidarity and reconciliation."
Mon, 06 Feb 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To offer clearly and accurately the Catholic Church's positions on abortion, contraception, genetic engineering, fertility treatments, vaccines, frozen embryos and other life issues, the Vatican released an expanded and updated guide of the church's bioethical teachings. The "New Charter for Health Care Workers" is meant to provide a thorough summary of the church's position on affirming the primary, absolute value of life in the health field and address questions arising from the many medical and scientific advancements made since the first charter was published in 1994, said Msgr. Jean-Marie Mupendawatu. The monsignor, who is the secretary delegate for health care in the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said the charter "is a valid compendium of doctrine and praxis" not only for those directly involved in providing medical care, but also for researchers, pharmacists, administrators and policymakers in the field of health care. The charter "reaffirms the sanctity of life" as a gift from God and calls on those working in health care to be "servants" and "ministers of life" who will love and accompany all human beings from conception to their natural death, he said during a news conference at the Vatican Feb. 6. The Vatican released the charter in Italian. While the charter does not offer a completely "exhaustive" response to all problems and questions facing the medical and heath fields, it does add many papal, Vatican and bishops' pronouncements made since 1994 in an effort to "offer the clearest possible guidelines" to many ethical problems facing the world of health care today, said the charter's preface, written by the late-Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry. The council and three others were merged together to create the new dicastery for human development. One issue partially dealt with in the new charter is vaccines produced with "biological material of illicit origin," that is, made from cells from aborted fetuses. Citing the 2008 instruction "Dignitas Personae" from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a 2005 paper from the Pontifical Academy for Life, the charter said everyone has a duty to voice their disapproval of this kind of "biological material" being in use and to ask that alternatives be made available. Researchers must "distance" themselves by refusing to use such material, even if there is no close connection between the researcher and those doing the illicit procedure, and "affirm with clarity the value of human life," it said. However, the charter doesn't specifically address the situation of parents who are often obligated to consent to vaccines for their children that use human cell lines from tissue derived from aborted fetuses. When asked for clarification of the church's position, one of the experts who helped revise the new charter -- Antonio Spagnolo, a medical doctor and bioethics professor at Rome's Sacred Heart University -- said, "there is an acceptable distance" from cooperating with the original evil of the abortions when people use the vaccines to prevent the "great danger" of spreading disease. He said the Vatican academy's "Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived From Aborted Human Fetuses" made the church's position clear. Many of the issues added to the updated charter were dealt with in the doctrinal congregation's 2008 instruction on "certain bioethical questions," such as the immorality of: human cloning; artificial reproduction and contraception; freezing of human embryos or of human eggs; use of human embryos and embryonic stem cells for research or medical use; pre-implantation diagnosis leading to the destruction of embryos suspected of defects; and therapy that makes genetic modifications aimed at transmitting the effects to the subject's offspring because it may potentially harm the offspring. Other guidelines mentioned in the new charter include: -- ...
Thu, 02 Feb 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When it comes to helping the poor, the marginalized and refugees, Pope Francis urged Catholics not to mimic the "Mannequin Challenge" by just looking on, frozen and immobile. The video version of his prayer intention for February begins with a street scene of people doing a "Mannequin Challenge," the viral internet craze in which people freeze while music plays in the background. The prayer intention and "The Pope Video" illustrating it are distributed by the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network, formerly known as the Apostleship of Prayer. The intention the pope chose for February is: "That all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees and marginalized, may find welcome and comfort in our communities." "We live in cities that throw up skyscrapers and shopping centers and strike big real estate deals, but they abandon a part of themselves to marginal settlements on the periphery," the pope says in the video. "The result of this situation is that great sections of the population are excluded and marginalized: without a job, without options, without a way out." "Don't abandon them," the pope pleads. The video image then shows the previously mannequin-like actors reaching out to help a young man who was shivering against a building. "Pray with me," the pope says, repeating the prayer intention that people would find "welcome and comfort in our communities." - - - The video in English can be found at: https://youtu.be/eM5fcuTmdlI . The video in its original Spanish is at: https://youtu.be/hSVLdM4vYbQ .
Thu, 19 Jan 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a craftsman's workshop on the edge of Rome's Campo Verano cemetery, two designers are working to revive what they see as a dying art: burial. Unlike the masons who make the cemetery's gravestones and memorials, Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel are fashioning biodegradable burial pods. Their prototype is an egg-shaped sarcophagus that can hold a corpse in the fetal position. A young tree, chosen ahead of time by the deceased, will be planted over the pod in place of a headstone. Citelli and Bretzel imagine a future where "sacred forests" co-exist with cemeteries. The burial pods are part of a widespread movement focused on "green burial" practices, which use decomposable materials and avoid the use of embalming chemicals. A growing number of Catholic cemeteries offer "green burials," but do so emphasizing how the practices and the motivations behind such a choice must coincide with Catholic faith. "By burying the bodies of the faithful, the church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity," said an instruction on burial and cremation issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in October. The Catholic Church, it said, "cannot, therefore, condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the 'prison' of the body." The Italian pod makers, who named their firm Capsula Mundi (Latin for "earth pod") say the burial process should reflect the natural processes of the world with the dying and recycling of biological materials by other organisms. "We are earth and to earth we will return," said Bretzel, echoing the words from the Book of Genesis spoken during the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday. Yet Capsula Mundi was inspired not by Catholicism or New Age spirituality but a critique of modern culture. Consumerism, with the many creature comforts it affords, has led people to think of themselves as "outside of nature, of the biological cycle of life," and thus encouraged them to counteract the natural process of decay by embalming, Bretzel said. "In ancient times, monks were buried in the cloister of their convent; they were wrapped in a sheet, but laid in the ground," he said. Opus Dei Father Paul O'Callaghan, an expert on church teaching about end-of-life questions and a professor at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, said burial methods often indicate underlying attitudes about the afterlife. Christians recognize, "in all humility, that the body has to go back to where it came from, it goes back to the earth," said Father O'Callaghan, noting that the words "human" and "humility" both come from the Latin word "humus," meaning earth. "The authentic Christian practice," Father O'Callaghan said, is burial "followed by natural decay." The eventual resurrection of the body promised in the Creed will be the "fruit of divine intervention," he said. The priest said he understands why Catholics might be motivated to be ecologically aware when planning for their death and burial. Burial is more ecological than cremation, Father O'Callaghan argued, because the ground can "just take from the body what it wants, rather than the body being burned and heating up the atmosphere" where "most of the organic material is actually lost and is turned into CO2." But Father O'Callaghan also cautions Catholics to understand the philosophy undergirding some green burial initiatives. "When you are promoting something" that deals with death and burial, "normally you have an anthropology, you have a view of what human beings are, and how they work, and where they're destined," he said. "There is a religious element, ...