Catholic News Agency

Subscribe to Catholic News Agency feed Catholic News Agency
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 2 hours 4 min ago

Pope: To be a disciple, Jesus must be the center of your life

3 hours 24 min ago

Vatican City, Jun 29, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis said that we can’t just know about our faith, but we must live our faith, with Jesus as the center of our hearts and lives.

“The question of life demands a response of life. For it counts little to know the articles of faith if we do not confess Jesus as the Lord of our lives,” the Pope said June 29.

“Today he looks straight at us and asks, ‘Who am I for you?’ As if to say: ‘Am I still the Lord of your life, the longing of your heart, the reason for your hope, the source of your unfailing trust?’

Jesus is asking us today the same questions he asked to his disciples: “Who do people say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?” Francis continued. In the end, only Peter answers that he is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

“Along with Saint Peter, we too renew today our life choice to be Jesus’ disciples and apostles. May we too pass from Jesus’ first question to his second, so as to be ‘his own’ not merely in words, but in our actions and our very lives,” he said.

This is the “crucial question,” he continued, especially for pastors. “It is the decisive question. It does not allow for a non-committal answer, because it brings into play our entire life.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Mass celebrating the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of the city of Rome. During the ceremony, he blessed the pallia to be bestowed on the 32 new metropolitan archbishops who were present, all appointed throughout the previous year.

The pallium is a white wool vestment, adorned with six black silk crosses. Dating back to at least the fifth century, the wearing of the pallium by the Pope and metropolitan archbishops symbolizes authority as well as unity with the Holy See.

The title of “metropolitan bishop” refers to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis, namely, the primary city of an ecclesiastical province or regional capital.

Traditionally the Pope bestows the stole to the new archbishops June 29 each year. The rite is a sign of communion with the See of Peter. It also serves as a symbol of the metropolitan archbishop’s jurisdiction in his own diocese as well as the other particular dioceses within his ecclesiastical province.

However, as a sign of “synodality” with local Churches, Pope Francis decided in 2015 that new metropolitan archbishops will officially be imposed with the pallium in their home diocese, rather than the Vatican.

So while the new archbishops still journey to Rome to receive the pallium during the liturgy with the Pope, the official imposition ceremony is in their home diocese, allowing more faithful and bishops in dioceses under the archbishop’s jurisdiction to attend the event.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on three words from the liturgy that he said are “essential for the life of an apostle: confession, persecution and prayer.”

For confession, the Pope spoke of the confession of faith, which means “to acknowledge in Jesus the long-awaited Messiah, the living God, the Lord of our lives.”

We should ask ourselves, he said, if we are “parlor Christians,” who only love to sit and chat about how things are going in the Church and the world, or “apostles on the go,” people “who confess Jesus with their lives because they hold him in their hearts.”

We can’t be half-hearted, he urged, but must be on fire with love for Christ, not looking for the easy way out, but daily risking ourselves to put out “into the deep.”

“Those who confess their faith in Jesus do as Peter and Paul did: they follow him to the end – not just part of the way, but to the very end.”

But doing so isn’t easy, and that’s when we come to the second word, he explained, because following the way of Christ, also means facing the cross and persecution.

Peter and Paul shed their blood for Christ, as well as the early Christian community as a whole. Even today, he continued, a great number of Christians are persecuted.

The Pope emphasized the words of the Apostle Paul, who said "to live was Christ, Christ crucified, who gave his life for him."

"Apart from the cross, there is no Christ, but apart from the cross, there can be no Christian either," Francis stated.

The Christian is called to “tolerate evil,” but tolerating evil doesn't mean simply having patience and resignation, he explained, it means imitating Christ, accepting the cross with confidence, carrying the burden for Christ's sake and for the sake of others – all the while knowing that we are not alone.

"Tolerating evil," he continued, "means overcoming it with Jesus, and in Jesus’ own way, which is not the way of the world."

This is why St. Paul writes: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." The essence of this "good fight," the Pope emphasized, was living "for Jesus and for others," giving your all. There is only one thing that Paul kept in his life, and that is his faith.

"Out of love, he experienced trials, humiliations and suffering, which are never to be sought but always accepted. In the mystery of suffering offered up in love, in this mystery, embodied in our own day by so many of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, impoverished and infirm, the saving power of Jesus’ cross shines forth."

Lastly, Pope Francis said that the life of an apostle must be a life of constant prayer.

"Prayer is the water needed to nurture hope and increase fidelity. Prayer makes us feel loved and it enables us to love in turn. It makes us press forward in moments of darkness because it brings God’s light. In the Church, it is prayer that sustains us and helps us to overcome difficulties."

When St. Peter was in prison, it tell us in the Acts of the Apostles that "earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church."

"A Church that prays is watched over and cared for by the Lord. When we pray, we entrust our lives to him and to his loving care,” he said.

Francis concluded by praying that the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, may "obtain for us a heart like theirs."

Hearts that are wearied because they are constantly asking, knocking, interceding, weighed down by the many needs of people and situations that need to be handed over to God, but also at peace, because the Holy Spirit brings consolation and strength through prayer, he said.

"How urgent it is for the Church to have teachers of prayer, but even more so for us to be men and women of prayer, whose entire life is prayer!"

“The Lord answers our prayers. He is faithful to the love we have professed for him, and he stands beside us at times of trial.”

Just as the Lord accompanied the journey of the Apostles, “he will do the same for you, dear brother Cardinals,” he said.

“He will remain close to you too, dear brother Archbishops who, in receiving the pallium, will be strengthened to spend your lives for the flock, imitating the Good Shepherd who bears you on his shoulders."

Cardinal Pell to take leave while facing abuse charges in Australia

4 hours 51 min ago

Vatican City, Jun 29, 2017 / 01:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After Australian police announced that they have charged him on multiple counts of sexual abuse, Cardinal George Pell has maintained his innocence, saying he will take leave from his responsibilities in the Vatican to clear his name.

In comments to journalists during a June 29 news briefing at the Holy See Press Office, Cardinal Pell said that with the permission of Pope Francis, he will be taking "leave" from his position as the Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy in order "to clear my name."

"I am looking forward, finally, to having my day in court. I'm innocent of these charges, they are false," he said, adding that "the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me."

Throughout the two years he has been fighting the accusations, there have been various media leaks and "relentless character assassination," he said, insisting he has been "consistent and clear in my total rejection of these allegations."

Pell said that he has regularly kept Pope Francis informed of the process. In the past week, the two have spoken on "many occasions" about "my need to take leave to clear my name," he said, voicing his gratitude to the Pope "for giving me this leave to return to Australia."

The cardinal said he has already spoken with his lawyers and doctors about how and when he will return to Australia to face the charges.

"News of these charges strengthens my resolve, and court proceedings now offer me the opportunity to clear my name and then return here, back to Rome, to work," he said.

Cardinal Pell's statement came after the police of Victoria, Australia announced that they are charging him on multiple counts of historical sexual abuse.

The charging of Cardinal Pell, who in 2013 was tapped to oversee the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy and is a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis, makes him the most senior Vatican official to ever be charged with abuse.

He was ordained in the diocese of Ballarat in 1966, where he served as a priest and later as a consulter to Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who oversaw the diocese from 1971-1997. Pell was appointed auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese of Melbourne in 1987, and was named archbishop in 1996.

In February 2016, he testified for the third time before Australia's Royal Commission regarding claims that surfaced in 2015 accusing the cardinal of moving “known pedophile” Gerald Ridsdale, of bribing a victim of the later-defrocked priest, and of ignoring a victim’s complaint.

Established in 2013, the Royal Commission is dedicated to investigating institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

Despite having testified before the commission twice before on the same charges, Pell again offered to give his testimony, which he did via video conference from Rome.

Shortly before the hearing, abuse allegations surfaced accusing the cardinal of multiple counts of child sexual abuse dating as far back as 1961, which he has continued to fervently deny.

In a June 29 communiqué released after Cardinal Pell made his statement to journalists, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the Holy See learned with "regret" about the charges filed for "decades-old actions" that have been attributed to the cardinal.

"Having become aware of the charges, Card. Pell, acting in full respect for civil laws, has decided to return to his country to face the charges against him, recognizing the importance of his participation to ensure that the process is carried out fairly, and to foster the search for truth," the communiqué read.

Echoing Pell's own statement, Burke affirmed that Pope Francis has granted the cardinal an absence from his duties "so he can defend himself," and that in his absence, the Secretariat for the Economy will continue to carry out its work.

The secretaries in the department will remain at their posts to carry forward the dicastery's work "donec aliter provideatur," meaning "until otherwise provided."

Pope Francis, Burke said, "has appreciated Cardinal Pell’s honesty during his three years of work in the Roman Curia," and is grateful for his collaboration and "energetic dedication to the reforms in the economic and administrative sector, as well as his active participation in the Council of Cardinals (C9)."

On behalf of the Holy See, Burke voiced respect for the Australian justice system, which "will have to decide the merits of the questions raised."

However, at the same time, he said "it is important to recall that Card. Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors" and has cooperated with Australian authorities in the past, specifically with his depositions before the Royal Commission.

Moreover, the cardinal has been supportive of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and as a diocesan bishop in Australia, introduced systems and procedures "both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse."

Burke closed noting that Cardinal Pell will no longer be attending public events while facing the charges, and as such would be absent from the day's today's Mass for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, to be celebrated by Pope Francis and attended by all new metropolitan archbishops appointed during the previous year.

Australian police charge top Vatican official with sexual abuse

10 hours 38 min ago

Vatican City, Jun 28, 2017 / 07:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After years of fighting allegations of sexual abuse and negligence in handling abuse cases, Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican's top finance man, will be charged on multiple counts of abuse, Australian police announced Wednesday.

Pell, who has fervently denied the allegations, will be charged on summons, and will be required to return to Melbourne in July order to answer the charges. 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Victoria police were the ones who decided to charge the cardinal. In a June 29 statement, Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said Pell is facing "multiple charges in respect to historic sexual offenses," which multiple complaints in each of the charges.

Due to heavy media speculation surrounding the investigation, Patton clarified that "the process and the procedures that have been followed in the charging of Cardinal Pell have been the same that have been applied in a whole range of historical sex offenses whenever we investigate them."

"There has been no change in any procedures whatsoever," he said, noting that Pell has been treated the same as anyone else.

The deputy commissioner stressed the importance of remembering that "none of the allegations that have been made against Cardinal Pell have, obviously, been tested in any court yet."

"Cardinal Pell, like any other defendant, has a right to due process and so therefore it's important that the process is allowed to run its natural course," he said.

"Preserving the integrity of that process is essential to all of us, so for Victoria police it's important that it's allowed to go through unhindered, and its allowed to see natural justice is afforded to all the parties involved, including Cardinal Pell and the complainants in this matter."

Pell has been summoned to appear before the Melbourne Maginstrate's court July 18 for a filing hearing to face the charges, which were served to his legal team Wednesday (Thursday Australian time).

The charging of Cardinal Pell, who in 2013 was tapped to oversee the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy and is a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis, makes him the most senior Vatican official to ever be charged with abuse.

Cardinal Pell was ordained in the diocese of Ballarat in 1966, where he served as a priest and later as a consulter to Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who oversaw the diocese from 1971-1997. Pell was appointed auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese of Melbourne in 1987, and was named archbishop in 1996.

In February 2016, he testified for the third time before Australia's Royal Commission regarding claims that surfaced in 2015 accusing the cardinal of moving “known pedophile” Gerald Ridsdale, of bribing a victim of the later-defrocked priest, and of ignoring a victim’s complaint.

Established in 2013, the Royal Commission is dedicated to investigating institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

Despite having testified before the commission twice before on the same charges, Pell was again summoned to return to Australia for deposition in December. However, the cardinal’s doctor advised against the long flight, due to health issues.

As a result, Cardinal Pell volunteered to appear by way of video conference from Rome. His proposal for the video conference was accepted, and he gave his testimony again with abuse survivors present, who crowd-funded in order to attend the hearing in person.

Shortly before the hearing, abuse allegations surfaced accusing the cardinal of multiple counts of child sexual abuse dating as far back as 1961, which he fervently denied at the time.

In a statement released after the accusations arose, Pell said "the allegations are without foundation and utterly false."

At the close of the hearing, the cardinal admitted that he should have done more to protect the children of Australia during his time as a bishop.

"One of the things I regret as a Catholic priest is the damage that these crimes do to the faith of survivors, of the victims, and their friends and family, and generally throughout the society,” he said, and voiced his willingness to work with authorities.

In a June 29 statement following the announcement of the Victoria police department's decision to charge him, Cardinal Pell's office said he has "again strenuously denied all allegations."

The statement said Pell would return to Australia as soon as possible "to clear his name" after consulting with his doctors, who will advise him on his travel arrangements, and that he looks forward to "vigorously" opposing the charges in court

Pell is set to give a statement to journalists in Rome at 8:30a.m. local time in the Holy See Press Office regarding the announcement of the charges.

 

This article was updated at 9:12p.m. MST with the official statement from Cardinal Pell's office.

 

Keep your eyes fixed on the cross, Pope urges new cardinals

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 20:05

Vatican City, Jun 28, 2017 / 08:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, Pope Francis created five new cardinals, encouraging them to walk with Jesus, keeping their eyes fixed securely on the cross and on the realities of the world, not becoming distracted by prestige or honor.

“I speak above all to you, dear new Cardinals. Jesus ‘is walking ahead of you,’ and he asks you to follow him resolutely on his way. He calls you to look at reality, not to let yourselves be distracted by other interests or prospects,” the Pope said June 28.

“He has not called you to become ‘princes’ of the Church, to ‘sit at his right or at his left.’ He calls you to serve like him and with him.”

“To serve the Father and your brothers and sisters. He calls you to face as he did the sin of the world and its effects on today’s humanity. Follow him, and walk ahead of the holy people of God, with your gaze fixed on the Lord’s cross and resurrection.”

Pope Francis addressed the five bishops he chose to receive a red hat last month, and others present, during an ordinary consistory for the creation of new cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica.

He had announced his intention to create the new cardinals during a Regina Coeli address on May 21st.

Immediately following a reading from the Gospel of Matthew and his short reflection, the Pope made the proclamation creating the new cardinals. Afterward they received their red biretta and cardinal’s ring. At this time they were also assigned a titular church, tying them to Rome.
 
In his choice of cardinals, Pope Francis has remained true to his vision of a broader, more universal representation of the Church, forged during his last consistory, Nov. 19, 2016, where he created 17 new cardinals from 11 different nations and five different continents.

Among this consistory's picks are Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, and Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, Apostolic Vicar of Pakse, Laos and Apostolic Administrator of Vientiane, and Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali.

All three are the first cardinals from their respective countries.

Also noteworthy is his appointment of San Salvador’s auxiliary bishop, José Gregorio Rosa Chávez, marking the first time the Pope has tapped an auxiliary as cardinal.

Bishop Chávez was chosen over his archbishop, Jose Luis Escobar Alas, for the red hat, showing that Francis, as seen in his previous appointments, is willing to skip over “cardinal sees.”

In contrast to the other four is Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona, Spain. His red hat is not a dramatic departure from tradition, as Barcelona is traditionally a see with a cardinal and Archbishop Omella’s predecessor, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, turned 80 on April 29.

All of the new cardinals are under 80, and therefore eligible to vote in the next conclave.

In his homily, Francis reflected on the Gospel heard during the ceremony, which came from Matthew 10:32-45. In the passage, Jesus and the disciples are walking toward Jerusalem. This is when the third prediction of the Passion of Christ happens, which is nearing.

“‘Jesus was walking ahead of them.’ This is the picture that the Gospel we have just read presents to us. It serves as a backdrop to the act now taking place: this Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals,” he said.

Jesus walks ahead of them with full knowledge of what is going to take place in Jerusalem, but at this moment there is a divide, a distance, between his heart and the hearts of his disciples, which only the Holy Spirit can bridge, Francis said.

He knows this and is patient with them. “Above all, he goes before them. He walks ahead of them.”

Along the way, though, the disciples become distracted by things which have nothing to do with what Jesus is preparing to do, or with the will of the Father.

“They are not facing reality! They think they see, but they don’t. They think they know, but they don’t. They think they understand better than the others, but they don’t…” the Pope exclaimed.

“For the reality is completely different. It is what Jesus sees and what directs his steps. The reality is the cross.”

This reality, Francis continued, is the sin of the world, which the Lord came to take upon himself and to “uproot from the world of men and women.”

The reality of sin is manifest in the world in the innocent who suffer and die as victims of war and terrorism, in the many forms of human slavery that exist, he said. It’s found also in refugee camps, which are more like hell than purgatory, and it’s in the discarding of people and things that society doesn’t find useful.

“This,” he said, “is what Jesus sees as he walks towards Jerusalem.”

“During his public ministry he made known the Father’s tender love by healing all who were oppressed by the evil one (cf. Acts 10:38). Now he realizes that the moment has come to press on to the very end, to eliminate evil at its root. And so, he walks resolutely towards the cross.”

“We too, dear brothers and sisters, are journeying with Jesus along this path,” he said.

“And now,” he concluded, “with faith and through the intercession of the Virgin Mother, let us ask the Holy Spirit to bridge every gap between our hearts and the heart of Christ, so that our lives may be completely at the service of God and all our brothers and sisters.”

After the consistory, Pope Francis and the new cardinals will stop by the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to pay a visit to Benedict XVI, who was not present at the ceremony.

As is customary, the cardinals will then proceed to the atrium of the Pope Paul VI hall where they are formally greeted and congratulated.

The new cardinals will also concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square on June 29, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the patrons of Rome. At the Mass the Pope will also bestow the pallia on the new metropolitan archbishops appointed during the last year.

The consistory was the fourth of Pope Francis’ pontificate. With the 5 new cardinals included, the number of voting cardinals comes to 121, and the number of non-voters to 104, for a grand total of 225.

Pope Francis: The way of Christ is the way of persecution

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 15:57

Vatican City, Jun 28, 2017 / 03:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that following Christ means taking a path contrary to that of the world, and being prepared to suffer because of this; though we have hope because of God’s constant presence.

“Persecution is not a contradiction to the gospel, but is part of it: if they persecuted our Master, how can we hope that we will be spared the struggle?” he said June 28.

“However, in the midst of the whirlwind, the Christian must not lose hope, thinking he has been abandoned. Jesus reassures his disciples saying, ‘Even the hairs of your head are all counted.’ As much as to say that none of the sufferings of man, even the most minute and hidden, are invisible to the eyes of God.”

“God sees, and surely protects; and will give his ransom.”

Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the theme of Christian hope during the weekly general audience Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square. This time he reflected on the counter-cultural life of the Christian, which will mean withstanding persecution on some level, and for some, even martyrdom.
 
“Christians are therefore men and women ‘against the current,’” he said. “It is normal: since the world is marked by sin, manifested in various forms of egoism and injustice, those who follow Christ walk in the opposite direction.”

As Christians we do this “not for a contrary spirit, but for loyalty to the logic of the Kingdom of God, which is a logic of hope, and is translated into a way of life based on the directions of Jesus,” he continued.

“Christians must therefore always find themselves on the ‘other side,’ on the other side of the world, that chosen by God; not persecutors but persecuted; not arrogant, but gentle; not conmen, but submissive to the truth; not imposters, but honest.”

The first indication of a life lived based on this logic is poverty, the Pope said. In fact, he emphasized, “a Christian who is not humble and poor, detached from wealth and power and above all detached from himself, does not look like Jesus.”

Following this way has its difficulties and struggles, of course, the Pope said. But in difficulty, we must remember that Jesus is with us, and he never leaves his disciples alone.

“This fidelity to the way of Jesus – a way of hope – unto death, will be called by the first Christians with a beautiful name: ‘martyrdom,’ meaning ‘testimony,’” he said.

The early Christians could have chosen a different name for this act, like ‘heroism,’ 'abnegation,' or 'self-sacrifice,' but instead they chose this one, Francis said.

Martyrs are not selfish, living for themselves. “They do not fight to assert their own ideas, and accept that that they have to die only for loyalty to the gospel,” he said, which is the only “force” or strength the Christian uses.

In his catechesis, Francis recalled that Jesus warned us that he sends us “as sheep in the midst of wolves.” And the Christian does not have weapons or claws against these wolves. He or she may need to be cautious, even shrewd at times, he said, but violent never.

A Christian travels through life with the essentials for the journey, but with a heart full of love, he said, because true defeat for the Christian isn't poverty, it's to fall into the temptation to respond to evil with evil.

There is, in fact, “Someone” among us who is stronger than evil, he said.

But martyrdom is not even “the supreme ideal of Christian life,” Francis continued, because above all there is charity, that is, the love of God and of neighbor.”

Reflecting on charity, the Apostle Paul says: “If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

This is why it Christians are disgusted by the idea that suicide bombers might be called “martyrs,” the Pope explained. “These do not know the martyrs – there is nothing in their end that can be brought closer to the attitudes of the children of God.”

The martyrs of yesterday and even of today had hope that no one and nothing could separate them from the love of God. So we ask that God gives us this same strength to be his witnesses, he concluded.

“He gives us the opportunity to live Christian hope especially in the hidden martyrdom of doing well and with love our duties of every day.”

Unity is more than 'bland uniformity,' Pope tells Orthodox

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 04:12

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2017 / 04:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met with a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, saying their journey toward full communion is one that ought to respect their unique traditions – rather than a uniformity that would, in the end, make the Church more boring.

“Peter and Paul, as disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ, served the Lord in very different ways,” the Pope said June 27.

“Yet in their diversity, both bore witness to the merciful love of God our Father, which each in his own fashion profoundly experienced, even to the sacrifice of his own life.”

Because of this, since ancient times the Church in the East and in the West has celebrated the feast of the two Apostles together, he said, adding that it is right to jointly commemorate “their self-sacrifice for love of the Lord, for it is at the same time a commemoration of unity and diversity.”

Pope Francis spoke to a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, who are currently in Rome for the June 29 celebration of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The Pope is particularly close to the Orthodox Church of Constantinople, and has met with their Patriarch, Bartholomew I, several times since his election in 2013.

In his address to the delegation, Francis said the traditional exchange of delegations on the feast of their patrons is something that “increases our desire for the full restoration of communion between Catholics and Orthodox.”

This, he said, is something “which we already have a foretaste in fraternal encounter, shared prayer and common service to the Gospel.”

He noted how in the first millennium, Christians of both the East and West were able to share the same Eucharist and preserve the essential truths of the faith while at the same time cultivating and exchanging a variety of theological, canonical and spiritual traditions founded on the teaching of the apostles and the ecumenical councils.

“That experience,” Francis said, “is a necessary point of reference and a source of inspiration for our efforts to restore full communion in our own day, a communion that must not be a bland uniformity.”

Francis then noted how this year marks 50 years since Blessed Pope Paul VI visited Istanbul's Phanar district in July 1967, where the seat of the ecumenical patriarchate is located, to visit Patriarch Athenagoras, as well as the visit of  Athenagoras to Rome in October of the same year.

“The example of these courageous and farsighted pastors, moved solely by love for Christ and his Church, encourages us to press forward in our journey towards full unity,” Francis said.

The Pope then expressed his gratitude for the many occasions on which he has been able to meet with Patriarch Bartholomew, which have taken place largely during his various trips and ecumenical prayer events.

At the end of his speech, Pope Francis noted that in September, a meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church will take place in Leros, Greece.

He voiced his hope that the event “will take place in a spiritual climate of attentiveness to the Lord’s will and in a clear recognition of the journey already being made together by many Catholic and Orthodox faithful in various parts of the world, and that it will prove most fruitful for the future of ecumenical dialogue.”

The Pope closed by voicing his hope that with the intercession of Saints Peter, Paul and Andrew, through mutual prayer they would become “instruments of communion and peace.”

Local priest named fifth bishop of Allentown, Penn.

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 19:16

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2017 / 07:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday the Vatican announced Pope Francis' pick of Mons. Alfred A. Schlert to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Allentown in Pennsylvania, himself born and raised in the diocese.

Bishop-elect Schlert, 55, fills the vacancy left when his predecessor, Bishop John Oliver Barres was appointed to the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York at the end of January.

In a statement on the appointment June 27, Bishop Barres said that Mons. Schlert “has a blend of holiness, intelligence and pastoral experience that will serve the mission of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Allentown in an extraordinary way.”

“He is primarily a loving pastor with an insightful and compassionate pastoral charity and a non-stop New Evangelization missionary spirit,” the statement continued.

“He is humble and down to earth and has this incredibly creative sense of humor that is charitable and puts everyone around him at ease. He is calm and steady but passionate about Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the Catholic Church’s mission of mercy in the world.”

Mons. Schlert, who was born and raised in the Diocese of Allentown, has been serving as Diocesan Administrator of Allentown since Bishop Barres' move to New York.

It is the first time a priest of the diocese has been named its bishop.

Bishop-emeritus of Allentown, Edward P. Cullen said that the people of the region have received “a great blessing” with the appointment of Mons. Schlert.

“The formation he received in the seminary of Saint John Lateran in Rome brought out in his heart and soul a powerful love for all of God’s children,” Bishop Cullen said in a statement June 27.

“His intellectual capacity is extraordinary, and his 30 years of ministry reflects his gifts as a homilist, a writer and an administrator whose heart is as compassionate and forgiving as is his love of God.”
 
Bishop-elect Schlert will bring “prudence and sound judgement to every aspect of the pastoral life of the diocese,” he continued.

“I can say without reservation that Bishop-elect Schlert is truly God’s chosen and beloved. Let us bring to him the fullness of our spiritual support.”

Bishop-elect Schlert was born in Easton, Pennsylvania on July 24, 1961, just six months after the Diocese of Allentown was formed.

He attended both Catholic grade school and Catholic high school before entering Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook. He also studied theology at the Pontifical Roman Seminary and the Pontifical Lateran University.

He was ordained a priest at the Cathedral of Saint Catherine of Siena in Allentown on Sept. 19, 1987.

He served as assistant pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Allentown, and as a professor at his alma mater, Notre Dame High School, and as the Catholic chaplain at Lehigh University.

In 1992 he completed graduate studies at the Pontifical North American College and Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, receiving a Licentiate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Lateran University.

Mons. Schlert was named Vice Chancellor and Secretary to Bishop Thomas Welsh in 1997.

From 1998-2008 he was in residence at the Cathedral of Saint Catherine of Siena while serving as Vicar General of the diocese under Bishops Edward Cullen and John O. Barres. In this position he oversaw the coordination of all the administrative offices of the diocese.

He was given the title of monsignor by Pope St. John Paul II in 1999. Benedict XVI named him a Prelate of Honor, the second highest rank of monsignor, in 2005.

While Vicar General, he was also pastor of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church in Hellertown from July 2008-Feb. 2010.

His ordination and installation as bishop will take place at the cathedral on Thursday, Aug. 31st.

In addition to English, he also speaks Italian.

Bishop-elect Schlert “loves the People of God of the Diocese of Allentown,” Bishop Barres stated.

“He is a priest’s priest and now will be a Bishop’s Bishop. He is very serious about prayer and sacrifices deeply to pray deeply. Bishop-elect Schlert is a natural teacher who fine-tuned his ability to communicate in religion classes at Notre Dame High School in Easton. I am ecstatic about Pope Francis’ providential choice.”

The old still have a lot to give young people, Pope Francis says

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 16:43

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2017 / 04:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis said that the older generation should not stop striving in their spiritual lives, but that God calls them to be spiritual ‘grandparents’ to young people, who can learn from their experiences.

“And this is what the Lord today asks us: to be grandparents. To have the vitality to give to young people, because young people expect it from us; to not close ourselves, to give our best: they look for our experience, for our positive dreams to carry on the prophecy and the work.”

“I ask the Lord for all of us that he give us this grace,” the Pope said June 27.

Pope Francis said a special Mass June 27 in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his ordination as an auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992.

The Mass was attended by the cardinals in Rome. This was the Pope's final morning Mass before the start of the usual summer break from morning activities. They will resume in September after he returns from his apostolic trip to Colombia.

For his homily, Francis preached on the day’s first reading, which contains the continuation of a dialogue between God and the now elderly Abraham. In this dialogue we hear three imperatives, the Pope said: “Get up! Look! Hope!”

Abraham, he said, was more or less the same age as those present when God called him.

“He was going to go into retirement, in retirement to rest... He started at that age. An old man, with the weight of old age, old age that brings pain, illness.... But you, as if you were a young man, get up, go go!”

“And to us today the Lord says the same: ‘Get up! Look! Hope!’ He tells us that it's not time to put our life in closure, not to close our story, not to compile our story. The Lord tells us that our story is open, still: it is open until the end, it is open with a mission. And with these three imperatives tells us the mission: ‘Get up! Look! Hope!’” Francis emphasized.

The Pope reflected that there are some people who might not want the older people around, maybe calling them a “gerontocracy of the Church.” These people don't know what they are saying, he explained: “we're not geriatrics, we're grandparents.”

And if we don’t understand this, we should pray for the grace to do so, he said.

This is because we are “Grandparents to whom our grandchildren look. Grandparents who have to give them a sense of life with our experience. Grandparents not closed in the melancholy of our story, but open to give this. And for us, this ‘get up, look, hope’ is called ‘dreaming,’” he said.

“We are grandparents called to dream and give our dream to today's youth: they needs it.”

Pope Francis explained what these three words mean. To get up, he said, means you have a mission, you have a task. Just like Abraham walked, not making a home anywhere but only taking a tent, we are called to continue forward, all the way to the end of our lives.

In the second command, to “look!” God tells Abraham set his gaze on the horizon, always looking and moving ahead. There is a mystic spirituality to the horizon, the Pope said. It doesn’t end, but the further forward you go, the horizon continues to recede into the distance.

The third imperative was to have hope. Just like Abraham should not have been able to have children because of his age and because of the sterility of his wife, the Lord promises him offspring as numerous as the stars and Abraham has faith in the word of God.

This is the kind of hope in God's promises we are called to have, Francis said.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis thanked Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, for his kind words, as well as everyone for their well-wishes and for celebrating Mass with him on his anniversary.

“Thank you for this common prayer on this anniversary, asking forgiveness for my sins and perseverance in faith, hope, charity,” he said.

“I thank you so much for this fraternal company and ask the Lord to bless you and accompany you on the road of service to the Church. Thank you very much.”

Cardinal Turkson: Marijuana debate ignores ethical questions

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 04:34

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2017 / 04:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican's top personality on social justice issues has voiced his concern for the increased demand for drugs, including recreational marijuana, saying debate on the plant's usage doesn't take ethical concerns into account.

In a June 26 letter on the occasion of the U.N. International Day against Abuse and Illicit Trafficking of Drugs, Cardinal Peter Turkson lamented the fact that narcotics “continue to rage in impressive forms and dimensions” throughout the world.

“It is a phenomenon that is fueled – not without concessions and compromises on the part of institutions – by a shameful market that crosses national and continental borders, intertwined with mafias and drug trafficking,” he said.

Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Cardinal Turkson noted that compared to the recent past, drugs have now become “a consumer product made compatible with everyday life, with leisure activity and even with the pursuit of well-being.”

Pointing specifically to cocaine, he noted that the drug is linked to the spread of heroin, which at 80 percent represents the highest number of new requests for opioid-related treatments in Europe.

However, despite the high numbers for heroin and opioid treatment requests, the cardinal noted that “the most commonly consumed recreational drug is cannabis.”

The current, raging international debate on the use of the drug “tends to overlook the ethical judgment of the substance, by definition negative as with any other drug,” he said, pointing to the current focus on its possible therapeutic uses.  

This, he stressed, is “a field in which we await scientific data to be validated by monitoring periods, as for any experiment worthy of public consideration.”

According to September 2016 report from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which compared marijuana-related statistics from previous years in Colorado to data from 2013-2015, the first years after the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state, the prospects of the drug's increased use are grim.

Not only have the number of marijuana-related deaths, hospitalizations and traffic accidents increased since the drug's recreational use was legalized, there has also been growing concern over marijuana-related crime and a decrease in the IQ of youths who use it.

But before making a firm decision on the issue that is perhaps based on various prejudices, Cardinal Turkson said it would be better to first “understand trends in the use of cannabis, related damages and the consequences of regulatory policies in the various countries.”

It's especially important to recognize the factors “which push the illegal market to develop products intended to affect patterns of consumption and to reaffirm the primacy of the desire that is compulsively satisfied by the substance.”

On this point, concern has grown for many that the recreational use of marijuana is often a gateway for youth to become addicted, and eventually move on to other drugs such as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, or meth.

In addition to voicing his concerns on marijuana, heroin, and the dangers of using them to improve one's “wellbeing,” Cardinal Turkson also pointed to the risks of other addictive behaviors such as gambling, saying its legalization, even in cases aimed at unmasking its criminal managers, “exponentially increases the number of pathological players.”

“Moreover, taxation by the state is to be considered incompatible from an ethical standpoint and contradictory in terms of prevention,” he said, adding that the development of “models of intervention and adequate monitoring systems, associated with the allocation of funds, is highly desirable to tackle the phenomenon.”

The cardinal noted that as the array of addictions continues to diversify, “indifference and at times indirect complicity in this phenomenon contributes to diverting the attention of public opinion and governments, focused on other emergencies.”

Plans to fight the increasing demand for drugs often collapse, he said, explaining that the present-day state of addictions shows “gaps in planning, policies and prospects,” which in turn is a sign of “sluggish progress” in the face of the drug market, “which is highly competitive and flexible to demand, and always open to novelties such as recently-created, extremely powerful synthetic opiates, ecstasy and amphetamines.”

“It is precisely the growing and widespread consumption of ecstasy that may serve as an indicator of how the use of illicit substances has now spread into everyday areas of life,” he said, adding that it could also be an indication of how the ecstasy user no longer identifies with the heroin addict, but “with the new profile of the user of multiple substances and alcohol.”

Because of this, strategies of intervention can't depend solely on reduced damage, “nor can drugs still be considered as a phenomenon that is collusive with social disorder and deviance.”

Rather, damage reduction “must necessarily involve taking on board both the toxicological aspect and integration with personalized therapeutic programs of a psycho-social nature, without giving rise to forms of chronic use, which are harmful to the person and ethically reprehensible,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Turkson stressed the importance of not seeing the addict as a problem to be solved or as being beyond the hope of rehabilitation.

To consider people as irrecoverable, he said, “is an act of capitulation that denies the psychological dynamics of change and offers an alibi for disengagement from the addict and the institutions that have the task of preventing and treating.”

“It cannot be accepted that society metabolizes drug use as a chronic epochal trait, similar to alcoholism and tobacco, withdrawing from exchange on the margins of freedom of the state and the citizen in relation to substance use,” he said.

The cardinal recognized that there is no singular cause of drug use, but rather a panorama of causes including the absence of a family, various social pressures, the propaganda of drug dealers, and even the desire to have new experiences.

“Every drug addict has a unique personal story and must be listened to, understood, loved, and, insofar as possible, healed and purified,” he said.

“We cannot stoop to the injustice of categorizing drug addicts as if they were mere objects or broken machines; each person must be valued and appreciated in his or her dignity in order to enable them to be healed.”

For the cardinal, part of this process means finding effective means of prevention, beginning with education.

“The scenario which we must all face is marked by the loss of the ancient primacy of the family and the school, the emptying of authority of adult figures and the difficulties that arise in terms of parenting,” he said, stressing that this is not time for “protagonism,” but rather for “networks” that are capable of “reactivating social educational synergies by overcoming unnecessary competition, delegation and forms of dereliction.”

“To prevent young people from growing up without care, bred rather than educated, attracted by 'healing prosthetics,' as drugs appear to them, all social actors must connect and invest in the shared ground of basic and indispensable education values aiming at the integral formation of the person.”

In this regard, educational aspects “are crucial,” he said, especially during adolescence, when youth are more vulnerable, and at the same time curious and prone to periods of depression and apathy.

Youth look for the “vertigo that makes them feel alive,” he said, quoting Pope Francis. “So, let us give it to them! Let us stimulate all that which helps them transform their dreams into plans, and that can reveal that all the potential they have is a bridge, a passage towards a vocation.”

“Let us propose broad aims to them, great challenges, and let us help them achieve them, to reach their targets. Let us not leave them alone.”

In order to combat the ephemeral happiness of addictions, a “creative love” is needed, Cardinal Turkson said, as well as the presence of adults capable of both teaching and practicing healthy self-care.

“A spiritual vision of existence, projected towards the search for meaning, open to the encounter with others, constitutes the greatest educational legacy that must be handed down between generations, today more than ever,” he said.

Chinese bishop forcibly removed from diocese still missing

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 19:03

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2017 / 07:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday the Vatican issued a statement on the situation of the Chinese Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou, who has not been returned since being forcibly removed from his diocese by the Chinese state May 18.

“The Holy See is observing with grave concern the personal situation of Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou, forcibly removed from his episcopal see some time ago,” read the June 26 statement by the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke.

The Catholic community of the diocese and his family and friends remain with no news of the bishop’s whereabouts or of the reason for his removal, the statement continued.

The Vatican-approved Bishop Shao, who is not recognized by the Chinese government, was summoned by their religious bureau on May 18 and has since not been heard from or returned, La Croix International reports.

Following canon law, the Vatican confirmed Bishop Shao as the successor of the Wenzhou diocese on Sept. 21, 2016, following the death of his predecessor, Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang. Since then he has been removed from the diocese or detained on four different occasions.

He is not a part of the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and is therefore part of the underground church not recognized by the communist government.

The Vatican’s statement was issued in response to questions from journalists. There were reports last week claiming that the bishop had been spotted in the local airport with government officials, though the claim has not been substantiated and his present whereabouts are still unknown.

“In this respect, the Holy See, profoundly saddened for this and other similar episodes that unfortunately do not facilitate ways of understanding, expresses the hope that Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin may return as soon as possible to the diocese and that he can be assured the possibility of serenely exercising his episcopal ministry,” the Vatican statement continued.

“We are all invited to pray for Bishop Shao Zhumin and for the path of the Catholic Church in China.”

Bishop Shao was first detained, along with three other priests, following the death of his predecessor, Bishop Zhu, preventing him from presiding over the funeral Mass.

He was also detained just one month prior to this current detainment, from April 12-17, which ostensibly was to prevent him from celebrating the Triduum and Easter liturgies, which would have been his first time as head of the diocese.

He is not the only Chinese bishop or Christian to be detained. Persecution of Christians in China varies by province, but certain provinces have seen an uptick in recent years.

In Zhejiang province, where the Diocese of Wenzhou is located, more than 1,500 churches have been desecrated or demolished. Churches in Zhejiang have been ordered to stop displaying crosses and Christians there have been detained.

Overall, the situation of religious freedom in China has deteriorated even more in recent years, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom noted in its 2017 annual report, as the country’s leader Xi Jingping has “further consolidated power” and worked to promote the “sinicization” of religion.

Christ doesn’t promise freedom from difficulties, Pope says

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 23:38

Vatican City, Jun 25, 2017 / 11:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that following Christ does not mean our lives will be free from all earthly troubles.

“There is no Christian mission in the name of tranquility,” the Pope said, speaking to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square on June 25. “Difficulties and tribulations are part and parcel of evangelization.”

Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel, in which Jesus instructs his followers not to be afraid.

“Jesus’ mission did not guarantee the disciples success, nor did it shield them from failure or suffering,” the Holy Father said.

But Christ did promise them that he would always be with them as they faced the trials that were ahead.

The same is true for us today, the Pope said. We should expect suffering and even persecution if we follow in the path of the crucified Christ, but at the same time, we can take comfort in knowing that “God does not abandon his children during the storm.”

Sometimes this storm comes not in the form of active persecution, but in indifference, through “people who do not want to be awakened from a worldly numbness, who ignore the truth of the Gospel message and build their own ephemeral truth.”

Regardless of the form that trials may take, we should persevere in faithfulness, he said, also reminding those gathered in the square to pray for those facing serious persecution. 

“Jesus does not leave us alone because we are precious to Him.”

Following the Angelus, the Pope offered prayers for landslide victims in southwestern China. He also offered a message to members of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church on the 150th anniversary of the canonization of St. Josaphat, as well as to Lithuanians celebrating Blessed Theofilius Matulonius. 

The tale of Fr. Brochero: Gaucho priest, devil's worst nightmare

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 14:03

Vatican City, Jun 25, 2017 / 02:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- If Jose Brochero doesn't sound like a Gaucho name, nothing does.

Last year, Pope Francis canonized Saint Brochero, a fellow countryman from Argentina also known as the “Gaucho priest.”

He was beatified in Sept. 2013 by Pope Francis, who said Fr. Brochero was a priest who truly “smelled of his sheep.” He was canonized Oct. 16, 2016.

Saint Brochero was born Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero in Argentina in 1840, the fourth of ten children to Ignacio Brochero and Petrona Davila.

St. Brochero entered seminary at the age of 16, and was ordained a priest at the age of 26 for the Archdiocese of Cordoba.

As a priest, after teaching philosophy at a seminary for a few years, Fr. Brochero was assigned to the large diocese of St. Albert – 1,675 square miles with 10,000 far-flung parishioners in the rural, Great Highlands region of Argentina.

Not deterred by altitude, distance or bad weather, Fr. Brochero was known for riding throughout the countryside of his parish on the back of a mule to bring his people the sacraments, always wearing a poncho and sombrero in the style of a gaucho, or Argentinian cowboy.

On muleback, he carried an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, his Mass kit and a prayer book on his travels so that he was always prepared to offer the sacraments. He established a House of Exercises where his people could participate in spiritual exercises, and helped found a school for girls.

He is also credited with building post and telegraph stations, for building nearly 125 miles of roads, and for helping plan the railroad in the area.

“Woe if the devil is going to rob a soul from me,” he is held to have said, capturing his determined spirit to be close to his people no matter what.

Fr. Brochero was known for being particularly close to the poor and the sick, and helped care for those who contracted cholera during the epidemic in 1867. Eventually, he contracted leprosy from a leper in his parish, causing him to eventually become blind and deaf and to relinquish his parish duties, spending his last few years living with his sisters at home.

Fr. Brochero died on Jan. 26, 1914. His last words were: “Now I have everything ready for the journey.”

A few days after his death, the Catholic newspaper of Cordoba wrote: “It is known that Father Brochero contracted the sickness that took him to his tomb, because he visited at length and embraced an abandoned leper of the area.”  

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI approved a healing miracle attributed to Fr. Brochero, in which 13-year-old Nicolas Flores, who was in a vegetative state after a car accident, was cured through the intercession of the gaucho priest.

 

An earlier version of this article was published on CNA July 14, 2016.

Francis urges Serrans to 'keep moving forward' promoting vocations

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 02:42

Vatican City, Jun 23, 2017 / 02:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis offered encouragement Friday to members of Serra International, which promotes religious vocations, urging them to persevere in their “beautiful vocation of being laity who are friends to priests” and to “(k)eep moving forward!”

Pope Francis said June 23 that friendship “is central to the experience of faith.”

Serra International is a lay apostolate dedicated to promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and does this by both prayer and assistance to discerners.

Serra’s conference is taking place from June 22-25 in Rome under the theme Siempre Adelante, “keep moving forward.” Friday’s papal audience was open to all attendees after a Mass in St. Peter’s.

Reflecting on friendship, Francis said that “the word ‘friend’ has become a bit overused.”

“But, when Jesus speaks of ‘friends,’ he points to a hard truth: true friendship involves an encounter that draws me so near to the other person that I give something of my very self. Jesus says to his disciples: ‘No longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you’. He thus establishes a new relationship between man and God, one that transcends the law and is grounded in trust and love.”

Friends accompany us, he said. “They stand at our side, gently and tenderly, along our journey; they listen to us closely, and can see beyond mere words.”

He linked this Christian idea of friendship to Serra’s work in promoting vocations and helping priests. They are “(f)riends who share the wonder of a vocation, the courage of a definitive decision, the joy and fatigue of ministry. Friends who can offer priests support and regard their generous efforts and human failings with understanding and tender love.”

He compared their work to the home of Mary and Martha in the gospel, which Christ frequently visited and where he “was able to find rest and refreshment.”

He then offered his reflections for the convention’s theme of Siempre Adelante.

“Like you, I believe that this is a synonym for the Christian vocation,” he said. He compared the phrase to Christ's call to his disciples to go forward in their ministerial journey, and he cautioned against giving into fear on this journey.

“Of course, we cannot make progress unless we take a risk,” he said. “We do not advance toward the goal if, as the Gospel says, we are afraid to lose our lives. No ship would ever set out into the deep if it feared leaving the safety of the harbour.”

“On the other hand,” he said,” when Christians go about their daily lives without fear, they can discover God’s surprises.”

He referenced the example of St. Junipero Serra, whom he canonized in Washington, D.C. in 2015, who, despite a limp, proceeded on his pilgrimage. He also warned against “museum Christians” who fear change.

“It is better to go forward limping, and even at times to fall, while always trusting in the mercy of God,” he said.

He concluded his speech by instructing them to not be afraid of changing the structures of their organization, humbly renouncing old roles and practices in favor of living their vocation.

“So you too, siempre Adelante! With courage, creativity, and boldness,” he said.

“The Church and priestly vocations need you. May Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Mother of priests, be with you every step of the way And I ask you, please, pray for me!”

Pope Francis meets King and Queen of the Netherlands, returns long-lost stick

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 19:32

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2017 / 07:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis met with King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, as part of the visit returning to them a long-lost royal stick of a 16th century Dutch king.

An important diplomatic portion of the audience June 22, was the Vatican's return of the stick of William I, Prince of Orange, which until recently had remained lost in the Jesuit Catalan archives.

The stick, which resembles a sort of scepter or baton, and depicts the coat of arms of William of Orange, was given by the 16th century Dutch royal to a Dutch commander in the Battle of Mookerheyde in 1574.

The stick was waved by William's brother, Luigi of Nassau, during the battle.

After it was lost, it came into the hands of a Spanish general and eventually a Jesuit general, until being returned Thursday, through the Vatican, to Willem-Alexander, current King of the Netherlands and Prince of Orange.

According to a press release from the National Military Museum of the Netherlands, the delivery of the stick represents "a testimony of reconciliation, and of the current union between the two countries and religions."

"It is also a symbol of the long journey that the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Kingdom of the Netherlands, have passed from the past of rivalry, war and repression to a present of mutual respect and promotion of peace and human rights."

The baton will be displayed to the public in the National Military Museum in Soesterberg, Netherlands from April 27 to the end of October 2018.

According to a June 22 Vatican communique, in the audience the three cordially discussed topics “of shared interest,” including protection of the environment, the fight against poverty and how the Holy See and Catholic Church are contributing in these areas.

Particular attention, it stated, was paid to “the phenomenon of migration, underlining the importance of peaceful co-existence between different cultures, and joint commitment to promoting peace and global security, with special reference to various areas of conflict.”

They also shared reflections on the prospects of the European project. The private portion of the audience, which included both the King and the Queen, lasted 35 minutes.

Queen Máxima, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, greeted Pope Francis in “porteño,” a dialect of Spanish spoken by people from the Río de la Plata basin of Argentina.

“How are you? Delighted to see you again,” she said.

During the visit Pope Francis gifted the royal couple a medallion depicting St. Martin of Tours, in the classic image of the saint dividing his cloak to give to a poor man.

He also gave them the customary gift of copies of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family “Amoris Laetitia,” and his 2013 exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” as well as a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace.

For their part, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima gave the Pope a gift of Dutch flowers, white and yellow tulips from their country.

Giving the gifts, they told Pope Francis that tulips aren't only for Easter, but could be planted in the Vatican.

Afterward, the two met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.

The Royal couple are in the midst of a state visit to the Italian Republic, taking place June 21-23.

Before their meeting with the Pope, the King and Queen visited the Church of Saints Michael and Magnus, the national church of the Netherlands in Rome. Located next to the Vatican, it was built in 1140 in the place where pilgrims from the Netherlands met back in the 8th century.

According to church statistics, Catholics currently make up 23 percent of the population of 17 million in the Netherlands.

Meeting with NFL hall-of-famers, Pope Francis promotes teamwork

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 01:08

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 01:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis addressed members of the National Football League Hall of Fame on Wednesday, encouraging them to promote the values of sportsmen not only on the field but also within their communities.

“Teamwork, fair play and the pursuit of personal excellence are the values – in the religious sense, we can say virtues – that have guided your own commitment on the field,” said the Pope, meeting with the hall-of-famers on June 21.

“Yet these same values are urgently needed off the field, on all levels of our life as a community.”

He addressed the need for role models in the world, especially for youth, teaching them to live out their “God-given gifts and talents,” showing how to bring out the best in each person and leading the way to a better future.

“They are the values that help build a culture of encounter, in which we anticipate and meet the needs of our brothers and sisters, and combat the exaggerated individualism, indifference and injustice that hold us back from living as one human family.”

Established in 1963, the American Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton, Ohio, the same city where the NFL was created about 40 years earlier. It contains 310 members, 7 of whom will be formally inducted in August.

Present at the group meeting with Pope Francis was Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and six other hall of fame inductees: Chris Doleman, Franco Harris, Floyd Little, Ronnie Lott Curtis Martin, and Jim Taylor.

They presented him with a signed helmet and jersey with “Papa Francesco” written on the back.

In welcoming joke, the Pope noted his own love for soccer, which in much of the world is called “football.”

“I am an avid follower of ‘football’, but where I come from, the game is played very differently,” he said.

Pope Francis is a member of the Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro, located in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. The club, nicknamed the Saints of Boedo, was founded in 1908 by a group of young men, including a priest.

Being a fan of sports himself, the Pope has reflected on the virtues of sportsmanship before.

Last October, at a Vatican conference called “Sport at the Service of Humanity,” he said the values fostered by sports not only promote health and recreation, but also the ability to play on a team, and to humbly win or lose.

At the end of his address to the NFL Hall of Fame delegation, Pope Francis expressed hope that their visit to Rome will increase their gratitude for these gifts and enable them to share it with the rest of the world.

 

Pope Francis sends aid to a troubled South Sudan

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 23:34

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 11:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After the Vatican stated last month the postponement of Pope Francis’ proposed trip to South Sudan, they announced Wednesday that the Pope will instead send aid to the people suffering from worsening conditions.

The Vatican announced June 21 that Pope Francis will be aiding projects in the areas of education, healthcare, and agriculture, called the “Pope for South Sudan” Initiative.

The program will be coordinated through the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, headed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, and by Caritas International.

Because he is unable to travel to South Sudan in person, Pope Francis “wanted to express the tangible presence and closeness of the Church with the afflicted people,” Cardinal Turkson told journalists.

“It is an initiative that is to foster, support and encourage the work of the various religious congregations and international aid organizations that are present on the territory and tirelessly work to help the population and to promote the process of development and peace,” he said.

The projects of the Pope’s aid includes support for two hospitals: Wau Hospital in the Western Bahr el-Ghazal state, and Nzara Hospital in the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio.

Both hospitals have fewer than 130 beds between all of the departments, though the Wau Hospital treats around 300 patients a day on average, hospitalizing around 40,000 per year.

The aid will go toward support for medical and nursing staff, medicine and its transportation from Uganda to the hospital and management costs of the facilities.

Among the priorities of the Nzara hospital are the prevention and treatment of diseases such as tuberculosis, leprosy, and AIDS, as well as healthcare for children under the age of five.

Under education, the Pope's initiative will help support an association of religious congregations called “Solidarity with South Sudan” which is working to train teachers, nurses, midwives, local farmers, and community leaders.

Since 2010 they have offered a two-year full-time program for obtaining a primary school teacher diploma at their center in Yambio, recognized by the Ministry of Education of South Sudan. Since opening, they have welcomed 3,500 students.

Francis also sends 200,000 euros ($223,000) to support agriculture in the country. The aid will be directed toward giving families the tools and seeds to grow their own crops where it is possible, thus feeding themselves and their families and providing a sustainable source of food.

In comments to CNA, Cardinal Turkson emphasized that this initiative should not be presented in any way as the only and first time the Holy Father is showing interest in the situation in South Sudan.

Cardinal Turkson himself has already made two visits there on behalf of the Pope, and this is just "the latest gesture," he said.

"The Holy Father stays very close to the situation in South Sudan to try to a help, to be paternal to the situation over there and to try to afford the help that he can."

Since December 2013 there has been ongoing civil war in South Sudan, interrupted by tenuous peace.

Parts of South Sudan were declared to be under conditions of famine in February. The classification was lifted Wednesday following an increase in aid, according to a UN-backed report. It warns, however, that the situation remains desperate as the number of people at risk for starvation continues to increase.

Michel Roy, Secretary General of Caritas International, told CNA that in February they said 100,000 people were going to die of hunger, but now they think that number might be 1 million.

“The situation is worsening day-by-day and we tend to forget what the situation is because it's not new,” he said. “Now, the people of South Sudan are dying of hunger, of famine. Because there is no food and we cannot bring food to them because of security. So it's the worst thing that can happen.”

The Pope’s aid is not just important for the concrete help it gives, he said, but because it also again raises the attention of the international community to the plight in South Sudan.

“To save lives needs money,” he continued. “The UN have launched an appeal which is only half funded, so the other half has to be found. It's a lot of money, but we cannot just sit and look at people dying, so there's a real need for increasing humanitarian aid.”

The Vatican's aid to South Sudan was also welcomed by Catholic Relief Services, the US bishops' international charity agency.

Sean Callahan, the president of CRS, stated that “what is most important, is Pope Francis telling world not to give up on South Sudan, that we all must step up our commitment to help.”

Callahan recently visited South Sudan, and said, “I can tell you from my visit that there is hope. I saw that when people had peace, they got to work, planting their crops, building homes and roads, building the new nation.”

CRS has led a US government-funded program in the country which focuses on supporting infrastructure development by providing food rations to villagers building roads, schools, dykes, and waterways. The aid agency is urging Congress to continue funding such aid programs, as the Trump administration has proposed cutting or eliminating such programs.

“We’ve seen those programs work and make a huge difference in the lives of people in South Sudan,” Callahan stated. “Now is not the time to turn our backs. There’s still hope and we can still get things done.”

Cardinal Turkson added that South Sudan needs the intervention of the international community to help end the conflict and bring about peace, the only thing which will truly end the humanitarian crisis.

“Pope Francis is a universal shepherd who crosses borders,” Cardinal Turkson said in the press conference. “He feels the pressing need to raise awareness of the international community about this silent drama, calling for greater and renewed efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict.”

“The Holy Father does not forget the unheard and silent victims of this bloody and inhuman conflict, he does not forget all those people who are forced to flee their native country because of the abuse of power, injustice and war – he brings them all in his prayers and in his heart,” he said.

Can relics unite Catholics and Orthodox? Pope Francis thinks so.

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 18:04

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Common veneration of relics is one of the tools Pope Francis is using to foster ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In May, relics of St. Philip and St. Nicholas were transported to Turkey and Russia, respectively. They have been exposed for the veneration of the Orthodox faithful from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow.
 
The transportation of the relics of St. Nicholas from the Italian city of Bari to Moscow is particularly noteworthy. It is the first time in 930 years that a part of the body of St. Nicholas has left Bari for veneration abroad.
 
The novel action comes after a specific request Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow made to Pope Francis when they met in Havana, Cuba in February 2016.
 
Pope Francis consented to Patriarch Kirill’s request and forwarded the request to Bari’s Archbishop Francesco Cacucci. The archbishop then started the procedures to move the relics.

In the end, it was possible to detach a small particle of St. Nicholas’ left rib, which the archbishop noted was “close to the saint’s heart.”
 
Archbishop Cacucci discussed the letter Pope Francis had sent him to about the Patriarch’s request. The archbishop explained that, for Pope Francis, the veneration of relics is “an essential part of the path toward the re-establishment of full communion among all Christians.”

“The common veneration of saints help us to look at the ecumenical dialogue with a light of hope,” he said.

St. Nicholas was one of the most venerated saints in Christianity even before his relics were taken from Myra, Turkey, by 62 sailors from Bari in 1087.

Those sailors made an expedition to Myra to save St. Nicholas’ relics from Muslims who had conquered the city where St. Nicholas had lived and served as a bishop in the fourth century.

This year, St. Nicholas’ relics arrived in Moscow May 22. They were placed in a container specially crafted for the occasion. The relics were then placed in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior of Moscow. Patriarch Kirill himself celebrated a divine liturgy to welcome them.

St. Nicholas' relics will be in Moscow until July 12. They will then move to St. Petersburg for several weeks before returning to Bari July 28.

While the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate received St. Nicholas’ relics from the Church of Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on May 8 welcomed relics of St. Philip in the Turkish city of Izmir, better known by its ancient Greek name: Smyrna.
 
St. Philip evangelized that land and was martyred there.  

His relics had been secured in Rome’s Santi Apostoli Church since the sixth century. Last year, the relics were taken out and submitted to an examination. Then, they were exposed for a while for the veneration of the faithful.
 
Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople strongly advocated sharing the relics for veneration, as he is particularly devoted to St. Philip. The Catholic community joined the Patriarch in this request, and so one of St. Philip’s relic could return home. The Catholic Archbishop of Izmir Lorenzo Piretto personally forwarded the request to bring the relics to the Turkish city.
 
The common veneration of saints and relics is one area where ecumenism is performed today.
 
It echoes Pope Francis’ idea of “walking ecumenism,” which he described in an Oct. 12 meeting with members of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions.

In his remarks, the Pope said that “it is important that theologians study, that they find agreement and identify disagreements.”
 
But, he added, “ecumenism is done by walking and by walking with Jesus.” It is “a simple path, traveled with prayer and through helping one another.”
 
Another reflection came while the Pope presided at Vespers Jan. 25, 2016 at St. Paul Outside the Walls Basilica, a time that by tradition closes the week of prayer for Christian unity. Pope Francis said that “while we journey together toward full communion, we can begin already to develop many forms of cooperation in order to favor the spread of the Gospel – and walking together, we become aware that we are already united in the name of the Lord.”
 
This “walking ecumenism” is also emphasized through the veneration of the same saints. Patriarch Kirill seems to think the same.
 
Bari’s Archbishop Cacucci, having returned from Russia where he accompanied St. Nicholas’ relic, reflected on the phenomenon.

“In fact, the translation of the relic is already an ecumenical dialogue, and this Patriarch Kirill said more and more times. When ecumenism does not involve only the top ranks of Churches or theologians, but rather involves the people of God, then it is possible to move forward.”

Don’t think holiness is for you? The saints can help, Pope Francis says

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 17:27

Vatican City, Jun 21, 2017 / 05:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, Pope Francis said the saints show us that despite what we might think, holiness is possible for everyone, and we should call on them for help in living out our vocations.

Some of us may be tempted to question if it is really possible to be holy in everyday life, the Pope said, but “yes, you can,” he encouraged, and it doesn’t mean you have to pray all day long.

“No, no. It means you have to do your duty all day long,” he said June 21. “Pray, go to work, watch over the children. But everything must be done with a heart open to God, in a way that the work, even in illness, and in suffering, also in difficulty, is open to God. And so you can become saints.”

“You can!” he continued. “May the Lord give us the hope of being holy! But we can. We do not think it's a difficult thing, that it's easier to be scoundrels than saints! No. It is possible to be holy because the Lord helps us; it is He who helps us.”

In his catechesis at the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke about the hope brought by the Communion of Saints and how we call on them as a Church in the liturgy and in our lives to help us become saints ourselves.

For example, we call on them in the liturgy for the Sacrament of Matrimony, he said, especially for the grace to fulfill marital duties. “And this invocation is a source of trust for the two young people who start off on the 'journey' of marital life,” he pointed out.

“Those who really love have the desire and courage to say ‘forever,’ ‘forever,’ but they know that they need the grace of God and the help of the saints. To be able to live the marriage forever.”

“Not like some say ‘as long as love lasts.’ No: forever! Otherwise, it's better not to marry you. Either forever or nothing.”

He explained how we also call on the saints in the Mass of Ordination. Candidates for the priesthood lie on the floor, their faces against the ground while the assembly, led by the bishop, invoke the intercession of the saints.

“A man would be crushed under the weight of the mission entrusted to him” in the priesthood, the Pope said, “but feeling that all heaven is behind him, that the grace of God will not fail because Jesus remains faithful, then he can go serene and refreshed. We are not alone.”

Because we have the example of the saints, we have hope that it is possible to live a holy life, he said. “Christianity cultivates an ingrained trust: it does not believe that negative and disgusting forces can prevail. The last word on man's history is not hatred, it is not death, it is not war.”

The existence of the saints tells us “first of all that the Christian life is not an unreachable ideal,” he said.

Thus, we are comforted knowing that we are not alone, he said, and knowing that “the Church is made of innumerable brothers, often anonymous, who have preceded us and who, through the action of the Holy Spirit, are involved in the affairs of those who still live here.”

We call on the saints in the Mass, the Pope reminded, but we must also have the courage to call on them ourselves in difficult moments, thinking of all those who have gone through trials before us, yet have persevered in sanctity.

God never abandons us, often helping us through human hands and hearts, and through the saints, who are hidden but still “in our midst,” he said.

“This is difficult to understand and also to imagine, but the saints are always present in our life. When anyone invokes the saints, they are near to us,” he emphasized.

We must remember, though we are weak, the mystery of grace that is present in the lives of Christians is powerful. “We are dust that aspires to heaven.”

“We are faithful to this earth, which Jesus loved at every moment of his life, but we know and want to hope for the transfiguration of the world, in its final fulfillment where there will finally be no more tears, malice and suffering.

Though we are faithful to the earth which God has placed us upon and which Jesus loved during his life, we must keep hoping for its transfiguration in the second coming of Christ, when there will finally be “no more tears, malice and suffering.”

Our holiness is the great gift that each of us can make to the world, Francis went on. “Let the Lord give us the grace of believing so deeply in Him that we may become Christ's image for this world.”

Our world needs saints, he concluded: “without these men and women the world would have no hope.”

“You can be holy because the Lord helps us; it is He who helps us.”

Vatican's first General Auditor resigns abruptly

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 00:37

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2017 / 12:37 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In an unexpected move in the Holy See’s ongoing financial reform, the Vatican announced on Tuesday the resignation of Libero Milone, General Auditor of the Holy See, effective immediately.  

The brief Vatican statement simply said that Libero Milone had offered his resignation, and that the Vatican had accepted it.

The lack of reason given for the resignation has some speculating that it is another part of the ongoing, internal conflicts of Vatican financial reform.

Milone’s resignation comes as a surprise because of the emphasis the Vatican placed on the importance of his position when it was created.

Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has sought to reform the Vatican’s bank and finances.

Francis created the position of General Auditor for the Holy See in February 2014 in an effort to increase financial transparency.

Upon the appointment of Milone, Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, wrote in The Catholic Herald that having an independent auditor was a key part of the “separation of powers” necessary for reforming the Vatican’s finances.

The task of the general auditor was to audit the accounts of the dicasteries of the Vatican Curia and the other institutions dependent on the Holy See and the Vatican State.

During his time as General Auditor, Milone’s personal computer was hacked, and he also clashed with the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, the treasury of the Vatican. Milone showed his commitment to maintaining the separation of powers of his office when he declined an offer in April to become part of the Board of Directors of the Italian public broadcasting service Rai, saying that he wanted to maintain his independence in the Vatican.

Before coming to the Vatican, Libero Milone had extensive experience in reviewing and advising in different companies and public and private firms throughout the world such as Deloitte, Fiat and Wind.

In the statement, the Holy See added that Milone’s resignation was “of mutual accord” and that they are seeking his replacement “as soon as possible.” Milone had previously been expected to serve as General Auditor until 2021.
 
 

 

Full text of dubia cardinals’ letter asking Pope for an audience

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 23:52

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2017 / 11:52 am (National Catholic Register).- Here below is the full text of the letter, signed by Cardinal Carlo Caffarra on behalf of the four dubia cardinals, asking Pope Francis for an audience to discuss deep concerns over the Pope’s apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love).

The Holy Father has yet to acknowledge the cardinals’ written request.

“Most Holy Father,

It is with a certain trepidation that I address myself to Your Holiness, during these days of the Easter season. I do so on behalf of the Most Eminent Cardinals: Walter Brandmüller, Raymond L. Burke, Joachim Meisner, and myself.

We wish to begin by renewing our absolute dedication and our unconditional love for the Chair of Peter and for Your august person, in whom we recognize the Successor of Peter and the Vicar of Jesus: the “sweet Christ on earth,” as Saint Catherine of Siena was fond of saying. We do not share in the slightest the position of those who consider the See of Peter vacant, nor of those who want to attribute to others the indivisible responsibility of the Petrine munus. We are moved solely by the awareness of the grave responsibility arising from the munus of cardinals: to be advisers of the Successor of Peter in his sovereign ministry. And from the Sacrament of the Episcopate, which “has placed us as bishops to pasture the Church, which He has acquired with his blood” (Acts 20:28).

On September 19, 2016 we delivered to Your Holiness and to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith five dubia, asking You to resolve uncertainties and to bring clarity on some points of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.

Not having received any response from Your Holiness, we have reached the decision to ask You, respectfully and humbly, for an Audience, together if Your Holiness would like. We attach, as is the practice, an Audience Sheet in which we present the two points we wish to discuss with you.

Most Holy Father,

A year has now gone by since the publication of Amoris Laetitia. During this time, interpretations of some objectively ambiguous passages of the post-synodal Exhortation have publicly been given that are not divergent from, but contrary to, the permanent Magisterium of the Church. Despite the fact that the Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith has repeatedly declared that the doctrine of the Church has not changed, numerous statements have appeared from individual Bishops, Cardinals, and even Episcopal Conferences, approving what the Magisterium of the Church has never approved. Not only access to the Holy Eucharist for those who objectively and publicly live in a situation of grave sin, and intend to remain in it, but also a conception of moral conscience contrary to the Tradition of the Church. And so it is happening — how painful it is to see this! — that what is sin in Poland is good in Germany, that what is prohibited in the archdiocese of Philadelphia is permitted in Malta. And so on. One is reminded of the bitter observation of B. Pascal: “Justice on this side of the Pyrenees, injustice on the other; justice on the left bank of the river, injustice on the right bank.”

Numerous competent lay faithful, who are deeply in love with the Church and staunchly loyal to the Apostolic See, have turned to their Pastors and to Your Holiness in order to be confirmed in the Holy Doctrine concerning the three sacraments of Marriage, Confession, and the Eucharist. And in these very days, in Rome, six lay faithful, from every Continent, have presented a very well-attended study seminar with the meaningful title: “Bringing clarity.”

Faced with this grave situation, in which many Christian communities are being divided, we feel the weight of our responsibility, and our conscience impels us to ask humbly and respectfully for an Audience.

May Your Holiness remember us in Your prayers, as we pledge to remember You in ours. And we ask for the gift of Your Apostolic Blessing.

Carlo Card. Caffarra

Rome, April 25, 2017

Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist

*

AUDIENCE SHEET

1. Request for clarification of the five points indicated by the dubia; reasons for this request.

2. Situation of confusion and disorientation, especially among pastors of souls, in primis parish priests.”

 

This article was originally published by the National Catholic Register.

Pages