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Pope prays for victims, rescue workers of Sierra Leone mudslide

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 19:54

Vatican City, Aug 16, 2017 / 07:54 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With hundreds dead and nearly 600 more still missing as a result of a giant mudslide that ravished Sierra Leone's capital, Pope Francis has prayed for the victims, their families and rescue workers providing relief to those affected.

“Deeply saddened by the devastating consequences of the mudslide on the outskirts of Freetown, His Holiness Pope Francis assures those who have lost loved ones of his closeness at this difficult time,” read an Aug. 16 telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin read.

Addressed to Freetown's Archbishop Charles Edward Tamba, the telegram relayed the Pope's sympathies, and assured of his prayer for all who have died.

The telegram comes two days after a flooding and a large mudslide killed some 400 people in Sierra Leone's capital city of Freetown Monday, and have left some 600 still missing.

According to BBC, a mass burial of victims that had been scheduled for Wednesday in order to free up space in mortuaries has been delayed as the “chaotic” disaster continues to unfold.

Flooding is not uncommon in the overcrowded town of one million, leaving those who live in unsafe, makeshift housing especially at risk during natural disasters. However, Monday's slide is thought to be the worst incident in the past two decades.

At least 100 houses were wiped out when a hillside in Regent, a mountain town some 15 miles east of Freetown, collapsed, submerging entire buildings and taking people with them.

Bodies have continued to be retrieved from the mud and rubble, but efforts to identify them are proving difficult in the chaos.

In his telegram, the Pope not only offered his prayers for the victims, but he also extended “divine blessings of strength and consolation” upon their families.

Francis also expressed his “prayerful solidarity with the rescue workers and all involved in providing the much needed relief and support to the victims of this disaster.”

In Christ, Mary brings new joy and meaning to mankind, Pope says

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 16:26

Vatican City, Aug 15, 2017 / 04:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the Feast of the Assumption, Pope Francis said that in bringing Christ to the world, Mary also provides the joy and grace of her Son, which not only sustain us in difficulty, but are primarily intended for the weak and humble.

“Carrying Jesus, the Madonna also brings us a new joy, full of meaning; she brings us a new ability to pass with faith through the most painful and difficult moments; she brings us the capacity for mercy, forgiveness, understanding and supporting one another,” the Pope said Aug. 15.

Mary, he said, “is the model of faith and virtue,” and in contemplating her Assumption into Heaven, we give her thanks “because she always precedes us on the pilgrimage of life and of faith.”

We are also able to ask that she “guard us and sustain us, that we may have a strong faith, joyful and merciful; that she help us to be holy, to met her, one day, in paradise,” he said.

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present for a special Angelus address given for the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, which is celebrated annually Aug. 15.

The dogma of the Assumption of Mary – also called the “Dormition of Mary” in the Eastern Churches – teaches that when Mary's earthly life ended, God assumed her body and soul into heaven.

The Assumption of Mary was a widely-held tradition even in the early centuries of the Church, and was a frequent meditation in the writings of saints throughout the centuries. However, it wasn't until 1950 that it was made an infallible teaching by Pope Pius XII in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, officially defining the dogma of the Assumption.

In his Angelus speech honoring the feast, Pope Francis turned to the day's Gospel reading from Luke, in which Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is miraculously pregnant with John the Baptist, despite her advanced age.

He noted how when Mary arrived to her cousin, having gone “in haste,” Elizabeth immediately proclaims the first words of the traditional “Hail Mary” prayer, saying “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

In this moment, the greatest gift that Mary brought not just to Elizabeth, but to the whole world, “is Jesus, who already lives in her,” Francis said.

“And he lives not only by faith and waiting, as in many other women in the Old Testament: from the Virgin Mary Jesus took on human flesh, for his mission of salvation.”

The Pope then noted how preceding the encounter, Elisabeth and her husband Zechariah were filled with sadness by the fact that they couldn't have children. However, in place of this “now there is the joy of a child on the way: a child who will become the great John the Baptist, precursor of the Messiah.”

And when Mary arrives, this joy “overflows and bursts from their hearts,” he said, “because the invisible but real presence of Jesus fills all meaning: life, family, the salvation of the people...everything!”

Mary herself expresses this joy when she speaks the “stupendous prayer” of the Magnificat, which is “a song of joy to God who works great things through humble people, unknown to the world, like Mary herself, like her spouse Joseph, and also like the village in which they lived, Nazareth.”

In off-the-cuff remarks, the Pope pointed to “the great things the Lord does in the world with the humble, because humility is like a void that leaves room for God.”

The humble person “is strong because they are humble, not because they are powerful,” he said, and urged those present to ask themselves “how is my humility?” and to reflect on the answer.

Going on, Francis said the Magnificat prayer is an expression of God's mercy and fidelity, as well as his plan for salvation, which he carries out with “the little ones and the poor, with those who have faith in him” and trust in his Word, as Mary did.

Jesus' arrival to Elizabeth and Zechariah through Mary brings not only a climate of joy and communion, but also “a climate of faith which leads to hope, prayer and praise,” the Pope said, noting that the same thing can happen for each person today.

Francis closed his address asking Mary to bring to each person and their families and communities, “that immense gift, that unique grace which we must always ask for before and above all other graces that are also in our heart: the grace that is Jesus Christ!”

After leading pilgrims in the Angelus, the Pope offered a special prayer for all those who are suffering due to various global situations.

He entrusted to Mary and her intercession “the anxieties and pains of the peoples who in many parts of the world suffer due to natural disasters, social tensions or conflicts,” asking that she obtain for them “consolation and a future of peace and harmony!”

In addition to the various conflicts raging throughout the world, the Pope's words come after one woman lost her life and several others were injured when a car rammed into a group of protesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this week, adding fuel to what were already-escalated racial tensions in the United States.

Australian bishops oppose forcing priests to reveal details of confession

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 19:20

Vatican City, Aug 14, 2017 / 07:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of Australia have indicated that they will resist the Royal Commission's proposal that priests be legally obligated to disclose details of sexual abuse revealed in the confessional, facing criminal charges if they don't.

“Confession in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest,” Archbishop Denis J Hart of Melbourne said in an Aug. 14 statement.

President of the Australian Bishops Conference, Hart said confession “is a fundamental part of the freedom of religion, and it is recognized in the Law of Australia and many other countries.”

“It must remain so here in Australia,” he said, but stressed that “outside of this, all offenses against children must be reported to the authorities, and we are absolutely committed to doing so.”

The statement came the same day Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, established in 2013, released a sweeping 85 proposed changes to the country's criminal justice system.

In addition to suggestions tightening the law on sentencing standards in cases of historical sexual abuse, the use of evidence and grooming, the commission recommended that the failure to report sexual abuse, even in religious confessions, be made “a criminal offense.”

“Clergy should not be able to refuse to report because the information was received during confession,” the report said, adding that if persons in institutions are aware of possible child abuse or suspect it, they ought to report it right away.

The commission cited cases brought before them in which perpetrators who had confessed the sexual abuse of children to a priest then “went on to re-offend and seek forgiveness.”

Therefore, while it recognized the importance of Confession to the Catholic Church, “the report recommends there be no exemption, excuse, protection or privilege from the offense granted to clergy for failing to report information disclosed in connection with a religious confession.”

According to the Church's canon law, “the sacramental seal is inviolable. Therefore, it is absolutely wrong for a confessor in any way to betray the penitent, for any reason whatsoever, whether by word or in any other manner.”

A priest who directly violates the “Seal of Confession” incurs a “latae senentiae” excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See, which can only be lifted by the Pope himself.

In an Aug. 14 statement from the Australian Church's “Truth, Justice and Healing Council,” established in 2013 as a platform for the Church “to speak as one” on matters involving the Royal Commission, the council voiced opposition to the proposal involving Confession, but suggested that if implemented, the final decision on whether to comply would come down to each priest and his conscience.

In the statement, Francis Sullivan, CEO of the council, said that while the Catholic Church and the council itself “have consistently argued that these reporting provisions should not apply to the confessional, the Royal Commission has now made a different determination based on information and evidence it has heard over the past four years.”

“The whole concept of confession in the Catholic Church is built on repentance, forgiveness and penance,” Sullivan said, adding that “if a child sex-abuser is genuinely seeking forgiveness through the sacrament of confession they will need to be prepared to do what it takes to demonstrate their repentance.”

Part of this, he said, especially in cases of sexual abuse, “would normally require they turn themselves in to the police. In fact, the priest can insist that this is done before dispensing absolution.”

However, since the commission has now made a suggestion counter to the Church’s position, the final decision on whether or not it will become law is up to individual parliaments to form their own view and then make the relevant changes to the law.

“If ultimately there are new laws that oblige the disclosure of information heard in the Confessional, priests, like everybody else, will be expected to obey the law or suffer the consequences,” Sullivan said.

“If they do not, this will be a personal, conscience decision, on the part of the priest that will have to be dealt with by the authorities in accordance with the new law as best they can.”

Other changes proposed by the commission include changes to police responses, such as improvements to investigative techniques when interviewing; provisions for the improvement of “courtroom experience” for victims, making the process less traumatic; the removal of  “good character” as a factor in sentencing when that character carried out the abuse; changes requiring sentences to be placed in line with current sentencing standards rather than those at the time of the offense and the extension of grooming offenses to cover when the offender builds trust with a parent or guardian in order access the child.

Of the proposed changes, another that could affect the Catholic Church in real time is the request to change sentencing policies for historical cases of sexual abuse.

The suggestion asks that “all states and territories should introduce legislation so that sentences for child sexual abuse offenses are set in accordance with sentencing standards at the time of the sentencing, instead of at the time of offending.”

However, they said the sentence “must be limited to the maximum sentence available for the offense at the date when the offense was committed.”

“Many survivors of institutional child sexual abuse do not report the offense for years or even decades and applying historical sentencing standards can result in sentences that do not align with the criminality of the offense as currently understood,” they said.

Although it is unknown whether the change will in fact be made or how quickly it could be enforced, the move would directly affect cases such as that of Cardinal George Pell, who is currently facing charges on multiple counts of historical child sexual abuse.

The charges were announced by the police of Victoria, Australia at the end of June. As the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy since 2013 and a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis, Cardinal Pell is the most senior Vatican official to ever be charged with abuse.

With the permission of Pope Francis, Cardinal Pell has taken leave from his responsibilities in the Vatican in order to return to Australia for the court proceedings.

He has maintained his innocence since rumors of the charges first came out last year. At a brief hearing in Melbourne July 26, the cardinal said he would be pleading “not guilty” to the charges. He is set to appear at a preliminary hearing Oct. 6.

Despite the fact that charges against the cardinal date as far back as the 1960s, the new proposals to historical cases of sexual abuse, if implemented right away, could go into effect in time to determine how Pell is sentenced should he be found guilty.

At the time the charges were announced, Victoria Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton emphasized that at that point, there had been “no change in any procedures whatsoever,” and 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.”

Trust in Christ – not in horoscopes, Pope Francis says

Sun, 08/13/2017 - 16:41

Vatican City, Aug 13, 2017 / 04:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis repeated a message he often has, warning against putting one's trust in horoscopes and fortune telling rather than Christ, who is the only true security that gets us through times of trial and darkness.

Pointing to how Peter begins to sink when walking toward Jesus on the water in the day's Gospel reading, Francis noted that the same thing can happen to us when we put our trust in false securities.

“When we do not cling to the Word of the Lord, but consult horoscopes and fortune tellers, we begin to sink,” the Pope said Aug. 13.

The episode, he said, serves as a reminder “that faith in the Lord and in his word does not open a path where everything is calm and easy; it does not take us away from the storms of life.”

Rather, “faith gives us the security of a presence that pushes us to overcome the existential storms, the certainty of a hand that grabs us in order to help us in difficulties, showing the way even when it's dark.”

“Faith, then, is not an escape from life's problems, but it supports on the journey and gives it meaning.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for his weekly Angelus address, focusing on the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, in which Jesus walks on water in the midst of a storm, and beckons Peter to come to him. Peter initially begins to walk toward Jesus, but starts to sink out of fear when he sees the waves, and cries out for Jesus to rescue him.

This episode, Francis said, has a lot of symbolism for both individuals, and for the Church as a whole.

The boat can represent the life of each person, but also the life of the Church, he said, explaining that the wind signifies the “difficulties and trials” each will face.

Peter's cry of “Lord, command me to come to you,” and then his plea “Lord, save me!” represent both our desire feel close to the Lord, and “the fear and anguish which accompany us in the most difficult moments of our lives and our communities, marked by internal fragility and external difficulty,”  Francis said.

In the moment when he looked at the wind and the waves and began to fear, Peter wasn't founded on the Word of God, “which was like an outstretched rope to cling to in front of the hostile and turbulent waters.”

The same thing happens to us when we put our faith in trivial, worldly securities, rather than in the Lord, he said.

Pope Francis said the passage is “a stupendous image” of the reality of the Church throughout the ages: “a ship which, along the crossing, must counter winds and storms which threaten to overwhelm it.”

What saves the ship is not the courage and quality of it's men, he said, but rather, “the guarantee against a shipwreck is faith in Christ and in his word.”

“On this ship we are safe, despite our miseries and weaknesses, above all when we get on our knees and adore the Lord” as the disciples did, who, after Jesus calmed the storm, prostrated themselves and said “truly you are the Son of God!”

To drive the point home, Francis had the crowd repeat the phrase, listening as they shouted “truly you are the Son of God” three times.

Francis closed his address asking that the Virgin Mary intercede in helping all to “stay firm in the faith in order to resist the storms of life, to stay on the boat of the Church, eschewing the temptation to go on amusing, yet insecure boats of ideologies, fashions and slogans.”

He then led pilgrims in praying the traditional Marian prayer and greeted various groups of youth from around Italy before asking for prayer and giving his blessing. 

Pope orders Belgian religious group to stop offering euthanasia to patients

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 22:16

Vatican City, Aug 10, 2017 / 10:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis is cracking down on a Belgian Brothers of Charity-run organization, giving the group until the end of August to stop offering euthanasia to patients in their psychiatric centers.

In addition, each of the religious brothers serving on the board of the Brothers of Charity Group, the organization that runs the centers, has been ordered to sign a joint letter to their general superior, Br. Rene Stockman, declaring their adherence to Church teaching.

Brothers who refuse to sign the letter will face punitive action under canon law, while the group itself is expected to face legal action and could have its Catholic status revoked if it does not change its policy.

The Vatican order, sent at the beginning of August, follows several prior requests that the group drop the policy, which allows doctors to euthanize non-terminal mentally ill patients on its grounds.

In comments to CNA Aug. 10, Br. Stockman said he initially went to the Vatican for help in the spring, when the group, which is a state organization run by the order, decided to change their policy on euthanasia on the grounds that their stance was culturally abnormal.

Since the year 2000, the group has maintained a firm policy against euthanasia and how to cope with requests for it, he said, explaining that as a state organization, they take requests for euthanasia seriously, and try to help the patient regain their desire for life, “knowing of course that someone who is very depressive can have the tendency to ask for euthanasia.”

After doing everything possible to help alleviate any depression present in a patient, if the individual still requests euthanasia – which is legal in Belgium – the brothers would transfer them elsewhere.

“We don't accept that euthanasia should be done inside our institutes,” Br. Stockman said, noting that this had been the organization's firm policy until last year, when the group “started to deflect,” claiming that the Catholic position was “unique” in Belgium, where euthanasia is widely accepted, even for children.

The group argued that they had to “adapt,” and so developed a new vision that Br. Stockman said “we could not accept as a congregation.”

Despite the fact that all board members are Catholic, and some have high political profiles, in Belgium “secularization is very, very high, very strong,” Br. Stockman said, “so you have to ask yourself what is Catholic still?”

In response to the group's decision to change the policy, “we said very clearly first of all, for us respect of life must always be absolute,” the superior general said.

However, he said, the group responded that “respect of life is fundamental, but autonomy for the person is on the same level,” and once the two are placed on the same level, “then the autonomy of the patient becomes absolute, and not respect for life.”

Despite meeting resistance from Br. Stockman, the group insisted on implementing their new policy, which went into effect in June for each of the 15 psychiatric centers they run throughout Belgium.

As a response, the general superior went to the Belgian Catholic Bishops Conference and asked that they back him in the debate. When the organization continued to resist, despite pressure from the bishops conference, Br. Stockman took the issue to the Vatican.

He was eventually invited to present the issue before both the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, both of which became involved in investigating the issue.

The doctrinal congregation then promptly drafted a letter reiterating the Church's position on euthanasia and insisted that the group step back into line with doctrine. However, the letter was ignored.

Br. Stockman then received a specific mandate from the Congregation for Consecrated Life “to see that the organization can again be in line” with Church teaching.

Part of his mandate is enforcing the ultimatum and gathering the group's response by the end of August. Br. Stockman said he has not spoken with Pope Francis personally, but that it is the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life who conceived the ultimatum and presented it to the Pope, who gave it his full support.

Of the three brothers who are members of the organization's board of trustees – the majority of board consists of laypeople – Br. Stockman said he is still waiting for their answers, but is “quite positive about that, I can say that, I think the brothers will conform themselves.”

To ask the brothers to reaffirm their adherence to Church teaching is “logical,” he said, because “when you are a religious, then you have to be in line with the Church.”

“I know them and they are really under pressure from the whole mentality,” he said, but voiced confidence that they will send the letter without any problems.

As for the organization itself, the general superior said he has been in contact with the board members. “They said they received the letter and that they will discuss again in their board the situation,” he said, adding “I am waiting for the final answer.”

When asked if there was fear that even if the organization does change the policy back, they would be forced by the state to provide euthanasia, Br. Stockman said that thankfully, as of now institutions can't be forced, “so I think we also have to use this opening not to do it.”

“If the law changes and they say that institutions have to do euthanasia, then the situation becomes totally different. Then we have to ask ourselves, can we still continue as a Catholic hospital in a certain environment where we are forced to do euthanasia?”

“But until now we have the possibility to refuse euthanasia inside the walls of the institute,” he said.

Cardinal Parolin says urgency of peace a key reason for Russia trip

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 23:01

Vatican City, Aug 9, 2017 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has said he will be going to Russia Aug. 20-24 largely out of a desire to promote peace both there and with the West, and to solidify relations with the Eastern Orthodox.

Conflicts throughout the world, particularly in areas such as the Middle East, Syria and Ukraine, “are constant objects of attention and concern for the Holy See,” Cardinal Parolin said in the interview published Aug. 9 in Corriere della Sera.

“Because of this, the need and urgency of searching for peace and the way to do it will certainly be one of the principle themes” of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he indicated.

In addition to meeting with with Putin, the cardinal is also expected to hold meetings with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, as well as several other high-level authorities in the Russian Orthodox Church.

In his interview, Cardinal Parolin stressed that the Holy See has always held “a special interest for the vast eastern portion of Europe,” which he said “has a role to play in the search for greater stability on the continent and greater unity, including relations between East and West.”

“After the period of ideological opposition, which obviously can't entirely fade from today to tomorrow, and in the new scenarios that have opened up since the end of the Cold War, it's important to take advantage of every occasion to encourage respect, dialogue, and mutual collaboration in a view to promoting peace.”

The visit, he said, is also understood as a completion of the tour he has made of the region over the past few years, which, through official papal trips or visits he has made alone, has brought him to Belarus, the Caucasus nations, the Baltic countries, and Ukraine.

Now “I will have the opportunity to complete the picture with the visit to Russia.”

When asked whether or not he is concerned about rising tensions between the United States and Russia, Cardinal Parolin said he trusts that both parties involved “will know how to act with due responsibility to avoid the escalation of tensions.”

He also voiced confidence that the two nations will be able to recognize “the eventual errors that could have been at the origin of that situation.”

U.S. President Donald Trump recently turned up the heat in the ongoing conflict with Russia, due largely to tensions over their involvement in Syria and Ukraine, and possible meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Recently Trump hit Russia with more economic sanctions due to the country's involvement in the election, prompting Putin to expel 755 people from its U.S. embassy and consulates.

“It would be dramatic if nothing were done in this respect and, as a consequence, relations would deteriorate further,” Cardinal Parolin said, and stressed the crucial role of both Churches and civil society “in encouraging every initiative that leads to creating a more positive general atmosphere.”

The cardinal was also questioned on a comment made by Pope Francis to German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a recent audience, when he said it is a “tragic contradiction” to promote unity and persist in war.

Asked if this would be a topic raised in his meeting with Putin, the Vatican Secretary of State stressed that the Church consistently calls on all political leaders “not promote national interests, or in any case, particular interests,” but rather to work for “the common good, to respect for international law.”

“Not the law of force, but the force of the law,” he said, noting that the Church also urges global leaders to make decisions which promote the integral development of man throughout the world, as well as “concord and collaboration among nations.”

“And the method is always dialogue,” he said, and pointed to a quote from a letter written by St. Augustine in which the saint says that for a true leader, “the greatest title of glory is that of killing war with the word.”

In the Latin verb, Cardinal Parolin said, this means “with negotiation, with discussions instead of killing men with the sword, and ensuring that peace is maintained with peace and not with war.”

On his meeting with Patriarch Kirill, the cardinal said relations between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Church would obviously be a big priority, as well as how their respective Churches interact with society in facing the “great spiritual, cultural and political themes of today.”

“From this point of view, it's important to seek a positive and open means to continue to weave inter-ecclesial relations and to contribute constructively, on the part of the Churches, to the resolution of the complex problems which afflict and challenge humanity,” he said.

“It is my living hope, then, that the encounter may serve for an ever greater awareness, mutual esteem and collaboration between Catholics and Orthodox.”

Cardinal Parolin said that while his trip is not intended as a preparation for an eventual visit from Pope Francis, he hopes that “with the help of God,” his visit “can offer some contribution in this regard.”

Pope names new bishop for Chaldean eparchy of San Diego

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 16:46

Vatican City, Aug 9, 2017 / 04:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis has named Bishop Emanuel Hana Shaleta as head the eparchy of Saint Peter Apostle of San Diego of the Chaldeans, pulling him from his prior post in Canada.

Shaleta has until now served as Bishop of  Mar Addai Eparchy of Toronto. Announced in an Aug. 9 communique from the Vatican, his appointment to San Diego came alongside the nomination of Bishop Frank Kalabat, who oversees the Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit, as apostolic administrator for the Toronto eparchy.

Born in Fishkabour-Zakho, Iraq Nov. 12, 1956, the bishop completed his studies in his village before entering the Dominican-run Minor Seminary of Saint John in Mosul in 1971.

Like most clergy from Iraq, he was eventually invited to Rome for his studies, beginning courses at the Pontifical Urbanianum University in 1977, after having completed his studies in philosophy and theology.

He was ordained a priest by St. John Paul II May 31, 1984. He then continued his studies at the Urbanianum's Faculty of Theology, obtaining a doctorate in Biblical Theology in 1987.

Bishop Shaleta was then transferred to the United States through the Eparchy of Saint Thomas the Apostle of Detroit, where from 1987-2000 he served as pastor of St. Paul Parish in North Hollywood, Calif.

In 2000 he was named vice-pastor of St. Joseph parish in Troy, Mich. He was subsequently named pastor in 2006, and was later named pastor of St Gregory parish in Township, Mich., a position he held until 2015.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his priestly ordination in 2009, Shaleta was givene the title “chorbishop,” which refers to a prelate or archpriest of honor in Eastern Christian Churches.

In January of 2015 Pope Francis named him bishop of the Mar Addai eparchy in Toronto, and he received his episcopal ordination a month later, on Feb. 6, 2015.

As far as languages, the bishop speaks Chaldean, Arabic, Italian and English, and is familiar with Assyrian, Kurdish, French and German, as well as Latin, Hebrew and Greek.

The Eparchy of San Diego's website, it was established by St. John Paul II in 2002, who at that time accepted the Chaldean Synod's election of  Fr. Sarhad Jammo as the first bishop for the St. Peter the Apostle diocese.

In total, the eparchy covers 17 States: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Pope Francis: Jesus went to the cross for sinners, not the perfect

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 15:12

Vatican City, Aug 9, 2017 / 03:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said the Church doesn't exist for people without faults, but for sinners in need of God's mercy – a point he often returns to – and lamented the fact that there are many Catholics who believe the opposite.

“We who are accustomed to experiencing the forgiveness of sins, perhaps too much like 'a cheap market,' we should at times remind ourselves of how much we cost the love of God,” the Pope said Aug. 9.

“Jesus didn't go to the Cross because he heals the sick, because he preaches charity or because he proclaims the beatitudes,” he said. Rather, “the Son of God goes to the Cross above all because he forgives sins, because he wants the total, definitive freedom of man's heart.”

“He does not accept that the human being consumes their entire existence with this irremovable 'tattoo,' with the thought of not being able to be welcomed by the merciful heart of God.”

And this, Francis said, is how sinners are forgiven. Not only are they reassured at a psychological level, feeling free from a sense of guilt, but Jesus does more: “he offers the people who have erred the hope of a new life, a life marked by love.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall for his weekly general audience, continuing his catechesis on hope.

He began by pointing to the Gospel reading from Luke in which, after Jesus forgives the sins of a woman who anoints his feet with oil, the Simon the Pharisee asks “who is this who even forgives sins?”

Jesus' act of forgiving the woman's sins was “a scandalous gesture,” Francis said, noting that to have a known sinner come into the house of Simon to anoint Jesus was startling, because at the time the mentality was “between the holy and the sinner, the pure and the impure, the separation had to be clear.”

“But the attitude of Jesus is different,” the Pope said, noting that from the beginning of his ministry Jesus embraced lepers, the sick and the marginalized.

“Such behavior was by no means normal, so much so that Jesus' sympathy for the excluded, for the untouchables, will be one of the most disturbing things for his contemporaries,” he said, adding that “wherever there is a person suffering, Jesus cares for them, and that suffering becomes his own.”

Rather than following the stoic philosophers, who linked physical suffering to sin and believed such “punishment” had to be endured with heroism, Jesus shared in human pain, “and when he encounters it, from the depths of his being bursts that attitude which characterizes Christianity: mercy.”

Jesus shows compassion, but “literally: Jesus feels his insides quiver.” This is often referenced in the Gospels, where Christ incarnate “reveals the heart of God” and offers healing to those who suffer.

“It is for this reason that Jesus extends his hands to sinners,” Francis said, noting that there are many people today living a life of error “because they can't find anyone willing to look at them in a different way, with their eyes, or better, with the heart of God, which is hope.”

At times we forget that Jesus did not act with an easy love that comes “for a cheap price,” he said, adding that Jesus understands not only the physical pain of those who suffer, but also the internal pain of those who feel that they are “bad” people or that there is something essentially “wrong” with them because of their faults.

Francis closed his address telling pilgrims that it would do them well to think about how “God did not choose people who have never done wrong as the first dough to form his Church.”

Rather, “the Church is a people of sinners who experience the mercy and forgiveness of God,” he said, adding that St. Peter understood the truth about himself when the cock crowed, instead of his generous works, “which swelled his chest, making him feel superior to others.”

The Church is not for the perfect, but for sinners, he said, adding in off-the-cuff remarks that he can think of “a lot of Catholics who think they are perfect and they despise others, (and) this is sad.”

“We are all poor sinners in need of God's mercy, which has the strength to transform us and radiate hope to us every day,” Pope Francis said.

And to the people who understand this, “God gives the most beautiful mission in the world, which is to tell of his love for their brothers and sisters, and the announcement of a mercy that he does not deny to anyone.”

After greeting pilgrims from various countries around the world, Pope Francis closed his audience with an appeal for an end to violence in the world following an attack this week in Nigeria, in which a gunman entered a Church and opened fire, killing 11 and wounding several others.

He also pointed to an uptick in “homicidal violence” in the Central African Republic this week, directed against the Christian population.

“I wish that all forms of hatred and violence would cease, and that no more such shameful crimes be committed in places of worship, where faithful are gathered to pray,” he said, and led pilgrims in praying a Hail Mary for the people of Nigeria and CAR.

Vatican clarifies: Gay couple received standard form letter from Pope, not endorsement

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 23:59

Vatican City, Aug 8, 2017 / 11:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A congratulatory letter sent from Pope Francis to a same-sex couple regarding the baptism of their children was a standard form letter sent to all who write to the Pope, a Vatican source has confirmed.

The letter was not an endorsement of gay unions, the source told CNA, and the Pope may not have known that the letter was going to a gay couple, since it was addressed to a single individual.

Tony Reis, an LGBT activist, and his partner David Harrad published on Facebook in April that they sent a letter to the Pope, telling him about the baptism of their three adopted children in a church in Curitiba, Brazil.

The couple told AFP that they had received a congratulatory letter in return, signed by the Vatican Secretariat of State, Monsignor Paolo Borgi.

The letter, translated from Portuguese, said that the Holy Father “looks with appreciation” at the letter on the baptism of the children, and “expressed his feelings of esteem...and his wishes for the good spiritual fruits of his ministry as Pastor of the Universal Church.”

“Pope Francis wishes him well, invoking for his family the abundance of divine graces, so that they may live constantly and faithfully the condition of Christians, as good children of God and of the Church, and sends them a propitious Apostolic Blessing, asking them not to stop praying for him,” the letter concludes.

Along with the letter in Portuguese, the couple received a photograph of the Pontiff.

“(T)hat letter is the standard model of courtesy response that the Vatican sends to all the people who write to the Pope, and therefore was not a letter (that was) expressly thinking about them,” the Vatican source told CNA.

The same source said the letter is addressed to one person, “further evidence that the Secretary of State was unaware that it was a homosexual couple” who had written the first letter. The couple has not published the text of the letter they sent to Pope Francis, so it is unknown whether they presented themselves as a same-sex couple.

In 2015, the Vatican clarified a similar incident, when Fr. Ciro Benedittini, the deputy director of the Vatican Press Office, confirmed that a standard form letter sent to a lesbian couple who had written the Pope was not an endorsement of same-sex marriage.

On numerous occasions throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has reaffirmed Church teaching on marriage, voicing concern about what he sees as attacks on marriage and the family.

“(T)he family – as God wants it, composed of a man and a woman for the good of the spouses and also the generation and education of children – is deformed by powerful contrary projects supported by ideological colonization,” the Pope told a group in Rome in September 2015.

That same year, he voiced support for “efforts in defense of the family” in a greeting to pilgrims from Slovakia, on the day before a country-wide vote on whether to legalize same-sex unions.

Speaking during a trip to the Philippines, Pope Francis warned bluntly, “The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage.”

And in an October 2014 audience, he warned that “the family is being bastardized,” cautioning against a common view in society that “you can call everything family, right?”

“What is being proposed is not marriage, it's an association. But it's not marriage! It's necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!” he stressed, lamenting that there are so many “new forms” of unions which are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”

 

 

 

Ukranian archeparchy in Philadelphia gets a new auxiliary bishop

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 17:45

Vatican City, Aug 8, 2017 / 05:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday it was announced that Pope Francis has named Fr. Andriy Rabiy, who has a background in child protection, as an auxiliary bishop for the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

Announced in an Aug. 8 communique from the Vatican, Rabiy's appointment means he will join fellow auxiliary Bishop John Bura in serving the Archepharchy's Metropolitan Archbishop, Stefan Soroka.

Until now he has served as “protosyncellus,” defined on the archeparchy's website as someone – typically an auxiliary bishop or “a priest of distinguished standing” -- who is given special authority to help the archbishop govern the eparchy.

Born in Lviv, Ukraine, in 1975, Rabiy eventually moved to the United States, where he adapted well to his new culture.

After completing his basic education, the bishop-elect entered the Ukrainian Seminary of St. Jehoshaphat in Washington. In 1999 he received a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy from the Catholic University of America.

He was ordained a deacon in 1998, and was ordained a priest three years later Dec. 19, 2001.

Rabiy's duties in the archeparchy have included his role as protosyncellus, being a member of the Archeparchial Council of Consultors, the Administrative Council of Pennsylvania's Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Presbyterous Archepichal District Council, as well as Director of their Center for Prevention and Infant and Youth Protection.

The date of his episcopal ordination has not yet been set, but is expected to be announced soon.

Currently the Archeparchy of Philadephia is made up of roughly 67,250 faithful and 74 parishes under it's canonical jurisdiction.

According to the archeparchy's website, the community was initially established as the result of an influx of Catholic immigrants in the 1870s from the Austro-Hungarian empire who practiced the Byzantine tradition, and were known as Ruthenians.

In 1884 a priest from the tradition came and blessed what would become their first church building in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania the same year.

The community was placed under the jurisdiction of the Latin ordinaries in their places of residence by Pope Leo XIII in 1895, and in 1907 Bishop  Soter Stephen Ortynsky was named their first ecclesial superior. However, he was required to obtain actual jurisdiction from each Latin ordinary in every community where his faithful had settled.

Six years later, in 1913, Bishop Ortynsky was given full jurisdiction and “sui iuri” status, meaning independent status, from Latin ordinaries by Pope St. Pius X.

In 1924 the ordinary was elevated to an exarchate, referred to as the Apostolic Exharchate of the United States of America, Faithful of the Oriental rite.

Pope Pius XII in 1956 established the Apostolic Exarchy of Stamford, Conn., assigning to it parishes located in the State of New York and the whole of New England. Then two years later, in 1958, he created the the Ecclesiastical Province of Philadelphia which included the  Archeparchy of Philadelphia of the Ukrainians, and the Eparchy of Stamford.

The sitting archbishop in the Philadelphia Archeparchy oversees all Ukrainian eparchies in the United States, located in Stamford, Chicago and Parma.

Each bishop of the Philadelphia province holds jurisdiction over all faithful living in the territory of their Eparchies, meaning bishops in the Latin rite hold no authority over them. Although located in the U.S., the archeharchy answers to the See of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Kyiv, Ukraine, which is headed by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk.

Why the Feast of St. Dominic is not actually the Dominicans' biggest feast day

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 12:38

Vatican City, Aug 8, 2017 / 12:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Tuesday marks the Feast Day of St. Dominic, the 13th century priest known for founding the Order of Preachers, commonly called the Dominicans, and for spreading devotion to the Rosary.

Surprisingly, though, the Dominicans don’t usually do much to celebrate the saint’s Aug. 8 feast day.

While the August feast “is for us certainly always a feast,” Dominican Fr. Angelo Giuseppe Urru told CNA, it’s not the primary one.

Instead, the order celebrates “more solemnly” May 24, which is the Solemnity of the Translation of St. Dominic.

This unusual feast day commemorates the day St. Dominic’s remains were moved, or “translated,” from their original burial spot behind an altar of the church of San Nicolo della Vigne in Bologna, Italy to a more prominent place in the church in 1233.

For many Dominican provinces, this day is the big celebration, Fr. Urru said.

The move of St. Dominic’s body was carried at the request of Pope Gregory IX, about one year before the saint’s canonization on July 13, 1234, only 13 years after his death.

As recorded in a letter by Bl. Jordan of Saxony, one of the first leaders of the Dominicans, the brothers were very anxious before the move of the body, because they were worried that when the wooden coffin was uninterred from the stone sepulcher, the body would give off a foul odor, since it had been buried in a poorly constructed tomb, exposed to water and heat.

Instead they received a great surprise, because when the tomb was opened, a wonderful and sweet perfume emanated from the coffin instead.

“Its sweetness astonished those present, and they were filled with wonder at this strange occurrence. Everyone shed tears of joy, and fear and hope rose in all hearts,” Bl. Jordan wrote.

He reported that the odor remained and if anyone touched a hand or some object to the body, the odor immediately attached itself and lingered for a long time.

“The body was carried to the marble sepulcher where it would rest – it and the perfume that it poured forth. This marvelous aroma which the holy body emitted was evidence to all how much the saint had truly been the good odor of Christ,” he wrote.

By 1240, the church containing St. Dominic’s remains had been expanded into a basilica, and renamed for the saint.

Now, every year Dominican friars, sisters, and laity all over the world celebrate St. Dominic on May 24.

Mass is celebrated at the Basilica of Santa Sabina, the mother church of the Dominicans in Rome, for this feast.

The tradition is for a priest of the Order of Friars Minor, commonly called the Franciscans, to say the Mass and preach. After Mass, the procession of friars stops at the first side chapel, where the Blessed Sacrament is kept, to sing the O Lumen, the Dominican antiphon to St. Dominic.

Besides the tomb with the saint’s body, which is in the basilica in Bologna, there are few relics of St. Dominic in existence.

One relic, a piece of his skull, can be found in Rome. It is at the church of Santa Maria del Rosario, part of a Dominican monastery located on Monte Mario, the tallest hill of Rome.

Fr. Urru said he was not sure how it came to be kept in the monastery, but that it originated when some students in Bologna stole it to have in their chapel.

“There is also the breviary of St. Dominic, a small breviary,” he said.

In 2016, the Dominicans celebrated the 800th anniversary of their founding with a Jubilee Year, culminating in an International Congress for the Mission of the Order, which took place Jan. 17-21 in Rome.

Fr. Urru voiced gratitude for the blessing of vocations, which allow the order’s work to continue.

Thankfully, though there are some provinces which are very small, many are growing and are very strong, he noted, such as those in Vietnam and Africa. The United States as well has seen a good number of new vocations, he said.

Around the world, “there are many initiatives of the order,” and they are working hard still, just as they have the last 800 years.

Ultimately, though, he said, the future of the order is “in the hands of God.”

 

 

 

Pope urges Peruvians to focus on hope, unity ahead of trip

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 00:32

Vatican City, Aug 7, 2017 / 12:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has sent a special message to Peruvians ahead of his visit to their country next year, telling them to look to the great saints of the nation as they prepare, and pointing to hope and unity as key areas of reflection.

Standing beside a statue of St. Martin de Porres, the Pope told Peruvians in his native Spanish that he will be with them in just a short time, and that “I have a great desire to go.”

“You are a people with a large legacy, (and) the most beautiful legacy that a people can have is the legacy of the saints,” he said, noting that Peru has “many saints, and great saints that mark Latin America.”

Among the best-known of these are St. Martin de Porres, St. Rose of Lima, St. Francis Solano, and St. Turibius of Mogrovejo, in addition to the widespread devotion to the image of Our Lord of the Miracles.

In his message, Pope Francis said it is the saints who built the Church in Peru, “from scattering to unity,” referring to the divisions present in the Viceroyalty of Peru, the Spanish colony during the existence of which many of Peru's canonized saints lived.

“A saint always works along this line: from what is scattered to unity, which is what Jesus did. A Christian has to follow this path,” Pope Francis said in his message, adding that “whoever works for unity looks forward.”

While some look ahead with scepticism or bitterness, “a Christian cannot,” he said. “A Christian looks ahead with hope, because he hopes to achieve that which the Lord has promised him.”

Pope Francis closed the video telling Peruvians that he would see them soon, and that in the meantime, they have homework: “unity and hope, work on this. I'll pray for you, you pray for me.”

The video message was published Aug. 5 by Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima.

Francis' greeting comes just five months before his Jan. 15-21, 2018, visit to Chile and Peru. In Peru, he is slated to visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado, and Trujillo.

If his message is any indication, the saints and their role in evangelizing Peru will likely be a focus in his speeches, with a special emphasis on hope and unity – themes he is already known to speak about frequently.

As far as Peruvian saints, Rose of Lima is likely the most well-known. She was born in Lima to Spanish parents in 1586. At a very young age, she chose to consecrate her life to God.

As part of her commitment, she practiced very intense prayer and penance each day, at times depriving herself of food and sleep. She eventually joined the Third Order of St. Dominic, continuing her tough penances. After three years of illness, she died at the age of 31 in 1617.

Her feast day is celebrated Aug. 23 in many parts of the world, while in Peru and several other places it is observed Aug. 30.

Also among the more widely known saints is Martin de Porres, who was the son of a Spanish nobleman and a black slave woman.

Born in Lima in 1579, he was a talented medical apprentice and sought to enter the Dominican Order, but was initially prevented from becoming a brother due to a Peruvian law at the time that prevented people of mixed race from joining religious orders.

Instead, he lived with the community and did manual work, earning the nickname “the saint of the broom” for his diligence and care in cleaning the Dominicans’ quarters. Eventually, he was permitted to join the order despite the Peruvian law, and he worked with the sick in the infirmary.

Pope Francis visits Blessed Paul VI's tomb on anniversary of his death

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 23:51

Vatican City, Aug 7, 2017 / 11:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday morning Pope Francis descended to the grotto beneath St Peter's Basilica, where many past Popes are buried, to pray at the tomb of Bl. Paul VI.

According to a Vatican communique, the Pope spent about half an hour in “a moment of recollection” and prayer before the tomb Aug. 6, the 39th anniversary of the late Roman Pontiff's 1978 death.

Best known for his encyclical Humanae vitae, on the regulation of birth, and his role in the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI was beatified by Pope Francis in 2014.

Not only has Francis acknowledged the important contribution of Bl. Paul VI to the universal Church, he has also followed closely in the late Roman Pontiff's steps, particularly in his travels abroad, going to several of the places where his predecessor had become the first Pope ever to step foot.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Bl. Paul VI's encyclicals Populorum Progressio, on the development of peoples, and Sacerdotalis caelibatus, on the celibacy of the priest. Populorum Progressio was a key point of reference in Pope Francis' establishment this year of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Bl. Paul VI was born Giovanni Montini in 1897 in the town of Concesio in the Lombardy region of Italy. Ordained a priest in 1920 and consecrated as a bishop in 1954, he was appointed to the college of cardinals in 1958.

At the age of 66 he was elected Bishop of Rome and chose the name Paul VI, in reference to the missionary spirit of the Apostle Paul.

He re-convoked the Second Vatican Council, which had automatically closed with the death of his predecessor, St. John XXIII, and improved ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In a historic move in December 1965, Bl. Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople mutually lifted the excommunications that had been leveled against the leaders of both Churches in 1054.

Montini's cause for canonization was opened in 1993. In December 2012, Benedict XVI recognized the heroic virtue of Paul VI, giving him the title Venerable. In 2014, the Vatican approved a miracle attributed to his intercession, allowing for his beatification.

In his Oct. 19, 2014 homily for the beatification, Francis hailed Paul VI as “the great helmsman of the [Second Vatican] Council.”

He cited Bl. Paul VI’s words at the closing of Vatican II's final session: “Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour.”

“In this humility,” Pope Francis continued, “the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.”

Pope Francis offers prayers after deadly Nigeria attack

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 19:26

Vatican City, Aug 7, 2017 / 07:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After a bloody attack at a Catholic Church in southern Nigeria left 11 dead and several more wounded, Pope Francis conveyed his sympathy to the victims and their families, assuring the community of his prayer.

In an Aug. 7 telegram addressed to Bishop Hilary Paul Odili Okeke of Nnewi, Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and injury following the violent attack in Saint Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu.”

The Pope extended his “heartfelt condolences to you and to all the faithful of the Diocese of Nnewi, in particular the families of the deceased and all those affected by this tragedy,” and offered blessings of “consolation and strength” upon the entire diocese.

The telegram, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, came after gunmen stormed St Philip's Catholic Church in the city of Ozubulu early Sunday morning, killing at least 11 people and wounding 18 more.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. According to BBC News, local terror group Boko Haram, which has burned hundreds of churches and killed thousands during it's more than decade-long insurgency in the country's north-eastern region, was not involved.

Rather, the attack is believed to have been the result of either a private feud or that it was linked to drug-trafficking.

Reports conflict as to whether there were one or two gunmen involved, however, police have begun a manhunt in the area in the hopes of finding those responsible.

Want peace and love? Remember to pray, Pope Francis says

Sun, 08/06/2017 - 18:08

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2017 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Through their prayers, people of various religions can work together for peace, Pope Francis has said to an interreligious prayer meeting in Japan.

Prayer “inspires and sustains our efforts for peace, because it helps to deepen our reciprocal respect for each other as persons, strengthens the bonds of love between us, and spurs us to make decisive efforts towards promoting just relations and fraternal solidarity,” the Pope said in a letter to the 30th Prayer Meeting on Mount Hiei in Kyoto.

The meeting was launched in 1987 by Etai Yamada, Supreme Head of the Tendai Buddhist denomination. The effort aimed to advance the Day of Prayer for Peace held under St. John Paul II in Assisi, Italy on Oct. 27, 1986.

Pope Francis praised the prayer meeting, saying it “contributes in a special way to the building up of that spirit of dialogue and friendship which allows the followers of the world’s religions to work together to open new paths for peace in our human family.”

The Roman Pontiff sent “cordial greetings” to Koei Morikawa, the 257th Supreme Priest of the Tendai Buddhist denomination, and representatives of other religious traditions at the meeting.

Pope Francis and Morikawa had met privately at the Vatican in September 2016. Tendai Buddhism was founded in Japan about 1,200 years ago.

Cardinal John Tong Hon, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, delivered the Pope’s letter and read it to participants.

The annual prayer meeting will close Aug. 6, the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Pope prays for openness, courage at close of Asian Youth Day

Sun, 08/06/2017 - 18:04

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As young people gathered in Indonesia for the 7th Asian Youth Day prepare to head home, Pope Francis sent a message encouraging them to be courageous, and to turn to Mary as a model of what it means to be a missionary.

In an Aug. 6 telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the prelate extended “warm greetings and prayerful best wishes” to all participating in the event on behalf of Pope Francis.

The Pope, he said, “prays that young people from across Asia will listen ever more attentively to God’s call and respond with faith and courage to their vocation.”

Looking ahead to the global World Youth Day gathering in Panama in 2019, Francis invited the youth to turn to Mart, the Mother of God as “ a model of missionary discipleship, to speak to her as they would to a mother, and to trust always in her loving intercession.”

“In this way, as they seek to follow Christ Jesus more closely, they too, like the young woman of Nazareth, can truly “improve the world and leave an imprint that makes a mark on history,” he said, giving his blessing and entrusting the youth and their families to Mary's intercession.

Pope Francis' message was sent on the final day of the Aug. 2-6 Asian Youth Day gathering in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, holding the theme: “Joyful Asian Youth: Living the Gospel in Multicultural Asia.”

More than two thousand young Catholics from all over Asia took part in the gathering, which came a year after the international WYD gathering in Krakow, Poland last summer, attended by Pope Francis.

The Pope was also present during the last Asian Youth Day, which coincided with Pope Francis' Aug. 13-18, 2014, visit to South Korea, and centered on the theme: “Asian Youth! Wake up! The glory of the martyrs shines upon you!”

This year's event in Indonesia featured talks and workshops on aimed at building mutual respect in Asia's diverse, multicultural population, caring for the environment and learning how to be missionaries in a digital world.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Closing Mass (1)<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Ayd7Indonesia?src=hash">#Ayd7Indonesia</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DaysInVenue?src=hash">#DaysInVenue</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Day5?src=hash">#Day5</a> <a href="https://t.co/VpaLHOL7VG">pic.twitter.com/VpaLHOL7VG</a></p>&mdash; asianyouthday (@ayd2017) <a href="https://twitter.com/ayd2017/status/894067794626486272">August 6, 2017</a></blockquote>
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As part of the multicultural aspect and in an effort to address growing fundamentalism in the area, the event hosted several encounters between Christian, Islamic and other religious leaders.

Among the Asian Catholic leaders who attended the event were Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay and a member of the Pope's “C9” council of cardinal advisers, and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila and President of the Caritas Internationalis aid organization.

Indonesia's Vice President, Muhammad Jusuf Kalla, was present at the closing ceremony Aug. 6, when it was announced that India will be the location of the next Asian Youth Day.

The main celebrant at the closing Mass was Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, who at the end of his homily noted that attendees come from all over Asia.

“We do realize our differences: we are of different nationalities, different languages, different cultures, and so on,” he said.

“However, in this event, we do realize and experience that those differences cannot separate us, but the differences show the richness of the united humanity instead. It proves that the power of faith, hope and love unites us.”

Suharyo closed by voicing his hope that the event would help the youths to “diligently and faithfully live out Gospel so that we may be filled with the joy of the Gospel. Thus, our life could mirror the glory of the Lord, which changes our lives.”

Pope Francis: summer is an ideal time to re-focus our life on God

Sun, 08/06/2017 - 16:31

Vatican City, Aug 6, 2017 / 04:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis said the Feast of the Transfiguration is an invitation to put God and others first, adding that the lazy summer months are the perfect time to take a step back and refocus on the essentials.

“The event of the Transfiguration of the Lord offers us a message of hope: it invites us to encounter Jesus, in order to be at the service of our brothers,” the Pope said during his Aug. 6 Angelus address.

Looking to pilgrims gathered in a sweltering St. Peter's Square, he turned to the day's Gospel passage from St. Matthew, which recounted the event of the Transfiguration and the disciples descent down the mountain afterward.

The image of the disciples going down Mount Tabor serves as a reminder of the importance of detaching ourselves from worldly things, and walking toward Christ, he said.

And to do this, he added, involves dedicating ourselves to an “attentive and prayerful listening to Christ,” by looking for “intimate moments of prayer that allow the docile and joyful welcoming of the Word of God.”

Speaking in August, when most Romans are out on vacation, he said summer time is the perfect opportunity to delve into this prayer, and called summer a “providential moment to enhance our commitment to seek and encounter the Lord.”

“In this period, students are free from scholastic duties and many families are taking their vacation; it's important that in the time of rest and detachment from daily concerns, they can re-energize the forces of body and spirit, deepening their spiritual path.”

Returning to the image of the Transfiguration, Pope Francis noted that the disciples went back down the mountain with “eyes and hearts transfigured by their encounter with the Lord.”

This is also a path that we can take, he said, adding that the “ever more vivid” rediscovery of Jesus is not an end in itself, but rather something that leads us to go down the mountain ourselves, “recharged by the strength of the Divine Spirit.”

With this renewed strength, we'll be able to take “new steps of authentic conversion” and will be able to “constantly bear witness to charity, as a law of daily life.”

By allowing ourselves to be transformed by the presence of Christ and his Word, we will become concrete signs of love for our brothers and sisters, Francis said, especially those who suffer due to loneliness, abandonment, illness, injustice and violence.

He closed his address by turning to Mary, who is “always ready to welcome and guard in her heart every word of her Divine Son.”

Pope Francis prayed that Mary would help all to enter into harmony with the Word of God, enabling Christ to be “the light and guide” of our entire lives, and entrusted to her all those on vacation during the summer months.

“To her we entrust the vacation of everyone, so that they are serene and profitable,” he said, and offered a special prayer for those who are unable to take vacation due to age, health, work or financial trouble.

He prayed that for these people, summer would “still be a relaxing time, cheered by friends and happy moments,” and led pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer.

Pope voices sorrow at death of 'beloved' Cardinal Tettamanzi

Sat, 08/05/2017 - 21:06

Vatican City, Aug 5, 2017 / 09:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday, Pope Francis sent a message mourning the death earlier that day of 83-year-old Italian Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop Emeritus of Milan.

“In learning of the news of the passing of the dear Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, I wish to express my condolences to his family and members of that diocesan community, which lists him among her most illustrious sons and most lovable and beloved pastors,” the Pope said in an Aug. 5 telegram.

Addressed to Cardinal Angelo Scola, the recently retired Archbishop of Milan, and Archbishop Mario Delpini, the archdiocese's current leader, the telegram conveyed the affection and gratitude with which Francis said he would remember “the intense cultural and pastoral work lavished by this blessed brother.”

Francis praised Cardinal Tettamanzi, who “in his fruitful existence has borne witness to the joy of the Gospel and served the Church docilely.”

Tettamanzi, he said, was “always distinct as a caring pastor, totally dedicated to the needs and the good of the priests and of all the faithful, with special attention to the themes of the family, marriage and bioethics, of which he was a particular expert.”

Archbishop of Milan from 2002-2011, Tettamanzi was a moral theologian and a leading voice in the Italian Church, and at one point was even considered a likely candidate for the papacy.

Viewed as spanning the gap between liberal and conservative, the cardinal oversaw several dioceses and held various positions in the Italian Bishops' Conference. He also collaborated in the writing of several Vatican documents in moral theology, including St. John Paul II's 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae.”

Born March 14, 1934 in Renate, Italy, Tettamanzi was just 11 years old when he entered the seminary of Seveso San Pietro, where he began his initial studies.

He then attended the Seminary of the Lower Venegono until 1957, when he received a licentiate in theology. That same year he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Milan, and later obtained his doctorate in moral theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

For over 20 years, the cardinal taught fundamental moral theology at the Lower Venegono seminary and pastoral theology at the Priestly Institute of Mary Immaculate and the Lombard Regional Institute of Pastoral Ministry in Milan.

Throughout his career, the prelate authored several written works, contributing to the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano and the Italian bishops' daily paper, Avvenire.

From 1979-1989 he was active in the Italian Confederation of Family Counseling Centers of Christian inspiration as well as in “Oari,” a pastoral movement dedicated offering hope to those who suffer. He was also involved in the Milan branch of the Association of Italian Catholic Medical Doctors for nearly 20 years.

Tettamanzi was given the title “Monsignor” in 1985, and just two years later, in September 1987, he was tapped to serve the Pontifical Lombard Seminary.

While in that role, he continued to serve the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) in various roles, and collaborated with the Holy See and various theological institutes.

On July 1, 1989, he was named Archbishop of Ancona-Osma, and received his episcopal ordination Sept. 23, 1989. While there, he also served as head of the CEI's Marche region. Then in June of 1990, he was elected president of the CEI Bishops Commission for the Family.

He was named Secretary General of the CEI in March 1991, and in April resigned from his position leading the diocese of Ancona-Osimo. Four years later, on April 20, 1995, he was named Archbishop of Genoa, and served as president of the regional bishops’ conference.

Just a month later, in May 1995, he was named Vice President of the CEI, a position he held until 2000.

In addition to the various responsibilities he carried out, Tettamanzi participated as an expert in the 1980 Synod of Bishops on the Family and the 1987 Synod on the Laity convoked by John Paul II. He was also a synod father at the two Special Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops for Europe in 1991 and 1999, as well as the 1994 Synod on Consecrated Life.

Tettamanzi was named Archbishop of Milan in July 2002, taking over for Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, whose legacy, for many, was carried forward by Tettamanzi.

He was named a cardinal by John Paul II in the consistory of February 1998, and was tapped by Pope Francis to participate in the XIV Ordinary General Assembly on The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World in October 2015.

Having been under the age limit of 80 during the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Tettamanzi voted in both that and the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

In his telegram for the cardinal's passing, Francis prayed that God would “welcome this faithful servant, whom he loved so greatly, in joy and eternal peace,” and offered his blessing to all those mourning, and to those who “lovingly assisted” the cardinal during his last few years of illness.  
 

Artists take center stage in Pope's latest prayer video

Sat, 08/05/2017 - 16:24

Vatican City, Aug 5, 2017 / 04:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has dedicated the month of August to praying for artists, praising them in his latest prayer video as heralds of God's beauty, and asking that through their work, they would help humanity discover the wonder of creation.

The video opens with the Pope telling viewers in his native Spanish that “the arts give expression to the beauty of the faith and proclaim the Gospel message of the grandeur of God's creation,” as musicians sit outside holding their instruments with nothing but the sound of nature in the background.

As the musicians begin playing their different instruments, such as the violin, saxophone and various unique, cultural instruments from around the world, Francis says that “when we admire a work of art or a marvel of nature, we discover how everything speaks to us of him and of his love.”

Images of other artists, such as painters and dancers, flash across the scene as the Pope closes by praying “that the artists of our time, through their creativity, may help us discover the beauty of creation.”

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First launched during the Jubilee of Mercy, the videos are part of an initiative of the Jesuit-run global prayer network Apostleship of Prayer and are filmed in collaboration with the Vatican Television Center and the Argentinian marketing association La Machi.

The Apostleship of Prayer, which produces the monthly videos on the Pope’s intentions, was founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884 to encourage Christians to serve God and others through prayer, particularly for the needs of the Church.

Since the late 1800s, the organization has received a monthly, “universal” intention from the Pope. In 1929, an additional missionary intention was added by the Holy Father, aimed at the faithful in particular.

Starting in January, rather than including a missionary intention, Pope Francis has elected to have only one prepared prayer intention – the universal intention featured in the prayer video – and will add a second intention focused on an urgent or immediate need if one arises.

The prayer intentions typically highlight issues of importance not only for Pope Francis, but for the world, such as families, the environment, the poor and homeless, Christians who are persecuted and youth.

Pope Francis has often praised artists – usually circus performers who put on a show during a general audience – for their contribution to beauty, and has made special efforts to make the Vatican's treasures available to those who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to see them.

In October 2013, just a few months after his election, the Pope held an audience with the Patrons of the Arts, established some 30 years ago to fund restoration projects in the Vatican museums.

“In every age the Church has called upon the arts to give expression to the beauty of her faith and to proclaim the Gospel message of the grandeur of God’s creation, the dignity of human beings made in his image and likeness, and the power of Christ’s death and resurrection to bring redemption and rebirth to a world touched by the tragedy of sin and death,” he told the patrons.

Rome’s “countless” pilgrims and visitors encounter the Gospel message through the art that is found in the Vatican Museums, he said, adding that the pieces featured “bear witness to the spiritual aspirations of humanity, the sublime mysteries of the Christian faith, and the quest of that supreme beauty which has its source and fulfillment in God.”

In March 2015, the Pope invited a group of 150 homeless for dinner and a private tour of the Vatican museums and the Vatican City State on the premise that beauty is for everyone.

A year later, in June 2016, the Pope received some 6,000 traveling performers in the Vatican for the Jubilee of Circus Performers, telling them that while their work is demanding and at times unstable, it enables them to bring light to an often dark world.

“You are artisans of celebration, of wonder, of the beautiful: with these qualities you enrich the society of the entire world,” he told the group, which performed various acts for the pontiff.

He told them that through their work, they help to nourish hope and confidence via performances “that have the ability to elevate the soul.”

Similarly, in December of the same year, Pope Francis sent a message to the annual meeting of the Pontifical Academies naming the winners of that year's Pontifical Academies Award, whom he had chosen.

In the letter, the Pope said “architects and painters, sculptors and musicians, filmmakers and writers, photographers and poets, artists of every discipline, are called to shine beauty especially where darkness or gray dominates everyday life.”

These people, he said, “are the custodians of beauty, heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity.”

Vatican urges Venezuela to suspend constitutional revision

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 17:26

Vatican City, Aug 4, 2017 / 05:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As tensions and deaths continue to rise in Venezuela over the government's push to re-write their constitution, the Holy See has urged the country's leaders to hold off on the constitutional assembly, focusing instead on alleviating the nation's crippling humanitarian crisis.  

“The Holy See expresses again her profound concern for the radicalization and aggravation of the crisis in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, with the increase in the number of deaths, wounded and those who have been detained,” read an Aug. 4 Vatican communique.

Pope Francis, both directly and through Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, “closely follows that situation and it's humanitarian, social, political, economic and even spiritual implications, and assures of his constant prayer for the country and for all Venezuelans,” while inviting faithful around the world “to pray intensely for this situation.”

At the same time, the Holy See asked all political actors, and governments in particular, to ensure that “full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms” are respected, “as well as the existing Constitution.”

The Holy See asked specifically that political and governmental agents “avoid or suspend ongoing initiatives such as the new constitutional assembly which, instead of fostering peace and reconciliation, foments a climate of tension and conflict and mortgages the future.”

It also asked them to create the conditions “for a negotiated solution” in line with the requirements Cardinal Parolin spelled out in his Dec. 1, 2016, letter to the Venezuelan government, asking that: provisions be made to alleviate the crisis in the supply of food and medicine; that parties agree on a timetable for elections allowing Venezuelans themselves to decide their future; that the country's National Assembly be reinstated as soon as possible and its role provided for in the Constitution; and that legal procedures accelerating the release of detainees be implemented.

In addition, the Holy See also asked the government to bear in mind “the serious suffering of the people due to the difficulty of obtaining food and medicine, and a lack of security.”

The statement closed by making a “firm appeal” to society as a whole “to overcome all forms of violence, inviting, in particular, security forces to abstain from the excessive and disproportionate use of force.”

The statement comes days after July 30 nation-wide elections, which approved a constitutional assembly to reform the country’s 1999 constitution. However, some reports and members of Venezuela’s opposition have disputed the fairness of the elections, which were boycotted by the opposition.

Although the government claims that more than 8 million voters attended, the Democratic Unity Table, an organization monitoring the election, reported that only 2.4 million votes, or 12 percent of eligible voters, were cast, of which a quarter would have voted “no”.

Furthermore, in the days leading up to and following the election, uprisings and protests swept throughout the country. Conflicts between protesters and the country’s Bolivarian National Guard have resulted in the death of at least 15 people, including two minors.

Reports also indicate that at least 300 people were arrested for protesting the government in the days surrounding the vote.

The constitutional revisions have been rejected by the Venezuelan bishops for being not only “unconstitutional, but also unnecessary, inconvenient and harmful for the Venezuelan people.”

In a July 27 message, the bishops said Maduro's initiative “has not been convened by the people, has unacceptable commissions, and only the partisans of the ruling party will be represented there.”

“It will be a biased and biased instrument that will not solve, but will aggravate the acute problems of high cost of living, the shortage of food and medicines that suffer the people, and deepen and worsen the deep political crisis we currently face.”

Two opposition leaders, Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma, have been re-arrested following the vote.

Frustration in Venezuela has been building for years due to poor economic policies, including strict price controls coupled with high inflation rates, which have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers, and medicines.

Venezuela's socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis. Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates.

On Aug. 1 Cardinal Parolin addressed the situation with local Italian media, saying he and Pope Francis are “very committed” to seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela. The Vatican has been “seeking to help all, indiscriminately, and calling each person to fulfill their own responsibility.”

“The criteria should be only the good of the people,” he said. “The dead are too many and I do not think there are other criteria to follow that is not in the common good of the people,” he insisted.

With that in mind, the cardinal said that “it is necessary to find a peaceful and democratic way to get out of this situation, and the only way is always the same: we must find, talk, but seriously, to find a way to solution.”

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